Building a Sustainable Dream

Photo by Mario Albi
Photo by Mario Albi

When I envisioned opening a sustainably built hostel where everyone, especially single female travelers, would feel safe and comfortable, I chose part of a mango plantation in Costa Ballena as the site of the Flutterby House because I always wanted to live in a beautiful place where I could walk to the beach barefoot. That, and there was a strong need for accommodations in the area, so Uvita and I helped each other out.”

A lot of the innovation in implementing sustainable practices comes from working smarter, not harder, and sustainability has been in the forefront of the Flutterby House’s philosophy since day 1. With the help and support of my sister, Kim, and a team of volunteers and local builders, we built the Flutterby House from the ground up, keeping many of the mango trees as is to provide shade, and building the treehouses, dorms, cabinas and kitchen using wood and other materials harvested from within 30 miles of the site, thereby reducing fuel costs and putting money back into the local economy.

By building treehouses and elevated dorms and siting the buildings so that the roofs are in line with the wind, nature does most of the work of keeping the rooms cool. Every roof also contains at least one skylight to allow natural light in and reduce the need for electric light. We use biodegradable, non-phosphorous laundry detergent in our washing machines and the water drains into a greywater system and is filtered by plants and sand. And not only is the place itself built using sustainable methods, we also employ sustainable practices, such as selling beer and sodas in returnable glass bottles, stocking products with minimum packaging, and serving breakfast and dinner from our new commercial kitchen, which cuts down on propane, packaging, water and soap used for clean up, and food waste.

The Flutterby House functions not only as a hostel, but also as a learning space for sustainability, inspiring people from all over the world to take the ideas they see in action home with them and implement sustainability in their daily lives, wherever they live. We have plants growing in PVC pipes that would fit right in in an apartment in New York City. We intentionally keep things rustic so people see that one does not need much to live comfortably and, even, richly. Guests see that they can grow their own food and herbs in small spaces, reuse glass bottles for countless projects such as lining a garden walkway, and compost food scraps to reduce their waste output and replenish their gardens. It’s been a lot of fun and hard work to bring the dream of the Flutterby House to fruition. Neither Kim nor I spoke much Spanish when we were first building, and in addition to overcoming the language barrier, we quickly learned about the vara, an antiquated measurement that is used when cutting lumber to length and is only used in Costa Rica. The varahas no exact equivalent in inches or centimeters, and 2 varas does not equal 1 vara plus 1 vara. And we would often go to the hardware store for a necessity, such as plumber’s tape, and were told that it doesn’t exist, when, of course, it does! We were fortunate, however, to have many friends and family members in the US bring us items such as drill bits and nails for the nail gun so that we could persevere and, eventually, prevail. We’ve put our hearts and souls into creating a harmonious, safe space and would love for you to flutter by and see it!

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About the Contributing Writers

Pam Andreasen traveled the world by herself at age twenty-two, gleaning ideas about how to build a better hostel along the way. She bought the land in Costa Ballena five years ago and has been building and improving the Flutterby House ever since.

Kim Andreasen got her start in hospitality in Mammoth Lakes, CA and starting coming to Costa Ballena in the high season of 2009. She found herself staying longer and longer between trips back to the States and realized that life in Costa Rica is everything she wanted in a home.

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