Eco Camp has gained an award-winning reputation for its eco-friendly policies and innovative use of green technology. We are leaders in environmentally responsible travel to areas of fragile natural resources and we minimise the footprint of every visitor in Torres del Paine National Park through our careful development strategy and implementation of green technology. Our low impact design and focus on raising guests’ awareness of how to care for their environment highlights our commitment to a greener present and future for tourism. Conservation is central to the philosophy driving our operations, and we have been certified as complying with the highest international standards of environmental management, such as ISO14001.
The design premise behind EcoCamp was to create accommodation where travellers could connect with nature and explore Torres del Paine without leaving a footprint. At EcoCamp guests are immersed in their natural surroundings, hearing the wind race through the sky while looking up at the stars through the ceiling of their cozy dome. All natural light and heat energy is utilised and electricity comes from hydro and solar energy. Domes blend naturally into their surrounding environment and flora and fauna continues to flourish on EcoCamp ground.
Our premise from the start has been to take comfort to the limits of what is sustainable and for this reason we resist the concept of luxury because environmental conservation will always be prioritised over any luxurious amenities or practices which could be detrimental to the park.
EcoCamp’s dome design was inspired by the The Kaweskars (Alacalufes), a group of nomadic Patagonian inhabitants whose presence in Torres del Paine is documented. They arrived by canoe in the 15th century and made no demands on natural resources as they travelled from place to place, setting up and dismantling their semi-circular huts built from simple materials, leaving no trace behind. To keep warm they lit fires inside the domes.
EcoCamp is a tribute to the ancient Kaweskar dwellings and way of life and the essence of their dome homes has been kept by maintaining a simple nomadic design in the midst of natural surroundings. Just like the Kaweskars, EcoCamp respects nature and aims to leaves no footprint behind in the wilderness.
All of our electricity (which is very little as most of our efforts go to efficiency and electricity saving) comes from a micro-hydro turbine and photovoltaic panels. Energy is gathered together in a 24V battery bank to power all of EcoCamp’s refrigerators, lighting, electrical appliances, stereos etc. Propane gas is only used to heat water and superior domes. A pilot scheme to heat shower water with solar energy is in motion.
Water from the river enters the micro-hydro turbine at 5 litres per second with a net pressure of 38 meters delivering a steady power of 800 Watts. An inverter is used to switch from the 24V DC in the battery bank to 220 AC, the standard voltage in Chile. An array of 1700 Watt photovoltaic panels, also connected to the battery bank, collect the extra energy needed at Ecocamp.
Electricity is limited and only available to guests for charging camera batteries and laptops, not using hairdryers or electric razors. Solar energy is very efficient in summer when Patagonia receives up to 17 hours of sunlight daily.
Domes have skylight windows so natural light and heat can be utilized. This not only allows guests to follow natural light patterns but saves electricity, leaving us confident that our renewable energy sources are sufficient and fossil fuels are not needed. Suite domes have a wood stove for warmth, recycling dead wood from the park and avoiding the need to use diesel.
EcoCamp’s sustainable design, structure, implementation and maintenance is all the direct work of the owners themselves. Javier Lopez and Yerko Ivelic, both Chilean engineers, worked to design a hotel concept which would allow them to rely almost entirely on green energy. They then installed the micro-hydro turbine and composting toilet devices and taught a team of skilled workers how to work and maintain these features. To this date, ten years after EcoCamp’s opening, the owners continue to travel to Torres del Paine to oversee implementation and maintenance of the sophisticated structure they put in place all those years ago.
We have a basic policy of environmentally-sensitive waste management which includes bringing as little paper, tin and plastic into the wilderness as possible. All waste brought in is separated at the source and stored according to its recycling status: organic, paper, glass, and dangerous or toxic materials. All non-organic materials are removed and sent to the closest town of Punta Arenas to be recycled or disposed of and organic material is 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.
We choose all of our suppliers extremely carefully, ensuring they are all aware of and meet with our environmental standards. We buy in bulk so as to limit individual packaging and our suppliers limit packaging brought into the park to an absolute minimum.
Guests recycle their lunch bags everyday and use the same flask which they re-fill with water en route during their trek. We have a traveller handbook in all domes informing guests of our ecological practices and their responsibilities while in the park, which include staying on the raised wooden walkways, never smoking inside domes, using biodegradable hygiene products, always returning waste to the recycling point at EcoCamp, taking batteries back home, minimising time in the shower and sharing transport to and from EcoCamp.
EcoCamp has the world’s southern-most composting device, and the first in the hotel industry in the whole of Chile and Patagonia. Composting chambers collect waste from toilets and solid waste remains in the chamber, mixed with paper and wood chips, and is heated to keep microorganisms alive and the compost process active. Liquids are passed through a cleaning chamber, filtered, then passed into the ground. Due to the low temperatures in Patagonia, great effort is required to maintain the active process.