The Naropa University Greenhouse Project was initiated by eight students in the fall 2006 Advanced Applied Horticulture class, who envisioned a campus that could exemplify alternative food production methods. Excitement grew, and some of those students carried the project beyond the "class project phase," introducing it to the greater Naropa community. As the buzz spread, members of the Environmental Studies Department, Facilities, Office of University Advancement, Operations and adjunct faculty members signed on to help, making the project a community effort. A site near the Naropa Tea House was chosen for construction of the greenhouse, which was completed in fall 2008. Its grand opening celebration took place on Earth Day 2009, featuring a talk, "Growing Strong Communities: Lessons from the Naropa Community Greenhouse," by former ombudsman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Robert Martin.
The greenhouse enhances learning opportunities built around horticulture methods, permaculture, ecological system sciences and environmental philosophies such as deep ecology. In addition, it provides plants for campus landscaping, vegetables for the Naropa Café, and seedlings for the Boulder community. As a tangible manifestation of Naropa University's environmental commitment, the greenhouse inspires the community to both learn more and do more to foster a healthy relationship with nature.
After much research, project members settled on a geodesic dome design. Delivered
as a kit and assembled on site, the greenhouse is 22 feet in diameter, has an interior
area of 379 sq. ft., and reaches a height of 10' 10". In addition, permaculture design
philosophy guided construction of the interior. For example, growing space was maximized
through stacking methods and self-sufficiency has been achieved via a one thousand
gallon aquarium that moderates temperature and provides fertilizer. With the inclusion
of a subterranean heating system and solar panels, the structure is 100 percent self-sustaining.
The permaculture instructor and students manage the greenhouse to be a sound example of permaculture principles in action. Management practices strive to make as many connections between different features as possible.
One example of this is that the greenhouse has a wintertime deficiency of warmth and carbon dioxide. There is also a surplus of slugs and sow bugs, which are detrimental to plants. Adding domestic quail to the greenhouse accomplishes management of these needs and surpluses, as the quail provide body heat and carbon dioxide to the greenhouse, and will also eat the slugs and sow bugs. In this way, the problems become solutions, as they suggest an available niche in the ecology, and by adding quail, additional yields of eggs and meat are obtained.
A sample of plants grown in the greenhouse are fig, lemon, pineapple guava, pomegranate,
tea, kumquat, passion fruit, spineless nopale, lemongrass, rosemary, water chestnut,
and yacon. As indicated by the type of plants, a subtropical environment is attempting
to be maintained with no winter heating or lighting required. The greenhouse has yet
to be challenged by near-record cold, but so far the strategies employed have proven
For more information about on-campus permaculture projects, please visit Permaculture Design and Research on Campus.