On a recent Friday, I along with the rest of Ecology Center youth interns took a field trip to the EcoHouse located in North Berkeley. The tour was filled with insights on how to grow a successful garden, ways utilize water resourcefully, and tips for applying these skills to everyday life.
The tour started with a small scavenger hunt and questionnaire to become familiar with the EcoHouse garden. We looked closely at the ground to find all the different edible plants and up high at the solar panels on the roof of the house. We discovered many things that are uncommon in a regular home, such as a greywater system and a living roof.
Once we all regrouped, the tour guides explained how the EcoHouse was environmentally friendly. The tenants reuse their rainwater which is stored in a 1,100 gallon tank in the back of their house. From the greywater system alone, each year they conserve about 30,000 gallons of water! Plants are strategically grown in certain areas during different times of the year so each one plays a role in the life of other plants, and they grow drought-tolerant native plants to conserve water. On the roof of the shed, succulents provide natural temperature and flood system control.
The tour provided activities to further teach how every person can take part in conserving our environment. After learning about composting and recycling, we were split into two groups and competed against each other to see who was better at recycling and composting. We also had a chance to grow our own plants in reused egg cartons as a thank you gift from the tour guides. Griselda, another intern, said these were her favorite parts of the tour, because she learns best through hands-on activities.
The EcoHouse tour was an eye-opening experience for myself as well as other youth interns. When the tour concluded, one intern said he would like to create a business that offers simple aquaponic systems to families in third-world countries. I always thought I was fairly conscious about conservation in my everyday life, but there are simple ways to grow gardens, conserve water, and helpful resources I never knew about; the possibilities are endless. This tour is one of the many perks of being part of the summer Youth Environmental Academy at the Ecology Center. We learn about environmental topics through field trips and activities at the same time as gaining job experience.
Nerine Ortiz-Pon is a Berkeley High School student and Ecology Center intern.