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At Apu Lodge we are creating a sustainable business that will make Ollantaytambo a better place to visit and a better place to live. We take this challenge very seriously: the owner of Apu Lodge, Louise Norton, has studied online for a Masters in Responsible Tourism Management, learning about how to make tourism more socially, environmentally and economically responsible. TripAdvisor has recognised our efforts with a Gold Level Green Leaders award. Listed below are some of our actions.
We fund one full time wage for the physiotherapist at Yanapasun Therapy Centre in the nearby town of Urubamba, where the team works with people with various disabilities. Extra donations from guests for this project are always welcome. We also make regular donations to support other local events and organizations, for example the publication of educational books and refreshments for local volunteers on river and mountain clean-ups.
Apu Lodge was built in 2006-2008 from natural, local materials, including stone, adobe, wood, local roof tiles, glass and local plaster. The adobe bricks that make up most of the construction are naturally insulating and absorb heat from the sun during the day and release it at night. They keep the rooms cool during the day and warm at night when temperatures drop. Most guests do not require heating, but we do have some heaters on hand for those that do. Traditional adobe constructions are cosier and more attractive than the concrete alternative.
We irrigate only with water from the river, which is channelled along the back of the terrace where the lodge is built, as it has been for centuries. We do not use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers, just our own vegetable compost , animal manure and sprays made from spicy peppers and other organic matter. Our garden supplies greens for breakfast omelettes and some vegetables for the restaurant.
Most of our consumables are purchased locally. Biodegradable natural soap for guest rooms is made in Cusco by a small local company. The creamy greek yogurt for breakfast is delivered from a nearby organic farm. Fruit is bought weekly from a truck that travels from the jungle. Toilet paper is purchased at a local shop in Ollantaytambo. We travel by public transport to Cusco city about once a month to buy coffee (grown regionally), replacement sheets, and other items. Our location at the end of a pedestrian street in a town two hours from the nearest supermarket means every purchase is carefully considered, reducing our consumption.
All our sheets, towel and other laundry are dried outside on site; we do not have a tumble drier. All light-bulbs are energy saving and we switch off most outside lights after 9pm. The lodge does not own any transport other than a non-motorised tricycle cart and we use public transport to make purchases. We are always happy to give information on public transport to our guests: Ollantaytambo is very well-served by buses to surrounding communities, and trains to Machu Picchu.
We provide free filtered water for our guests, reducing use of plastic bottles. We facilitate plastic bottle recycling by providing baskets for used bottles. Although there is no glass recycling in Ollantaytambo, we take used wine bottles to be refilled with Peruvian olive oil, which we purchase from a local Pizzeria. Our pricing encourages guests to purchase beer in larger bottles which can be returned and reused, rather than the small bottles which are no longer reusable. Our restaurant uses fresh, locally purchased ingredients that require little or no packaging. Waste food is composted or taken by a neighbour for her pig.
Local women come on mornings that are convenient for them to weave and display their products for sale in the garden. We can also organize taxi tours to weaving communities for those that wish to visit. Other local craftspeople who can give workshops include potters, a wood carver and cooks. The paintings at the Lodge belong to a local gallery, Aliz Art, and many are by the owners, artists Liz and Juan.
Apu Lodge provides well-paid employment, health care, paid holidays and training to several local staff. We are proud that staff stay with us for long periods: some learn so much working at the Lodge that they go on to start their own businesses. Training includes one-on-one English classes, discussion of environmental good practice and on-the-job training in accountancy, administration, hygiene, cooking and many other skills. All of our staff earn well above minimum wage. Tips and all of the restaurant service charge are shared among staff.
The owner of Apu Lodge, Louise Norton, lived in Ollantaytambo for 13 years and her children were born there. She was, for several years, Vice President of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants and worked closely with the municipality to plan for more sustainable tourism in Ollantaytambo. She is also a Founder and Director of Leap Local, a website for local guides and services, where users can search for and recommend guides from anywhere in the world. Previous roles include Project Director at The Alma Children’s Education Foundation and Director at The Inka Porter Project. Her MSc in Responsible Tourism Management is from Leeds Beckett University in the UK and her first degree is a BA (Cantab.) in Social and Political Sciences.