By Doug Adrianson
It’s wonderful to feel the rest of the world becoming more aware of Earth-friendly practices such as alternative energy, “green” building, composting, recycling, Permaculture, and eating wholesome, healthy food.The Ojai Foundation has been practicing as well as preaching these ways of living lightly and in harmony with nature for nearly 30 years.
Each year several hundred people—many of them teenagers—visit our organizational heartquarters,the 40-acre training/retreat center we steward in Ojai.They experience the marvelous creative possibilities building with straw bales, earth bags, and super adobe; the efficiency of showering with energy-saving tankless water heaters; and the possibilities of life with solar power. (TOF has been off the electrical grid since its inception in 1979.)
Our spectacular gardens follow the water-saving principles of Permaculture, and their meandering paths encourage visitors to slow down and open their senses to the natural world. Our meals are nearly always vegetarian, organic, and include locally grown produce. Scraps become compost, which nourishes the gardens. And the circle of the wheel goes around.
Many stop first at our welcoming Gateway building, a living example of environmentally mindful building materials and techniques. It is the first straw bale building to be erected in Ventura County with official permits—a conscious pioneering step by TOF to make it easier for others to build with rice straw, a waste-disposal nightmare that makes an excellent insulating material.
The Gateway has numerous “green” features, including roof shingles of recycled vinyl, insulation of shredded-up old blue jeans, walls finished with earth plasters, and a gorgeous parquet floor made from wood scraps that otherwise would have gone to the landfill. Construction of the entire building produced only two small trashcans of waste.
The Council House—our newest and largest gathering space, due for completion in early 2008—is as Earth-conscious as it is lovely. Solar-heated water circulating beneath the “green” wood floor will heat its main room, and a “living roof ” of tiny plants will protect it from Ojai’s 100-degree summer days. Like all of our structures, the Council House will be kept cool by thoughtful design and partnership with nature, rather than mechanical air conditioning.
With growing worldwide awareness of global warming, the true costs of energy, and the need to stop wasting resources, many new voices are discovering what The Ojai Foundation has embodied all along—and shared with thousands of visitors.