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Home / Articles / News / Features /  Turning Green
solar-ovens

Turning Green

Ready to become a true tree hugger? Here’s how

April 20, 2011, 1:00 am
By

Call yourself a tree hugger? There’s a lot more to the title than a perfectly arced Frisbee toss, inattention to hygiene and thrift store outfits. In the interest of helping you achieve some real Earth Day cred, SFR offers a partial list of the skills you’ll need to be a real hippie—and how to master them.

Recycle Your Water
“In the state of New Mexico, gray water is everything but the kitchen sink, dishwasher and the toilet,” Nate Downey, Santa Fe’s local expert in all things permaculture and author of the book Harvest the Rain, tells SFR. That’s an actual legal definition; in 2003, the state Legislature passed a bill sanctioning the use of 250 gallons of gray water per day for household gardening and watering. 


Downey’s calling is instructing others in how to actually make use of such a rule—ranging from the construction of elaborate garden-oriented plumbing systems to simple, watering-can-style gray watering. (In the interest of simplicity, we’ll stick to the latter.)
Herewith, Downey’s dos and don’ts:

•    DO use gray water from the washing machine, bathroom sink and tub.
“Gray water happens to have quite a bit of nutrients in it, from our skin, actually,” Downey says. “When we wash our hands, it makes it more nutrient-rich than the water you would just get from the tap.”

•    DO add vinegar.
“Our soils are alkaline, here in New Mexico,” Downey explains. “Put a little dash of vinegar in the washing machine or in a tub to reduce the alkalinity.”

•    DON’T use high-borax soaps or bath salts.
Borax, a salt of boric acid, is an ingredient in many detergents and cleaning agents; look for it on the label.

•    DON’T store your gray water overnight.
If gray water sits for a long time, Downey says, it can become gunky and toxic. “Don’t store it; don’t pump it,” Downey says. “Allow the water to go into a mulched basin that absorbs the gray water and directs it right to the root system of plants.”

•    DO use it on your fruit trees and ornamentals, but…

•    DON’T use gray water on low-hanging edibles.
With carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, onions—anything that could actually touch the gray water—it’s a no-no.

In sum, Downey says, “If we use gray water on our plants with these simple systems, we’re reducing the need to water our plants with water that could be used for other essential purposes.” In the arid Southwest, that’s huge.

De-Bug
Your garden may be watered but, as any seasoned horticulturist knows, the healthier it grows, the more attractive it becomes to the bugs. Fear not! You can de-bug your garden cheaply and easily with this recipe for homemade snail-icide. (We realize that sounds morbid, but read it first.)

Ingredients:
 6 small plastic cups
 2 bottles of Santa Fe Pale Ale

Instructions:
With a pair of scissors, trim the rims of the cups to make little dishes that are approximately 1� inches tall. Open one of the beers, and take a sip to ensure its freshness.


In your garden (or wherever the snails are), dig six holes, each cup-sized and approximately 1� inches deep. You’ll want the tops of your trimmed cups to be flush with the soil level. Be sure to space the holes out across your garden.


Place the cups in the holes, making sure their edges don’t stick up above the soil.


Fill each cup to the top with beer.


Drink the remaining beer and wait for the snails.

Note: It’s best to prepare this recipe an hour or so before dusk. During the night, the snails will find the beer, get really drunk and die happy. In the morning, empty out the cups. Repeat as necessary.

Vote for the Earth
Since 2005, the nonprofit Conservation Voters New Mexico, headquartered in Santa Fe, has been holding state legislators’ feet to the fire when it comes to voting environmentally. Each year, CVNM produces a legislative scorecard (the 2011 version is due out in early summer) analyzing how lawmakers voted when it came to bills of environmental import—and in general, Santa Fe lawmakers score respectably high. In 2010, every member but one of the Santa Fe delegation voted for the environment 100 percent of the time. (Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, voted for pro-environment measures only 78 percent of the time.) Below are their “lifetime scores”—a tally of Santa Fe lawmakers’ overall voting records for the entire time they’ve served.


Rep. Brian Egolf: 100 percent
Rep. Ben Luján: 81 percent
Rep. Jim Trujillo: 67 percent
Rep. Lucky Varela: 88 percent
Sen. Peter Wirth: 98 percent
Sen. Nancy Rodriguez: 79 percent

Cook Solar
Amanda Bramble, the director of Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center, says solar cooking—now her primary means of food preparation—is “absolutely essential if you’re interested in living sustainably.”
It’s also cost-effective—especially in New Mexico, where the sunshine is ample and free.


“A lot of people aren’t really aware that all of their cooking is based on fossil fuels,” Bramble (who is married to SFR Circulation Manager Andy Bramble) says. Solar cooking, by contrast, is emissions-free—and you don’t have to pay for gas or electricity.
Though Ampersand, a nonprofit based in Cerrillos, used to teach solar oven construction, Bramble says it’s complicated. Solar ovens come in a variety of forms, usually with reflective parts to maximize sunlight, and their prices range—but $200 should have you in business.


The actual cooking part, Bramble says, is where the fun comes in.


“It’s kind of like a crock pot,” Bramble says. “You just put something in and leave it for a long time, and it ends up good.”


What could be wrong with that?

Salad by Amanda Bramble

Ingredients:
 Solar oven
 1 small pot with lids
 1 sweet potato
 � cup quinoa
 2 handfuls fresh mixed greens
 local cheese, crumbled
 roasted almonds
 salt, pepper, etc.

Instructions:
In the morning, get up early and place the whole potato in your solar oven.


Go back to bed.


Whenever you wake up, combine quinoa with 1 cup water and place the covered pot in your solar oven.


Take a one-hour nap.


After an hour, check the quinoa. You’ll want it to absorb all the water; burning, Bramble says, isn’t usually a concern with solar ovens. When the grains have absorbed all the water, remove them from the oven and let cool, covered.


Watch one episode of 30 Rock.


Check the sweet potato. When it’s soft, remove from the solar oven and chop into bite-sized pieces.


In a big bowl, combine the quinoa, chopped sweet potato, mixed greens, cheese, almonds and season as desired. When you eat it, you will be magically transformed into a tree-hugging earth child.

 

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