Becoming Elegantly Green
by Kutira Decosterd, Maui Retreat
Last month I was invited to the Kalani Retreat Center on the Big Island as part of the retreat conference to present our upcoming movie, “The Dance of Earth and Spirit”, which showcases the development and cultivation of our land for the past 25 years, turning it into the “greenest spot” on Maui. The DVD has not gone through the post-production process, and I felt a bit nervous to show an unfinished product to all the big center leaders from around the world. After all, I am a Swiss Virgo, and love to have things done perfectly. Our Maui Retreat is a small Bed and Breakfast establishment, and we have the capacity to hold small group gatherings, many of which focus on Eco-Tourism. There is a sense of urgency around the world to practice more sustainable living. I have come to realize an essential element to making this lifestyle more accessible to others, so I created a blueprint to aid you in your vision and commitment. Whether you have a big or small facility, I would like to share some basic information with you—which you can share with your guests– to maintain an elegantly green environment. (And by the way, the movie was received with great honor, and we hope to have it complete by end of this year so it can be ready for the Green Film Festival next year).
When our guests arrive, we have a small booklet in their room that shares about our green lifestyle. We explain that we are not hooked up to the grid, and that we create our energy resources in harmony with Mother Nature. Connecting with our guests and showing them how we live–elegantly green– sparks their curiosity to discover more about to create this in their own lives. It seems to awaken a passion to care for nature as much as they care for themselves.
We recycle our garbage, and our goal is towards “zero waste”. We have a worm station full of hungry worms that eat paper produced in our office, and green leftovers produced in the kitchen. You can have a small worm station even if you live in an apartment. The reconditioned soil you will get is called “black gold”, and can fertilize your herb gardens. Our seven chickens live in a movable chicken coup, and we place them once a month. They work the earth and fertilize the soil for organic gardening. The rest of the compost goes to the mulch station and a smaller therma-composting place. Perhaps this may feel a bit too much, but start with recycling your garbage, such a cardboard, plastic, and glass. What ever you can contribute as little or big, knowing you are doing your best, that counts and yes, it makes a difference.
We encourage our guests not to buy any plastic water bottle. We provide glass bottles, and let them fill the water up from our well. We have shopping bags available to them so they don’t have to bring home plastic bags. The paper from the shopping bags is then used in the garden for mulching, or to finely shred and feed as a delicacy to the worms. The plastic bags we gather, recycle and use for other purposes.
We have nicely made signs in the shower rooms: “Please take short showers and conserve water”. Of course we have explained the water is a precious commodity, and in order to pump water, we need the sun to fill our solar cells.
Another way we conserve is with laundry. We change and launder the sheets only once a week, and we provide towels for the week, unless the guest requests another.
We have small buckets in the kitchen sink for washing the dishes to avoid running water for long periods. We fill up the dishwasher before we run it. We fill up the laundry machine before we run it. All of those appliances use a lot of energy and water, and we want to use them as little as possible. We hang our laundry and occasionally use the dryer when we have a rainy day. Often we wait to do laundry till the weather is on our side. We become skilled weather frogs and dance with the rain and the sun.
There are beautiful signs posted around the house saying “Conserve Energy – Turn Off the Lights”. This is probably the most challenging task for the short-term guests to follow. Our guests often leave the rooms unaware that they have left a light on. We lovingly educate them about the beauty of conserving energy, and day by day, the consciousness of caring for nature and appreciating the resources we have, grows, and our guests become more attuned to nature. Living full time on the land, we have become accustomed to turning the lights off when they are not needed. We know we are own electric company, and we are in charge of our battery storage and we “buy” from nature. Paying attention to days when the sun only peeks out from behind the clouds, we are aware we need to be more careful about our electricity use. But ultimately, this kind of diligence pays off: We don’t have to write a check to the electric company! We are responsible stay in harmony with nature and nature is so abundant and giving, as long we don’t abusive and poison her. We feel proud to be able to work closely and consciously with all the nature recourses and honor her limits with not wasting it.
We invite our guests to shop locally, and keep the money in our community. We lead them to farmers markets and community events.
Ultimately, the most questions received from our guests are sparked by staying in a home constructed with bamboo, coconut, recycled plastic, and teak—elements that preserve the environment. We love to share our experience, and we know when one leaves our land, they leave with an awakened eco soul that is ready to go the extra mile to “Think Green”, thereby contributing more to the health of the planet, and gifting our children with a better place to live.
Kutira and Raphael are the owners of Maui Retreat. They are eco experts, artists, musicians, and teachers. People come from around the world to learn about Embodied Spirituality and Sustainability. Their pristine land is the perfect place for a “hideaway” to nurture body and soul. Visit their website for more information: www.kahuainstitute.com
This article was published in the “Purple Roof” Publication 2010