HAVANA, Jan. 8 — Cojimar, just a few minutes east of Cuba’s capital city of Havana, is a small picturesque fishing village where American novelist Ernest Hemingway docked his boat and an inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea. Now it is brought to fame again due to an environmentally-friendly car wash called “La Ecologica.”
Carwash owner Ernesto Rivero didn’t know much about environmental conservation until in 2013, when he casually took a permaculture course offered by the Antonio Jimenez Foundation for Man and Nature.
At that time, Rivero, 50, had opened a car repair workshop in the seaside town of Cojimar as a way to seize the opportunity of Cuba’s economic reforms.
The course made him painfully aware of the environmental impact his business was having on the local ecological environment.
“I decided to remodel all this and open a carwash, but something new, something that could really show that through permaculture you can achieve many good things and take care of the environment,” the former military man told Xinhua.
Permaculture borrows from nature to design sustainable agriculture, methods of building, engineering and almost any other activity.
Rivero applied this principle to “La Ecologica,” which relies solely on rainwater rather than the municipal water supply.
He designed a system to collect rainfall off the roof and other parts of his house and send the rainwater to a 6,000-liter cistern for storage. From there it is pumped to an elevated tank that feeds the scrubbing equipment.
Used water is flushed through a grease trap that separates the oils and sediments, then filtered through gravel before returning to the tank to continue the work cycle.
Rivero went even further. He installed a collateral hydraulic system to collect the gray water from his house (water used in scrubbing, cleaning, shower and sink) and added it to the same recycling system.
“It goes through the same grease trap and filter system again and now I have plenty of water, more than I need sometimes,” he said with a smile.
But that’s not all. “La Ecologica” also recycles the grease resulting from car cleaning and oil changes. Part of this grease collected in the corresponding trap is used in the atomized service, spraying the bottom of cars with a layer of oils to protect them from saltpeter.
The rest is delivered to a nearby automotive workshop in Cojimar to be recycled by CUPET, Cuba’s largest oil company.
Rivero’s clients are often surprised and pleased to hear about his innovative system for saving water. The system is rare in Cuba, which is currently suffering from a three-year drought.
“I think it’s something very important that should be extended to all carwashes in the country, since it contributes to saving water,” said Rene Lores, who takes his Peugeot 405 to “La Ecologica” at least once a month.
Rivero, his wife Tamara Naranjo, who is a mechanical engineer, and his three children, aged 21, 12 and 9, recently find another way to protect the environment. The family take part in the El Cachon Beach Project, which brings together people interested in environmental conservation in the small town.
“I live 150 meters away from El Cachon Beach and it bothers me a lot to see the pollution of the coastal strip, which should be the pride of our town,” said Rivero.
Every Sunday, he and his family, together with other volunteers, come to the seashore and clean up the garbage.
Asked if he plans to patent his innovative recycling system, Rivero said no. He is willing to share his eco-friendly design with the world currently plagued by water scarcity.