Self Sufficient Living by Volunteer Vernita Gundy

HMMMMMM…What is that?

I am a US citizen who lives in the City of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and although I’ve heard of self sufficient living, I have never learned what it actually meant until now. Self sufficient living means self reliance in learning to grow your own, make your own, sell your own and bake your own, for homesteading, urban homesteading or mini farms.

I’ve been in Costa Rica volunteering for Kids Saving the Rainforest the last 3 months and I have slowly started to understand what it is all about and how important it is to change our way of living so we can all be on this earth for years to come.

My first exposure to being self sufficient was at Finca Braman.There priority is to grow their own fruits and vegetables for the animals living at the Kids Saving the Rainforest Santuary and for their guest staying at Mono Azul and the Blue Banyan Inn. They currently have growing on their property mango trees, nance trees,lime trees,orange trees,guava trees,sugar cane,corn,pineapples and many more things to come like a tilapia farm.They have also started a compost pile and that is where they store any leftover food waste.

Did you know that much of our household waste can be food for the garden and very valuable if we compost it, sustaining a cycle of production with little waste, incorporating ideas of permaculture and organics which also benefit the soil, and the plants you grow?

Now I’m not going to preach to you on how to live your life because I myself may not go back to the states living a self sufficient life and I don’t know what is available here in Costa Rica for you to make any changes but now I will be more aware of what I buy, throw out, and what I can do to protect our environment. Self sufficient living reduces our Carbon Footprint by making small changes in every area of our everyday life.

Here are some ideas to get you started on self sufficient living:

1) Buy appliances with the energetic seals like FIDE or the Energy Star, this will tell you how much energy is consumed while in use.

2)Buy furniture made from certified wood that comes from forest plantations managed under international sustainability standards.

3)Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, they provide the same amount of light as incadescent but they consume less energy.

4)In order to improve air quality have plants inside and outside of your house. Within the house, plants are capable of absorbing up to 87% of hazardous toxins present in the air.

5)Use natural cleaning products without chemicals that may damage the environment.

6)Paint your house with light colors both on the inside and outside.On the roof this color reflects the light andon the inside these colors off light.

7)Make your own compost.

8)Start a worm farm to enrich your soil and have rich vermicompost freely and cheaply by feeding the worms your kitchen scraps.

9)Grow your own vegetables. This is the first step to self sufficiency and self reliant living.

10)Raise some backyard chickens. You can raise bantams if you have a very small space, or you can have full sized chickens. You don’t need too many for a steady egg supply. If you get a good chicken breed for eggs a good laying hen will lay about 5 eggs a week.Self reliant living at its best with fresh organic eggs every day.
So, if we all do at least one thing from this list we will all be on the right track of making our world a better place to live in.

Kids Saving the Rainforest
Compania Nacional De Fuerza Y Luz, S.A.


Kids Saving The Rainforest’s New Volunteer Coordinator!

By Julia Paltseva

Senior at Harvard University &
Volunteer for KSTR

Pablo Porras, biologist, professor in sustainability and KSTR Volunteer Coordinator

Kids Saving the Rainforest is proud to present the newest member of its permanent staff – Pablo Porras-Peñaranda. Pablo, a biologist by training, will now serve as the Volunteer Coordinator. KSTR is a local non-profit organization based in Manuel Antonio whose goal is to preserve and educate about the rainforest and its many animals. As the organization’s popularity and mission has grown, the number of interested volunteers has increased.
Pablo is a welcome addition to run the volunteer program. He is a native of Heredia, Costa Rica and received his Bachelors degree in Tropical Biology from Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica. While juggling his Coordinator duties, Pablo is concurrently enrolled in a Masters program in Conservation Medicine in San Jose, so he must travel there every weekend. Pablo heard about KSTR through a classmate, María Pía Martín, the KSTR veterinarian. One of the main reasons that drew him to the organization was the prospect of environmental education. Pablo brings a unique perspective to the program with his vision for the future that involves conservation work that mixes ecosystems, involving both animal and human health and well-being.

As one of the first volunteers under Pablo’s guidance, I can vouch for his passion for biology. It is clear that Pablo wants to help humans and animals coexist and is dedicated to KSTR’s causes of rescuing and rehabilitating wild creatures. He explains that he used to want to be a medicine doctor, but after numerous educational and volunteer experiences that include sea turtle conservation and research, bat conservation and research, wildlife rescue, and alternative energy research, Pablo realized that he needs to be outdoors and research animals.
Pablo is a highly qualified individual for the duties of a Volunteer Coordinator in the educational sense. His background in avian research and sustainability projects makes him a good fit for working with an organization so dedicated to helping animals, yet the personal side of Pablo is even more appealing. As a leader, Pablo is very approachable and attentive to his volunteers’ needs. He is quick to answer any questions and alleviate concerns before they arise. Pablo’s mentality of wanting to explore the whole world and develop future young leaders is exactly the open mindset that KSTR values. We are glad to have him on board.

How Can Kids Save the Rainforest?

By Erin Vaughan, eHow Contributor

Saving the rainforest may seem like an overwhelming project, but kids can actually have a broader influence on the issue than one might think. By learning more about the creatures and people of the rainforest, as well as the issues affecting it, and by encouraging the adults around them to care about these issues, kids can have a lot of sway. Programs such as the Kids Saving the Rainforest activist group have demonstrated that even children can get involved and fight to save this resource.

Kids can save the rainforest just by logging into their computers




Join Kids Saving the Rainforest, an activist group specifically designed for kids, by logging onto their website. Started by two 9 year-olds, Kids Saving the Rainforest runs several programs that children can participate in. For instance, the program publishes and distributes a pamphlet called, “10 reasons not to feed the monkeys,” which educates businesses and tourists on the Titi monkey, an endangered animal that was the group’s original focus. Kids Saving the Rainforest members also receive educational material and updates on the group’s efforts. Lastly, KSR hosts an adopt-a-tree program, where for a fee youngsters can have a tree planted in their or their friend’s name.

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    Have kids participate in letter-writing campaigns. The Rainforest Action Network, an activist group, has a specific part of their website devoted to letter-writing campaigns for children that lists businesses that contribute to deforestation, a summary of why their business practices may be dangerous for the environment and a sample letter for kids to copy if they wish.

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    Educate kids about the rainforest. Log onto websites such as the Rainforest Alliance, which allows children to explore the rainforest and the issues surrounding it, through online games and activities. Not only does the website explore rainforest species and environments, games such as the “Track It Back” feature allow kids to explore where specific food products come from and how they are harvested. Other games let children get to know human rainforest residents and how they live and work.

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    Be careful about the amount of waste you create and ask your child to help you. Simply reusing scrap paper and containers helps save trees by decreasing the need for new paper products. Additionally, encourage your child to consider asking her teachers to start a class recycling program if one does not already exist.

Tips & Warnings

  • The more you show an active interest in this issue, the more your child will feel encouraged.
  • Make sure to indicate that saving the rainforest is not something that can happen over night, so that your child does not get discouraged.

The KSTR Organic Farm

Kids Saving the Rainforest recently partnered with Blue Banyan Inn, an environmentally friendly bed and breakfast located right outside of Manuel Antonio.

The Blue Banyan is part of a 75-acre ecologically sustainable community, encompassing KSTR’s new Wildlife Sanctuary and International Volunteer Center, tilapia farms, nurseries, and botanical gardens. As a KSTR volunteer, I spent part of my time volunteering at the Blue Banyan Inn, helping them move towards their goal of becoming fully self-sustainable. My primary job, along with Rodrigo and Tio, two of the workers on staff, was to harvest a food source for the animals housed at the sanctuary.

Every Wednesday, Rodrigo, Tio, and I drove through the thousands of palm and teak trees that buffer the Blue Banyan Inn and protect the animals within from the noise and stress of civilization. The property is surrounded by primary and secondary rainforest with expansive mountain ranges looming in the distance, separating one of the greenest parts of country from the Pacific Ocean just 20 minutes away. Wildlife is abundant in the area, and on several mornings I spotted scarlet macaws flying over the valley on their way to forage for ripe fruit. Tiki, the resident blue and gold macaw at the Inn also welcomed us to his world each day with endless chatter.

The patches of fruit trees, vines, and compost holes on the farm needed to be tended. Our first task was to clean the brush from the pineapple, maracuya, and cana crops. Wielding only machetes and our determination, we conquered chest high weeds, razor sharp leaves, insects, and of course the sun. The rewards, however, were well worth it. At lunchtime we picked the best-looking pineapples we could find, and after having resisted them all morning, we finally got to enjoy their natural sweetness. The pineapple, like many of the fruits grown on the farm, would also serve as food for the animals in the sanctuary.

Once the land was cleared, Cristian, an employee of the nearby Palma Tica Company and expert in agriculture, helped us design a compost heap and a plant nursery. He generously supplied KSTR with a few hundred kilos of cow dung to start our heap, which, knee deep, we shoveled evenly among the decomposing greens of the recently trimmed farmland. The grubs 5 to 6 feet down in the compost heap were the largest I have ever seen, and that was exactly what we wanted for nutrient rich compost.

Christian also offered advice on how to care for the fruit trees on the property. In order to produce the most fruit, we trimmed the trees into a cup shape, as he suggested, so that the sunlight could get to the leaves on the inside of the tree.

This led to one of my memorable experiences at the farm. I was about 10 feet up in a limon tree with my machete cutting some of the inside branches when I felt a sting on my neck. Having lived in the rainforest for 8 months, this was nothing new and I assumed it was an ant. “Hormigas!” Rodrigo said from down below. “Si, hormigas,” I said and continued cutting. Seconds later, I was stung multiple more times. Rodrigo was trying to tell me something, but I was too busy trying not to fall out of the tree while holding the machete and trying to deal with the stings to really understand. Suddenly, I turned around to see a baseball-sized bee hive with hornets swarming around my head. I immediately jumped from the tree, not realizing I was heading straight for Rodrigo and Tio below. The look on their faces was unforgettable as I landed with a machete in one hand and bees flying everywhere. I picked up a dead bee, looked at Rodrigo and said, “Hormigas!!??”. “No” he said, “abejas….” Apparently, there was a bit of a language barrier that time, but in the end we all laughed it off.

The new Organic Farm at the KSTR International Volunteer Center now has two functioning compost heaps and healthy crops of pineapples, sugar cane, and passion fruit. Along with planting and caring for dozens of banana, limon, water apple, mango, wild cashew, and guayaba trees, we also helped complete the new plant nursery. Our efforts will increase the amount of crops KSTR can harvest to feed the animals—and even the guests—at the Blue Banyan Inn. With KSTR’s help, this beautiful community will give back to the land and animals that make it so special, and I’m very grateful to have been a part of that process.

by, Trevor Tierney

50 Meters of Rainforest Adopted!

We want to thank Teresa Wagg. To help save the rainforest, she adopted 50 meters of rainforest land in honor of her granddaughter’s birthday. Teresa is part of the The Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism with the mother house in the Catskills, NY. At the city center of their monastery in Brooklyn, NY, the order keeps red wiggler worms to process all the wastes from their busy temple kitchen. They take anything that is too much for the worms to a barrel composter set up in the parking lot of an apartment building right next to a little garden. Both the worm castings and compost are put to good use. Truly a city-kind-of-environmental headspace, right? They are very active environmentally, trying to involve their entire community with many different kinds of eco-friendly activism, by both monitoring and actually doing things in the city. We applaud you Teresa and The Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism!

A Day at KSTR’s Kids Camp

Planting trees at Kids Camp.

Are you visiting Costa Rica with your family and want to provide your kids with a unique educational experience? Check out KSTR’s Kids Camp held every Saturday at the Hotel Mono Azul, KSTR’s headquarters in Manuel Antonio. We host anywhere from 8-15 kids (locals, expats, and visitors) each week at our camp where the goal is to empower the future generation and help kids realize that they too can make a difference in the world today. Our kids learn the importance of the environment and what they can do to help protect the local rainforest and its inhabitants. We begin with a little bit about the history of KSTR and our efforts, followed by a different lesson plan each week presented by our camp leaders–for example, endangered species, renew, reuse, recycle (the 3 R’s), or what happens to a plastic bottle when it’s not recycled but tossed into the rainforest or ocean. Occasional field trips give our kids the opportunity to work hands on to help educate the public and save the planet. They may distribute our “11 Reasons Not to Feed the Monkeys” pamphlets to visitors at the National Park or learn about sustainable farming by planting fruits and vegetables at the nearby Blue Banyan Inn. During our arts and crafts time, the kids paint rocks, design bookmarks, and/or make bracelets and earrings, which are all sold in the KSTR store, where 100% of the proceeds are donated to help save the rainforest.

Camp is from 9-12am every Saturday, and any child age 5 to 18 can attend. A minimal charge of 2500 colones ($5) for a day at camp includes snack and transportation, and all money goes to further KSTR’s goals. Email us to sign up your kid today!