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Plaza Beach Resort turns tennis court into solar panel fields

By Lisette Van Marrewijk from Environscan.com

A few weeks ago I received an email from David Rietveld, general manager at Van der Valk’s Plaza Beach Resort Bonaire that he would love to talk about Plaza Beach Resort and their sustainable efforts. Great news given hotels are extremely important stakeholders in regard to local sustainable development. Arriving at Plaza Beach Resort a few weeks later, I am welcomed by Jesper, Plaza’s new sustainable research intern. During our tour on the property, David tells me about his decision to invest in a sustainable intern as Plaza is moving forward direction eco-tourism. A trend that is seen in all Van der Valk hotels. For instance, many Van der Valk hotels in The Netherlands already received a Green Key certificate, an eco-label awarded to green hotels and resorts that are committed to improving their environmental and fiscal performance. David explains to me the basic need for moving direction a more sustainable way of hospitality management, as hotels are massive consumers of water and electricity and have a huge monthly WEB bill. Besides the need to reduce the WEB costs the hotel also wants to move direction a more sustainable way of hospitality management. Given Bonaire depends on it’s beautiful environment it is important to keep it beautiful. 

Asking about concrete examples of sustainable investment David informs me of their purchase of 4000 solar panels, watersavers in every hotel room and 126 energy saving air-conditioning systems. Amazed by the amount of solar panels, I ask him where they are going to place the panels and he surprises me with the answer: the tennis court. Two full tennis courts will be re-used as a solar-field hosting 4000 panels! This location is the result of a technical report done by energy professionals. The surprising outcome also has a big financial benefit, as it is more cost efficient to locate them at the tennis courts than on the roofs. As the current energy legislation is not pro-sustainable for local entrepreneurs or households, I ask David how he copes with the local energy regulation and how this will affect Plaza’s transformation direction sustainable energy generation. At one point you need to make a decision David says, Plaza has involved WEB (Water & Electricity company in Bonaire) in their start up plans and even proposed a public private partnership but unfortunately it did not lead to a sustainable partnership. Making the decision to invest in 4000 solar panels and a total replacement of all high energy using air-conditioning systems is a bit of a gamble, but sometimes you need to take a risk to move forward and to encourage others to move direction sustainable investment and development. 

Besides sustainable use of energy and water, Plaza Beach Resort also supports local awareness campaigns in partnership with Boneiru Duradero, coordinated by Sharon Bol. For these campaigns Plaza Beach Resort has co-produced several video clips about unsustainable waste disposal. Besides partnering with the waste awareness campaign, Plaza Beach Resort will also host a massive awareness event to be held end of June 2015. To find out more about this event, keep an eye on the Boneiru Duradero Portal. Besides awareness-campaigns, Plaza is also focusing on recycling waste by separating glass, paper and rest waste. A great example of reducing waste (re-use) is for instance the agreement Plaza made with the Zulia beers distributor. Plaza will only import Zulia beers if Zulia takes back the yellow beer crates to recycle, which are now scattered everywhere on the island. This is a wonderful example of sustainable supply management. But there is more, Roald Boom has designed a hydroponics set-up for Plaza so the kitchen will be using their ‘hotel’ grown vegetables in the near future! 

To move towards sustainable hospitality management David states it’s all about having the guts to start: “We’re very fortunate to have a great concern as Van der Valk Hotels supports us. They believe in the green movement and together we can create awareness among associates and guests and inspire them to partner with us on sustainability initiatives.”