Plastic is fantastic in clever education initiative from Lemala Lodge

Tourvest’s Lemala Lodge in Tanzania stands tall as eco-driven tourism champion.

Plastic is making a huge impact on tourism – and it isn’t by providing that credit card means of paying for that dream holiday. One lodge in Tanzania is identifying multiple ways of turning the hazardous waste material into a force for good.

The World Health Organisation warns that Africa’s growing population and urbanisation are driving an increase in single-use plastic, heightening environmental pollution and health threats. This will see Africa surpass current levels of 5% of global plastic production if nothing is done to stem the tide of waste.  Every year more than 400 million tons of plastic are produced globally and an estimated 19–23 million tons end up in lakes, rivers, and seas.

In the face of this growing environmental threat to Africa and her people, Tourvest’s Lemala Lodge in Tanzania is driving solutions that purge plastic for good.

Considering that less than 10% of plastic production around the world is recycled, Lemala and Tourvest are actively driving solutions to protect the local community, economy and the broader eco-system. They’re confronting the scourge with clever constructive opportunities to not only address the waste challenge but insert bi-product solutions that are benefiting surrounding communities.

“We are not accepting the status quo and are working hard to get ahead of the curve,” says Tourvest’s Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Judi Nwokedi. “Our initiatives are driving environmental firsts in tourism and across other sectors.”

Tourvest was the first in Africa to provide 100% biodegradable plastic-free lunch boxes and have removed plastic straws entirely. But not all initiatives are always visible to guests: one venue’s entrance floor is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.

In an innovative move, Lemala Lodge also removes plastic from parks and turns it into school desks and chairs – a huge success thanks to a powerful partnership with Dunia Designs.

“Not only are we removing and repurposing plastic for the greater good, but at the same time we’re driving quality education for all. We see education as a game changer, especially on the African continent,” says Nwokedi.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the lowest participation rate in tertiary education despite enrolment doubling globally between 2000 and 2013 across all regions of the world. Recently, the World Bank called for forward-thinking systems to turn the tide on learning poverty in Africa. With approximately 323 million school-aged children (3-18 years) currently living in Eastern and Southern Africa countries, it is important to drive change that matters.

Tourism is a great enabler of change due to the major reach into the heart of Africa and the industry’s ability to work so closely with communities across many regions.

“Our intention at Tourvest is to harness the power of education to change lives and so it is more than business as usual for us. We are striving to bring the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to life, from assisting in reducing climate change to driving quality education, bursaries, and on-the-job learning opportunities,” says Nwokedi.

Better education also opens the door to new avenues for growth, as more people are given the skills, resources, and ability to explore the world and grab future opportunities. What’s more, education is also a driving force to raise awareness about climate change and the need for everyone to work towards building more sustainable solutions.

For instance, the World Health Organization says plastic pollution has various negative impacts on health in Africa, affecting both human populations and ecosystems. Plastic waste, particularly single-use plastics and microplastics, can contaminate freshwater sources such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater. This pollution can lead to the consumption of microplastics through contaminated drinking water, potentially posing risks to human health.

Tourvest’s fight against plastic pollution was recently recognised on the global stage when Lemala Lodge received noteworthy recognition for its innovative work, winning the Best for Tackling Plastic Waste at the recent prestigious 2023 Global Responsible Tourism Awards.

“This highlights the continent’s growing influence and commitment to sustainable travel practices, and we are extremely pleased to have received this level of global recognition for the work we are doing to drive responsible tourism,” says Nwokedi.

“Our shared Lemala dream is that our sustainability initiatives will inspire other operators in Tanzania – and across Africa. Our hope is that they to develop their own projects so that we can all truly put our hand on our heart and say that we are succeeding in making Africa a better place for this and future generations, because we are only temporary custodians of this land,” concludes Nwokedi.