When an angry German man demanded to know why his beer was being served in a plastic cup some 30 years ago, luxury resort owner Ewald Biemans didn’t have an answer, but he did have a solution.
And why stop at getting rid of plastic tumblers, he thought, when he could do away with shampoo bottles and even water bottles at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, his hotel on the Caribbean Island of Aruba.
‘In the 1980s I started to eliminate plastic,’ he told me while dining in his oceanfront Elements restaurant, explaining how Bucuti & Tara has been able prevent the use of more than half a million plastic bottles a year.
Carbon neutral: In 2018, Bucuti & Tara (pictured) became the first resort in the Caribbean to become carbon neutral
Paradise: Bucuti & Tara is an adults-only 4 star resort nestled on the spacious white-sand Eagle Beach on the Dutch island – dubbed One Happy Island
Island life: Eagle Beach is widest beach in Aruba is famous for its pristine and soft white sands and is rated among the best in the world
Over the next few decades, Biemans took every step possible to turn his stunning beach-front property into an eco-friendly paradise.
And his hard work paid off in 2018 when the luxury hotel became the first resort in the Caribbean to become carbon neutral, offering eco-conscious travelers a guilt free holiday destination.
That isn’t to say guests won’t feel just as pampered, indulged and relaxed as they would at any other upmarket resort.
I was put up in one of the hotel’s luxurious Tara suites, with views across the sparkling turquoise ocean and the waves lapping against the white beach.
Along with a sumptuous king-size bed, there was a separate elegantly-decorated living area and a luxurious bathroom with walk-in shower and an electric mirror with built-in TV.
Bucuti & Tara is an adults-only 4 star resort nestled on the spacious white-sand Eagle Beach on the Dutch island – dubbed One Happy Island.
The widest beach in Aruba is famous for its pristine and soft white sands and is rated among the best in the world.
The island basks in warm, sunny weather for most of the year, with Aruba also located outside the hurricane belt that can wreak havoc on other Caribbean islands from June to November.
As well being the first certified carbon-neutral resort in the Caribbean, Bucuti & Tara won the Green Globe Award for being the most sustainable hotel in the world.
It was awarded TripAdvisor gongs for being one of the top 10 most romantic hotels in the world, and number one in the Caribbean, along with a long list of other awards.
Owner: Biemans is a highly awarded visionary in sustainable tourism who has spent decades transforming the resort to make it carbon neutral
Home away from home: I was put up in one of the hotel’s luxurious Tara suites, with views across the sparkling turquoise ocean and the waves lapping against the white beach
Mod cons: The bathroom in my suite had an electric mirror with built-in TV. Plastic bottles are replaced by dispensers attached to the walls which are filled with Aruba Aloe products
Rest and relaxation: Although Bucuti is the perfect location for a chilled vacation, the island is also packed with activities
Eco-friendly: Guests walk around with branded Bucati & Tara canteens which can be filled up at the faucet
Being green at Bucuti & Tara requires the minimum of effort, and won’t kill your holiday vibe.
Guests walk around with branded Bucati & Tara canteens which can be filled up at the faucet because the island’s water is pure, refreshing and safe to drink.
Recycled cardboard signs hang on the doors, and guests earn credits when they choose a Green Stay – opting out of having their towels washed each day.
Those who decide to hit the gym can also help power the property using the electricity-generating exercise equipment linked up to the energy supply.
Other than that, you would never know you were helping save the planet by choosing Bucuti & Tara. Apart from that warm feeling you get when you reach for your flask instead of a plastic water bottle. Or when you use the shampoo and conditioner dispensers in the shower, which are filled with Aruba Aloe products.
Climate change continues to be a hot topic, with environmentalist protesters from campaign group Extinction Rebellion causing chaos in major cities, and the Duke of Duchess of Sussex being accused of hypocrisy for using private jets despite being outspoken on environmental issues.
And although most people now take everyday steps such as recycling and reusing plastic bags to help save the planet, these good intentions often fall by the wayside when on vacation.
But there’s no nagging sense of guilt at Bucuti & Tara.
Flying to Aruba on a nearly full flight and staying at the resort is actually better for the planet than a long drive in the US and staying in a non-eco-friendly resort, according to Biemans – a fact he is incredibly proud of.
Hitting the high seas: Snorkelers can take a trip to Spanish Lagoon on a sail boat with Tranquilo Charters Aruba. The quiet snorkeling spot on the south side of the island boasts magnificent coral formations filled with tropical fish
Many of Bucuti & Tara’s eco-conscious initiatives are unseen. LED lighting, insulated walls, roofs and windows, and the hotel consolidating purchases to reduce transportation and encouraging staff to ride share are among the many hidden efforts which make the resort carbon neutral.
Biemans explained: ‘We need to preserve our natural resources as much as we can and by using the latest in technology we are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.’
Biemans – a highly awarded visionary in sustainable tourism – has also reduced food waste by making portions in his restaurants smaller – by 30 per cent – and changed the way it is delivered.
‘I have one [food] supplier that delivers everything in one trip,’ the owner said. ‘It’s all about emissions.’
And Biemans’ efforts go beyond his own hotel in into the wider Aruban community.
Once a month he and his staff go out and clean a mile of beach – and guests are invited to join in.
‘They are on vacation and they are cleaning an island that is not theirs,’ Biemans said proudly of his guests’ commitment to the environment.
‘Aruba is not in the tourism business, Aruba is in the nature business,’ he added. ‘Without our nature, there will be no tourism.’
He has also pumped more than half a million dollars into a program called Stimami Sterilisami (Love me, Sterilize Me) which aims to reduce the population of stray dogs and cats on Aruba by spaying and neutering them.
Aruba is an island rich in history and culture – from its ancient Caiquetio Indian roots, through Spanish and Dutch rule, to its modern day standing as a constituent country of the Netherlands.
Resort dining: The burrata on beets with candied dried papaya cubes is creamy and tangy at Elements restaurant was an incredible starter
Breakfast on the beach: A more casual spot is Eduardo’s Beach Shack, which specializes in healthy smoothies and tasty vegan treats. The sweet but not too sweet vegan waffles with coco whip make a perfect breakfast treat
Although the perfect location for a chilled vacation, the island is also packed with activities.
Snorkelers can take a trip to Spanish Lagoon on a sail boat with Tranquilo Charters Aruba. The quiet snorkeling spot on the south side of the island boasts magnificent coral formations filled with tropical fish.
A tour of the Aloe Factory and Museum is an opportunity to learn about the Aruba aloe production process, along with the 160-year history of aloe cultivation on the island – plus drop some money in its store.
An open-air Jeep tour will take you away from Aruba’s famous beaches and into the rugged outback and is without a doubt the best way to see the island’s breathtaking volcanic landscape.
A trip to Aruba wouldn’t be complete without a visit to San Nicolas – described as the cultural capital of the island – to see the famous murals.
Artists from all over the world as well as local talent take part in the Aruba Art Fair each year, leaving their mark on the town’s walls and buildings.
After busy days exploring this extraordinary island, guests can treat themselves to a dreamy massage on the beach, provided by the onsite Purun spa.
Dinner with a view: There are several dining options at the resort, including the oceanfront Elements restaurant
Sunset views: Watching the sun go down over the water from the hotel is a truly magical experience
There are a variety of stand-out restaurants on the island for lunch and dinner ranging from casual to high-end dining.
At Barefoot you can dig into fresh fish on the beach with the soft sand between your toes.
A more casual spot is Eduardo’s Beach Shack, which specializes in healthy smoothies and tasty vegan treats. The sweet but not too sweet vegan waffles with coco whip make a perfect breakfast treat.
For those wanting to stay in the resort, there are several dining options, including Elements restaurant.
The burrata on beets with candied dried papaya cubes is creamy and tangy, and I followed it up with the tender and flaky ginger mahi-mahi fillet.
A view of the sun going down over the water and the sky becoming illuminated with orange and pink hues makes it a truly magical dining experience.
Accommodation was courtesy of Bucuti & Tara. Bucuti’s ‘no surprise fees’ rates begin at $350 per night, based on double occupancy and include all government taxes, all fees, full American breakfast buffet daily, WiFi, free local phone charges, free parking, and free use of an iPad during stay.
Bucuti & Tara offers a Honeymoon like a Celebrity service for newlyweds which includes being met on the jetway by a personal assistant, expedited customs clearance, a luxury sedan to transport couples to the resort, and a romance concierge to plan daily activities if desired.
Excursions and flights were courtesy of the Aruba Tourism Authority.