#StopSucking: Soneva’s myriad sustainable practices from banning plastic straws in 1998
Soneva has been at the forefront of the sustainable luxury hospitality movement for over two decades. From banning single-use plastic at its resorts, becoming 100 percent carbon neutral including guest air travel, to waste management and recycling initiatives, Soneva is always trying to find new ways to improve its impact on the environment and help local communities in the process.
When it comes to plastic, Soneva banned the use of plastic straws at its resorts in 1998. All of its resorts only use paper straws sourced from the United States. Recently, Soneva has been testing out locally sourced bamboo straws at Soneva Kiri in Thailand as an alternative to its standard paper ones.
In 2008, Soneva banned the import of branded bottled water, making it one of the first resort companies in the world to do so. Each resort filters, mineralises and bottles its own Soneva Drinking Water in reusable glass bottles — an initiative that has so far averted the production of 1,500,000 plastic bottles.
Soneva also raises around USD 90,000 every year from the Soneva Drinking Water proceeds and has funded over 500 clean water projects in more than 50 countries via charities such as Water Charity and Thirst Aid — enabling over 750,000 people around the world to have access to clean and safe water.
More recently, the Soneva Drinking Water initiative was rolled out on one of Soneva Fushi’s neighbouring islands, Maalhos, reducing the island’s dependence on unreliable rainwater and increasing the local population’s access to pure, filtered water in reusable glass bottles.
At each resort, Soneva has its own Waste-to-Wealth facility, which in 2017 generated USD 340,000 in revenue.
Soneva Fushi recycles 90 percent of its waste on-site through an innovative waste management strategy. Food left over from the resort’s restaurants is composted to make nutritious soil for the island’s vegetable and herb gardens, all of which are organic and provide much of the produce used at Soneva Fushi. Styrofoam packing is used to make lightweight construction blocks. The remainder of the plastic waste is transformed by the Soneva Maker Programme into Easter eggs and other items.
Another aspect of the Waste to Wealth initiative is Soneva Fushi’s Art and Glass Studio, the only hot glass studio in the Maldives. Here, used glass bottles from Soneva and neighbouring resorts in the Baa atoll are crushed and melted down. Then, using techniques such as glass blowing, casting and slumping, the Soneva glass team creates functional pieces as well as one-of-a-kind glass sculptures, which can be bought from the Art and Glass Studio.
Soneva has also created the Soneva Foundation to organise and initiate projects that have a positive environmental, social and economic impact. Whenever possible, the foundation uses impact investing principles to recover outlays through carbon finance, which is then fed back into projects to further extend their reach and benefits to more people.
The Soneva Foundation’s flagship project supplies clean cookstoves to people in rural Myanmar, as human development and energy use are intrinsically linked. In Darfur, the foundation distributed 26,000 fuel-efficient stoves, reaching 130,000 people. The Soneva Forest Restoration project saw over 500,000 trees planted in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. There is a Soneva wind turbine in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu that will provide 80,000 MWh of clean energy over a 20-year period, mitigating 70,000 tonnes of CO2.
In the Maldives, Soneva works with local school children and their mothers to teach them how to swim. For a small island nation, the number of people who do not know how to swim, is alarmingly low. The Soneva Ocean Stewards (SOS) programme also involves teaching the children environmental awareness about the oceans and how important it is to safeguard them.
Since its launch in 2014, the programme has successfully taught 313 people, including 258 children, in the Maldives’ Baa atoll to swim. The programme is led by local instructors and, in an effort to ensure that the initiative is sustainable in the long term, 38 instructors have now been trained at Soneva Fushi.
Soneva is a pioneering family of hospitality properties and products, offering holistic encounters in luxurious and inspiring environments – from world class hotels to outstanding natural locations. Combining luxury with a conscientious approach to sustainability and the environment, and proactively changing the nature of hospitality, it delivers intuitive service and meaningful experiences to the guests.
Soneva currently owns and operates Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Soneva in Aqua in the Maldives, and Soneva Kiri in Thailand.
Established in 1995, Soneva Fushi is the original Soneva. The No News, No Shoes blueprint for all desert island barefoot luxury hideaways is located within the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives. Soneva Fushi inspires the imagination with 65 spacious beachfront villas, ranging in size from one to nine bedrooms, hidden amongst dense foliage.
The iconic resort has bagged several international awards for eco-friendly tourism and green initiatives, including the 2017 Green Hotelier Award for the Asia Pacific region and the Sustainable Hotel Award by the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) as well as a spot in the Gold List compiled by Condé Nast Traveler China as the Best Hotel in the Maldives and amongst the best resorts in the world in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2017.
Opened in December 2016, Soneva Jani is Soneva’s newest property and its second resort in the Maldives.
Soneva Jani encompasses a collection of 24 overwater villas and one island villa set in a 5.6 kilometre private lagoon located in the northern Noonu atoll. The resort spans five islands surrounded by pure white beaches, covered in rich tropical vegetation, offering the ultimate in privacy and luxury.
Each of the resort’s multilevel water villas has its own private pool and a retractable roof that allows guests to sleep beneath the stars. Many villas also have slides that transport guests directly from the top level into the lagoon below. Other hotel highlights include a spa, an observatory — home to the largest telescope in the Indian Ocean — and an outdoor cinema.
Since its opening, Soneva Jani has created a lot of buzz amongst luxury travellers with its exciting features such as the retractable roofs and the water slides. It has been named the Best Over-the-Top Luxury hotel of the year by Jetsetter.com, the best new resort in the world by CNN, and the Leading Luxury Hotel/Resort in South Asia and Leading Luxury Hotel/Resort in Maldives.