Checked-Out

This past week I managed to do my interviews with some of the hotel’s staff. I talked to people from the CARE committee, which is a voluntary program that takes care of the social responsibility of the establishment. I spoke with some of the managers from the many different departments at the hotel and a few other staff members that work in different areas.

The whole evidence collection was challenging. I did not quite collect everything, especially what was necessary from the maintenance department. Its manager was always busy.

From what I have gathered and after talking to people, it seems like most of the staff have learned about sustainable practices elsewhere and not necessarily from the hotel’s. However, the hotel has supported certain common practices such as recycling, and being conscious about the water and energy use. 

I was surprise to hear practices by some which are not necessarily implemented at the hotel. I have to recognize that the hotel is located in a challenging area where the infrastructure and social structures are lacking. In addition, a lot of factories are located within the same area which contributes to bad odors and a degrading environment.

A hotel of this size and its theme as a resort do not necessarily mind the outside. They do have some ongoing social projects, where the community is being helped. However, the programs only target a partial aspect of what is affecting the community as a whole. This situation becomes a paradox for the Certification of Sustainable Tourism, which also promotes the sustainability of not only the hotel, but of the whole community.

Overall, I got a good impression of the Human Resources department, which is where I spent most of my time. They seemed pretty well organized and I got good feedback from outsiders of the department. It was a good place to spend my time and get an overall sense of the culture of the people at the hotel.

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It was important to see that the subject has gained relevance within the country. I found that most people are familiar with the concept, even more than people in South Florida. I was able to visit other hostels in different areas where the initiatives for resource conservation were more apparent. 

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I got back to South Florida yesterday afternoon, and I will now be writing my final paper. I was able to meet great people and made some friendships. I appreciate this opportunity and I am ready to move  on J

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Three out of four

Week 3
I participated in a office briefing on Monday. I have been working with the team of human resources and we each shared our contributions to the hotel. I thought I was almost done with my project, however, I realize that I still have some evidence left to organize.
I went down the list of the different criteria required under the Certification for Sustainable Tourism, and was able to understand specifics of what I am missing. The people from the IT department recently complained because of all the data I have been uploading to the shared network – which only means that I have been doing my work
This week I also met with the maintenance manager who gave me a walk through and showed me his different initiatives to conserve water and energy. He is trying to have the different departments lower down energy consumption during peak hours. He has been installing waterless urinals and low flow aerators gradually, but most of the hotel still requires to retrofit to water saving devices.
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I visited different areas and took more pictures and gathered more documents…
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I was also assigned with creating an activity for the upcoming International World Environment Day on June 4th. I am creating a table top display to use in the staff cafeteria.
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This year’s theme regards consumption, particularly in terms of food, food waste and food insecurity. It’s been kind of difficult to figure out the message that I want to communicate. I wanted to write about vegetarianism as a sustainable alternative for consumption. However, my supervisor did not think it was relevant or important enough.  She wants me to write about recycling, which works too.
Chao for now. I will be going on a little trip tomorrow.
Pura Vida,
Catalina

Evidence Collection

This week I was a bit more active. I had to visit different departments within the hotel. On Monday I gathered microbiologic reports from the maintenance department. I saw how rigorous these reports can be. They evaluate the quality of water in their ice machines, the rooms, and the pools. The Certification for Sustainable Tourism has a criterion for Water Consumption with an indicator for the establishment to conduct a water quality test on a regular basis. This has to be done by an external entity which has to guarantee the quality of water and ice for human consumption. For the criterion on External Clients, I have been visiting Team Members from the Guest Services department. They have been providing me with  evidence of the information given to guest. For example, they promote Law 6084 to not feed the animals. And other environmental indicators that promote tours and activities to Protected Natural Areas and the interaction among the guest, the community and nature.

Don't Feed the Animals
Don’t Feed the Animals

Another indicator under External Clients is about encouraging guest to reduce water and energy consumption. The DoubleTree offers an initiative to Reduce and Reuse. If they don’t want their towel changed it should be left hanging, otherwise thrown on the floor. Sheets are changed every three days unless the guest places the card on the bed.

I visited the kitchen, where I gathered evidence on their promotion of regional and traditional dishes. I’m waiting to get statements from the food providers stating that they in fact source locally  and that the fish is caught responsibly. I was also able to talk to a chemical engineer from Ecolab. They have a contract with the hotel for biodegradable products used for cleaning the facilities, as well as dish-washing and laundry. He provided me with data sheets for every single product and an statement declaring that their products are environmentally friendly and that they use recycled or  reused containers.  It’s been most difficult to sit down with the managers from the purchasing and the maintenance departments. Apparently they do have a lot on their plate.

I have been working pretty independently on this whole evidence gathering. I really don’t have anyone giving me deadlines, or checking on my progress. I rather feel the need to report on what I have been doing. It seems like is up to me to complete as much as I can. Today, I requested to be reviewed or have a quick evaluation so I know where I’m standing. I only have two more weeks left. I figured I’ll do the interviews, for my research, late next week or my last week after that.

Salud,

Cata

40 hours a week

Limpieza de Playa

My reception was nice. The hotel sent a driver to pick me up at the airport and they gave me 5 complementary nights, all included. This was my first week back to a 40 hour work week schedule. It has been while. However, people here work 48 hours a week and so I should probably consider myself lucky. Almost two years ago the hotel obtained the level 4 certification out of 5. In August, the hotel will have to file for the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) for the second time, and so I was assigned with the big task to refresh and/or collect all necessary evidence for this application. The certification has 4 different categories for performance:

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  1. Physical-biological parameters: Evaluates the physical interaction of the organization and its surrounding natural habitat.
  2. Infrastructure and services: Evaluates the company’s systems or processes for waste management and technologies for the conservation of energy and water.
  3. External clients: Evaluates management’s actions to encourage the company’s guest to participate in the implementation of the policies for sustainability.
  4. Socio-economic environment: Evaluates the identification and interaction of the establishment with the adjacent communities, e.g., it analyzes the level of involvement and response to the growth and development of the region, throughout employment opportunities or other collective benefits.

The CST in Costa Rica is known as one of the most rigorous certification schemes worldwide. Each category has a lot of sub-categories and individual elements to prove. We are supposed to collect 3 evidences per requirement which is equal to a lot of material. I have so far created a table with the inventory of all the different evidence available. My idea is to use it for the new application and to track the evidence that needs to be renewed or refreshed. I have to say that I am pretty impressed with all the efforts and initiatives by the hotel. Also, it is nice to see the wider impact possible due to their large operations. They are able to host over 1,000 guests and have over 500 employees on site. Lots of trainings are conducted around sustainability for all various departments. Moreover, I like to see how everyone I meet in Costa Rica is well aware about the concept of sustainability. I do not have to explain myself too much when I tell people about my visit to the country. Yesterday we had a beach clean up along with kids from the community and some volunteers from the red cross.

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