In recent years, Leonardo DiCaprio has become an outspoken environmental voice. Earlier in 2016, he hosted “Before the Flood,” a National Geographic documentary about climate change, and interviewed President Obama about climate action at the White House’s South by South Lawn festival.
Now the actor-turned-activist is hoping to create a new model for green hospitality. DiCaprio is helping design a new resort called Blackadore Caye, A Restorative Island. Slated to open in late 2018, it will be located on a small island off the coast of Belize.
Blackadore Caye (which is also the name of the island) will feature 36 resort bungalows and 36 estate homes, all of which will be powered by 100% renewable energy harvested from solar panels. Rainwater will be collected and filtered on-site and combined with solar-powered desalinization devices to meet the resort’s water needs.
DiCaprio purchased the island more than 10 years ago for $1.75 million. Though its 104 acres are unpopulated, the island’s beaches and reefs suffer from overfishing, an eroding coastline, and deforestation of the native mangrove tree population.
According to the New York Times, fisherman have cut down the coastal mangroves over the years, using the wood for fires to cook fish and conch from the reef. The depletion of the mangroves has allowed more seawater to breach the island’s shores and wash away nutrient-rich soil. Without the natural storm barrier the trees provided, saltwater has also penetrated the island during extreme weather events, and the lingering saline has caused some plant species to die.
To reverse that trend, the development team has assembled a group of scientists to set baseline levels of resilience and biodiversity, and monitor those factors over time. The project’s plans include planting approximately 20,000 new red mangrove trees around the island’s perimeter, and fortifying the shoreline by adding strategically placed rocks and sand. Native species will also be reintroduced to restore the island’s vegetated cover.
Half of the land will be set aside as a wildlife preserve, and a research station will be established to host scientists conducting ecological studies. Guests will also be invited to work on some restoration projects if they choose.
Blackadore Caye will be the first luxury resort to adhere to Living Building Challenge standards, the most rigorous sustainability certification for buildings. Though the square footage of the bungalows and homes has not yet been released, all of the energy-efficient buildings are being designed to capture breezes and keep out heat from the sun. Both human and food waste will be treated on site and composted when possible to improve the island’s topsoil.
There will also be a strict list of items and technologies not permitted on the island. All recreational vehicles (boats, cars, scooters, etc) will have to use clean energy, and guests will be forbidden from bringing non-reusable plastic water bottles.
The food served to resort-goers will be organic and locally sourced — the developers plan to partner with local fisherman and farmers to stock the kitchen. Some greens and produce will also be grown hydroponically on-site.