Pigs, Twigs and Garbage Tour?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

— Margaret Mead

Carbonera School RecyclingResponsible travel.   I have a twinge of guilt when I get on an airplane and think about all the carbon-based fuels that are used  to transport me from Point A to Point B.  What can we do to be more eco-conscious and assuage some of that guilt, aside from not traveling (not an option for me!)?  For starters, we can stay at one of these 30 Gorgeous Eco-Friendly Hotels.  Two of my favorites on the list, Lapa Rios and Finca Rosa Blanca, are properties managed by Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, which takes sustainability very seriously.  This is not just “green-washing,” which refers to the spin some companies put on their minimal efforts to be eco-conscious.  For Cayuga, sustainability is very much a part of their vision and mission, and they have the awards and recognition to prove it.

Pigs 1Pigs 2












What do pigs have to do with eco-tourism?  Quite a bit, as I found out on the “Pigs, Twigs and Garbage Sustainability Tour” at Lapa Rios Ecolodge in Costa Rica.  It’s an odd name for a tour and I’m not sure I’d normally sign up for something like this, but I was sure glad I did.  Sustainable tourism is a reality at Lapa Rios.La Brisa AzulLapa Rios pool












For starters, towels and sheets are changed every other day, unless requested by guests.  Water conservation is highly encouraged, and they have reduced the use of disposable plastic water bottles by 90% by giving guests refillable bottles.  Biodegradable toiletries are in packaging-saving dispensers and hot water is solar-heated.  The bungalows are not air-conditioned, but open to the air, as is the fantastic restaurant, La Brisa Azul – which makes for better wildlife viewing during meals.  Alongside trash bins are recycling bins, lamps have low-voltage bulbs, and guests are encouraged to turn off lights and fans when leaving their rooms.  The pool is maintained with salt and ionization systems instead of chlorine or any other toxic chemicals.   Bio-diesel generators are necessary for power, but all dishes are washed by hand and laundry dries in the sun.  Instead of plastic straws, we drank from bamboo straws, even out of coconuts.  What struck me the most on our tour was seeing a week’s worth of trash for the entire resort in just a few regular-size trash bags.

Which brings us back to those happy pigs.  And how can they not be happy?  They get to roll around in cool mud in the middle of a rainforst and eat table scraps from an amazing restaurant.  All leftovers go either to the compost pile or to the pigs.  The manure produces methane gas, which is piped in to the staff kitchen, where it fuels the stove used to cook daily meals for all of the employees!

Lapa Rios also reduces waste by having their guests pre-order dinner, which not only reduces wasted food, but also reduces energy, so that the kitchen can do prep work and wash dishes with solar-heated water during the day.  Speaking of dinner, food is fresh, authentic and locally-sourced, including herbs and vegetables from the organic garden.  Every day we were treated to yuca chips with salsa and new refreshing juices made from indigenous fruits.Yuca chips and salsaCooking classJuiceWaterfall lunch























In addition to its environmentally friendly policies, Lapa Rios also supports socio-cultural activities, such as the local Carbonera School, which we visited on another tour, cooking classes on site, and local artisan demonstrations.  Please visit Cayuga’s website for more information about their sustainability practices.  The Sustainability Tour is free to all guests at Lapa Rios.  Many thanks to Lapa Rios Ecolodge and Cayuga for modeling sustainable tourism at its best.  Please see this post about our stay at Lapa Rios.  Remember to reuse, reduce and recycle – make every day Earth Day!Carbonera School Girls

Eat well.  Travel often.  Live your passion.

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