Silvina Miguel, Sustainability Consultant and Permaculture Designer at Alila Villas Uluwatu, talks about the resort’s Sustainability Lab and the measures it takes to turn waste into opportunity for positive environmental outcomes.
LT: Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you came to be a regenerative tourism consultant?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications/Journalism, with 25 years of experience, and I have been a certified permaculture designer since 2016.
From the perspective of a permaculture designer, sustainable systems are no longer good enough — we need to create regenerative systems, meaning systems that have a positive footprint, not systems that only neutralise the negative impact with offsetting options.
Regenerative is a concept that was first applied to agriculture. It meant bringing back the life in the soil, regenerating it while also improving the community around it as well as their livelihoods. After the pandemic, the regenerative concept was applied to tourism: how businesses can align their development to that of the community and their ecosystem, help them thrive and boost their livelihood by assuming their social and environmental responsibilities while developing their business. My job as a permaculture designer can apply to any system, in this case as a consultant in the tourism industry.
LT: What are you most passionate about in terms of the opportunities that responsible tourism presents?
We’ve been told that we humans are negative forces in the phase of the Earth, but we have the power to leave a positive impact too. Yes, we have been irresponsible so far, all of us, but I believe that it’s only been like this because we have not been given enough information about how our daily lives affect ourselves, our communities and our planet. I believe most people are still stuck in that negative idea. What inspires me the most is to be able to share with everyone that every single step counts, that we have the power to turn things around, that change starts with ourselves. Each one of us can be an inspiration to others.
LT: What are some of the initiatives you have helped introduce at Alila Villas Uluwatu?
I have helped introduce a fresh perspective through the lens of permaculture design. It’s the ability to look at the same reality and to see solutions where before, we only saw problems. For instance, before our Lab was created, waste was a problem, pollution — but now it has become a solution providing job opportunities, collaborations and business opportunities.
LT: What takes place in the Sustainability Lab and what is your work focussed on?
We started our Sustainability Lab in November 2019. It’s an evolving idea based on three pillars: integrative design, self-sufficiency efforts, and data collection.
The Lab could not have existed if Alila as a brand had not embraced integrative design as a core value since the very beginning, meaning their entire approach of how to create the resort, how to build it and how to responsibly integrate with the community and the ecosystem.
Regarding our self-sufficiency efforts, we have our own Waste Management Facility where on a daily basis we collect, segregate, process, reuse, recycle and upcycle our own waste, making sure that none ends up as landfill. We also grow our food in our chemical free chili garden. We measure everything — incoming and outgoing waste, weekly harvest and daily production.
This year, the Lab has also become a training centre for our team members, the local community and local organisations and hotelier academies.
We are also focused on production. We have a glass factory where we upcycle the bottles coming from the kitchens into glasses for our canteen, our restaurant and our boutique.
I am the facilitator of this whole idea and its development, that’s what my work is focused on. However, the lab and its success belongs to the entire Alila Villas Uluwatu Team, starting with our passionate General Manger, Hemal Lain.
LT: How can the guests get involved in regenerative practices while staying here?
The guests are already involved even if they are not fully aware, as we are turning their waste into a positive impact. They can be sure that the outcome of their stay in Alila Villas Uluwatu is always a positive one. Their waste does not pollute Bali, their waste creates job opportunities, their waste creates collaborations and a new circular economy.
We also created a Sustainability Journey that the guests can join to see for themselves all our efforts.
We also have two special bookings, Gift to Share and Positive Footprint, to give them the opportunity to upgrade their stay and support our Regenerative Tourism efforts, like our CSR programs with R.O.L.E., Bali Wise and Bali Life Foundations.
LT: What sustainability measures are in force across the entire resort?
Alila Villas Uluwatu was the first resort in Indonesia to be awarded the highest certification by Earth Check. We have an environmental policy that describes all our efforts, like our commitment to prioritise local materials and to preserve the ecosystem we inhabit. Or our commitment to save water by having a comprehensive water management system that integrates a water catchment and a grey water-systems that integrate with our irrigation system. And our commitment to save electricity by making the most out of our location, our design and the materials that were used for thermal insulation from the tropical heat. We also prioritise organic local, fair trade producers, and since 2021, as proud signatories of the UN Global Tourism Plastic Initiative, our commitment to eliminating all unnecessary plastic packagings and items from our operation by 2025, so far we have successfully eliminated 94 per cent.
LT: How do some of your regenerative practices benefit the local community of Uluwatu?
Most of our team members come from the community around us, as per our policy to prioritise the local village for filling job positions, so all our practices affect the local community directly. We also collaborate with a local organisation called Tambyak Lestari which collects our food waste to feed the pig in their pig farm. We collaborate closely with local organizations like R.O.L.E. Foundation, Bali Wise and Bali Life. We open our Lab to them for training and experiences. With R.O.L.E. Foundation, we share some of our waste, so they can use it in their own waste management training. We hired Bali Wise graduates to work in our Lab. We donate food to Bali Life.
LT: What are your upcoming plans for the future at Alila Villas Uluwatu in terms of regenerative tourism?
We are just getting started! The Lab is young, it’s been only three years with two during the pandemic, so we are looking forward to deepening our regenerative practices and to turn our Lab into a creative hub for innovators to get together and find the way to make Regenerative Tourism the standard practice everywhere.