A Sustainable Life for All
by Eli, woofer at the Kahua Land
Water catchments, solar energy, and compost piles. Must be a third world country or some hippies out in the forest right? No, this is a luxurious retreat center in Maui, and a prime example of living sustainably.
Kutira Decosterd and Raphael Sharpe own the property, but they look at it more as a relationship. Explains Kutira, “It has my name on it, but from day one I never looked at it that I owned the land. I’m just here now, the trees, the water, all this will pass on.”
The land is named Kahua O’Maleo, which translates to: a place of happiness and pleasure. The area of the land is called Hana Hoi, and that means the sacred work will return. In the map of Hawaiians it is called “a resting place for mature souls.” And whether you appreciate the riches that come with living on sustainable land or not, this epicenter truly is a place of happiness and pleasure, sacred work, and where mature souls can beyond doubt come to rest.
It all started with a twenty year vision and a crate of bamboo. As Kutira said to me, sitting on her second story bamboo veranda overlooking an ancient mango grove and the Pacific Ocean, “You see this now, but there was a time when we were cooking on fire. However, I always saw it, really saw how it was all going to look. You have to have a grand vision. Of course there were times when I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to finish. But now that the physical part is done, what we’re working on is the education. We encourage people to do something similar to what we have accomplished. This land is now a jumping board of creativity, artistry, sustainability, and community.”
Community is a powerful thing. It is where we spend each of our days, where we raise our children, and what we look to for help in times of peril. Adrienne, a work scholar here, said, “It’s the people with similar mindsets, and so much dedication to the cause, that makes this such a tight community.” The very first student built a pond, and like him each one since has shared in this community and in turn left their own positive mark on the land. “We never could have gotten this far without all the students who came and helped,” said Kutira. When moving towards sustainability, rewards manifest along the way.
So are there challenges? Of course there are challenges. Kutira was afraid to move onto the land for years because of the fear of being without electricity. Finally, she realized that her electricity (solar with bio-diesel generators) is more reliable than her neighbors, who are plugged into the Maui electrical grid. She began to understand that the only thing to fear, was the obstacle of relearning her way. For instance, shortening her shower by two minutes, not doing a load of laundry when there is no sun, or hanging the laundry to dry on a line when there is wind. Becoming conscious of the rhythm of nature in turn, began that sense of community.
“Thing of it is that after a while it becomes pleasurable,” Raphael explains. “In the Celestine Prophecy it talks about when you’re in a state of love, lots of coincidences start happening, because of the unity of the universe.” This sustainable unity with nature brings that state of love, and I’ve been an example of such coincidence. One morning I sat in Kutira’s house with her, working on her computer, when the phone rang. It was the editor of Positively Green Magazine. Kutira mentioned one of her students was a writer, and so you are reading this article.
The Kahua O’Maleo was built from the ground up by Kutira and Raphael, who took a piece of jungle without running water, roads, or electricity, and turned it into paradise. Yet for some, a sustainable life still seems too far away even to try to reach. You don’t have to be a hero, start small. There are many ways to minimize the footprint you leave on the planet, even from a Manhattan apartment. Buy energy efficient light bulbs, reduce your shower time by a minute, weatherize your house to reduce wasted energy, encourage your grocers to buy locally, and recycle.
When you open your heart to the Earth, is when you begin to consider the totality. A profound satisfaction comes from making the decision to relearn how to live responsibly. From my own experience I can say that after talking the talk for years, the greatest reward is actually walking the walk. If brushing your teeth was something you procrastinated because you didn’t have the time, imagine the dentist bill you would accrue, assuming there were any teeth left in your mouth.
You are part of this planet. Whether or not you make time to clean up the mess, is the bill you leave for later generations to pay. It is fine to start small. As Kutira and Raphael have learned, there are many challenges along the way, but in the end, the pureness of your surroundings equate to a life that is rich with pleasure.
You don’t have to be a hero, start small.
When moving towards sustainability, rewards manifest along the way.
If brushing your teeth was something you procrastinated because you didn’t have the time, imagine the dentist bill you would accrue, assuming there were any teeth left in your mouth.