march-bkyrd.jpg Spring garden (btw, this is an undoctored photo… one of those RARE cloud filled blue sky days)

Web Nods

Urban Farm Revolution via Globally Green Living

Little Homestead in the City: The Self-Sufficient Dervaes Family via Apartment Therapy

Print Feature

(Pasadena Magazine April 2008 P. 87)

Good Green Living by Kyle Roderick

Practicing what they preach, these local families show how you can make your day to day life less harmful to the environment.

If you’re already into recycling and using CFL light bulbs, good job. That’s a start. But the truth is that reducing our impact on the environment can (and should) be a multifaceted daily practice, rather than a fleeting guilt trip ignited by reading this issue of PASADENA. For these three San Gabriel Valley families, earth conscious living is the only way to go. Their energy efficiency, materials reuse, gardening projects, and shopping habits highlight how easy and liberating it can be to turn your home and life into a 2-7 green scene. Even if you’re not quite ready for a complete life overhaul, follow their lead to incorporate more earth friendly aspects into your life


“There are degrees of sustainable living, but we try to go all out,” says Pasadena’s Jules Dervaes. With his three children Anais, Jordanne and Justin, Dervaes runs San Gabriel Valley’s most energy efficient homestead, the nonprofit Dervaes Institute (631 Cypress Ave, 626.795.8400), along with their eco community web site – pathtofreedom.com. The family also has an online store, Peddler’s Wagon (peddlerswagon.com) with such sustainable lifestyle goods as solar ovens, metal water bottles, rain barrels and garden tools.

According to Dervaes, the family mission is to “educate individuals and families to integrate sustainable living practices and methods into their daily lives. Our focus is organic gardening, permaculture, solar cooking, composting and other back-to-basic sustainable technologies and practices relating to the home environment.”

Dervaes says he started taking major steps towards self-sufficiency as a reaction against society’s oil based economy, environmental pollution and genetically modified foods that began appearing in supermarkets more than a decade ago. Rather than consume “Franken-foods,” the single parent and his children began growing food year round and making conscious decisions to scale back electricity, gasoline and water consumption.

On Cypress Avenue in Pasadena, the Dervaes family’s tenth-of-an-acre organic garden annually yields more than 6,000 lbs (3 tons) of produce. Food sales to local restaurants finance the purchase of energy efficient materials, appliances, and solar panels that provide their home with power. Using a solar earthen oven [NOTE: we have both a solar AND earthen oven] to cook food on sunny days, the Dervaes family also brews their own biodiesel from free recycled restaurant cooking oil to fuel their car. In addition, they raise chickens, ducks and goats.

While the family’s website contains many instructional articles, blog, video and archived newsletter on how to live sustainably, Jules Dervaes drew up the following guidelines for PASADENA readers to get started on the green path.

To begin with, “Grow some of your food. In your garden, plant drought tolerant species,’ he says “Slow down evaporation by spreading thick mulch so there is no exposed dirt.”

You can save significant amounts of water and money in various ways. “Install drip irrigation as efficient way to water plants with minimal waste,” Dervaes advises. And put up rainwater collectors to save the precious few inches of rain that SoCal receives.

Also, take advantage of local rebates to purchase water-efficient washing machines and low-flush toilets. Rebates are available through municipal water and power departments.

Consciously plan every day to use less energy. For example, Dervaes suggests, “Plan ahead to shop once a week only; carry reusable cloth bags instead of getting plastic bags at the store; cook from scratch instead of dining out or buying take-out; bring your own meals to work; “power down” by turning off unnecessary electrical gadgets.

The Dervaes family is living proof that conscious lifestyle choices can help you tread lighter on this earth. As Dervaes says …”By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world – we change ourselves.”

Look for this special green issue at it at local newsstands

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