Sustainable Living is about becoming conscious about how our daily living habits and choices affect the Earth and learning how to live more gently and simply so that we are in harmony with the Natural Environment and giving back to the soil and the land at least as much as we take.
Food: Where does our food come from? How far is it shipped before it gets to our table? Is it grown with petroleum-derived fertilizers and herbicides? How heavily is it processed and does it still deliver the nutrients and enzymes necessary for health after all the processing? How much of it is wasted when millions of people are going hungry? Here at Yanaguana one of our experiments is how to grow an increasing amount of our own food or find local sources for what we do not grow ourselves. We have organic gardens, a vineyard, and an EZ Gro hydroponic system and we are now sprouting our own seedlings on a nutrient-rich flood table. We are becoming “locavores” meaning that we take delight in sourcing our food locally.
Water: One of the looming world shortages is the shortage of clean water. Water supplies are often laden with chemicals and phyto-estrogens that are very difficult to remove. Even chlorine and florine, commonly used in public water supplies, have health side-effects. Water tables are dropping and wells are going dry. We decided to invest in Rainwater Harvesting Systems at Yanaguana. We have an underground cistern that collects from the roof of the main house for our potable water system. Filtered and ozonated rainwater is unbeatable for its taste and health benefits. We also created an Artificial Aquifer that collects ground water and “spreads out rain events” by slowly dripping stored water onto our organic garden. Many people do not think about the quality of the water they use to grow food, but compounds like arsenic can be taken up by plants. (Phosphate fertilizer is one of the main sources of arsenic in ground water.)
Energy Conservation and Wind-Solar Generation: We built the Main House to require fewer energy inputs to make it comfortable. Our 2 foot thick cob walls moderate the outdoor temperature and make the house easier to heat and cool. The orientation is SE/NW so that the hot Texas Sun rises and sets on a corner of the house instead of on a flat wall. We have high ceilings, clerstory windows, and ceiling fans to create a solar chimney effect for venting out hot air. We have now lived comfortably through 10 hot Texas summers without central air conditioning. (We do have some split units in the guest house, the guest room, and the yoga studio for people who are used to super-cooled spaces.)
Now, finally, with our total electricity bill averaging less than $100 per month, even in the summer, we have invested in an integrated wind-solar system with battery back-up and tied to the grid. We think we have enough capacity to not only run our household systems, but also to charge an Electrical Vehicle at some point in the near future.