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A no throw-away vacation.

WHEN CARIBBEAN VISITORS board planes home, they take luggage, souvenirs and vacation memories. But they leave behind trash--and its disposal is a thorny issue in the islands. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, entrepreneur Stanley Selengut has a plan for that garbage: make vacationers live in it.

Inspired two years ago by a U.S. National Park Service workshop on sustainable design, Selengut has built a vacation villa made entirely of recycled and reusable products. An opponent of earthmoving machinery, he bulldozed no roads for his new vacation lodge on the island of St. John and cut out no utility ditches. Instead, construction workers cleared only the trees needed to accommodate a compact pair of two-level buildings situated on a hillside overlooking a beach and surrounded by a national park. Builder Nelson Uzzell drove nails of recycled galvanized steel into joists shaped from compressed waste wood. Eschewing noisy diesel generators, he used a solar-powered saw to slice wall board that, in a previous life, was newspaper. He laid patio tiles that were once rubber tires and cut boards of plastic wood for exterior decks.

"We're probably going to have the most beautiful home made of garbage you'll ever see," Uzzell explained. Not only does the luxury villa, called Harmony, sport an eye-pleasing design, but each suite is luxuriously equipped with muslin sheets and thick down pillows. Guests wash with biodegradable soaps and chill drinks with solar ice makers. Here, eco-friendly does not mean rustic, Selengut points out proudly. The discarded plastic bottles that went into Harmony's throw rugs and the crushed lightbulbs transformed into its tiles came from mainland U.S. waste, but Selengut promised it won't be long before the Virgin Islands create manufacturing jobs by transforming its own garbage into building material (a project already under discussion would use waste generated by an aluminum plant to make bricks and tiles).

Besides tackling garbage head on, Harmony addresses issues like protection of the environment, fresh water conservation and alternative energy. Lizards skitter under raised wooden walkways that keep vacationers' feet from stomping the foliage. Rainwater running through bathroom pipes is chemically treated and reused. Wind scoops and solar panels catch and store the only energy available at this lodge, where telephone wires and TV antennas are as conspicuously absent as electrical lines. Electronic sensors that turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and low-energy-use refrigerators, hair dryers and ceiling fans stretch out the number of activities that can be gleaned from a single day's sun.

To help keep track of the water and energy vacationers have available on a given day--as well as let researchers like Shabbar Saifee see how they manage those limited resources--guests tap into computer terminals installed in each suite. Saifee, a solar energy specialist in the V.I. Energy Office, described Harmony's computer program as a user friendly one utilizing video games.

U.S. park officials plan to add the villa to a map of St. John hiking routes and Selengut says eco-friendly Harmony may offer a lesson for other developers. "I'll have no electric bill. I'll have no water bill. The landscaping will be all indigenous plants," Selengut said. "I'm guessing that once it's done it will cost me half as much to run as a regular resort."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Organization of American States
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Ojo; a US Virgin Islands vacation villa made of recycled and reusable products
Author:Dempsey, Mary A.
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Hoofing it in Barbados.
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