Can This Home Be Greened? Conserving Water and Saving Energy on Catalina Island

On Catalina Island, rainwater conservation and conscientious landscaping are necessities.

| September/October 2010

  • Sandy and Ernie Rodriguez want to conserve water at their Catalina Island home.
    Photography By Carol Venolia
  • The home's front entrance is already planted with low-water landscaping.
    Photography By Carol Venolia
  • The Rodriguez home is effective at storing the sun's heat during the day.
    Photography By Carol Venolia
  • Ernie and Sandy's home sits on a double lot, giving them an unusually large amount of outdoor space.
    Photography By Carol Venolia
  • With native plants and graywater reuse, Sandy and Ernie can transform their backyard into a low-maintenance oasis.
    Photography By Carol Venolia
  • The diagram shows how the gardens, new outdoor spaces and rainwater-collection stations work together.
    Illustration By Nate Skow

“Living on an island magnifies the costs and challenges of daily routines.” 
—Ernie Rodriguez

Ernie and Sandy Rodriguez have lived on California’s Catalina Island for 14 years. They bought their 1929 two-story home in Avalon three years ago. Originally a single-family dwelling, it’s now divided into three units, with two rentals upstairs. The house’s double lot provides a large yard.

Ernie and Sandy love Catalina’s beauty, temperate climate and rustic charm. With more than 3,000 people living in about 2 square miles, Avalon is a dense city with verdant open country just beyond its borders. Because of the limited space, cars are extremely restricted (there’s a 14-year waiting list to get a permit), and some downtown streets are pedestrian-only.

Island living has its drawbacks, however. Fresh water is limited, most goods must be shipped in, electricity must be generated on the island and waste disposal is a challenge. “It is important to maximize and efficiently use resources and energy in balance with our unique surroundings,” Ernie says. 

1. The outdoor spaces aren’t inviting. 

Problem: Avalon’s climate is perfect for outdoor living, but Ernie and Sandy don’t spend as much time as they’d like in their yard. Their small wood deck is rotting, and much of the yard is bare dirt.

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