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Concern for environment helps Blue Dolphin go green

By Staff | Apr 22, 2009

Joining a growing legion of like-minded islanders, the staff at Blue Dolphin Cottages recently underwent a dramatic change.

Citing their concerns for the environment, the nine-unit motel nestled alongside the Gulf of Mexico stepped up their efforts to “go green,” and were rewarded with a Green Lodging Designation from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

According to property manager Cindy Nelson, the changes implemented at the 47-year-old motel didn’t just happen overnight.

“I had seen a trade ad for ‘going green,’ so I got some information from the (Sanibel & Captiva Islands) Chamber of Commerce, got together with the owners and talked about how we could make some changes and improve ourselves,” said Nelson. “It was a long process, but we’re happy we got there.”

Since they first contacted the DEP in June 2008, Blue Dolphin Cottages slowly began to make the conversion towards becoming “greener.” They changed the shower heads and faucet strainers in each of the units to low-flow devices, which use far less water. They also removed all florescent lighting on the property, replaced air conditioning units with Energy Star-rated units and turned down the temperature of their water heaters.

Another step in the right direction was beginning a recycling collection system, which sorts discarded plastic, glass and cardboard waste into separate containers from regular garbage. That change yielded the quickest results.

“We went from a four-yard dumpster to a two-yard dumpster… it’s amazing to see how much recyclable waster was going into the regular garbage,” noted Nelson. “And since we’ve made these changes, a lot of our customers have noticed and told me that they really appreciate our efforts.”

Nelson, a frequent visitor to Sanibel from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in the early ’80s, said that she and her family used to stay at the Jolly Roger and Best Western when they would vacation for a weekend. However, she was walking along the beach one afternoon and happened upon the Blue Dolphin.

“I really liked the look of the place, so I picked up a brochure,” she recalled. “The next time we came over, we stayed here. And we enjoyed it so much that we always returned here since then. There’s no place else like it.”

Now a nine-year veteran as property manager, Nelson and her staff – which includes her husband, Gary, as maintenance supervisor, Tracy Tabala as assistant manager and Lucia Lopez as housekeeper – are continuing their “green” efforts in an attempt to secure a Two Palm designation from the DEP.

That effort includes changing out their old washing machines with new, energy-efficient appliances and installing a drip irrigation system throughout the grounds.

“All of these efforts are very important,” added Nelson. “Sanibel is so small and we have limited space in our landfills. Anything that can be done to help improve the environment should be done. Most people are really conscious of it and have thanked us for being so aware.”

Blue Dolphin Cottages, located at 4227 West Gulf Drive, can be reached by calling 472-1600 or via their Web site www.bluedolphincottages.com.