The Drakensberg is unquestionably one of South Africa's most magnificent natural creations: a mountainous wonderland and world heritage site embodying sheer beauty and a wealth of biological diversity. The magic of the expansive Drakensberg mountains is a treasure to behold – one that the Drakensberg Sun Lifestyle Resort is working hard to preserve. The resort's recent Imvelo Award for Responsible Tourism as the winner in the category: Best single resource management programme – Energy management, is true testimony to the positive effects inherent in a comprehensive, well-managed environmental programme implemented over time. In this years' Imvelo Awards, the resort was also a finalist in two categories: Best overall environmental management system; and Best single resource management programme – waste management.
Darron Moore, General Manager Drakensberg Sun Lifestyle Resort and his team are working hard to create an environmentally responsible destination. And their efforts are paying off. "The resort is viewed as one of the forerunners in the national plight to save the environment and foster a sustainable future," says Moore, explaining that in addition to its involvement with the Imvelo Awards, the Drakensberg Sun Lifestyle Resort works with Heritage, an environmental management company, and its international partner Green Globe.
In conjunction with Heritage, the Drakensberg Sun Lifestyle Resort has established and implemented environmental policies and procedures for its business practices, earning the resort a Heritage Platinum rating and several Imvelo awards for responsible tourism over the past few years.
Going green required operational changes and forced management to evaluate particular practices and ways of working. "Consequently we have a greater awareness regarding our effect on the environment, and what we need to do to contribute towards a greener future," says Moore.
"We aim to create a resort that caters to the leisure and corporate market but also to the environmentally conscious traveler and the tourist looking to support businesses working towards generating sustainable biodiversity," he says. "Ours is a vision encompassing a long-term goal – where people visit the resort many years from now and witness the effects of positive changes we are currently making."
To achieve this vision, the Drakensberg Sun Lifestyle Resort operates like a small municipality. It draws and treats its own water; has implemented a waste recycling and removal programme; controls and monitors its own electrical consumption; and manages its own sewer plant. There have been notable results: reductions in energy, water and gas consumption as well as waste.
During the past year the resort recycled 74 percent of its waste, significantly reducing its impact on the local landfill. Although the resort is on a 1000KVA priority feeder from Eskom and all transformer equipment is rated for 1600KVA, current usage is only 700KVA.
Other changes include: transition to electronic ballasts for fluorescent lighting and energy efficient bulbs; changeover from 50w to 32w bulbs; installation of a MAC-1 system to enable control of electricity consumption in the laundry and boiler room; installation of a building management system (BMS) to enable remote control of most major electrical consumptions including air-conditioners, generators, heat pumps, kitchen walk-in fridges and freezers (which also facilitates monitoring and repair of equipment before a crisis point is reached); installation of vacuum breakers and float levels at the water plant to automatically switch off pumps and the latest eco-friendly, energy efficient, low-emission technologies in air-conditioning as well as two energy efficient generators able to run all operations. Evaporation coolers in the roof plant keep the kitchen cooler, thereby reducing electricity consumption. The kitchen uses gas predominantly while fireplaces in the lobby, library, restaurants and bar burn non-indigenous wood removed from the property.
Employees live the resort's environmental brand promise each day, with initiatives such as SOS – switch off something (dripping taps and lights, for example) – and monthly feedback sessions regarding the effects of programmes, in place. Visual aids located in strategic positions in the back of house consistently remind employees about environmental goals while its EARTH books inform guests about the resort's holistic plan.
"We consider it our duty to communicate with all stakeholders, our staff and guests alike. While activities occur within our resort, if we talk about what we are doing perhaps others will follow suit, doing the same and lobbying for change," says Moore.
With an increasing number of environmentally responsible travelers both locally and internationally, a property such as the Drakensberg Sun Lifestyle Resort is the perfect place to cultivate awareness and stimulate interest in environmentally conscious activities.
"We want to access the eco-tourism market," says Moore. "And we believe we have the correct bio-diversity to compete."
"Local eco-conscious travellers are fascinated by the scale and depth of our procedures as well as the details informing them," explains Moore. "International eco travelers compare us to places they have visited. Generally they are impressed with the efforts we are making. We offer guests a tour of our environmental initiatives where we explain in detail what we are doing – all this amidst stunning natural surroundings and the enchanting tranquility the mountains instill."
For those passionate about being part of a sustainable future, it doesn't get much better than this.