Putting sustainable technology on display in Palomas

solar water heater

Border Partners produced this solar water heater, a device offering great utility to local residents. Most Palomas citizens do not use gas water heaters due to the utility expenses incurred in their operation.

It was time to put our work on display, and the public responded! On Wednesday, Border Partners held an exhibition of recently completed sustainable technology projects in Pto. Palomas. The exposition showcased a variety of projects in the area around the Public Library.

Our new addition to the library which is constructed of papercrete blocks took center stage. Papercrete blocks, locally produced by Border Partners, are lightweight, highly insulating, low cost and utilize recyclable material.  The addition’s roof is made of ferrocement, a building material known for reduced maintenance costs and long lifetime in comparison with traditional construction methods. This methodology reduces the cost of roofing far beyond any current methods utilized in Palomas.

A solar water heater and the graywater system for the library bathroom were also on display. In addition, participants visited the onsite demonstration garden where some of the raised beds utilize drip irrigation and a large tank collects and stores rainwater. The earth on this site has been shaped to drain rainwater away from the walls nearby where they had been eroding and is directed toward the garden.

Border Partners staff from Palomas led visitors through the exhibits, explaining the processes and their corresponding advantages.

We were delighted with a turnout that included Mayor Angel Chacon and two of his staff members, Maria Sisneros, an environmental engineer from the US EPA, and Jorge Hernandez from the Border Environment  Cooperation Commission. The Secundaria Principal and teachers brought their students. Two representatives  from the Small Business Development Center at Western New Mexico University as well as many interested adults from both Palomas and Columbus.

Visitors enjoyed snacks that were prepared and served from a solar cooker.

All projects on display were designed and built to be low cost and to conserve the Earth’s natural resources. Many projects use recycled materials. These projects were funded in part by a grant from the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission and the US EPA.

Palomas Binational Earth Day 2013: A Border Partners Showcase

by Peter Edmunds

eric shows off papercrete

Eric shows off the amazing papercrete block–extra light, extra insulating–at Earth Day in Palomas.

Last Monday was Earth Day around the world and, for the first time, it was celebrated in Palomas. It was organized in conjunction with several groups in Columbus, NM just across the border and so became a Binational Earth Day Celebration.

student created solar panels

Border Partners volunteer Don Farber and secondaria students who assembled photo voltaic electric panels and used them to power a light bulb proudly displayed their products and explained them to the public.

photo voltaic electric

For the past six weeks, Border Partners has been sponsoring a  workshop  about sustainable technology with the seniors from the Palomas high school.  About 15 students have built a solar water heater, two types of solar cookers, and a photo voltaic electric system.  The completion of the projects coincided with Earth Day.

The Mayor gave us the use of the plaza outside his office for our event. It became a showcase for all of  Border Partners projects.  The student projects were setup on the plaza, and they were there to explain how they worked to anyone who stopped.

Eric Laborin Quezada, who is working with Border Partners to start a business selling papercrete blocks made from recycled paper, was there to promote the advantages of papercrete blocks and insulation panels.

Juana Flores distributes tomato seedlings.

Juana Flores distributes tomato seedlings.

Juana Flores and Juana Lazoya, our gardening promoters,  gave away over 200 free tomato seedlings and seed packets containing ten different vegetable crops for home gardens.

The Promotoras (health educators) sponsored by Border Partners, welcomed a continual stream of people who wanted their blood pressure and  blood sugar checked.

Two artisan groups displayed craft items made from recycled materials.

This was the first time that all Border Partners’ projects were on display to the public in one place.  There’s already talk of a fall harvest festival. Lots of local citizens got a chance to see what Border Partners is doing in the community.

Unveiled: Puerto Palomas’ new Community Education Center

Puerto Palomas learning center

The new community learning center stands tall and strong, firmly attached to the Puerto Palomas public library.

We proudly unveil the exterior of the new Community Education Center which is attached to the public library in Palomas. This building is a model in alternative building, as its blocks were created in town this summer using papercrete, a building material with greatly enhanced insulation factors. The three barrel arches made of ferro cement and insulated with papercrete panels now stand tall and firmly attached to the Palomas public library.

The room awaits the equipment that will outfit it to educate. For now, we plan to begin to offer face to face traditional classes beginning in January.  We’re also working on proposals to equip the room with electronic equipment for other kinds of learning and activities.

Now the exterior of the building is being transformed into a showpiece of public art. With the greatest of luck, we connected with a Mexican muralist who is lending his significant talent to this project. It is a fresco, of sorts, in cement! Note the inclusive character of the subjects: Indigenous and differently-abled are all welcome to come and learn here. The mural is a real celebration of learning and the world it breaks open to the learner.

Mexican muralist at work

Mexican muralist is transforming the exterior of the new learning center into a statement on the power of learning.

New community learning center construction underway, expands Palomas public library

learning center construction

Going UP…new learning center in Palomas will encourage educational opportunities.

A crew of five young people and their supervisor have worked for almost three weeks on a new community learning center addition for the Palomas public library.  The progress is remarkable. The new handicap accessibility ramp is finished, and the papercrete walls of the classroom are almost complete.  Builders will start the roof this week:  three barrel arches made of ferro cement and insulated with papercrete panels.

starting construction Sept. 25

BEFORE Photo: Construction began September 25. Progress is easy to see, as compared to the photo at the top of the post

In addition to providing a new  learning center for the community, this project will serve as an ongoing demonstration of several sustainable technologies that could improve building methods in Palomas.  Papercrete costs about the same per square foot as cement blocks and yet has an R value (insulation capability) that is far superior.  That means the new building addition will stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer – thereby reducing heating and cooling costs.  It also has better soundproofing qualities and is lighter.

Building the roof of a house is often one of the biggest expenses.  As you drive around Palomas, you’ll see many unfinished houses lacking roofs.  Using ferro cement is a more economical method of building a roof than the most common method: using metal panels.

new accessibility ramp on Palomas public library

The crew has already completed new accessibility ramp on Palomas public library.

One challenge with ferro cement, however, is that it’s a little tricky to learn the process of working with it. But after this project, six people from Palomas will know how to do it.  We might hope that one day ferro cement roofing could eventually become a business.

Contributions to get the Learning Center up-and-running are still important, according to Border Partners’ Polly Edmunds.

“We need money to complete the addition and hire a staff person,” stated Edmunds.  “We are applying for a grant from Rotary International for equipment but if anyone has ideas for other sources of equipment we could use more ideas.”

The Learning Center also needs  late-model computers with at least 2G RAM. Used computers fitting that profile are welcome contributions for the learning center, the library and the schools in Palomas..
Our blog post next week will feature photos of the new roof going up! Stay posted!

New papercrete greenhouse helps Palomas gardens grow

new seedlings ready to plant

Juana presents a flat of new seedlings ready to plant in a family garden.

By Helena Myers, U.S. Garden Coordinator for Border Partners

Well, it’s happening! Juana’s greenhouse made of papercrete is finished, and plants are sprouting in Palomas.

Our Palomas garden coordinator Juana Lozoya Ortega and her husband Fernando, along with Peter Edmunds and his crew built a papercrete greenhouse to support our Palomas home-gardening efforts. Now buckets and large pots hold plants sprouting in the greenhouse’s warm, sunny environment.

Juana recently took a flat of seedlings the greenhouse has already yielded to a beginning gardening family (see photo atop post). Now those seedlings are all nestled in a new family plot that’s surrounded by cement blocks and covered with plastic.

Our gardening program now counts 16 serious, active gardeners who have plastic-protected beds of at least 4×4’ dimension. They’re already harvesting greens and radishes.

Juana & new papercrete greenhouse

Juana stands proudly in the new papercrete greenhouse.

Juana supports the Palomas gardeners with materials: seeds, compost, wire and plastic. And she continually searches out new gardeners, finding two more in the past two weeks. The enthusiastic gardeners are so proud of the plants they’ve grown from seeds sown in December that they hesitate to cut them. We encourage them to harvest them for salads because, if they leave an inch or more, the plant will grow back.

Palomas residents are familiar with tomatoes, chilies or vegetables that thrive in summer heat. But we plan to gather all the gardeners at Juana’s and make a big leafy green salad to demonstrate how to use winter greens because they are not familiar with fresh uncooked winter vegetable usage. Our plan is to keep gardens producing all year, so eventually people can eat nutritious food without going to the store, where they can only find wilted vegetables.

Last month an expert gardener from Columbus brought soil samples to demonstrate soil improvement methods to our Palomas gardeners. She explained the process of mixing biochar with manure to prepare it to serve as a soil amendment. Fernando is presently now watering and weekly turning a large compost pile, using manure from the stock yards mixed with biochar.

Palomas gardeners

Palomas gardeners help Mother Nature grow their food.

Our future plans are to attempt to propagate fig tree cuttings for all the gardeners and to begin to establish peach tree cuttings. We’re also looking forward to implementing the grey water systems that will result from the new environmental grant Border Partners received. Two gardeners already use water from their washing machines to trees in their yards, so this will extend the water conservation efforts we’ve already begun.

It is an exciting time of new growth in the gardening sector of Palomas!

Papercrete adds value to a Palomas home

completed addition

Papercrete addition to Palomas home adds value economically.

Home readied for addition.

Palomas home is readied for a papercrete addition.

Papercrete is a building material that is gaining acceptance because its production recycles paper products for construction uses.

Just as importantly, papercrete provides improved insulation. According to Wikipedia, papercrete’s R-value is within 2.0 and 3.0 per inch. And since papercrete walls are typically several inches thick, that provides great insulation from summer sun and cold winter winds.

papercrete walls

Papercrete block is used instead of cement block.

Unlike concrete or adobe, papercrete blocks are lightweight, less than a third of the weight of a comparably-sized adobe brick. This is because the paper fiber replaces the sand, clay or gravel component found in adobe or cement.  Papercrete is also mold resistant and also assists sound-reduction.

For all of those reasons, Border Partners is promoting papercrete as a potential boon to Palomas. A local family used papercrete blocks to add a room to their home this month. The photos illustrating this post show papercrete in action!

finishing exterior

The exterior of the walls receive a protective finish.