Cole Valley “eco-home” offers tenants an alternative way to live | News

For 24 years, ecologist Lisa Craig Gauthier and her husband, Patrice Oliver Gauthier, founders of the non-profit organization Matter of Trust, have focused on living sustainable lives. Nearly three years ago, the couple expanded their reach by opening the doors to an “Eco Home,” where residents across the city can explore their eco-conscious lifestyles.

Tucked away in the Cole Valley neighborhood, Matter of Trust’s Eco Home provides visitors with planet-friendly inspiration for their apartments and workspaces. The house also includes the Permaculture Garden, an agricultural area focused on growing crops and other plants that can easily thrive in the Bay Area ecosystem. Demonstrations are conducted primarily through six seasonal open houses as well as tours and field trips of the facility.

Gauthier, president of Matter of Trust, said the organization is built on the question, “How do we turn waste into resources?”

While Matter of Trust’s eco-friendly homepage may not have all the answers, the facility offers a promising start.

During business hours, visitors are drawn to the Eco Home by the well-maker that you wish to place on the sidewalk in front of the house. Wide open wooden doors provide a peek at the variety of exhibits at Matter of Trust.

The garage floor space is designed to display five areas of the apartment: kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom and home office. While walking through each area, visitors can learn about and interact with eco-friendly alternatives to their usual ways of living.

Solutions range from switching to energy-efficient appliances in the kitchen and energy-efficient lights in the bedroom to decorating one’s bedroom or office with repaired or recycled furniture.

After a walk in the garage, visitors are taken to a backyard with an edible garden, a small house decorated with solar panels and a fog catcher, where large pieces of mesh nets stimulate the fog droplets to flow down into a trough below, also like a chicken coop.

The garden, designed to thrive with the San Francisco ecosystem, allows the apartment complex’s tenants to grow their own food, such as pumpkins and leeks. The wash-to-garden irrigation system uses gray water from the pool washer to water the garden plants.

The barn offers eggs that the tenants can use for breakfast and other meals. When roaming the garden, chickens act as natural herbivores and tend to the grass.

Several permits were required for this project, such as changing the garage use from additional parking to a public community education facility. Accommodations for solar panels, lighting and environmental exhibitions have also been provided. Since its inception, Matter of Trust’s Eco Home has a working relationship with the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

“People will randomly pass by and say, ‘Oh, what is this?’ Lonnie Allen, a Matter of Trust employee who first participated in the program by working on hair mats at the Eco-Industrial Hub, a separate order of the trust facility located in the south of the market area.

Hair mats, first introduced by Gautiers in 2000, are an extension of Matter of Trust’s Clean Wave program, which brings together hair clippings, fur and wool to make petroleum spill cleanup arms.

The Eco-Hub also features an exhibition hall that hosts a hair salon, pop-up pet groomers, a rooftop garden, and more.

The organization also operates an online platform called “Hum Sum” where users can learn about sustainability by sharing solutions, exchanging services and ideas, and accessing a research library, among other resources.

Returning to the Eco Home, Gauthier says the tenants “can come and see all the different ideas” while playing in the garage and backyard. She noted that all tenants also practice their own sustainability efforts, such as fertilizing in the garden.

In addition, inquisitive minds are eagerly welcomed by tenants.

“We tell them up front before they move there that there can be field trips and all that kind of thing, so everyone who moves in is absolutely fine,” Gauthier said.

Allen, who now coordinates field trips and visits to the Eco Home, says interactions from visiting the Eco Home spark conversations among renters and others about alternatives such as buying a tiny home, installing induction stoves, or just realizing personal waste.

“You can kind of see the change in society or people just learning from what we’re doing,” Allen said. “I think just watching it is great.”

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