Travel Green for Earth Day

Lova Lava Land, home of 100% off-grid & solar-powered accommodations.
By: Brittany Boyd

The landscape changed from packs of people and bunches of buildings to lava desert during a 90-minute drive south from touristy Kona, on the western side of the island of Hawaii to the remote village of Ocean View, on the southern coast. I turned at the village’s only stoplight, passed through a small shopping center and headed down a red-gravel driveway in a large subdivision bulldozed into the black-lava backdrop.

A few old Volkswagen camper buses dotting the driveway signaled I had arrived at Lova Lava Land Eco-Resort, home of 100% off-grid and solar-powered accommodations. I parked in a small parking lot ready for a new and grounded adventure far from the hotels and city lights of Kona.

Lova Lava Land is not your average resort. Guests sleep in refurbished Volkswagen buses, not hotel rooms, shower outside in a lava rock solar shower and play bocce ball with fallen coconuts.The resort is environmentally sustainable and doesn’t rely on public utilities such as water, sewer and electricity. Water comes from a 10,000-gallon rainwater catchment tank, power from solar PV panels and the sewer is a flushing, composting toilet.

Lova Lava Land owner Anitra Pickett said staying at the resort is similar to camping but with more comforts than just a tent. Accommodations are basic yet comfortable in one of 3 revamped buses saved from a landfill and in Pele’s Paradise Yurt, a circular tent more present in such countries as Mongolia and Turkey. It’s the most spacious and furnished rental on the 3-acre property.

As the world celebrates Earth Day on April 22, more travelers are planning environmentally responsible vacations. The number of green-themed resorts such as Lova Lava Land is increasing in Hawaii and throughout the country, according to organizations that monitor ecotourism trends. An online report by Travel Weekly stated that sustainable tourism could grow to 25% of the world’s travel market by 2012, taking the value of the sector from $77 billion in 2002 to $473 billion. Hawaii, with 6 eco-friendly resorts, is on par with the national average per state for green hotels registered with the Green Hotel Association, which supports and promotes ecological consciousness in the hospitality industry.

Eco-friendly entrepreneurs such as Picket are banking on tourists becoming more aware of how their spending and travel choices impact the environment. “If you support fast-food chains, resorts that waste resources and pollute our environment, and businesses that don't answer to Mother Nature, then those are the businesses that stay alive,” Pickett explained. “If you actively search out green businesses … then those businesses will survive.”
Pickett, a Yale University graduate and former Wall Street trader, uses local, sustainable and recycled materials for construction practices, salvages furniture from local flea markets and yard sales, and repurposes items headed for the landfill. The resort office is located inside a rescued VW bus and the yurt’s shipping crate was used to build its closet and most of the kitchen cabinets. Recycling and composting bins sit in the kitchen area, and guests sign coconuts instead of a guestbook to save paper. The resort’s carbon-offset program promotes planting a new plant each time a guest stays at Lova Lava Land.

At Lova Lava Land, I recently stayed one night in a yurt that featured a double bed, a closet, indoor and outdoor solar lights, a beanbag chair, a wooden desk with chairs a few side tables and decorations. I slept soundly in the round, airy room and awoke to early-morning sunlight peaking in through the windows and the skylight above the bed. When I awoke, I noticed the outline of a gecko sunning itself on the cloth material wrapped around the outside of the yurt.

Around the property, eco-friendly amenities include a communal area with a full kitchen, a lava-rock charcoal grill, organic gardens, a sliver of an ocean view and private seating outside each rental. Plus, there’s free wireless high-speed internet and solar-powered outlets to plug in your cell phone or laptop.

The resort radiated with serenity. There was only one other guest during my stay. Along with the on-site manager, who lived at the resort with her daughter, we spent some time together in the evening, talking and making food in the common area. The kitchen, bathroom and sleeping areas were clean and comfortable.

I felt good knowing that I was conserving water and other natural resources by staying at Lova Lava Land. The only inconvenience was discovering a rash of itchy bug bites on my legs in the morning, but they went away after a few days. As annoying as it was, it was not enough to diminish the overall pleasant experience.

Writer Brittany Boyd spent most of last winter traveling through Hawaii.

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