Working Toward Sustainability in Sonoma County: Part 1
We at Mountain Home Ranch feel a responsibility for the land, air, water, and wildlife of Calistoga and Sonoma County as a whole.
More and more, sustainability is coming into focus around the world. It’s clear now that humans can’t continue living the ways we do; too much has already been sacrificed and too much stands to be lost.
Sustainability at its core is about dealing with the ways in which we impact everything around us, including nature, wildlife, and each other. Mountain Home Ranch undertakes a number of sustainable practices in an effort to reduce our impact on the world in which we live. We strive to learn more about sustainable practices all the time, and one of our favorite things to do is to share what we know with our visitors (especially the young’uns, to whom we’ll one day leave this place).
Working towards sustainability is a tough but worthwhile process. The journey is filled with both small and large changes to our daily practices, our infrastructure, and the way we think about our relationship with all of the interconnected pieces of the world around us.
The first part of Mountain Home Ranch’s series on sustainability focuses on our sustainable energy initiatives.
Saving energy at the Mountain Home Ranch
Many of us rarely think about where our electricity comes from and how it gets to us. Electricity itself is (almost always) an invisible part of our lives—we only know it by the technologies and devices in our lives that utilize it. Relating to electricity as something real, something finite, and something that has definite effects on the world in which we live is key to being conscious about sustainability.
Knowing how much money Mountain Home Ranch has saved (and will save) in our efforts to become energy sustainable is satisfying. It means we get to keep running our business and doing what we love.
But knowing that we’re working hard to keep the beautiful land around us green is another feeling altogether. These benefits aren’t so fleeting as our own lifetimes—instead, they span unknown years and years into the future. We can all work harder to be responsible for the world we give to our children and their children.
While our business has over doubled since 1997, we’ve managed to keep our electricity bill the same with sustainable practices, renovations, and technologies.
Again, the journey toward sustainability has many large and small steps. In 1997, we took some of those small steps when we implemented timers to run many of our heavy motors during the off-hours of the night and also began replacing all of our light bulbs with CFLs. We’ve now replaced the CFLs with LED lights, which are much more efficient and last four times as long. They also don’t have environmentally damaging mercury inside of them.
We’ve also replaced our older, less energy-efficient appliances with newer, greener models. It’s amazing how much the technology has improved over the years and how much electricity can be saved by upgrading.
Along with the appliance upgrades came the program to better insulate our cabins. Good insulation in every building on the ranch is key to working toward lowering our energy dependency. Better insulation means less heating and cooling—and more comfortable guests! We’ve installed many new double-paned, argon gas filled windows that are excellent insulators. These windows keep the cabins cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and also have the added benefit of reducing noise from the outside substantially.
We’re also working on replacing all of our water heater tanks with new tankless on-demand water heaters. Tankless water heaters allow for heating only the water that is going to be used right away. There’s no more storage of preheated water, dramatically reducing our energy usage. Water takes a lot of energy to heat up, and we’re glad to see the old, inefficient and unsustainable system gone.