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Brush with green life leaves lasting impression

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For 13 months Priscilla Short lived a life that Henry David Thoreau, were he alive, would have admired.

Short occupied a passive solar-powered house built for her of straw bales near the Taos airport. She moved in in September 2006.

“Thirifty Green” by Priscilla Short
Conari Press, $16.95, 244 pp.

The 688-square-foot house has a wood-burning stove but no running water. It does have a water catchment system, meaning it drains the rainwater and melted snow from the roof into a cistern that pumps it into the house.

And the house is off the grid. That phrase means it’s not linked to a constant supply of electricity produced by a cooperative or a utility company.


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Short relates that experience in her new book, “Thrifty Green.”

The book also weaves in suggestions that serve as a practical conservation guide for general readers who want, as the subtitle puts it, to “ease up on energy, food, water, trash, transit, stuff — and everybody wins.”

Short had originally wanted her home as a weekend retreat, but she quit working as a systems engineer, a job she held for 10 years, and moved to her Taos place.

“I had lived in the same place, worked in the same job and had the same routine. There was all that pressure of the corporate world,” Short said in a phone interview. “I even went to high school there (Colorado Springs) in the 1980s.”

She also had split with her boyfriend.

Short left Taos to reconnect with her boyfriend, whom she married, and to return to what she called “the mainstream world. … It’s what America is doing.”

They have a family and live in a house in Boulder, Colo.

Are they putting into practice any of Short’s conservation suggestions? Any way they can.

“We don’t let the water run when we’re doing the dishes. I take shorter showers. I turn the heat down. … I shut off the lights when I leave a room,” Short said. “Those are really little things but they should be habits. If you don’t then you double your utility bill.”

Occasionally, the Taos home calls to her.

“I just want to go to Taos and not answer the phone and … watch Pleiades go by. That’s all I would do,” she said.

Pleiades is a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation.