Trying to find a green place to lay your head for the night can be tricky. A lot of places tenuously use the word eco, perhaps because they have a reception desk made from local wood, or because they only wash towels when guests leaves them on the bathroom floor. Such things alone do not make them genuinely ‘green’. Thankfully, there are places that get it right and I would like to share with you two hostels I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in the last few months.
The Erratic Rock hostel is located in Puerto Natales, Chile, a popular backpacker destination thanks to its being a stones throw from some of the most stunning scenery Patagonia has to offer.
Erratic Rock doesn’t claim to be an ‘eco’ hostel and what they have is more of an eco attitude rather then eco bricks and mortar. Yes, they provide re-useable shopping bags made from old tents and ask their guests to reuse and recycle. They also encourage the support of local businesses and are mindful of energy consumption. Oh, and they serve the best breakfast you could hope to have before heading out to explore Patagonia. But what really sets them apart is that they have acknowledged an issue, their part in adding to it and have worked hard to help solve it.
The issue I refer to is the huge amount of waste generated by the influx of more than 100,000 visitors anually to both Puerto Natales and the National Park Torres del Paine. Erratic Rock’s Bill Penhollow and Rustyn Mesdag realised that simply collecting and sorting waste meant nothing if there was nowhere to recycle it. By collecting, crushing and then selling empty gas canisters left by trekkers they managed to kick start a recycling initiative, gaining support and funding from organisations including Mountain Safety Research, Outdoor Research, Leave No Trace and Patagonia so that they could actually get their collected waste to the Wale Foundation recycling plant they had found in Puerto Montt. I should probably mention that this is not a matter of simply loading it onto a truck and taking it to the next town… the recycling plant in Puerto Montt is over 700 miles north (as the crow flies) and a 3 day trip on the Navimag ferry.
You can read a full account of how Bill and Rustyn set up the recycling program in an interview they did with On Earth here.
Bill and Rustyn’s dedication is inspiring and a reminder that we all have the ability to make a positive change if we put our minds to it. As a hostel, Erratic Rock reflects their passion making it a fantastic place to stay.
The Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, with its boutiques and restaurants is a world away from Patagonia. However, it is home to the Eco Pampa hostel which is green both in colour and in it’s environmentally friendly approach.
The word ‘hostel’ might conjure up images of flea-pit backpacker bunks but that is not the case here. Eco Pampa offers stylish yet affordable accommodation in what is a premium area of Buenos Aires and every part of it’s beautifully restored building adheres to it’s ‘reduce, recycle, reuse’ philosophy.
The hostel works hard to reduce it’s energy consumption. Solar panels provide energy for lighting etc. and solar water heating panels reduce the energy required to heat water by 70% in summer and 30% in winter. Additional reduction of energy is achieved through the use of dual flush toilets, low energy computers, paperless check-in and energy saving lightbulbs. Interior spaces are furnished using salvaged construction materials, restored antiques and upcycled pieces, for example old door frames transformed into mirrors and bar stools upholstered with advertising banners. The eclectic mix creates a unique space.
Other features include a ‘living’ terrace (in other words a small lawn on the roof), small organic garden, composting and throughout the hostel you can find signs to help make guests aware of the hostel’s features and how to use them.
The Eco Pampa hostel is a good example of how being ‘green’ doesn’t mean compromising on quality or design. It is a gem in the middle of a bustling city.
So there we have it, two very different but truly eco hostels. If you ever find yourself in the bustling city of Buenos Aires or the wilds of Chilean Patagonia I would highly recommend them.