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This story is part of The Hollywood Reporter’s 2023 Sustainability Issue (click here to read more).
In hospitality and beyond, greenwashing is so rampant it’s hard to discern whether a purportedly eco-friendly hotel is actually making a difference or simply claiming undue credit for eliminating plastic drinking straws. Fortunately, meaningful sustainability measures are starting to become less rare thanks to some truly innovative hotels taking regenerative action. Those include Islas Secas, a lush solar-powered escape comprising 14 islands — 13 of them untouched — in a marine protected zone in Panama, and Bali’s nearly zero-waste Desa Potato Head, where plastic and styrofoam trash is being transformed into designer furniture and decor before guests’ very eyes. (Mark Ronson, John Legend and Snoop Dogg have performed at Potato Head’s beach club.)
The newest, Coulibri Ridge, opened in October 2022 on the Caribbean island of Dominica. (Visitors to Dominica have included Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones with their kids, Issa Rae, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire).
Only 14 suites — including the 1,000-square-foot Sky Penthouse with a private infinity pool (from $1,100 per night) — occupy more than 200 acres. Vista, the more formal of the five-star property’s two restaurants, serves locally sourced dinners that draw from the on-property orchard and nearby fishermen’s daily catch. Ebikes and snorkeling equipment are available to guests, as is a yoga pavilion and intimate spa where treatments feature Dominica-produced natural products.
“While guests have the opportunity to experience a truly special form of discreet luxury during their time with us, what we really want them to walk away with is an awareness of how they can incorporate sustainable practices into their everyday lives,” says Coulibri Ridge founder and owner Daniel Langlois, who invested 20-plus years into sensitively developing his light-footprint property.
The retreat sits atop 285 acres on a mountain ridge in southern Dominica, a site chosen after years of environmental testing to ensure optimal opportunities to harness the island’s abundant sun, wind and rain. The latter is collected by uniquely designed roofs, purified via UV light and copper ionization, and fed into the 14 residential-style suites and two chlorine-free infinity pools.
Guests can take a back-of-house sustainability tour to see what it takes to go off-grid. “Coulibri Ridge was designed not only as a luxury resort, but also as a long-term research project that showcases the possibilities for self-sustaining communities in Dominica and around the world,” says Langlois. It functions like a small village “where, through practices like the harvesting of solar power and the generation of wind power via our vertical axis turbines, each individual building produces enough energy and water for its own needs, as well as a small excess.” The excess supplies common facilities and can be shared to other buildings as needed — “a concept that could be developed to help vulnerable communities,” says Langlois, who is Quebec-born and has Dominican citizenship.
Both rainwater and grey water irrigate the resort’s gardens, which currently grow some 20 percent of the produce served on the property, including mango, avocado, passion fruit, breadfruit, jelly coconut, plantain, soursop, banana and guava, depending on the season. There is a hydroponic greenhouse in the works, too.
All the interiors feature earth-friendly materials such as recycled teakwood and 100 percent recyclable aluminum. The exteriors — built by a team from the local community using hand-chiseled stone sourced from the property — were designed to blend seamlessly into the landscape and be resilient to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes and extreme humidity.
The resort nearly opened in 2017, but a Category 5 hurricane hit the island, devastating the neighboring village of Soufrière. (The resort only suffered light damage.) Instead of opening, Langlois and his wife and partner, Dominique Marchand, decided to use the knowledge gained from building Coulibri Ridge to offer aid.
“We put our plans on hold to help the local communities rebuild and ultimately created the Resilient Dominica Project (REZDM),” says Langlois. “Some projects supported by REZDM include rebuilding Soufrière Primary School, including installation of a solar power system built by local contractors and laborers; the Coral Conservation Action Team that helps combat the spread of stony coral tissue loss disease in the Soufrière-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve; and the construction of a new jetty there to provide more options for emergency evacuation in the case of natural disaster.”
From $700/night; coulibriridge.com
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