Many companies claim to be eco-friendly because they recycle and try to limit the use of fossil fuels. But what would you say to a company operating in the middle of the Patagonian wilderness, carbon neutral, 100% renewable energy, designed so that guests leave no trace behind? Bienvenidos a EcoCamp Patagonia!
EcoCamp Patagonia has been internationally recognised as an environmental best practice, where guests are taught about ecosystem complexities and the importance of sustainability. Situated in the heart of Torres del Paine national park in Chilean Patagonia, overlooking the famous Torres, EcoCamp has gained an award-winning reputation for its eco-friendly policies and innovative use of green technology.
EcoCamp’s dome design was inspired by the ancient nomadic Kaweskar inhabitants, who relocated within the park without leaving a trace, just as EcoCamp did in 2005. There are three types of domes - standard, superior and suite - and all have semi-spherical structures which minimise external surface area and temperature exchange through walls as well as giving maximum internal space and ensuring a uniform distribution of wind stress. The dome exteriors are green and of limited height so they blend harmoniously into the natural environment. All walls have an outer canvas layer and thick insulation cushion, ensuring warmth and protection from strong winds. Skylight windows allow guests to follow natural light patterns, star gaze at night, and utilise natural heat and light resources.
Recycled materials are used for amenities and wooden dome structures, and fallen dead wood is used in fireplaces. Walkways connecting domes are raised so as not to damage the terrain, and to allow animals to roam around freely without structures blocking their path. They are also open to the elements so guests are exposed to their outside surroundings as they walk between domes.
EcoCamp’s energy source comes from hydro-electric and solar power. 60% of energy is obtained from hydro-electric generators, using water coming down from the mountains, and the remaining 40% of energy comes from solar panels which light the walkways at night and power small fans on toilets. Solar energy is particularly effective at the height of summer when Patagonia receives up to 17 hours of sunlight a day. Propane gas is only used for heating water, refrigerators and superior domes. Due to electricity being limited, items such as hairdryers are not allowed.
The bathroom compost system at EcoCamp is particularly noteworthy as it’s the world’s southern-most composting chamber! Liquids and solids are separated and liquids are passed to the ground and evaporated while solid waste is composted in a heater chamber to ensure bacteria remains alive. Superior and Suite domes have their own private bathrooms with composting devices outside and standard domes have shared bathrooms.
Recycling is an important procedure at EcoCamp, and organic and non-organic materials are separated so non-organic rubbish can be removed from the park and organic material fed to a neighbouring pig farm. Guides ensure guests leave no rubbish en route during treks, and that all non-biodegradable material is brought back to EcoCamp to be properly disposed of. Guests reuse zip-lock lunch bags and water flasks, and minimise shower time so as to preserve heating resources. A traveler handbook is available in all domes, so guests have the opportunity to get informed about all environmental policies and learn about our eco-friendly technology.
EcoCamp has been certified as an ISO14001 property, complying with high environmental standards and constantly testing and sharing new, innovative green ideas in an attempt to set the bar for other tourism developers. The combination of carefully-planned sustainable construction with high-end camping amenities including good food and wine, quality service and cozy dome interiors allows guests to relax knowing both they and nature are being cared for.
EcoCamp Patagonia offers trekking adventures and wildlife tours in Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Since opening its doors in 2001 as the region’s first fully sustainable accommodation, EcoCamp has gained international recognition for its expert guides, high-quality services and environmental sustainability. Trips with a stay at EcoCamp include Patagonia Wildlife Safari (4-6 days), Torres del Paine ‘W’ trek (5 or 7 days) and the Torres del Paine Circuit (9 days).