There is a special feeling that comes from respecting nature rather than being antithetical to it -- especially in a place like Bonaire that is ABOUT nature. Here are some suggestions to help you to understand what to expect during your Salentein stay and to work with us in our efforts to make Villa Salentein as sustainable as possible.
Use the A/C judiciously. Electricity is expensive to produce on Bonaire. Our rooftop solar plant produces about 25 kw per day. A couple A/C units run all night at 24 C use up all that free power pretty dang quickly. Please keep A/C units set at 24 or above (you WILL be surprised at how cool your room will be at night at this temperature) and turn them on only during sleeping hours. If you are truly into the sport of sustainability or just don’t like A/C, ask your house manager how to set up your room to catch the trade wind breezes that provide natural A/C for much of the year.
Be aware of water consumption. Bonaire’s clean, potable water is produced through desalination and thus is like the aforementioned electricity…neither easy nor cheap to produce. Turn off the water when you lather up/shampoo; save the long, hot showers for home; be tolerant of the not-very-delightful smelling irrigation system, which reuses gray water from the house to water the plants in the garden.
Use your linens and towels for the week. Beyond this, be tolerant of linens that are not pristine. Famed naturalist David Attenborough says one of the most important actions we humans can take for the planet is to reduce waste whenever possible. We would rather not throw out linens simply because they have stains from the harsh island weather. Rest assured everything will be meticulously clean and soft as a baby’s bottom; it might just not look like the linens from your most recent stay at the Hilton.
And again with the anti-waste! We try to make sure the villa has on-hand essential household staples (dish/laundry detergents, cleaning products, full-service spice drawer, condiments, oils, vinegars, sugars, re-usable food storage bags/containers, aloe vera fresh from the garden, etc.) so guests do not have to “re-invent the pantry wheel” and buy all of this again and then throw it all out upon departure. Please feel free to use what is here and replace anything you finish, preferably with the least packaged product you can find.
Plastics and other trash: yikes! It’s really a challenge on Bonaire to avoid creating a boatload of trash during your stay. Most provisioning on island will involve purchasing stuff in plastic. Please join us in the Bonairean sport of avoiding plastics whenever possible in your purchasing. Embrace the policy of using/leaving staples (see previous bullet item).
Use reef-safe sunscreens to help protect Bonaire’s reefs from the toxic effects of chemicals in standard sunscreens. These better products — made with titanium oxide and/or zinc oxide — are available in many locations around the island. There is aloe in the garden for sunburns (see picture to the right). Slice a frond open to access the pure aloe gel inside.
Hang laundry: those beautiful stainless steel stairways and railings double as laundry drying lines. Is it unsightly to passing boaters. Yes! But who cares? Your clothes will smell and feel better and you will suddenly enjoy doing laundry again when you see the sun do its work to dry your things (okay: maybe “enjoy” is too strong a word). Clothespins are available in the basement laundry area for this purpose.
Recycle: there is a recycling center at the local market (Zhung Kong) a couple miles away in Hato. There is a kitchen bin to the left of the stove for recycling storage and overflow bins downstairs. Will this solve all the world’s trash problems? No it won’t (especially when it comes to the plastics that permeate island life and that are largely un-recyclable) but every little bit helps. Please note that If you leave without taking the recycling to the small center at the Hato market, it will all just be thrown out with the regular trash.
You will need to be okay with all manner of creatures both delightful and loathsome. This is a tropical island; everything wants to live here and the bugs, in particular, rule (from delightful butterflies to loathsome cockroaches). We have found over many years of living here that by letting nature find its own way, we can avoid the endless cycle of spraying and otherwise trying to eradicate annoying Bonairean creatures only to have them return once the poisons wear off. So we have permanently decided to eschew conventional pest/weed controls because of the damage these do to the coral reefs, the beneficial plants and animals, our own pets and our own health. If something is particularly loathsome and/or annoying, we will do our best with the environmentally safe resources we employ to deal with the problem.Be aware that the ants really will come marching in if you leave food out for long periods of time. They are also world-class cleaners of all sorts of villa messes, so we generally leave them alone but discourage their kitchen picnic raiding in any way we can, except for…you guessed it…trying to eliminate them with toxic chemicals.
A special note about skeeters: You can file mosquitoes under the “loathsome” part of Bonaire’s nature. As much as we would like this not to be true, the simple fact is that Bonaire and mosquitos go hand-in-hand. We could spray and spray and spray for 4,000 years and until the entire villa is enshrined in a permanent halo of anti-mosquito fog (as many places on this island do) and still…there would be mosquitoes. Sometimes they are bad (fall rainy season) and sometimes they are not bad at all (dry season). From our many years as part-time Bonaireans, we can offer some suggestions that help vs. the little bee-ahtches. First: they are most active in the early morning and after dark. Slather up during these times with whatever product you like best, whether this is sprays containing DEET or the natural stuff that we prefer and that has to be re-applied more frequently. Second: keep your bedroom doors closed to prevent mosquitoes from getting in. Netting around the beds works great to keep the bugs from bugging you, particularly if you gently tuck the nets in. Third: run the fans when you are working in the kitchen or sitting on the patio; the little buggers hate wind.
Just like the island government will not be perfect in its efforts to be "blue", we will also be learning as we go and trying our best to honor the nature of Bonaire first and foremost as we both live in and share our house with others. Thank you for reading and for considering Villa Salentein for your island getaway!