While at Hacienda Merida on the Isla de Ometepe, we ran into Alvaro Molina, the hostel’s owner. Molina and his family have taken on many local sustainability projects to benefit the island in addition to running their hostel. Our favorite project was in building plastic bottle schools and other structures with recycled waste.
One of the most unique projects Molina has taken on is a plastic and trash recycling initiative. He uses a few different incentives to get Mérida locals to bring in old plastic bottles stuffed with trash they’ve collected. Hiking guides must bring in bottles for the privilege of leading Hacienda Merida’s guests. Locals can also pay with bottles for use of the hostel’s WiFi or massages. Additionally, Molina will pay $.22 per bottle out of the hostel’s profits to anyone who brings them in. Large families can stuff 30-40 bottles in one weekend and earn $8.00 extra for their needs.
What are the bottles used for? The answer is perhaps the most innovative part of this project! Hacienda Merida uses them as building material for construction projects! The bottles are used as the base and concrete is shaped around them to solidify the structures. So far a large picnic table and benches have been built, and a one-room schoolhouse to be used by local children is in progress. Molina is also planning to pay the teacher’s salary once the schoolhouse is up and running.
It was great to see this unique, environmentally sustainable project being unselfishly funded by a successful hostel. Hacienda Merida is a prime example of what can happen when a business invests in taking care of the local community and environment!
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