For our Bioregional away-day 2017 we were delighted to visit Villages Nature® Paris, an innovative tourist destination that’s used One Planet Living in its development. Ben Gill shares what it was like seeing its sustainability vision brought to life
Villages Nature® Paris is a tourist destination and One Planet Community, developed by Euro Disney and Groupe Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs, next to Disneyland Paris. It aims to create a ‘new kind of holiday’ – one that immerses its guests in nature, while minimising its impact on the planet.
The resort has used the One Planet Principles throughout a decade of design, planning and construction and I’ve helped the team implement its One Planet Action Plan. So, unsurprisingly the Bioregional team was very excited to visit the resort now it’s opened and see this commitment to sustainability with our own eyes.
A One Planet holiday
Our first test was how accessible the site is by public transport, as we all arrived by train. We hopped on a bus a few minutes’ walk from our hotel in Val d’Europe and 20 minutes later we were at the entrance and could walk or get an electric shuttle bus to the lakefront.
Romain Leclerc, who’s responsible for delivering Villages Nature’s One Planet Action Plan in operation, gave us a tour. We were also joined by Marie Balmain, the CSR director of Pierre et Vacances, who we’ve been working with since the project decided to embrace the One Planet Principles. Marie talked through its history, and emphasised that the resort is only a sustainability leader in 2017 because the commitments made in 2006 were so ambitious and forward looking that they have not yet been surpassed. This really reinforces the importance of long-term projects being forward-looking in terms of sustainability aspirations.
Having worked on developing and monitoring the One Planet Action Plan for years I know the figures off the top of my head:
- 7,500m2 of green walls and roofs (providing space for living plants)
- 18% of the Aqualagoon water is recycled in the filtering gardens
- 67 protected species onsite.
And very quickly these figures were brought to life, with all the buildings along the lakefront featuring stunning greenery, the new wetlands at the edge of the lake already attracting birds and the complete absence of vehicle noise.
As we walked around the site, it became clear how sustainability and a relationship with nature run throughout Villages Nature Paris:
We were led through the Extraordinary Gardens by Charles Georgeot, the Head of biodiversity, whose team is responsible for creating a positive impact on local biodiversity. This will pose an interesting challenge – as the site matures one would naturally expect biodiversity to increase, but this does not account for the 4,000 or so humans who will be visiting daily!
The gardens themselves seemed remarkably mature, a testament to the 28,800 trees and 430,000 plants and shrubs planted over the previous years. I also managed to pop to the Enchanted Forest, but will need to return with my kids to be able to provide an educated assessment of the impressive play facilities…
As it was our annual fun away day, it would have been a missed opportunity not to try out the Aqualagoon: a waterpark with flumes and an outdoor pool heated by renewable, geothermal energy. While a striking presence on the lake front – shimmering in its reflections of water and sky – it doesn’t dominate due to the abundance of surrounding woodland.
The inside of the Aqualagoon is like classic water park, and yet when swimming outside a cormorant came and settled on the lake water close to where the pool meets the lake. And if you do fancy a more natural (and colder!) swimming experience there is a lake complete with its own beach where you get closer still to the wildlife.
The lakefront is the main shopping and eating area, and the importance of setting a strong sustainability vision was again demonstrated. The lakefront is populated by stores and restaurants that are well known for their sustainability credentials such as Nature et Decouverts, Vapiano and Pur.
We ate at Pur, whose wall showed the lifecycle of this month’s seasonal vegetable – the carrot. So, I drew my inspiration from this and had a quinoa and carrot salad, carrot cake and carrot juice… (Lasagna, sandwiches and salads without carrot were also available). It’s great to know that it will be easy for visitors to make sustainable food choices.
After more than ten years supporting the Villages Nature Paris team develop and monitor its Action Plan, it was amazing to finally visit the resort now it’s open. The team have succeeded in creating a holiday destination that clearly demonstrates you don’t have to compromise on sustainability to achieve a fantastic customer experience.
Of course, for the likes of Romain and the rest of his sustainability team the work is only just beginning. One of their next big challenges is how they can inspire up to 1 million customers a year to start making small changes in their own lives that will all add up to make a big difference to the planet.
I look forward to seeing how they do it and supporting them in any way I can!
Read more about Villages Nature® Paris’s One Planet Living vision.
International Technical Manager of the One Planet Communities Programme