Notes from the Field: Sweating for the Small Stuff

 

Aquinas College vols 2014

by Daniel Hartman-Strawn, Project Coordinator 

Globalization and the media decide for us that we will hear about every civil war, every health crisis, and every despotic leader. This heightened attention to the world’s troubles makes it easy to lose sight of the issues in our own communities. As a result of being accosted 24/7 with shocking headlines, many Americans have decided that they will simply put their heads down and live within the confines of their own day-to-day interactions. I am sympathetic to their antipathy, but I also plan to do everything in my power to end it.

When I first began spending a week each summer on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota volunteering with Re-Member, the pace of change I witnessed frustrated me. I was not content with seeing two children get their first beds. I felt depressed when we only installed skirting on one trailer, in one community, on one Reservation in all of America. It was not until I joined the Re-Member staff in the summer of 2013 that I had a moment of clarity. After putting a new roof on a family’s trailer, an elderly woman living there said to me, “You have no idea how much this means to us.” She was right. It was on the drive back from the work site that I realized how much it would mean to me if someone, out of the kindness of their heart, came into my life and offered me compassion and hope in a time when I received little of either. My motivation for the work I do is a conglomeration of many moments, but this one is seminal to my passion.

Horses Pine Ridge Reservation
Tribal lands provide volunteers with beauty and culture unlike any other places in the U.S.

Both of my parents have worked in public policy for many years, and because of this I have often been fixated with the type of broad, sweeping changes that only policy (and lots of resources) can bring about.  However, it was only once I began to understand the equal importance of small impacts in a specific place that I became an effective operative for change.  When I first began working with Trees, Water & People this past August it quickly became apparent that they have the same attitude in their approach to alleviating poverty. The Clean Cookstove and Solar Energy Programs in Central America and the Tribal Renewable Energy Program on the Pine Ridge Reservation both provide immediate relief to those living in poverty by improving health and saving resources, while simultaneously benefiting the environment though reduced emissions as well as less wood and fossil fuel use.

Volunteers get their hands dirty building a straw bale home.
Volunteers get their hands dirty building a straw bale home.

Now, I am coordinating the Oglala compressed earth bock (CEB) housing Project, a volunteer project building a sustainable (CEB) home for the Shields family this summer on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This project is just a stepping-stone on the path to wider spread implementation of CEB structures on the reservation. However it will also make a huge difference in the lives of several humans, humans who like you and me want the best in life for themselves and those they love. This project also offers an opportunity for you to come and witness for yourself the power of making a difference in someone else’s life, and learn lessons from those less fortunate than yourself that will inspire you to look at your own life differently.

Let this be your call to action! Take a hold of the reins and contact Daniel Hartman-Strawn at daniel@treeswaterpeople.org or (970) 999-4450 for information on the CEB project on the Pine Ridge Reservation, or visit the Trees, Water & People website.

Project Update: Solar Women Warriors Scholarship Fund

Gail and Jamie
Gail Hubbeling (left) and Jamie Folsom at the Compressed Earth Block training.

We are excited to report that the women who were awarded the Solar Women Warriors Scholarships have completed their training with us and have utilized these funds to learn important new skills in renewable energy and sustainable building.

We were delayed by weather in October of 2013, when the first Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Training was originally scheduled to take place. However, we were able to reschedule the training for May 18-24, 2014 and it ended up being a great success! Alison Goings, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, and Gail Hubbeling, a member of the Ihanktowan (Dakota) Tribe and also a veteran of the U.S. military, both attended the training on scholarships funded by Catapult.org. The women learned how to build a home using a compressed earth block machine, which produces blocks that are affordable and very energy efficient.

In addition to these two scholarships, we awarded a third Solar Women Warrior Scholarship to Robin Davis, a member of the White Earth Tribe. Robin attended one of our Solar Air Heater workshops held on the White Earth Reservation. After learning how to install solar heaters onto a home, Robin and the other trainees were employed by the White Earth Tribe to install 10 heaters for families in need. These heaters save families up to 30% on their monthly utility bills for 25 years, greatly decreasing household expenses using clean energy from the sun.

Get personal

“I’ve been interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy for sometime now. I want to share this knowledge with our Native communities along with the Housing Authority. Housing is the one shortage we need to overcome.” – Gail Hubbeling, Scholarship Recipient

Risks and challenges

Our biggest challenge with this project was the weather! We had no problem finding Native American women eager to attend our workshops; our main challenge was dealing with freak storms that delayed holding the workshops. We had originally planned to have the Compressed Earth Block training in October of 2014 but Mother Nature was not having it. A huge snow storm hit the Pine Ridge Reservation, causing us to postpone the workshop.

What we’ve learned

GRID Alternatives solar energy trainingWe’ve learned that beyond green job training, we need to also focus on helping trainees find meaningful employment opportunities, where they can utilize the skills they have gained. This is why we started the Green Business Development Program in 2013. This program helps Native entrepreneurs develop and implement viable green business plans within the reservation context, which is a much more challenging economic situation. In addition, we are also continuing to work closely with tribes, such as White Earth, to create jobs for trainees after they complete our workshops. Many tribes have access to Federal funds for renewable energy and economic development that can be used to employ their members in the green economy.

Next steps

We are now working with the women to offer more access to our workshops as well as an opportunity to apply to our Green Business Development Program. Our ultimate goal with this program is to see Native American women find jobs within the renewable energy and sustainable building sector, using the skills and experience gained from our workshops.

Volunteer Trip to Pine Ridge: Sept. 11-14

image

Take this opportunity to travel to our Tribal Renewable Energy Program’s headquarters on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Although it is only a five hour drive from the Trees, Water & People office in Fort Collins, Colorado, a trip to Pine Ridge will offer volunteers an unforgettable cultural experience and an opportunity to help complete sustainable building projects at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC). Plus, we will be getting our hands dirty at Solar Warrior Farm! This is a wonderful way to give back, make new friends, and learn about the Lakota culture.

Volunteer Trip – Strawbales and Harvest Time

Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge Reservation, SD
When: Thursday, Sept. 11 – Sunday, Sept. 14
Who: Flexible volunteers who like adventure, hard work, lots of fun, and all kinds of weather. Volunteers 14-18 are welcome with adult companions.
Why: To help complete two of our strawbale demonstration houses, put a finish coat on the LSE office building and help bring in the harvest from the Solar Warrior Farm
Volunteers are invited to arrive any time on Thursday, Sept. 11. We will host full work days on Friday and Saturday and a half day on Sunday. Projects will end by 1:00 pm on Sunday, and volunteers are welcome to head home any time on Sunday, Sept. 14 or stay longer and help us put a final coat on our strawbale houses and compressed earth block offices!

Food:
• TWP will provide volunteers with meals and snacks during the trip.
• Food purchased by TWP will be simple and tasty, but feel free to bring any food you desire. We will send out a meal plan as the date comes near.
• TWP cooking equipment and utensils will be available for use.
• Volunteers will help in preparing all meals and with cleaning up afterwards.

Transportation:
• All volunteers are responsible for their own transportation and related costs getting to Pine Ridge.
• We will be happy to coordinate carpools where possible.
• Our facility is located down a short dirt road. Many sedans have traveled it without any problems.

Lodging:
• Beds will be available for volunteers at the Sacred Earth Lodge. Camping is also a great option during this time of year1 Campers on the Red Cloud Renewable Energy campus must bring their own camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag and pad, etc.). Weather is unpredictable, so only those comfortable in the outdoors should camp.

Sacred Earth Lodge
Sacred Earth Lodge

To volunteer, please email the following information to Assistant National Director, John Motley, at john@treeswaterpeople.org:
1. Name of all people in your volunteer party
2. Email addresses for all people in your volunteer party
3. Your cell phone number
4. Which days you have available to travel to and work in Pine Ridge
5. Where you will be coming from and returning to (e.g. many people will be coming from Fort Collins, CO)
6. Whether you will be camping or require a bunk in our loft (first come, first served!)
7. Do you need a ride?
8. Can you offer a ride – if so, to how many people?
9. Any other questions you may have?
Once I have confirmed your spot, I will email you directions to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center and provide you with additional details.

For more information and to register as a volunteer, please contact John Motley via email at john@treeswaterpeople.org or by phone at 970-484-3678.

Reflections on Helping to Start Native-Owned Green Businesses

Richard Fox with students
Richard Fox (right) works with some of TWP’s Native American Green Business Development students and trainers at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

by Richard Fox, Executive Director

As I sit here listening to our students at our Green Business Development Training, I am sure we have made the right decision.

For years, through our Tribal Renewable Energy Program, we have been providing Native Americans with a wide spectrum of small-scale/big-impact renewable energy and sustainable home building training.  We realized though that while technical skills training is important, it is not enough to get new Native owned businesses started.  That is why we created this Green Business Development Training, using the Indianpreneurship curriculum developed by ONABEN, as part of our new multi-tiered approach of providing Native American students with the practical knowledge, resources, and confidence needed to create their own businesses.

business trainee grads
Graduates from our most recent Green Business development Training

Beyond this training, we have also instituted a national Business Plan Competition that will provide the winner with up to $40,000 in start-up capital, as well as hands-on business training and assistance in things like using Quick Books, developing and implementing marketing materials and campaigns, and overall business fiscal management.  As part of this effort, we have initiated our Business Start-up Mentor Program, where business professionals provide assistance to Native Americans who are in the competition.  The winner of the business plan competition will have a mentor assigned to them who will work with them over the next year to get their business started and rolling along.

This way we know that at least one new Native American green business will start up every year and hopefully others will form as we continue to have more students go through our training program.

tribal programYes, this path is definitely the right decision.  It has not always been an easy one to implement, and we will surely be improving each component as we move forward and learn from our experiences.  But we are committed to bringing renewable energy and alternative building options to Native communities and helping them move towards energy independence as well as economic stability.

We think long-term at TWP and know our efforts will take time.  But we have been working with tribal communities for more than 12 years and have established a network of Native Green Teams across the Great Plains.  They will surely be our strength and core as we expand these efforts to the hundreds of other tribes looking for green jobs and a new approach to using energy and building sustainability on tribal lands.

To learn more please visit our website: www.treeswaterpeople.org

Preparing for the 2014 Growing Season at Solar Warrior Farm

Solar Warrior Farm
Solar Warrior Farm in full bloom

As all the gardeners out there know, it is time to start thinking about this year’s harvest! At Trees, Water & People, we are gearing-up for another great season at Solar Warrior Farm. In 2014, our Food Security Program will distribute free veggies, offer educational workshops, and help Lakota families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation start their own backyard gardens. In 2014, we will plant a wide variety of organic produce including, potato, cucumber, squash, tomato, corn, melon, peppers, carrots, and a variety of berries.

Solar Warrior Farm sign

Next month, ten Colorado State University students will join us for a week-long alternative spring break service trip, helping us to prepare Solar Warrior Farm for the new growing season. In addition, we are looking forward to hosting an intern at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) for the summer. Anna Dunlap from Berea College will oversee the Farm as well as providing help with general operations at RCREC.

The RCREC campus is growing too! Home to Solar Warrior Farm, RCREC recently added a new building: Sacred Earth Lodge.  This one-of-a-kind training center is an eco-friendly and affordable space available for rent to conferences, workshops, and by visitors to the area. This new building sleeps 23, greatly expanding our housing options for students and guests who visit RCREC. In October 2013, we hosted the grand opening if the Lodge, which included a tour of the Farm.

Stay tuned for updates as winter fades, spring blooms, and planting begins at Solar Warrior Farm!

Solar Warrior Farm veggies
Veggies ready to be distributed to Lakota families

Notes from the Field: Solar Heating at Sacred Earth Lodge

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

Sacred Earth Lodge
Mother Nature shows her power in the night sky over Sacred Earth Lodge

After opening it’s doors to the public in late 2013, the Sacred Earth Lodge (SEL) has already hosted several groups and we look forward to hosting many more visitors and Native American trainees in 2014.

Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
on-site solar and wind demos

This week, we will host our first Solar Hot Water Heater Training at the Sacred Earth Lodge. Once the new hot water system is in place, it will join our growing selection of on-site renewable energy demonstration units. Along with our existing solar air heaters, wind turbines, and grid-tied and battery-tied photovoltaic systems, we will now have a solar hot water system that can be taken apart and reassembled class after class. This equipment gives us the ability to do hands-on training, which is so important to the learning process and what makes our training program unique.

The hot water generated in this solar water system will be mixed with anti-freezing agents and circulated through a radiant heat floor to keep the building warm, using only the sun’s rays!

You can help support this important new clean energy system and contribute to SEL’s low impact, sustainable building design by visiting our fundraising project on Global Giving. Stay tuned for more updates about our Tribal Renewable Energy Program!

Update: Solar Women Warrior Scholarships Awarded

Solar Woman Warrior
Anna, a trainee from the Quileute Tribe, graduated from our Green Business Development Training this year.

Since the Solar Women Warriors Scholarship was fully funded on Catapult.org, we have awarded three Native American women with scholarships to attend our Compressed Earth Block Training at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

In partnership with Lakota Solar Enterprises and EARTHinBLOCKS, this multi-day course will offer students hands-on instruction in this unique form of sustainable construction. The training includes instruction on how to operate a compressed earth block machine, mixing mud ratios and building with earth blocks. Trainees will also learn how to design and construct an earth block building.

In addition to awarding these scholarships, we also opened our new dormitory and training center at RCREC. The Sacred Earth Lodge is a one-of-a-kind facility that allows us to host many more trainees and provides much larger classroom space for our workshops.

Sacred Earth Lodge

Risks and challenges

Our biggest challenge with this project has been weather. The Compressed Earth Block Training was originally scheduled for October 18-26, 2013. However, a very large and destructive early winter storm pounded Pine Ridge with nearly two feet of snow, causing extensive damage to buildings, roads, and trees and killing thousands of cattle. Due to this rare October snow storm, we have had to reschedule the training for Spring 2014. All three women will attend the rescheduled training using their scholarship funds.

“My intent is in utilizing all opportunities available to become sustainable, reduce energy consumption, and do the best I can for our Mother Earth. I would like to build Earth Block homes on the Yankton Sioux Reservation to alleviate the lack of adequate housing in Indian Country.” – Florence Hare Yankton Sioux

“My interest is to learn any and all I can about energy efficiency and renewable energy to one day build my own home.” – Tina Marie Steele, Oglala Lakota Sioux

Next steps

The next step will be to train all three of the Native American women who were awarded scholarships. After the women receive their hands-on training, we will help them gain access to other green job training opportunities that compliment sustainable building. In addition, we offer Native American entrepreneurs access to business development through the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center.

More information

We have created a new website for our Native American trainees! It is still under construction but you can check it out here:http://solarwarriors.org

Upcoming Training: Solar Hot Water Systems

January 26-February 1, 2014

(Register by January 17)

solar hot water

Solar hot water systems use the sun’s energy to provide hot water for the household taps or for household heating. During this course, students will learn about solar hot water systems in general and gain hands-on experience installing solar hot water panels for an in-floor (radiant) heating system.
Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, SD

Who: Students from tribes throughout the country will join Lakota Solar Enterprises and Trees, Water & People for this hands-on training.

You must complete a Registration and Payment Form to be considered for this training.

When: January 26-February 1, 2014

Apply Now!
Registration and Payment Form due January 17, 2014

For more information, and to download a Payment and Registration Form, visit www.solarwarriors.org or call Lacey Gaechter at 970-484-3678 or email lacey@treeswaterpeople.org.

Trees, Water & People Renewable Energy Program Red Lettering (250)

Photo of the Week: The Sacred Earth Lodge is open!

Sacred Earth Lodge

Thank you to everyone who joined us this past weekend for the Grand Opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge.  It was great to celebrate this important moment in the Tribal Renewable Energy Program’s history with all of our friends and family.

Sacred Earth Lodge is a one-of-a kind facility located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It is a beautiful and functional space available for rent to visitors, conferences, workshops, and as an affordable meeting location in the heart of Indian Country.

We offer hostel-style lodging with shared sleeping spaces, restrooms, and a community kitchen.

For information about visiting or renting the facility please contact John Motley at 970-484-3678 or email john@treeswaterpeople.org.

We hope you will visit soon!

Photo of the Week: Sunset on the Rez

Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

About this photo

Jeff King, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, has been to many of our workshops at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He captured this beautiful shot of the sun setting during his last visit to RCREC. This shot captures many of the renewable energy demonstrations at RCREC, including a strawbale home, wind power, and solar energy.

Jeff will be photographing the upcoming Grand Opening of Sacred Earth Lodge. Stay tuned for more of his beautiful photos!