|“The Garden Prjoect” at NOLS Alaska.
© Grant Williams
NOLS is best known for its nationally renowned wilderness
education that teaches Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics
for traveling in remote places. But the LNT ethics
that NOLS practices and teaches in the backcountry
aren’t confined to the wilder-ness classroom.
NOLS is becoming more and more environmentally conscious
of how they approach this ethic right in town. By recycling,
restoring old buildings, creating energy through solar
power, and harvesting food, NOLS is taking a practice-what-you-teach
approach to reducing their impact on the environment.
At NOLS Alaska, employees Johanna Divine and Ellie
Van Visse started what is called “the garden project” back in 1999. The garden consists of
two vegetable gardens and one herb and flower garden and supplies the kitchen
with approximately 1,000 lbs. of fresh organic produce from June through August
every year. “This project decreases the cost of shipping food from the
Lower 48, which includes the fuel for transport and packing,” explains
NOLS Alaska kitchen manager Alex Papasavas.
NOLS Alaska also recently purchased a Prius, a hybrid
gas/electric vehicle from Toyota. The average gas
mileage for the Prius ranges from 45-55 miles per
gallon, but perhaps more notable, the emissions
from the car total a mere 10 percent of what the
engine produces. The car will mostly be used for
running errands into Anchorage, and picking students
up at the airport.
At NOLS Mexico, the desert dictates much of how the
branch operates. All drinkable water is driven
into the branch from town (which is 18 miles away).
Shower water comes from a gray water source, meaning
that the gray water is a bit salty, but nonetheless
used for watering all the plants on the property.
Since the shortage of water is such as factor,
the toilets are all self-composting.
The branch in Mexico also uses another unusual composting
technique — pigs.
Every season, two piglets join the branch and eat scraps leftover from the kitchen.
At the end of the year, the pigs get pretty hefty, and everyone at the branch
gets a pretty big feast. Now that’s recycling your food!
Other NOLS branches
are “going green” as well. The NOLS Patagonia
caretaker’s house was built with straw bales. Its thick walls help reduce
heating costs, and many locals have taken to the same type of architecture. NOLS
Teton Valley has converted an old Mormon church for their headquarters, and NOLS
Yukon is located in a converted warehouse made of used materials.