Nestled at the edge of the Aegean Sea on Greece’s lush, green peninsula of Halkidiki, Sani Resort is a world-class holiday destination that features an incredible collection of five hotels – ranging from the family-focused Sani Beach to couples’ haven Sani Dunes. While many reviews of Sani Resort will compliment the impeccable service, diverse dining options or stylish interiors, there is one part of the resort’s story that is often overlooked: its extraordinary environmental program called Sani Green, which is headed by the resort’s director of sustainability, Eleni Andreadis.
Ticking away in the background as a solid foundation for many of Sani Resort’s decisions, the environmental ethos of the resort makes sense when you consider its location. It’s based in a 1,000 acre ecological reserve, with 4-miles beaches (with 10 Blue Flag awards) and 12-mile forest trails. There is also a large wetlands area next to resort –225 of Greece’s 450 species of birds recorded on the wetlands, making it a truly special and well-preserved pocket of the natural world.
“From the inception of Sani Resort, there has always been a focus on making the most of blending nature with the guest experience. We feel very privileged to be able to have our hotels there,” says Andreadis. The efforts have paid off – last year, Sani Resort was recognized as the world’s leading luxury green resort at the World Travel Awards.
But with five different hotels, a sports center, a working marina and 24 restaurants dotted across the resort – and that’s just the surface of Sani Resort’s offerings – it is also an incredibly large-scale operation, which creates its own challenges when it comes to green policies. “Tailoring the program [called Sani Green] to each location and property has been the challenge,” Andreadis admits. “Client needs are not where the challenges lie – the way that the hotels are built, the back of office areas, those are the challenges.”
Sani Resort features an incredible collection of luxurious hotels / ©Sani Resort
The resort is based in a 1,000 acre ecological reserve with a large area of wetlands / ©Sani Resort
[See also: Earth Day: The Luxury Hotels and Resorts Going Green]
“Our shops around the marina are properties that we rent so we’re trying to get those shops on board and onto Sani Green, with policies like zero plastic,” she continues. “The program is also very demanding in our restaurants. Even with requirements for health and safety, it’s really difficult to avoid single-use plastic. I think people don’t realize the amount of plastic use in kitchens!”
Despite the challenges, Sani Resort is continuing to uphold its ambitious green standards. Last year, for example, the resort went “carbon neutral. We are now 100% renewable energy powered, and trying to go even further with the amount that we offset. We’re creating our own offsetting program with the Sani wetlands – I’d much rather we offset locally and direct the money to that rather than somewhere far away.”
Andreadis says that she is “always looking at how we can communicate and educate what we do” to make the Sani Green program something that’s part of the guest experience. “We have an eco-guide that does trips including beekeeping or wetland tours,” she says. “We often get profiled as a case study by people in the industry and universities.”
Perhaps one of the reasons why Sani Resort is so passionate about balancing five-star family-friendly vacations with sustainability is because to a large extent, “[It] is our family business. My grandfather and a partner of his bought the land back in the 50s. My Dad works here,” Andreadis says. “I spent about 12 years studying and working abroad and when I came back, I started Sani Green. Having worked in parts of the world like London and New York I had really high standards, I wanted us to find ways to make the programs world-class and unique.”
Being a large-scale operation creates several challenges when it comes to green policies / ©Sani Resort
“There has always been a focus on making the most of blending nature with the guest experience” / ©Sani Resort
But this is not where Eleni Andreadis’ work with sustainability ends: she is a best-selling author, having written books on environmental issues for children that have been translated to six languages, and is the founder of a non-profit called Planet Agents. “The idea [for Planet Agents] is that kids can become secret agents to save the planet because adults have failed,” she laughs. “We do programs with over 10,000 children around the country.”
Getting children involved in environmental issues has also permeated into Sani Resort’s Kids Club. For example, Andreadis says that one of the programs that is currently being planned will allow kids and teenagers the chance to join a trip “on the marine biologist’s boats – they leave from Sani marina and document the marine mammals in the area. The kids can tag along and learn what it means to be a marine biologist.”
It hasn’t always been easy to introduce sustainable practices, though. “When I came back, things were different to how they are now,” Andreadis explains. “There was no recycling in the municipality, for example. [Instead], we partnered with a private company and still have that partnership. It’s great because we have a good relationship with them and can get feedback on our recycling efforts.”
Reviews of Sani Resort will compliment the impeccable service, diverse dining options and stylish interiors/ ©Sani Resort
The resort has 7km of beaches and 10 Blue Flag awards / ©Sani Resort
[See also: Amazing Eco Friendly Homes Around the World]
When it comes to pushing for sustainability, one thing that Andreadis says she is grateful for is that “the appetite to invest in Sani Green was there from the beginning. More so now than ever… It’s sobering to realize how little time we have to change things; that has really been the driving force for us to be more ambitious. I think the past year [with the Covid 19 pandemic] has really brought forward the sense of urgency: this is an emergency. I’m hoping it will be true for people across the world, and that we’ll come out of this wiser.”
“I remember doing workshops with housekeeping 12 years ago when we started Sani Green, talking to them about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and how we have all this plastic in the ocean – they were really shocked,” Andreadis continues. “Extra tasks like separating waste are things that our employees used to see as making their work more complicated; explaining the reasons why we’re doing these things really changed attitudes. I’m really happy now that it’s part of our culture – we even have instances of our employees pushing us to do more. It’s been the most rewarding thing for me, seeing that culture shift.”