The Vision for a SuSol Education Center

By Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano has had a vision for a while now: To have an office space that serves as a place of education around the many things we teach about, such as sustainable landscaping, water capture and reuse; cooking with seasonal, sustainable local food; and building community resilience.

We have been lucky to spend the past few years in our office at the Global Center for Success on Mare Island. This office space puts us near nonprofit partner organizations and the beauty of the Vallejo People’s Garden and the Pollinator Pathway garden we installed with them and Solano RCD in front of the building. But as our team has grown in number, we find there are limitations in a one-room office, both for our team members’ needs as well as ways we would like to interact with all of you in the community.

And so we are returning to that original vision.

We would love to find a safe and beautiful place where we can create and exhibit the solutions we’ve been teaching and demonstrating for nearly 25 years. These may include a permaculture garden or farm, sustainable water techniques, solar energy and maybe even chickens. There could be a commercial kitchen space for teaching classes and preparing food (or the potential to add such a space). We also need a shared workspace and a place to gather around a table for large team or partner meetings, and an area to house tools and equipment, promotional materials and office files. The property would need to be zoned to allow for office space and would need to be able to support visitors coming to the site for meetings, classes and demonstrations.

We’ve seen creative and innovative ways individuals, organizations and cities have supported such projects. In Berkeley, the Ecology Center runs EcoHouse, which was founded in 1999 when a group of individuals “collectively purchased and transformed a small, dilapidated North Berkeley home into a demonstration house and garden.” In American Canyon, the city offered up an old public works yard to be transformed into the Napa River Ecology Center in partnership with the American Canyon Community Parks Foundation. Santa Cruz Permaculture now stewards a 26-acre farm under a 30-year lease as part of its operations.

We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions for supporting this vision! Reach out to us at

Even with this active vision for an education center, Sustainable Solano is committed to continuing hands-on sustainable landscaping and resilience-building workshops, cooking classes, and internships within Solano communities, because these are the very heart of our work. Our goal is to bring neighbors together in ways that help them connect with each other, the Earth, and themselves.

Tell Us About Your Urban Ag Needs!

By Patrick Murphy, Program Manager

Installation of a garden bed at Faith Food Fridays in Vallejo

Sustainable Solano firmly believes that the best community projects are community driven. We believe strongly that solutions and ideas need to come from locals who know their area, the neighborhood, and what they can expect from their community. Most communities are acutely aware of the local problems they face, and may have insightful and unique solutions to solve these issues, but lack the funds to put their ideas into practice. Through our Solano Gardens program, we have encountered many informal groups of interested citizens needing support for smaller urban agriculture projects who lack funds, materials or planning support to get their project off the ground.

Sustainable Solano is applying for an Urban Agriculture grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Farm to Fork office. This grant would support the continuation and expansion of the Solano Gardens program, which focuses on creating, renewing and supporting community gardens in Solano communities to create more access to healthy, seasonal produce. The program is currently funded through Solano Public Health.

The CDFA grant would also allow us to give small, flexible funding to local urban ag projects, which could include a variety of needs, including the creation of a new community garden, revitalizing garden beds, adding chickens or creating a seating space within a community garden. It would open up new opportunities for organizations or groups of individuals that need materials and support. We envision creating a simple, straightforward application and approval process to make it easy to reach out to Sustainable Solano for the help needed to support urban agriculture in your communities.

This is why we want to hear from you! We want the best possible picture of what types of urban ag projects, what resources and what support your organization or community could use. This will inform our own grant application and help us to create a database of the urban ag needs we could serve through the expanded Solano Gardens program.

Share Your Ideas & Needs

Please send your needs, project ideas, questions or suggestions to with “CDFA Urban Ag Needs” in the subject line.

Tell us about your proposed project or support needs, who you are, where your project might be located, and anything else you’d like for us to know.

New “Resilient Neighborhoods” Program Launches in 2019!

By Kassie Munro

Representatives from Sustainable Solano, Vallejo Commission for the Future and Greenbelt Alliance met with PG&E at the JFK Library in Vallejo on December 21st to celebrate the launch of the Resilient Neighborhoods Program

We can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate our 20th anniversary than with the announcement of a new program that will help to expand our work in improving social, economic and environmental justice in Solano County: Resilient Neighborhoods.

What is “Resilience”?
You may have noticed the term “resilience” popping up more and more in the environmental community, and increasingly in mainstream conversations.  The Community & Regional Resilience Network defines community resilience as “the ability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.” In short, resilience is about surviving and thriving, regardless of the challenge. It’s easy to understand why this topic is garnering so much attention today, as we face the reality of our changing climate – from droughts to heat waves, to the devastating fires that have ravaged our state.  There is an urgent need to strengthen our cities’ capacity to adapt to these stressors, and we see this as an inspiring opportunity to develop a new holistic sustainability program that aims to help our cities better serve the needs of our residents today and into the future.


The Resilient Neighborhoods Program
The Resilient Neighborhoods program will drive the restoration of regenerative ecosystem services in our urban landscape to improve the social and environmental resilience of our communities.  This program introduces a concept of shared solutions and collective actions to the community, in which a few nearby houses cooperate to install and enjoy various sustainability elements. Utilizing low-cost, low-tech measures, these clusters of homes will transform into a Resilience Hub. Informed by leading edge sciences, including biomimicry (which you can read more about here) and permaculture, we will facilitate the installation of sustainable solutions that can help transform our built environment from a resource sink, into a functioning producer of ecosystem services. This program has the potential to demonstrate that, block by block, neighborhoods can produce clean air, maintain clean water, create healthy soil, sequester carbon, reduce heat, and support biodiversity. These environmental benefits have a cascading effect into health and wellness and economic prosperity. In addition, when implemented in a cooperative model of shared services, they provide the framework for social benefits like disaster preparedness and community support networks.

The Resilient Neighborhoods program will be a collaborative effort with community partners, from city leadership to like-minded organizations, and, most importantly, the residents.  This work is about empowering our citizens to take an active role in the stewardship of their local environment.  By providing education, skill building, and much-needed resources, we hope to foster local champions that will help expand grass-roots movements and create more resilient cities across our county.


The Vallejo Pilot
The inaugural phase of this program will be launched this year in Vallejo, made possible by generous funding from PG&E and support from our partners at the Vallejo Commission for the Future and Greenbelt Alliance. Over the next twelve months we will complete two demonstration installations, each consisting of a small cluster of three to five residences in traditionally disadvantaged communities in need of revitalization. Each pilot Resilience Hub will receive a suite of sustainability measures tailored to its unique composition, addressing both the individual homes and surrounding communal areas.

Example measures that will be utilized to create these Resilience Hubs include: 

  • Laundry to landscape greywater systems
  • Roofwater diversion & capture
  • Bioswales
  • Tree planting
  • Shade structures
  • Edible landscaping
  • Adopting “cool” building colors
  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Solar power
  • Water efficiency measures
  • Disaster preparedness

By linking our Resilience Hubs with nearby community organizations we can also encourage engagement and collaboration within the larger neighborhood.  Incorporating the same sustainability measures applied to the residences, these “Resilience Centers” will have the potential to serve as an oasis of shade and moisture during heat waves, offer a community garden space, facilitate disaster response and preparedness, and act as a central point for organizing neighborhood resources and communication.

All installations will serve as free educational workshops, open to the community at large. The work will be completed entirely by the community, for the community. The completed pilot Resilience Hubs will also serve as public educational platforms for years to come.

We have formed a skilled Advisory Board comprised of local experts and passionate partners to help us carry out this pilot program in Vallejo.  The Board will provide guidance as we continue to hone our vision, aid in selecting locations and participants, and support efforts to build our capacity for expansion.

We will begin holding collaborative planning discussions with Vallejo residents in early February, and look forward to working with our neighbors to create meaningful change in the community. 

Onward and Upward
These installations will demonstrate the social, environmental, and economic impact possible through small-scale collective action, and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to show proof of concept for this approach to community resilience, which we hope to expand across Solano County.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please contact Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager, Kassie Munro at

Announcing not one, but two, private food forest installations in Vallejo!!

Often times you find the solution within the problem.  We couldn’t find one yard to fit all our educational needs of the demonstration food forest.  So with the creative use of our limited funds we will be installing two!  The Enchanted Cottage Garden is the perfect front yard location.  This yard that is now grass will be sheet mulched and transformed into a food forest.  The unique roof of this cottage style home will serve as a great educational opportunity to show how to retrofit gutters to harvest roof water.

The problem is that it can’t receive grey water.

The Ripple Effect which already has many components of a food forest, fruit trees, perennial vegetables, plants that attract the beneficial insects, rain water harvest, artistic/creative use of onsite materials in both the front and backyard.  Grey water will be able to be used to water an already existing landscape!  This is a great site to show how to add community of plants to support the trees that already exist in our yard!!  We will also be installing one fruit tree guild here adding another opportunity to show roof water catchment.

Installation of The Enchanted Cottage Garden will begin on April 29th this day will be hands on learning about setting the basic foundation:  swales, berms, roof water harvest, creative use of onsite materials.  May 13th will be a day filled with learning about the food forest plants chosen.  We will get to have conversations about plant communities working together to benefit each other.  Water efficient, basic drip irrigation will also be installed that day.  Sheet mulching will be done and the transformation of a lawn into a custom demonstration food forest will be revealed.


May 6th will be spent at The Ripple Effect.  The public will get an opportunity to see what can be done with an already existing landscape. This will be a hands-on laundry to landscape grey water workshop.   The grey water will be used to water a pre-existing landscape.  As a community we will be learning to install one simple fruit tree guild and show diversion of roof water to a swale.  We will also talk about what plants could be added to support the existing landscape.


All three days April 29, May 6, and May 13 will be filled with learning about sustainable landscapes through hands-on experience and include a lunch provided by the homeowners!!!  Come learn how to save water, grow food and build community!! Registration is required.

April 29th Registration

May 6th Registration

May 13th Registration

Announcement: Looking for Demonstration Food Forest Keepers in Fairfield and Vallejo

Would you like to become a demonstration food forest keeper?


Would you like to convert your thirsty lawn into a thriving food-producing ecosystem fed by the laundry-to-landscape greywater system? Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge and resources with your community? Are you interested in sustainable landscaping, edible gardens, and especially permaculture? Do you own a house in Vallejo or Fairfield? Would you like to be a part of a growing permaculture community in Solano County?

If you answer “yes” to all of the above, you can be a good candidate to become a demonstration food forest keeper in 2017!

Imagine a thriving, vibrant eco-system in your front- or backyard! A few fruit trees surrounded by native and Mediterranean plants, berries, perennial vegetables, flowers, with enough space for your annual favorites.

How does this work?

We’ll design and facilitate an installation of a Seed Plot  on your property. You provide volunteers (your friends and family make the best team: you learn and work together, and then you celebrate); we provide design, plants, material and expert advise, all free for you. During the installation, your laundry will become a classroom for “How to Install a Greywater System” hands-on workshop, and your yard will be open for public workshops. You then share with the community the progress of your Seed Plot for at least next 5 years: we’ll take pictures of your growing and evolving Seed Plot and advise you on maintenance and future design, while you let community in once or twice a year for a tour of your Food Forest.

We’ll have an open application process; the preliminary dates are February – March 2017 for Vallejo and June – August 2017 for Fairfield. You’ll be able to download the Application Form from our website. The Application includes a very detailed study of your proposed location for a Seed Plot and a legal part that defines parties’ roles and responsibilities.

Every application will be evaluated by our Advisory Board – a group of people with a Permaculture Design Certificate and experience in designing and building permaculture sites. The Program team will visit your site for an extensive survey and a conversation with you and your family about your potential Seed Plot.

To learn more and to meet the Advisory Board: please attend Benicia’s demonstration food forests guided tours in January – May 2017 and landscaping classes in February and March. For more information, email

2017 Preview from Executive Director Elena Karoulina


Dear friends of Sustainable Solano,

As I am looking back at the eventful and transformative year of 2016, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all people who helped co-create Sustainable Solano: the Board, our volunteer leadership team, our funders and supporters, and all of you who made a personal commitment to make a difference, to participate in something bigger than ourselves, to nurture heart-based initiatives for the good of the whole.

In 2017 we will continue to refine and shape the vision for the organization, to deepen our understanding of our current situation and to develop strategies to help making Solano County more environmentally and economically sustainable, socially just and personally fulfilling place to live and work.

We will continue with meaningful conversations in the community, beginning with a seven-week “Game Changer Intensive” offered by Pachamama Alliance as a follow up to the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium. Everyone can participate in this program! Our goal is to provide opportunities for face-to-face meetings in Solano County allowing us to deepen the connections we felt so profoundly with each other at the Symposium and to engage with each other in new and existing initiatives that facilitate change at the local level and beyond. Learn more and to register.

Our sustainable landscaping efforts will continue with monthly tours of Benicia demonstration permaculture food forests, installation of demonstration gardens in Fairfield and Vallejo, and a series of talks and workshops in Benicia, Fairfield and Vallejo – watch for regular updates on our calendar.

We invited professional landscapers, both established and new, to explore our Land Caretakers Program. Sustainable Landscapers Association of Solano County is forming now – please email if you are interested in learning more.

Calling all the players in Solano local food movement to get to know each other and to join our efforts to create a robust, healthy, inclusive local food system in the county. We are planning to have a Solano Local Food Summit in the spring of 2017. If you are interested to learn more, please email

For cooking classes and talks on healthy, local food throughout the county, please check our calendar regularly (and let us know if you would like to promote your efforts of brining wholesome local food to our communities through our website and newsletter).

I am looking forward to see you at these upcoming programs and events. Please let me know if you have suggestions, ideas or questions. I wish you a peaceful and restful holiday season!

In gratitude,
Elena Karoulina
Executive Director
Sustainable Solano