Interview with Marcus Cotton - Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Global Tourism Plastics Initiative
Interview with Marcus Cotton, Managing Director and Mentor of Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Nepal, on the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative
Question (Q): Why is sustainability important to you?
Answer (A): We believe sustainability is not merely important, but essential, not for us individually, but for all living beings. Individually, we must all make efforts, not merely to be sustainable, but to be active driving forward actions to turn back the tsunami of damage and blight humans have inflicted on the earth.
Q: What are the benefits of including your commitment to sustainably when communicating with potential visitors?
A: Communicating our sustainability is not solely for commercial advantage, but also to spread the word and evangelise for the cause of regeneration of the planet. We do not force sustainability on our guests, we rather demonstrate it in what we do and how we go about running Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge.
Q: What competitive advantages have you gained in implementing the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative?
A: We have to admit the satisfaction in being the first single property hotel in South Asia to sign up! To join GTPI is part of the manifestation of who we are and how we do things. As a result of covid, commercial advantage has not been tangible. But as we say, we do things the way we do as we believe in it and would do it thus even without guests at the lodge.
Q: Where did you start from and what are your next steps to implement a circular economy of plastics?
A: We had already started our journey of plastic eradication by the time we joined GTPI so we have already successfully eradicated all single use plastics (barring some cling film in the kitchen which is all compostable - Soil Association approved plastic film) which we choose to use. We are now reducing multi-use plastics and those single use items – such as plastic bottles of cleaning fluids and similar. Nepal is not yet approaching a focus on plastics and concepts of supply chain management are entirely alien. It is thus a complex challenge to contact and persuade suppliers and materials distributors to list to our pleas to reduce and remove unnecessary plastics and to consider non-plastic packaging.
Q: Do you have an interesting example/project that you want to share with us?
A: We are exploring options with our local traditional recyclers, Kawarris, to see if we can enhance their capacity to recycle plastics. It is early days and, as above mentioned for supply chain, these initiatives are met with suspicion and rebuttal and take a long time to move past the initial phases and secure confidence and trust that might then lead to positive action. Should this happen, it will be linked to youth groups in our community collecting plastic waste and we will then deliver it to the Kawarris. Another project that we are working on is to buy milk from our local diary in bulk rather than in the standard 500ml polythene pouches. This will be a significant reduction in kitchen single use plastic that we currently cannot avoid.
Q: What challenges have you been confronted with and how did you manage to overcome these?
A: Although we are not desperately remote, there is no local government refuse collection service, no centralised recycling facility in the Pokhara Valley or similar ‘infrastructure.’ We therefore have to develop everything from scratch. Among the lodge staff, awareness levels are high as they have been at the heart of all our sustainability actions. That said, we are like an island in a sea of ignorance and ambivalence making it a challenge to get anyone to listen.
Q: How did the COVID-19 crisis impact your ambitions?
A: With government mandated lockdowns and travel bans the entire operation of the lodge, everything, including our GTPI commitments, has been put on hold.
Q: How do you engage with other actors along your value chains to implement the GTPI and sustainability measures?
A: As mentioned above, we speak to our suppliers and the local product distributors e.g. Nepal Lever (a subsidiary of Unilever) to ask if they can supply laundry powder in bulk paper sacks rather than small plastic pouches.
Q: How do you measure the impact of these changes?
A: We use a measuring system run by Yardstick UK to monitor our sustainability actions and quantify change. We are also starting to work with Greenview (Singapore) as they are contracted by Regenerative Resorts and we are obliged to use their portal.
Q: What advice would you give to other SMEs to implement these ambitious goals?
A: There is often fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of shame, etc. Our advice is: do not be put off; do not fear, take some small steps, measure them and report them to all your stakeholders. From small steps, larger initiatives will follow and from them a groundswell of public/industry opinion can drive the opposers away and force change.
Tiger Moutain Pokhara Lodge are signatories of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, and this interview has been conducted as part of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative newsletter, in partnership with Sustainable First. Click here to read more about their commitments, and here to read and sign-up to the newsletter.