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Meet 7 women in travel working towards a greener future

International Women’s Day 2022 is calling for, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”

While research shows that women are more likely to be negatively impacted by climate change, they are also our best advocates to mitigate the causes and adapt to its effects on the ground. The leadership and participation of women in society is essential to combating climate change, and an increasing number of women around the world are using their voices to call for immediate action. To celebrate the ongoing eco-efforts of the independently minded women behind our brand this International Women’s Day, we discuss female empowerment and the importance of nature with seven sustainably-focused hoteliers and partners who are taking a forward-thinking approach to travel.

1. Teresa Unterthiner – FORESTIS, Italy

FORESTIS

Teresa Unterthiner, owner of Considerate Collection hotel FORESTIS.

Born and raised in the South Tyrol mountainscape, Teresa Unterthiner holds a life-long appreciation for the power and beauty of her natural surroundings. Driven by her desire to protect the Dolomites and inspired by the elements of the alpine forest, Teresa and the Hinteregger family transformed an Austro-Hungarian sanatorium into a summit-level sustainable hideaway for back-to-nature seeking guests. Standing on a sunny southern slope of the Plose mountain, FORESTIS runs on 100% renewable energy, operates on a zero-waste ethos, and has been built using locally sourced, durable, natural materials such as pine wood and stones of the Ploseberg.

FORESTIS

Look out for the Considerate sage leaf on slh.com. This indicates that a hotel is part of the collection and embodies each of the three pillars.

For Teresa, it is a matter of the heart to preserve the original character of her homeland – which is why for every tree felled in the hotel’s construction, two new trees were planted, or the wood was repurposed into fencing and furniture to preserve and re-grow as much of the precious woodland as possible.

What makes you feel empowered?

FORESTIS

Deep breaths of clear mountain air, our pure Plose spring water and the countless hours of sunshine at FORESTIS provide me with the energy I need to be motivated to work on the progress of our hideaway every day. Furthermore, it is the many small moments in which I meet our guests and members of the FORESTIS team that make me particularly happy and sincerely strengthen me to do better each day.

How do you connect with nature?

FORESTIS

Whenever I can clear a bit of time, I go for a walk in the forest. As soon as I hear the birds chirping and the trees rustling in the wind, I feel part of nature. When I stand in front of the mountains, I feel a great sense of humility. This encourages me to approach my tasks with the same strength I see rise up from the mountains.

2. Valerie Jongeneel – Op Oost, Netherlands

Valerie Jongeneel

Valerie Jongeneel, owner of Dutch gastrofarm, Op Oost.

In a windswept corner of the Wadden Islands, Valerie Jongeneel met chef Joram Timmerman while collecting oysters on the mudflats of Texel – a wildly beautiful place not far from where their converted farmhouse and seaweed barn now stands. Valerie offers guests a down-to-earth luxury experience in her Dutch gastrofarm, Op Oost, where the sounds of the Wadden Sea can be heard from the twelve spacious garden suites and lodges. Valerie has put great thought into every eco-conscious detail which supports the hotel’s Green Key Gold certification – from the COCO MAT mattresses to the homemade in-room vegan cosmetics and dried reusable flower arrangements.

Op Oost

Valerie and Joram foraging for salt marsh sea kale and other fresh ingredients for Op Oost’s farm-to-table menu.

Together with Joram, who guides guests on private oyster picking tours and wild foraging sessions along the shoreline, the couple champions a strong ‘served by nature’ ethos and ensures that everything is foraged, farmed, and fermented within 150 metres of Op Oost.

What makes you feel empowered?

Op Oost

Every day we have the opportunity to do things differently – to make better choices. This freedom makes me feel empowered. In our hotel, for example, we have decided that breakfast is always going to be vegetarian. We save 600 metres squared of farmland, 20 animals, 259kg of CO2, and 550,000 litres of water per month by not serving meat at breakfast. If that doesn’t empower your circle of influence and encourage more…what else?

How do you connect with nature?

You are nature, nature is you. Just as the moon controls the ebb and flow of the tide, it also affects you. If you are aware of this and open to it, and allow this flow to enter your work, you will find that everything flows much more naturally.

3. Ellie Barmpagiannis – Grand Forest Metsovo, Greece

Ellie Barmpagiannis

“Remotely connecting with nature in a respectful way, in full privacy enjoying meaningful details taken care of by genuine people is how I would describe my perfect luxury experience.” – Ellie Barmpagiannis, owner of Grand Forest Metsovo.

Ellie Barmpagiannis lives and breathes the beauty of Epirus, the rugged region in north-western Greece where she has made Grand Forest Metsovo a nature-inspired haven for all her guests. Originally hailing from Metsovo, an historic village rooted in livestock farming and artisan crafts, Ellie can often be found cycling the trails of the Pindus National Park – considered one of the most important protected areas for the maintenance of alpine biodiversity in Europe. Her chalet-style retreat has been designed with its surrounding peaks in mind, and draws on its own supply of natural spring water.

Grand Forest Metsovo

Working closely with the local community, Ellie handpicks Metsovian-guided activities which give guests an authentic and environmentally friendly experience of her beloved homeland, from horse-back riding and wild truffle hunting to hiking and skiing.

What makes you feel empowered?

I cultivate equality in the workplace and ensure that inclusion diversity is the standard for Grand Forest’s operations. I care about meaningful interactions with my guests and the environment, and my passion is to include people for their uniqueness. It all comes down to the distinctive value system of each person, their vision, and purpose. This is what empowers and helps us move forward, to better and express ourselves as well as our environment. Through this, we stay alive and overcome any obstacle. An individual’s vision and purpose are always there, giving us direction and empowerment.

How do you connect with nature?

Grand Forest Metsovo

Grand Forest Metsovo guests can gather wild truffles until they have enough for an alfresco lunch cooked by the river with Greek naturalist Katerina (pictured) and her friendly dogs.

Nature is the original source of everything. By making an effort to understand it, one connects and comes to terms with it through a feeling grounded in respect. This respect stems from the realisation of our insignificance compared to nature. We must stay close to nature, to stop and smell the flowers in order to feel gratitude. “You cannot conquer a mountain, though it may conquer you”.

4. Samornpun Somnam – Keemala, Thailand

Keemala

Samornpun Somnam, owner of all-pool-villa rainforest retreat, Keemala.

Inspired by four fictional Phuketian tribes, Samornpun Somnam has instilled the Keemala experience with a deep-rooted respect for the resort’s surrounding rainforest, local communities, and the planet in general. As a fourth generation Phuketian, Samornpun wants to show visitors what Phuket is like beyond the picturesque beaches and tourist attractions, highlighting the region’s longstanding unique traditions through immersive, meaningful experiences –  from community based mangrove restoration, tree planting, and tours of Phang Nga Bay with Phuket eco-tourism pioneer John Gray, to engaging guests in a ‘Natural Lifestyle’ concept through a weekly complimentary schedule of activities, such as garden tours, folding pandan leaves, tai chi and meditation.

Keemala

As an animal lover, Samornpun ensures her resort follows a strict anti-animal exploitation policy, actively discouraging guests from elephant trekking, rides, and shows, interacting with captive tigers, or non-sustainable fishing excursions. Keemala aims to preserve Thailand’s wildlife by organising non-exploitative interaction, for example with The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary or seeing wild elephants from a respectful distance in Khao Sok National Park.

What makes you feel empowered?

I believe that women and men are both equal in capabilities and therefore should be treated equally. I appreciate that I have had the full familial support for me to grow and mature to be the person I am today. I am also grateful for the educational opportunities that I have had both here in Thailand and overseas. This immense support throughout my life has certainly empowered me to follow my passions, be confident in my abilities in work, life, and decision making, and be centred around the goals I have set to succeed.

How do you connect with nature?

Keemala

I love to travel and explore the world and different cultures. When I am not travelling, particularly during the past couple of years since the pandemic started, I very much enjoy the simplicity of life that my home in Phuket has to offer. I often go hiking in the hills and jogging on the beach in the morning. I also love to spend time in my home garden, growing local vegetables and fruits for our own kitchen. I have been living more ‘green’ where I can, and making conscious decisions in both small and big areas of life, from actively reducing single-use plastics in my personal life to getting involved in supporting ethical treatment and conservation of animals locally.

5. Britta Germann – Breidenbacher Hof, Germany

Britta Germann

Britta German, Director of Sales & Marketing and Rooms Division at Breidenbacher Hof, with her beloved rescue dog Cruzar.

During her 14 years overseeing Breidenbacher Hof’s sales and marketing team, as well as on-the-ground operations, Britta Germann has been closely involved with the hotel’s Earth Check programme and Green Team – so far helping to achieve Silver Status with the aim of reaching Gold Level in the near future. The balance between Britta’s work and private life has always been the connection with nature and animals, a connection which resonates strongly with Breidenbacher Hof’s own ethos.

The city-centre hotel gathers eggs from its shared hen house and fresh milk from its own dairy cows to give guests a taste of Düsseldorf’s surrounding countryside, alongside producing honey with the help of a local beekeeper. The hotel grows its own fruit and vegetables on a family-run farm in nearby Ratingen, including sustainably-grown asparagus, strawberries, wasabi and ginger which are all incorporated into dishes at The Duchy, Breidenbacher Hof’s brasserie-style restaurant.

What makes you feel empowered?

Breidenbacher Hof

Britta and Executive Chef Philipp Ferber personally meet with farmers and producers in the Lower Rhine and the surrounding area to source the very best organic, seasonal produce.

To work with people is most important to me. The connection with my team, my colleagues and my boss inspires and motivates me. The hospitality and travel industry is my life and the possibility to meet with different personalities and nationalities opened up my horizon. The chance to learn from all kinds of people I interact with gives me confidence and makes me stronger. My inner strength is a result of the love and values I received from my parents but also from the people I share my life with. I believe that you can achieve anything in life if you really want it enough.

How do you connect with nature?

Spending time in nature enriches my life and motivates me. Going horse riding and walking my dog energises me and gives me strength whatever the weather! The older I get, the more important nature has become to me. The more I work, the more I feel the need to spend time in nature with my animals in order to breathe, relax, enjoy and to recover. The silence and peacefulness of nature, without any kind of communication or modern day distraction is my happy place.

6. Oana Aristide – Aristide Hotel, Greece

Oana Aristide

Oana Aristide, owner of eco-friendly Aristide Hotel in the heart of Hermoupolis.

Celebrated author and economist turned hotelier Oana Aristide firmly believes that it is our moral obligation to treat the natural world with care and respect. Since writing her climate-fiction novel Under the Blue (published by Serpent’s Tail in 2021) which was one of The Sunday Times’ novels of the year, Oana and her sister Jasmin have recently opened Aristide Hotel, a new eco art hotel on the lesser-known Cycladic island of Syros. The plastic-free property is housed within a beautifully restored neoclassical mansion in the historical centre of Hermoupolis, with a dedicated art gallery which hosts regular exhibitions of resident artists.

Aristide Hotel

Oana and Jasmin carefully curated the interiors of their art-centric hotel, choosing earthier tones of olive green and taupe to reflect the island’s wilder northern side rather than the typical Cycladic colour palette of blue and white. The hotel runs a regreening and tree planting project in collaboration with the Cyclades Preservation Fund, to offset the carbon footprint of their guests’ travel to the island. There will be a live webcam, where guests can see the ‘baby forest’ grow, alongside planting and watering activities, a ‘tree headcount’, and a carbon-trap count.

What makes you feel empowered?

The ability to change things for the better and the knowledge that the effort made will make a difference. I’m firmly on the side of having as much responsibility and leeway as possible when approaching a task, and it’s probably no coincidence that I enjoy being a writer (often called ‘the loneliest profession’) — the outcome is entirely dependent on you.

Aristide Hotel

Aristide guests tuck into local delicacies made using island-inspired ingredients in the peaceful tropical garden under the shade of trees.

In terms of fighting climate change, it’s obviously a collective battle, but there are still many things that we can do as individuals: we can vote according to climate priorities, limit our carbon footprint, try to influence our industry for the better, spend money ethically, and so on. It’s also worth keeping in mind that our positive impact is not limited to our direct actions, but it includes the example we set for others.

How do you connect with nature?

I love going for long walks. Even in London, a place that people don’t necessarily associate with nature, there are several parks large enough for someone to walk for hours in a relatively pristine setting. On Syros of course this is even easier, with the gorgeous scenery and wild landscape starting just outside Hermoupolis. In summer, when it’s too hot to hike during the day, we love to go on full-moon walks. It’s surprisingly bright (you have a shadow, there’s no need for any other light) and with the different sounds and smells of the night it’s a wholly special experience.

7. Clare Dubois – TreeSisters, UK

Clare Dubois

Clare Dubois (pictured above), passionate planet-lover and founder of tropical reforestation charity TreeSisters, answered the call of Mother Nature when her life was saved by a tree in 2010. Since the first seed, TreeSisters has funded the planting of over 22 million trees across 12 locations in Brazil, Borneo, Cameroon, IndiaKenyaMozambique, Madagascar, Nepal and West Papua, with a goal of planting 1 billion trees annually through monthly, one-time and partnership donations.

TreeSisters

Each SLH room night booked and stayed using the SLH INVITED member rate includes a donation to plant two trees with TreeSisters.

But the roots of this charity run deeper than native tree-planting, which is what makes it so special – and why we’ve partnered with TreeSisters for its holistic, community-based approach to reforestation and empowering women around the world. From an agroforestry project led by the Ashaninka tribe in the Amazon rainforest, to supporting small-scale farms on the slopes of Mount Kenya, these positive-impact initiatives are not only climate-cooling, but help improve livelihoods by focusing on gender parity and the participation of women in meaningful, impactful work.

Clare supports women around the world to touch the depth of their own nature, creativity and power through nature-based meditation sessions and full-moon gatherings, and has asked some of her fellow TreeSisters to share their voices with us below.

What makes you feel empowered?

Costa Rica

“Lots of things make me feel empowered. Letting go of things that are no longer good for me. Feeling trusted by others to do the right thing. Achieving goals I have set for myself. Running new distances. Lifting heavy things. Meditating and taking time out. Laying in Savasana after a hard yoga session. Walking with my ‘big, scary dog’ (who is actually a cuddle monster), feeling safe and free. Working in ‘flow’ and learning new things.” – Georgina, COO at TreeSisters.

“All of my work with TreeSisters and recognising the difference we are making for the Earth, the land, forests, animals, and especially the health, safety and well-being of the original peoples of the communities we plant in.” – Kathleen, Artist Liaison and Community Engagement Coordinator at TreeSisters.

How do you connect with nature?

“I am always connected to nature and I deepen my connection by being outside with her; feeling the wind dance with me, bowing and singing to the trees. I am like a plant, when I am kissed by the sun, I brighten up! I connect with my feminine essence through my sensitivity, movement and sound. I love dancing and my engaged sensitivity allows me to be open to the magic of life!” – Miriam, Business Partnerships Program Manager at TreeSisters.

“It can be tough to connect with nature when so much of the day to day is behind a screen these days, but stepping outside into a space where I can leave electronics behind and watch my children enjoy running around and getting dirty helps me reconnect with nature.” – Melanie, TreeSisters Executive Assistant.