Why Glass Bottles are Better than Plastic

May 23, 2017

From an environmental point of view, most people have already come to the right conclusion when it comes to one of the most important issues being discussed today, using glass bottles or plastic. Glass bottles are environmentally-friendly, plastic bottles are NOT! It cannot be put any simpler then that, one hurts us and our environment and one does not…plastic bottles are not the way moving forward into the future glass bottles are!

2.7 million tons of plastic bottles are used each year worldwide for disposable drinking bottles, with only 1% being recycled, only 1%! Glass bottles are made out of abundant natural resources, and require low energy inputs in the manufacturing process, compared to plastic. Plastic bottles are not biodegradable, meaning they can stay on this green earth for millennia. The artificial toxins from degrading plastics can leach into soil, affecting underground water reserves and farmland. While glass bottles are comparably more heavy and difficult to transport, they hold more benefits for the environment in the long run, we have to look towards what’s best for us and our children, glass is the answer, plastic is the problem.

  • It’s longer-lasting

Glass bottles can be recycled indefinitely, meaning when we throw out glass bottles, they’re easily recyclable in plants to make other glass materials. While glass recycling is a continuous loop, recycled plastic eventually breaks during the process, rendering the material useless. Furthermore, glass bottles don’t wear out with each subsequent use, while plastic bottles need to be thrown out after a few uses. Pyrex glass can be used for both hot and cold substances, while, as mentioned previously, plastic containers easily contaminate warm materials with toxin seepage.

  • Flavor Preservation

We’re settling the age-old argument of whether drinks taste better in glass, plastic or cans. Glass is odorless and tasteless, which means it is neutral to two main senses. Plastic omits a slight chemical taste, because the chemicals can seep into our drinks. Studies also show that human perception is important in determining how food or drinks taste. The color and appearance of a bottle often can affect the way we perceive taste. Water in glass bottles are designed to look aesthetically pleasing to the drinkers, which suggests the water may taste better!

 

Believe it or not, before the invention of plastic bottles most were actually glass – Including baby bottles – but, because they were considered breakable, the bottles became almost obsolete upon the introduction of a plastic alternative. At the time, of course, the concerns over potential harmful chemicals within the plastic were not apparent. And even though many plastic consumables are now BPA free (considered a potentially harmful plastic chemical), some academics argue that further discoveries of harmful components may still lie uncovered. A focus in the media recently on the dangers of leaving plastic water bottles in sunlight for example simply highlights this fact further. As this research continues to evolve, many of us are becoming more and more conscious and engaged with these concerning issues.

Aside from the health benefits, glass is easier to clean than plastic and can be sterilized very quickly in boiling water – a huge benefit when thinking about baby bottles in particular. Glass bottles last a lot longer than plastic alternatives and are also easily recyclable. In general, glass is considered a better material for the environment and kinder to our bodies too.

Refillable Glass bottles for bath amenities at Lapa Rios Lodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

Here are 5 very compelling reasons and facts that further illustrate the need for us to use Glass over Plastic

  1. Keeps food safe. Scientists no longer ask if toxic substances migrate from plastic to food during microwave heating. They ask how much toxins migrate. They ask if you should use plastic to reheat foods for kids, the ill, the elderly. They ask far too many questions and provide too few reassuring answers, as far as I’m concerned. Glass is simply prettier and more substantial looking than plastic. Glass containers retain their crystalline attractiveness forever. Unlike plastic, glass non-porous surface doesn’t absorb dyes or colors. On another safety note: Glass is cleaner than plastic. Glass’ non-porous surface doesn’t absorb food and germs and it can be safely washed at high temperatures in your dishwasher.
  2. Enhances food flavor. Ever notice how milk and marinara from your grocer taste better packed in glass? The same is true of home-stored food. Food simply tastes fresher, cleaner andfuller stored in glass. Glasses safe glossy surface repels food odors and residual flavors and food reheated in glass—whether in a conventional oven or microwave—tastes superior to food nuked in plastic.
  3. Helps clean-up the planet. Using glass rather than plastic significantly reduces landfill. It also saves energy on plastic’s inefficient recycling process. And unlike that metastasizing heap of mismatched plastic containers in your kitchen cupboard, once you invest in glass storage containers, your supply pretty much stays steady. With care, you’ll use your original glass containers almost indefinitely
  4. If you break a glass container, you can recycle it without guilt:
    • Up to 87% of all recycled glass can be reclaimed.
    • Recycled glass uses 59% less energy than manufacturing new glass.
    • Recycling doesn’t compromise glass’ quality or structure and no toxins are produced in it’s recycling.
  1. Eases food prep, serving and clean-up. You’ll find tempered glass food containers:
  • Move effortlessly from freezer to fridge to stove to table.
  • Reduce food waste—clear containers let you see what’s in the fridge and use up leftovers before they go bad.
  • Let you safely check food as it reheats—glasses clarity allows you to see what’s happening without removing lids.
  • Wash-up faster and cleaner—you can safely pop glass into your dishwasher and cleanse at high temperatures. Plastic as we all know is sometimes dishwasher and microwavable safe and sometimes NOT…always that extra step to make sure your good to go and not melting or blowing up your plastic container.

A move to glass storage marks a raised consciousness—arguably glasses most valuable environmental benefit. Your investment in glass helps you move from a throw-away mind-set to a more sustainable sensibility. Glass saves you money in the long run because glass is usually more expensive than plastic, at first glance, it seems a switch to glass will be more costly. But think about this: Unlike plastic, glass is pretty much a one-time investment.

At Cayuga, we feel strongly about not using plastic.  We have replaced bathroom amenities, plastic straws and plastic bottles at our sustainable luxury hotels and lodges.  But we are not done yet.  Every day we try to figure out how to use less plastic.  If you have ideas how to achieve this, let us know.

Bamboo Straws
Besides plastic bottles, we have also banned plastic straws from our properties. Drinks are service with bamboo straws that get composted after use.

Pick glass not plastic, It’s the smarter safer choice

Sea Lions in Costa Rica?

May 22, 2017

Sea Lions are not native to Costa Rica.   But a couple of weeks ago, one of the managers of the Lapa Rios Lodge located on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica had quite a surprise, when he found a sea lion at “Pan Dulce” Beach on a Sunday afternoon.

Most likely, this sea lion got caught in a current and either came from the Galapagos Islands approximately 1.300 kilometers away or from Baja California which is approximately 4.500 kilometers away. These are the two places that are “close by” where they are native to.

One more wildlife attraction in the Osa Peninsula which already is home to 2.5 percent of the world’s biodiversity.

This sea lion needed a “break” after coming a long way from home.

 

Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto: The Production Behind the Popular Dish in Costa Rica

May 12, 2017

Gallo pinto, or “Spotted Rooster” is a Costa Rican meal that can be found on every menu and in every household. If you’re visiting Costa Rica, you’re highly unlikely to forget the Gallo Pinto and if you’re living in Costa Rica, Gallo Pinto is your life. Made from Costa Rica’s staple crop, rice and beans, the dish represents a product in high demand. In Costa Rica, nearly every meal revolves around rice. Costa Ricans on average, consume 49.82 kilos of rice per year, which is a major part of the diet as well as one of the biggest exports. In fact, rice is the only bulk commodity produced here other than black beans. As a major commodity in Costa Rica, as well as the rest of the world, many people consider cultivating their own rice. Well, here is what you need to do know before you start growing wild rice.

Rice in Costa Rica

The wild rice species in Costa Rica is known as Oryza glumaepatula. This wild rice has a slightly tough, chewy sheath and a soft center. It is more nutritionally rich than cultivated rice as it is gluten-free and compared with grains, is second only to oats in protein content. The wild rice contains high levels of potassium and zinc content compared to any brown or white rice, is a great source of fiber, and is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals.

Growing Rice in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the soil is said to be so fertile, you can plant a stick in the ground. This provides a great basis to grow products such as rice in a large area of the country. However, rice production is dominated and monopolized by three companies. 4% of producers own 44% of the area sown and 68% of market sales are managed by these three companies. This monopolization is largely caused by a decree from the Government of Costa Rica that fixes the price of rice. The Executive Decree sets the producer price and the minimum and maximum consumer price for different packaging of rice. As the only commodity in the country whose price is established by decree, it causes a lot of controversies within the country as well as internationally. Although the decree has increased rice production in the country, it has led to fewer competitors, a monopolization, and has even been questioned by the World Trade Organization as an issue of noncompliance with membership commitments.

The Weather In Costa Rica

The Weather in Costa Rica:  Why the “Weather App” almost always gets it wrong…

April 17, 2017

Living in North America or Europe, many of our guests are used to turning to their weather apps when planning activities, vacations or festivities.  The forecasts up north have become quite reliable in the past years.  Not in tropical Costa Rica though.

Costa Rica is a country of micro climates and tropical seasons where forecasting weather patterns is almost impossible.  We do have seasons here, but it might rain in the dry season and there have been days without a drop of rain in the rainy or “green” season.

You might have breakfast on one side of a volcano or mountain range in Costa Rica with the rain pounding down.  But just a few miles away in a completely different micro climate, it would be hot and sunny with not a single cloud in the sky.

Real Costa Rica Weather on Sunday, April 16th.
Forecast on Weather App for April 16th.

One day, you will go to bed and experience heavy rains all night long and then wake up to the most glorious day you have ever seen of bright sunshine and blue skies.

So when you open your weather app for Costa Rica, you most likely will see something like this:

This really does not tell you much, right?  You would think it is rainy all week.  But the contrary is the case.  This is a week of blue skies and sunshine.  Yes, there might be a short thunderstorm somehwere in the country at some point in time.

So, what to do about this?  Don’t worry.  It does not matter.  Rain, sun, clouds.  Temperatures are about the same always.  And the rains are warm and in most cases do not get in the way of your activities.

Best if you write to us at [email protected] or call our sustainable luxury hotels and lodges.  We will tell you how the weather has been and what is expected in the next day or so.  And with the changes in weather patterns around the world, even the rainy and dry season have gotten all mixed up.

And if you are one of those travelers from up north that is worried about rain in the rainy season, take a look here.

And by the way, the same is true for tropical Nicaragua as well.

 

What is it like here in the “Rainy Season”?

April 7, 2017

There seems to be a general aversion of traveling to the tropics in the rainy season. Visiting Costa Rica and Nicaragua between May and November is actually a wonderful experience.

 

We have tried to rename this season to “green season” as it more accurately describes the experience that visitors have.  Everything is lush and green.  Many potential guests from up north think of “cold and nasty” rain and that it rains for weeks non stop.  But the rain here at the coast is warm and rejuvenating in many ways.  The rains usually last only for a few hours at a time.

Have you ever played or danced on a tropical beach in pouring rain?  An experience you will never forget.  Promised.

So to make it more clear, we prepared this video clip for you.  This should explain how a “typical day” in the rainy season would look like.  Including that afternoon nap!  Let us know what you think.  More questions about the rainy season?  [email protected].

Sustainable Seafood Initiative at Lapa Rios Lodge

March 29, 2017

Dock to Dish brings the freshest and most sustainable seafood to Lapa Rios, a National Geographic Unique Lodge, on the Osa Peninsula on the south Pacific of Costa Rica.

Last year, several Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges joined the Dock to Dish movement, a model that seeks to connect fishermen directly with the chefs and ultimately the consumer.  In the old days, people had to buy and eat whatever the local fishermen were able to catch.  The “supermarket” mentality of always having the same kind of species available has lead to over fishing and is not sustainable.  Dock to Dish offers an alternative.  See the video describing the idea of the program.

 

We were shocked to learn that a lot of seafood that is sold in Costa Rica’s Supermarkets is imported from Vietnam and China and of questionable quality.  So we knew that working locally and showcasing Dock to Dish as an important project for all of our hotels and lodges.

Randal a.k.a. “Pocho” our local fisherman has caught a variety of fresh fish that our chefs at Lapa Rios turned into some very special dishes.  Whenever we offer those specials, there is only a limited amount of those fish dishes available.  So, when you know it is “Dock to Dish” night at Lapa Rios, you might want to be there early…  Our menu this week was:

Triggerfish croquettes on a bed of arugula with blackberry dressing

Snapper with potatoes and green salad, served with a tropical dressing

Juan Pablo, our local chef has been testing several recipes and preparations.  The fine-scaled triggerfish, a species that is found in abundance and is not usually commercially valuable seems to be the perfect fit for our program.

Arenas del Mar Beachfront & Rain Forest Resort, another Cayuga Collection Hotel, located in Manuel Antonio has been serving Dock to Dish seafood for almost a year.  We are starting implementation for Dock to Dish at the Harmony Hotel in Nosara and Kura Design Villas in the next weeks.  The goal is to have all of Cayuga’s sustainable luxury hotels and lodges set up with the program by the end of the year.  We especially look forward to implementing the program in Lake Nicaragua for Jicaro Island Lodge.

 

 

The British Discovery of Costa Rica

March 23, 2017

Tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom to Costa Rica grew by over 50 percent between 2015 and 2016.  The UK is now the most important European market for Costa Rica with 71,392 visitors followed by Germany with 67,939, Spain with 67,453 and France with 61,503.

In general, European tourism has become much more important in the past years with direct flights from Spain, the UK, France and Germany.  In May, there will also be a direct flight between Zurich, Switzerland and San Jose twice a week.

Kura Design Villas in Uvita, just 60 minutes south of Manuel Antonio is very popular with British couples.  Over 50% of our guests in this February were Europeans, most of them from the UK.

At Cayuga, we have enjoyed the increase in visitors from Europe.  They are a great match for our sustainable luxury hotels and lodges.  They enjoy the outdoors, the warm weather, good local food and especially our well trained local guides that help them to understand the Costa Rican Nature and Culture.

But we have also run into some challenges.  Costa Rican are not world renown for being punctual.  We had to train our guides for example, that if a tour with guests from Great Britain starts at 9 am, arriving at 9 am is being late.  Be there at 8:45!

Our revenue generate by tours were up significantly this season at Lapa Rios Lodge and Arenas del Mar Resort.  British Guests are active and like to experience and learn.

We also had to restock our wine cellars with more frequency.  Our British guests are much more likely to order a bottle with lunch and two with dinner than our guests from North America.  Cheers!

And finally, the tea.  Costa Rica is a coffee country and we know how to brew a great cup of Java.  But there is not much expertise on tea.  We had to bring in an intern from the UK to help us understand tea.  It has made a great difference.  Everybody is happy at breakfast now.

And of course, there is a need to relax.  Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa is the perfect place to have a date with a tropical drink and a great book.

We look forward to many more visitors from Great Britain and Europe.

Award winning sustainable hotel management company Cayuga NatGeo Legacy winners.

We did it! Cayuga won the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017

March 8, 2017

This award means a lot to all of us at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  We have been involved in sustainable hospitality since 1995 and really appreciate this recognition by National Geographic.  A special thank you to all of our staff members, our guests and the owners of the very special hotels and lodges that we manage in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Hans Pfister, Cayuga’s CEO and Co-Founder with fellow finalists the moment he finds out that Cayuga had won the award.  

The World Legacy Award in the category of Earth Changers recognizes cutting-edge leadership in environmentally friendly business practices and green technology, from renewable energy and water conservation to zero-waste systems and carbon-emissions reduction.

All finalists, winners, judges at ITB Berlin in March 2017 during the National Geographic World Legacy Award Ceremony.  

Congratulations to our fellow nominees Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel in Ecuador and ITC Hotels in India.  We were honored to be nominated in the Earth Changers Category alongside you.

Winners from around the world:  Costa Rica / Nicaragua, Santa Fee, TX, Slovenia, Seychelles, Belize with Nat Geo World Legacy chairman Costas Crist.  
Corcovado luxury lodge in Costa Rica award winning NatGeo lodges of the World.

Why is the Cayuga Collection in Costa Rica named after a Lake in upstate New York?

March 4, 2017

Last week, there was an important feature on Cayuga Collection’s Lapa Rios Lodge published on the Associated Press websites; the story was then picked up by media across the globe.  When the journalist interviewed us, she was confused about the name, Cayuga Collection. She knew Cayuga as one of the Finger Lakes located in Upstate New York, USA. The word Cayuga comes from the Cayuga people, which is an Indigenous Iroquois tribe that settled in the area of the Finger Lakes.

So, where is the connection of Cayuga Lake and an Indigenous tribe with a group of sustainable luxury hotels and resorts in Costa Rica, Nicaragua (and soon Panama)? Very simple. The founders of the Cayuga Collection, Andrea Bonilla and Hans Pfister both studied at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York that sits on the shore of Cayuga Lake. They earned their degrees in Hotel Administration there in the 1990s and when it was time to give a name to the company they created in 2003 in Costa Rica, Cayuga came up as an option.

Cayuga’s founders Andrea Bonilla and Hans Pfister with (then) Dean Johnson of the Cornell Hotel School and two students.  They were invited to present Cayuga’s work at the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Lapa Rios Lodge was the first hotel that Cayuga managed. The owners of Cayuga were involved in management since 1999. Back then, there was no internet or phone available at the lodge. Andrea was the General Manager at the Lodge and Hans was based in San Jose. To communicate business affairs, they wrote word documents on floppy disks and sent them back and forth by car and propeller plane protected by a password; the password back then was Cayuga.

Cayuga’s first client was Lapa Rios Lodge on the Osa Peninsula.  The founders of Cayuga have been involved in the management of the lodge since 1999.

They chose Cayuga as it is easy to pronounce in English, Spanish, and many other languages. It is also a tribute to Cornell and the Hotel School in Ithaca where Hans and Andrea met and became good friends and business partners. Hans grew up in southern Germany and Andrea is born and raised in Costa Rica.

And, they enjoy getting the question about the name Cayuga from guests that are familiar with Cornell and the Upstate New York Geography. A great way to have a conversation about good old college days at our alma mater. One thing we don’t miss though is the weather up there or the floppy disks down here. In fact, the “Guides Hut” at Lapa Rios has Wi-Fi now.

 

Ecotourism and Education: A real life Story from 25 years ago

February 24, 2017

This is a story about our neighbor Cecilia and her 5 children.  It’s a tale of one mother’s dedication to a mission—providing her children a formal education.  This blog was written by the co-founder of Lapa Rios Lodge, located on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, Karen Lewis.

Setting: First day of school, a hot, sunny February 1992, bit after 6:30am.  Scenario: Akin to a mother duck stepping down an indistinct forest path, her ducklings strung out behind her.

Through binoculars I could see all 5 children were dressed in their requisite official white shirts and blue pleated skirts/long pants, her tallest, Danny Jiménez, bringing up the rear. Cecilia walked determinedly, proudly yet somewhat anxious. She was late, and could see us with the other 18 children waiting in the truck. (She confessed she hadn’t considered the smaller steps of her younger ones, and the 3+ kms walk meant starting at dawn.)

Can you spot John and Karen Lewis, founders of Lapa Rios in this picture taken in front of the Carbonera School in 1992?

[A bit of history: When John, our high school age children and I first met our neighbors in early 1991, we shared food and our aspirations for Lapa Rios. We asked residents what they dreamed. Immediately every woman answered: Help us build a primary school. Instantly our goal of conservation serving a community was augmented by their greater need: Education. Not only necessary was our ethos for environmental stewardship, we needed to include basic education skills. I’d learned, as an exchange student in the early sixties, when people are able to read they become empowered to make informed decisions. Local mothers wanted their children educated, open to opportunities beyond subsistence farming—then the Osa Peninsula’s best option.

Together with Cecelia, Grace and another mother, we worked with the school superintendent during 1991-‘92 to learn building requisites. Flush toilets—what! no one had flush toilets at home, why the school? Regardless, kids being kids, they wanted to go to school before we could get the buildings beyond blue print form. John and I offered a taxi-truck transport to the primary school in Pto. Jiménez only 16 kms. distant but with few bridges and oft-swollen rivers.] I digress…

Carbonera School.  It was built in 1991 with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Once at the dirt road, Cecelia briskly lined up her children, took a clean rag off her shoulder and cleaned each child’s bare feet. They proceeded to put on new navy blue socks and black shoes. Cecelia tied several pairs, as tie shoes, even shoes, were a novelty.

I’ll never forget the pride in Cecelia’s eyes. She watched her children climb into the back of the truck onto wooden bench seats, the little ones sitting on laps of older children equally as curious and concerned to what was coming next. Few had been to town, none inside a classroom. I ended up taking Daniel Jiménez’s hand, he being the eldest (14) yet seemingly most afraid. We joined the line for Grade 1…and the door opened to mostly 6-7 year olds. Most all neighbor children finished grade 6 at the Lapa Rios guests’-built Carbonera School (opened March, 1993), one attended the University of Costa Rica.

Danny is still working at Lapa Rios.  For over 20 years now.   He’s a leader of leaders. Though he left formal education too soon (to work the family farm), he continued to learn on his own. He reads, leads by example, uses computers with ease and communicates via the internet, even ordering items for his team. Education for his children is expected. Many early employees at the Lapa Rios had little formal education, though today they play an active role in helping improve their local schools with our guests’ financial support.

Daniel with son
Daniel Jimenez today.  He and his son Jordi are both great fans of the local scoccer team “La Liga”.

When considering where your life has taken you because of your education, help empower people in developing parts of the world by donating either your time, talent or treasures. Without our guests sharing their largess, aka Travelers’ Philanthropy, the Carbonera School would never have been realized. Or several area schools’ new classrooms, water systems, solar panels, improved kitchens, lesson books-uniforms-soccer equipment, etc.

Many Osa Peninsula homes have bi-lingual, colorful children’s books, as do all schools’ libraries. When you choose travel that makes a difference, tuck some goody in your luggage for local children. Make donations for never-ending Lapa Rios school projects (Building for a Future).