Eco Rating El Remanso

Name of propertyEl Remanso Lodge
Person completing this formDaniel Gehring
PositionManager / Owner
Address of propertyOsa Peninsula, 22km from Puerto Jiménez to Carate
CountryCosta Rica
Phone number including country code and area code506 – 2735 55 69
Web siteEl Remanso
Type of propertyRainforest Wildlife Lodge
Number of rooms or cottages13
Maximum number of guests32
Eco membershipsBlue Flag Programm Costa Rica, In process for Rainforest Alliance Costa Rica certification, Best-ecolodges, Eco-tropicalresorts,
Eco ratings, certifications, awards*Highest rating of the CST program here in Costa Rica (Certification of Sustainable Tourism byt the Costa Rican Tourism Board). First hotel / lodge to achieve the highest rating (level 5) in its first inspection.
*Eco Tropical Resorts Eco Rating 5 out of 5.
  • Do you have a written environmental or social sustainability policy?     YES/NO

If yes, please attach.

I have attached it to this email. “Manual de Sostenibilidad”.

  • Do you have a written environmental management system?              YES/NO
  • Describe the property – aim, size, facilities, amount of land owned and leased  (150 words max)

El Remanso is a family run sustainable rainforest lodge, which includes a 180 acre rainforest reserve. The land was included into a “National Refuge” 14 years ago to ensure constant protection. The founders, 2 Greenpeace volunteers, bought the land 22 years ago and started the lodge in 1999. The environmental impact was carefully studied and strict policies of renewable energy production, waste management and recycling were present since the beginning.
El Remanso now counts a total of 6 cabins and 1 house with 6 separate and independent bedrooms. The total capacity of the lodge lies around 32 guests.
The lodge has its own restaurant for guests, a swimming pool, bar, internet service (via satellite) and offers a series of activities inside the property’s own reserve, such as guided hikes, waterfall rappelling, zipline and tree climbing.

  • Describe the location, including distance to nearest town and size of town (100 words max)

El Remanso is located on the Osa Peninsula, 22km away from the closest town, Puerto Jimenez, which has its own airport for small planes. The lodge is inside the “biological corridor” of the nearby National Park of Corcovado and 90% of the property is in primary rain forest. This “biological corridor” is the “National Refuge of the Osa Peninsula” (Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Osa) and is a over 5000 acre-corridor of different land-owners who have put the land voluntarily into this refuge.

  • Describe WHY you made the decision to develop an eco resort (100 word max)

El Remanso is a family run lodge in its “second generation”. Belen and Joel Stewart, the founders built the lodge 12 years with the intention of sharing this untouched rainforest with people from all around the world in an environment-friendly way. As former Greenpeace workers (Joel is still one of the main captains of the Rainbow Warrior) they believed that doing an “eco” or “sustainable” lodge was the only responsible way of doing a lodge / hotel in this special place, the Osa Peninsula. My wife Adriana and I have been managing and operating the lodge since 2006. That year we expanded the lodge from a 4 cabin and 16 guests operation to a 12 rooms / cabins total and 30 guests capacity. With a business background and a strong heritage of environmental values, we wanted to create a special place with the highest standards of sustainable development and proof this development can work in the long term and therefore be sustainable from an environmental and social but also economic point of view.

Introduction to the Butterfly Club’s Eco Rating

The Butterfly Club Eco Rating has five equally-weighted categories:

  • Energy;
  • Water;
  • Recycling and waste;
  • Land and nature conservation; and
  • Community.

Each category has five levels, designated by one to five butterflies.  Through self assessment, resort operators completing this rating will determine their own levels within each category based on their responses to items listed below.

Two categories – energy and water – have similar rating systems with Levels 1 and 2 addressing conservation of existing resources, and Levels 3, 4 and 5 addressing creation of renewable energy or capturing water.

Level five in every category also requires written sustainability policies or environmental management systems to: (1) monitor and record consumption; (2) test and apply additional conservation methods; and (3) work towards specific targets.   We require a copy of your policies if you achieve level 5 in any category.

Eco Rating El Remanso Energy

Levels 1 and 2 – conservation: Check all that apply:

___X  use natural air circulation and fans, not air conditioners
___ X use natural light during the day
___ X minimize use of fossil-fuel powered vehicles, machines and equipment
__X–  use “on demand” or solar heating for hot water
___X  air dry clothes/linens
___ X wash dishes by hand
___ X use energy efficient appliances and electronics
___ X use low wattage fluorescent light bulbs
___ X change linens, tablecloths, napkins upon request
___ X switch off lights when not used
Other energy conservation activities? Please list:
The lodge runs ENTIRELY on our own hydroelectric system, no diesel generator is used at the lodge. 100% of the appliances are highly efficient, from lights, refrigerators to computers.
Here’s an annual split down of electricity consumption of the lodge by month (for 2012). We use about 30% less electricity in our “high season” with 30 guests and 30 employees than a standard US household (the average of electricity consumption being 690 kWhrs in the US and ours being less then 450 kWhrs per month).

And in comparison the average household electricity consumption (in KwHrs per month) for different countries:

Level 1 = four or fewer energy conservation activities

Level 2 = five or more energy conservation activities

Levels 3, 4 and 5 – renewable energy: Indicate proportion (%) of energy from each source:

___  solar
___  wind
__100%_  hydro
___  generator
___  public utility
Other energy sources? Please list:
A part from the lodge’s electricity, provided 100% by our hydroelectric system, we have a swimming pool that runs entirely on a solar pump system.
The workers area runs entirely on an independent solar photovoltaic system.

How were these proportions developed?
Hydro is the exclusively the only power source for electricity we have at the lodge. 2 independent micro hydro plants provide constant electricity for the lodge and one serves as “back-up” of the other one if any of these fails to work.

Level 3 = renewable energy is employed and is less than 1/3 of all energy

Level 4 = renewable energy constitutes 1/3 – 2/3 of all energy

Level 5 = renewable energy constitutes 2/3 or more of all energy.  In addition, there are written sustainability policies or environmental management systems to: (1) monitor and record energy consumption; (2) test and apply additional energy conservation methods; and (3) work towards specific energy targets.

Attach a copy of your policies if you achieve Energy Level 5 (required).

I have attached the document of energy policies of the hotel  “Plan de energia El Remanso” to this email.

Your Energy Level (select 1 – 5) =   5

Eco Rating El Remanso Water

Levels 1 and 2 – conservation: Check all that apply:

__X– low flow faucets and showerheads
__X  low water use toilets
__X  change linens, towels, tablecloths, and napkins upon request
___X use table mats that can be wiped and not laundered
__ X use biodegradable laundry detergent, dish soap and hand soap
__ X treat swimming pool with chlorine-free processes
Other water conservation activities?  Please list.

Level 1 = three or fewer water conservation activities

Level 2 = four or more water conservation activities

Levels 3, 4 and 5 – capture and treat fresh water and manage waste water. Capture water: Indicate proportion (%) of water from each source:

_80%__  spring (we have 3 springs in our property, but only use one)
_20%__  river (for garden)
___  rain
___  reuse gray
___  public utility
Other water sources? Please list.

100% TOTAL

Fresh water treatment: how is captured fresh water treated?
__X_  naturally.  Indicate method: charcoal, ultraviolet light, other? List:
Water is captured directly at the spring and brought 400 meters down to the lodge. Water analysis are done at least every 3 months year and results are of drinking water quality.

___  chemically.  List chemicals used:

A study was conducted with a local engineer to analyse possibilities of capturing water but due to El Remanso’s position on a steep hill with cabins being too far apart and with too much vertical drop between them it was judged counterproductive. Furthermore, the amount of water taken from the springs is less than 10% of the actual waterflow so the environmental impact is minimized.

Waste water management:
__X_  septic tanks
___  cesspools
___  other? List methods:

Level 3: Water is captured (from springs, rivers, rain or prior use) and constitutes less than 1/3 of water from all sources.  Water is treated chemically.  Water disposal does not minimize damage to coral reefs and rain forests

Level 4:  Captured water constitutes 1/3 to 2/3 of all water.  Water is treated naturally. Water disposal minimizes damage to coral reefs and rain forests

Level 5:  Captured water constitutes more than 2/3 of all water.  Water is treated naturally. Water disposal minimizes damage to coral reefs and rain forests.   In addition, there are written sustainability policies or environmental management systems to: (1) monitor and record water consumption; (2) test and apply additional water conservation methods; and (3) work towards specific water targets.

Attach a copy of your policies if you achieve Water Level 5 (required).

I have attached a copy of our water policies document (Plan de consumo de agua). Furthermore, here’s a graph of our yearly water consumption per month since 2010:

We have decreased our water consumption at the lodge by around 20% (with increasing guest numbers in the last 2 years) by :
– installing efficient water shower heads and heads for sinks
– installing self-closing water faucets in public areas
– sprinkling the garden only in the very early morning or late afternoon
– transforming our garden into an exclusive NATIVE plant garden, which use less water than non-native ornamentals
– installing an ionizer in the pool to avoid re-filling it (2010)
– having a thorough water leak inspection every month by the maintenance team

Your Water Level (select 1 – 5):  5

Eco Rating El Remanso Recycling and waste

Check all that apply:

_X_   use durable service items, e.g. cups, glasses, dishes, tableware, storage items
__X_   buy fresh and local to reduce packaging and emissions from transportation
__X_   purchase in bulk to reduce packaging
__X_   recycle paper, glass, plastic, aluminum
___X   minimize emissions from fossil-fuel powered vehicles, machines & equipment
___X   zero waste in the kitchen (compost for garden, recycling of glass and plastics)
_X__   serve local water, not bottled water (no bottled water bottle can be purchased)
__X_   cleaning products are biodegradable
___X   compost organic matter
Other methods to recycle waste? Please list.

Level 1 = four or fewer recycling activities

Level 2 = five recycling activities

Level 3 = six recycling activities

Level 4 = seven recycling activities

Level 5 = eight or more recycling activities.  In addition, there are written sustainability policies or environmental management systems to: (1) monitor and record recycling and waste; (2) test and apply additional recycling and waste conservation methods; and (3) work towards specific recycling and waste targets.

Attach a copy of your policies if you achieve Recycling and Waste Level 5 (required).

Some of the recycling activities at El Remanso:

  • natural compost for all organic waste
  • plastic and metal food cans are recycled
  • Glass bottles are separated and brought to the local recycling facility
  • All beer, soda and juice bottles are returnable
  • As far as possible, food is bought in bulk containers to reduce waste.
  • Providers are chosen also considering their ecological practices (one example: eggs are bought from the only one of 3 providers that does NOT use plastic to wrap eggs in)
  • Fossil-fuel powered vehicles are regularly maintained to avoid any unnecessary pollution and minimize gas consumption. Only 4-stroke engines in the machines (less consumption and less noise)

Here’s a split of our our waste distribution (in kg) for the year 2011:

As you can see, only 6% of our waste is neither compo-stable, recyclable or re-usable. 84% or our waste is organic and therefore either composted in our own composting station or send to a local pig-farm run by local neighbors.

I have attached a copy of our Waste management policies and composting procedure.

Your Recycling and Waste Level (select 1 – 5): 5


Eco Rating El Remanso Land and nature conservation

Check all that apply:

_X__   minimize tree removal when building
_X__   use only botanical (plant-based) herbicides & pesticides in garden & grounds
_X_   maintain organic gardens as food source for resort
_X__   use biodegradable cleaning products
__X_   minimize external illumination
___X   take additional specific actions to preserve the local habitat.  Please list actions and projects:

  • All buildings where built on already cleared areas on top of one central ridge of the land. The lodge uses less than 2% of the land, the rest is untouched and some parts continuously re-forested with trees from our tree nursery.
  • All building materials were chosen to minimize the impact on the environment. Some of the buildings use certified fallen timber wood from the lodge property, otherwise plantation timber (pine and teak) is used for the buildings. To avoid any type of fumigation the use of thatched roofs is avoided. The restaurant structure is entirely built with local bamboo (Guadua costarricensis) from the Osa Peninsula.
  • No dangerous chemicals (for ex. chlorine) are used at the lodge, only biodegradable products. All laundry detergents, dish-washing soaps are biodegradable. So is the shampoo and soap that we offer to our guests in each of the rooms / cabins.
  • Support of local organization YAGUARA, a project that we have been supporting since 2006. The project run by 2 local biologists, monitors the activity of local wildcats and is very active to reduce poaching issues in the Osa. El Remanso has sponsored over 8 camera traps to the project and offers logistical support to this project. Besides, a weekly presentation of the project at the lodge encourages guests to support this project.
  • El Remanso is actively involved with local land conservation organization OSA CONSERVATION. This organization manages over 4000 acres of the local reserve “Osa National Refuge” and sponsors biologists to come to their research facility and is active in reforestation projects too (more info under ). El Remanso offers economical support to the organization as well as support to the studies that biologists conduct here, offering the use of the properties trail system to use for these studies. Weekly talks of Osa Conservation are held at the lodge, encouraging guests to participate in ongoing reforestation project.
  • El Remanso has its own tree nursery where we grow native trees after collecting its seed throughout the year. These trees are mostly given away for free for reforestation projects on the Osa Peninsula.
  • The lodge has started its own hydroponic garden for lettuce. However, the lodge buys vegetables from local organic producers of the Osa Peninsula whenever we can. We cover over 90% of our lettuce demand with local organic lettuce for instance.
  • The garden of the lodge is over 95% NATIVE. The management of the lodge and the gardeners participated in a workshop of Costa Rican organization “Pronativas” in 2010 to learn about the correct management of native trees and plants in garden areas. Since then, the garden has passed from a 75% native plant predominance to 95% native since 2011 (I have attached a plan of the El Remanso garden, prepared by 2 biology students to evaluate this percentage)
  • The lodge minimizes artificial illumination on the outside. The main path of the lodge from the parking to the restaurant has 1W LED lights installed next to the trail for orientation. No lights of the structures is directed directly either at the ocean or the surrounding forest.
  • The garden of the lodge does not use any chemical fertilizers or herbicides. Instead it uses exclusively compost produced by our own composting station (see above, over 80% of our waste is composted in our composting station) to provide nutrients to the plants.

I have attached the following :
– our gardening policies
– a proof document by the Ministry of Environement stating that the property is a Wildlife Refuge
– a description of our composting system
– the “map” of our garden with a percentage of native and non native plants.
There is a 500+ pages MANAGEMENT PLAN of the Osa National Wildlife Refuge, approved by the Costa Rican Ministry of Environement. El Remanso is part of this refuge and we are also part of the managing committee.

Level 1: one or two land and nature conservation activities

Level 2: three land and nature conservation activities

Level 3: four land and nature conservation activities

Level 4: five land and nature conservation activities

Level 5: six or more land and nature conservation activities.  In addition, there are written sustainability policies or environmental management systems to: (1) monitor and record land and nature conservation activities; (2) test and apply additional land and nature conservation methods; and (3) work towards specific land and nature conservation targets.

Attach a copy of your policies if you achieve Land and Nature Conservation Level 5 (required).

Your Land and Nature Conservation Level (select 1 – 5): 5

Eco Rating El Remanso Community

This category addresses policies and activities regarding staff, guests, suppliers and other members of the community.

Check all activities that apply:

__X_  hire staff residing near the resort          _100__% local nationals from Puerto Jimenez or other towns nearby
__X_  use local suppliers                                _85__% purchased goods produced locally
__X_  re-invest resort income locally            _10__% income re-invested locally
__X_  pay above local prevailing wage
___X  pay into local social security
__X_  provide health insurance or coverage
___X  use regular staff meetings to educate staff about sustainable processes throughout the resort, in the garden, with waste disposal, etc
___X  provide educational awareness programs for staff, guests, suppliers and other members of the local community
__X_  provide sustainable transport to work for staff => the hotel’s trucks
___X  take additional specific actions to support the local community. Please list actions and projects.

The lodge employs 29 people year around. The same number of staff works here at the peak of the high season as well as the lowest point of our green season. Worker’s are asked to help out in other areas (as an example restaurant waiters will help out in maintenance and cooks in the garden) but everybody keeps the job at El Remanso for the whole year. For this reason too, our turn-over rate of staff is very low (70% of our current staff have been with us for more than 4 years).

Additional actions:
a) Support via a monthly fee of $300 local organization ASCONA, which is an organization providing cultural and sport activities for the local community
b) a yearly budget is accorded to improve school infrastructures (there are 15 small schools in the Osa Peninsula) and spent with supervision with mainly building materials, paints, school material
c) 2 children are sponsored to attend “La Nueva Hoja” the local bi-lingual school in Puerto Jiménez
d) El Remanso asks guests to bring books for the local school library which was founded 9 years ago. El Remanso co-founded this library.
e) El Remanso works EXCLUSIVELY with local, Costa Rican, tour operators for their different outside tours = Kayaking, guided hikes in the Corcovado National Park, horse-back riding, ziplining, fishing and surfing.
f) 100% of the lodge’s furniture is Costa Rican made and over 60% is manufactured on the Osa Peninsula by local providers.
g) Local sport teams of Puerto Jiménez are sponsored for their trips to matches in the Southern Area of Costa Rica
h) Local training, such as “kitchen and restaurant hygiene”, “Rescue training on Treeclimbing and Rappelling” or “CPR and first aid” are offered every year to our staff and people of the local community are invited free of charge.
i) The lodge’s trucks transport children to and from the local schools free of charge, even when driving guests from Puerto Jiménez to the lodge.
j) The lodge participates in the yearly EARTH DAY of Puerto Jiménez.

Level 1: one or two community activities

Level 2: three to five community activities

Level 3: six to seven community activities

Level 4: eight to nine community activities

Level 5: ten or more community activities.  In addition, there are written sustainability policies or environmental management systems to: (1) monitor and record community activities; (2) test and apply additional methods to support the community; and (3) work towards specific community targets.

Attach a copy of your policies if you achieve Community Level 5 (required).

Your Community Level (select 1 – 5): 5

YOUR OVERALL ECO SCORE (add your level for each category and divide by 5and enter the result with the decimal point, e.g. 3.6): 5

We have three final questions which are not part of the eco rating: 

  1. Please describe your single most important eco achievement:

Running 100% on renewable energies. Since the beginning (with only 3 cabins) El Remanso has never used any fossil fuel generators. Although it meant an important economic and work investment, the lodge has maintained this policy throughout its history, proving that a high-level lodge can run entirely with renewable energies.

  1. Indicate additional sustainable practices that you plan to institute within the next 6 months.

From March 1st we are supporting local NGO “Osa Conservation” (formerly “Friends of the Osa”) with the payment of 30% of a salary of a professional forest ranger to patrol the area of the National Refuge to prevent poaching activities.