Ever thought about what happens to the trash you leave behind on vacation? Eco-hotel Tropico Latino in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica works to help its community offset tourism’s impact with environmental practices.
When we go on vacation, we generate trash.
It’s not something we generally think about, but it’s true. Wherever we go, we consume things – food, drinks, soap, shampoo, products like sunscreen or insect repellent, etc. We’re responsible, so we use trash cans and dispose of waste properly. But we still leave it all where we vacation.
This is completely normal. But when this pattern is multiplied by thousands, or even millions of tourists, do you ever wonder what happens to all of that waste?
In the case of small towns like Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, where tourists from all over the world come to enjoy breathtaking pristine beaches and beautiful jungle, the community has been forced to deal with the huge influx of solid waste from tourism, often without proper resources or funding.
Hotel Tropico Latino is a leading business in green practices in Santa Teresa. One of its primary initiatives is joining with other organizations and residents in a town recycling program. The initiative began a few years ago led by Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper, a local NGO, the local government and the Santa Teresa tourism chamber to deal with the huge amount of trash generated by visiting tourists and the community.
The town’s recycling is collected on the first Thursday and Friday of every month at the Santa Teresa soccer field. “We accumulate all of our recycling during the month and then send two pickup trucks with all of the materials separated and organized,” said Tropico Latino hotel manager Roberto de la Ossa.
Hotel receptionist, Evelyn Gonzalez, and Yoga & Spa Natural owner Maria Quesada Vargas ensure that all recycling waste from special bins in Tropico Latino’s guestrooms, hotel offices and public areas is gathered and separated in a back area of the hotel, and brought to the recycling collection point every month.
“The effort is challenging and constant to keep on top of recycling,” said de la Ossa. “But this is a sustainable effort for the community, and it’s not a choice anymore in the world to recycle or not. We live and work here in this beautiful, natural place and we want to keep it that way.”
At the beginning of February, 1,190 kilos (2,623 pounds) of recycling waste was collected in Santa Teresa, instead of it going to the regional trash dump, according to the Waterkeeper organization. The top three items collected were glass, cardboard/paper, and plastic.
Recycle kitchen waste. In Hotel Tropico Latino’s Shambala Restaurant kitchen, staff separate all waste into color-coded barrels which goes to recycling and other waste disposal. Cooking grease is collected in special bins for local company Viogaz, which uses a biodigester to turn the grease into cooking gas for the local Tourism Police precinct.
Composting. Organic waste is composted to become fertilizer for the hotel’s gardens.
Less plastic. “We use bamboo straws for smoothies and drinks in the restaurant,” said de la Ossa. Purchased from a vendor in Costa Rica, the cost is higher than plastic but the bamboo straws are biodegradable. De la Ossa said the hotel’s goal is to completely stop using disposable plastic like plastic bottles, straws, etc.
Biodegradable products. Hotel Tropico Latino uses only biodegradable soaps, shampoos, laundry detergents, and cleaning products throughout the hotel. “Nowhere in the hotel do we use anything that is not biodegradable,” explained de la Ossa. “That is a big key because there is a big volume of water leaving the hotel every day, between guests and cleaning.”
Microorganisms. They use microorganisms in hotel septic tanks to control odors, degrade waste better and be more efficient.
Energy efficient. The hotel uses energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.
Blue Flag Program. Hotel Tropico Latino supports the Costa Rican Blue Flag Program for Santa Teresa’s beaches through their $5 Checkout Program.
If environmental conservation is important to you, when you go on vacation stay at hotels that responsibly deal with waste, water and energy, like Hotel Tropico Latino, voted No. 2 on TripAdvisor for hotels in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.
As Gandhi so eloquently said: “We have to be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Article by Shannon Farley