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A Michael Reynolds-designed Earthship in Taos
[click to enlarge]

Earth Wise


From debris to dwelling

Earthships sound like the future, but they're made from the past. Built entirely from recycled, natural and indigenous materials, the homes are as unique as the individuals who inhabit them. Due to consistently sunny weather, unclaimed wilderness and a population that prides itself on being different, New Mexico presents the ideal location for off-grid, solar powered dwellings. The self-proclaimed “renegade architect” for the cause, Michael Reynolds, created the Earthship World Headquarters in Taos.

The first Earthship given a permit in Santa Fe County in 10 years nears completion by Christmas 2011. The Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center spearheaded the construction of this Reynolds-designed dwelling in Cerrillos. The house will be 1,400 square feet, and recycled tires and cans set in cement form the walls. Once complete, the home will maintain a temperature around 70 degrees, due to solar heating and cooling from the earth.

On Aug. 20 Ampersand will offer a Sustainable Neighborhood Project seminar, including tours and hands-on experience for visitors. Volunteers can help create interior plasters from local materials. The tour includes a discussion of the sustainable processes involved in harvesting solar energy, rainwater and graywater.

As off-the-grid homes, Earthships require no utility bills and create minimal fossil fuels. Plus they look awesome.

To register for the Sustainable Neighborhood Project call (505) 780-0535 or e-mail

Kappa Wayfarer

Earth Wise

Leave No Trace

You’d think mountain climbers would diligently follow the old “leave no trace” rule. You know, the one that says pack out whatever it is you’ve packed in. Sadly, of the some 4,000 people who have climbed the world’s highest mountain, not all have been so environmentally conscious. This BBC video shows sherpas climbing to dangerous heights in order to remove trash (mostly abandoned oxygen tanks and ropes) left behind by tired climbers.

Perhaps this is why Mt. Kailash, in western Tibet, is off limits to climbers. After all, the Hindu god Shiva lives there and the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, is one of the few said to have ascended the mountain, though he did so to meditate, and not for sport.

The trash that’s being found on Everest used to be buried under the snow but warmer weather has lead to snow melt, exposing the abandoned sporting goods.

Earth Wise

Water in the Desert

We learned a lot about water use in the 505 when we investigated who sucked up the most agua last summer.

Conservation in the desert isn’t about turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth (which you should definitely do). The landscaping of private homes, commercial enterprises and large public facilities consumes millions of gallons.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority launched a free training program, Agua Savio, which will teach landscapers to “design, install and maintain water-efficient landscapes.” Water Conservation Officer Katherine Yuhas says it’s good for business. Training in efficiency along with up-to-date tech and ideas can be a big selling point for a contractor, she points out. “We hope that eventually all landscape contractors will complete this course, because we are confident it will be beneficial to their staff and to their customers.”

Classes are available in English and Spanish. People can set up courses at their convenience or participate in scheduled classes.

These businesses have already completed the program:

Anything Sprinklers, 11920 Menaul NE

Lawn Rangers, 4915 Paseo del Norte NE

Buildology, 3601 Pan American Freeway NE

Heads Up Landscaping, 725 Second Street NW

Nique’Scapes, 1113 Edith NE

Groundskeeper, 5670 Pino NE

Call (505) 888-1722 for more.

This man, John McConnell, designed the Earth Day flag. He might have also designed Earth.

Earth Wise

It’s Earth Day!

And I didn’t get presents for anyone

Let’s all celebrate as the Earth turns 40 this year. Or it’s the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Still not totally clear on that. Will get back to you.

The Earth (Day) was founded by Gaylord Nelson. I know you’re going to be childish about his name, but back at the beginning of the Earth, people had names like Gaylord and Garbagina and Ima Butt and no one thought it was funny, because humor was invented in 1982 and has since then ruined those names. So just grow up, Johnson O’Dong.

Earth Day is very important, for reals, because we are a bunch of freaking buffalo in a china shop except for the fact that we just about killed all the buffalo, which makes the metaphor kind of ironic. What I mean is that we are not good for this place, Earth. If I start thinking about it too much I get depressed and feel bad for living in a house and using a washing machine and wearing clothes and growing flowers and asking my students to print their work because grading papers on a computer gives me a giant headache and so much more. Guilt is exhausting.

So what will I do to mark this day? I really do want to bike commute several days a week, so I’ll get going on that. I also want to grow some of my own veggies. I also think it would be nice if the Earth had an anthem. Maybe a rap. So, I’m going to be pretty busy.

Earth Wise

Albuquerque/Santa Fe Earth Day Events

This week’s Food Calendar is overflowing with ways to worship our mamma planet, with Earthy festivals continuing throughout the weekend. But today (named and dated by legendary advertising copywriter Julian “It takes a licking, and keeps on ticking” Koenig—April 22 is his birthday, which rhymes “Earth Day,” you see) here's what's happening:

UNM Sustainability Expo — Lobo Growers' Market, alternative transportation fair, clothing swap, WWII generation tips on sustainable living and more at the University of New Mexico's Cornell Mall. 277-1920. (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)

Retake Our Plates Sustainability Weekend — A weekend of films at the SouthWest Film Center (located in the basement of UNM's Student Union Building, 277-5608), presented by the UNM Nutritional Club & Santa Fe Farmer's Market Institute. Trailers at $3 students, $4 faculty/staff, $5 general. Tonight's films: Homegrown and One Man, One Cow, One Planet. (6, 8:30 p.m.)

Santa Fe Co-op Earth Day Festival — Free healthy pizza party, entrainment and more at the Santa Fe Co-op (Solana Shopping Center, Santa Fe). (3-7 p.m.)

Earth Day at Whole Foods — Learn about organic products and simple daily tips to make your home a little greener. Ditch plastic bags and receive a free Better Bag for your groceries, while supplies last. Held at the Indian School Plaza Whole Foods Market (2103 Carlisle NE, 260-1366).

Grocery Bag Amnesty Day — Save the Earth by recycling plastic bags all day. Drop them off at the Northeast Heights Sunflower Farmers Market (6300 San Mateo NE, 821-7000). (7 a.m.-10 p.m.)

Earth Wise

Secret Knowledge: Recycling #5 Plastics in ABQ

The city of Albuquerque’s recycling program can only process #1 and #2 plastics, which covers screw-top plastic bottles and jugs. That’s it for plastic. “But,” we all think to ourselves, “if it has that ‘chasing-arrow’ logo on the bottom, then they’re recyclable.” And we’re wrong.

In an enlightening Straight Dope column from January on compostable plastics (In a nutshell: “Breaking it down requires a special industrial facility that exposes the plastic to 140-degree-Fahrenheit heat for at least ten days— something you're not going to get by tossing it on your backyard pile of grass clippings.”), Cecil Adams breaks it down for us yet again:

The triangular chasing-arrows symbol with a number inside doesn't mean the product bearing it can be recycled. As I've explained before, it merely indicates what type of plastic the thing’s made from. Type 7 is miscellaneous, which can't be recycled because the materials in the mix may have different melting points and such. Plastic types 3 through 6 can theoretically be recycled but seldom are because the financial return is minimal.

A ton of food-grade plastics, like yogurt cups, are made from #5 plastic. Rather than add yours to the landfill or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you can take your cleaned-out containers to four Whole Foods locations in New Mexico. From there, Whole Foods ships its #5 collections to Preserve, where the plastics are reincarnated as toothbrushes and razors. (Then sold back to you through Whole Foods and other retailers. ... Ship back your spent toothbrush to Preserve, and they become a park bench.) While you’re at it, they’ll take your spent Brita water filters, too.

Whole Foods “Gimme 5” recycling drop-offs:

• Albuquerque, 5815 Wyoming Blvd NE

• Albuquerque, 2103 Carlisle Blvd. NE

• Santa Fe, 753 Cerrillos Rd

• Santa Fe, 1090 S. Saint Francis Dr.