I was lucky enough to be able to interview with Monica, Operations manager for Red Mangrove Galapagos. We talked about conservation in the Galapagos, an important aspect of protecting its pristine environment.
She has worked with Red Mangrove for 5 years, as a tour leader, at the front desk, as a sales agent, a supervisor on Isabela island, and most recently as Operations Manager. We sat down in the beautiful sea-side restaurant at the Aventura lodge, where I proceeded to interrogate her about the hotel’s conservation practices.
I thought she was the model of work-life balance – swaddling a baby with one arm while educating me about Galapagos Conservation.
Tell me about Red Mangrove’s solar panels on Aventura Lodge. What percentage of the electricity do they provide?
Monica: 70% of energy is provided by solar energy. Right now the 30% is supplied for the equipment that is 220 volts, but we now have the converter to provide 220 volt energy. We are not at 100% yet, but we hope to be soon with these improvements.
That’s really exciting! And where does the energy on Floreana and Isabela come from?
On Floreana there is solar energy in town through the local government. On Isabela, there is regular electric current created by a regular generator from town. We are not solar there yet, not yet.
I saw windmills on Baltra Island. How much of the energy on the islands, in general, is solar or alternative?
Right now, the government is finishing a solar panel field to provide solar panel energy to the people but it is not up and running yet. The windmills are not working yet, but that was a requirement for the airport to be an eco-airport.
What is Red Mangrove’s footprint in propane and petroleum usage?
We do use propane. There are not other alternatives. Petroleum is used for the boats, but to improve the use of petroleum, we coordinate the operations and itinerary to avoid waste. Between islands, if we have 2 people, 2 people, 2 people, 2 people, I coordinate the itinerary and make 1 ride instead of 4. It is now also a requirement that all boats are required to have 4-stroke engines. 4-stroke engines are more efficient, and allows burned oil to be recycled.
I really enjoyed riding the bikes you have for free rental at Red Mangrove. It’s very eco-friendly and seems to be how all the locals get around too. Can you tell me more about that program?
The bike program has been going on forever. In order to have a car in the Galapagos, you have to have a specific permit and a specific reason to justify that you need one. For example, you have to have a farm to have one. So that’s why everyone has a bike here.
Water Conservation in the Galapagos
Tell me about the water filtration system and the black water treatment facility you have here at Red Mangrove. How do they work? And how is that different from the municipal water treatment?
The local government provides brackish water (mixed fresh and salt water) for specific hours to the people in town for cooking. And then for drinking, the residences in town buy bottled water that either comes from the highlands or from mainland (imported). We installed a reverse osmosis system with UV filters to have fresh water here, so that it is 99.9999% clear. We always test that the water is fine, and that is the water we use for cooking, and for everything.
How does the waste water work at Red Mangrove?
We have a waste water treatment. It is a big machine that gathers all the water that goes to a well. It is pumped into this machine. Out comes gray water, stored in another well. The water can go to water crops.
Trash and Recycling Efforts
There are a lot of recycling bins here at Red Mangrove, and all over town in Puerto Ayora. Where does the waste and the recycling go?
There is a recycling plant in Santa Cruz, where all bottles, glass, plastic and paper goes. The non-recyclable waste goes to a landfill in the highlands. The organic waste goes to compost in the highlands. They do garbage management very efficiently here in the Galapagos.
What happens to the recycled glass and other products?
Did you see the tortoise sculpture in the front of the hotel? That is recycled glass. If you go to the shop, you will see a lot of recycled paper, recycled glass souvenirs. In a lot of the handicraft shops you will find things made of recycled materials.
So it is better to buy some recycled glass handicrafts than a t-shirt?