Tobago's Coco Reef Treasures Environment

SCARBOROUGH, Tobago -- The upscale Coco Reef Resort, which opened in 1995, was designed with an eye toward conservation and minimal environmental impact, according to John Jefferis, owner and managing director. Coco Reef

"Every aspect of hotel development relates to balance and environmental sensitivity," Jefferis said.

In the construction of the 135-room resort, Coco Reef utilized softwoods from the pine species, which are readily available and quickly renewable, easing depletion of the rain forest. The floors of the resort are finished with a handmade terra-cotta tile, produced from a natural clay that does not require the use of fossil fuel-generated energy to fire. To avoid production of chemical and toxic waste that are hazardous to the environment, "all of the paint products in the hotel are water based," Jefferis said.

The property also focuses on energy conservation, Jefferis said. "The restaurants are open-air facilities that do not require air conditioning," he said. In the guest rooms, the air-conditioning units were selected for their low reliance on CDCs in the refrigerant, and switches were installed to shut down the air conditioning when the sliding glass doors are open.

Jefferis also said the property has placed cards in guest rooms asking visitors to take part in efforts to cut down on water and energy consumption by reusing bath towels. The hotel also installed low-pressure shower heads and reduced the temperature of the hot water.

In another effort to reduce energy consumption, Coco Reef uses a series of low-energy systems instead of the central boiler common in large resort hotels.

In the area of waste disposal, Coco Reef installed a natural sewage treatment plant, which utilizes natural enzymes and harmless natural bacteria to convert contaminants to water. After passing through an ultra-violet light box that replicates the sun's natural bleaching effect, the water sits in a holding tank and is used to irrigate the property.

As part of a Community Action Project, Coco Reef installed more than 800 feet of pipe to treat all sewage from its neighboring facility, Store Bay Beach, which has restaurants, bars and showers.

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