Three Trees – a Dark Green Lodge
A Dark Green Lodge
While Three Tree Hill Lodge may have painted the cabins dark green, this is co-incidental to their environmental ethos which is really deep green. Three Trees is themed around the Anglo-Boer War era – one of the battles was fought right here at Spioenkop. The green cottages have a wonderful view of the Mfazimnyama valley.
The info booklet says that local, renewable and sustainable are important. Many establishments claim ‘greeness’ in their advertising blurb. Often it only means they have changed the light bulbs, used dead branches as décor, and are situated in a previously unspoilt (until construction began) natural place.
As dusk falls, the solar jar on the veranda glows – just enough light to savour the early evening birdsong and call of jackals across the valley. The tea is Ntingwe, grown in Zululand, soaps and lotions are all African Organics and a torch is provided to find one’s way along the path to dinner.
Meals are served at a communal table, with good conversation and as much locally sourced food as possible. Milk and eggs come from the neighbour, bread is baked daily from locally grown stone-ground flour, cheeses are classic Midlands’ varieties. Many of the greens and herbs are grown right outside. Simple, colourful and delicious, they actually do mean as local as possible.
A good test of greenness is to wander around the back of the buildings to see what lurks there. The lodge has installed water tanks and plan a whole lot more. They use Wonderbags for much of their food preparation and a parabolic solar cooker sits amongst the aloes.
There is an array of recycling bins, a compost heap, eco-friendly products in the laundry (and instructions to wash windows with a vinegar solution) and washing drying in the breeze. There are probably plenty of hotels calling themselves green that have tumble driers tucked out of sight. The ‘sustainability speak’ in the booklet, is believable. The solutions are low-tech – ones that we all use (or should).
Three Trees are building resilience in the communities around the lodge too. All their staff members have grown up nearby, they support community permaculture gardens, install water tanks, assist local schools and crèches. In this way they ensure a better future for everyone whether the lodge is there or not.
Owner/Manager Cheryl Blackburn is really committed. “After spending years surrounded by wildlife as guides in the Kruger Park and Botswana, Simon and I felt that the only way we wanted to raise our children would be in a similar privileged environment. Three Trees embodies how we live, in partnership with nature and the community with long term sustainability in mind.”
Their gift shop sells the local products they use, tea, soap, Solar jars, Wonderbags, handmade recycled paper beads – cleverly ensuring that guests take a little bit of their commitment to treading lightly on the planet home with them. Plans are afoot to have their own brand of soap made using the sap of the aloes that grow right there.
In a world filled with greenwash, Three Trees is utterly refreshing.