All staff and visitors play important parts in our many successes.
Upon arrival, every guest is informed of our recycling program and encouraged to separate their refuse for recycling. Blue bins are located throughout the camp. We recycle 100% of all aluminum cans, glass, and clear plastic bottles. Although we cannot recycle some common waste in the Virgin Islands, we have developed innovative ways to reduce and reuse these materials.
Fresh water is the most precious commodity on islands like St. John that have no lakes, aquifers or permanent surface water supply. Maho Bay Resorts pays particular attention to this issue. Our average water consumption per guest / day is 25 gallons, whereas most resorts use as much as 300 gallons per guest / day.
Rain Water catchments on almost every building at Maho Bay Camps collect about 345,000 gallons of rainwater a year. This supplies water to the laundry, housekeeping facilities and the bathhouses. During periods of good rainfall, all the water for our bathhouses may be pure, filtered rainwater.
Gravity provides a clean and reliable energy source in the hilly environment of St. John. Wherever possible, our cisterns are strategically located so that water can flow without external energy sources.
Heating Water with solar energy at Concordia Eco-tents allows us to minimize energy use. In tropical environments, with temperatures in the 80's year-round, hot water is seldom needed. Our guests at Maho Bay Camps report enjoying cool, refreshing showers and we save enormous amounts of energy.
Our washing machines use minimal water as well as minimal energy. We use 100% biodegradable laundry detergent and limit the amount of bleach we use to a minimum. Since our laundry is done without the use of harsh chemicals, the resultant wastewater stream becomes a viable water source for secondary usage. We also supply all of our tent-cabins with 100% natural biodegradable dish soap. We cut old sheets and towels into strips for use as cleaning rags. This not only extends the life of these items while providing an excellent cleaning material, but eliminates the use of paper towels for cleaning purposes.
Sanitation & Water Treatment
Spring action faucets and showers prevent waste. Low-flush toilets save up to 3 gallons per flush. Our first clean and odor-free waterless urinals, made by The Waterless Company, were installed in 1997. We save 12,000 to 15,000 gallons per year with this new technology. We carefully monitor water use every day. Running toilets (a common problem) can drain as much as 2,000 gallons of water a day. At Maho Bay Camps, we ask our guests to shower only during certain times of the day to distribute the demand.
Wastewater is pumped into a large aeration tank. Here, nature's own bacteria break down and separate the solids. The system uses a process designed by the Santec Corporation specifically for our small capacity. The entire system uses gravity reducing back ups. Sifting and chlorinating leave a clear liquid ready for reuse in our organic orchard and garden.
We make good use of 2,000 to 7,000 gallons of "grey water" a day without allowing any to go into the bay. Lateral water lines carry the nutrient-rich effluent to the surrounding vegetation and to our organic orchard where we grow bananas, oranges, okra, limes, lemons, luffa gourds and papaya.
Rain catchment from the shed and restaurant provides water for our organic garden where we grow a variety of edible and decorative plants including herbs for the kitchen. The garden beds are built from concrete that contains crushed recycled glass, and upside down bottles which minimize cement use and recycles even more glass.
On the southeast end of St. John, Concordia Eco-Tents are equipped with odorless composting toilets that minimize water use and impact on the environment and maximize conservation.
At Maho, our wastewater treatment plant presents us with the challenging problem of disposing of 2,000-7,000 gallons of daily water output without allowing any wastewater to enter the bay. We have solved this problem by using gravity to transport the purified water from the treatment plant through lateral water lines that carry the nutrient-rich effluent water to our adjacent terraced organic orchard where we grow bananas.
Recycle, Re-use, Reduce
Glass, including bottles, is collected in bins throughout the campground. They are sorted, crushed and mixed for use in non-structural applications.
Some glass is selected, washed, labels removed, crushed and sent to a special rebirthing station. Owner Stanley Selengut dedicated the Maho Bay Glass Re-manufacturing Facility in 1997. With the help of visiting glass artists, it has been producing high quality glass art and utilitarian objects ever since. These beautiful creations are sold in our gift shop. The proceeds help to support this and other environmental efforts at Maho Bay's new Trash to Treasure Art Center.
Visiting artists demonstrate glass blowing and casting techniques for guests and teach our staff basic skills of the art. This has become one of our most popular events and has encouraged us to explore other ways to turn trash to treasures. Maho Bay Camps is the only resort we know of with a facility dedicated to glass re-manufacturing from recycled bottles.
Aluminum Cans are collected and trucked by boat to St. Thomas where they are compacted and shipped back to the states to an aluminum foundry to be melted and made into new products.
Paper packaging is a serious waste management problem. Because St. John has limited resources, islanders must import many products and materials from the mainland. The landfill on St. Thomas consists of as much as 55% paper packaging refuse. At Maho Bay, we shred waste paper and use it as packing material for glass and other crafts.
We make every effort to reduce and reuse paper. We keep registration forms and other paperwork to a minimum and encourage departing guests to return maps and guides to the desk for reuse. Whenever possible, photocopies are double sided. Paper used on one side, envelopes and file folders are reused for rough drafts and scratch paper. We do not use paper plates or cups in our restaurant, and all new paper materials contain a high percentage of recycled fibers. Newspapers are reused throughout our properties. We recently installed electric hand dryers to determine if reducing the use of paper towels will justify the increased energy use.
We encourage our guests to recycle and reuse, but sometimes, especially when it's time to pack and leave, people have items they just can't use. In our continuing effort to reduce the amount of waste we produce, we created an area where guests can leave items that are no longer of use to them but might be appreciated by someone else. As the saying goes: one person's trash is the next person's treasure. The "Help Yourself" area has space for dried goods, perishables, books and magazines, kids' stuff, and beach gear. In this way, what might have ended up in a landfill becomes an unexpected gift.
Abundant sunlight in St. John makes solar energy an efficient and responsible choice although grid power is available as a backup. High-efficiency photovoltaic roof panels provide energy for lights, appliances and other equipment. With the construction of 25 Concordia Eco-tents we were able to create a living space that was totally supported by renewable technologies. We collect solar energy thru photo-voltaic cells to energize a refrigerator, fans, water pump and electric lights. A cistern, solar hot water heater and a composting toilet adds bathroom convenience without environmental impact. Space-age fabrics provide great strength and come in colors which blend into the landscape. And the super-relective roof fabric maintains a temperature much cooler under the fabric than on the surface, and provides a perfect surface for water collection.
Concordia's tent-cottages feature showers that use hand pumps to fill a tank on the roof and gravity feed solar heated water to the showerhead.
Both Maho Bay Camps and Estate Concordia Preserve have restaurants that share a commitment to sustainability and responsible consumption. Our restaurant staff coordinates purchase orders with the store, gift shop and laundry to minimize deliveries. This saves fuel and reduce noise and air pollution. Our large shed provides ample storage space and helps our suppliers save time fuel. To eliminate wasteful individually packaged, single-use items, we bulk-order all condiments and keep them in centrally located, refillable containers.
We use only reusable plates, glasses and utensils in the restaurant. Heat producing compressors for refrigerators and freezers are outside the restaurant, reducing the need to cool the kitchen. Vents in the walls allow refreshing breezes from our open-air pavilion to circulate.
Maho Bay Camps and Estate Concordia Preserve have attracted praise from environmental organizations for their creative and consistent use of environmentally friendly, "green" building materials. Items as diverse as garbage bags, old automobiles, ketchup bottles and light bulbs have been recycled and taken on a second life as components of Maho Bay Resorts. As Selengut puts it, "a lot of these buildings come from trash." Moreover, many of the furniture items in the store, the administrative offices and in individual tent-cabins-were built from recycled or reused materials that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill.
In addition to our commitment to using recycled building materials, we were determined to create a resort that harmonized with, rather than replaced, the existing natural environment. The 114 tent-cabins of Maho Bay are built on raised 16' x16' platforms; sites for these tent-cabins, as well as for the other Maho Bay buildings (the restaurant, store, registration, bathhouses, administrative offices and the dining pavilion) were chosen to minimize environmental damage. All buildings are connected by raised walkways to prevent vegetation from being trampled. Ground cover and other plant and animal life continues to flourish underneath the raised walkways and tent-cabins, and the trees and vegetation whose lives we spared return the favor by protecting us and our guests from the hot tropical sun.
We made every effort to use environmentally sound building materials in the construction of Maho Bay Resorts. We used composite lumber in building Harmony Studios and Concordia Eco-Tents, and throughout our resorts we used recycled, reused, or energy-efficient products. In order to reduce heat emissions and electricity use, the lights in all of our service buildings are florescent. While our administrative offices are air conditioned, sections of the office have individual units so that only occupied areas are cooled. Air conditioning units are always turned off when the area is vacated. In addition, the office is equipped with reflective windows with a specially treated coating that provides the lowest possible emissivity (passing of heat from the outside to the inside).
The 114 tent-cabins of Maho Bay Camps and the 12 Harmony Studios are connected by a network of over three miles of wooden walkways. These boardwalks were designed to have the lowest possible impact on the existing vegetation. As a result, the walkways frequently take a sudden turn around a tree or rock; in some place, boards have even been cut away to leave growing room for an existing tree. The undisturbed vegetation helps shade most of the boardwalk, providing a pleasant alternative to destructive, heat absorbing paved pathways.
Because of our construction methods, the ground cover at Maho Bay has also remained intact. This not only provides us with protection from the elements, but also prevented construction runoff from spoiling our fragile reef and bay. You also won't find any unsightly electric lines spoiling your views at Maho Bay: to minimize disturbance to the environment, our electric and water lines either run along the ground or, in many cases, are attached to the underside of our boardwalks.
Our Building Materials Sourcebook is an excellent resource cataloging the environmentally-friendly building materials used at Maho Bay resorts, including a complete list of manufacturers, and links to many suppliers who provide materials and services to the ecotourism community.