Eco Review: La Casa del Mundo

By Cynthia Ord

At XelaWho, we do our part environmentally by passing the buck to those who are doing their part. With so many lodges, restaurants, and other tourist services claiming to be “eco” this and “green” that, our team of investigative journalists asks industry operators all the tough questions.

This month, we visited lakeside resort La Casa Del Mundo in the small town of El Jaibalito, Atitlan. The lodge doesn’t even advertise itself as “eco” but does claim to be “Guatemala’s most magical hotel”. A walk through the beautiful gardens and terraces expose both its magic and its eco-responsibility.

If you’re lucky, you’ll run into Bill, the American who founded the hotel alongside his Guatemalan wife Rosy. They began building in 1988 and after 9 years of construction, the hotel opened for business in 1997. La Casa del Mundo now boasts 16 bedrooms overlooking the lake, and employs 38 Guatemalans.

Ask Bill about environmental self-sustainability, and he’ll tell you his hotel is “the greenest place on Lake Atitlan.” He can also show you why this is true. La Casa del Mundo is the only place around Atitlan that disposes of waste water without dumping into the lake. Bill designed a $30k water system that filters waste water, then pumps it upward and away from the lake each day. The water is safely expelled into the ground, where trees now thrive.

What happens to all the muck in the filters? It gets emptied into the compost bins, and the compost gets used to fertilize the hotel’s abundant gardens. In fact, nearly all the hotel’s waste is recycled. Organic waste goes to compost, and plastics are recycled in Panajachel, where Rosy serves on the recycling committee. In the course of a month, the entire hotel generates a mere three trash bags of unusable waste. That’s what I would call resourceful. Additionally, the hotel has invested heavily in solar power. The hotel relies on twelve solar panels to heat the water. During the rainy season, the solar heating must be supplemented occasionally by about 5% propane heating, but in the dry season, solar energy is more than sufficient. Bill envisions a day when solar energy will be efficient enough to provide both electricity and hot water for the hotel. Way to be stewards of the earth, Casa del Mundo.

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