September 9, 2008 We're all familiar with the term "Eco-tourism" and the growing market aimed at responsible travelers with a concern for the environments they visit. Now the term "Geo-tourism" has entered the lexicon - an approach that that aims to enhance not only the environmental character of a destination, but also its cultural, aesthetic and heritage values along with the well-being of local residents. The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa located on the Gila River Indian Community is trying to achieve just this kind of balance with a new initiative called GeoGreen .
The 500 room resort is in the Sonoran desert, located within rugged Arizonian terrain and sits on 2,400 acres of the 372,000 acre Gila River Indian Reservation. The Reservation is home to two Indian tribes, the Pima (Akimel O’otham or River People) and Maricopa (Pee Posh) and their total population is more than 22,000. Whilst the people speak different languages they have a shared strong belief in the spirit of community and that all forms of nature are sacred.
The GeoGreen initiative involves all personnel at the resorts and is overseen by a ‘GeoGreen Team’ who ensure that conservation and recycling measures are undertaken throughout the resort. All departments are required to recycle paper, plastic, aluminum and cardboard, use recycled copy paper and turn off lights, air conditioning and computers when the room is not in use. The spa uses wash clothes as opposed to paper towels and orders supplies from local businesses.
The grounds of the resort are filled with native plants and thus required less watering and the watering system runs on a timed drip system ensuring efficient watering.
Guests will find that their bed linen and towels will be changed on request only, the restaurant menu will feature local ingredients and their room will be heated and cooled by means of pre-set electronic thermostats to minimize energy use. They will no longer find bottled water in their room but can quench their thirst with water sourced from the Gila River Indian Community.
Even the kitchen has gone green. The gas, lights and air conditioner are turned off when the restaurant is closed, local products are used when possible, the dishwasher is turned off between washes and used grease is recycled into biofuels by a local organization.
The resort will also offer guests the chance to be exposed to the culture of the Pima and Maricopa people, with a storytelling and song Program sharing ancient legends and displays of the arts and crafts of these two tribes. More than 30% of the personnel are from Native American background and food outlets source local produce and indigenous ingredients from the Gila River farms.
“Our efforts in preserving the Pima and Maricopa cultures combined with the enhanced focus on shrinking our carbon footprint is what makes our Geo-Green program significant,” said resort general manager, Bunty Ahamed. More information at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass resort.