Sustainable tourism has been defined as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment”, as recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a suitable balance between environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development needs to be established to guarantee long-term sustainability. +
In the historic district of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, we discovered a hidden gem consisting of a bed & breakfast lodging that distinguishes for its creative sustainable practices implemented through its service, the facility’s decor, and the use of energy-efficient materials and renewable energy sources. The peculiar practices implemented by Casa Sol B&B represent a genuine example of dedication and commitment to benefit the environment, support local businesses and promote Puerto Rico’s culture, resulting in an enriching experience for Casa Sol’s guests.
In 2013, Eddie Ramírez and Margarita Pastor (a/k/a Tisha) founded Casa Sol, which is located in a beautiful colonial-style building in Old San Juan. The designs of mahogany wooden beds and elegant and teak-wooden doors and teakwood-louvered windows in Casa Sol’s 5 rooms reminded us of Spain’s influence on the island of Puerto Rico.
We were impressed by the meticulousness and great care invested by Casa Sol’s owners in order to implement sustainable practices. We discovered that some of these practices have been implemented in the first area visited by a guest: the room.
While we explored the Adoquín room, we learned the story behind the rooms’ main wooden creations and how these are the result of Casa Sol’s practice to reuse materials. The rooms’ doors and louvered windows were made of teakwood that was part of a vessel’s floor, as stated by Eddie. Casa Sol’s creativity also took place when it restored and modified the wooden beds, considering the beds were created partially by a local wooden bed manufacturer that did not finish their fabrication.
The Adoquín Room also showed this B&B’s commitment to support local businesses. For instance, Begoña, a peculiar and radiant rag doll that was lying on the Adoquín room’s bed, is a handcrafted creation made by a local artisanship business known as Mundo Monino. Eddie explained that Moninos rag dolls were “given birth to” in each of Casa Sol’s rooms as artisan, Gloribel Delgado Esquilín, created the distinctive Moninos while she got inspired in each room. According to Eddie, each of these dolls has its own personality, which is described in a small book created by Mundo Monino. He gladly stated that Casa Sol’s guests love these rag dolls, and that some guests contact the artisan to request the creation of their one and only Monino.
Also, Casa Sol’s rooms were decorated with flowers purchased from a supplier located in the Municipality of Ciales, as informed by Eddie. The walls’ decor included artwork depicting Puerto Rico’s history and culture such as landmark sites in Old San Juan and illustrations of the traditional Three Kings that Puerto Ricans commemorate on January 6 every year.
Dark chocolates created by a local cacao-farming business, Loíza Dark, were found in the Adoquín room’s night table. Eddie stated that Loíza Dark chocolates and a popsicle-style ice cream elaborated by Señor Paleta, a local ice cream shop in Old San Juan, are offered to the B&B’s guests as welcome gifts. We must say that these artisanal products were delicious.
Besides the B&B’s support to local businesses, Eddie informed that Casa Sol engages in practices to contribute for the conservation of the environment. He showed us how some of these practices are implemented in Casa Sol’s bathrooms. For instance, the bathrooms’ water-efficient showerheads spray around 1.5 gallons of water per minute, as stated by Eddie. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, standard showerheads spray around 2.5 gallons of water per minute. ++
Also, Casa Sol’s guests may press a button to reduce the intensity of the showerhead’s water flow while they are lathering themselves. According to Eddie, the reduction of the water spray’s intensity is recommended rather than turning off the showerhead while lathering because the water temperature stays the same while the water flow’s intensity has been reduced. Eddie explained that when people turn off the showerhead and turn it on again to rinse, more water is consumed since they usually wait until the water reaches the desired temperature.
While Eddie showed us a 5-minute timer placed in the bathroom, we learned that Casa Sol’s guests have the option to accept the 5-minute shower challenge.
As we walked through Casa Sol’s hallway towards the inner patio, we could not resist staring at beautiful artisanal-clay lamps on the hallway’s walls. These lamps were specifically handcrafted for Casa Sol by local ceramic artist, Yelín Vivoni, as informed by Eddie. Also, the B&B co-owner stated that the practice to use LED-bulbs contributes to efficient-energy use; and that Casa Sol’s programming to turn on and off the bulbs during specific periods of time contributes to energy conservation.
Once we reached the inner patio, we saw the location of an underground cistern. Eddie explained that in the past this cistern was used to store rainwater. He proudly stated that Casa Sol cleaned and restored the cistern, which currently stores a maximum of 3,000 gallons of drinking water. A pump was inserted in the cistern to serve as a water filter system, as explained by Eddie.
In addition, Casa Sol installed renewable energy equipment on the facility. A solar water heating system comprised of 120-gallon and 80-gallon water-storage tanks was installed on the building’s terrace. Eddie explained that the sun heats a serpentine tube that serves as the solar thermal collector in the interior of each tank. If the day were cloudy, Casa Sol would connect the water-storage tanks to a receptacle. Eddie stated that in this event the water would be heated by the electricity generated by means of Casa Sol’s solar panels.
Casa Sol’s co-owner also showed us thirty solar panels that are used for the production of all the electricity necessary for this lodging’s operations, according to him. He explained that the photovoltaic solar panel system converts sunlight into electricity. He emphasized that in order to significantly reduce electricity costs, the production of electricity needs to be almost as twice as the amount of the electricity that the facility consumes. He stated that the surplus amount of the electricity produced is sold by Casa Sol to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
In view of Casa Sol’s renewable energy equipment and the implementation of practices that contribute to efficient-energy use and the reduction of electricity consumption, Casa Sol has accomplished to reduce its electricity costs by 80%, as stated by Eddie. Simply impressive!
Furthermore, Casa Sol's breakfasts have given guests a taste of local food ingredients. This B&B has focused on serving appetizing breakfasts that let guests savor Puerto Rico’s local food cooked in a very creative way, and accompanied with fresh spices grown in Casa Sol’s garden. Guests may be surprised with brioche-French toasts filled with lady finger bananas (“guineos niño” in Spanish) served with syrup made of tropical fruit marmalade manufactured in Puerto Rico and maple syrup, and accompanied with fresh mint. Eddie stated that the brioche is elaborated in a local bakery located in the Municipality of Aguadilla.
Guests may also enjoy the flavors of scrambled eggs with local seasoned pork sausage (“longaniza” in Spanish) and fried medium ripe plantain slices known as “amarillos”, accompanied with fresh basil. This pork sausage may be considered a delicacy due to its artisanal elaboration by some restaurants in the Municipality of Orocovis.
Whether you are an eco-conscious traveler or someone who is interested in special-quality lodging service, Casa Sol is a must-do. Don’t take for granted this hidden gem located in Old San Juan. Casa Sol has been recognized as a sustainable tourism facility by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, and has received the following eco-labels: Green Key certification, Trip Advisor’s Green Leaders Platinum, and the Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Performance Stewardship (STEP) endorsement, issued by the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association. For reservations, you may contact Casa Sol at 787-399-0105 or 787-980-9700.