Announcement of 2014 Solutions Lab Cohort

Dec 10, 2013
Earlier this year we put out our first ever open Request for Proposals for the Solutions Laboratory program. We asked Northern New Mexicans to take creative action in the face of climate change, and we were overwhelmed with the quality of submissions and the audacious innovations proposed to us.

With 39 applications and a limited number of spots in the cohort, decision-making was very tough. We wanted to honor the diversity of Northern New Mexico and as such we were thrilled to discover that people and organizations ranging in age, background, interest and perspective presented themselves to us.

With our stellar Selection Committee we were able to make our final decisions for the cohort, compiling a motley crew of locals whose ideas are at once tenacious and inventive. This group will be working together intensively together with two great facilitators over the next four months. We’ll be tracking some of their ideas, collaborations, and experiences here on the site and we can’t wait to see what this group will come up with.

Below, you can read about each cohort member, the organizations some of them are representing, and the initial spark of their ideas, which came from their original applications to the program.


Gayla Bechtol is an architect in Santa Fe New Mexico and principal of Gayla Bechtol Architects. She has been involved with the Railyard since 1996 when she spearheaded the R/UDAT (Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team) of the American Institute of Architects for the Santa Fe Railyard. The R/UDAT was a partner in the community planning process with the Santa Fe Land Use Resource Center and the City of Santa Fe that resulted in the Community Plan that represents the Community Vision. She was one of the first members of the TPL Adivisory Council that later became the Railyard Advisory Committee during the design efforts and building of the Park Plaza and Alameda, and a founding member of the Railyard Stewards.

Gretel Follingstad
– Partner & Principal Planner – Terra Planning, LLC.
Gretel specializes in strategic and long term planning for natural resources and community development, with an emphasis on linking land use with water resources. Gretel holds a BA degree in International Management and Latin American Studies and a MS degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Gretel has broad experience in water resource planning, water conservation, watershed planning, restoration and management, as well as land use and open space planning. She has worked for both government agencies and private organizations. She is proficient in various technical elements including GIS mapping and ground and surface water modeling. Gretel is highly skilled in project management, public outreach, public speaking and she is a trained facilitator.

Gretel was State water planner at the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer for four years, where she managed both state and regional water planning programs. Gretel managed large public outreach efforts including a statewide canvas for the 2009 State Water Plan Update. Gretel also managed various technical projects for the City of Santa Fe Water Division, including water rights permit compliance, the City’s Water Bank and water level monitoring projects. Gretel is currently on the Santa Fe Railyard Stewards Board, and Sonoran Institute’s Resilient Communities Starter Kit Advisory Panel. Gretel is an avid outdoor enthusiast, yoga instructor and Native New Mexican.

Marc Grignon, Program Coordinator for the Railyard Stewards, is an enrolled member of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. He holds a double associates degree in Tribal Law and Sustainable Development from the College of Menominee Nation as well as certificates in Political Management, Lobbying, and the Federal Budget from George Washington and American Universities. In 2010, Marc was awarded the prestigious Brower Youth Award from Earth Island Institute for his vision to create his reservation a green economic model for the world to learn from.

Railyard Stewards provides community stewardship and advocacy for the care and programming of the Railyard Park + Plaza. Our vision is a vibrant, beautiful, popular, and safe gathering place representing the history, values, and aspirations of the people of Santa Fe. We are a local non-profit organization working in partnership with the City of Santa Fe in a unique care, conservation and education effort. To accomplish these goals, Railyard Stewards partners with over 35 local organizations and 30 schools and youth groups. In 2012 we had more than 1000 youth and adult volunteer visits which provided 3200 hours of care to the Railyard Park. In addition, Railyard Stewards hosted over 50 educational workshops and tours.

The Railyard Park, a 12.5 acre open space area in the heart of Santa Fe, provides environmental, economic, health, and community benefits to all citizens of Santa Fe, and also serves as a vibrant outdoor classroom for youth and adult workshops. Railyard Stewards coordinates the two community gardens that grow in the Railyard Park, provides hands-on volunteer park care, experiential education and job training for local youth, and with the Railyard Stewards Art Committee hosts temporary site-specific art installations and performances in the Railyard Park + Plaza.

A Landscape-Based Approach to Climate Resilience

Our idea is to empower an initial diverse group of informal leaders to take grass-roots action to transform the current community forest into an ecologically resilient one.

Within decades the plants, animals, and temperatures typical of the Chihuahuan Desert will become a Santa Fe reality. A “community/urban forest” describes all the plants, trees, bushes, lawns, fields, creeks, water, drainages, and hardscapes in a city. To prepare for climate change, Santa Fe must transform its current community forest into an ecologically-resilient one. But top-down directives are rarely met with open arms. For systemic change to take place, a bottom-up community-wide ecological consciousness shift must occur. Thus, funding is best spent on education. Government, business, home owners, landowners, and renters spend millions annually on plants, garden supplies, and landscape services. By influencing the entire community to adopt ecological planting practices; alternatives to heat-absorbing and runoff-prone hard surfaces such as glass, stone, metal, asphalt, and concrete; and alternative approaches to water-catchment—the creation of an ecologically resilient community forest will largely fund itself. A successful project would be organically led by informal community leaders profoundly committed to the mission.

Our idea is to empower an initial diverse group of informal leaders to take grass-roots action to transform the current community forest into an ecologically resilient one. We’d identify concerned individuals from all walks of life; provide hands-on collaborative education re. climate change and community forestry; collaboratively develop a communitywide plan; and motivate this group to move ahead with the project—organically recruiting and educating new leaders along the way, and flexibly modifying the approach as new information and new problems arise. Finally, much of the Santa Fe populace would be educated for climate resilience. In this way, Santa Fe would be equipped for an ecologically resilient response to climate change.

Railyard Steward’s vision as to how our community would be different if our idea was to succeed:
Santa Fe’s community forest—the plantscape, waterscape, hardscape—would be climate-change resilient. Rather than experiencing the ecological die-off associated with rising temperatures, Santa Fe would have a plant-water-surface landscape ready for a challenging ecological future. And Santa Feans themselves would be an ecologically educated cadre of activist informal leaders well-equipped to live in a world of rising temperatures and to flexibly adapt as conditions continue to evolve.

David Lindblom’s interest in environmental science and alternative energy stem from growing up in Los Alamos. Several years ago he volunteered to be the welder on a project to build an electric motorcycle in a night school class at UNM-LA where he learned of groundbreaking technologies for energy storage, and where the idea he now brings to the Solutions Lab originated. He is a professional filmmaker and cameraman, and worked with Martin Scorsese on “A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies,” which David cut with legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker.

Since returning to New Mexico he has worked on “Land Water People Time,” “No Star for Romaine,” “4 Stories about Water,” “Torcida,” “Cut From Capulin” (about 100-year-old, New Mexico-raised Elmo Williams who won an Academy Award for editing “High Noon.”), and “Without A Tribe: Survival of New Mexico’s Ransomed Captives.”

David teaches film and TV at Northern and is Creative Director of Canal Seis, Northern’s TV station. He has also taught at New York University and the College of Santa Fe.

David works in Northern’s Office of Institutional Advancement which builds the school’s capacity to serve the Valley and develops innovative partnerships and projects in Northern New Mexico.

Northern New Mexico College is a Hispanic- and Native American-serving comprehensive institution that will be recognized nationally for cultural sustainability, quality student learning and developing economically strong communities among diverse populations. The mission of Northern New Mexico College is to ensure student success by providing access to affordable, community-based learning opportunities that meet the educational, cultural, and economic needs of the region.


New Technology, New Experiments, New Opportunity

Seeking the earliest exploration and adoption in Northern New Mexico of a claimed world-changing energy storage technology.

Virginia Woolf famously wrote “On or about December 1910, human character changed.” She mysteriously declared the beginning of our modern world.

On the evening of October 16, 2013 human character was given a chance to change again. An engineering company in Texas announced they have created a device–a ceramic battery–that can be formed into a shape smaller than a gas tank and that can carry an electric car 300 miles. This is the breakthrough the world has been waiting for to power cars, level the grid and make wind and solar power economically viable.

After years of stealth, the inventing company, Eestor, is starting to offer glimpses of their new technology. Some say it is the holy grail; others say it’s the Cold Fusion-scandal of batteries. Soon we will know.

My project seeks to create opportunities for the people of Northern New Mexico, with our college at the center, to become the earliest and most impressive adopters. Northern New Mexico College hosts a Solar Energy Research Park and Academy, created with the intention of designing and testing new technologies and their applications. Dreaming, one can see Northern’s Career Technical Education program training local roofers in the Valley to become professional installers of wind and solar technologies. One can imagine a Lowrider building an electric Chevy. One can visualize partnerships between Northern, Los Alamos National Laboratory and others building factories to manufacture and market these new ceramic batteries, Electrical Energy Storage Units, EESUs.

This one new technology could change the world as we know it, and through efforts spearheaded here in the Valley, led by Northern, one can already imagine the artists and poets celebrating.

David’s vision as to how his community would be different if his idea were to succeed:
Time and again our region has been the epicenter of world-altering events. Civilizations were created here. The “Atomic Age” was forged in the crucible of our land. I can imagine the Valley, at the fore of developing, testing and deploying new applications of clean and renewable energy. It is not certain the particular technology I point to will succeed. But this is the moment in history that something like it surely will. The Valley, once again, has an important role to play.

Eliza Harrison is currently a junior at Santa Fe Preparatory School. As a dedicated member of the Santa Fe community, Eliza recently joined the Atalaya Search and Rescue Team in hopes that she would be able to put to use her recently acquired Wilderness First Responder Medical training to use. Along with her medical training, Eliza works for Generation Next – a section of the Santa Fe New Mexican written by and for teenagers. Her interest and passion for the outdoors is also notable. Since she was one and a half years old, Eliza has been an avid skier. Upon reaching the age of eight, Eliza made the switch to telemark skiing. Along with skiing, Eliza is an enthusiastic whitewater canoeist, kayaker, and hiker. Her love and passion for the outdoors is deeply engrained within her – a characteristic that accounts for her desire to help reduce the effects of climate change. Overall, Eliza is a spirited, enthusiastic, and passionate teenager who hopes to have a significant impact on the world around her.



Changing Households to Change Communities

I would like to oversee the installation of power monitors in 250 households in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, San Miguel and Taos counties. This could lead to significant behavioral adaptations. In turn, by reducing energy expenditures, participating households will save money and reduce their fossil fuel emissions.

Notwithstanding the value and power of technological innovation and investment, the most potent opportunity for affecting a reduction in CO2 emissions – and correspondingly, climate impacts – will involve changes in values and behavior. In our communitarian culture, changing the life of a household can translate into a change of practice for an entire community. To encourage behavior change, however, we need to advance initiatives that offer a combination economic, environmental, social and educational value.

Power monitoring is an accessible, cost-effective and proven technique for reducing household and commercial power consumption. Devices such as the Blue Line PowerCost Monitor BLI 28000 can be a simple and cost effective means of monitoring general kilowatt usage, as well as kilowatt demands by device (i.e., TVs, washing machines). Technologies such as this can be programmed to calculate energy costs by device real time. By making energy use visible – and their attendant costs – households have been able to reduce their energy demands by 15-20% per month.

A low cost power monitor (est. $115 per device), allows a household to observe their energy consumption and expenses. By making the energy use of a home visible, behaviorists have found a significant corresponding reduction in energy use. A reduction in electricity demand, in turn, creates scalable opportunities for carbon emission reductions.

With support from the Kindle Project, I would like to oversee the installation of power monitors in households in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, San Miguel and Taos counties. At a cost of approximately $3,000, the test project could support 250 households – potentially reducing their energy demand and saving participants as much as $250 per year. Working with volunteers and students at the Santa Fe Community College, I am prepared to design and implement a monitoring program that will demonstrate the efficacy of this initiative in 2014.

Eliza’s vision as to how her community would be different if her idea was to succeed:
In the The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg observes, “Once you’ve figured out your habit loop – you’ve identified the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself – you can begin to shift the behavior. “ If low cost power monitors were installed in 250 households of northern NM, significant behavioral adaptations could be encouraged. In turn, by reducing energy expenditures, participating households will save money and their fossil fuel emissions will be reduced.

Leveraging the professional and community relationships of The Kindle Project, I will be able to finance the acquisition and install of 250 power monitors to track electrical demand and its corresponding emission reduction. The Kindle Project’s involvement will allow me to attract supplemental funding for the initiative – ensuring that its scale and storytelling value for policymakers and agency staff will be significantly enhanced.

Ellen Berkovitch is by profession a journalist and entrepreneur and by avocation a horseback rider, reader of novels and cook. She’s been married for 13 years to architect Conrad Skinner; they live in the forest with a dog, three cats and two horses nearby. She arrived in Santa Fe on the day Bill Clinton was elected (21 years ago) in the company of a girlfriend who once shocked Liberace. Her former base of New York’s East Village remains her part-time spiritual home. Her latest adventure in work entails learning radio production from a professional mentor at Duke Center for Documentary Studies’ online. Journalistically, Ellen’s reported in print on energy, environmental affairs, Indian affairs and the Congress, as well as on architecture and design, fashion, arts and culture. Since 2008 she’s been the conceiver-in-chief and editorial director of AdobeAirstream, the first online magazine and podcast for contemporary art in the Rocky Mountain West. She’s interested in ecological and social justice, womens’ entrepreneurship, hospice advocacy and an end to homelessness. She loves Japanese movies and has only once considered wearing her sentiments on a bumper sticker: “Calmer than you are.” (The Big Lebowski)


Real Voices from Real Places - The "State of Change" Podcast

A dedicated podcast titled “State of Change” will follow a group of northern New Mexico food entrepreneurs/beekeepers/ranchers whose livelihoods are closely entwined with climate and ground, for a period of a year to 18 months.

Online magazine editor in chief Ellen Berkovitch heads an as-yet-unchosen team of journalists to create State of Change. The show concept is to track how land-interdependent visionaries in northern New Mexico are dealing with climate issues and demonstrating innovative adaptiveness to new climate realities. The show promises to deepen public awareness of work on the land and even to challenge biases about what constitutes “green” business.

In the conception phase the effort will be to identify profile subjects willing to participate in regular audio interviews to be edited into short segments. State of Change will be defining itself as a collective of voices from seed activists to beekeepers to tree farmers to eco-resort owners. Understanding climate change as microscopic stories relies on the key players themselves articulating the decisions that changing climate asks of them.

The show once in production enters a gaping journalism niche. National Public Radio has recently cut 10% of staff. This augments freelance opportunity to air show segments not just on a dedicated iTunes podcast, but on national productions such as Living on Earth, Making Contact or Marketplace. The idea could also extend into an interactive audio placement that supports photo- or video-based documentation of environmental stewardship combining with economic activism in northern New Mexico. Radio has a power to congregate audiences and to engage people deeply with issues.

This idea goes to the precise ways that northern New Mexicans come to make lemonade out of the lemons of calamity, fire, drought, flood, and other unforeseen events that seem to occur all the more regularly.

Ellen’s vision as to how her community would be different if her idea was to succeed:
Northern New Mexico can be an isolated place. It has a long history of colonization. Soon, a self-fulfilling prophecy accrues. As people identify themselves in silos, they inhibit new interactions because of perceived power imbalances and a priori cultural barriers. This idea spotlights communications that will broadcast a diversity of real voices from real places. Inclusive media help to diminish a sense of needing to isolate for fear of being exploited.

My name is Francis Castillo y Mulert and I was born and raised in the village of Córdova, in northern New Mexico. As a kid I spent most of my time playing down at the river, the Río Quemado, the first water source off of the Truchas peaks, swimming and fishing. I love to garden, take photographs of nature, play basketball, drum and play on the piano, and spend time with good friends. Currently I am a student at Santa Fe Prep High School in Santa Fe. My immediate goal is to get a good education and major in Environmental Engineering as an undergraduate. I would love to eventually start a business that focuses on green solutions.


Exploring Non-Native Species for Community Transformation

I would like to empower my community to learn how the Siberian elm can be harmful not only to this unique environment, but can be seen as a catalyst for larger climate problems. Together we would like learn how to remove it safely from our environment.

Many feel that change in global climate patterns are largely caused by the use of fossil fuels. Missing in this understanding of climate change is environmental imperialism: the human introduction of exotic non-native species to habitats that are outside their natural range. Anthropogenic introduction of species is homogenizing the earth’s biota. Invasive species can displace native ones and can cause deviations that can drastically change the environment. I was born and raised in the village of Córdova which sits about an hour north of Santa Fe. One of the biggest ecological problems we face may seem small to people who are experimenting with lowering the CO2 rates in the atmosphere, but which I believe adds to climate change in silent ways. It is the massive problem of the invasive Siberian Elm introduced into North America in 1860. If you drive through the northern villages of Chimayo, Córdova, Río Chiquito, Cundiyo, Truchas, Trampas, Ojo Sarco, Vadito and Peñasco you will see an assault on the landscape that is out of hand. The Siberian elm is everywhere. The Siberian elm displaces native vegetation in New Mexico and continues to deprive existing native vegetation of sunlight, mineral nutrients, and water. It also evapo-transpires water from waterways at a rate much higher than native species.

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture has classified Siberian Elm as a Class C species. According to the state, management decisions need to be determined at a local level. In places like the small villages of northern New Mexico where there are not any local governments, many people do not have the resources or the no-how to remove this pest from their property. Through this project, I would like to empower my community to learn how the Siberian elm can be harmful not only to this unique environment, but can be seen as a catalyst for larger climate problems. Together we would like learn how to remove it safely from our environment.

Francis’ vision as to how his community would be different if his idea was to succeed:
The first thing that could happen is that other things would begin to flourish. This includes the renewed growth of native plants and a decrease in evaporated water plumes from waterways. Additionally, structures that were threatened by the Siberian Elms, would no longer be vulnerable to the threat of looming crashes onto roofs. I also believe that if successful, people would have a more positive attitude about their effect on their communities.

Juliana Ciano – I am a mother, teacher, ADHD coach, artist and environmentalist. When I was in third grade, an impassioned public school teacher, Mrs. Marlene Rickheim, taught me about the danger our planet is in. My project idea for the science fair was this: create a tremendous vacuum that could be pointed at the sky and had a special filter to only suck in noxious pollutants. In the belly of the vacuum, using a simple formula, transform these pollutants into fertilizer. Next, flip the toggle switch and put the hose into the ground, pouring the air-pollution-become-fertilizer into the earth! The practicalities of designing this were a little bit beyond my ability at age 8, but since then, the notion of turning our trash into treasure has fascinated me. When my now-husband and I began dating, and he told me about his love of biodiesel and commitment to food and fuel security, I knew something good was to come. I love working with my family and community on sustainable living practices.

Reunity Resources is a Santa Fe based non-profit organization with a zero waste mission. It is our goal to reunite our waste streams with value for our community. Our first program was the BioFuel Collective, recycling used cooking oil from sixty local restaurants into biodiesel—an alternative fuel than can be run in diesel engines with no conversion required. We then distribute this fuel to Collective members in northern New Mexico.

After nearly a year of working with City government, Reunity Resources has just been approved by the City of Santa Fe to begin food scraps collection for compost from local restaurants, hotels and institutions. Our program is designed to divert 2,000,000 pounds of food scraps from the landfill in its inaugural year of operation. If municipal-scale change interests you, please enjoy our brief video at and consider contributing seed funds for Reunity to begin making this tremendous impact!

We are delighted to participate in the Solutions Laboratory and help change community dialogue around climate change: the way we each live our lives makes a difference.


The Game of Local Energy Sovereignty

We would like to create local energy sovereignty and food security by building closed-loop systems that turn local waste into fuel, soil, heat, and electricity leading our community to become deeply woven with creative interdependence.

We would like to create local energy sovereignty and food security by building closed-loop systems that turn local waste into fuel, soil, heat, and electricity. Beginning in Santa Fe County, we would build an infrastructure for community members to separate organic matter for conversion into soil amendment and captured natural gas in an anaerobic composting facility. We want to create a cooperative-model program wherein members choose a level of participation on the front end (i.e. members could choose to have solar panels on their rooftops or donate all organics to the composting facility) for some a community energy exchange credit on the back end (hours of electricity, cubic yards of compost).

To lead and inspire our community in fully committing to 100% local energy sources, we would game-ify the process and track household, neighborhood and community progress. This data would also help us tailor our education and outreach for areas and populations that are yielding lower participation.

Beyond quantifying and tracking the resources we convert into energy, we would also factor in time, energy and expertise. Assisting in the composting facility, delivering local biodiesel, converting an old appliance or assisting a neighbor construct garden beds filled with healthy compost would all earn credit for other types of energy exchange. The first arm of this we’d like to accomplish is a community organics collection program and gardening outreach. Creating healthy, rich soil and laying an infrastructure for households and neighborhoods to garden with guidance and support through challenges and seasonal changes will strengthen local bonds and provide nourishment and food security in the face of our changing times.

Reunity Resources’ vision as to how their community would be different if their idea was to succeed:
With the success of our idea, our community would become deeply woven with creative interdependence. Neighbors would mentor one another in energy-efficient techniques and climate-appropriate (low water) gardening. The game-ification of the community energy tracking would be positive reinforcement for doing as much as we can to source our energy locally. Our community would stay healthy, nourished, interconnected, warm, bright and mobile in spite of foreign energy crises.

Mariel Nanasi is the Executive Director and President of New Energy Economy. A civil rights and criminal defense attorney, she is licensed to practice in both the state and federal courts. Legal cases she has won and settled have been featured in major media, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican, and on many television stations, including a documentary, “End of the Nightstick” on PBS. When Mariel realized the urgency of climate change, she came to work for New Energy Economy as the senior policy advisor. Two years later, she was asked to serve as Executive Director. A zealous organizer, Mariel’s can-do spirit is infectious. As comfortable with complex policy and legal challenges as on-the-ground organizing, she easily connects with the public, including young Hispanic artists, firefighters on the front lines, acequia caretakers, grassroots Native leaders, funders, and legislators. Mariel lectures on climate change and environmental justice at conferences and college classrooms and her essay, A Future Without Coal: In New Mexico Supreme Court, Again, can be read at Mariel is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Fe Art Institute.

New Energy Economy was established in 2004 to create economic opportunity in New Mexico by promoting clean energy use and reducing carbon pollution. Led by experts and activists in public policy, environmental law, social justice, public health and community organizing, we face the challenge of climate change through public policy leadership, smart litigation, targeted lobbying, media outreach, grass roots efforts and community-scale clean energy implementation projects.

Energy Democracy: Leading by Example

New Energy Economy is leading an effort to establish a public electrical power utility in Santa Fe and Santa Fe County (collectively ‘Santa Fe’).

By creating a model municipal utility with leading edge innovations in energy efficiency, renewable energy and related economic development, we will improve the quality of life and economy in Santa Fe as well as advance national efforts to address climate change, reduce pollution from coal burning and promote sustainable economic growth. Santa Fe will serve as an example for other communities throughout New Mexico as well as the nation as we reclaim control over our energy future thereby enabling us to aggressively pursue the benefits of a new energy economy.

While SF’s public officials have a critical role to play in creating a public power utility, broad public awareness of the issues & benefits related to creating the utility will be crucial to the success of the overall effort. SF’s families and businesses must be informed of the benefits in ways that they can enthusiastically embrace and that relate to their specific circumstances.

Funding and support from the Solutions Laboratory will help support the development of a comprehensive research and marketing campaign that will engage the public in an important discourse around energy preferences, values and visions for Santa Fe’s future, and ultimately, will be used to challenge the rhetoric of privatization and free-market capitalism and highlight the benefits of local, public control and management of essential natural resources and public services.

New Energy Economy’s vision as to how their community would be different if their idea were to succeed:
By creating a model municipal utility with leading edge innovations in energy efficiency, renewable energy and related economic development, we will improve the quality of life and economy in SF as well as advance national efforts to address climate change, reduce pollution from coal burning and promote sustainable economic growth. SF will serve as an example for other communities throughout NM as well as the nation as we reclaim control over our energy future.