Ampersand is a gem. Lots of practical, low-cost, high-positive-impact examples of sustainable strategies that work. The proof–the wonderful folks that implemented these strategies, live with, use and evolve them regularly. You won’t find glossy projects here, much is made with salvaged and on-site materials. Thus it is accessible to everyone, full of heart, and real. A big reason why I stop by regularly to get rejuiced and inspired.
The internship at Ampersand was the perfect way to spend the Summer between my undergraduate degree and entry to the real world. I got to meet many fascinating characters, get lost in the land of Enchantment, pick up practical skills that most college students miss out on, and be surrounded by the themes of sustainability and permaculture, with the added bonus of personally selected readings relevant to whatever I was feeling inspired by. I would do it all over again and recommend it to anyone interested in working, living, or just looking further into sustainability.
The Ampersand internship was important in my life because it allowed me to explore nature and systems I never acknowledged before, and it showed me the possibilities of living off the grid and maintaining a presence in community activism. It also helped me form a perspective of empowerment that allowed me to think outside of the confines of the socially acceptable and makes me less fearful to take action. Don’t ask for permission to change the world, just do it
Ampersand helped me figure out what is possible to do as far as sustainable living and closed loop systems while on a budget. It turns out that you can do a lot more than I thought through innovation, imagination and a good attitude. Ampersand not only embodies positive change for the future of the environment, but also invites visitors, interns and neighbors alike to enjoy their optimistic, activist, and all around fun approach to change. I think Emma Goldman would have approved of Ampersand when she said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” Thanks, Tía Manda and Andy.
At Ampersand life was no longer separated into categories of study time, work time, personal time, or play time. Instead everything was wholly interdependent. The books I studied at night became applicable the very next day as I followed out the outlined procedures on how to compost, or how to construct something properly. Caring for myself in the form of finding sustenance was an activity that I completed not just for myself, but also for the community. Thus, my personal responsibility to keep myself alive also became a community bonding ritual. All the seemingly disparate threads of life, smoothed themselves out into an interconnected tapestry of networks. Ampersand has taught me two fundamental wisdoms. The first that when a true need for something exists a solution will develop, if those involved are willing to listen and actively work towards a goal. The second being that individuals can not exist without the existence of a community, and it is this functioning community that allows individuals to prosper and shine. Thus if you want to enjoy your own personal freedoms and inclinations, you must take care of your community. The word community extends as locally or as globally as one’s perception allows. It could be one’s immediate block or the entirety of the Earth and all of it’s organisms. So in order to care for yourself you must essentially care for your world.
Interning at Ampersand was a holistic learning experience. Amanda and Andy taught concrete skills through work projects—natural building, gardening and land restoration work, for example—and workshops ranging from solar cooking to greywater systems to passive solar design…but learning went far beyond these experiences. Simply living off-grid with Ampersand’s systems for two months was an education in itself. It connected me to land in a way that I had never experienced before and caused me to reevaluate what I really need to be happy and healthy (which is much less than I originally thought). It taught me how to learn by doing or experimenting instead of simply relying on a textbook. Moreover, Amanda and Andy created a safe and rich space for us to explore our own interests in relation to what we learned at Ampersand. I left Ampersand empowered to actively pursue my own education through many different paths and angles—an incredible gift that I will carry for life.
My time spent learning and laughing at Ampersand has impacted my life in exciting and meaningful ways and I recommend the experience to anyone who is ready to expand their lifestyle to incorporate simplicity, practical skills and the inevitable happiness that comes along with that!
Flying on a hunch across the USA to stay at Ampersand was the most revitalizing and empowering thing I’ve ever done. I’d still be there if they hadn’t convinced me I could change the world and deeply inspired me to do so. The community touched my spirit and turned my life around in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Before I came to Ampersand I knew things about sustainable living from reading books and hearing people talk. I knew about using and valuing resources, zero waste and damage to the environment. I had a worm farm and used greywater on my garden. But I had never put it into practice as a whole system, and I don’t think it’s possible to really learn about sustainable living until you live off the grid and see all the elements working together.
Ampersand has taught me that underneath an umbrella of philosophy and ideas, sustainable living is a living system made up of planning, designing and doing all the ‘necessary things (sleeping, eating, drinking, washing) woven together, interrelated and complex. Meal prep and cooking interact with work, water, and waste and the weather. Designing and building relies on watching and taking small steps and making changes that are guided by nature. I have also learned about living in a community sustainably- working, learning, planning and celebrating together and adapting constantly to take the most humble, ethical and natural course. And finally I have learned that DIY is the most awesome education… Ampersand style.
I truly believe the only way we will ever be able to effect change in this world is through our own direct actions. While many people and organizations are doing good in this world, Ampersand is one of the few which wholly resonate with me. I love what you are doing, and I deeply respect the way in which you are doing it. I know it is not easy, and it is a lot of work to live the way you do, and more importantly to open yourselves up and share yourselves with the world around you.