In the ‘50s the area that is now Wisteria was rich with coal and its hillsides were torn into forstrip mining. After the region was depleted of its coal roughly ten years later the company left the area in ruins. Locals who lived in the area during the time remember the fields looking like the surface of Mars —covered in rocks and devoid of life.Once the land began to erode alarmingly close to the main roads and coal taxes were implemented to fund reclamation efforts, the state of Ohio started to administrate reclamation on the land. The process cost more than $1 million.
What makes Wisteria so different is its combined business structure and product. While many corporations are criticized for depleting land and resources, Wisteria is founded on the principle of restoration and land-stewardship: a philosophy fueled by Suggs’ experience in corporate America.
The stereotypes surrounding corporations usually include unsustainable practices and profit-seeking ventures, but Wisteria flips this notion on its head.“This is a long term vision-and it wants to be profitable—but not at the expense of the future and I think that’s part of the value we’re creating,” Suggs says.Most of the permanent houses utilize solar panels and collect rainwater in order to reduce notonly the cost of living, but also the environmental footprint left behind. To make the campsite a more sustainable venture, the members of Wisteria have incorporated an environmentally friendly waste-water system.Without this system processing thousands of gallons of shower water, Wisteria would have to have the waste water pumped out of a septic tank, put onto a truck, use fossil fuels to transportit to a plant, and then pay to have it chemically processed. Instead, the water goes into a settling tank, flows through a system of pipes into a waste stabilization pond—where the water is treated by natural processes such as respiration. “There’s a lot of ways we are creating value—because value is more than just money—value is reflected in money, but its really not the only measuring stick. We’re trying to create value as the quality of life that we want, what we’re putting out there, which is respecting land,” Suggs explains.
Looking toward the future, Wisteria has plans to add solar panels to the campground’s café and dining area and install a pond energy system for incoming permanent residents. The corporation also plans to continue hosting workshops on how to live sustainably and use the land resourcefully with hopes of inspiring visitors to challenge the unsustainable practices ingrained in society today.Ultimately, Suggs’ mission is well underway: “We are reclaiming ourselves as we reclaim this land because we’re undoing a lot of that negative programming … we’re transforming ourselves as well as as the land because we’re beings of this land too.”