Spirit of India

Evolve Back: Inside one of India's greenest luxury resorts

Justin Solomon and Kate Springer, CNNPublished 13th July 2018
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(CNN) — India is home to many eco-conscious resorts, but one stands out from the pack.
Surrounded by dense forests and undulating hills, Evolve Back Chikkana Halli Estate sits within a 300-acre plantation in Coorg, in southwestern India.
The address is known for its commitment to the environment and local community.
There's a reverse osmosis water filter in every room, a state-of-the-art sewerage treatment plant, electric buggies and windmills that power the lodge's electricity.
"When guests visit, they can contribute towards social, economic and community development and learn more about environmental impact," Kanthi Aneesh, general manager of Evolve Back Coorg, tells CNN Travel.
"Nowadays, it is necessary for our generation to learn how to preserve nature and how to contribute in smaller ways."

The hotel's backstory

Evolve Back's Coorg lodge traces its roots back more than 90 years, when executive director Cherian Ramapuram's family acquired a coffee plantation.
"About 30 years back, my six siblings and I decided to diversify from agriculture and go into hospitality," says Ramapuram. "We thought it would be a fantastic place to build a holiday retreat because we ourselves love to come back to Coorg."
The region is often called the "Scotland of India" because of its cool climate, dense woods and green hills.
One big difference? Elephants are often seen roaming around the plantation grounds.
"Coorg is so unique because of its coffee, spices and pristine nature," says Ramapuram.
"When people open the window of their cottages, they can reach out to touch the coffee bushes and the leaves come into your room. That's the kind of feeling that we want people to have."

A green scene

Evolve has made extensive efforts to reduce its footprint in this biodiverse region.
"It's tourism with a conscience -- it's a practical thing," says Ramapuram. "There are three arts: One is to reduce waste, the second is reuse whatever's leftover, and the third art is recycle."
Indeed, the lodge follows these principles carefully.
It's banned plastic bottles, installed filtered taps for drinking water in every room, implemented renewable energy and mandated recycling.
With these practices in place, Ramapuram estimates that the company saves 200,000 plastic bottles a year across its three properties.
The solid waste management system is also impressive. The team converts roughly 150 kilograms of kitchen refuse daily into biogas, which is then used as manure for horticulture.
"When it comes to preserving nature, you can always be better. We continue to improve how we process and reduce our waste," says Ramapuram.
"(We hope) when our guests see (our efforts), they will go home and be more educated about waste."

Around the lodge

Home to four types of rustic villas and cottages, the property's traditional Kodava-style architecture combines local touches with romantic accents of woods and stone.
"You can't see the Kodava culture anywhere else," says Ramapuram. "Inside the forest, about seven kilometers, you'll find this village. There are lots of stories -- there is a tribal doctor who lives there and sees people from all over the area, coming to him to find cures."
The cottage might take its cues from this ancient clan, but it incorporates plenty of modern comforts.
Whether you're staying in a Lily Pool Bungalow or a Heritage Pool Villa, you'll find open-air terraces, thatched roofs and private pools.
"People don't come here for gold, silver, glass, Italian marble -- that is not luxury anymore," says Ramapuram. "Luxury walking barefoot on the unpaved ground. Luxury is having coffee with a local tribe. It's about experiences."

A community experience

Evolve Back Coorg
Guests are invited to dine on Kodava flavors at the converted granary.
From Evolve Back Coorg
Beyond eco-friendly choices, Evolve also works closely with the local community.
The hotel employs roughly 60% of its staff locally at its Coorg location, all of whom study in the company's job training program.
To encourage interaction between guests and the community, the hotel also arranges visits to local schools, villages, shops and markets.
"We have a great partnership with the community," says Ramapuram. "We support the schools with books, bags, uniforms, a library ... We also pay the salaries of the English teachers."
While you're there, you can also take part in outdoorsy activities, like a daily trek through the woods, bird watching or touring the coffee plantation.
"To be part of something like this is such a great satisfaction for me, personally, because you are part of something that people take back home with them," says Ramapuram. "We are a part of this transformational experience."
Evolve Back, Karadigodu Post, Siddapura, Kodagu, Karnataka 571253, India; +91 82742 58481