Sustainability Game Changers

A couple of months ago I began seeing a cheerful young fellow wearing an Olas Verdes shirt buzzing around the hotel. I figured he was a new employee. I went over to introduce myself and learned he was from New Jersey (my home state) and was on a two-month sustainability internship at Olas Verdes. He seemed to be everywhere doing all kinds of things, absorbing all that goes on at a busy beach hotel. Matt effortlessly blended in with all the local staff, and interacted with them socially, going surfing, out to dinner, and joining in on a deep-sea fishing excursion. There was never a time where Matt wasn’t wearing a huge smile, He embraced the local culture easily and made friends with everyone.

surf costa rica hotel
Ariel and Matt Smiling Away

I never really knew what exactly he was studying or what his internship involved. And then he was gone! I realized that I had missed an opportunity to find out what his mission was. So, I sent him an email and asked if he would write a memoir of his experiences that I could share on my blog. A week later I received his memoir and was blown away by his amazing life story (thus far!). This kid is going places!

So, without further ado, here is Matts story!

Costa Rica Memior
Matt Spak

My name Is Matt Spak and I was working at Olas Verdes Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica, on a sustainability internship for 2 months. My high school years weren’t normal I went to school at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology: a competitive marine science and engineering vocational school. I had all the normal history and language classes, but all my extra classes were engineering and marine science classes. I learned a ton of engineering at a young age, from CAD design to soldering, we learned it all. My senior year my project entailed growing strawberry plants hydroponically on Mars. This included building a fully functional solar system with backup batteries. All of this engineering experience lead me to wanting to apply my knowledge to the real world before I continue onto college. I am going to Boston University in the fall and I am studying engineering with a concentration in energy technologies, which is very similar to sustainability. My work at Olas Verdes was definitely related to my future goals since I love the environment and the ocean since I am a surfer, and I am very interested in engineering.

So, at Olas Verdes Hotel, I analyzed the data from the solar panel system. I realized that the system could be more efficient and Luis, the manager of Olas Verdes Hotel, and I had solar companies come and perform audits on the system and to get a professional opinion. During these audits I learned a ton from speaking with the experts from big solar companies. I quickly started learning what exactly needed to be changed to perfect the solar system. As well as, the math that’s needed for a large solar system connected to the grid. I only had experience with small solar systems independent from the grid, so this internship was a perfect learning opportunity to apply my knowledge to a much larger scale.

surfing nosara costa rica

At Olas Verdes Hotel I also organized and streamlined the data collection process for trash, recycling, compost, and water. Olas Verdes is on track to being zero-waste and having the proper data is pivotal: so, you can see what needs to be changed and where the most trash is coming from. I also implemented a partnership between Safari Surf school and Revolwe leashes. Revolwe is a sustainable, recycled leash company which pairs perfectly with Safari Surf’s sustainable efforts.

Taking all this new data I made a sustainability report for Olas Verdes Hotel. This report included all solar generation and consumption graphs, solar savings, the solar system return on investment, and the steps Luis and I took to optimize the solar system as well as how much Olas Verdes can expand their solar array and how to achieve it. It also had the turnover rate for employees, all waste diversion information and tables: from water to recycling. Olas Verdes is working hard daily to be a great sustainable hotel, and they are doing a great job.

I also had some time off on the weekends and before work to surfing, fish, and just enjoy the magnificent country of Costa Rica.