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Nomad Tanzania are one of Africa’s leading safari companies with a selection of extraordinary  camps and lodges spread out across the most remote corners of Tanzania.

They are also one of the most eco-friendly and environmentally aware companies in Tanzania, which given their remote locations makes it even more impressive. We were interested to learn a bit more about why they are dedicated to this and how they are managing to achieve it.

We chatted to ‘Katie MacMullen’ who is the operations manager to get her insight.

We have been operating safaris in Tanzania since the 1980’s and protecting the environment has always been at the core of what we do. Minimising our impact on our environment and on the wild places where we are fortunate to operate is of utmost importance to us, and is something we address constantly.

When I was last in Tanzania there was a lot of plastic used on safari and within safari camps, is this something you are looking into?

The issue of plastic usage is a very important worldwide conversation at the moment, and rightly so. We are committed to reducing our plastic usage across all of our operations, and are working towards being plastic free in the not too distant future.

That’s an impressive and ambitious statement, but how do you actually go about achieving this?

In the last season we managed to reduce our plastic waste by 92% which is no mean feat and I am so proud of our camp teams for championing our mission so brilliantly.

All Nomad guests are given a stainless steel water bottle, which they can then refill with filtered drinking water from glass dispensers in the main mess area of our camps. We have recently replaced the plastic lids on our water bottles with bamboo lids to remove even more plastic from our operations. Straws are another a big no no and we have stopped using them all together.

To provide water in our vehicles, we recycle wine bottles from our camps and fill them with filtered water – so that the use of plastic bottles in our camps and cars is non-existent.

In the guests rooms, we also provide our guests with amenities like shampoo, conditioner and lotions which are stored in refillable aluminium bottles, and are all natural and organic – it’s important to us that they are completely environmentally friendly. We have banned the classic plastic cotton-wool ear-buds, replacing them with wooden ones.

By the sounds of it, from a guest perspective they see very little plastic, if any at all, but I presume back of house it must be much harder to control?

Our operations and F&B team keep working hard to reduce all plastic packaging used on items going into our camps because, yes, this is our last remaining challenge.  

– At the moment all veggie and dry goods are delivered to camp in cardboard boxes, wrapped in newspaper or brown paper.

– All the rice, sugar, flour etc are delivered in large hessian sacks.

We make sure we use the cardboard egg boxes and not the plastic ones.

– We now re-cycle all tins and aluminium cans in Mugumu Village, (from Lamai Serengeti and our two mobile camps when they are in the northern Serengeti) at the recycle center, so these items no longer go in landfills.

– We have trained our chefs to make our own camp condiments and juices. We now make much of our ketchups, relish, chutneys and fresh fruit juice so we no longer order these items that come in plastic bottles and tetra packs.

– Our local jam and marmalade supplier, Iddy, now has all his jam jars returned to him from the camps so they are recycled again and again.

– Our meat suppliers have made a reduced plastic policy, with 65% of their items now covered in wax brown paper packaging.

– The last remaining issue we have is the safe transportation and storage of some meat, but we are looking at ways in which we can do this without needing to use vacuum packed plastic.

It’s fantastic to hear that you aren’t just doing this because you should do, but that there is a real passion to being more environmentally focused. Are there any other eco-initiatives that you implement which you’d recommend other hotels and properties to consider?

Water is a biggy for us. We are more ‘water conscious’ across our camps, limiting how and where water is used, and working with experts to manage our water systems and develop environmental strategies. For example, our airflow shower heads mix air with water, meaning that we have better pressure without using more water. On average they reduce water used by 30%. We are introducing new syphon sets for our loos that will use more than 50% less water. We also still use eco-flush loos in our Serengeti mobile camp, which use 90% less water than a conventional toilet and mean that we are not plumbing toilet systems in our 9 different locations across the Serengeti throughout the year.

We’d also recommend all hoteliers to consider looking at what substances are going into the ground or air. When you consider how much cleaning is done in a hotel, the amount of chemicals used over a year is shocking. So we replaced most of our cleaning chemicals with malt vinegar, which is a lot kinder on the environment than conventional chemical cleaning products.

We also do cook-outs and have camp fires in many of our camps so we use environmentally friendly, sustainable sourced, briquettes as a biofuel substitute to coal and charcoal.

We have low wattage bulbs across all our camps and use advanced solar systems in camps where it works.

All rubbish is collected and removed from all national parks, to be disposed of environmentally and recycled.  

Recycling is a word that keeps cropping up and I imagine is a core part of your environmental plan for the company. Recycling cans, bottles, certain plastics and paper is something that most hotels are hopefully already doing, but are there any other parts of your business where you can utilize recycling?

Very much so, it’s amazing once you start looking into recycling how you can use it in so many ways. We use a lot of recycling in our camp and room buildings. 

– The timber in all our building projects is sustainably sourced and we only use non-native species

– We reuse all old timber for other small projects, most timber used in our camps has at least three lives!

– Recycled plastic for timber replacement. As a company, we are exploring how we can use recycled plastic composites in every form of building – roofing shingles, shower trays, deck supporting beams etc.

– Old camp decor is sent back to base to be given a second life as something new. Tired wheel-covers become wash bags, table clothes and napkins become cushion covers, with many other stylish transformations going on.

Clever use of re-cycled wood at Kuro Tarangire

You have built camps and lodges into some of the most beautiful and precious wilderness areas in Tanzania. I imagine as a company you have a strict policy about your footprint?

Yes, very much so. All our camps are built around environments rather than into them. We live by one of our main philosophies, ‘see, but not be seen’. We are guardians of these fragile ecosystems, and all our rooms are built with that in mind. Be it moving a room 4ft to the left to avoid cutting down an acacia or building our back of house structures on raised platforms allowing the native grasses to continue to grow… this is all part of our camp planning and positioning.

Do you have any final advice or recommendations that you’d like to pass on to other hotels around the world, who might be inspired to start being more environmentally friendly?

I would say, start small and once you start doing one thing, you will soon find it easier and easier to eliminate certain plastic uses, and reduce your footprint. Recycle everything that you possibly can, can’s, tetra packaging etc. Where possible avoid a product all together, i.e. boxed juice, make fresh using fresh fruit, it doesn’t come in a package, and a lot of the time it reduces cost also.

Food waste is another way to really factor in reducing waste. Ask for a special chef with the right initiative to come in and look at ways that cleverly use left over food from the day before and incorporate into the next days lunch or breakfast. Buffet’s are a huge no no, the waste that comes from a buffet is always large so plate your food and make it to order where possible.

Most importantly I would say it’s important to have the courage of your convictions! We’re in a unique position where we can influence the global traveller and educate them on the challenges we face on our planet, and in our wild places. Don’t apologise for not serving certain things where you can’t do it in an environmentally friendly way, own your decisions and stand by them. And then, together we can make a real difference.

We hope this has inspired you and given you some ideas as to how you can introduce some of the eco-initiatives mentioned in this article. If you’d like help creating a strategic sustainability plan for your property please email info@tripandtonic.com.

Do check out Nomad’s properties at https://www.nomad-tanzania.com/ or their other great sustainable initiatives at https://www.nomad-tanzania.com/about/nomad-trust. Contact via email at info@nomad-tanzania.com

11 September 2019

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