Portugal is increasingly becoming a first-choice destination not only for the rest of Europe but also for the Portuguese themselves. And while this is good news from the economic perspective, in environment terms, there is the impact stemming from the footprints left both by travelling and by accommodation. Such simple details such as the consumption of water, foodstuffs, recycling or construction materials may end up making a fulcral difference.
Thus, ECO123 presents here three hotel complexes who are as concerned about the wellbeing of their guests as they are about the planet itself without, however, giving up on any of the ever more unparalleled experiences returned by holidaying in Portugal.
Ericeira Ecological Resort
The environmentalism comes with the details
Ericeira is a unique place not only as the site where King Manuel left for Brazil ahead of Napoleon’s invading forces but also as the only surfing reserve anywhere in Europe. Whether due to its history, surfing potential or gastronomy and in addition to its proximity to Lisbon, the coastal town increasingly sets out its stall as an unequalled tourism destination.
Standing out among the tourism facilities available, one place especially attracts not only out of its dedication to environmental sustainability but also for its maximum leveraging of local resources. Situated right in the heart of the town, the Ericeira Ecological Resort, better known as Eco Sound, demonstrates a concern for the environment that becomes obvious in the smallest of details. Founded in 2009, Eco Sound provides a multiplicity of services ranging from preparing and serving meals with produce grown in the hotel’s organic gardens through to swimming in its biologically friendly swimming pool with its endemic vegetation naturally cleaning the water that becomes as a warm as 28ºC in summer. This makes the entire experience, as confirmed by hotel manager Jorge Dias, of bathing here “as if swimming in the Amazon Forest”, with the difference being that at Eco Sound a single resident frog takes care of the insects. Jorge, who earlier in life had been a pharmacist due to family tradition before resigning in order to change his life aged 38, is now dedicated exclusively to eco-tourism with the bulk of his clientele being surfers from northern Europe, especially during the summer months.
Designed entirely by Joaquim Casado, the former president of Ericeira parish council, Eco Sound proves totally self-sustaining in terms of water supplies through water cisterns for storing rainfall and high water tables providing at least nine months of autonomy. In addition, the hotel has no gas installations and produces around 75% of the energy consumed. Similarly, winter heating comes from a biomass powered boiler with the locally developed device effectively an inverted air-conditioning unit, producing warmth rather than cooling.
Despite all these ecological considerations, the hotel never gives up on its lighter and more jovial side, blatant in the conversion of surf boards into tables and chairs or the former 6,500 litre wine vats transformed into guestrooms.
Furthermore, there is also a shared common space that is frequently turned over to hosting a whole range of different events, whether marriages or baptisms, business and launch events and through to shooting music videos. On the lower floor, below the level housing the cisterns, there is even a space given over to the hotel’s club, fully soundproofed by the wool cavity, wooden walls.
Whilst its guest numbers, in conjunction with recognition by Easy Jet that nominated Eco Sound as one of the three most sustainable destinations as well as that from the Madeira Film festival, are a measure of its success, eco-tourism is increasingly holding its ground as not only a reason to visit Ericeira but also Portugal.
912 406 878 | 965 100 883
Inspira Santa Marta
Sustainability with class
In recent years, the city of Lisbon has become a major tourism attraction especially due to its historical and cultural background with this mass expansion meaning that it is not common to find hotels overly concerned about the environment and especially in the Portuguese capital.
Situated on Rua de Santa Marta, a mere 10-minute stroll from the city’s downtown centre, the Inspira Santa Marta Hotel was founded in accordance with sustainability related objectives. However, as its manager Nicolas Roucos explained, this is an objective based upon three different pillars: the environment, the social and the economic. At Inspira Santa Marta, environmentalism is a never ending challenge with Nicolos confirming that the “hotel is undergoing constant evolution” with new ideas and projects frequently appearing.
We simply need to head into the hotel atrium and encounter that very special Lisbon light to understand that this is not a hotel like those typical of the city of seven hills. The concern with the impact of the hotel on its surrounding environment gets incorporated into every factor and Inspira Santa Marta was totally designed in accordance with the Chinese Feng Shui philosophy. Not only are all possible consumables used at the hotel biodegradable but there is also a constant and thorough analysis of the consumption of resources such as water and electricity, with the installation of a large number of thermal accumulating panels and in parallel to the separation of waste across every different level, whether the cleaning staff trolleys or in the kitchens. Similarly, almost all of the information regarding Santa Marta is made through recourse to digital technologies to the extent that guests may check the hotel’s menus and services on their room’s television. The same room also appeals to guests to reuse their towels and bed sheets for more than one day in order to minimise consumption levels.
The hotel restaurant also reflects this sustainable awareness underpinning the spirit of Inspira both in the seasonal emphasis of its menu, extending to only serving sustainably sourced fish, and in the traditional nature of its Portuguese ingredients. And not only is this one of the few certified Gluten Free restaurants in Portugal but also all of the products served are of organic origin. In the same fashion, the water the restaurant serves its clients is filtered at Santa Marta through an inverse osmosis basis and with the €2.5 charge all reverting to the London based non-governmental organisation Pumpaid, which is dedicated to providing water pumps in countries such as Malaysia.
Furthermore, there are also the social responsibilities that the hotel squarely undertakes and put into practice through partnerships with APPDA (autism), the Rui Osório de Castro Foundation (child cancer patients), the Bio+Sintra project and the environmental association Quercus. Hence, this explains the Inspira procurement policy and the materials sourced, as recently the case with the Botanical Garden, as well as the willingness shown in lending out its facilities for certain projects.
Furthermore, while for the mass public, sustainability may not hold any great interest in terms of urban tourism, the reality shows, and according to the hotel’s own figures, 42% of guests return to the Santa Marta only and exclusively because of its adoption of this concept.
Quinta do Casalermo
Ecology is also a state of spirit
The city of Guimarães is above all known as the founding city of Portugal with its historical relevance its major draw as a tourism attraction.
However, from the perspective of Carlos Ribeiro, manager of Quinta de Casalermo in Infantas, located five kilometres from the centre of Guimarães, this only tells half the story.
On his property, guests are welcomed in as sustainable and as organic a fashion as the organic produce that he grows. On the estate, the respect for nature goes into the smallest of details and taking into account even the traditional architecture of the Minho region through to traditional agricultural and organic means of agricultural production.
Guests do not only enjoy the house but also the various hectares of the surrounding estate and should they so decide they may also engage in any of the various agricultural practices ongoing daily and thus feel very much at the heart of the locally prevailing heritage. As Carlos explained this does not require the guests knowing about agriculture but it is important that there is already some sense of sustainability. This proves so much the case that prior to exclusively dedicating his time to agro-tourism and organic farming, Carlos worked for various years in a textiles company until feeling that he could no longer withstand the draw of the lands of his birth and that he held such admiration for.
Hence, guests at the Quinta do Casalermo, should they so choose, gain the opportunity to truly experience sustainable agro-tourism and just like the life its owner and manager has led throughout the last two decades. The fact remains that after any first visit, the majority of guests do tend to repeat the experience with many becoming increasingly involved in the estate’s production and perhaps also due to the fact that Carlos hands out some of the produce to his guests. And if you add on fresh bread, the honey and the jams that are served up for breakfast, that may also explain another part of the reason.
According to Carlos, the majority of people arrive at the estate “saturated with cities” and seek really authentic spaces reflecting the historical way of life of their respective citizens.
In this quiet section of the Minho region, the bulk of the produce comes in the form of berries, ranging from bilberries and blackberries to wild strawberries packing a flavour that should leave other strawberries embarrassed to carry the name. In addition to the fruit, the biggest passion of Carlos is undoubtedly his growing of Shiitake mushrooms in wooden trunks that only become firewood after having first served this function. Whilst part of the Quinta do Casalermo produce is consumed on the estate, the majority is excess to requirements and sold directly in Guimarães where there is also a small monthly organic producers fair held at the Cor de Tangerina restaurant. For Carlos, the most important factor in all of this production is ensuring the client, whether or not a guest, gets the benefit of eating in the afternoon that which had been harvested in the morning.
This is a point on which Carlos veers away from the major producers and openly assuming the maximisation of profit is not the core objective but rather the scope for living well with little and giving up on futile consumption in the belief that living more naturally generates better health and stability. Just so that we do not have any doubts, he bids farewell with what may be considered his campaign slogan: “with or without success in this business, I would still have to continue.”
Tel.253 525 903
TM:962 881 192