Free training for the community: Hands On Workshops

Sweetwater Collaborative offers hands-on community-based workshops where people learn together while helping install sustainable systems. Projects offered include planting native and Mediterraean gardens, fruit trees and food forests, and installing raingardens, laundry to landscape greywater systems, and water harvesting tanks. We are committed to bringing innovative water sources to feed local landscapes that produce beauty and abundance yields for those in our community.

WMG laundry to landscape workshop in Goleta

During workshops, volunteers work as a team with others in the outdoor space of a residence, organization, or business.  We use basic gardening tools to dig and shape the earth to allow water to slow, spread, and sink into the landscape.  We often plant natives or trees.  We may add compost, mulch, or gravel.  Sometimes we accent the area we are working with some rocks.  In certain workshops, like laundry to landscape greywater installations or putting in rainwater barrels or tanks, we work with pipe, which may be PVC, ABS, HDPE (landscape tubing) or Blu-lock.  We have wheelbarrows for moving mulch and other materials.  Somebody instructs novices how to work with tools with which they are unfamiliar.  We always have a safety demonstration at the beginning of each workshop.  When we can, we pair volunteers with someone who knows more about the process they are involved in.  

WMG Earthworks workshop in Santa Barbara 2012

There is always at least one skilled instructor on site.  Instructors have taken a water harvesting certification course or water harvesting apprentice training or have skills equal or comparable to those learned in those courses.  Our instructors come from a variety of backgrounds and the instructor with the most experience in the areas needed for each workshop is chosen to lead that one.   Some examples of our instructors’ skills include: landscape contracting, construction, carpentry, greywater design and installation, environmental engineering, habitat restoration, native plants, fruit tree care, compost system setup and maintenance, and soil building.

The workshops typically run for four or five hours during which 6-8 volunteers are directed in the work; we have also led min-workshops for 2-3 hours.  There is much educational content to each workshop, be it about why certain plants were picked for that site, or how to use a bunyip (water level).  Hosts are asked to provide snacks and drinks for the volunteers.  Volunteers must sign a waiver of liability. We always have a first aid kit among our other tools and supplies.  Our first aid kit includes dust masks, earplugs, eye protection, and basic first aid materials like bandages and band aids.  Sweetwater Collaborative supplies all the tools and teaches people how to use them if they don't have that knowledge.  We talk periodically about what we are doing, what we've accomplished, and next steps. We try to take photos before, during and after the workshop.  We clean up together as a crew.

Our workshops are social work parties that create dramatic results. Volunteering lowers the cost of doing these projects.  The workshops bring knowledge of environmental stewardship into the mainstream. We reduce water demand, reduce energy demand, and localize food production.  The workshop model makes “going green” affordable and improves quality of life for the participants as well as the hosts who get a new system in their home.  

If you are interested in hosting a workshop, please let us know through our contact form on this site.  If you would like to become a member of Sweetwater and receive bulletins about upcoming workshop opportunities, please sign up for our community bulletin.  Looking forward to seeing you soon at a workshop.