At Topas we believe both the environment and local community should benefit from our business, which is why we are committed to producing long term sustainable benefits by listening closely to what the locals want and need from us.
Sustainability has been at the front of our minds since we conceived the idea of Topas Ecolodge. By working with DANIDA (Denmark’s development cooperation, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the lodge has become a showcase of sustainable tourism in remote areas.
What does it mean to be an ecolodge exactly?? There are three basic principles any property must follow in order to be considered as such, namely, to be set in a natural environment, benefits the local community, and provides awareness and educational support.
Our company started as a partnership between a local Sapa family and Topas in Denmark via DANIDA charity funds, so since day 1, our commitment to the community has been present.
We employ around 100 people, almost exclusively from local villages. While working, staff live in two houses built on-site so they do not endanger themselves by traveling late at night to their remote villages. Here they are provided with the space and facilities to grow vegetables and cook their own food. We also provide full insurance so our staff are covered, both on and off-site, of course!
Staff are given opportunities to progress and complete further training. Often, they come to us with limited education, but if they have the motivation, we provide education and training to help them succeed. Each of our staff teams are led by a local employee and represented at weekly management meetings with the lodge manager with a say in how the Ecolodge is run.
One wonderful example of this training program is Mr. Hai, now one of our most popular tour guides! When Mr. Hai started working for us, he had had no formal education and worked cutting the stones meant to build the lodge from the nearby mountain back in 2003. He is now fluent in English and shows our clients around the local area!
Sharing our resources
We recognize that some of the resources we use to run our Ecolodge are also valuable to the local community, therefore we work to share these resources by ensuring all recyclable materials are distributed locally, from food waste to neighboring pigs to metal cans, and reused by local women.
Our purchasing and sourcing decisions are given careful consideration and we buy local produce whenever we can. Almost all of our food is bought at the local market, shops, or directly from nearby farmers. That’s why the dining menus always contains fresh, seasonal vegetables, fruit and fish.
Furthermore, chickens are raised on-site in our own chicken coop and we enjoy growing our own herbs and vegetables, too!
Caring for the environment
Few Ecolodges, from the most luxurious to the most basic, can claim to be 100% ‘green’. We face our own challenges from the local conditions, but continuously strive to operate in a sustainable way, providing a positive impact on local communities through funding and education.
When we first opened, we attempted to operate entirely on solar electricity, but the inconsistent supply means we now rely on the hydropower station in the valley. Now, we keep electricity use at the lodge to a bare minimum and ask all our guests to help us with this, without impairing the quality of your stay. Additionally, the bungalows contain a minimal number of electronic devices and are outfitted with energy efficient bulbs.
It’s very important to reuse as much of our waste as possible – a task which can be challenging in remote locations. One way we deal with this issue is by cooperating with local farmers to feed their livestock by using our restaurant leftovers and giving all cans and boxes to the local people to reuse in their households.
Our glass crushing machine crushes our glass bottles into a fine sand which can later be used to mix concrete for construction needs and maintenance repair. See it in action below!
One of the highlights of our latest initiatives is our constructed wetland, vital in wastewater treatment from our kitchen and laundry. This works by purifying the wastewater generated at Topas Ecolodge through massive sand and plant filters, ensuring the resort does not impact the local environment in a damaging way.
Furthermore, this system is really successful in avoiding unnatural algae growth which can really negatively affect any ecosystem. We have just launched a is avoided in the local ecosystem. We also have an organic filtration system in our septic tanks to ensure all bungalow waste is treated and purified as well.
We are proud to be the major sponsor of the local school and supply books and writing materials throughout the year, as well as employing local staff and investing time into each and everyone one of them, from English language skills to hospitality training. Many have gone on to become valuable members of staff, with the majority of them staying with us for a long time – some as long as 10 years!
Sharing knowledge and experiences gained from operating in Sapa is also important to us. That’s why we often cooperate with other organizations and schools, such as the United Nations International School of Hanoi and Hanoi Women’s Club, to further educate the local and expat community in big cities on how best to protect the environment and ethnic minority peoples of northern Vietnam.
As a result of our work in all of these areas mentioned above, Topas Ecolodge has strengthened its cooperation with various local governments and is now recognized by the head of authorities as an important employer of ethnic minority peoples in the Thanh Kim community.
When we hold major events here, such as the Vietnam Mountain Marathon (VMM), we work closely with the local community and ensure they benefit, by donating warm clothing each winter as well as providing educational materials, recyclables, water and other resources.
Wondering what to expect when reserving your stay at Topas Ecolodge? Head to our about us page and start planning your stay with us!