Everyone knows what a spaceship is, and what it’s used for. But far fewer folks have ever heard of an “Earthship,” so Pennsylvania Senior Associate Gail Metzbower recently led a group of Viridian pioneers through the first steps of building one. In doing so, she and her team are getting a hands-on education in reusing and recycling products that might have otherwise ended up in a landfill, while constructing a sustainable building that leaves a smaller carbon footprint.
“I was looking for a project to involve local Associates in, something they could get their hands on,” Metzbower recalled. “So when I heard about the Earthship project being managed by the Silver Lake Nature Center in Bristol, Pennsylvania, it seemed like a natural fit for us.”
An Earthship is an off-the-grid building constructed from recycled materials and featuring cutting-edge, sustainable designs such as solar thermal heating and cooling, onsite renewable energy generation and water-recycling systems. Participants assisted in various projects during the initial construction phase, and also took advantage of the unique opportunity to network with current and future Viridian Associates while learning about sustainable design. This particular project will serve as a Watershed Education Building, which the architect for the Silver lake Nature Center refers to as “the new one-room school house,” educating through both a classroom setting and public tours.
Metzbower and her group of volunteers gathered at the site on Sunday, July 15. A previous building had been demolished, and the group began digging trenches, looking for underground power lines so future work crews would have needed electricity as the project goes forward.
Once they uncovered and secured the hidden lines, they took on another task—building a handicap-accessible ramp for future Earthship visitors, from a parking lot through the woods.
“Posts that were to be used as borders for the path had been dropped off earlier (in a wooded hollow with honeybees), so we utilized those to construct the pathway after we cleared out all the debris,” Metzbower said. “The Nature Center’s project coordinator, Lorraine Skala, was ecstatic at all we accomplished in a few short hours.”
Metzbower and her group are already planning return trips to the site to contribute where they can as the work progresses. Up next is what she calls “pounding tires,” that is, packing soil into old tires that will serve as the building’s foundation. Once they’re filled with compacted earth, the tires create earth bricks encased in steel-belted rubber, which form the outer structural walls of an Earthship. This brick and the resulting bearing walls it forms are virtually indestructible.
“Lorraine [Skala] told us a building of this size typically needs about 900 tires pounded to complete the foundation,” Metzbower said. “Sounds like fun!”
A contingent of Viridian Associates and friends spent the first Saturday of the summer cleaning up the shoreline of New York’s Beaver Island State Park, in what was the latest chapter in the company’s story of sustainability.
Led by Executive Associate Jeff Berger, the group of more than two dozen volunteers hit the ground running on Saturday, June 23, for an afternoon cleanup effort followed by a picnic. When all was said and done, the group had filled 25 trash bags and picked up numerous pieces of lumber and other debris from the shoreline.
“I loved seeing the volunteers jump right in and be very active in the cause,” Berger said. “Many of them made a game of seeing how much stuff they could gather from the shore and elsewhere. While collecting the debris, we also got assistance from some of the park-goers, and many thank-yous were offered by other folks visiting for the day.”
Berger added that there were many people who approached the group during the cleanup to ask what they were doing, which provided the Associates a new opportunity to talk about Viridian.
“It was wonderful to see multiple age groups working together to improve the quality of our beach,” added Associate Leah Herby-Khalil. “I think they now better understand the benefits we all derive from this type of project.”
All the volunteers received a free T-shirt and dinner at the event’s end, and Berger called the cleanup an unqualified success.
“Would I do it again? Absolutely,” he said. “It was exciting to be able to pull the event together, and it was wonderful to have all the volunteers show up for this cause.”
Once our Palm Springs promotion winners got settled in, they decided to check out the
local cuisine, including the world famous In-N-Out Burger. All they had to do
was avoid hotel management.