Notice the energy in the air whenever you wake up at a Sandals Resort? It’s peaceful and pure, just like the Caribbean Sea. You would swear that the coffee tastes better, the breathing is easier, and the world is healthier. It’s certainly greener alongside the meandering walkways.
Quietly, maybe while gently whistling, the garden and landscape teams tend to each leaf of flora and every handful of soil with the kind of care you’d give to a loved one. This is the reason all Sandals and Beaches properties are so lush. Ask a person wearing gloves and he or she will tell you that they enjoy this work because they love the islands as much as the guests do. Actually, they may love the islands more.
“You might look at it as a job,” a landscaper at Sandals Regency La Toc says while inspecting a hedge, “but I see it as a privilege to take care of my island every day.”
For this landscaper, and for so many of us, every day is Earth Day, but this April 22nd has a little more in store. Guests of Sandals and Beaches Resorts can get a special look at the target of their affection, with the garden and landscape teams leading property tours to explain the natural wonders at their fingertips: Banana flowers and Caribbean lilies. Herbs and spices. Shrubs and grasses with colors as brilliant as Christmas ornaments.
There is not an ounce of fake in any of it.
“We’ve been given these islands to preserve and to protect so they will continue to produce natural beauty and sustenance,” says Sandals Resorts International Executive Chairman Adam Stewart. “It’s our responsibility, but really, it’s an honor.”
Away from the walkways and out of sight, the Sandals and Beaches teams use what earth has provided to provide back to earth.
The gardener at Sandals South Coast has tended to his family’s fields since he was a boy. But he didn’t begin to learn about the benefits of composting until he started working here at the resort.
“I wish I’d known about it a long time ago,” he says.
The compost training is being expanded to the island of Turks and Caicos as part of Sandals’ 40-for-40 initiative, commemorating the company’s 40th year. It is among the preservation projects that the 15,000 employees of Sandals, Beaches, and the Sandals Foundation have chosen to actively engage with resort guests and neighbors. They want to bring awareness to nature and to the progress being made beyond the resorts — in the fields, forests, and communities throughout the Caribbean.
Their work is adding momentum to the healthy life cycle.
For example, teaching compost methods to farmers will help them improve their harvests. It will greatly reduce concerns about food shortages in the region, and it will provide an economic boost through agriculture. Farmers can make their own compost and sell it to other farmers. For the one farmer, it’s an extra source of income. For the other, it’s a much more affordable, organic and reliable source of natural nutrients.
Some of the harvest will even find its way back to the resorts. Any chef will say that fresh ingredients are the key to the best-tasting food, which is why up to 90 percent of the produce used at Sandals Resorts is sourced locally. Shipping is all but eliminated, greatly reducing the carbon footprint.
It’s good for the guests, good for the people in the community, good for the environment, and good for the cycle of natural progress.
World-famous woodworker and forestry devotee George Nakashima once said, “A tree is our most intimate contact with nature.” Over the past 13 years, Sandals has initiated more than 20,000 intimate contacts with nature by planting that many trees across the Caribbean. It’s just a start.
On the company’s flagship island, Jamaica, guests can travel with resort and Foundation teams into the UNESCO World Heritage site of the John Crow and Blue Mountains, where 7,000 trees are being planted right now. It’s no coincidence that the soil in this region is fertile enough to produce every coffee bean used in all Sandals and Beaches Resorts.
“Planting trees improves soil and the land’s capacity to adapt to climate change,” says Professor Rosalea Hamilton, Chairperson for the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance. “It also provides sustainable livelihoods for many in need.”
The tree planting in Jamaica’s mountains is part of a widespread passion project for which Sandals has collaborated with several organizations to add 1 million trees across 14 Caribbean islands by this summer.
In The Bahamas teams from Sandals are replenishing hundreds of native plants to protect the islands from coastal flooding and erosion, and in Antigua, they’re working to replace invasive plants from the Wallings Nature Reserve with trees that consistently bear fruit. On a hill above the 1,680-acre reserve, they’re also building an overlook so school children and Sandals guests can see for themselves why the work is so important.
The visits matter. On Grenada, for example, Sandals guests can get out and witness colorful and odd-looking birds you’ll only find in either a Dr. Seuss book or an Audubon guide. Eco-tours from the Woburn Interpretive Center provide Instagram opps, and the small fees from the tours go directly toward sustaining the land and the people who depend on it.
Again, the benefits multiply: the land flourishes, whole and organic foods are plentiful, and the beautiful islands are beautified even more. It’s all happening because of Sandals Resorts International team members, initiatives from the Sandals Foundation, and you, our guests, who allow 100% of donations to the Caribbean Tree Planting Project at www.sandalsfoundation.org to go directly toward the hands-on work that will sustain the Caribbean for generations.
At a school near Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the view from a row of open-windowed classrooms is not entirely different from a balcony view at the nearby Beaches Ocho Rios: over lush vegetation and toward the sea. The energy is as high as the elevation. In schools like this throughout the Caribbean, Sandals is helping to feed the most important component of a healthy environmental cycle: young minds.
“We all need to be better at taking care of the environment,” a 10-year-old girl says.
“Who benefits?” a teacher asks.
“Everyone benefits,” says a boy who will be graduating in two years. “The oceans and fish benefit, too. So does the economy.”
Another classmate says he wants to go to college to learn about horticulture — a topic that didn’t exist in schools until recently. A thousand miles away, the Sandals Foundation is supporting the very first environmental curriculum for primary schools in The Bahamas. And in Antigua, students are learning how everything on earth works together from their seats on floating classrooms.
“These are the next influencers,” Adam Stewart says.
They will spread the word about the environment organically, just as the Sandals teams are doing. The Sandals Foundation has engaged more than 50,000 people across the Caribbean just since 2009 to be active changemakers.
They’re helping to plant a million trees.
They’re creating compost to naturally cultivate thousands of acres of fertile land.
They’re collecting more than 40,000 pounds of garbage every month, and donating the leftover food that goes from the resorts to local pig farmers.
This is what really matters: the actions done privately that slowly become part of everyday life, on Earth Day and beyond. Along a beach far away from the resorts on Jamaica’s north coast, eight children and a Sandals employee on her day off pick up trash and try to set an example for the adults in the community. An hour later they step back and look at the clean sand. It’s the most vivid picture of the cycle in progress.
They don’t have to be here. They just love the island and being part of the earthly cycle — full of energy, full of life, and full of promise.
Anyone can donate at sandalsfoundation.org. Choose “Environment” and know that 100 percent of every donation will go directly to conservation and environmental education programs across the Caribbean.