To be sustainable is to have the capacity to endure. It is the ability to keep biological systems diverse and productive. For humans, sustainability is long-term well being for ourselves and for future generations. Mission: Wolf works to utilize our resources effectively and reduce waste at every opportunity.
Waking up in a tipi to wolf howls is a quintessential Mission: Wolf experience. Since 1986, our volunteers have lived year-round in tipis, enjoying a close connection with the world around them. Tipis are affordable living structures with a minimal environmental footprint. They are cool in summer and can be heated with wood stoves in winter. They are moveable and don’t leave a permanent impact like building foundations do. You can set them up on flat earth, or build a deck or floor. The tipi floors at Mission: Wolf are made of either flagstone or wood.
Our 380 square foot community tipi with a flagstone floor is open for the public to use year-round. We ask a $20 donation per person ($100 per group over 5) to spend a night in the tipi. It’s a community affair, and all space is first-come, first-served. You may find yourself sharing the tipi with several other people.
Due to the remote location of the refuge, we are completely off the power grid, and therefore must be self-sufficient for our power needs. Solar energy provides a convenient, economical, environmentally-friendly way of meeting our needs for electricity. Our computers, power tools, water pumps, and much more — all operate from a solar-powered system.
Excess power generated during the day is stored in battery banks, and can then be inverted to light the buildings during the night. Our largest bank of solar panels and batteries provides electricity to our community kitchen, office, and tool shop. Our vet building, visitor center, and two living cabins each have their own self-contained solar and battery systems. Our water well is connected directly to its own solar panel, and as long as there is sunlight, it is pumping a steady flow of water up to two large holding tanks behind the kitchen.
Passive Solar Heating
Most of the buildings at Mission: Wolf are designed and constructed to take advantage of Colorado’s sunny days. Passive heating systems make use of naturally available heat sources (like the sun) to keep a building warm, without the need for stoves or other heating devices. All of the buildings at Mission: Wolf are designed with large, south-facing windows, so the sunlight can keep us warm during the day — the same way the interior of a car left in the sunlight will get warm, even on a cold day. The buildings are also well-insulated and dug into the hillside so that the north walls are earth-bermed, helping to retain much of the heat gathered from the sun, and greatly reducing the amount of firewood burned to stay warm in winter.
We work to create sustainable structures by using locally available recycled materials to maximize passive solar heat. By adapting construction techniques to use sustainable materials, and integrating the unique design combinations of sizes and locations of doors, windows, walls, and roof overhangs, the structures work to gather the most solar heat possible. Mission: Wolf has created simple, energy-efficient buildings. While these considerations can be applied to any building, achieving an ideal solution requires careful integration of these principles.
Gardens reduce our dependency on local grocery stores, while providing a habitat for multiple species and fresh food and herbs for staff. At an altitude of 9,300 feet, growing food outside has always been a challenge for our community. With the addition of our two greenhouses, we are now able to grow food year-round.
Our two geodesic growing domes, courtesy of Growing Spaces (Pagosa Springs, CO), have enabled us to grow food throughout the winter, on rocky terrain in an ever-changing climate using near-net-zero technology. The domes remain warm in the winter and cool in the summer by utilizing many passive energy sources. Since water has a higher heat-capacity than air, each greenhouse contains a large above-ground pond, which absorbs heat during the day and releases it back into the air again as temperatures cool at night. A subterranean air circulation system and automatic window vents also help to maintain consistent temperatures and an ideal growing environment. With a focus on establishing perennial polycultures, we are creating ecological gardens that benefit both people and wildlife.
Recycled Building Materials
For more information on building with recycled materials or deconstructing old buildings:
Vegetable Oil Vehicles
We have a ranch truck at Mission: Wolf that runs on vegetable oil. The fuel is free, carbon neutral, and less polluting than petroleum-based diesel. We help out local restaurants by collecting their used vegetable oil (usually peanut oil), which they would otherwise need to pay to dispose of. We then process and filter this oil into usable fuel for our truck.
Is this a global solution to petroleum?
Unfortunately, there is not a large enough supply of waste vegetable oil (WVO) to power all the vehicles humans are using on this planet. It’s fun to think about french fries powering our motorized transportation, but it just isn’t feasible. For us, it helps out our local businesses and gives us a way to reduce our impact on the world.