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Crestone Eagle, March 2003:
by JoDee Powers
As we look to the future and ponder what tomorrow
will bring, I wonder what Crestone/Baca will look like in
10 years. With about 50+ new houses built in 2002, how many
will we see this year and next? How many developers will be
showing up at the land auction hoping to get a cheap lot?
How will we keep our values in tact, preserve our way of life,
and our community as we inevitably grow? Can we envision a
future economy that is viable, sustainable and environmentally
In the midst of this growth, is it possible for us to create
a community where true sustainability and self-reliance are
intertwined with a deep reverence for this earth as a way
of life? Not just rhetoric, or words and policies on a page,
once laid down and then forgotten, but alive enough to each
of us that we embrace and live it each day? One way we might
be able to create a little stability and sustainability is
to look at a new business paradigm that is emerging in Europe,
Vermont and other parts of the world. This concept is called
What is an Eco-Park?
An Eco-Park is a new economic way of functioning and doing
business. It is a self-sustaining, commercial community where
there is zero waste, minimal impact on the environment and
an atmosphere of businesses working cooperatively to serve
the community. This is a model where the waste of one business
is the resource for another, where negative environmental
impacts are transformed into useful things. The end result
is zero emissions. These are businesses that put human and
ecological welfare on equal footing with financial success,
recognizing that we cannot continue this way of doing business
without damaging our environment.
An Eco-Park is about new possibilities, one that fits with
our community’s values of preserving our eco-systems,
our small, village way of life, selective growth, and encouragement
of ecological sustainability. An Eco-Park is a doorway into
new possibilities and ways of thinking that could create a
sustainable economy for a lifetime while creating jobs and
goods that serve the community.
The current thought process that much of the world embraces
is that only the fastest growing businesses and nations will
survive. To survive economically, you must grow. Some of you
may be wondering what economics has to do with an Eco-Park.
From my perspective, it has everything to do with it. With
a world economy pre-occupied with short term results that
leave us with long term consequences, and an underlying principal
of limitless growth, many economic visionaries are concerned
that this “bubble” may burst, leaving the developed
world with a system that can no longer function as it has
for the last 75 years, perhaps with devastating consequences.
Companies are under constant pressure to increase earnings,
which leaves them with little time or concern for the resources
they are consuming or the waste they leave in the wake of
their industrial process, polluting our skies, water and soils.
The Earth is the resource businesses look to as they increase
their bottom lines, failing to recognize that we are spewing
out garbage faster than the Earth can possibly handle it.
As economist Herman Daly asserts, “Under our present
economic system, the Earth is a business in liquidation.”
How long do we think this liquidation sale can continue before
we have to finally close the doors?
Let’s examine what we have as an economy within our
own community. Although we have a small amount of tourism,
most of our economy revolves around the few local businesses
and building trades. Some folks are self employed or retired,
while others have to travel to either Alamosa or Salida to
get gainful employment. I have often heard the comment that
there is a lack of “reasonable” work here in the
Baca. When I probe further, I discover that this person often
wishes for some meaningful work that would pay them enough
to be able to stay here in a community that they love. This
leads to a logical question, how do we create a local economy?
Here are some key points about sound, local economies:
• They focus on meeting basic community needs, ie.
food and clothing, by utilizing resources from relatively
• The community must come first, neighboring communities
or markets second.
• They offer the prospects of secure, meaningful, skilled,
local work rather than being subject to global whims.
• Key production processes are run with few inputs from
the outside world.
• They utilize resources sustainably with few or zero
Localism is about the renewal of skills, cultures and environments.
It’s about using resources, technologies and economic
systems accountably while keeping the needs of the community
as its focus. That is the niche that an Eco-Park can fill
Creating our own eco-park
Having recently studied about communities creating their own
localism, at the Schumacher College for Environment and Ecology,
and working with Gunther Pauli, founder of the Zero Emissions
Research Institute (ZERI), I have had the opportunity to examine
several different models. Included in this article is an idea
that could work for us here in Crestone/Baca. In this model,
you begin with 2 primary businesses which create wastes that
are utilized by other businesses.
When you are creating an eco-park, you must consider the
resources you are using and the wastes you are producing.
The primary resources used in the start up businesses are
sun, water, and grain. The primary wastes produced are grain
substrate, whey, waste heat and waste water. If you look at
the diagram, you can follow the arrows and see how these wastes
are either used by another business or recycled. In the design
presented, we start with a brewery, which uses grain, sun
and water, produces beer as a product, and creates waste water,
heat and grain substrate. The waste heat can be recycled to
heat other buildings, and waste water goes to the “Living
System” greenhouse for recycling. (See side bar on previous
The grain substrate from the brewery is re-used to grow mushrooms.
Other grain, or even re-cycled paper is added to create a
substrate viable for growing shitake, oyster or portabello
mushrooms. Once the mushrooms have been harvested, the spent
substrate is re-cycled as either chicken bedding or feed,
or can be used to raise earthworms or create compost. If used
for chicken bedding or feed, it helps create another business
where the product is eggs.
The other building seen in the diagram is a cooperative industrial
kitchen that would be utilized by many local entrepreneurs,
including the women’s goat cooperative to get their
dream of a cheese factory off the ground. Caterers, bakers,
producers of medicinal and beauty products, as well as other
makers of culinary delights can use the industrial equipment
in this kitchen to further their business endeavors. Primary
wastes from the kitchen—whey and water—will also
be recycled through the living system, with a diversity of
products coming from the kitchen.
Once the waste water goes into the living system and is purified,
it can be used to raise fresh vegetables and fish, and to
water outside gardens. Everything is recycled and the environmental
impact is minimized. In the end, the community has products
that it can eat—bread and baked goods, eggs, medicinal
products, mushrooms, beer, vegetables, fish and more. One
important factor is that local money is supporting local business
while providing dependable jobs. All these goods would be
marketed to nearby towns to help businesses stay viable, and,
because these businesses are planned to work cooperatively,
they could use one delivery truck, (perhaps running on bio-diesel)
that would efficiently get these products to their respective
Many other businesses can spring from these few components.
It is a business model that can flex and evolve as it moves
forward with the focus of serving the needs of the community
first. It requires us to think out of the box and come together
as a community to support a sustainable idea and vision for
the future. Many of us have concerns around sustainability,
but few of us know where to begin. Perhaps this is a focal
point, an idea we can all embrace and derive benefit from.
How can we not benefit from a more stable, localized economy
that provides a healthy source of food from environmentally
An Eco-Park can help us create an economy on a human scale,
allowing us to interact with care and intelligence, while
doing business with ethical, social and environmental considerations.
We have some distinct advantages that others may not. There
are no old designs or buildings to retrofit or tear down,
no reason to undo systems that aren’t sustainable or
don’t fit into an eco park design. Our biggest advantage
is that we can create a sound model from the ground up. It
helps us set a tone and a mind-set for sustainability for
the rest of the area, while providing a model for others to
see and replicate.
There are many ways this Eco-Park can come into being. This
is a community model that excludes no one. If you are interested
in learning more, come to the next presentation at the POA
Hall, March 4, 7pm or call me at 256-4548. In the words of
Ghandi, “We must become the change we want to see.
To believe in something and not to live it is dishonest.”
is a living system?
A living system is designed to mimic the water purification
process of nature. This system reclaims wastewater in a series
of biological cells that can be built into a variety of environments
and structures. Living systems can be created in houses, factories,
schools, colleges, and resorts. In this eco-park design, the
living system would be in a greenhouse environment where the
purified water would be used to raise fish, vegetables and
In simplistic terms, the process looks something like this:
• Wastewater is pretreated.
• Nitrogen is removed by micro-organisms.
• Organic carbon and odors ar removed.
• Water flows through hydroponic reactors, where the
surface is covered with tropical plants. On their roots are
living organisms that digest the biosolids.
• Once the biosolids are removed, the water is polished
and ready for use.
Living systems can enhance quality of life as they provide
beautiful as well as productive spaces. An environmental model
of this type offers many educational opportunities for local
schools, the community and visitors. It is financially viable
since it offers the opportunity for growing cut flowers, fish,
fruit, vegetables, herbs, etc. Living systems invite nature
into our lives, while helping to protect our environment and
re-cycling a precious resource—water.
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