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from the jungle to the junction

Photo by Totoco Ecolodge

Author: Nathalie Dulong

Bare Market blogger Nathalie had an in-depth discussion with her sister, Nicole, about her recent time spent living in an eco lodge in Nicaragua. They discuss waste management in developing countries, off-grid living and  the privileges of sustainability.


My sister Nicole is committed to sustainable living and development. Over the summer and fall, she took a sustainable building course at the Endeavour Centre in Peterborough and was the on-site waste coordinator for a large building project. She also recently came back from living in Nicaragua for one year at an off-grid eco lodge. We discussed the impacts those experiences had on her and what she learned during her time there.

Off Grid Living In Nicaragua

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with most locals living on an unsteady wage of $2 US/day.

The eco lodge was put in place to employ locals and practice sustainability and permaculture techniques, while enjoying the peace and tranquility of living in a tropical, beach town.   

The lodge was run exclusively on solar power and well water, had chickens running around which supplied eggs (and entertainment), and orchards and gardens to supply fruits and vegetables. To really keep their ecological footprint to a minimum, there were dogs that ate most leftovers and vermiculture composting areas for the rest [of the waste].

    Photo by Totoco Ecolodge

    Jungle Pollution

    Nicole noted that single-use plastic and Styrofoam are relatively inexpensive materials, and thus are extremely prevalent in Nicaragua. As she insightfully put it, “You really can’t blame them. Climate change and pollution are not a luxury they have time to fight or care for day to day”.

    However, this outlook, accompanied by a non-existent recycling program and lackluster garbage disposal methods comes at a cost. Every non-biodegradable item, unless repurposed in some way, makes its way to the jungle floor, ocean, riverbed or local landfill.

    Repurposing Waste

    Although the Nicaraguan locals she interacted with weren’t concerned about waste in relation to climate change, they were concerned about waste in general, and would reuse anything and everything that still served a purpose.

    For example, it's common to reuse big plastic bottles for things like fishing, carrying gas, storing honey and other homemade liquids. Beer cans and bottles were often used for storage. Metal scraps could be sold or repurposed and used for other building needs.

    This attitude goes to show that with a little creativity, practically anything can be reused.

    Changes Back Home

    Despite the pollution she witnessed in Nicaragua, Nicole felt empowered to implement the sustainability techniques she learned at the eco lodge and was motivated to overhaul her lifestyle in North America.

    Nicole now shops second hand only; rides a bike instead of using transit (when possible); eats almost entirely vegan and organic; and buys from the farmers’ market twice a week. When grocery shopping, she brings all her own bags and glass jars, and tries to avoid plastic where possible (aside from the odd hummus container).

    She preps all her meals at home and brings her own lunch each day, accompanied by a hydro flask and coffee thermos. If she forgets these items at home, she chooses not to purchase single-use items instead of willingly creating more waste.

    On top of these lifestyle changes, she has also taken waste management one step further. In Peterborough, where she is taking a summer course, there is no city wide green bin scheme; so she built a home compost system with worms.

    Takeaways From The Jungle

    Nicole’s time in Nicaragua gave her the perspective to reflect on her own lifestyle and what she really wants out of life – beauty, calmness and simplicity.

    While this 180 degree lifestyle change may not be possible for everyone, if each person made one small change that was within their financial and physical reach, we’d each be able to bring a little bit of the jungle back home.


    About the Author: Nathalie Dulong is a BBA graduate, citizen of the world and lover of all things mother nature has to offer. She is excited to be collaborating with Bare Market as she’s a big proponent of package-free, local products and the zero waste lifestyle. She is excited by the incredible people she’s met– including staff, volunteers and customers–while working with Bare Market and is excited to keep bringing awareness to this environmental movement!


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