Sustainability in action at WildSpring Guest Habitat in Oregon

Michelle Duarte owns and runs WildSpring Guest Habitat in Port Orford, Oregon, together with her husband Dean. There is a sign at the entrance to the guest hall that reads: “All because two people fell in love.” WildSpring Guest Habitat is a labor of love: Michelle and Dean left their hectic LA lives in search of a simpler and more sustainable life, one that they could share with other people. You can read their inspirational story here.


Last week we posted the first part of our interview with Michelle. Today we want to show you how Michelle and Dean incorporate sustainable practices into the operation of the hotel, how it impacts their community and how guests get involved.

Green Pearls: What sustainable initiatives do you undertake in the daily running of WildSpring Guest Habitat?

All our appliances are low energy and low-flow, and we use low-watt and energy-efficient lights and CFL bulbs inside whenever possible. Skylights light the Guest Hall during daylight. Our landscape lighting is a 12v system, directed to the ground to protect the starry nights. Port Orford is a Dark Skies Initiative city.


We have reduced our energy footprint as much as possible and offset the remaining carbon emissions to achieve a zero footprint. We also offer an easy way for our guests to offset their trip.

Our landscaping is designed to depend on natural rainfall. What little landscape watering we need in the sunny area overlooking the ocean during extended dry summertime comes from a well so that what comes from the ground goes back to the ground. We also have containers that hold fresh water around the property for the animals that share our forest, and have planted greenery that is a natural source of food for the animals.

All our stationery and promotional materials use recycled paper. We use e-communication modes whenever possible.

This area does little to pick up any range of recycled materials, so we store them ourselves and take them where appropriate. We take all shipping materials such as bubble wrap and boxes to our local myrtle wood gift manufacturer so they can be reused when they ship their items.

2.2_Rhodies in bloom at WildSpring

The cellophane bags for the chocolate truffles, cabin water glasses and all trashcan liners are compostable.

Our body care products are 100% natural.

We use nontoxic, pH-neutral, scent-free cleaning and laundry products. We use rags and minimize any non-reusable materials.

We buy local and organic produce and flowers whenever possible.

We donate unused food to a local individual who distributes it.

Because of the wildlife around us, we are not able to compost here, so we give all our food waste to a local farm for animal feed and composting. We are also trying to find affordable bird-friendly wind power to reduce our use of electricity even further.

We participate in the Clean the World program, collecting all our slightly used bar soaps from our cabins and sending them to Clean the World Foundation. They are a non-profit organization who collects soaps from over 150,000 hotel rooms that would ordinarily be thrown away, sanitizes and sends them to local homeless shelters and impoverished children.


GP: Are you involved in extending your efforts to your community?

Absolutely. We are located in a very small town of 1100 people, where it feels a lot like an extended family. Our staff of course are all local residents. We support the work of local organizations through donations, including free stays for fund-raising auctions. We created, developed and maintain the official government and visitor website for Port Orford pro bono, and promote the Port Orford tourism industry whenever possible.

We have donated pro bono marketing support to the Conservation Leaders Network, an organization that supports sustainable practices at county level.

We also participate in the Oregon Travel Philanthropy Fund, a new program supporting sustainable tourism development. We donate a dollar per stay and invite our guests to join us with a $1, $3 or $5 donation.


GP: Is sustainable tourism important to your region?

We’re fortunate to live in a state that understands the importance of a healthy environment, that promotes eco-practices and makes a concerted effort to support sustainable tourism in very real ways. Oregon has established the Oregon Travel Philanthropy Fund – a statewide program to raise funds for local projects that improve our natural environment, sustain our vibrant communities and enhance Oregon as a travel destination.

GP: Do you involve your guests in acting sustainably while they are staying at WildSpring?

We do. We ask that they use their sheets and towels more than once. Of course guests do have the option to have them changed more frequently, but we encourage more environmentally responsible behavior. We also ask that guests turn off their lights in their cabin when they go out.


GP: How do you describe your typical guests?

They tend to be people who value peace, quiet and nature, but with down-filled duvets and nice bathrooms. Who dislike the artificial and don’t need bright lights or TV news. Some of our favorite comments include:

“If I stayed long enough I think I’d grow wings.”

“Adam must have found Eve in this very place.”

“There’s a moment outside time where the wild dreams unravel and the soul is free to dance unencumbered by the weight of shoulds and coulds. This is that place where those souls gather to celebrate in tall trees.”