• Hopland, California: The Solar Living Institute

      While most of us just fume about high gas prices and oil spills, The Solar Living Institute is working toward solutions. Located near the town of Hopland in northern California, the Institute was established in 1998 to practice, and educate the public about, renewable energy (not just solar) and other eco-friendly living habits. And the public is invited to drop in at its 12-acre site and have a look.

      As soon as you pull into the parking lot, you're impressed by the array of enormous solar panels the Institute boasts. And if you happen to be driving a vehicle powered by biodiesel, you can refuel while you're there. Stroll about the grounds and see the Institute's demonstrations of wind energy, water recycling, organic gardening and composting among other efficient practices. Even the bathrooms are a revelation, incorporating such recycled materials as medicine bottles.

      One of the Institute's major functions is to train interns for careers in promoting renewable energy. One of these interns, who live on-site, will conduct you and your group (including school groups) on a guided tour of the facility for a nominal fee. Or you can tour the place on your own at no cost. Be sure to check out the gift shop, one of the most intriguing gift shops you'll find at any attraction. It will be hard to resist bringing home some of the many educational toys and gifts for youngsters, or creative tools and gadgets for the outdoors adventurer.

      The Institute also mounts SolFest, a major annual event that draws national attention.

      IF YOU GO: Self-guided tours and parking are free, but small donations are suggested. About an hout is probably sufficient time for most people to see the facility, unless you are taking a guided tour.

      WHEN TO VISIT: SLI is open from 10 to 6 every day except Christmas and New Year's Day. Guided tours are available from 11 to 3.

      JURISDICTION: The Solar Living Institute is a nonprofit solar and sustainability training organization.
      INFORMATION VERIFIED BY Dennis Goza Last visit , April 2010
      ADDRESS: 13771 S. Hwy. 101, Hopland, CA 95449