Embracing the Plastic Bags Ban for Tourism Facilities

Plastics are at the core of solid waste management problems of today’s society. Plastics in modern life are a preferred product for everyday applications from piping, bottling, packaging etc. However, as useful as society has deems plastics to be, this has eventually ended in a huge menace due to their non-biodegradable nature. Plastics bags in particular have been a sore thumb worldwide.  Plastic bags we use in our everyday life can take 10-1000 years to breakdown. While ideally plastic bags should be reused a multiple of times, most are only durable for single use. The improper disposal of these bags have seen them end up strewn all over the streets, piled up in landfills and in the worst case eventually end up in water bodies where they affect organisms.

Countries across the globe have come up with inventive ways to control and minimize the use of plastic bags. Some have imposed a total ban while others levy extra charges or a recycling fee for their use. In March 2017, Kenya joined the bandwagon in banning of the production and use of plastic bags due to their high susceptibility to littering and their unsustainability for recycling. Once this ban takes effect from August 2017, it will see Kenya become the second country in Africa to completely do away with disposable plastic bags. Kenya has in the past tried unsuccessfully to ban polythene bags twice in 2007 and 2011.The biggest challenge to this initiative is the notion that this move will cost thousands of jobs. However, with appropriate strategies in place, this ban has the potential of sparking ideas for alternatives to plastics and provides immense benefits to the natural environment and ecosystems.

Tourism as an industry also contributes in part to the scourge of plastic bags in Kenya. Plastic bags from the tourism accommodation facilities usually result from packaging and bags for holding other solid wastes. The tourists themselves may exacerbate the situation by littering both on land and in marine environments. The location of most tourism facilities is in fragile natural ecosystems, and as such demands proper management of solid waste, and this includes plastic bags. Improperly disposed of plastic bags they end up as litter on countryside and beaches where they are particularly noticeable and unsightly.

Besides decreasing aesthetic value in these pristine areas, plastic waste could have multiple negative impacts on wildlife. Plastic bags could alter feeding patterns, breeding grounds and eating habits of wildlife. Plastic bags are of major concern in the marine and other aquatic environments. Aquatic life can be threatened through entanglement, suffocation and ingestion. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales and other marine species often mistake the plastic bags for jelly fish and end up choking. The open burning of plastic bags can also be detrimental to human health. When plastic bags burn, they release a highly toxic chemical called dioxin. Scientists have linked dioxins to cancer and can affect the immune system.

Effects of plastic bags on wildlife (Image courtesy of American disposal)

The Ecotourism Kenya’s Eco-rating Certification Standard has a criterion that specifically addresses solid waste management. Plastic bags fall into this category. The criterion emphasizes on compliance to existing legislation on waste management. It also stipulates presence of an effective solid waste management plan with measures to avoid, reduce/minimize, re-use, and recycle solid waste. In line with the present regulation and the Eco-Rating standard, tourism facilities are called upon to effectively manage their plastic wastes.

Various measures can be employed by tourism accommodation facilities to minimize their dependence on plastic bags. These can include:

  1. Alternative packaging

Hotels/Camps could explore other packaging options, such as the use of reusable wooden crates to pack their fruits and vegetable supplies. Give away bags from the tourism accommodation facility could also be made from biodegradable material such as, sisal or papyrus.

  1. Sacks for solid waste handling

As opposed to using plastic bags to hold recyclable solid waste (plastic bottles, glass), facilities could use sacks that are biodegradable.

  1. Bulk purchases.

Most solid products in Kenya are packaged in plastic bags in quantities ranging from one Kilogram to at most five Kilograms. However, a purchase that is likely to amount to 20 KGs and above come in bulkier packaging materials like gunny sacks. These save up on plastic bag use and entrance to the facility.

  1. Understanding and separating waste

The first and most important aspect of waste management is learning the various types of waste, their production and disposal. Waste management as a process requires the knowledge of the major categories of waste i.e. food and dry waste. The dry waste could be separated further according to your needs. The key thing is to make sure food waste which is usually wet does not contaminate hence rendering useless the dry waste.

 

Sustainable local purchasing

Every day individuals and industries procure various goods and services to sustain and complement lives and businesses. The tourism business especially has a plethora of procurement needs including; cleaning products, foods and beverages, curios and labor. In pursuit to attain sustainability in business practice, responsible procurement is a key component. Responsible procurement (also known as sustainable/green procurement, environmentally preferable purchasing [EPP] or sustainable/responsible purchasing) is a process by which environmental, social and ethical considerations are taken into account when making a purchasing decision (The Green Hotelier).

Local purchasing is a key aspect of responsible purchasing. Local purchasing is a preference to buy locally produced goods and services over those produced farther away. The possibility of local sourcing is dismissed by bigger businesses and hotel chains that often take the option to centralize their buying. While this may be the case, there is a very direct link between sustainable local purchasing and responsible tourism.

Image courtesy of mother nature network

Local purchasing has the potential to create various benefits for tourism facilities and the local communities they engage with. They include;

Creation of employment opportunities

Buying locally from neighboring communities and spending at local independent businesses, generates more jobs and wealth in the local economy compared to spending at absentee-owned businesses, including corporate chains.

Benefit to the environment

Bringing goods from afar generally requires using more energy than transporting goods locally. Some environmental advocates see this as a serious environmental threat. This is because of implications of air pollution from vehicle and air craft emissions. The most significant of these emissions is Carbon IV Oxide which has a great impact on global climate change.

Promoting a sense of community

As a tourist accommodation facility, working with locals bring about a sense of community. By promoting their local businesses and improving their economy, there is a greater likelihood to be accepted as part of the community rather than a visitor. This goes a long way in ensuring sustainability of the tourism business through the support from the local community.

The Ecotourism Kenya Eco-rating Certification standard has a criterion that assesses purchasing/ procurement. It emphasizes on a procurement policy that incorporates; environmental consideration (buying in bulk to reduce packaging, reusable packaging), sustainability (products should be sourced in a manner that does not compromise their availability for use in the future), ethical consideration (fair pricing, no child labour) and social/ community consideration (buying locally when feasible).

Among the eco-rated facilities, Serena Mountain Lodge is a good example of a facility that promotes local purchasing despite it being in a chain of hotels. Located on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, it is one of the oldest hotels in the country, opened in 1971. Along with its rich history, is the commendable best practice of empowering local communities by supporting local businesses. The facility buys fruits and vegetables for their guests and employees from local suppliers. Examples of their local suppliers include; Kiwama Enterprises from Nanyuki, Green Veg enterprises from Kiganjo, Mutindwa Green grocers from Meru as well as individual farmers from the nearby Nyeri Villages and town. This practice has contributed to employment opportunities, growth of the local economy and has built a great sense of community within the area.

Adoption of Green Energy in Tourism Accommodation Facilities

Energy is indispensable in our daily lives as it’s required to run most of the activities. It is the basic input required to sustain economic growth. Traditional sources of energy are primarily fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas). While these sources have provided energy solutions for the world, their supply has been dwindling dramatically. Emissions from burning of these fossil fuels have also been detrimental on climate, causing global warming hence leading to climate change. In particular, the tourism facilities also contribute to these emissions from diesel generators and vehicles.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (2008) suggests that there is a dual relationship between tourism and global warming where tourism is both a contributor as well as a victim. Scientific research confirms this by noting that tourism through its various components ((tourist destinations, transportation, accommodation, travel brokers and travel related services) is responsible for about 5% of global CO2 emissions. Action must be therefore taken to safeguard the environment and resources upon which tourism depends by embracing sustainable tourism.

In promoting sustainable tourism, there is a rising trend to adopt green energy solutions as well as a global trend with travelers being keener on green practices. Green practices which refer to environmental friendly decisions and lifestyles, have consequently become more relevant. This has seen the demand for tourism accommodation facilities to take responsibility for their contributions to climate change and the declining environmental state.

Ideally, the global community intends to shift towards a green economy. A Green economy refers to a situation in which economic growth is in harmony with environmental protection with the aim to achieve sustainable development. A green economy is dependent on a green energy adoption. Green energy, also referred to as renewable energy is derived from sources that can be used repeatedly without being depleted. They include; wind, hydro energy, solar energy biomass and tidal power. Green energy can be harnessed and used for various uses within a tourist facility, such as cooking, heating water for guests and lighting.

Ecotourism Kenya has a criterion that specifically addresses energy. The criterion states that energy sources should be indicated, monitored and conserved. It further emphasizes on adoption of renewables as well as innovative measures for sustainable use of energy that actively includes efforts by both guests and employees.  Further to this, it is now a legal requirement in Kenya to invest in renewable energy. The Energy (solar water heating) Regulations, 2012 require among other things that, all premises within the jurisdiction of local authorities with hot water requirements of a capacity exceeding one hundred litres (100 litres) per day shall install and use solar heating systems.

A good number of facilities within the Eco-rating Scheme have adopted the use of green energy. One example is Olarro Lodge, a Gold Eco-rated facility. The lodge is powered primarily by solar energy.  The facility has invested in a total of 150 solar panels fixed with power inverters systems. This energy is harnessed, stored and used to supply the requirements of electricity, water heating and maintenance of the swimming pool. The lodge has also installed twenty six (26) solar water heating system each with a capacity of 300 litres.

Solar water heating system and solar panels at Olarro

A green economy also emphasizes energy conservation and efficient use of the already available energy. In this effect Olarro Lodge has invested in use of solar rechargeable torches / flash lights in the guest rooms. All visitors are also briefed upon arrival on the need to conserve energy through switching off unnecessary lights. This has further been exemplified by installing sensitization signage throughout the facility encouraging both staff and guests to swift off unnecessary lights. LED (Light Emitting Diodes) and energy saving bulbs are fixed throughout the facility for energy use efficiency.

Other practices that can be applied by tourism facilities to shift to the ‘greening’ trend include:

  • Reduction which is the efficient use of energy with the goal to minimize the amount of energy required to produce products and services. For example use of energy efficient stoves in hotels to cook for guests.
  • Recycling which is the utilization of energy that normally would be wasted by converting it into electricity or thermal energy.
  • Recovery which refers to the process by which non-recyclable solid waste is converted into energy. This involves the use of energy alternatives from biomass e.g. briquettes such as those made from coffee husks, saw dust, waste paper/cartons.

Tourism facilities can also reduce energy consumption save costs in their daily operations through simple but yet very efficient ways such as;

  • Switching off power appliances when not in use,
  • Replacement of incandescent bulbs with Light Emitting diode (LED) bulbs which have lower energy consumption,
  • Use of efficient clothes washer in the laundry / running laundry machines on optimum weight hence reducing wastage,
  • Energy awareness by the assessment of the facilities energy usage data. Both the management and the employees should be well versed with the pros and cons of energy management,
  • Facility monitoring to access the level of energy consumption and the facility energy demand so as keep a track of environmental impacts over time.

Sustainability for tour operators; The Travelife Partner

The tourism industry thrives on the natural environment, spectacles and natural phenomena, wildlife as well as draws from other industries and social links. In this regard, sustainability should be at the core of every tourism venture. Sustainability in this sense is engaging in activities that ensure continuity of the business. It involves business operations that are economically sound, socially acceptable and environmentally friendly. Sustainability in a business is also key as there is a rising trend in the demand for responsible products and services. Companies working towards sustainability score better on customer satisfaction, staff motivation and business efficiency with positive effects for their competitive advantage. Sustainability management is all about commitment and consistent responsible business practices. This includes products, how to monitor and manage impacts on the environment as well as supporting key your suppliers and consumers to adopt sustainability.

In this sense Travelife engages tourism enterprises in training, management and certification for tour companies committed to reach sustainability. Travelife has partnered with Ecotourism Kenya to provide an avenue to guide tour operators to attain sustainability in their business. A company that seeks to be recognized and affiliated to Travelife goes through three stages; engagement ; first stage where the company commits itself and introduces the appropriate management procedures including appointing a sustainability coordinator who undergoes Travelife sustainability training , partner level and finally certified.

A Travelife partner status is the second stage in after engaging with Travelife. It involves an online baseline assessment of key business operations of a company to ensure it meets the standard basic criteria of sustainability. The partner status for a tour operator enables the company to communicate its sustainability commitment and achievements with the support of the Travelife Partner logo. Travelife being an internationally recognized brand gives an affiliated company a competitive advantage. More importantly, a Travelife partner undergoes training on key sustainability principles to incorporate in their business.

The training covers;

  1. How to make and implement a sustainability mission statement, policy and action plan; Sustainability mission statement This is essentially incorporating sustainability into your mission statement. It involves stating your commitment to protect the environment and biodiversity as well as business sustainability through fair pay and socially acceptable business practice. Sustainability policy This is a statement of the company’s sustainability and values. It further states the company’s objectives under the policy and actions to take to achieve the set objectives. To have an idea of what a policy contains please refer this previous ecobyte, which has an attached sample policy. Action plan An action plan should ideally include targets, actions, measures, responsibilities, time planning and a budget if possible.

    Sample Action plan that can be created from Travelife online system
  2. How to improve internal sustainability management (e.g. how to ‘green’ your office and how to treat employees fairly); Greening your office involves opting for more environmentally friendly products and internal policies on water, energy and waste management. Examples of simple best practices in greening an office are using LED light bulbs, a switch off policy for equipment not in use and double sided printing

    Image courtesy of LED light bulb facts
  3. Gauging and influencing sustainability impacts of your accommodation, transport and excursion providers and suppliers; This can be achieved through communication of your sustainability objective with an aim to influence policies of your service providers. A preferential policy for eco certified facilities would stimulate other accommodations to adopt a more environmentally friendly approach in business. This could also inclusion of sustainability clauses in contracts with the suppliers. 4. How to positively motivate your customers to make more sustainable choices during their holidays Customers are the final consumers of tourism end products and services. By engaging them and promoting more sustainable choices, it creates a demand for more responsible products and services.

For further information on how you could become a partner and attain Travelife Certified status in Kenya, contact the Ecotourism Kenya secretariat (ecoratingpa@ecotourismkenya.org, ecorating@ecotourismkenya.org).

Sustainability and customer satisfaction

Feedback

Sustainability generally is continuity of a business now and in the future. It involves the ability to maintain or support an activity or process over the long term. Customer satisfaction is a key component in ensuring sustainability of a tourism enterprise.  Customer satisfaction is a measure of how the products/ services of a company meet or surpass a customer’s expectations. The Ecotourism Kenya Certification Scheme has a set standard on monitoring customer/client satisfaction that emphasizes on; existence of a system for capturing guest feedback which should be documented and analyzed. The results should be taken into account for service improvement or corrective action.

Measuring Customer satisfaction is important and provides mutual benefit for both the tourism enterprise and the customers. It creates value in a number of ways, including;

  1. Basis for improvement
    Client feedback provides marketers and business owners with a metric that they can use to manage and improve their businesses.
  2. Improves business image
    Businesses who succeed in these cut-throat environments are the ones that make customer satisfaction a key element of their business strategy. This is true in all business enterprises and especially in tourism.
  3. It reduces negative word of mouth
    A tarnished reputation has a damaging effect on any business. A study by Mckinsey found that an unhappy customer tells between 9-15 people about their experience. In fact, 13% of unhappy customers tell over 20 people about their experience.
  4. Makes economic sense
    It has been proven that it is cheaper to retain old clients than it is to acquire new ones. The most publicized customer satisfaction statistic out there is that it costs six to seven times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing customers. Satisfied customers also do immense marketing for tourism facilities through word of mouth and other online avenues such as social media and online review sites.

Collecting feedback using emoticons

There are many ways to measure client satisfaction, including the long trusted classic of manager rounds. Others include using client feedback forms strategically placed at the reception or in guests’ rooms. With the ever advancing innovations in technology it only makes good business sense to embrace the trend. There are various ways online platforms to measure client satisfaction including; online surveys (survey monkey, customer sure), travel review sites e.g. Tripadvisor and even creating customized mobile applications for your facility.

As per the Ecorating Certification Standard, it is not only enough to collect client feedback, there should be procedures in place to monitor, analyse and follow up client comments to ensure continued improvement. Monitoring and analysis should be done at least on monthly basis. The information collected should be well documented for proper monitoring and future reference. Analysis of the information ensures that appropriate follow up actions are taken and in a timely manner. Analysis of this feedback also allows management to evaluate if the corrective actions taken are meeting the client needs.

An example of client feedback monitoring among the the ecorated facilities can be drawn from Severin Safari Camp. The facility collects feedback through different avenues. They include; manager rounds where the manager on duty collects feedback from clients during meal times. The reception is also available for clients round the clock. The facility also collects feedback from client feedback forms in the guests’ tents and tripadvisor. This information is analysed on a monthly basis by the top management. After analysis, corrective actions are deliberated in the departmental meetings and the emerging issues rectified accordingly.

Chemical safety in tourism facilities; Material Safety Data Sheets

Humans have over the years manufactured chemicals for everyday use. The chemical industry converts raw materials, such as oil, natural gas, air, water, metals, and minerals into thousands of different products. They come in all forms for different uses such as in cleaning, paints, fragrances, insecticides, clothing, name it. In this respect, societies have become dependent on chemical products. Tourism accommodation facilities are not exempt. Because there is such a wide range of products available with a plethora of uses, Material Safety Data Sheets are a crucial necessity.

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a document that contains critical information on the potential hazards of a chemical product. This includes its potential as a fire hazard, environmental impacts, effects on health as well as its reactivity with other chemicals. An MSDS contains information on, how to use the product safely, what to expect if the recommendations are not followed, what to do if accidents occur, how to recognize symptoms of overexposure, and what to do if such incidents occur.

In the Eco-rating Certification Standard, there is a criterion that specifically looks at aspects of chemical usage, safety and storage. This is meant to safeguard the health of the employees and control pollution to the environment through accidental spillage or contamination from these chemicals. The standard emphasizes on presence of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) on all chemicals purchased, demonstration of acceptable handling and storage of chemicals and compliance with relevant legislation on chemical handling and storage.

The categories of information present on an MSDS include;

  1. Product Information: product identifier (name), manufacturer and suppliers names, addresses, and emergency phone numbers
  2. Hazardous Ingredients
  3. Physical Data
  4. Fire or Explosion Hazard Data
  5. Reactivity Data: information on the chemical instability of a product and the substances it may react with
  6. Toxicological Properties: health effects
  7. Preventive Measures precautions for the safe use of the substance, including engineering controls and personal protective equipment
  8. First Aid Measures

With regards to hazardous ingredients (substances likely to cause harm to health or the environment), it is important to familiarize yourself with hazard pictograms. These are images on a label that includes a warning symbol and specific colors intended to provide information about the damage a particular substance or mixture can cause to human health or the environment.  Some examples include:

What does it mean?
May cause or intensify fire; oxidiser.
May cause fire or explosion; strong oxidiser.

Examples of where we can find it
Bleach, oxygen for medical purposes

Examples of precautionary statements
Keep away from heat/sparks/open flames/hot surfaces. – No smoking
Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection.
Rinse immediately contaminated clothing and skin with plenty of water before removing clothes.

What does it mean?
Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects
Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects

Examples of where we can find it
Pesticides, biocides, petrol, turpentine

Examples of precautionary statements
Avoid release to the environment
Collect spillage

For more information on hazard pictograms click here.

MSDSs are prepared and provided by the supplier or manufacturer of a particular chemical product. With reference to tourism facilities, MSDSs should always be provided for swimming pool chemicals, laundry detergents chemicals in the workshop. It is important to always be familiar with the hazards of a product before you start using it. This includes safe handling and storage instructions, as what to do in an emergency. In this regard owners/ managers of facilities should make sure that the chemicals handled within the facility have up to date MSDSs.  The MSDSs must be readily available to the workers who are exposed to the product and to the health and safety committee or representative.

Formulation of an environmental policy

It is without a doubt that the tourism business is highly dependent on the environment. The natural environment acts both as a source of raw materials and resources and a sink for wastes generated from various human activities. Every year the tourism business consumes a large portion of resources such as water, building materials and benefits from aesthetic value of pristine environments. Consequently these businesses also release various categories of waste for instance emissions from motor vehicles, chemicals from cleaning, plastic, paper, glass, metals as well as organic waste. To preserve this delicate balance of taking from nature and churning wastes back to the environment necessitates the need for an environmental policy.

An environmental policy is a statement about an organisation’s environmental position and values. This policy should aim at ensuring the sustainable management of the environment and natural resources, such as unique terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, for national economic growth and improved people’s livelihood and well-being. As people in the world over are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues, an environmental policy can also benefit a tourist facility by creating market friction in its favour. A publicly advertised policy shows stakeholders that a facility has considered its environmental performance and has adopted best practice or is working towards improving its environmental performance.

The Ecotourism Kenya Certification Scheme has a set standard on environmental policy that emphasizes on;

  • Clear written sustainability/environmental policy
  • Show responsive and conclusive address to responsible resource use, environmental conservation, cultural issues, socio-economic investment, health & safety and quality issues
  • Evidence of proper communication, translation/implementation of policies into action
  • Evidence of an Environmental Management System  appropriate to nature, scale and scope of the business, and current Environmental Management Plan with clarity and specificity of plan (goals, targets, etc.) and execution (allocation of responsibility, clear timeframes etc.)

The guidelines in formulation of an environmental policy are borrowed from constitutional and legal requirements of rights and freedoms as well as environmental protection. They include;

  • Every person in Kenya has a right to a clean and healthy environment and a duty to safeguard and enhance the environment.
  • The right to development should be exercised taking into consideration the economic, social and environmental needs.

NOTE:

  • The architechtural design blend with the natural environment
  • The structure is lifted off the ground to prevent interference with natural vegetation
  • There is no hindrance of animal movement

 

  • An integrated ecosystem approach to conserving environmental resource should be adopted and enhanced to ensure that all ecosystems are managed in an integrated manner while also providing a range of benefits to people. This ideally means focusing all factors of the environment plants, animals, non-living components and human beings as a whole system and how they affect each other instead of focusing on only one area.
  • Environmental resources should be utilized in a manner that does not compromise the quality and value of the resource, or decrease the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems. In essence there should be no pollution of resources such as water, land or air.
  • The facility should be based on long term views where present generations make choices that benefit them without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  This involves wise use or careful consumption of resources especially those that are not easily renewable such as trees, fossil fuels.
  • The facility should be through decentralization and devolution of responsibilities to the lowest level possible. Every employee should be included in implementing environmental targets.

FACILITY LOGO
SAMPLE ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

<Facility> aims at achieving continual environmental improvement through implementing a management system with objectives and targets

Under this policy environmental consideration will play a key role in support of our plan to promote protection and conservation of natural resources while providing our customers with the highest quality products and services.

<Facility>’s objectives under this policy are the following:

§  Ensure there is environmental consideration in all business operations

§  Demonstrate commitment to our, community and leadership in our industry in the protection of the natural environment

To achieve these objectives <Facility> has committed to:

§  Compliance with all applicable environmental and health & safety laws, regulations and codes of conduct and apply responsible standards where regulations do not exist

§  Manage business operations with the aim of preventing incidents and controlling emissions and waste with utmost consideration for the environment

§  Improve employee and visitor awareness and concern of the environment through training and communication of this policy

§  Respect the culture and customs of the local people and ensure that guests are briefed on socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior

§  Promote social responsibility to the community through sustainable use of resources which directly benefits the local people

§  Strive towards continuous improvement of operations by stimulating innovations and environmentally friendly alternatives and technologies

<Facility> will ensure compliance with this policy promoting utmost concern for the environment in all its operations.

This policy shall apply to all of <Facility>’s chains, business units, employees, and contractors in service to our business.

Signature

Name

Position

DD MMMM 20YY

Fire risk reduction rules in tourism facilities

Statistics show that fire kills more people every year than any other force of nature. Fire is a terrifying weapon with unlimited destruction that if not well managed can cause massive damage in a matter of minutes! Fire can wreak havoc on the environment destroying biodiversity, millions of shillings in infrastructure and property while also leading to loss of human lives, injuries and causing permanent disabilities.

Fire poses a risk to any and all facilities / industries including our own homes. The very nature of tourism facilities makes them especially prone to a fire hazard. Accommodation facilities have activities that directly handle fire such as cooking and camp bonfires. Tented facilities and lodges are at an even a greater risk of fire where the tents and wooden structures are flammable. Guests may also increase fire risks to accommodation facilities through carelessness such as poorly disposed cigarette butt.

With the imminent fire risks, it is of utmost importance to ensure that a facility ensures fire safety standards. The Ecotourism Kenya Eco-rating Certification Scheme has a set standard on health and safety that emphasizes on;

  • Presence of an adequate and effective emergency procedures / plan; Remember it is not only important to have the plan in place, but the staff should be aware of it and thoroughly conversant on what to do in case of a fire. Guests should also be briefed upon arrival on the emergency procedures.
  • Compliance with relevant legislation on health and safety, in this case the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 2007
  • Adequate training of staff on health, safety and emergency response this includes training on first aid and firefighting skills. The staff should also have refresher training on an annual basis. This can be attained through licensed and registered experts.
  • Effective, duly serviced and strategically placed firefighting equipment should be in place. This includes fire extinguishers and fire blankets which should be put in the kitchen. For the case of fire extinguishers, a facility should ensure that it has the proper fire extinguishers for different kinds of fire (water, form, Carbon (IV) Oxide).
  • Well-marked fire exits, and fire assembly points
  • Conducting annual fire drills and ensuring improvement orders are implemented.
  • Use of precautionary and safety signage in appropriate areas e.g. No smoking, Out of bounds, highly flammable
  • Presence of effective and adequate health and safety measures both to guests and staff such as fire alarms

Other safety standards are included in The Factories and other places of work (Fire Risk Reduction) Rules 2007. These apply to factories and other places of work including tourism destinations. The rules states that;

  1. Every occupier shall ensure a  fire safety audit of the work place is undertaken at least once every twelve months by an approved fire auditor
  2. All fire equipment should be well stored in a place with easy accessibility.

    Figure 1 fire extinguisher storager

  3. Every occupier shall provide in every workroom, facilities for free flow of fresh air, including windows, doors, vents, louvers or any other suitable ventilation facility to ensure that flammable fumes, vapor, gases or dust do not accumulate in the workroom.

    Figure 2 ventilation

  4. It is necessary to ensure that a workplace is kept in a clean state.
  5. Every work room should be fitted with an emergency exit, situated as far away as possible from the ordinary exit, and located in a manner that the exit will not lead any person to a trap in the work place in the event of a fire breaking out.
  6. Every occupier should ensure that any door of any store where flammable substances are stored are constructed in a manner that the door shall be self-closing, opening outwards or sliding and capable of containing smoke from within the work room, in event of a fire.
  7. Where a work place is a storied building, every occupier shall ensure that a work place is constructed in such a manner as to enable workers have access to other suitable outlet or exit for evacuation other than the emergency exits.

    Figure 4 fire assembly point

  8. Every occupier should establish a firefighting team that shall consist of well-trained firefighting personnel

    Figure 5 firefighting training in Kenya

  9. Ensure that all firefighting appliances, fire detection systems, fire alarm and any other facility for fire safety are in place and are regularly serviced
  10. Ensure that the work place has access to water and water storage facility capable of storing at least 10,000 liters of water;
  11. Fire-drills should conducted at least once in every period of twelve months and a record of such drills kept available for inspection

    Figure 6 First aid equipment

  12. Fire alerts should provide suitable means of alerting persons in the workplace, in the event of a fire, and such means shall be made known to all workers.
  13. Establish and implement a written fire safety policy, outlining the organization and arrangements for carrying out the policy.

Water management and conservation for tourism facilities

Did you know that scientists postulate that the next world war will be fought over water? This may seem incredulous considering that water covers about 75% of the Earth’s surface. However the fact is this precious resource is dwindling faster than we can imagine due to pollution and the inevitable scourge of climate change. Climate change has caused erratic rainfall, prolonged droughts in some areas and makes dry areas even drier. Kenya bears the brunt of these dry harsh conditions as most landscapes even those that host game for which we are famous for, are considered arid and semi-arid. This water scarcity also translates to most tourism facilities as they are located in these critical wildlife ecosystems which are predominantly dry savannas.

Hygiene, maintenance and luxury standards of starred tourist accommodations will undoubtedly result in high water consumption if not properly checked. It is therefore of utmost importance to conserve water by any means possible.

The Ecotourism Kenya certification scheme has a set standard on water management that emphasizes on;

  • Need to have a water management plan that ensured adequate monitoring using metering, and sub-metering where necessary.
  • Recording the consumption based on bed occupancy (inclusive of staff members) where records can be used to set future conservation goals and detect anomalies in the water system.
  • Sustainable water source that does not affect environmental flows. Many tourist facilities are located in remote areas where piped water from government supplies is not an option therefore necessitating the need to drill boreholes. In line with this, a facility should obtain a water extraction permit from the Water Resources Management Authority and adhere to the set extraction volumes.
  • Use sustainable water conservation measures e.g. use of water efficient equipment and technologies(dual system toilets, adjusting single toilet flush cistern, push taps, sensors and low filter shower heads).

    A low flow shower head uses less water than conventional shower heads

  • Rain water harvesting
    This involves collection of rain water from the surface on which it falls. Typically roofs are used as catchment areas and gutters to direct the water into storage tanks. This is an especially critical practice as it supplements fresh water supply to facilities.

    Image courtesy of climatewiki

  • Recycling, reuse and reduction of water use.
    Grey water (waste water from sinks, showers or bath tubs, laundry) can be recycled and upon compliance with set environmental standards used in cleaning vehicles or lawn irrigation.
  • Use of visual aids like posters, notices and brochures to promote and sensitize staff and guests on water conservation.

    Image courtesy of Sparkle box

  • Exploring use of innovative visual aids e.g. (posters, notices, brochures) and Oral/Audio means e.g. (briefings, meetings,) to promote and sensitize both staff and guests on water conservation. Commonly used are ‘TOWEL TALKS’ to reduce water used in laundry.

It is everyone’s responsibility to actively manage and conserve water in the interest of sustainability both for us as individuals and the health of ecosystems in which all biodiversity and human industries depend on.

Changes in the Eco-rating Standard: child labour, abuse and human rights

The shrill of children’s laughter echoes in many homes, bringing a hope of dreams to be fulfilled the promise of a new generation of future leaders in different fields in life. Children have an inherent right to be just children; to play, to learn, to grow and to be provided for. However, there has been a gnawing issue on exploitation of children in employment better known as child labour.  History records that this malpractice was most rampant as human civilizations strived for industrialization. The malpractice was fuelled by payment of low wages and children could not unionize. Sadly some cases of child labour and sexual exploitation still arise today not only in Kenya but the rest of the world.

Image coutesy of azernews:

In line with the international certification requirements, Ecotourism Kenya revised the Eco-rating Standard to include mandatory indicators on clear evidence of no child labour or child abuse practice and respect of basic human rights. The standard stipulates complete adherence to legal requirements on children and human rights.

So is your facility aligned to this?

To satisfy the requirements for this standard, a tourism facility should comply with the National legislation as well as international law on children and human rights. There should also be a policy that clearly advises against any form of child labour, abuse or exploitation and upholds human rights. To access Kenyan legislation on children rights and child protection click here. At the international level the the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is said to have set the precedence and foundation for legally binding treaties and customary international law on human rights which Kenya is a signatory.

Knowledge as well as adherence to the protection of children and human rights therefore should be core in the management and running of tourism facilities. To further these efforts, at Ecotourism Kenya we have developed a sample policy that can be adopted or provide guidance for the formulation of individual facilities’ policies.

It’s smart to be responsible!