Dan Chiras Credit: Courtesy Photo

One of the best ways to live a sustainable lifestyle, according to Dan Chiras, is to grow a hydroponic garden. When he first learned about hydroponic gardening, he was at a Mother Earth News fair in Pennsylvania, he said. 

“I went home and set it up that week,” he said. “And I’ve been growing ever since then.” 

Chiras is the author of 38 sustainability books, including books about renewable energy, plaster building, sustainable neighborhoods, and hydroponic gardens. On May 17, Chiras will host an introductory hydroponics workshop at Community Rebuilds. 

Hydroponic gardening is useful and easy for a few crucial reasons, Chiras said: there are no weeds, you don’t have to water the system every day, there are no lapses in the growing season, and the technique can be very simple—at the workshop, Chiras will introduce participants to “passive hydroponics,” which involves very few parts. 

“I grow a lot in one-quart canning jars, and a lot in five-gallon buckets,” he said. “It’s so simple and so easy to get started.” 

Plus, hydroponic gardening is sustainable, Chiras said—it puts a source of food in your house, uses very little water compared to conventional agriculture, and doesn’t use pesticides. 

The workshop will leave participants with a good idea of how to get started with their own hydroponic gardens, Chiras said. He’ll show participants how to plant seeds, how to mix nutrients, and how to find an ideal grow-light: the right light, which has a balanced ratio of red to green to blue, can increase growing by “over 200%,” Chiras said. 

Chiras first got involved with sustainable building in the 70s, he said, when he saw his first solar-powered fan in Moab. 

“I thought, ‘that is cool,’” he said. “That cemented it. I became very interested from that point on, not just in the bigger environmental issues, but in how we live sustainably on this planet. How do we live here and meet our needs, without destroying the planet? How do we live here and create a better world?”

Megan Vickery, CR’s education developer, said the event came together when Chiras reached out to CR—he and the organization are planning another longer workshop later in the summer. 

“It’s a really cool thing—I feel like Moab people will be super into hydroponics,” Vickery said. She added that some people may find hydroponic gardening in Moab easier than gardening outside since Moab’s summer climate is so harsh. 

“Community Rebuilds is about natural building, but we’re also interested in sustainable living,” Vickery said. “We do that primarily through building homes, but I think it’s also important to think about how people are living in those homes … in addition to shelter, food is another part of what it means to have a sustainable life.” 

The workshop is the first in a series of summer events at Community Rebuilds. There will also be a straw slip volunteer workshop from May 19 to 21, where volunteers will learn how to prep straw walls for plaster and help build CR homes at Arroyo Crossing. The organization is also planning a tile-making workshop, finish plasters volunteering event, and two week-long “residential courses” in July: “Survive and Thrive: A Crash Course in Achieving Self Sufficiency,” with Dan Chiras; and “Sustainability and Affordability 101.” 

A full list of events can be found at www.communityrebuilds.org.