Being a conservation-minded and generally guilty person, I will cop to feeling sheepish about the resources a villa like Salentein uses on a parched island like Bonaire.
Ben and I eye with dismay the water surging from the shower heads in the villa’s bathrooms. We engage in a love-hate relationship with the wall A/C units in Salentein’s six bedrooms. We listen in horror to the constantly running second fridge in the basement.
The worry is about the environment, yes. But, of course, it is also about The Wallet. To see one of our WEB (water/electricity Bonaire) bills after a solid month of rentals/occupancy is to suffer from a sort of chin-to-chest eye-popping wonder that very few residential utility users can relate to.
When we are at the villa, we do our best to be cognizant of the Salentein strain on Bonaire’s resources. We take short showers (and harass the kids to do the same); we run fans at night instead of the A/C units (and harass the kids to do the same); we use the recycling facility on Kaya Industria to dispose of much of our recyclable trash (and harass the kids to do the same). You get the picture.
As owners of the villa, we know that a little suffering in the pursuit of environmental and wallet correctness is acceptable. We realize, however, that our guests probably have little interest in both paying and suffering.
So our first step in being stewards of a Villa Salentein that does not use more than her fair share of resources -- while also not requiring guests to sweat during their Bonaire vacays -- will be to install solar panels on the east-facing roof of the villa. This decision did not come without some degree of hand-wringing; the roof is one of the most recognizable and beautiful features of the villa. Our compromise in installing the 8250Wp solar plant (that will be able to generate more than 14,000 kilowatt hours per year, producing about half of our average yearly consumption) is that the panels will be installed on the side of the house that will not be visible from the water. I think solar panels are beautiful anywhere you put them (see these tracking units in our fields in NH); Ben demurs. Either way, Walter Schut of Q-Solar assures us he will take great care to ensure the roof tiles of Salentein are well cared for.
Walter (husband of the amazing Femke, who so seamlessly and honestly manages Salentein when we are not on the island) will soon be starting the work to free Salentein from some portion of her massive grid reliance.
Solar is step 1. Stay tuned for information on Step 2: the installation of at least two “Evening Breeze” over-bed climate control systems. We first encountered this innovative, ecologically friendly, healthier climate control system during our recent trip to Africa and fell in love with it for three reasons -- the quiet, the energy efficiency (EveningBreeze uses 60-80 percent less energy than a standard A/C unit), and the health benefits related to creating a microclimate of “cool” over the bed for sleeping (the only time you need A/C in Bonaire). It looks pretty darn good too.