More than Ten Years without Single Use Plastics and Counting…

It’s mid-2019 and there’s no denying that the movement against single-use plastics is well underway. We’re excited that it’s finally taken off and thank our friend Susan Goldberg, Chief Editor at National Geographic, and her team for their report on plastic last year. It really seems like the concept caught on.

This is the Cover of National Geographic Magazine that raised awareness about Single Use Plastics.

Now a hot topic, guests of our hotels and lodges often ask us about how we deal with single use plastics.  When we tell them that we got rid of plastic bottles almost 20 years ago and plastic straws 10 years ago, there’s generally a reaction of surprise and almost always a nod of admiration. 

All those years ago, the founders of the Cayuga Collection embarked on a quest to pioneer a style of sustainable hospitality at Lapa Rios Lodge on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Back then in 1999, it was the norm for beverages to be served in glass bottles that would then be reused. However, in 2005, Coca Cola attempted to introduce plastic bottles as an easier and cheaper alternative.

When a beverage company introduces plastic bottles to local communities, there is seldom the capacity to deal with the trashed bottles and that leads to massive pollution of rivers, beaches and oceans.

Thanks to the wise resistance led by a group of lodges and the Women of the Osa – a local NGO of which the Cayuga Collection’s Co-Founder Andrea Bonilla was a board member –, the decision was reversed and Coca Cola continued to deliver glass bottles. Read the whole story in the Tico Times article from September 2005 here.  

As for banishing plastic straws, the initiative – like so many other great sustainability hacks at Cayuga – was started by a staff member. At the Harmony Hotel in Nosara, there was a growing frustration with plastic straws washing up on the beach. In response, we asked the staff for ideas (the best we could come up with was importing paper straws), and it was Don Tino, one of the hotel’s gardeners, that came up with the game-changing solution.

Two of Tino’s straws at the Juice Bar of the Harmony Hotel in Nosara, where the story began.

Don Tino’s idea was to turn the little “bamboo shoots” growing on his farm into biodegradable straws. That was a decade ago and since then we’ve been using them at all of the Cayuga Collection properties. Needless to say, Don Tino is no longer a gardener, but rather the owner of a successful sustainable straw manufacturing company. 

If we weren’t already convinced at the Cayuga Collection that single-use plastics were a plague on the planet, our corporate retreat back in 2017 only fueled the fire. Together we kayaked to an island in the Gulf of Nicoya and between us collected some 50 large bags of discarded plastics that had washed up on the shore. It was a thought-provoking experience and one that inspired us to take an even closer look at the issue.

The Cayuga Management Team on Isla San Lucas after collecting bags and bags of plastic trash at the beach.

Since then, we’ve been working on the next steps. With plastic straws and bottles already gone, the next to go were plastic bags in housekeeping. Today, we are on our way to eliminating plastic packaging from the kitchen and bar areas. It’s not an easy task, but the general awareness today helps and it feels like we have public support in our efforts.


It’s never easy to be a pioneer – if you have any innovative ideas on how to replace the harder-to-avoid single use plastics we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and we’d be glad to experiment across the collection.

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