Sustainable Shifts Earn The Ojai Retreat an EcoExcellence Award

by Cynthia Louise Grier.

Views from the nature trails at The Ojai Retreat.

My first visit to The Ojai Retreat in the fall of 2007 was a peaceful, yet invigorating experience. Stirring panoramic views and comfortable accommodations in a serene, secluded setting, with a friendly staff made me feel right at home. The “Living Room”, as it’s known, is a lovely gathering room warmed by the natural wicker furnishings, original hardwood floors and cozy fireplace. Here, the daily European buffet breakfast is served that includes fresh, sustainably grown fruit from trees on the property.

I chose The Ojai Retreat for my Ojai visit because of work they were beginning on converting the property to align with the management’s vision for a comfortable, healthy, sustainable destination. Four years later, many of those “Sustainable Shifts” are in place.

We, at EcoLogic LifeStyle, recently made another visit to the property where we conducted an EcoExcellence AwardSustainability Review, and found several new features to highlight. Starting with the grounds, our criteria for accessibility is met through pathways and entries for persons with special needs, as well as walking & bicycling paths with secure bicycle storage. Upon our recommendation they have now added a preferred parking for hybrid & electric vehicles. Plans are in place to convert the small preferred parking area (for handicap and hybrid/electric vehicles) to a permeable surface. Permeable paving is already in use in overflow parking lot.

Garden Room with view of “pink moment” on the mountains.

The grounds use minimal turf in the landscape, approximately 10%, with primarily native and non-invasive species. 50% of these are drought tolerant, not requiring irrigation, with plans to incorporate more. Plants are grouped by water needs (Hydrozoning), with only non-toxic organic soil amendments utilized.

During recent room remodels, guided by local architect John Digas, sustainable features were added including recycled cotton denim insulation, high efficiency mini split heat pumps for heating & cooling, high efficiency refrigerators, and high efficiency toilets 1.6 gpl in 80% of rooms. The Retreat also now has a bath linen reuse program with client education signage posted, and provides flax seed oil soap and organic personal care products from Terra Pure.

Recently renovated Ojai Suite has energy & water efficient features.

General sustainable management practices include monitoring of energy consumption & energy savings campaign, recycling & composting program, HEPA filters on vacuum cleaners, two sided printing on recycled content, bleach free paper & reuse of scrap for notes, purchasing of organic coffee & produce when available, reusable & biodegradable cups, plates and cutlery, and sustainability cross-training programs with employees who are each hired for their extensive specialized knowledge.

Socio/Cultural considerations are also important to the EcoExcellence Award criteria. Some of The Ojai Retreat’s practices in this area include hiring & training opportunities provided to local citizens first; open access to local protected lands; incorporating local culture through local artists’ exhibits, local musicians’ performances and spiritual events reflective of Ojai culture, and lastly, contributing to local environmental protection efforts by hosting environmental educational workshops.

Ulrich Brugger, manager of The Ojai Retreat, says their efforts to incorporate sustainable best practices are an ongoing journey, and he also has plans to incorporate solar for power, a greywater system, and biodynamic permaculture community demonstration garden with a solar pump for irrigation, and is taking consultation on shifting to the healthiest, environmentally friendly maintenance and cleaning products.

Whether you have traveled from around the world, or from within the Ojai Valley, an Ojai Retreat getaway can offer peace of mind through the lovely environment, the spiritual & wellness events and knowing there is a focus on sustainable, healthy, environmentally friendly practices.

For more information on The Ojai Retreat, see their Reviewed & Recommended directory listing.


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