Some quotes from participants, visitors and interns

who have experienced the Sustainable Settings’

Whole Systems Learning Center:

Sustainable Settings’ unique setting and whole systems curriculum provided my students with insight into the bigger picture of our society’s culture of consumption and gave the students first hand experience in ways to reduce our impacts through awareness and thoughtful choices. Our students are now meeting with the head of the school and board members to explore actions to reduce our school’s carbon footprint and bring local food into our lunch program. This is a direct result of their experiences during our stay with Sustainable Settings. The students not only gained a greater awareness of the issues, they feel empowered to educate and create change. As the field trip coordinator for our school, I have taken many classes on a wide range of trips and I can say with confidence that none have provided as powerful and life changing learning as Sustainable Settings.
Ryan Jaret, Environmental Education Teacher, Logan School for Creative Learning, reflecting on their 7th & 8th grade 5-Day whole systems intensive focused on climate change, peak oil and local solutions.

“What has been most exciting for me at Sustainable Settings is the integration of different elements, and the combination of ideas and tangible production in terms of food, energy, shelter, and education.  Being here has given me an opportunity to be a part of the struggles and successes of an organization grappling daily with some extremely difficult environmental questions.  Without all the answers, and without denying the realities of growing planetary destabilization, I’m thankful that here we find a way to laugh as we work on solutions.”

Retta Bruegger, Snowmass, CO. Intern Reflection Nov 2007. Retta conducted a Pasture Baseline Study in preparation for Sustainable Settings’ conversion to management intensive rotational grazing.

“At Sustainable Settings I had the opportunity a young grower dreams of but rarely realizes.  I was given a charge, to run the market garden and manage our Aspen Farmer’s Market booth for the 2008 season. You gave me the garden books and guidance when I needed it but let me find my way.  I was able to plant, nurture, and take to market a great assortment of the finest and freshest heirloom vegetables to feed our Valley community. I inherited unbelievably fertile organic soil in an ideal and beautiful place.  I left empowered by learning how to build soil, use the tractor and farm equipment, and understand the whole cycle from seed to market. The learning happened in the field and at the table.  I’ll always remember those long lunches when we ate from the ranch’s bounty and lingered at the table for intense discussions on the state of the world and what practical solutions might lead to positive change. I’ve never worked and learned with more intelligent and inspiring people.  I am inspired and motivated to keep learning and feel confident that I can have my own land to grow on and teach others.” 
Debbie Krigel, Kansas City, MO. A 2007 Intern who became our 2008 Market Garden Manager

Participating in the day-to-day rhythms on Sustainable Settings’ teaching ranch was the highlight of my summer and has been a conduit for positive change in my life since. By living life in a sustainable way the staff set the standard of a daily life cycle where one enriches and helps regenerate their surrounding environment.  I have been greatly touched by their dedication and commitment and look forward to expanding my base of knowledge through their example and the institute’s programs. The farming and ranching communities on the western slope are very fortunate to have an experimental farming institute in their backyard, one that teaches by example a more permanent way of life. 
Lois Downing, Boulder, Colorado

"Seeing first hand that there are people living out the vision of a "sustainable" lifestyle made a huge impact on me. You are probably aware of this, but I truly believe that most people just need to see this stuff with their own eyes and meet people like you to be convinced that these systems are feasible and worthwhile to invest in."
Sandy Ha,  Final Year graduate student in Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado

Dear Brook, Rose and Staff,
THANK YOU!   I have heard nothing but the MOST positive, fabulous things about the trip at Sustainable Settings.  I had no doubts that it would be great.  Its so wonderful to hear such rave reviews. The food was amazing, (I think that’s the biggest reason I’m sad to have missed it 😉 the staff was so helpful and on top of it, and the kids got SO much out of it!  Thank you so much again for providing us with such a worthwhile and marvelous experience!

            Best wishes,

Wren Siegel, 3-4th grade teacher Logan School for Creative Learning, Denver, CO

“I chose Sustainable Settings for my senior project because I believe we need places like it to be the norm if we want to keep living on this planet.  When I left Carbondale I expected to learn how to save the planet. But that wasn’t what happened.  I learned how to work my ass off.  I learned how to build a gambrel roof, and how to plant multicolored chard and orach.  I learned that an 8 year old kid can design and build energy efficient model houses and tell you all about how they work. I learned that happiness and laughter are wonderful and a little kindness can go a long way.  Before I went to study at Sustainable Settings I did not have much hope for the future.  Now I am full of hope.  Living and working at Sustainable Settings has energized me and made me think about everything we use. My time at Sustainable Settings was great.  If everyone was like the people at Sustainable Settings our world would be much better.”

Dylan Mace, Senior at Colorado Rocky Mountain School reflecting on his senior intern project at Sustainable Settings during May 2005

Having the opportunity to participate in the day-to-day operation on this teaching ranch/farm was the highlight of my summer.  I lived the daily life of a rancher/farmer, one focused on the integrated systems that can build a sustainable working whole: getting up early; feeding chickens and turkeys; moving turkey-chicken tractors from place to place- what you might call a living lawn mower; maintaining coops; barn organizing; working in the organic gardens- weeding and harvesting for farmers market and working Saturday market in Aspen.  As we moved from task to task there was Brook Le Van and other staff, discussing methods of sustainability, stopping to discuss how native woodies were being utilized to harbor beneficial bugs and giving needed shade to growing seedlings, just one of the many lessons as we worked.  I am an experiential learner and appreciate the hands-on opportunity that Sustainable Settings offers.
Lois Downing, Boulder, Colorado, December 16, 2005


Dear Mr. Brook Le Van;

I videotaped your programs at Sustainable Settings last year and it made a difference in the way I live my own life now. I grow my own garden, use solar power to charge the lights in my condo, plus I made a solar water heater and turned the electric hot water boiler off and have not needed it for 9 months and have had a hot shower every day.

I downgraded from a van to a Honda CRX that gets 45 mpg. In these days we are in now everyone needs to learn to live a simpler life. I have saved almost $50 a month on my electric bill just by changing my daily patterns.
Thanks to your program, which showed me that sustainable living is not bad just different, I now have proof that life can continue with the same comforts only it will be better for all of us in the future.

Greg Hensley, June, 2009

Thanks for the great tour you gave me and the kids. I was particularly grateful that you spent so much time with us. When the opportunity for rolling up their sleeves comes along and digging in the dirt there isn’t a one the isn’t fully engaged.

Thanks again for your time, it’s very exciting to see what you’ve got going up there.  Personally, it strikes me as one of the most promising enterprises I’ve seen in years.


Aaron Garland,Ross Montessori School, Carbondale, CO

Thank so much for giving Kathy and I such a great tour of your garden on Sunday. Kathy really loved the vegetables this year, but now I think it means even more after meeting you again and walking the land. It was great to see you and to have lunch in the kitchen. My boys did not want to leave. Not only is the food awesome, but we also want to express our support for the work, of monumental importance, you are all doing at Sustainable Settings.
Tim Lindholm, Snowmass, CO, September 17, 2007

Dear Brook and Rose,
I want to tell you how wonderful our time at Sustainable Settings was.  It was so great to be outside so much, to be with such unique, genuine, and interesting people, to eat the fantastic food, and to learn so much about how to live sustainably… I think we are both convinced of the need to learn more.  And it feels so good to be with like minded people. Thank you for all you are doing to show us what can be done to restore the land and live sustainably.  I wish you all the best.

Kathy Townsend, August 2006,Papillion, NE

 “Sustainable Settings Staff did a fantastic job of breaking down complex concepts in useful ways. The children loved the hands-on earthen plastering and the Green Design Team final projects were a perfect culminating activity. The kids learned loads of new information that helped them tie together our year-long study on energy. The program was well organized and tailored to our needs,  although our time there was brief and Sustainable Settings offers more learning opportunities than we had time to study. What a memorable experience!”
Mary Thomas, Core Teacher, 3rd and 4th grade, The Logan School for Creative Learning, Denver, Colorado. May 18 – 20, 2005. Three-day intensive on whole systems sustainability.

Looking back, I value my time with Sustainable Settings more and more.  It was really the right place and right time for me. It marks a major transition point in my life, passing from academia into the real world.  What a blessing to have had the opportunity to meet you all and to live and learn with you in the beautiful mountains.  I have so many colorful memories of that time.  Thanks for being there.

Lee Somers, Intern 200-01, May, 2004

Dear Mr. Le Van,
Den 4 of the Carbondale pack 235 cub scouts wishes to thank you and your staff for a highly informative and enjoyable field trip to Sustainable Settings Ranch on Thursday May 12th.  The boys all had a marvelous time, and many of them said that it was their favorite field trip of the year!  We were all impressed with the size and scope of your vision and delighted that we were able to see the ranch. The boys all came away from the experience with a heightened sense of awe and respect for our ranching heritage.  They are excited for the future of sustainable agriculture in the future.

Thank you for a great field trip,
Bill Kelly, Cub Scout Co-leader, May 2005

Thanks to you, Brook. Our group finished up their work week and are now out on Spring Break. I know a number of them mentioned their days at SS as a positive experience from their service week. I’m sure you’ll see ’em poke their heads around there sometime this spring.
As for me, I really appreciated the hands-on work and warm hospitality. I all too frequently attend projects where there isn’t enough to do; that certainly isn’t the case when we head out to visit you all. You were organized and thorough and even managed to feed all of us, too. You even converted a vegetarian (me) to eat a burger. A big thanks to you and Rose for all of it. 

Smith Maddrey, Faculty at Colorado Rocky Mountain School
Sustainable Settings serves in many ways as a “sister organization” to us at SEI.  We both are committed to promoting sustainable solutions for the future.  It is highly beneficial to SEI, as well as the public, to have a live and working model for sustainable living and energy efficiency nearby.  We value the many synergistic elements of our active and ongoing partnership.  We have recently invited Director, Brook LeVan to join our Green Design Team to assist us in developing our new Paonia, CO eco-campus land-use plan.

SEI is excited to continue our relationship with Sustainable Settings as they work to develop their Whole Systems Learning Center at their new 244-acre site outside Carbondale, CO.  The systems they have in place, and the projects they are planning, create an unprecedented working model of energy efficiency in a rural setting and hopefully, it will fuel the growing interest in sustainable energy and resource efficiency.
Johnny Weiss, Executive Director, Solar Energy International