Dede's Green Scene: Leonardo DiCaprio's Restorative Island by Dede Tabak, April 22 2015, 2 Comments

Eco Friendy Island

Leonardo DiCaprio has made a name for himself as being not only an Oscar-nominated actor, but an award-winning environmentalist as well (at least in my book). Now he is using his reputation and fame to build an eco-friendly resort. Ten years ago, DiCaprio purchased Blackadore Cay, an unpopulated 104 acre Belize Island that has suffered from overfishing, deforestation and an eroding coastline. All of the palm trees were uprooted and taken to hotel resorts in San Paulo. Now, DiCaprio has unveiled plans to build a luxury, eco-friendly hotel on the island in the hopes that the innovative concept will take eco-tourism to the next level. DiCaprio has partnered with Paul Scialla, owner of Restorative Islands L.L.C as well as Delos, which is best known for its health-centric, eco-friendly development at 66 East 11th Street in NYC. DiCaprio owns an apartment in Scialla’s building.

“We are pushing each other the whole way to test the boundaries of what is possible,” said Mr. DiCaprio of his partnership with Mr. Scialla. “With the onset of climate change, there are huge challenges, so we want the structure to not only enhance and improve the environment, but to be a model for the future. That includes restoring the island, creating conservation areas where we can hold research conferences, and regenerating the entire ecosystem to bring it back to its original form and beyond.”

Leonardo DiCaprio is calling this venture “Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island,” and that is not only referring to a spa treatment. There will be an eco-friendly mandate which will mean that the resort will have restrictions on what guests can and cannot bring. Guests will also attend an ecology orientation program so they can full grasp the importance of environmental conservation while a team of designers, scientists, engineers and landscape architects will monitor the resort’s impact on Blackadore Caye.

“The idea at Blackadore Caye is to push the envelope for what sustainability means—moving the idea beyond environmental awareness into restoration,” Scialla said. “We don’t want to just do less harm or even have zero impact, but to actually help heal the island, to make it better than before.”

Blackadore Caye will have guest villas that will be built atop a massive platform that stretches in an arc over the water, with artificial reefs and fish shelters underneath. A nursery on the island will grow marine grass native to the island to support a manatee conservation area, and mangrove trees will be replanted, replacing invasive species. Also, Blackadore Caye will adhere to the Living Building Challenge, rigid environmental requirements including water and energy self-sufficiency created by Jason McLennan, the architect. Blackadore Caye will be the first luxury resort to adhere to the Living Building Challenge standards, and among the world’s most eco-friendly. Almost 45 percent of the island will be designated a conservation area. The resort will be built using as many native materials as possible, and the developers hope to rely on local laborers, who will be trained in green-building techniques.

“The main focus is to do something that will change the world,” DiCaprio told The New York Times. “I couldn’t have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this, if it weren’t for the idea that it could be groundbreaking in the environmental movement.” DiCaprio fell in love with Belize on a scuba diving trip in 2005, and soon purchased Blackadore Caye for $1.75 million.