We noticed these earthships while driving through the state of New Mexico. Earthships are incredibly well designed, innovative, low-impact homes. They generally offer a multitude of sustainable features, are built with sustainable materials, designed for efficient heating and cooling, harvest both energy and water, and utilize a great variety of other friendly practices.
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 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 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 lodge has constructed an advanced hybrid energy system, using the combined power of solar and wind sources with an assortment of battery banks and a three-phase inverter system. In total, our solar park contains 180 PV modules, and the system altogether may be monitored remotely.
With this, we have also been able to provide additional modules to a local school, and stimulate the community in a number of other sustainable and innovative ways. To date, our system has allowed for 280 MWh of clean electricity, and provides power to the entire lodge, our dive center’s air compressor, and to our water treatment plant.
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.
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.
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.
The Roscoe Wind Farm is one of the largest wind farms in the world, with over 600 operational turbines spread over 400 km2 of land, producing nearly 800 MW of energy, to date.
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.
This is one of the nice reusable bags we had received at a local store, after legislation regulating plastic use was enacted in Colombia in 2016. Due to the large amount of plastic waste ending up in surrounding water bodies, Colombia has banned all plastic bags smaller than 30×30 cm, and placed a small charge on others that can still be purchased in stores (with a plan set to increase the tax each year until 2020).
By the middle of 2018, this initiative had served to decrease plastic bag consumption by 35%, and raised around $4 million in taxes [see articles below]. Success from these efforts is spurring other similar initiatives and will hopefully continue to drive progress toward mitigating damage from plastic moving on.
More on Colombia’s Plastic Initiatives:
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.
The visitor center provides information about creating pollinator and native plant gardens for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.
- Growing native plants in your garden
- Planting a diversity of flowering species
- Not using pesticides or herbicides
- Providing sunny, bare soil areas for ground-nesting bees.
Pollinators are a vital part of maintaining our ecosystems. Many crops, plant species, and nearly every flowering plant on earth require help with pollination. ‘Somewhere between 75% and 95% of all flowering plants on the earth need help with pollination – they need pollinators.
Pollinators provide pollination services to over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1200 crops. In addition to the food that we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife (Pollinator Partnership).’
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.