Responsible Yunnan travel
As part of our commitment to supporting Yunnan as an ecotourism destination, we have developed policies that reduce waste and protect the environment. We are one of the few hotels in China with the exception of such award-winning properties as Yangshuo Mountain Retreat to maintain such strict sustainable principles. We encourage all of our guests to choose those vendors who also support sustainable Yunnan travel through their environmental protection policies.
No-Single Use Items
We voluntarily reject the use of disposable items in our daily business, including paper napkins, single-use chopsticks, water bottles and plastic bags, having replaced plastic with biodegradable fabric bags in all our trash bins. These double as laundry bags and gift bags.
No Plastic Water Bottles
We branded stainless steel thermoses which we buy from an outside supplier, and offer them for sale to visitors at the hotel, temple and guests at the Li Family, who can fill up with free drinking water in both venues. We also use glass bottles in the temple restaurant which we refill from recyclable water coolers. If guests want to take a water bottle out for a day trip, they can buy the stainless thermos.
Contain All Waste Water
We have re-built toilets in the Old Theatre Inn with a natural greywater evaporation pond and covered septic pits, which can be used as fertilizer as it dries. No waste water or solid waste reaches the Hei Hui River.
Organic local food
We buy from local farmers who do not use harmful pesticides and over 50% of our food comes from the fields and farms owned by staff families and neighbors, the rest, with the exception of items not available in Jianchuan County, we purchase in the Friday Market.
LED Lighting and Solar Hot water
We use low-wattage LED bulbs throughout the property, and rely on local hydro-powered electric for all our energy needs, except for bottled LPG for the kitchen stoves. We also installed our own passive solar for hot water supply and use a 3000w parabolic solar cooker that can boil a kettle of hot water on a clear day in 10 minutes.
Recycle All Food and Solid Waste
Because we’re in a rural area, it is easy for us to recycle 100% of our food waste by giving it to local farmers for animal feed. We also give our bottles, cans and paper waste to local recyclers (see the video here).
Bike, Ride & Hike
We rent bicycles and provide free parking so that tourists can get on a bike, horse or hike through Shaxi without their cars. We do not accommodate large buses and only accept tours of 10 people or fewer.
Our staff are all from the village in which we operate and we do not hire non-Shaxi people. We source nearly of our food from farms owned by people in the village. We encourage local crafts people to use the temple as a workshop to make items that we can help them sell to visitors. This is an ongoing effort.
Shaxi is mostly agricultural and there’s always something needed to do in the fields. If guests want to help with planting, maintenance or harvest, we direct them to families who could use the extra labor and offer free meals in return.
Q&A with Chris Barclay on Sustainable Development in Shaxi and Responsible Yunnan Travel
- How would you characterize efforts at building sustainable and green tourism in the Shaxi valley and Sideng village?
A: It’s very difficult because the local people have little sense about sustainability in terms of waste management. They are very good at recycling their own food but in general they are quite oblivious about garbage and polluting the river. The government also doesn’t seem to care very much about our sustainable efforts although they are appreciative of them. The government is promising to build a comprehensive waste management station in Shaxi.
- Is there a cohesive development plan for tourism in the area? If so, what is the Old Theater Inn’s role in that plan? If not, in your opinion, should there be one?
A: I’m not sure about the tourism plan because the government decides everything and it seems they do not have any strategy. Shaxi Old Theatre Inn is for guests who value our sustainable initiatives and environmental protection as well as community development. We promote our work to the govt. and encourage them to promote adoption by other hotels.
- Is there the opportunity or forum in which you can collaborate with local political leaders or decision makers in making policy about tourism development?
A: There really isn’t a formal way to do this. Informally I do meet with the government from time to time and listen to them as well as make suggestions. The real opportunity comes from the pear orchard temple which will also be a visitor’s centre that I will run and promote activities such as horseback riding along the tea horse road and other activities in the valley that I believe are a benefit to local people and low impact on the environment.
- Is there an interest in sustainable development, or an understanding of what that means among local or rural populations?
A: There is a superficial interest but local government does not have the decision making power to implement anything independently and county government also will not take initiative without the instruction from their superiors in the prefecture, who will not take any initiative without instructions from their superiors in the province and so on. Only if some enlightened official at the provincial level decides on some new sustainability model will it be adopted in Shaxi.
- Where do you see the future of the Shaxi Valley in 5 years? How do you envision Ginko Society’s ideal role in the developments?
A: We have a strong position as the operators of the Shaxi Visitors Centre to promote sustainable activities and recommend guests avoid those activities which are harmful or do not benefit local people or culture. Without enlightened government intervention, I see Shaxi becoming the same over-commercialized Chinese tourism destination as Lijiang, with hotels, shops and other venues run by non-Shaxi Han Chinese. We are working with local groups to advise the govt. and do our best to avoid this “Hanification” of another Yunnan heritage town.