We actively unite sustainable ventures with artful creation around many areas of our reserve. These are some of our bottle walls, which not only serve to repurpose glass bottles, but offer a beautiful array of colors to the rooms when reflecting the incoming natural light.
Our camp uses a biofiltration system to allow for the treatment and reuse of wastewater from the bath, including showers and toilets. The system is comprised of a bioreactor and 5 layers set for water filtration, including a layer of California worms. As with our composting toilets, bioreactors use microorganisms to degrade pollutants biologically, and thus release water that is safe to be placed back in the soil.
The camp sorts its output by organic and non-organic waste, paper, plastic, glass, and composting items. Even in such a remote location, where we do not have the resources available to recycle everything, we try as much as possible to recycle all that we can. We are also hoping to increase recycling capabilities in our area, not only to serve the camp, but the surrounding community as well.
Our cabanas mimic the thatch homes still built in the Toledo district of Belize. The thatch roofing helps regulate inside temperature, and provides extremely excellent insulating properties. This makes it a perfect feature for keeping rooms cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The thatch is made from a local plant called bayleaf which, if harvested at the correct time, can last up to 30 or 40 years.
Our septic system is a composting system whereby the water flows into a septic tank, and then to soak a field. These fields are contained in large block vats, lined with several feet of PVC pipe, then covered with earth and banana trees. The banana roots form a dense mat which then absorbs the water and nutrients from the vat, creating a closed system of bio and phyto (plant) remediation (restoring balance). As a result, our land and river are waste free.
Our reserve practices a zero waste approach toward all of our operations, and recycling methods are well integrated into each particular area of use. The separation of garbage facilitates both the transport and storage, though we maintain a low overall volume due to the care we take in choosing the products we use. We make sure to look for items that are reusable or have a low ecological impact, and contain smaller amounts of packaging or recyclable packaging.
Most of our waste produced is organic and is directed to composting, transformed into fertilizer, and used in the garden, thus restarting its biological cycle.
Many other materials are otherwise used in our studio, for the creation of artistic products or towards construction efforts, allowing for a good alternative to conventional materials.
Our ecovillage utilizes a biodigester as an excellent solution for sewage treatment. Biodigesters offer the ability to transform waste into usable energy, in the form of methane, and leftover product for fertilizer. Our biosystem consists of a biodigester (left), compensation box (middle), biofilters (right), lake of macrophytes (algae), and root zone (far right). It can be built with relatively low cost and ease, and does not require sophisticated materials or advanced construction knowledge to build.
The biofertilizer produced in the treatment process has no pathogens, due to the anaerobic fermentation it passes through, and is ideal for use in the maintenance of community squares and gardens because it does not pose health risks. It is consolidated as a perfect substitute for chemical fertilizers, which can be more expensive and aggressive to the environment.
The methane gas that is captured in the biodigester is of good quality and can be used in the kitchen of public schools, nurseries and hospitals, or, in large quantities, in thermoelectric plants.
Here in our reserve, initially, we built the biosystem with a focus on sewage treatment. However, the extraction of products from the process far exceeded the expectations foreseen in our planning, and today we have at least two hours of gas daily for consumption in the kitchen and workshop, while biofertilizers are used in the orchard, where we obtained a gain of productivity of at least 50%.
Based on the reuse of materials, we use and develop various art techniques in our workshop. Currently much of the creation is focused on mosaics, diverse products of molten glass, and natural fibers. The products coming from the atelier are displayed for sale in our store of sustainable products, and are also used in the decoration and functional parts of the inn, making each environment unique and full of personality.
A new space has also been creatively built with recycled and reused materials that combines mosaics, bottle walls, and demolition pieces integrated into the rustic and cozy ambiance. The mosaic is an organic part of the El Nagual Reserve, practiced as a strategy of recycling in the construction. Today it is possible to find several mosaics in all corners of our facilities, in the same way a great variety of products are made with equally diverse techniques.
Our camp uses a composting toilet system, which requires very little water and is excellent for soil regeneration. Such a system utilizes decomposition and evaporation to process waste. What is not evaporated, we mix with wood chips. This remains an active process in which aerobic bacteria transform the waste into fertilizing soil.
Due to the important contribution of the bacteria, the final product is non-harmful and safe to use. This is why we spend a great deal of effort to ensure a hospitable and warm environment for the process, especially through our very cold weather.
Our camp is thoughtfully designed to take full advantage of available natural light, within our domes. Not only does this serve to save on indoor lighting, it provides for a magnificent outlook on our extraordinary surroundings.
Our camp creates energy where it can, utilizing both solar and hydro sources. Using solar panels, we are able to provide around 30% of our power needs. However, the other 70% is made available through a micro-hydro turbine, powering our appliances and lighting. The flow of the river is able to provide a steady 800 W to us, with an input of 5 liters per second and high net pressure.
We use a set of thermosiphons to heat water for the camp. The water supply travels through the system, being heated by the energy transferred from the sun to a solar collector. Even in cold areas, solar energy may be harnessed and utilized toward a variety of applications, such as this one.
Most of the vegetables and fruits we eat at the lodge are harvested in the garden by our gardeners. SHI (Sustainable Harvest International) also provides workshops in this garden, and guests can volunteer if they choose to. We have some animals, two horses that substitute as lawn mowers, and pigs that help with composting.