As the founder of the Bangkok Tree House, the city’s most eco-minded hotel resort, Jirayu (Joey) Tulyanond knows all about green living. He’s now using his skills to work on a new urban redevelopment project—Phra Nakorn Living—building “green” town homes in Old Bangkok.
Why did you choose the Bang Krachao Peninsula to be a location for the Bangkok Tree House?
It’s an oasis with abundant greenery, ample bio-diversity, and limited road access. It’s five times the size of New York’s Central Park, yet only 15 minutes from the BTS (Bangna Station). What’s not to love about it?
Do you think there are enough green spaces in Bangkok?
According to a recent survey, Bangkok has only 3.3 sq.m of green space per person. Compare that with Hong Kong, which has a remarkable 105.3 sq.m per person. So, the short and brutal answer is “no”, Bangkok is far from having enough green space.
How can inadequate green spaces affect people in the city?
Our ancestors have lived and slept in trees, or among trees, for approximately 200,000 years. Here in Thailand we’ve only started to live in concrete houses for the last 60 years. We have evolved as a species to be close to nature and to live with nature. I think physically we can exist separate from nature, by psychologically its a different matter. Without close contact to nature we will wither. In fact, there are studies that have shown that spending time around nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and that patients recover from surgery faster when they have a “green” view.
Do you think there is adequate awareness or education in Thailand concerning Global Warming?
There is definitely plenty of awareness and education about climate change in Thailand, I just don’t think it is being carried out effectively. I am a firm believer in this thought: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand”. When people hear about climate change, it goes in one ear and out the other. We need for our children to see and feel first hand how their actions can have a domino effect on the eco-system. One simple activity we can do for all students in Bangkok is to take them down river in Samut Prakarn to collect trash that is being thrown in the river from people who live up the river in Bangkok. When they pick up a soiled green tea bottle on the riverbank that resembles a bottle they just drank yesterday, a light bulb may light up in their heads.
Is there any one critical environment issue in Bangkok that needs to be dealt with immediately?
My biggest pet peeve is how store clerks and market vendors equate good service with giving away plastic bags. Often I would have to insist three-four times that my grilled corn cob does not need to be put in two separate plastic bags and that I will be absolutely fine holding on to it with my bare hands. I think we should start charging a baht for every plastic bag that is handed out in Bangkok—at the very least in all convenience stores and supermarkets. It’s not enough to tell people what to do, you have to create the right economic incentives and disincentives to influence people’s behaviour.
How would you encourage people to be more ‘green’?
Get them while they are young, then educate, educate, and enforce littering and environmental laws.
How could people in the hospitality business help to avoid harmful consequences to the environment?
People in the hospitality business have to take the long-term outlook and realize that there is more value in protecting the environment than destroying it. In the long-run, a resort on Koh Tao can make more money by having parrot fish in the sea rather than on the dinner table, and a native of Nakorn Sawan can make more money as a tour guide leading a tiger trekking expedition in Mae Wong National Park than to kill the same tigers and sell its skin on the black market. Having said that, the hospitality industry should stop relying on the ineffective bureaucracy and start monitoring and enforcing—through social pressure—environmental standards themselves. The Thai hospitality sector employs some of the most talented personnel in the world. We should find ways to leverage this talent to help make Thailand’s tourism economy more responsible and sustainable.
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Although Jirayu Tulyanond sold the Bangkok Tree House in 2014, it remains one of Bangkok’s most unique accommodation options. To find out more visit: www.bangkoktreehouse.com