Behind the Green is all about giving you more insight into the places we feature. Our interviews reveal what happens behind the scenes, tell stories of the people on the ground, expose the challenges they face, as well as the communities they impact; essentially the bits you don’t usually hear.
Meet Shireen, the co-owner of Hotel Mockingbird Hill. She studied sustainable tourism and management in Germany before opening the hotel. Shireen finds the beauty of nature amazing; she loves walking and exploring new places. When she gets the chance, she also likes to visit the theatre.
Learn more about Hotel Mockingbird Hill here>
Can you tell us what makes Port Antonio such a special and unique place?‘There are few places I have been to that offer the best of both worlds, but Port Antonio is one of them. It’s both a mountain and seaside location simultaneously, so many people have called it home because of this. Despite all the jetsetters that have been through here, it has remained unchanged and retains its old-world charm today. It truly represents the spirit of Jamaica.’
What was the most recent green initiative introduced at Hotel Mockingbird Hill?‘We have been expanding our photovoltaic system, with new batteries and more efficient refrigeration systems. We set out with the objective of being eco-friendly, so we did what we could to include eco initiatives in the original renovation project. Since then it’s just been tweaking and refining certain aspects of what we do.’
How did the hotel come to have an eco-focus?‘Travelling ourselves, we saw how tourism could have a positive effect on a place, but we also saw how it could have a negative effect when there is a lack of responsibility. We’ve always lobbied for sustainability, but we felt like we had to do more than just lobby for sustainable tourism ourselves, we wanted to put it into practice and set an example. We chose Port Antonio because Jamaica depends on tourism, but so many places are doing it wrong and not allowing guests to see the real Jamaica – we just wanted to show others what was possible.’
Can you tell us more about your upcycling initiatives?‘We try to purchase everything in bulk, rather than in individual packaging in order to save wastage, but sometimes its unavoidable, such as with glass bottles. We try to reuse these glass bottles where we can, for example using them as vases and flower beds. We also support a company which reuses coconut fibres to create paper, we encourage our guests to take some of this paper home as a memento, to remind them of their time with us when they’re going about their normal lives.’
What has been the biggest challenge in running an eco-conscious hotel so far?‘I think the biggest problem is people’s perceptions of ecohotels and helping people adjust to this kind of lifestyle. Some guests don’t understand that not all products are available all year round, because we’re on a small island, so we have to use local, seasonal produce. We try to help people see what an eco-friendly lifestyle looks like, and how easily they can take our practices home with them, an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean sacrifice as they might think it does.’
The hotel is involved with lots of community activities, why do you think it is so important for hotels to play an active role in the community?‘Overall, it creates a better, more authentic experience for the guests when we cooperate with the community. We encourage them to go out and have experiences within our community, where they are welcomed because of what we do. Our original goal was to show how tourism can be beneficial for an area, and this includes helping people.’
What nature-based, low impact activities can guests get involved with at Hotel Mockingbird Hill?‘A lot of people come to Jamaica for the beaches, and there are a number of beautiful beaches around Port Antonio where you might enjoy snorkelling or diving. There’s also so many hiking opportunities because of the diversity of this area. There’s something different to do every day, and some guests are even lucky enough to see turtles hatching, which is such a special experience.’
What’s next for Hotel Mockingbird Hill?‘It’s been a long journey so far, and we look forward to continuing it. We want to show people what ecotourism is all about and that this simpler way of life creates its own kind of authentic luxury. We’re always tweaking our green practices and finding ways to help the community. Even small things can make a big difference, like throwing a pebble into a pond, it starts small but creates big ripples.’
Find out more & do your own green checks here>