World Environment Day: Sustainability is at the heart of Costa Navarino

As a sustainably driven destination, Costa Navarino aims to inspire and support climate change research, while actively protecting its own natural surroundings.

Edited by Paulina Björk Kapsalis

As conscious travellers on vacation, we often ponder what shrubs and trees provided shade and what flowers bloomed at our destination before construction. What might these places have looked like before? Has there been damage to the natural habitats of animals, or are we, as guests here, doing any harm?

These are not questions we struggle with at Costa Navarino. Lining the paths between the accommodations at this premium destination in the Peloponnese are fragrant endemic herbs and flowers, ponds installed to improve the micro-climate, and thousands of native olive trees. On the pristine sandy coast below the resorts, loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) continue to hatch on the beach, as they have for millennia.

baby sea turtle in the sea

On June 5th, people around the globe observe World Environment Day, a day to recognize the challenges we face due to human-induced threats to nature and global warming. It’s also a day to celebrate successful achievements in sustainability. This year, the campaign focuses on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience – key issues at Costa Navarino. Here, one of the largest tree-transplantations in Europe allows guests to experience the land as it once was, covered in olive groves. All the electricity purchased comes from renewable sources, while water supplied by reservoirs filled with excess runoff from local rivers and recycled wastewater covers all of the destination’s irrigation needs. While offering an abundance of high-end amenities and services housed in bioclimatic structures, up to 90 percent of the land is dedicated to natural and planted greenery. And the efforts are constantly ongoing; an 80% reduction of operational emissions was documented in 2022, in comparison to 2019.

Born from a love of the land

Costa Navarino reflects the vision of its founder, Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos, who aimed to bring sustainable development and prosperity to his homeland, the westernmost “finger” of the Peloponnese, Messinia. His goal was to create a destination where both visitors and locals live in harmony with nature, respecting and nurturing the region’s heritage.

The result is a tourist destination that today boasts four resorts, four golf courses, and an international reputation as one of the best places for sustainable vacations in the world. Almost 8 percent of the investment development funds were allocated to creating the necessary infrastructure to protect the environment and the natural ecosystem.

To help advance climate change research and develop climate protection strategies, Costa Navarino established the Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO) in collaboration with Stockholm University and the Academy of Athens. The destination is also a member of the UN’s Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, committing to transition towards 100 percent reusable, recyclable, or compostable plastic alternatives by 2025. Additionally, it contributes to various programs for environmental protection, collaborating with organizations such as WWF Greece, ARCHELON, and Save Your Hood Greece.

What do the experts say?

We asked three experts to share their experiences working with NEO and Costa Navarino for a sustainable future.

Turtles and Humans can Live Together

By Kostas Teneketzis, ARCHELON Researcher, MSc in Coastal Area Management

Loggerhead sea turtles have been emerging from the sea and laying their eggs on sandy beaches in the Mediterranean for thousands of years. Their eggs hatch after almost two months, and the hatchlings run to the sea, where they will spend the next years facing predation, accidental entanglement in fish nets, and pollution. Those who survive will return to the beach where they were born and start their own reproductive cycle at 15-20 years old. How many of them will have survived, and what will their nesting beaches be like then?

Several Loggerhead sea turtle nests are made on the vast and sandy Romanos Beach, and Costa Navarino, together with ARCHELON, is taking good care of them. As a result, the average number of nests is growing to over 45 nests per summer. A little further up the coast, within the Nature Protection Area of Kyparissia Bay, one can find the largest reproductive population of the species in the Mediterranean, with over 5,000 nests recorded by ARCHELON in 2023.

The lights of the Navarino Dunes facilities are arranged so they are not directly visible from the beach. The sunbeds are folded away after sunset, and the beach umbrellas are placed in a way that allows space for sea turtle nesting. Hotel guests are advised to avoid visiting the beach at night so as not to disturb the nesting process.

ARCHELON, a Non-Profit Association founded in 1983, is carrying out actions to protect and conserve sea turtles and their habitats. Researchers and volunteers record the nesting activity, protect nests and turtles, and inform visitors about habitat conservation for a more sustainable planet.

Bridging Sectors for Climate Solutions

By Evangelos Gerasopoulos, Director of the Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development at the National Observatory of Athens and Member of the Steering Committee at the Navarino Environmental Observatory

My work with the Navarino Environmental Observatory began in 2010, a year after the facility was founded, when I joined their first Steering Committee, and the planning and execution of the observatory’s activities first began. Our role has involved measuring the atmospheric composition of the region and analyzing how it relates to the local climate and climate change. It’s a complex and bidirectional relationship; the pollutants being emitted (both naturally and anthropogenically) include greenhouse gases and other key chemical compounds that influence local and global climate change. Additionally, climate change itself modifies the type and intensity of these emissions across different sectors. We have been operating a specialized monitoring station to measure regional background concentration levels of these pollutants.

From the outset, our collaboration involved an alliance between the academic and private sectors – a unique distinction that took us swiftly from theoretical concepts to tangible realities, bringing our research to bear on diverse applications aimed at sustainable development. Initiatives such as sustainable and resilient agriculture, resource management, biodiversity, and their interconnections with climate change have followed on from the Observatory’s efforts and underscored its critical role as a research and advisory agent for development in the Peloponnese. Through this collaboration, we have also realized the importance and effectiveness of partnering with the local community. While climate change strategies are formulated at global and national levels, the impact of regional climate action is undeniably a potent catalyst for change.

Winning the Fight Against Plastics

By Achilles Plitharas, Footprint Manager – WWF Greece

Costa Navarino’s dedication to environmental sustainability is both sincere and enduring, and that’s why we have collaborated with them for years on many impactful initiatives.

Since 2020, WWF Greece has supported Costa Navarino in substantially reducing single-use plastics at the resort and across its operations. Through this partnership, Costa Navarino achieved a 48% reduction in single-use plastics in guest-related areas in 2023 compared to 2019, as well as a 53% decrease in the use of plastic bottles, with the ultimate goal of phasing them out completely.

Our collaboration aims not only to curtail single-use plastic usage but also to engage the entire spectrum of stakeholders – from suppliers to guests – in reducing plastic pollution, which has severe consequences for the marine environment globally. We regard Costa Navarino as a cradle for sustainable practices, an exemplar capable of influencing wider adoption across the business community and society.