Sustainability Retreat

by Chloe Fox

On September 15th and 16th the fellows enjoyed a two day sustainability retreat in Butte County. Our trip started with a tour at Lundberg Family Farms, Richvale, California.  Lundberg Family Farms uses eco-positive farming methods to produce rice. They are members of the Sustainable Food Trade Association meaning the company has pledged to commit to performance standards in 11-action categories. It was a real treat to listen to Jessica Lundberg tell us about the history of the farm, the vision her grandparents had and to answer some of our questions. After the information session we went to the Rice Test Gardens, where we got to see samples of all of the different rice varieties growing. Some of the fellows were also introduced to a new crop for the first time, quinoa. Lundberg Family Farms has started experimenting with quinoa as a rotational crop.

Next we visited GRID Alternatives office for an orientation to the Solar Panel install we were going to be doing the following day. GRID Alternatives  is a nonprofit organization that brings the benefits of solar technology to communities that would not otherwise have access, providing needed savings for families, preparing workers for jobs in the fast-growing solar industry, and helping clean our environment.  During our orientation we learned about 

Chico group

renewable energy technology and sustainability through exposure to real world applications. The North Valley office has installed 291 solar systems, which is over 8 million dollars in life time savings, or the equivalent of removing 4,648 cars off the road for one year.

We finished day one of our treat with the Sustainability tour at Sierra Nevada Brewery, in Chico. Sierra Nevada Brewery is home to one of the largest privately owned solar arrays. With 10,573 panels, the array provides the brewery with about 20% of their energy needs. Sierra Nevada also uses four hydrogen fuel cells that creates another 40% of their energy needs. As part of the tour we also got to see the brewery’s giant HotRot compost system. The system takes all the organic waste from the brewery and restaurant and turns it into compost for the estate hop field, barley field, restaurant garden and employee garden.  We finished the tour meandering the hop fields and restaurant garden. It was such beautiful site and we really appreciated the farm to fork values that Sierra Nevada Brewery has. Sierra Nevada brewery brews beer 24 hours a day 365 days a year, but with all the steps they take in sustainability their carbon footprint has been greatly reduced.

Day two was lots of hard work! We arrived bright and early at the home to install a 1.5kW rooftop photovoltaic system.  After arriving at the worksite we had a safety talk and then got right to work.  We had to cut the rails, install the rails to the roof and then install the panels onto the rails. There was a great sense of comradery and teamwork amongst the group. We were split into two teams, a ground team and a roof team, in order to be the most efficient with our time.  It was hard work but lucky for us we were treated to a homemade lunch of traditional Bosnian cuisine. We finished our solar install a little early and decided to wrap up our day with a quick tour of Chico and some ice cream! All of the fellows truly enjoyed learning about the solar panel installation methods while also leaving a positive impact on the community and the environment.