Join Shiva Rea at Esalen for a Spring Regeneration Retreat April 14-19.


Features & Highlights of Sustainability at Esalen

Esalen is committed to sustainability and an active role in solving the social, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges facing the planet. We aspire to be a leader in sustainable practices and to provide transformational experiences that encourage individuals to carry those practices out into the world. By seeking new ways to steward the land and property in sustainable, regenerative, energy-efficient, and eco-friendly ways, we also hope to demonstrate what is possible for other organizations and communities, and take pride in sharing our innovations and developments.

We believe that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. We have been on this journey for almost fifty years, and yet we know we are just beginning. We are humbled to remember that long before the Esalen Institute existed, our land in Big Sur was stewarded sustainably for thousands of years by the Esselen Indians.

We invite you to join us on our path. If you have ideas or suggestions for how Esalen can further grow and improve its sustainable performance or offerings, please share them with our Sustainability Committee by email to

Below are some of the features and highlights of sustainability at Esalen thus far.


Administration and Sustainable Business Operations

  • Esalen Beyond Green 2016, our Sustainability Initiative
  • Green Business Certification, Monterey County (April 2011)
  • Sustainability Office, Sustainable Development Manager, Kat Steele
  • Cross-organizational Sustainability Leadership Team
  • Growing Partnerships: Bioneers, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, Urban Permaculture Guild, RSF Social Finance, SVN Social Venture Network, Transition US,

Education and Awareness

Esalen Institute Programs, Conferences and Workshops on sustainability topics: Permaculture Design; Farming; Social


Entrepreneurship & Conscious Business

  • Esalen Farm & Garden Apprenticeship Program grows ten passionate farmers and gardeners every
  • Eco-Literacy in Action Program Series (Monthly, Open to
  • Esalen C.A.R.E.S.(Community, Action, Responsibility, Equity & Sustainability), a one-year Sustainability Certificate Program for Esalen extended
  • Sustainability site
  • Weekly Gestalt process sessions for work departments enhance communication and
  • Gazebo Park School, experiential and eco-education for early childhood
  • Special events and participation in campaigns: Earth Day, Transition US, 350.
  • Guest speakers: Bill McKibben, Amory Lovins, Starhawk, Benjamin Fahrer, and many more


  • Energy efficient lighting via Right Lights Program
  • Environmental controls for refrigeration in the kitchen
  • Energy-saving eco-towel dryer at the Esalen baths
  • Geothermal heating used in the showers


  • Facility refurbishment employs reclaimed materials and local vendors as much as possible
  • Transitioning to recycled carpets
  • Reuse furniture as much as possible
  • Much of Esalen's metal and wood work performed in our Maintenance shop
  • Low VOC carpeting and paints used for meeting rooms
  • Alternative building materials including denim for insulation, marmoleum (eco linoleum) and renovated cork for flooring
  • Adhering to the Esalen Long Term Development Plan’s design guidelines

Food and Agriculture

  • Esalen Institute Learning kitchen, comprised largely of short and long term students, serves 800 healthy meals per day
  • Kitchen is committed to offering our community wholesome, healthy, and sustainable food choices in the Esalen Lodge
  • Large share of the kitchen’s produce is sourced from our sustainable Esalen Farm and Garden, harvested 1,300 feet away, only hours prior to eating
  • Friends and neighbors supply local foods, including cage-free eggs, all-natural, hormone-free meats, dairy, poultry and organic produce
  • Organic and local produce including onions, beets, celery root, carrots, artichokes, herbs, celery, radishes, tomatoes, squash, asparagus, sprouts, citrus, apples, berries, avocados, garlic, shallots, scallions, and sugar snap peas
  • Sustainably harvested seafood purchased from the "Green List", the Best Choices list provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
  • Local, line caught fish from the Monterey Bay
  • Farm-raised seafood raised through sustainable aquaculture
  • Esalen breads baked lovingly from scratch, using unbleached, minimally processed, organic grains, and Esalen spring water
  • Esalen-made granola, yogurt and fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchee)


  • Non-toxic cleaning products
  • Integrated Pest Management practices in our organic farm and garden (such as providing habitat for beneficial insects to prey on our pests) instead of chemical pesticides
  • Organic farm and garden generates closed-loop fertility through compost system and compost teas


  • Organic mattresses from Monterey Mattress Company
  • EO Organic body soap
  • Eco laundry detergent used for linens and towels
  • 100% post consumer recycled toilet paper and tissue products
  • Compostable utensils, cups and plateware for takeaway eating from the kitchen
  • Wide array of sustainable and fair trade items for sale in the Esalen Office and Bookstore


  • Ride-share program for seminarians and visitors
  • Electric shared-use vehicle transports laundry and supplies around property


  • Recycling and composting drop-off sites are accessible throughout the property
  • Full-circle compost system processes at least 3,500 pounds per week of food and green waste
  • Cardboard from kitchen and office deliveries is re-used as an essential resource for compost and for sheet mulching (a Permaculture technique) and soil building projects on the farm


  • Spring above Esalen produces millions of gallons of fresh, potable water annually
  • Water conservation practices are encouraged throughout the grounds
  • Drip irrigation practices in our farm and garden to optimize water availability
  • Tidal Wetland Living Machine®, our eco waste water management system, processes both black and gray water
  • Esalen Beyond Green recommends the 9th Annual Water Conservation Showcase which took place March 20, 2012 in SF. This free showcase event was organized through the combined efforts of the PG&E Pacific Energy Center, East Bay Municipal Utility District and the U.S. Green Building Council's Northern California Chapter.

Land Stewardship

  • Native and drought-tolerant landscaping practices
  • Restoration ecology projects mitigate invasive plant species
  • Cover crops in our farm and garden restore fertility, prevent erosion, and provide habitat
  • Sustainable farming practices on our 5-acre Farm and Garden minimize inputs and impact on the delicate coastal environment
  • Long-term development planning integrates land stewardship at core
  • Ceremonies and education honor our ancestors, the Esselen Indians and other Native American peoples


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