Conservation Role Models

AFAR Magazine included Playa Viva in a list of “Conservation Role Models” in a round up of hotels where you can “Go for Good”, a listing of hotels where you can stay and help support great causes.  Playa Viva support of great causes starts with creating a positive social and environmental impact in the local ecology  (watch these videos about Playa Viva’s work in the local community).

Just recently, Nick Wolf, with Gente Viva, our organic farming partner, asked if I knew of a company called Good Hospitality.  We first met this organization back in 2014, when they were trying to raise funds for a hotel in Antigua, Guatemala. The proceeds from the hotel operation were intended to support a local primary schools for children who need it most.

Dutch-based Good Hospitality has an interesting initiative. They have created a barge hotel, as a floating pop-up hotel. Another good part of the story – Good Hospitality partnered with a local hospitality school to train the under employed in local Amsterdam are in order to help them find more permanent work.  See this wonderful set of videos about the training workers for the opening of the hotel and the human stories around finding more permanent work.

Good Hotel Amsterdam Traineeship – PART 1 from Good Hotel Amsterdam on Vimeo.

Good Hotel Amsterdam Traineeship – PART 2 from Good Hotel Amsterdam on Vimeo.

The hotels covered in the AFAR Article as well as Good Hospitality are all part of of a trend, spending your travel budget to align with your values. We salute Good Hotel and Good Hospitality on the progress they are making in supporting education of those with less in order for them to make more of their lives. We hope you will join these hotels and Playa Viva and travel to locations “Where Your Vacation Meets Your Values.”

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“Where Your Vacation Meets Your Values” — voting with your dollar (investing and spending)

Recently, I’ve been reading alot about the growth of the social impact investing space and wanted to address this in the context of social impact spending and how we vote with the dollars we spend as much as those we invest.

JuluchucaSaltIn an article by Stephanie Cohn Rupp of the Threshold Group,  she addresses the size of social impact investing marketplace and key bottlenecks to growth.  Similarly, in an article by Colin Close with InvestCloud, he discusses how impact investing is moving from fringe to mainstream.  The basic idea is to invest your dollars with your values.  Original SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) was mostly values based with churches and other groups putting up “negative” screens and asking investment advisors and portfolio manager to exclude certain investments which did not match with their values such as guns, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, etc.  The market has moved from exclusion to inclusion, from “screening out” to “advocacy”, as many of these same financial advisory groups are advocating for companies they invest in to make “positive” changes related to corporate governance, community engagement and environmental impact.

It all sounds great especially when you read that the returns from ESG/SRI has been as good as or better than the market in most cases. How do they define this? They take one index (basket of stocks) and compare it to another. One that broadly represents the market like the S&P 500 and the iShares MSCI KLD 400 Social ETF. Go look it up, here is how it is described:

  1. Exposure to socially responsible U.S. companies
  2. Access to a broad range of stocks that have been screened for positive environmental, social, and governance characteristics
  3. Use to invest based on your personal values

Now, take a look at the list of top 10 companies. They include Coca-Cola and Pepsico. I don’t know about you, but the sale of sugar water and bottled water is not in alignment with my values. Sure, I guess I could ask for a further screening to exclude these two from the top 10. But, if these are included, who’s making the list and what are their values based on?

Julia with Odin at Playa Viva
Julia with Odin at Playa Viva

When Playa Viva was just building it’s first buildings, we had a special guest,renowned American environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill, who was pondering moving to Playa Viva to live. During our time together Julia taught me what is meant by really living by your values and doing as much as you can, and should do, to save our planet.  I do aspire to many of her choices and the discipline she exercises in the execution of those values. The key to what she taught me was — We make small decisions every day in how we act, what we chose to do, and not do, how we plan ahead, how we make the hard choices in order to live with little to no impact on the earth.  We invest in impact by the daily decisions we make, by the way we spend (not just invest) our dollars.

pv_3We, at Playa Viva, have developed a motto over the years — “Where Your Vacation Meets Your Values.”  We know we are not perfect and much of what we do is aspirational at best. So when you look to make your vacation choice, we hope your vacation investment looks deeply at your vacation decisions. We ask that you engage with your vacation choice, hopefully it is with us, about your values to make sure we are in alignment.   Sure, I cringe every time I look under the bar and find a few cans of Coca-cola products. But they are under the bar, specifically for those customers who just can’t live without their fix. While on top of the counter is always a glass “jarra” full of Aguas Frescas, fresh water/juices, made with locally harvested fruits.

What do you reach for to quench your thirst? Does your vacation meet with your values?

 

Been Too Long Since We Blogged…so Restarting with “Award Winning”

Why has it been so long since our last blog post? Simple, we revamped the website about a year ago and the blog was not part of the new site. But many of you were still searching, finding and commenting on content on our blog; so we decided to bring it back and incorporate it into the new website. While much of our content updates have been visual, posting photos on our Instagram page with links back to our Facebook page, we still have a need for words, for WordPress and for non-visual content that provides a narrative update for what we have been up to at Playa Viva.

So what have we been up to since the last post? Stay tuned as we provide updates on the same topics we have covered before: Green, Sustainable and Regenerative Travel, Architecture, Building, Community Development, Volunteering, Local and Organic Agriculture, etc.

One notable item is the new Treehouse at Playa Viva. It was designed by Kimshasa Baldwin at Deture Culsign and the construction was completed by Will Beilharz and his firm ArtisTree.  The end result is stunning and has become an iconic image for Playa Viva.

Most recently, the treehouse can now be called “award winning.” NEWSFLASH: the “Treehouse Suite at Playa Viva has been selected as one of the finalists in the Lifestyle Guestrooms category…,and all winners and finalists will be featured in the June issue of Hospitality Design magazine.”

Also, Kimshasa and Will along with David Leventhal of Playa Viva also presented at the Boutique Design Magazine’s BDWest conference. The session was entitled: “EARTH STAYS: MAKING SUSTAINABLE DESIGN HAPPEN IN A NANOSECOND.”  The focus was how an introduction by Mary Scoviak of Boutique Design in April of 2015 lead to the design and construction of the treehouse opening in October 2015 (a nanosecond in hotel design and building).

More about the design and building process in future posts. Please come experience the Treehouse for yourself.

Treehouse 1

Photo by Leonardo Palafox

 

 

 

What To Do With Too Many Mangos

IMG_6945Ernesto Leon Sandoval, more commonly known by his nickname, Pato, lead a workshop at Playa Viva recently that included dehydration, chutney and frozen puree as methods to preserve excess mangos harvested at Playa Viva.  See photos below along with the comments, in Spanish, from Julia.  As sustainable and regenerative hoteliers, the best part of this entire process was the news at the end of Julia’s comments, that even though the process of dehydrating fruit was new to the staff, they were so excited by this workshop that they are want to take this process home and apply it to the excess fruit on their land.

Here is the Pato’s recipe for the Mango Chutney pictures below:

para 5 kilos de mango – for 5 kilos of mangoes
5 cucharadas de aceite de oliva o mejor de coco – 5 Tablespoons of oil, either olive or better yet coconut oil
5 cucharadas de canela molida – 5 Tablespoons of ground cinnamon
IMG_69492 barras de piloncillo rallado – 2 Bars of grated piloncillo (brown sugar bars which can be purchased in a Mexican food store)
un diente de ajo grande – One large clove of garlic
el jugo de 5 a 10 limones – Juice from 5 to 10 limes (green Mexican limes)
4 cucharadas de clavo picado – 4 Tablespoons of ground clove
4 cucharadas de pimienta molida – 4 Tablespoons of ground black pepper
4 cucharadas de jengibre picado – 4 Tablespoons of chopped ginger
It appears that Abraham, Playa Viva’s chef, added raisins and black sesame seeds to taste.
Pato provided the ingredients only, seems that these are all mixed together and cooked to desired consistency and then placed in jars which are then sealed (if not familiar with this process see canning instructions available elsewhere on the internet).
IMG_6960 IMG_6963 IMG_6964 IMG_6996
Julia’s comments about the workshop: ​Es un taller muy sencillo y muy facil de comprender así como muy útil, porque nos va a permitir aprovechar la fruta madura, en lugar de dejarla podrir ahora la vamos a poder deshidratar y comer durante todo el año, queda muy sabrosa, dulce pero natural. Es bueno aplicar esta técnica sobre todo al tipo de productos que se cosechan una o dos veces por año solamente y no los puedes guardar en su estado natural por tanto tiempo, ni refrigerar porque no hay espacio.
El equipo lo tomó muy bien, abraham se comprometió con su equipo de cocina a hacerse responsables del procedimiento, ya que por razones de higiene es mejor que sean ellos mismos quienes la procesen. Claro que el equipo de Permacultura estuvo presente, participó  y aportó todo lo necesario, Serafin y Arturo  construyeron la mesa y también estuvieron interesados en el proceso.
  Lo interesante es que ahora ellos quieren hacer lo mismo en sus casa para aprovechar los frutos de sus parcelas.IMG_6936IMG_6926IMG_6943

2015 Mexico Peace Index

Reposted from Borderland Beat from content developed and distributed by Vision of Humanity’s Mexico Peace Index.  Playa Viva is located in the State of Guerrero which is rated as the Least Peaceful state. It appears that the factor contributing most to this rating is the high rate of homicide (most likely taking into consideration the 43 “disappeared” students). However, taking into consideration the other 6 evaluation criteria, Guerrero would rank closer to the middle.”  While safety is the number one concern of our guest, the overall trend shows an improvement in the Peace Index (and correlated safety in Mexico) and tourist areas such as Playa Viva continue to be safe for tourists.  We hope this provides valuable information to help you make an informed decision about traveling safely to Mexico and Playa Viva.

“The Mexico Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, provides a comprehensive measure of peacefulness in Mexico from 2003 to 2014. This report aims to deepen the understanding of the trends, patterns and drivers of peace in Mexico while highlighting the important economic benefits that will flow from a more peaceful society.”
Highlights
  • Mexico has experienced a large decrease in violence since 2011, with the national level of peace improving by 16 percent.
  • Progress in peace has plateaued in the last year; it is too early to determine if this is the start of a new trend.
  • The level of peace as measured by the 2015 MPI is still 18 percent lower than in 2003.
  • The most peaceful state in Mexico is Hidalgo, followed by Yucatán, Querétaro, Campeche, Tlaxcala, and Chiapas.
  • Of the 76 largest metropolitan areas of Mexico, the most peaceful is Orizaba in Veracruz and the least peaceful is Culiacán in Sinaloa.
  • The eastern region remains the most peaceful in Mexico, while the northern region is still the most violent, although the gap between the north and the other regions is now at its lowest point since 2004.
“The Mexico Peace Index (MPI) derives from the work of the Global Peace Index, a leading global measure of peacefulness that has been produced by IEP annually since 2007. The Index follows a similar methodology to the United Kingdom Peace Index and the United States Peace Index, also produced by IEP, and defines peace as ‘the absence of violence or fear of violence’.
The MPI measures peace at the state level in Mexico. A key reason for choosing this unit of analysis is that, similar to the United States, Mexico’s state governments have wide-ranging powers allowing them to have a significant impact on the level of violence, therefore the response to violence may differ significantly from state to state.”
The Index is composed of the following seven indicators:
1. HOMICIDE
— Homicide rate per 100,000 people
Source: Executive Secretary of the National System for Public Security (SESNSP)—cases being investigated by the State Prosecution Authorities
2. VIOLENT CRIME
— Violent crime rate per 100,000 people
Source: SESNSP
3. WEAPONS CRIME
— Weapons crime rate per 100,000 people
Source: SESNSP
4. INCARCERATION
— Number of people sent to prison per year, per 100,000 people
Source: National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI)
5. POLICE FUNDING
— Federal Government funding to States for the Public Security Contribution Fund per 100,000 people
Source: Secretaria de Hacienda y Crédito Publico (SHCP)
6. ORGANIZED CRIME
— The number of extortions, drug-trade related crimes, organized crime offenses, and kidnapping per 100,000
Source: SESNSP
7. EFFICIENCY OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
— Proportion of convictions for homicide to total homicides
Source: INEGI
“All indicators are scored between 1 and 5, with 1 being the most
peaceful score, and 5 the least peaceful. After the score for each
indicator has been calculated, weights are applied to each of the
indicators in order to calculate the final score.”
There is a wide range in levels of peacefulness across both indicators and states in Mexico. A higher score indicates lower peacefulness. Scores out of five.
Most and Least Peaceful States
With a few exceptions, states in the southern and eastern regions of Mexico are more peaceful than the western, central, and northern regions. Of the ten most peaceful states, only two, Querétaro and San Luis Potosí, are not from the south or the east, while Guerrero is the only southern or eastern state amongst the ten least peaceful.
In the last two years, the most peaceful states, while decreasing very slightly in peacefulness, have had only small changes in rank. There has been a much higher degree of variance amongst the least peaceful states. Guanajuato and Michoacán have steadily declined to now be amongst the five least peaceful states. Juxtaposed to this, many of the least peaceful states have recorded large reductions in homicides and violent crime over the last two years. Tables 2 and 3 show the scores and ranks for the most and least peaceful states, both for the overall index, and each of its seven indicators.

Full Report:

Volunteers Come and Go….

The following is an article written by Samantha Orive as she completes her tour of duty as a volunteer at Playa Viva.  

2015-01-17 07.00.50Mornings in the quiet town of Juluchuca Guerrero start with a morning concerto starring the local roosters. Although rehearsals go on all throughout the day, it seems that the five am showing not only has the most beautiful voices, but there is a feeling of encouragement that manages to clear the mind and allows you to find energy for the long day ahead.

A much ruder awakening awaits you in the back of a pick up truck. A feeling of recklessness hits your stomach (not unlike a double scotch would) when you are going 80 km/hr and that sexy morning chill always comes on too strong, raising goosebumps in your arms and adventurous intentions in your thoughts.  A sense of well being spreads though out your body, it is not yet seven am and you are drunk on circumstance and high on life.

You come to doubt if Van Gogh’s starry night should actually be considered a masterpiece once you look at the canvass over you. The stars not only seem to perfectly describe their chosen constellation names, but to sit you on their comforting knees and whisper their tales in your ears. Orion The Hunter looks bright enough to jump out from the sky and continue his hunt on earth, followed closely by his loyal dogs. We all paint clumsy brushstrokes in our minds, never truly capturing the mysterious beauty of the sky.

2015-02-11 11.21.21Volunteers come and go, looking for something, someone, running from something, or maybe someone. And while you are digging trenches, weeding the relentless verdolagas, or planting row upon row of lettuce, you forget why you are here or maybe even who you are. Dirt finds its way under your nails, it changes the hue of your eyes and when it reaches your heart you conclude the questions are invalid and the answers are futile. Dirt is the absolute here.

Hunger. There is a deep hunger to learn, know, experience and share; but there is a more literal hunger that strikes exactly at eight thirty am. Stomachs rumble keeping tune with the sea and images of plump fresh handmade tortillas, dozens of eggs drowned in salsa verde, and those evil cups of coffee that seduce the strongest of wills with promises of productivity and stability come to mind. There is an instant gratification after meals at Playa Viva that turn into future life dilemmas, for how on earth will I go back to store bought tortillas?

A hammock is not merely a handy set of strings to rest, but a way of living. Within it lies enough entertainment for every evening. The trees like to divert you playing shadows with the sun, the characters in your book grow impossibly difficult to walk away off, and conversations with friends brim with candor and emotion. In the steady swaying of a hammock, a soundness anchors in the foundations of that little white house in Juluchuca.

2015-01-07 06.45.21The sun does not like goodbyes, it prefers a quick painful farewell at six forty two pm, and if you look away from the horizon you will miss it. The best comforting remedy is named Vicky, who is always more attractive when accompanied by just gathered limes and thick local salt. She may be cold hearted, but after a flirtatious conversation with her she will warm up your insides and you know you will fall deliciously in love with her every night.

The answers are there of course. The seeds will sprout in record time, the muscles will ache with pleasure, the children will laugh in bare feet, the skin will darken, the women will launder by the river, the men will sing their melancholic tunes, the smiles will grow more genuine, and at the end of the day it will not only be the sun saying a painful goodbye.

 

Playa Viva’s Horticultural Hike – A Superfood & Herbal Remedy Wonderland

One of the many wonderful things about Playa Viva is that you don’t have to venture far to explore the best that Mexico’s native wildlife has to offer. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your secluded, sustainably-built casita!

IMG_2083Since being here, I’ve spotted humpback whales and dolphins close to shore, three different types of pelican, geckos, hummingbirds, eagles, plus a whole host of flora and fauna species – from aloe vera to moringa to banana plants – all by simply peering out lazily from my balcony.

But for those willing to make just a teeny bit more effort, the Playa Viva Horticultural Hike – a loop of about 2 hours, which winds its way through the site’s 170-acre private reserve, passing lagoons, mangroves and plant nurseries along the way – begins right on your doorstep too.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be guided around this loop by Alok, the current Playa Viva host/yoga teacher/miracle masseur. Not only does Alok benefit from having worked as a naturalist in California for 10 years, but his constant enthusiasm for learning more about unfamiliar ecosystems is infectious – a distinct bonus for me, who being a city-girl born and bred, still finds it hard to tell the difference between a weed and a vegetable!

Indeed, after only 5 minutes in the company of Alok, I was already nodding enthusiastically and trying desperately to retain even a fraction of the awesome wealth of knowledge he imparted.

Did you know for example that the leaves of the Palma Real are used to thatch the common ‘palapa’ roofing found in the region (including a third of the casitas at Playa Viva)? Or that the ancient Mayans believed that a great Ceiba (Kapok) tree stood at the centre of the earth – connecting the terrestrial world to the spirit-world above?

What was so impressive to me however, was just how naturally rich this area of Mexico is in herbal medicines and highly-nutritional plants.

Here are just a few of the fantastical facts that I managed to absorb about Playa Viva’s sustainable superfood pharmacy – ‘eat local’ has never seemed so enticing!

IMG_2085Moringa: The new plant ‘superfood.’ It contains four times the vitamin A found in carrots, six times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the calcium of cow’s milk, and three times the potassium of bananas.

Kapok (Ceiba): Bark decoctions from this tree are used as a diuretic, aphrodisiac and in the treatment of diabetes.

Tamarind: High in vitamin B, calcium, and used as a natural laxative.

Nopal (Prickly Pear): Rich in vitamins A, C, K, riboflavin, and B6, plus the minerals magnesium, potassium, iron and copper.

Copal: Used against influenza, rheumatism and fever.

Gourd Tree: Cure for sunburn, chapped skin and wounds.

Hibiscus: Used to treat abscess, furuncles, mosquito bites and burns. It also has digestive, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. (Playa Viva happens to make a particularly delicious fresh hibiscus juice!)

Neem: Known as the ‘one tree pharmacy’ in Indian Ayuverdic medicine, it is used to treat a whole host of skin disorders and as an effective insect repellent.

Aloe Vera: Highly nutritional, containing over 200 active components – from vitamins and minerals, to amino acids and digestive aids. It also helps to boost the immune system and detoxify the body, inside and out.

IMG_2101Piedra de Medicina: Ok, not technically a plant, but this rock was used by ancient indigenous tribes to grind and mix plants for medicinal use. (Funny to think that we’re only just starting to rediscover the knowledge and practices that were common-place – and more-so, common-sense – thousands of years ago.)

Want to learn more? Set on 200 acres, Playa Viva is of course home to too many wonder-species to mention here. Why not visit us in person and see how many varieties you can identify!

Guest author: Liz Sutcliffe. Liz, a freelance editor from London, is currently volunteering at Playa Viva as part of our work exchange program