Every year thousands of tourists flock to Lake Atitlan to soak up its unmatched beauty and surrounding natural and cultural resources. The stunning lake, often called a “mirror of the sky,” is one of Guatemala’s most visited destinations. Along its edge sits a very special, sustainable hotel: Jardines del Lago Hotel and Convention Center. We spoke with Patricia Ajcalón–a development and sustainability specialist at the Rainforest Alliance Verified™ hotel–about Jardines del Lago’s work to conserve the local environment and support local communities.
Why did Jardines del Lago begin to implement sustainable tourism practices?
We realized the environmental importance of our location.
Tell us about some of your sustainability initiatives.
We take measures to save electricity and lower water consumption. For example, there are energy-saving lighting systems in all hotel facilities and solar heaters for the showers. We’ve installed alternative ventilation systems so we can limit the use of air conditioning and we are reusing the water treated within the hotel to irrigate the gardens.
We use biodegradable products and buy products in bulk to reduce the amount of waste generated. All of our organic wastes are converted to compost that we use as organic fertilizer in the gardens, while all inorganic wastes are sent to the municipality’s collection center. We also use efficient vehicles to reduce our CO2 emissions.
On the social side, we provide all legal benefits to our employees plus additional benefits offered by the hotel owner, and we support socio-cultural events held by the surrounding communities.
What additional support do you offer to local communities?
We provide cash or in-kind donations and we often allow community members to use our facilities at no cost for social and cultural activities. We also buy natural shampoo and soap for our guests from a women’s organization in the department of Solola.
In addition, we communicate our sustainability initiatives to primary and secondary schools and universities, provide a space for learning and give lectures on sustainability.
Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful sites in Guatemala. How does your hotel take care of the lake and the wildlife that depend on it?
We conducted a lake cleanup rally with the our entire staff and we participate in other initiatives organized by the Municipal Environmental Commission of Panajachel.
How can your guests get involved?
In all of our hotel facilities, we post signs to raise awareness among guests and visitors about saving water and electricity. We also have cards inside the rooms that guests can place on the sheets and towels that they want to have washed and replaced. That helps us save water and detergent.
The hotel’s corridors have marked bins so that everyone can help with sorting waste. We also ask guests to respect the cultures and customs of the communities near the Lake Atitlan watershed and to not introduce exotic species at any site they visit.
There are a number of hotels in the area. Why should guests choose Jardines del Lago?
We stand out for our sustainability activities and our perseverance for continuing improvement. In addition, our facilities and grounds are unique; no other hotel can offer the panorama that you will enjoy from our rooms and gardens.
The Rainforest Alliance offers training to tourism businesses–including hotels and lodges–to provide them with the tools and techniques they need to run efficiently and sustainably. Businesses that have completed our program earn the right to use the Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark. Support sustainable tourism on your next trip to Latin America or the Caribbean by choosing an eco-friendly hotel listed on SustainableTrip.org.