In their natural state, the gardens at HI Point Montara Lighthouse hostel are a tangle of greenery made up of coastal succulents and little optimistic wildflowers. They rise and swell to the rhythm of wind and nature just like the waves of the Pacific Ocean alongside them do. For the visitors who come to stay from all over the world, the gardens are just as much part of the hostel experience here as falling asleep to the sounds of the sea and making new friends in the communal spaces.
In recent years, drought and general water insecurity have threatened the garden’s ability to flourish as a welcoming space for the guests and local community, and so General Manager Chris Bauman has had to consider alternate ways to maintain the garden. The answer, it turns out, was in the hostel’s washing machines:
“When you wash your clothes, the used-water normally goes down the drain and to a treatment plant, even though it’s barely contaminated. So what we’re going to do is capture that water and pump it outside to slowly irrigate the gardens,” explains Zach Hetrick, HI USA’s Sustainability Coordinator who worked with Chris to find a solution for the water issue. The plan is to install a greywater system to capture and reuse the hostel’s laundry wastewater in a productive way that both protects the environment and sustains the local plants which color the property with character. “It’s a way to be water conscious and contribute to something larger in terms of how the State of California can deal with drought and extreme weather patterns caused by climate change,” Zach adds. The hostel uses eco-friendly, harmful chemical-free laundry soap, so the gently used water is perfectly fine for nourishing the plants that need it.
The greywater system is just another component of HI Point Montara’s continuous efforts to be a green and sustainable travel destination. With certification as a Green Business through the Bay Area Green Business Program and the internationally-recognized Green Globe certification program, HI Point Montara has always been conscientious of their environmental footprint and role in helping visitors to travel responsibly. Guests who have stayed here before are familiar with the recycling and composting programs in the hostel kitchen, and everything from the lights in the hallways and outdoor paths to the hot water heaters and sink faucets was installed or designed to reduce the hostel’s environmental footprint. The ingenious irrigation system is also part of a long-term project to design a permaculture garden where everything is planted intentionally so it serves a function, whether it’s supporting another plant, helping to prevent soil erosion, working as a pretty pollinator, or as food for the live-in staff and guests.
Thanks to Hostelling International’s Sustainability Fund, this project is now starting to look like a reality, and the folks at HI Point Montara Lighthouse hostel are hoping to raise the remaining funds to build a dream community garden around the very eco-friendly irrigation system.