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Going Green by Going Blue

MD Staff

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As the leeward coast of Oahu’s first Blue Zones Approved worksite, Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina supports a national community movement inspired by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow who identified five regions of the world – or Blue Zones – with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older.

Brought to Hawaii through an innovative sponsorship by HMSA and Sharecare, Inc., Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to lifestyle, environment, policy and social networks.

One of the world’s original Blue Zones is Okinawa , which Buettner describes as “sort of a Japanese Hawaii.” For almost a thousand years, the Pacific archipelago has maintained a reputation for nurturing extreme longevity. The Okinawan sweet potato and one or two other staples are known to have sustained generations for thousands of years, in the same way taro has sustained generations of Hawaiians.

A focus of the movement is that food and lifestyle decisions should flow from the environment. Communities naturally benefit from the impact of sustainable change – in significant medical cost savings, productivity improvements, increased economic vitality and lowered obesity and smoking rates. Ultimately, the result is a better quality of life.

“No one person can create a Blue Zone but in the case of Four Seasons, more than 750 people collectively can make a difference,” says Joseph Hodnette, Director of People and Culture at the Resort.

As a triathlete, Hodnette is passionate about creating an environment that encourages healthy eating and an active lifestyle, on a part of the island where fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available and the rugged beauty of Oahu’s western coastline is only steps away.

In Ko Olina, Four Seasons launched a Blue Zones Project initiative called “The Polu Project” (polu meaning Blue in Hawaiian). The Resort joined with other community partners in west Oahu to create a kickoff event called Kupuwai | Cultivating Healthy Communities, featuring plant-based cooking demonstrations using native Hawaiian ingredients, gardening workshops with indigenous plants, cultural games, children’s activities and more.

As a Blue Zones Project Approved worksite and first Four Seasons location nationwide to be recognised as so, the Resort has implemented several features to optimise health and well-being. These include a weekly Farmer’s Market with nearby Kahumana Farms, employee yoga classes, healthy food options in the employee restaurant, a new mother’s area where moms can express and store breast milk, easy access to walking, biking and other fitness programs, and locations with self monitoring health equipment including scales and blood pressure monitoring systems.

The focus on sustainability extends to procurement and community building initiatives. Sourcing ecologically friendly products is a priority. Paper straws have replaced plastic straws throughout the Resort. The goal in food services is to use 100 percent compostable and biodegradable product.

“The challenge is for eco-friendly suppliers to meet demand,” says Four Seasons Oahu’s Director of Food & Beverage Martin Knaubert. “Supplier preference is often given to mandated states and cities but we are committed to making a long term impact in the Hawaiian Islands.”

Buying local fish and whole produce is part of the solution and Four Seasons is reaching out to other restaurants to share information about what the Blue Zones Project can do in serving Hawaii communities, from kitchen composting to patronage of local farms.

In shaping the restaurant concepts and menus at Four Seasons, Executive Chef Richard Polhemus is inspired by the many farmers and fishermen on the island. The culinary team at Four Seasons Resort Oahu works directly with island fishermen and farmers along the Waianae coast, sourcing and serving the freshest quality ingredients sourced just miles from the Resort.

“Food needs to be true to itself and relevant to where it comes from. One should be able to smell the soil where the carrot was grown. That’s how close it should be,” Polhemus says.

Spa options further accentuate the wellness focus. Treatment choreographies at Naupaka Spa draw inspiration from a rich healing history at Ko Olina that dates back centuries.  Annually each June, Four Seasons celebrates Global Wellness Day. On Oahu, programs include free morning yoga, lomi-lomi (massage) workshops and poi and taro inspired culinary options.

Each September, Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina presents Race Ko Olina, with an emphasis on family fitness, inviting adults to test their endurance in a Sprint Triathlon or 10K and 5K runs, with an Aquathlon and 1K Run for keiki. Registration fees support Kapiolani Medical Center.

“The programming intention is holistic,” says Four Seasons General Manager Charlie Parker. “Travellers are looking for immersive, transformative experiences. This can only come from a Resort-wide focus on sustainability and wellbeing, shared by our employees. The philosophy is to leave a better world for generations to come.”

Travel & Leisure

Why Al Maryah Island? Everything about Abu Dhabi’s newest business and lifestyle destination

MD Staff

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Abu Dhabi, meaning Land of the Gazelle, has been at crossroads of commerce and culture for centuries. Today, the Emirate, is a modern, cosmopolitan hub for travellers from around the world to explore this growth. Al Maryah Island is the perfect vantage point for this. The new heart of the the capital offers visitors and residents exceptional business and lifestyle experiences. Here are our top three reasons to choose Four Seasons for your next visit to Abu Dhabi:


Location, location, location

Director of Rooms, Mark Syputa feels Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island is perfectly positioned to offer business and leisure travelers the best of the UAE’s capital:

“What I love about Al Maryah Island is that you have all the conveniences of direct connections to downtown Abu Dhabi, with the added benefits of being able to walk to Abu Dhabi Global Market and the surrounding office towers. Add to that the close proximity to key cultural attractions (like Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Qasr al Watan, and Qasr al Hosn) and the highest density of amazing restaurants & bars in all of Abu Dhabi; I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather live, work & play in our capital city.”


World-class shopping and dining

Al Maryah Island has a wealth of world-class dining and shopping. Exotic flavors from near and far are the biggest attraction with over forty options including our very own award-winning restaurants Butcher & Still, and Cafe Milano; not to mention, Zuma, Coya, and Le Petit Maison.  Guests can also shop until they drop in The Galleria, the city’s most exclusive shopping experience filled with the luxury brands. This is only set to amplify with the city’s latest mega-mall Al Maryah Central opening mid-2019 with over 400 retail outlets and 100 restaurants.


Health & Wellness focus

Health & Wellness is another key focus. The Island is fortunate to have one of the region’s premier hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, which has some of the world’s best doctors and highly personalized care. On property, Dahlia Spa in Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi, encapsulates this holistic wellness approach by providing guests a results-driven approach through customised experiences crafted by an international team of spa experts.

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A magical visit to Villa de Leyva, just hours from Bogota

MD Staff

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Just a few hours from the bustling Colombian capital lies Villa de Leyva, a tranquil town littered with whitewashed stone houses dating back to the early 17th-century. The colonial-era town, northeast of Bogota and with a warmer climate, boasts winding cobbled streets situated around what’s claimed to be the largest stone square in South America. A day trip to the town can be easily arranged with the assistance of Four Seasons Hotels Bogota or Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota.

Visitors can explore the Pozos Azules, a series of bright blue artificial pools, which are situated only a five minute drive away from the central plaza. Other activities include a visit to architect Octavio Mendoza’s 5,400-square-foot house, which is made entirely out of clay. The Casa Terracota is an abstract piece of art, which one could imagine Antoni Gaudí would be proud to call his home. The clay abode can be explored on by foot and is just a 30-minute walk from the central square. Mendoza refers to his work as the largest piece of pottery in the world.

Members of staff at Four Seasons Hotels Bogota can also assist guests in planning activities for the day trip to the town. Guests who are interested in adventure activities can rent mountain bikes and cycle around the mountainous and historical trails of the town. Cycling tours are also available, which stop off at all of the main points of interest, while some offer coffee and wine tasting.

The local people of Villa de Leyva offer a warm and hospitable welcome, and there are plenty of local family-run restaurants, bakeries, and shops. A few minutes walk from the main central plaza are winding cobbled streets lined with artisan gifts and crafts, which are made by locals. One shop, in particular, serves fresh home-made hummus.

The town, which is part of the Boyaca department of Colombia, is formerly a colony of Spain and gained independence in 1812. Visitors may also recognise the town from Gabriel García Marquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera, as the main character Florentino Ariza spends part of his life in Villa de Leyva. As well as a rich historical significance, the place also has a strong scientific background. The valley in which it’s located is rich in fossils and even has a paleontology museum dedicated to the hundreds of artifacts that have been discovered.

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Paradise found: Saint Lucia preserving beauty through data and policy action

MD Staff

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If ever an island justified the label “paradise” that tourist brochures liberally apply to destinations, it is Saint Lucia.

Shaped like a teardrop, this tiny Caribbean nation has everything. Crescent moon beaches of white sand. Jagged volcanic mountains jutting up from the azure waters. Eclectic biodiversity that manifests in a riot of colour, no more so than in the Saint Lucia Amazon, a spectacular parrot found only on the island.

Unfortunately, as is the case in so many places, human activity is endangering this beauty and the benefits it brings to humanity. The threats are many, including extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change, forest habitat loss from land-use change and over-exploitation of marine resources.

We can deal with these challenges, as the return of the Saint Lucia Amazon, or Amazona versicolor, shows. In the 1970s, only around 100 of these birds remained. Thanks to a conservation programme, the species is now on an upward trend. While still classed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the last census of the bird, carried out between 2007 and 2009, found a stable and viable population of 2,258 individuals.

The Government of Saint Lucia, with the support of UN Environment, is determined to repeat this success for all the island’s natural resources while ensuring a better future for its estimated 180,000 residents.

The nation is signed up to global treaties, including the three Rio Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which the Paris Agreement falls.

In order to meet its obligations and to design and implement meaningful interventions, the government needs to have a clear picture of where it stands in terms of data and required policies.   

“While we pursue on-the-ground initiatives that guarantee our survival, it is equally important to pursue the soft initiatives that will allow us to make sound decisions on the strategic interventions needed,” said Annette Rattigan-Leo, Saint Lucia’s Chief Sustainable Development and Environment Officer.

In August 2018, the island took a big step forward. Working with UN Environment on a Global Environment Facility-funded project, the Saint Lucian government launched its first national environmental information system. Information on the three big treaties is available to ministries, the private sector, academia, multilateral environmental treaty focal points and the public. For each convention, indicators related to broader policy goals and objectives are being integrated to support reporting and translate data into useful and actionable information.

“This is certainly an encouraging endeavour, as it will allow Saint Lucia to work closely with UN Environment,” said Gale Rigobert, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development. “We acknowledge the crucial role environmental information continues to play in helping us meet our national and multilateral environmental agreement obligations.”

As part of the project, 17 major environmental data providers signed an agreement to cooperate on the development and use of the system, ensuring that the bigger picture will be as complete as possible. Meanwhile, the project developed a set of core sustainable development and environmental indicators for the Rio conventions, which all derive directly from the 1992 Earth Summit. According to Teshia Jn Baptiste, who managed the project, the system and associated common data storage facility have “significantly improved collaboration among the public and private sectors”.

Those who work on the ground are hopeful that the new system will help Saint Lucia meet its commitments and so improve the health of its ecosystems.

“If we reach our targets, the livelihoods of fishermen and others depending on marine resources will be protected in the face of climate change impacts,” said Allena Joseph, Fisheries Biologist in Saint Lucia’s Department of Fisheries. “We can do this through better-informed decisions in areas relating to biodiversity conservation and resilience building.”

The government has previously called for an end to illegal logging, which has led to habitat loss and landslides. Karl Augustine, a research officer in the Forestry Department, believes that the new system will help claw back some of the damage.

“We see a positive impact on human and wildlife cohabitation and a transition to forest in areas historically affected by land degradation,” he said.

For species such as the Amazona versicolor and the people of Saint Lucia, this can only be good news.

UN Environment

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