Sure we all want to be environmentally friendly, but do we really know how to do it? The Solar Living Institute in Hopland, California gives visitors a plethora of ideas. They have a self-guided (and free) tour, which displays earth-friendly innovations that create a completely sustainable property.
Earth Day already begins when you drive into the parking lot. Not enough fuel left? No worries. You can use their biodiesel station with fuel made of recycled vegetable oil or hook up to one of their electric vehicle chargers. The parking lot itself uses gravel, a way to avoid the more hazardous oil-based asphalt. Reeds and grasses surrounding the parking lot filter pollutants, this procedure also known as bioremediation.
The Solar Living Institute provides the largest amount of private solar energy to the electricity grid in the state of California. Generating approximately 160,000 kW hours of AC electricity each and every year, the large panels can already be seen from Highway 101. The Institute goes on to display a solar oven as well as a solar powered water pump that takes water from a pond to irrigate their organic vegetables.
During the summers, youth interns work on the property, cultivating the organic farm, the nut trees, and in the past they have created several houses made of cob: a mixture of strawbales, clay, and straw infill considered ‘low-impact’ materials that replace wood or concrete. There’s also the Great Wall of Hopland made of more than 100 rice straw bales and meant to block out the noise coming from Highway 101.
Walking through the property, backpackers, children, and adults will enjoy the technological innovations as well as the art. Duck down into the bamboo pyramid created in a pyramid shape or during the summer months take a ride on the solar powered carousel. At the center of the property, there’s a solar calendar. You can also search for the tree house, the sundial, and through some brush off to the side, 1950’s automobiles have been turned into planters for trees.
Even more environmentally friendly items can be found at the Solar Living Institute’s store. They tout hand-powered blunders and compost toilets. The toilets cost around two thousand dollars and you can buy how-to manuals about how manure can save mankind. They even have a ‘Sun Frost’ refrigerator that uses krypton gas.
The last pit stop on the tour are the so-called ‘weird’ bathrooms located right next to the pedal power bike generators. Inside, the toilet tank lids come from the Sonoma County dump. The toilets use only 1.4 gallons per flush and the men’s urinals have an oil based fluid trap.The sinks use grey-water and the bathroom wall partitions are made from recycled milk jugs and plastic bottles.
Be transported into a world that is possible. The Solar Living Institute makes our vision for a sustainable world easy and fun. Make sure to check their website for workshops, festivals, and where to apply for internships.