Friday, November 25, 2011

Lapa Rios Sustainability Tour!

We currently have an intern, Teresa, staying with is her perspective on the sustainable actions we take at our Ecolodge! 
I had the pleasure this afternoon of joining with Andres, the Sustainability Manager here at Lapa Rios on the Twigs, Pigs, and Garbage Sustainability Tour.  Although the name may seem a bit unusual, after two hours, I completely understood and had a new understanding and appreciation for all their sustainable practices here in the Osa Peninsula. 
We started the tour at the entrance of the property with Andres explaining about some practices throughout the ecolodge starting from the architecture (natural light = less electricity, open-air with no solid walls = natural air conditioning), to the lending of stainless steel water bottles to all guests if they didn’t bring their own (they haven’t bought a plastic bottle of water in the past six months!), to buying all of the furniture from local suppliers supporting the local community.  Other than the more obvious sustainable practices such as having solar panels, bio diesel run generators, and obviously focusing first on reducing, then reusing, and finally recycling (the life cycle of recycling involves a lot more of a carbon foot print with the process including many more steps such as the transportation of the products whereas reusing them cuts that process out altogether), Lapa Rios also has some very special practices.  One of these is using bamboo straws developed by one of the previous employees at a sister Cayuga property instead of using plastic ones.  A more touching aspect with the local community is that the school nearby was actually also built by the founders of Lapa Rios, John and Karen Lewis.  They pledged to help the community starting from the very first meeting and Lapa Rios has been working closely with the school (and all 14 in the peninsula) to get the most urgently needed supplies to them. 
While Lapa Rios also has a garden growing various plants such as cilantro, which is used in the kitchen, the main focus here is actually not production, but teaching the employees the organic process so they can spread it within the community.  Some other odder ones including selling the frying oil not just from Lapa Rios, but also around in Puerto Jimenez to be converted to bio diesel or pushing employees to “motocycle-pool” (their very special version of carpooling!).
But this still hasn’t answered the question of the odd tour name.  How are pigs involved?!?  Well, Lapa Rios actually has a pig farm.  The pigs are fed the scraps reducing waste, then the pigs’ manure is transformed into methane and other gases, which is used in the employee staff kitchen.  No, I swear, this is real.  Apparently, an average 150-pound pig can produce approximately 4.1 cubic feet of gas per day! 

If you’re like me, you have no idea what these numbers mean, but I saw firsthand how the huge “bag” collected the gas, then a pipe led to the kitchen, and lo and behold, when you turned on the stove, it was connected all the way to the pig farm.  Quite amazing!  But not only that, Lapa Rios allows employees to buy the pork from the pigs at half the market price of whatever it is selling in Puerto Jimenez.  The thing is, not only is the pork from the pigs much cheaper, but it is actually of much better quality since the pork is organic and free-range.  Although it could obviously be sold at a much higher profit in the market place, the idea is to allow employees to have access to a very high quality meat that they may not usually have the opportunity of trying. 

I definitely thought this tour wouldn’t be as “fun” as the others, but I was completely wrong.  Not only did it turn out to be a lot of fun, but I also learned so much more at Lapa Rios, the culture, and local community I never knew about and was truly touched.

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