John Schaeffer

John Schaeffer
Founder and president of Gaiam Real Goods and cofounder of the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, Calif., John Schaeffer is a renewable energy and green living pioneer. His life's work was inspired when, on a commune where he lived for bit in the late '70s, folks flocked to his place to watch Saturday Night Live via his solar-powered TV. Today he lives outside Hopland with his wife, Nancy Hensley, in a passive-solar Rastra-block home named Sunkawk, built mostly from recycled materials amid a permaculture oasis powered by solar and hyrdo-electric. View John's video bio.

Learning from the Lavender Labyrinth

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | March 24th, 2008 | 3 Comments
topic: Green Living

When I get stressed out I head directly to our Lavender Labyrinth. We planted our labyrinth in the middle of our 2800 tree organic and biodynamic olive orchard and 8-acre vineyard. From its gorgeous vantage 800 feet above the Hopland Valley, it is comprised of 700 “Provence” variety lavender plants that have grown up exceedingly fast since they were planted in 2006. The labyrinth is modeled after a French cathedral in San Quentin, France. It is a 11 course labyrinth meaning you have to walk in a half circle 11 times before you get to the middle, each row bordered on either side with gorgeous and redolent lavender plants.
The idea of the labyrinth is to center your mind. By swinging your arms back and forth you balance your left and right brain and get them synchronized to gather back the strength that may have dissipated in your hectic life. Sometimes I really get into our labyrinth and treat it like an uber walking meditation. One day, on July 7, 2007, strictly by coincidence, I decided to count the time and the steps it took me to walk through the labyrinth into the center. Lo and behold it was almost exactly 700 steps and 7 minutes to go into the middle. And this I found on 7.7.07. And on top of that there are 700 lavender plants. Cosmic enough for you?
For each of the past two New Year’s Eve’s, we’ve invited friends out for a New Year’s Eve party – away from the bright lights and the horns. Invariably we end up in the lavender labyrinth before midnight walking through with  candles to light our way celebrating the year gone by and setting our intentions for the year to come. It feels great and so much better than a countdown in Las Vegas in the midst of 50,000 screaming weirdos! 
So when the going gets tough, take a trip to a labyrinth – you’ll find them in churches in most big cities and there are a few out in the country that welcome visitors. Check out the labyrinth registry: 

Not Ready For Solar? Buy Green Power & Get Started!

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | March 10th, 2008 | 5 Comments
topic: Green Living

Living completely off all grids (electric, water, phone, internet, and social) as I have for many years, I get spoiled and jaded all in green. It sometimes makes me forget how many people just don’t have the solar option. But even for you there are many ways to go green that don’t cost an arm and a leg and that will make you feel a whole lot better about yourself and your impact on the Planet.

The Joy of Shunning Gas Stations

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | February 19th, 2008 | 5 Comments
topic: Green Living

Every time I pass a gas station I count my blessings. Since I’ve had my own biodiesel tank at my house for the last two years, I’ve almost never had to endure the dubious honor of queuing up in line to fill up my car with fossil fuels shipped from politically unstable countries in the Middle East knowing full well that oil is a rapidly diminishing resource. It’s a unique joy that most biodiesel users tend to take for granted.

Tips for Starting Your 2008 Garden!

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | February 11th, 2008 | 3 Comments
topic: Green Living

I recently attended one of my favorite gatherings: the Biodynamic Association of Northern California (BDANC) winter meeting. The meeting was at the Frey Ranch in Redwood Valley, which is a phenomenon in itself — about 1,000 acres complete with biodynamic vineyards and organic winery, olive trees, organic gardens, chicken and other poultry farming, and of course abundant solar energy.

SLI Adds More Green Jobs Training, Fuels Solar Growth

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | January 28th, 2008 | 1 Comment
topic: Green Living

The Solar Living Institute just published its amazing new class schedule. This nonprofit is doing more to promote solar energy than any other organization I know of — especially with its recent focus on green careers and green workforce development.

3 Green New Year’s Resolutions

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | January 14th, 2008 | 3 Comments
topic: Green Living

It’s that time of year when we all vow to purge our weaknesses and get back to the business of doing the right thing. While 2007 was a pretty good year for me in the scheme of the last decade, still there are myriad ways to improve. I thought I’d share a few of the things I intend to do in 2008 to be a more environmentally conscious being. While living in an off-the-grid solar house with no electric company and no gas powered vehicles is a start, there is always a long way to go to lighten the proverbial footprint. For starters I intend to:

The 27th Solstice at the Solar Living Center

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | December 21st, 2007 | 2 Comments
topic: Green Living

A tradition began on December 21, 1994 when 23 intrepid souls braved the freezing weather at the construction site that was to become the Real Goods Solar Living Center. We built a fire and huddled around to see if we did our geometry correctly. We designed the Solar Living Center to be a temple to the sun. If we did it right, we would see the winter solstice sun set directly over our local mountain of power, Duncan Peak.

Extra-Virgin Tuscan Olive Harvest!

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | December 10th, 2007 | 4 Comments
topic: Green Living

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as seeing the harvest come in after years of planning and toiling. This year’s olive harvest at our farm was no exception!

Solar Goes Mainstream: 2007 Trend report

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | November 26th, 2007 | 1 Comment
topic: Green Living

This fall’s Solar Power 2007 Conference in Long Beach, Calif., was a real eye opener.

For one thing, it was the first time I felt underdressed at a solar conference! I’ve been going to solar conferences since the early 1980s, and most were noted for their ragtag conglomeration of mission-passionate solar pioneers with stars in their eyes. At this event — the third largest ever, behind SolFest and the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair — it was all suits. In place of mom-and-pop solar businesses were billion dollar companies like SunPower, QCell, Sharp Solar, Kyocera, Conergy, and SunTech.

Welcome: I Live Green and So Can You!

John Schaeffer by John Schaeffer | November 5th, 2007 | 2 Comments
topic: Green Living

Welcome to my blog!

It’s been nearly 30 years since I founded Real Goods, a renewable energy and ecological living company — and I have been living “off-the-grid” on solar and hydroelectric power most of the time since. I live on a 320 acre working biodynamic farm we named Sunhawk Farms. Here in the hills of Mendocino County, Calif., my wife Nancy and I (and frequently my 20-something daughters Sara and Ashley).