Renowned as the most richly preserved city in Southeast Asia, Luang Prabang in the north of Laos is a stunning example of architectural heritage revealing the country's Colonial French past along with centuries-old Buddhist temples. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Luang Prabang is on the map of cultural treasures. Tourism has soared and with this has come a growing need to protect not just the past but the environmental future and natural resources of this stunning landscape.
Born and bred in North Wales, John Morris Williams arrived in Laos close to four years ago becoming a green pioneer of sustainable tourism as General Manager of the renowned Luang Prabang View Hotel. His focus is giving back to the environment and to communities, collaborating with industry partners and creating a proactive can-do spirit amongst stakeholders.
After a stint in Saudi Arabia as a chef, John set out to Southeast Asia where his way up in the hospitality industry in Thailand for 25 years implementing green ideas, as well as a career that took him to Scotland, France and Barbados. In Laos, John has been given the green light to continue to push forward with common-sense sustainability initiatives.Fresh from the hotel's weekly clean-up in the local area, John offered GoGreen Portals his own professional insights.
Where did your passion for green projects come from?
It really started in Krabi in Thailand nearly 30 years ago. We shipped all our garbage by long tail boats to the mainland daily, so we separated all our garbage and everyone got involved in recycling from the start. It was wonderful not only for the hotel I was working at but also the community, and the daily shipment was reduced as a result. It was our boat manager, Weera Uabamrung, who suggested using fishing nets instead of black bags for garbage shipments to the mainland and that had a hugely positive impact.
Can you talk about some of the green initiatives at the hotel?
The hotel was built in 2007 and has grass roofs to create green views in all directions. There were already grey-water ponds when I joined and water was being reused for the gardens. The ponds have fish and water hyacinth filter them.
As well as recycling all our garbage, we have kitchen gardens where we grow our own plants and shrubs for the hotel rooms. We added ducks as well as wild and domesticated pigs into the equation too to reduce food waste and produce a sustainable food source. Fruit peelings are turned into EM to clean tiles in guest rooms and drains.
We've installed water-saving cards in every room and have key cards to help cut electricity, with LED lights installed too. In 2017 this reduced our utility consumption greatly, with costs reducing by close to 20%. We have toilets that consume less water and electric vehicles for use within the hotel grounds. Other measures include a water station for guests to refill bottles and carafes on the tables in place of plastic bottles.
In the kitchens we recycle a yoghurt pots and egg cartons which are reused to grow seedlings and soda water bottles to keep local honey or for cold-drip coffee. We have six composts and have cut down monthly costs of over USD $200 a month on soil and fertilizer in the last two years since we started. We collect coffee grounds from a local café for the compost and garden waste from another hotel, Sanakeo Boutique.We save hundreds of dollars a month growing our own fruit and vegetables and the plants we use in the hotel regenerate fast growing new shoots to use throughout the interior, keeping the air cleaner too.
How else do you give back to the community?
There's no beach here but we actively clean along the banks of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. We assist in cleaning roads and areas when required and every Friday we clean outside of the hotel for 500 meters with 10 or 12 staff which gives them a sense of pride in keeping the area clean We've set up some bins on the roadside too and local government services help too. The money we gain from recycling is spent on staff for events and team parties.We donate surplus EM to Free the Bears and the Laos Buffalo Dairy for cleaning purposes and we also use surplus bananas to bake bread which we regularly give to two local schools. We also spray the schools with mosquito spray during the rainy season and donate books and food parcels as well as teach students how to make money from recycling.