By Sandy Joshin Del Valle
Solar energy isn’t anything new anymore, yet the recent additions to the Monastery’s solar array at the Han Shan meadow still bring a spark of excitement: we are doing it! We are continuing to lessen our attachments to non renewable energy sources. This vow is renewed every day whether it be through extensive composting, recycling, repurposing and reusing of just about everything, or growing food and flowers. We also know that whatever we do ripples outward and can have beneficial effects on others. The newest solar array is part of this.
The solar array adds about 12 kW to the existing arrays so all A-Frames, the living quarters for some of the long-term residents, are now running only on solar energy. The solar arrays previously installed generate approximately enough power per year to make our Sangha House net neutral and cover most of the electrical needs of the abbacy and the smaller cabins dotting the Monastery grounds. Other panels in our main field help offset the power used in our main building which ends up creating a surplus in the summer that is then fed back to our local power grid benefiting all electricity users.
In other ways, as well, the Monastery has been reducing its carbon footprint. We are transitioning away from propane heat in our cabins and A-Frames and moving to electric heat. All of the MRO’s buildings–the Monastery, our Temple in Brooklyn, and the main Office–purchase all renewably-sourced electricity, 100% of it coming from the wind. Choosing a renewable source for your energy needs is something anyone can do through an Energy Service Company (ESCO) and having that choice is currently required under NY State law (you can see all NYS ESCO choices here). Shopping for a new source of your electricity should be done with care making sure that you choose a reputable company and that you understand their fee structure. But, it is one fairly easy step many of us can take to bring our concern for the climate home. Here is more information on what you should know before choosing an ESCO
All of this sounds technical and that technicality is necessary. We ought to know how we’re getting our energy and make good choices about that. We’re using the tools of technology—panels, ESCOs, measuring our carbon footprint—to do something very simple: taking care of our land. We know that we are only temporarily in this particular place and that the land must go on in an abundant and healthy way for the next seven generations, the measure Native Americans use to assess the impact of their decisions. So we live in what MRO Senior Student, Shinji Hoffman calls “wholesome ways.” A manner that is calm, patient and concentrated. When we act in wholesome ways we can achieve amazing results. What at one point may feel overwhelmingly difficult can be met without drama, but rather with steadiness; with the unwavering commitment that is the bodhisattva path.
We take care of the earth and we take care of ourselves and each other–there is no distinction. We are part of the earth and therefore never far from it. We recognize this and honor it by taking responsibility for everything and then making one small decision after another about how we will live on this earth.