A Sustainable Emerging EcoVillage
Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage is located on 220 acres of rich farmland in the sacred Santa Cruz Valley of Southern Arizona. We are a collective of 120 kindred spirits united by a common vision. Being a spiritual intentional community as well as an ecovillage, our efforts to live in harmony with nature are rooted in our spiritual walk and recognition of the interconnectedness of all life.
As an ecovillage, we are ever striving to become increasingly self-sustaining. We incorporate modern, cutting-edge technologies with sustainable practices that have been in use for thousands of years around the world, many of which have been abandoned by the unrealistic consumer society we live in today in America. We are dedicated to educating ourselves and others about the state of our fragile Mother Earth, and the ever-growing need for each one of us to assume responsibility for her care. Equally important to us are our social and ethical practices which encourage honest, loving, and respectful communication in order to create an emotionally and spiritually sustainable environment.
Check out some of the things we do:
With 25 years of experience we have developed new and proven methods for growing nutrient rich foods free of chemicals, pesticides, and any harmful toxins. Our CSA program was the first established in Arizona, feeding more than 100 people since 1995. Our garden team works with intention to produce food season after season that is healthy and wholesome both for the world and the individuals involved. Our food goes from farm to fork, to body, to energy, to life!
In addition to conscientiously recycling materials such as plastic, glass, and cardboard, we strive to upcycle reusable materials into art, building materials, or decor. We live up to the philosophy that anything and everything can be used more than once, and often in unique and creative ways. A perfect system produces no waste as a byproduct of its functioning. With a little inspiration, hard work, and common sense, many things can be put back to use in some way or another. Repurposed building well pipe that was pulled up from old wells is used in many of our dwellings. Also commonly used in our buildings is Oro – a rubber-based spray-on application made from recycled tires – with an end product similar to stucco.
We have staff dedicated to coordinating carpooling, group transit, biking, and other alternative means of transport. Our car fleet consists largely of electric and hybrid vehicles, and cycling and walking are encouraged whenever possible to reduce noise and air pollution, as well as to enhance health. We develop our living and working spaces mindfully so that we can remain within close proximity of all work, home, and recreation locations. We minimize the number of vehicle trips by utilizing assigned shoppers to buy food and supplies in bulk. We also have designated shuttles and drivers to make daily pickups and deliveries for over 120 people which greatly reduces our environmental footprint.
Every year, America wastes 40% of its food between farm and fork. Meanwhile, food insecurity is the highest its been since the USDA began tracking it in 1995. Our EcoVillage is blessed with an abundance of food and none of it goes to waste. Composting bins are located in every kitchen to collect food waste and scraps – all of the leftovers and extra food goes to feed our chickens and goats, or is purposely decomposed through composting to be recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Composting is one major way we are organically developing our soil to be healthy and full of nutrients. Fortifying our soil with effective microorganisms is another technique we have found to be effective in maintaining resilient, organic gardens.
Our EcoVillage is situated within the Santa Cruz River Watershed, where the Santa Cruz River and major tributaries sustain one of the country's largest cottonwood-willow riparian forests. This area is habitat for numerous species, including the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Gila Topminnow. Because of the fragility and importance of this ecological system, we take careful measures to wisely manage our water use. All across our property, swales and water encatchment sites have been constructed as part of our larger land use and water management practices meant to protect and improve the quality of water in a comprehensive manner.
Coming in at over three acres of dedicated land, we host Arizona's largest Food Forest system. Our Food Forest is a low-maintenance, plant-based food production system which mimics a woodland ecosystem and incorporates several hundred fruit and nut trees, along with shrubs and herbs that grow synergistically with each other. Situated nearly alongside our more traditionally-styled orchard, the Food Forest serves as a long-term, experimental permaculture installation that we are developing to learn about and compare varying agricultural methodologies. The Food Forest is sustained by an elaborate system of swales and berms that capture and retain the millions of gallons of rainwater runoff that flows through our property each year.
We collect rainwater in two ways - off of our rooftops and by grading the land to direct and channel thousands of gallons of runoff rain water into contained areas. From our roofs we are able to capture thousands of gallons of rainwater and store it into aboveground tanks. We then use it for watering plants around the home. In some cases around the homes we grade the land to direct spill-off from roofs into swells planted with high-water-use trees such as willows.
By observing the natural flow of runoff rainwater we were able to grade a portion of our land to direct this water that runs off the nearby hills into our Food Forest. We literally capture several million gallons of water that flow through a winding swell system to absorb into our Food Forest, watering hundreds of fruit trees. In the desert rainwater harvesting is a must!
All homes are equipped with laundry rooms where the water is piped out into nearby orchards, flower, or ornamental beds – creating an oasis right outside the home of lush, green beauty! We use only bio-compatible soaps in our laundry to assure no damage is done to our precious plants and soil. Because we live in the desert it is of vital importance to conserve and reuse water.
The average top loading washing machine uses up to 40 gallons of water per load! Front loaders use 15 -24 gallons. We also have many outdoor showers with greywater harvesting systems for grapes, fruit trees, and wetlands with subtropical plants. By harvesting the grey water from our washing machines, kitchens, and showers to water our gardens, we are saving over 40,000 gallons of water per week.
Our largest solar array consists of 84 Schott Poly 235 watt panels; each individual panel having the capacity to generate 235 watts. This overall system capacity is 19.74 kilowatts, which means this is the average current being generated at any given moment by the whole array. The current that is produced is DC (Direct Current), and has to be converted (by 3 installed inverters) into AC (Alternating Current), before we can use it. This is a grid-tied system, which means any excess electricity we produce is sent back to the grid and we in turn receive a credit against the electricity we use from the local power company. Rooftop coils on our buildings produce energy used for solar water heating which we use to heat our pool and for other uses.
The array generates, on average, 2,800 kilowatt hours of electricity monthly; roughly enough to power about 15 large household refrigerators for a month. Since you would have to burn 1 ton of coal to produce 2,460 kilowatt hours of electricity, our array produces enough electricity to avoid burning about 1.13 tons of coal (and all the CO2 that would produce!) each month. As part of our ongoing effort to increase our reliance on alternative methods of energy production, we installed a new, stand-alone solar array in 2015.
We save all of our paper waste (minus bathroom!). All paper and cardboard products are blended into a fiber pulp, which is mixed with varying levels of cement. We then pour the fiber pulp into block molds and dry them out. These blocks can be used for building various types of structures such as walls, benches, flower beds, etc.
At Avalon Organic Gardens and EcoVillage you might see various papercrete projects and experiments without even realizing they're made from papercrete. We also have a sculpture yard and designated area for the purpose of mixing more. We have an ongoing process for recycling our many paper products to be used again in building!
We focus on eco-conscious and energy-efficient building - using sustainable, renewable, and recycled building materials whenever possible. We steadfastly research and educate ourselves in the latest cutting-edge technologies in various construction products. No two of our homes are completely alike as we constantly experiment with and develop new building materials and methodologies. In the spirit of localism, we design our buildings for our environment, utilizing naturally available and replenishable materials like strawbale and papercrete. No one style of building is perfect for all circumstances, so our homes are built with specific uses in mind as we tailor them to the community's needs and desires. Come see our earth domes, monolithic domes, and other sustainable dwellings.