ESTC 2011 shines with eco-secrets, Gullah history, debate and sustainable food – Day 2 highlights

Stanley Selengut, dubbed as the father of sustainable resort development, opened Day 2 of the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC 2011) with an inspiring speech about how eco-lodge developers can bring properties into ecological balance within a surrounding area.

His innovative programs, which have been implemented at his properties on St. John’s, U.S. Virgin Islands (namely Maho Bay Camps and Estate Concordia Preserve), include 4 hour workday volunteer programs, generous profit sharing programs, free general store program that reuses what other guests have donated including food staples, and a trash-to-treasure program that re-manufactures used fabrics, aluminum, paper and glass into beautiful works of art produced by either artists-in-residence or guests.

Conference participants were then given the choice of 6 field sessions that offered hands-on opportunities to learn about local sustainability initiatives. I went on the Gullah Cultural Heritage tour of Hilton Head Island, which was extraordinary. We first visited the Mitchelville Preservation Project, which was once a thriving town built by former slaves who were living in freedom before the Emancipation Proclamation.

The 1862 plan for the village focused on freedom, self-government, land ownership, independent farming, wage-based labor and commerce, volunteer military service and education. The little-known historical treasure is now aiming to build a memorial and education area. 

The next stop was the Gullah Museum, which at this time, consists of three one-room houses that are being maintained by fifth-generation Gullah, Louise Miller Cohen who shares an oral history of her culture, tales, gospel songs as well as knowledge about medicinal plants and cuisine. Future plans include preservation of three additional homes, an open-air pavilion, a Praise House, a corn house, an outhouse, a garden, community meeting room, art gallery and retail space. Click here for more information.

Also, for a real treat, below is a video of a children’s story told in the Gullah language:

The afternoon sessions provided an opportunity for a healthy debate about the role, if any, that recreational hunting and fishing activities have in ecotourism, the cruise industry’s approach to sustainability, the role of tourism businesses and environmental organizations in advocacy, and the new consumer trends that are driving sustainable business practices.

Day 2 ended on a tasty note as we were hosted by the Coastal Discovery Museum with a sustainable culinary showcase amidst marsh boardwalks, butterfly gardens, and heritage gardens. Local restaurants offered up delicious (and locally sourced) seafood, soups, barbecue, and dessert dishes that had everyone lining up for hours as they enjoyed the Lavon Stevens Jazz Trio.

A fitting end to a most enjoyable day!

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