Life is all about choices. We make choices every day without thinking about them.
“I can’t wait to have a nice burger for lunch.”
“It’s cold outside and I’m late, I think I’ll drive in to work”
“That pack of 24 water bottles is only $4.99? I think I’ll grab a case.”
So many of these decisions have impacts that we don’t think about either.
Did you know that you need 460 gallons of water and over 13 pounds of feed to produce 1 quarter pound hamburger?
Taking your car instead of public transportation emits 65 more pounds of CO² per 100 passenger miles into the atmosphere.
Satisfying the annual global demand for bottled water consumes the energy equivalent of about 160 million barrels of oil.
Cambodia has a real problem with pollution, the lack of recycling, and education in general. They rank 146th out of 180 countries in the global Environmental Performance Index. So, when we decided to visit Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat, we wanted to stay somewhere that shared our values in terms of responsible tourism.
That was our mindset when we stumbled across Babel guesthouse. We informed ourselves on all the initiatives they are leading and contacted one of the owners, Katrine, right away. We ended up staying a few nights at their guesthouse, which specializes in responsible tourism, and loved every minute of it.
From the get-go, they were quite accommodating. They offered to pick us up from the airport. Dara, one of Babel’s many tuk tuk drivers, brought us to the guesthouse. All their drivers work with Babel on a rotational basis, so that they all get an equal share of rides. This ensures that they are all able to better support their loved ones. Because sharing is caring, and Babel cares a lot!
We won’t harp too long on the comfy beds, amazing shower, or beautiful garden they have where you can chill around, eat at the resto or chat with some of the other guests. We met such friendly and like-minded people in the garden, we would have never left if we had a choice. This was not why we chose to stay at Babel, but all these were extra pluses for us.
All of Babel’s great initiatives were the biggest contributing factors in our decision to stay here. They do so much, not only for the environment in Siem Reap, but also for their always-smiling, hard working staff.
Babel Guesthouse is constantly looking to ensure that they are a sustainable and environmental business. Litter is a huge problem in Cambodia which is why Babel organizes garbage pick-ups, with the help of their staff, other local businesses and guests. This helps raise local awareness of the issue, helping solve the problem in the long run. We took part in one of the clean-ups to give back to the community that took us in. The most rewarding part of this was when a Cambodian mother and little daughter whizzed by on a scooter. In perfect English, the little girl yelled an enthusiastic Thank You to us for helping make her home a cleaner place. This put a big smile on our faces.
Babel also pushes to reduce the amount of plastic being used. They sell reusable water bottles and offer to refill them for free for anyone who participates in their program. Coupled with the bamboo straws they use and sell at the guesthouse, they are helping reduce plastic waste overall.
Then, there is HUSK Cambodia who focuses on providing access to safe water, livelihood opportunities, health, education & environment to families in the Siem Reap area. Babel works with Husk and delivers used plastic bottles filled with soft plastics that are used to make walls for houses. They also donate used plastic bags that are repurposed into cushions for the chairs in Babel’s restaurant, as well as other artisanal goods.
From replacing all take-away containers and cutlery with biodegradable versions, to powering their generator with bio-diesel made from their used cooking oil, and selling locally-made jams from a social enterprise called Happytite, Babel has truly become a leader in Siem Reap when it comes to responsible eco-tourism.
As we mentioned before, they do so much for the environment, but they also pride themselves on what they do for the people of Cambodia. One of their proudest endeavours is their educational program that allows their staff and tuk tuk drivers to earn their Bachelor degrees at Build Bright University and the University of South East Asia. Providing their staff with adequate training, good working conditions, fair salaries and flexible working hours enables them to further pursue their education. This is huge, especially knowing that a large portion of Cambodians don’t finish their primary education, due to the fact that families cannot afford it.
Another way that Babel ensures the personal and educational growth of their staff is by organizing their yearly staff trip. They bring them to other provinces in Cambodia, to learn more about different regions of their country and what they have to offer. This in itself is something that most Cambodians do not have the luxury to experience. Traveling like tourists helps the staff understand the needs of their customers at Babel, which is probably why they are all awesome! It is also a great team-building exercise for the staff and the management.
This brings me to one of the things that struck me the most at Babel, that is the sense of family that the entire crew emits. Katrine’s newborn baby, Lina, can often be found in the caring arms of one of the staff. Likewise, Katrine knows intricate details about each one of her staff’s personal lives, down to babies’ birthdays. Rare is it to find an owner as dedicated to their team than you will find with Katrine and her husband, Simon.
We hope that we will continue to find places like Babel Guesthouse that combine great hospitality with responsible tourism practices. A big thank you goes out to Katrine, Simon and her staff! We hope to see you again in our future travels!
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