Tourism is one of the best avenues of showcasing the beauty of nature. They make people aware of and experience the unique bounties of each place. Aside from making people happy by witnessing the natural magnificence, tourism also helps the local community and even countries where people choose to visit. The tourism industry plays a large part in many economies worldwide. Benefits include employment and income for small businesses that trickle down to the locals. Moalboal Eco Lodge attests to that beautiful relationship of tourism and the local community.
But tourism also belies some dangers. If not done right, tourism can also cause the degredation of the beauty that it showcases. This has already happened in many tourist spots around the world. Tragically, the large volume of visitors have overwhelmed the resources of areas. These include the Caño Cristales of Colombia, Maya Beach of Thailand, Boracay of the Philippines, Machu Picchu of Peru, Venice, Italy, Cozumel, Mexico, Raja Ampat Islands of Indonesia, and even Antarctica.
Tourism can cause devastation if it’s not done with sustainability in mind. But you shouldn’t worry about giving up your wanderlust to save the planet. Instead, think of supporting sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism is a system that balances profits with outmost care and respect for nature. And if you try going to sustainable tourist locations, you will find yourself more connected with nature. That is what you will find in Moalboal Eco Lodge.
Keen to find out more about sustainable tourism? I interviewed Angie and Simon Briggs, a couple who run a zero waste resort called Moalboal Eco Lodge in Cebu. They talk about how they strive to showcase the beauty of Moalboal, Cebu while keeping their resort quaint and simple to keep it as zero waste as possible.
Get inspired by the Briggs’ story and plan to experience Moalboal in Moalboal Eco Lodge soon!
Tell me a bit about yourself. Where do you live and work in?
We are Angie and Simon and we live and work at Moalboal Eco Lodge in the wonderful province of Cebu.
What is Moalboal Eco Lodge?
Moalboal Eco Lodge (or Eco Lodge Moalboal as we are on Instagram) is a small and personal eco-friendly resort. We are advocates for protecting the environment in as many ways as possible, and want to encourage others to do the same. We do this through our practices, and by talking to our guests.
All our rooms are made out of bamboo, and we used a local family of skilled workers who took a total of 9 months to finish. They finished 2 days before the March Pandemic lockdown.
We have 2 private rooms with a partial open air CR/bathroom so our guests can shower under the stars at night, or with a view of palm trees and bamboo trees during the day. For groups of friends or families, we have a 4-bed room also with a partial open air shower. All guests are welcome to use our open-sided dining area which has a kitchen and fridge, our chill out area, or our beautiful hammock/sunset/yoga deck.
We have had some guests who wanted to sleep in a hammock on our hammock deck so we allowed it because it made them happy to sleep closer to nature. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset, and other guests have awoken at sunrise to practice yoga on the deck.
Why and how did you start Moalboal Eco Lodge?
We have always been passionate about the environment, and we want to help people live a more sustainable life. It’s important to us that people view a different way of living, but also how they travel. Using less plastic, not consuming so much water in the shower, turning off lights to save electricity, sending less to landfill, buying and consuming less, eating less meat, buying locally etc.
In life we are all continually learning, so we would like to help teach people who would like to learn more about protecting our environment, and their first step is choosing to stay with us. However we can learn from our guests – people who are advocates for the environment can teach us how we can do better.
What are the main selling points of Moalboal Eco Lodge?
We are located in the middle of a palm tree field with no neighbours, no traffic noise, which means people who stay with us can recharge their batteries in peace and quiet, and listen to the beautiful sounds of nature. We built the resort as if we would want to stay in it, so chose high quality comfortable Queen Size mattresses, soft but firm pillows, 4-poster style mosquito nets which don’t touch your face when you are sleeping, and soft, cool, organic cotton sheets to ensure a good night’s sleep without being too hot.
You won’t find air con in our rooms because they are bad for the environment and use a huge amount of electricity, instead we designed the huts with plenty of cross ventilation. There are three windows in the room plus a wall fan, but bamboo is a naturally cool material anyway which helps keep the temperature of the room lower than a room made out of concrete.
How does Moalboal Eco Lodge help the community of Moalboal, Cebu?
We work closely with our Community and feel we are a team, we couldn’t run an efficient business without them.
We have a loyal trike and taxi driver who look after our guests completely. We buy all our fruit and vegetables from our local fruit stand, and take any repairs to our fantastic seamster. We recently bought material and rope to make our own hammocks, and he sewed them together expertly, we couldn’t be without him.
We want to ensure our surrounding area is free from trash so carry out island clean ups whenever necessary.
If we need to buy something we will turn to our local community first and ask if they have anything for sale. For example we wanted more planters and plants for our outdoor CR and to add colour to our existing tyre planters. A lady’s grandfather makes plant pots out of old tyres so we purchased some from her. Someone else sells plant cuttings so we went to her house to see what she had and purchased from her.
Being passionate about plastic free, palm oil free, zero waste products, we encourage people to buy eco-friendly products such as plant based dishwashing liquid, shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, natural mosquito repellent etc.
Many restaurants are struggling due to the Pandemic, so any guests who want take out, we can recommend a few places who deliver. We can also recommend places to eat – we would rather our guests go to a place within our community instead of buying from the fast food chain McDonalds who won’t be struggling as much as the small businesses near us.
There are many stray dogs in Moalboal so we help two charities; one charity treats them for mange and feeds starving dogs, the other focuses on spaying and neutering to keep the population under control.
How is Moalboal Eco Lodge coping with COVID-19?
Our guests’ health is important to us, and we are proud to be fully compliant with the Department of Tourism safety measures. The Municipal DOT and the Provincial DOT have both cleared us for opening, but we have also carried out further online training to understand more about airborne diseases.
In our two private rooms, we have provided hand sanitiser spray for guests to use before touching anything, and of course, we have alcohol hand sanitiser in all public areas (which obviously includes next to the water refill station).
What is your advocacy as a business?
Seriously we could go on and on about this subject, but let us start by saying we believe everyone should watch the world-famous naturalist David Attenborough’s recent Netflix documentary “A Life On Our Planet”. But I will talk more about our passion and advocacy:
We are advocates for the environment, climate change, ocean conservation, animal protection, and are passionate about protecting our planet in every way we can. We wrote an article about Eco Tourism and how people generally in life can make small changes to help our planet.
We believe in equality and support the LGBTQ+ community and Black Lives Matters movement.
As scuba divers and animal lovers, as mentioned we are huge advocates for ocean conservation and animal protection; this includes teaching others not to participate in any activity where humans are feeding for tourist attractions, for example no whale shark feeding (we have written a blog post on this subject) and no fish feeding when on snorkel trips. We want to help people realise that holding sea stars out of the water kills them, and chasing turtles for a selfie or to touch them can also cause them to drown, and please do not stand on or touch coral as they are living things which will die.
We try to encourage people to stay away from palm oil because at the moment it’s unsustainable, and the collection of palm oil from plantations in Indonesian Borneo, Malaysian Borneo and Sumatra Indonesia is not only killing orangutans, elephants and rhinos but it is a huge contributor to climate change. On World Orangutan Day, I undertook a personal Palm Oil Day Free Challenge and wrote an article about it.
Eating less meat will help climate change, even if everyone had one day a week when they didn’t eat meat it would help. Did you know that the Amazon Rainforest fires are sanctioned by the Brazilian government to make way for cattle farming? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (excuse the pun).
What are your plans for Moalboal Eco Lodge to grow in the future?
We don’t plan to add any more buildings at the Eco Lodge in the future, because we want the experience to remain small and personal. However we would love to have a zero waste shop on site for guests and people in the community to come and refill their existing bottles.
When schools are open again, we would like to work with the local government to talk to the school children about using less plastic, how to ecobrick, and how to help with the plastic problem.
Aside from running a zero waste resort, what other sustainable habits do you practice in your own life?
We practice what we preach and live as much of a sustainable life as we can. We:
- Compost all our fruit and veg to send less to landfill. We have provided a compost bin in the resort kitchen to encourage guests to do the same
- Have a plant-based diet and are experimenting more with vegan and vegetarian dishes, some of which guests can order from us.
- Upcycle/reuse as many items as we can to send less to landfill, for example we have turned old bottles into drinking glasses and light shades around the resort, we use old jam jars as drinking glasses, old mayonnaise/coffee/olive jars as storage containers, old sweet tins as ash trays for guests to use, planters made from left over bamboo or old tyres.
- Ecobrick as many plastics as possible and we now have 2 small tables and 2 small chairs.
- Chose LED and solar lights in our home and around the resort to reduce the amount of electricity used.
- Have cross ventilation and open all doors and windows to cool our rooms (exactly the same thought process as we used in the resort)
- Built a rainwater collection system which supplies our home and the entire resort.
- Have a greywater system for watering the garden in dry season – so all water from our sinks, washing machine, shower go into a separate tank and we water from here – another reason why we don’t use chemical products in our house.
- Stay away from using chemicals for cleaning as much as possible. Our dishwashing liquid and household laundry powder is all plant based, and we clean our house with natural products like vinegar/water/lemon juice/baking soda.
- Use only palm oil free, plastic free and ideally zero waste bathroom products such as soap bars, liquid handwash, shampoo and conditioner bar, bamboo toothbrush, tooth powder, deodorant bar, body spray, hand lotion/moisturiser, perfume, mosquito repellent etc
- Make, use and sell our own natural products such as mosquito repellent, air freshener, perfume, body spray, deodorant bar, tooth powder
- Always carry a reusable canvas tote bag with us. Always! We use it when we buy fruit and veg, when we go shopping in Gaisano, but you never know when you need to carry something so we both have one in our day bag/hand bag.
- Take our own tupperware containers to our local carinderia for take out food, and have tupperware containers for our guests to use if they want take out.
- Always use a refillable water bottle when we go on a day trip and each have our own.
- Encourage people to cycle instead of using a car/scooter therefore using less fossil fuel which contributes to climate change.
- Buy local as much as we can which not only helps our community with much needed income, but reduces our carbon footprint
Being zero waste is so much easier than you think, it just involves a change in mindset.
First and foremost, before you decide to buy something, have a look around you and see if you can use something you already have, or can something have multiple uses? Example: we haven’t bought one single storage container for our kitchen and used jars or tins from food items. We haven’t bought drinking glasses for ourselves or our guests, instead we use old jam jars which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
We haven’t bought bottles to supply guests with drinking water and have used old gin/zabana bottles. Our planters are made from old tyres, our seed containers are noodle pots left by guests. When we needed a small gate we went to our stock of left over bamboo and made something out of that.
When you have to buy something, try to buy without external packaging or choose sustainable packaging like paper, cardboard which can be reused or composted (cardboard and paper is better than plastic, but to make paper and cardboard trees need to be cut so reuse wherever possible).
Instead of throwing something away, can it be repurposed in some way? Is there someone else who you can make use of it or is there a donation bank/charity shop? In a community Facebook Group, ask if anyone can make use of it – people will love something for free and if you were going to throw it away anyway, it’s a nice thing to do to give it away. I have a huge collection of spice jars and containers ready to donate to AMGU Zero Waste store in Cebu City.
Join the Buhay Zero Waste Facebook Group because this is a community full of ideas and encouragement.