|NOLS Mexico draws all its electricity from the sun - power is stored in batteries for use at night.
NOLS Mexico has been an innovative place from its very beginning. For more than 30 years, the branch has existed in an area of Baja where resources like fresh water and electricity are scarce.
Rather than hindering operations, however, the resource challenges have been the inspiration for a network of technologies that allow NOLS Mexico to operate without the use of what most people know as a "grid" of utilities.
Recycling and making use of all waste is a theme throughout the facilities. Students learning Leave No Trace environmental ethics on NOLS courses see these practices coming to life on the grounds of NOLS Mexico.
View the gallery of NOLS Mexico's sustainable features.
Solar panels don the roofs of the buildings on the property. Energy is collected by these panels throughout the day in this land of almost constant sun. Stored in batteries, it continues to power the branch at night.
|The gray water recycling system at NOLS Mexico allows for efficient water use in this desert environment.
Photo: Amy Rathke
Gray water recycling
After a student or staff member takes a shower in NOLS Mexico's outdoor showers, their water does not go to waste. Instead, it is transferred to a holding tank and eventually used to water the plants around the grounds.
Water for kitchen and bathroom faucets comes from a well on the property, and drinking water is trucked in from the nearby town of Mulege. Fresh water is a scarce commodity in this area and as such is used sparingly.
Just about everything at NOLS Mexico is recycled, including food. Scraps from meals are fed to two very happy pigs. At the end of the operating season, the pigs serve as a meal and a community celebration.
Bathrooms, like everything else on the grounds, are a unique system. Human waste goes into a composting bin below. Periodically, the bin is raked to create optimum oxygenation of the human waste. Once broken down, the material is quite harmless, emitting almost no smell, and is used for fertilizer for the plants around the grounds.