Solar panels at eXtreme hotel. Every eco hotel should have a sustainable source of energy.

6 Things Every Eco Hotel Should Have

At eXtreme Hotel, our focus is on providing the best accommodations for our guests whilst maintaining a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. We think every eco hotel should have these 6 key tools in order to be part of the sustainable tourism industry.

6 Things Every Eco Hotel Should Have:

  1. A sustainable food source. Every eco hotel should have a way to provide healthy, sustainable food options for their guests and staff. Whether that means growing food on-site (check out our aquaponics system!), running a restaurant that gets food from local sources or simply providing directions to the nearest farmers market, food is essential to a sustainable lifestyle. At eXtreme hotel, our very own farm in Los Brazos provides us with year round fresh produce for our staff. Guests also have the opportunity to go on a tour of Taino farm and learn about sustainability and permaculture practice.  You can read more about the benefits of growing and buying local and organic food in my article on eXtreme Hotel’s farm’s website.
    Every eco hotel needs a sustainable source of food. This salad is made from all local and organic ingredients from Taino Farm.

    Every eco hotel needs a sustainable source of food. This salad is made from all local and organic ingredients from Taino Farm.

  2. Solar panels. Hotels are infamous for being some of the most energy consuming buildings. In John Laumer’s article on buildings and CO2 emissions, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Government Advocacy Team estimates that buildings account for an estimated 48% of all green house emissions. In non-solar powered hotels, things like lights being left on, excessive amounts of laundry and keeping water hot in every room takes a constant output of non-sustainable energy. Luckily, solar panels are an energy efficient alternative that also saves money for the hotel and its guests. At eXtreme, all of our energy comes from our solar panels. They give us light, heat our water, power fans to keep us cool and save us money so we can invest in other cool, sustainable projects like our aquaponics system!
    Solar panels at eXtreme hotel. Every eco hotel should have a sustainable source of energy.

    Solar panels at eXtreme hotel. Every eco hotel should have a sustainable source of energy.

  3. Green cleaning. Every eco hotel should have a solar dryer, also known as a clothing line. The sun’s energy can be harnessed without any fancy gadgets and it saves an incredible amount of energy. At the eXtreme hotel, we line dry all of our sheet and towels, saving our electricity and providing our guests with the freshest smelling linens ever.
    Every eco hotel should have a way to harness free energy from the sun! Line drying, solar dehydrators and sun ovens are all great ways to harness this natural energy source.

    Every eco hotel should have a way to harness free energy from the sun! Line drying, solar dehydrators and sun ovens are all great ways to harness this natural energy source.

  4.  A recycling system. In with the old, out comes the new. Every eco hotel should implement recycling and reuse techniques. At eXtreme hotel we not only recycle glass and plastic bottles, we also compost our organic materials including paper products & food waste. In time, our compost breaks down and becomes fertile soil that we use to grow nutrient rich food in our on-site gardens. 
    Every eco hotel should use their food "waste" to create more sustainable food!

    Every eco hotel should use their food “waste” to create more sustainable food!

  5. Hands on learning opportunities. Though you may be spending a comparable amount of money on a small eco hotel as you would for a room in a large commercial hotel, many times this means paying for opportunities like discount kite surfing and yoga retreats instead of a carbon dioxide producing air conditioning system. At eXtreme hotel, we offer kite lesson packages as well as connections to other eco-tourism activities.
    Hands on learning at Taino Organic farm.

    Hands on learning at Taino Organic farm.

  6. Access to green transportation. Though tourism is a vital source of income for many developing countries, it can also be a major detriment to the environment. Rather than renting a gas guzzling car for your stay, eco hotels should have recommendations for greener options of getting around such as bicycles, buses and in our case, a local moto taxi!
    Every eco hotel should offer information for eco friendly methods of transportation.

    Every eco hotel should offer information for eco friendly methods of transportation.

Post and photos by Lynsey Wyatt.

 

 

 

Duck weed

Aquaponics in the Dominican Republic Part 6.

Aquaponics in the Dominican Republic Part 6.

A week of ups and downs.

The battle of the hard water and high pH continues with rainwater to do water exchanges. This is made even more difficult when the town water had a pH spike to over 8.4 and became even harder than normal.

The arrival of new fish for a third system wrecked havoc on the systems when fish where put into the tank that had a breed-ready pair in it already. This separated the breeding pair and put big fish in with the small ones, and mixed the male and female. After a morning of trying to catch fish in a round tank we finally had it sorted out and nicely configured with one tank of just small boys, one with some big girls, and the third with similar sized mix of boys and girls. We will need to look in to building a grow-out-tank soon to put fish that are of eating size.

Aquaponics sytem in the Dominican Republic

The third system is built with the new frame to hold and flood and drain grave bed. This system has the bio-filter that is moved from an already running system to a new system to speed up the ammonia conversion process.  This tank has also had water from the other two systems added to it to speed up this process. This week it will get plumbed and have gravel added to it.

Work progressed well on system one, with water and rafts added to the half barrels.

Aquaponics sytem in the Dominican Republic

Systems 2 has had grow pots added to the raft beds and some very health seedling have come out of them. I am testing side-by-side pots of seeds planted directly into the grow pots and also seedlings transferred into the pots. At the moment, I see little difference in sizes of plants although the transferred ones did take a day or two to recover from the move. It will be interesting to see the difference in root growth (if any?) after a few more weeks.

I also added some shade for this grow bed, as the sun is now very sharp in the middle of the day.

Aquaponics sytem in the Dominican Republic

We have a seed pot in one of the gravel beds that is showing a very good rate of sprouting. The next blog will feature photos of these.

It’s always great to see people coming in to have a look around, asking questions and seeing what we are doing.  It a good way to meet like-minded people and make good contacts and learn  about how we are being heard about and whom we should find in the same field. A nice piece of info was that Dr. Bob, a local vet who has his own aquaponics system, had one thing I had been looking for… Duckweed…  A quick trip to Sosua, just 10 minutes down the road from Caberete, I found Dr. Bob’s clinic and duckweed growing in his tanks.  He was more than happy to give me some and happy to talk about his very interesting system too.  Now we have another food alternative for our fish and the aquaponics community in Cabarete strengthens.

Duck weed

Duck Weed at Dr. Bob’s

Aquaponics System, Cabarete

Building an Aquaponics system in the Dominican Republic. Part 5

Building an Aquaponics system in the Dominican Republic. Part 5

We’ve had a good and steady week of work with great growth in both gardens. Seedlings are coming up everywhere in both the shade house and the garden beds, while growth in the aquaponics grow beds increases with strong leaf colour and fast growth.

Aquaponics System, Cabarete

Now that system 1 has a new barrel grow bed up and running, it is time to shut down and remodel the old grow bed. As with the first bed, the second had a very large ants nest in between the liner and the bottom boards that has to be removed. As I have mentioned before, the importance of the first gravel clean is evident again.

Aquaponics System, Cabarete

With the old liner, boards and gravel removed, it is time to do the conversion to a frame to hold the half barrels that have been cleaned and cut already.

Aquaponics System, Cabarete

With all the plumbing in after some aggravation with finding the right parts and joiners it has sealed up very well and can be replicated easily for next time. The beds will be filled with water on Monday and will become raft grow bed system, making System 1 a hybrid system (a combination of gravel beds and raft beds)

With System 2 showing good growth and good water readings, it is now time to add more pots to the raft beds.

As we do struggle to find some products here in the DR, it is important to make do with what we have and use alternatives.  I ventured to the local supermarket and found a few different sized packets of plastic cups to make our own grow pots with.

I found a PVC pipe that was the perfect size to make a hole cutter with. With a long level, tape measure, and pencil, I cut the holes for the pots and cut slits into the plastic cups to let water through and roots to grow out of.

Aquaponics System, Cabarete

Aquaponics System, Cabarete

I’m using coco fiber as my growing medium, it helps with the hardness of the water and lowering the pH. I have been using it on top of the tanks’ bio-filter and although it has not been as fast a change as I would have liked, it has changed the water’s hardness and pH for the better. I will continue using it in more places like as the growing medium for raft beds and for the tomato pots.

The rest of the rafts will be filled once we increase the fish count in both systems to sustain more and larger plant growth.

It is both heart warming and sad when you can physically see the water use difference between aquaponics and standard vegetable gardening. It is easy to see why the claims of up to 90+% on water use from aquaonics are well founded.

The things we see.

 

recycling in the dominican republic

recycling in the dominican republic

 

 

 

Propogating vanilla bean

Aquaponics Part 4

Aquaponics Part 4

A new week brings new challenges with some hard work and problems solving to move steps closer to sustainable food production.

System 1: The water flow between the half barrels of the new grow bed became a problem and some new modifications were needed.  Water flow was much to slow and an extra connection pipe needed to be added to increase it.

Aquaponic systems in the Dominican Republic

With the new pipes added between each bed the flow was now enough to let the siphon work properly. The beds were refilled and planted with some tomato cuttings from the first grow bed that is now shut down and ready for a remodel. I am using coco husk and a finer gravel mix for my plants and cuttings to start in. I am also using a large PVC pipe with a pot inside for the tomatoes so I can change them out easily and contain the root systems more.

Aquaponics Systems in the Dominican Republic

System 2 had settled well with the introduction of all the new fish, the pH has come down and plant growth has increased nicely. The raft beds and fish tank are now contained within a timber surround to stop direct sun light entering to reduce unwanted algae growth.

Aquaponics Systems in the Dominican Republic

The fish are doing very well and to my surprise a new batch of fingerlings were found in the tank.  It seems strange that a tank holding more males than females are breeding so well but if the water conditions are good food is plentiful “life will find a way”.  I’m now very wary of moving any fish from this tank as I can not be sure which female and which male it is that are breeding together. For now I will just leave them be and try to find a few other breeders for the breeding tanks.

 

Hard work and good progress have been made in the back garden area this week, with a couple more elevated beds in and lots of composted horse manure introduced. Seeds that where directly planted into the beds have sprouted, the peppers show nice re-growth and it will be an interesting next week to see what else comes up.

Aquaponics Systems in the Dominican Republic

Aquaponics Systems in the Dominican Republic

The new shade house for seedling and cutting has become a nice place to work protected from the harsh afternoon sun. We will have many seedlings ready to go in the next weeks.

We have a large amount of empty cleaning product bottles to recycle, cutting the tops off, washing them well and letting them dry in the sun. We then punch out some holes and use them for our seedling and cuttings to grow in. They are a good size, readily available and free!

Picture 6

While building the shade house I found a very nice vanilla vine growing in a tree. I did some extra research and made the decision to propagate more of them.

Propogating vanilla bean

Cutting the vanilla vine should be done immersed in water so none of the capillaries close off.

1. Make cuttings 5-6 nodes long and remove all but the top two leaves.

(Nodes are the point the leaves are connected to the vine and new shoot grow from.)

2. Place cutting with two nodes in water for 5-7 days inside in 50% light. (Some sites say 3-5, some 5-10, some suggests putting a small amount of liquid fertiliser in the water too.) I also changed the water every day.

Propogating vanilla bean

3. After 7 days, plant the cuttings in a well drained potting mix, laying two nodded beneath the soil and a support for the vine. Keep well watered and mulched in a shaded place.

Propogating vanilla bean

I will leave them in the pots until I see some good strong new growth and plant them out beside a shaded tree base to continue growing. We would need many more vines to start producing vanilla and will also need to learn how to pollinate and age (cure) vanilla too. (Curing vanilla is a long and tricky process that needs to be done right to produce good quality vanilla beans.) But for now this is just step one in building up the number of vines we have.

How to build an aquaponics system

Aquaponics Part 3 – Aquaponics in Cabarete

Part 3 – Aquaponics in Cabarete

This week brought new challenges as usual with some unexpected surprises too.

With the new gravel cycling and part of the rafts beds planted, I moved the majority of our fish from system 1 to system 2 to increase the ammonia and nitrate levels.

This was done so I could take apart one of the grow beds of system 1 and replace its gravel with our new clean gravel. While taking out the gravel, I found some small holes in the liner and decided to change it out. I also found a nice ant’s nest between the liner and bottom boards. As this climate and area is prone to ants, it was decided to replace the box style grow bed and go ahead and use some plastic 55gal barrels.

How to build an aquaponics system

These barrels are readily available almost everywhere, they last a long time, they’re easy to mount and plumb together. Just be careful of what was stored in them before if you’re using recycled ones, and stay away from any that had toxic chemicals in them.

Cutting them in half is a relatively easy task using a saber saw, angle grinder, or even a handsaw.

How to build an aquaponics system

Using the original grow bed base with some added supports under each half barrel, it was perfect because it fit four half barrels with room for top edge supports too.

How to build an aquaponics system

The threaded hole in the barrels fit a rubber fitting perfectly with a 2 PVC pipe in the middle. Now we only need to cut and fit two sides of flow piping to make all the half barrels fill and empty evenly with water. Note: Make sure to have the water enter one end and flow out the other and not use the same holes on all one side as you will not get even flow through the beds.

How to build an aquaponics system

How to build an aquaponics system

While the search for some extra good fitting for the other sides continues, I moved on to start making some breeding tanks.

I used the same style 55gal barrels cut in half the opposite way as the grow beds. This was done sooner than planned because we found a source for freshwater shrimp, so the extra tanks are to keep the two different species apart.

How to build an aquaponics system

These tanks were put together quickly on Saturday as we were expecting the shrimp the following week, but as we have come to expect here in the DR, that what your told and what you actually get may be two very different things altogether. Still waiting for the shrimp today.

On Monday while going through my daily checks it was a very unexpected surprise to find some small fingerlings in system 2. There was about 25 all swimming at the top of the tank and away from the big fish and no longer with their mother. Using the small fish net, I scooped them up and put them into the newly built breeding tanks so they would not get eaten by the other fish. I will indever to get a photo but may take some time as they are very small.

For now I am adding a couple of liters of algae water to feed them and will later make a batch of algae egg yolk flakes for them.

Progress was also made in the other garden area as well. This area will eventually have some larger aquaponics system and a big greenhouse for them. To start, we are clearing out the over growth and removing the car tires that had been used. First it was important to build a larger compost box to utilize the food scrapes from restaurant and all the other organic wastes that have built up. Timber mill off cuts were used to build both the compost box and to make the garden bed edging. It was cheap and a perfect size for both jobs.

How to build an aquaponics system How to build an aquaponics system

Oscar also showed me where he gets the horse manure mix from, which we are using to help build up the garden beds.

How to build an aquaponics system

Always great to find nice things in places you never expect too 🙂

Until next time!

 

aquaponics system in the dominican republic

Building an Aquaponics System Part 2

With the start of a new week and we  have enough gravel made to replace the second systems grow bed. Now we can start to clean out the old gravel that had lime stone and coral in it.

This system has a seperate bio-filter that will keep the benificial bacteria living while the new gravel has time grow it’s own.

We placed the plants already living in the system into a tub with water and an air pump in it to keep oxygen in the water while the gravel is changed out.

aquaponics system in the dominican republicaquaponics system in the dominican republic

As I have found with most systems, the first time you clean out the gravel you will find out just how important the first gravel wash is and just how much more washing could have been done the first time.

Having changed the gravel out, it is time to replant and plumb the system to incorperate the float beds as it will be a hybrid style, with one flood and drain gravel bed and two raft beds.

aquaponics system in the dominican republic  shot_1363014284540

Taps are added to the lines going to both the flood and drain and raft beds to allow adjustments to the flow of water. Not enough flow to the flood and drain bed will stop the bell syphon from working, but we still need enough going to the raft beds to keep good water movement and reduce dead spots of water.  I am also on the look out for a one way flow valve for the raft bed water line in case of a power out, so water doesn’t drain back down the line and empty the grow beds.

We did some plumbing to create water flow into both gravel and raft grow beds. To do this, we used 6x20x20inch (15x50x50cm) poly board cut down to make four 1inch rafts for each bed.  Cutting four pieces of 1inch timbers and using a long fine tooth saw to cut evenly through the poly board.

aquaponics system in the dominican republic     aquaponics system in the dominican republic

With a trip to the farm to collect some timber for the up coming green house to cover the systems, I also picked up some strewberry plants and a sage plant to take some cutting from.  The strawberries will go into the raft system while cuttings from the sage and basil plants will go into the gravel.  I also got some cuttings from a grape vine that seem to do well both in the tropics and at sea level to put into system to see if they will take root.  The plants have been in the system for 5 days now with just one leaf left on the cutting and they look to be doing well with no wilting as yet.

aquaponics system in the dominican republic  aquaponics system in the dominican republicaquaponics system in the dominican republicaquaponics system in the dominican republic

As talked about before, we have to work with what we can get locally, it may not be perfect but that is the chalange of the DR and other place you may incounter similar problems with the lack of the right material.

Do what works for you and the area your working in, comprimise where you need to, and solve each problem one step at a time. Build a system that works for you, your climate and the equipment avalable at hand.

sammy the dog

As the work continues with the ever present, always happy Sammy the dog supervising.