With countless eco awards and confusing certifications, all aiming to guide us to the best in sustainable travel, Behind the Green takes it back to basics. Back to storytelling and human connection. Meet the visionaries behind the world’s best sustainable and regenerative stays…

Meet John, the General Manager at Fivelements. He was first introduced to Fivelements through a close friend who knew the Co-Founder, Chicco. Growing up in Denmark with a British mother and Danish father, John has spent the past 20 years based in Melbourne with his family.

Learn more about Fivelements Retreat here >

Who started Fivelements and was it always an eco vision from the outset?

‘The founders have always had the vision for a green resort. We have worked over the past 12 years to develop this concept and define it.

As the retreat has matured, we have continued to develop more eco ideas and in 2021 we will start developing the nearly 1-hectare garden that is located next to the new Hillview Pool Suites and Ayung River.

This will include a farm to table style concept but ensure a number of sustainable measures and we should be able to produce around 40% of the produce at the Retreat.  

We also have a monthly village and river clean-up day to take all the plastic away and work with Eco-Bali to ensure the waste is recycled.
This development continues the original vision as travellers also seek retreats that are green-focused’.

What would you do differently if you could start again?

‘While the retreat was being developed the vision was about using local, natural materials. The roof of the suites is made out of alang-alang, a by-product of rice fields.

But the challenges with this is that they only last around 5-years so we are now looking at other natural products that last longer and are more cost-effective’.

What is the one thing your most proud of implementing there?

‘We installed a generator which we fuel with Bio-diesel bought from a local NGO. They recycle cooking oil waste from local hotels and restaurants, and this reduces our carbon footprint.

This is one initiative that I love, and we will continue doing this.’

Where do you see the biggest opportunity for Fivelements to be even more sustainable?

‘Waste is always one opportunity on our mind. We have a zero-waste goal. Procurement is the next big focus for us in which to try to reach this goal. If we lose a supplier and replace it with another then we need to have the options to put other suppliers in place.’

What is the best eco-activity at Fivelements for guests to enjoy?

‘‘We offer healing journeys which are basically excursions with a focus on giving guests a choice between an eco-adventure, a village immersion, and a spiritual pilgrimage.

One example is we take the chartered boat out, we do snorkelling, go to a temple to meet a priest and meet an NGO environmentalist replanting trees. These healing journeys are totally unique they are not offered anywhere else in Bali.’

Can you provide a story of a local or employee who has been positively impacted at Fivelements Retreat?

‘There are a number of staff who have really embraced the concepts and made it part of their lifestyle. Our most senior chef Made Tantra has worked for us for 8-years and came from a fairly traditional chef background. Shortly after starting to work for Fivelements Retreat, his wife got sick with breast cancer.

Having studied the effects of plant-based food he started serving her only vegetables, both raw and warmed, as well as Soursop, leaves for tea also visited local Balinese healers for massage. After 6 months, to their joy, her cancer had significantly shrieked.  A year later, his wife had completely recovered.

Chef Tantara told me in my early days in Bali about how plant-based cuisine, is rich in antioxidants that strengthen our immune system, so the body remains healthy. He has continued to serve the family a more plant-based diet to ensure that she has a strong balance of food for her body ensuring and [reserving the relationship and harmony, amongst People, Gods, and Nature.’

Is there anywhere you have visited which is a great example of a ‘green’ place to stay?

‘For me, Bambu Indah Resort in Bali stands out.

However, your approach to being ‘green’ is dependent on the situation so it is never black and white. At the end of the day, we have to find a balance between operating a viable business and the green ethos of the resort.

What’s next for Fivelements Retreat?

‘We launched an urban wellness health retreat in Hong Kong in July 2019 called Fivelements Habitat located in Causeway Bay. It’s a one day retreat.

We have a number of projects in the pipeline, sadly the global crisis has put many of our plans on hold, but we are seeing new opportunities arise as we look beyond.’

Find out more about Fivelements Retreat & do your own green checks here.

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