The award has made it into the hands of the “Best NatureTour Guide” for 2019, Ray David Rodriguez Colon Puerto Rico al Sur!
Before Ray even received the plaque recognizing him as the winner of the 2019 award, he was being recognized in Puerto Rico by none other than the Governor and the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company! There are also newspaper articles and TV interviews about his win in Puerto Rico. Congratulations again Ray!
And COMING SOON: Ray is teaming up with EcoTripMatch.com to develop a special group tour to show you the best of Puerto Rico.
You never know where this Best Nature Tour Guide Award process is going to lead! Clearly Ray has an extensive network of fans that led to votes coming in from the far corners of the Earth. But, Iceland? Soon after Ray was declared the winner, I got a message from a sustainably-managed restaurant in Iceland. I thought it would make for an interesting article/interview, so now you have the opportunity to learn about something you probably didn’t even know about (pay special attention to the answer to the last question). And, if you find yourself in Iceland, perhaps seek about Bio Borgari Restuarant in Reykjavik.
An Interview with Alejandra Soto Hernández
Alejandra Soto Hernández, a Puerto Rican who went all the way from the warm Caribbean to Iceland in 2015 with hopes of learning about the Icelandic culture and the community’s way of living to be able to contribute through innovation and creation of holistic and sustainable alternatives to the people of Iceland and Puerto Rico. Back in PR, Alejandra collaborated with different organic farms like Finca Desde Mi Huerto and Finca Reverdecer, innovating eco projects like Eco Tienda La Chiwinha and the community-sourced kitchen Comedor Social UPR-RP, and community gardens like Huerto Semilla and Jiba Gua’Kia, learning and taking action on the important matter of food sovereignty, which the island urgently needs since around 85% of the food is imported from the USA. Iceland also has a similar situation concerning food security, with most of the raw food ingredients being imported from the EU, USA and Asia.
Alejandra has been collaborating with the restaurant BioBorgari since its beginnings in 2017, both physically present and from distance in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t until this last summer 2018 that Alejandra was able to fully immerse in the project and started to run the restaurant with partner and co-owner of the project, Vífill Eiríksson.
How is BioBorgari different than a typical restaurant?
One of the many things that makes this restaurant such a unique place is its transparency— and not just the fact that we have an open and fully-visible kitchen—most importantly because, as part of our mission with our customers, we know where our ingredients come from since we visit the local organic farms and are in frequent contact with the farmers, and also the foreign organic farms and companies where we get our produce. Since everything on the Menu is made from scratch (except the beverages at the moment), the food can be fully detailed by our staff in accordance with consumer’s dietary needs. Also, the fact that the restaurant is run in a completely sustainable way is key as an example of an eco business model; We built the concept so it produces the least food waste possible, making food waste almost non-existent in BioBorgari. We categorize all our trash, do not use plastic, use unbleached paper, the cups for dip and sauces are made from starch and all the cleaning products are environmentally friendly.
In what ways is Iceland uniquely suited for a restaurant like BioBorgari?
Thanks to the always-blooming nature on this island, geothermal power is a renewable source of energy from which Iceland could have full potential to subsidize the creation of organic greenhouses and its energy. That resource could be used to relieve food insecurity by providing organic food all year round at an accessible price for both farmers and consumers— that’s the goal! On a side note, Icelanders love their American-style burgers, so why not bring them a clean and healthier alternative to the typical dirty burger?
What are the positive environmental impacts you have seen with BioBorgari and how can travelers apply that as they visit other parts of the world?
By running a restaurant like BioBorgari you can really tell how much influence, curiosity and motivation it brings to our customers, and even our employees, in changing their lifestyles, eating habits or even on their environmental awareness. We love when discussions pop-up in the restaurant concerning environmental situations because the atmosphere BioBorgari brings our customers is one of hope that change is really possible by supporting eco projects like this. I highly recommend travelers do further research of community projects, organic farms, organic markets and organic restaurants before visiting their destination. It’s probably the most direct way of supporting the autonomy and sustainability of each city, town or country visited.
What are the challenges you face?
Some of the challenges faced running a fully organic restaurant is, in fact, finding all the organic products! The organic market in Iceland is small, but hopefully with more support from other restaurants and consumers, the organic market will grow on demand significantly in time. Another challenge we face is handling the misconception of “organic”. We need to explain what it’s really about— it’s not just a “vegetarian” place.
Anything else you would like to say about BioBorgari or Iceland?
I would like to state clearly that choosing to buy organic ingredients is not just about quality and healthy food, but also, and not least, about protecting nature. Farmers really strive to cultivate in a good way and to leave the soil in a better condition than they found it. We take Icelandic organic products forward to foreigners, which is part of the minimization of the ecological footprint, in addition to promoting increased organic production in Iceland. We are all responsible for the Earth’s well-being. And while consumers continue buying products that are polluting or include a polluting production process, these products will continue to be produced mercilessly. We are concerned about using natural methods in everything related to the restaurant. We emphasize respect in a broad sense, either with respect for nature or the human being. We want to work in harmony along with the environment, our customers and the manufacturers who supply us with raw materials. We see this as a collaborative project based on mutual trust. We must nurture the vision and mission equally on a big and small scale, raising awareness of how we associate with the Earth and how to be aware of our actions. Only then can we change for the better.
Terry Lawson Dunn, Founder