Living Sustainably

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Archive for August, 2009

Stories about Off Gridders

Our friend David Neeley has started interviewing people who live off
grid, and publishing their stories. He started with us (Spotlight 1),
and Spotlight 2, with Kent Eastwood has just been uploaded. We hope that
2 each month will be available. Read how others are living the life at

Update: New Renewable Energy Video Tutorials have been listed as well!

Are you a coffee drinker? Try the new organic shade grown Mountain Blue coffee from Haiti. All proceeds go towards humanitarian projects in Haiti –


StoveTec – The Efficient Healthier Cookstove for Developing Countries

stovetecI’ve been following the progress of the rocket stove designed by Aprovecho for a while. Cleaner burning than traditional open cookfires, less expensive to operate than paraffin stoves, this is a solution designed to solve actual problems in developing countries, and yet works well here for camping and other non-traditional cooking needs.

StoveTec was created in the fall of 2008 as a not-just-for-profit entity to act as the technology transfer recipient for the Aprovecho Research Center. The Aproveho Research Center wholly owns StoveTec and therefore receives all profits from StoveTec’s operations. Aprovecho has worked for 30 years to design and build the world’s new standard for biomass stoves and has completed over 100 projects in 60 countries.


Urban Self Sufficiency – The Urban Homestead

There’s a lot of books out there to help one find a piece of land, grow your own veggies, and cut your own wood. The resources for the urban dweller looking to find ways to be more self sufficient, and get by in these hard times, are less available. This resource is designed for you city dwellers. You too can grown your own food, recycle, create worm compost and more. We recommend this resource!

The Urban Homestead is the essential handbook for a fast-growing new movement: urbanites are becoming gardeners and farmers. Rejecting both end-times hand wringing and dewy-eyed faith that technology will save us from ourselves, urban homesteaders choose instead to act. By growing their own food and harnessing natural energy, they are planting seeds for the future of our cities.

If you would like to harvest your own vegetables, raise city chickens, or convert to solar energy, this practical, hands-on book is full of step-by-step projects that will get you started homesteading immediately, whether you live in an apartment or a house. It is also a guidebook to the larger movement and will point you to the best books and Internet resources on self-sufficiency topics.

Projects include:

* How to grow food on a patio or balcony
* How to clean your house without toxins
* How to preserve food
* How to cook with solar energy
* How to divert your grey water to your garden
* How to choose the best homestead for you

Written by city dwellers for city dwellers, this illustrated, smartly designed, two-color instruction book proposes a paradigm shift that will improve our lives, our community, and our planet. Authors Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen happily farm in Los Angeles and run the urban homestead blog


Convert Your Diesel To Run On Used Fryer Oil

We have been converting diesels to run on used fryer oil (different than biodiesel, which requires no conversion) for 15 years. We have posted a few articles giving tips and tricks on collecting and filtering oil, as well as the conversion process. We now use a homemade (DIY) centrifuge to clean the oil. Back articles on the centrifuge can be found at

The veggie diesel documents can be found at


Busting Wind Turbine Ratings

There’s a lot of mis-information on the net surrounding the output of a wind turbine. A great many scam artists are over rating their turbines to make it sound like you can get a lot more power than you really will. Even commercial manufacturers tend to over rate their turbines, by using wind speeds that are not commonly seen at John Q. Public’s homestead. We have put together an online calculator that will help you sift the wheat from the chaff so to speak. Plug in your numbers and see what you can expect from a given wind turbine at your location.

Don’t forget to get our DIY Homebuilt Wind Turbine Instructions!

Update! We have completed the metric version of this calculator, and added English and metric Air Density calculators as well.


The Dual Flush Toilet

Traditionally, the standard 3.6 gallon flush toilet is responsible for approximately 30% of a household’s water consumption. The newer conserving flush toilets drop that in half, to 1.8 gallons. Enter the even newer dual flush toilets. Didn’t take a dump this time, only a pee? Press the correct button, and you only use .9 gallons, vs. the 1.8 gallons the other button offers for a solids flush. If you can’t or won’t use a composting toilet, this is a serious water saver. Most manufacturers list the tank, bowl, and lid separately, so make sure you order all the correct components.


The Renewable Energy Trifecta

“Trifecta” is a term used to describe any successful or favorable phenomenon or characteristic that comes in threes, for example: “She has the ‘trifecta’ of attractiveness, intelligence, and career success.”

In this case, we are talking about solar, wind and micro-hydro. For those looking to get off the energy grid, there are different solutions for different site and scenarios. Some may be able to use a combination of two or three solutions. We have added a series of micro-hydro solutions to the wind and solar solutions already offered for free at We have also added a Self Sufficiency Cause at Facebook, so that you can share the gift of knowledge with your friends. Please spread the word.


$20 Per Gallon

I just finished reading $20 Per Gallon, by Christopher Steiner. The books takes you on a journey of increasing costs of gasoline, steps you through each stage of increases, and shows how the author believes our lives will be affected. Although the author shows the many benefits of increasing fuel costs (shorter commutes, more nuclear less extended families, more local business, less pollution), he’s not shy about providing glimpses into the pain we would suffer during these adjustments. An excellent read, the author is clear, entertaining, and thought provoking. My wife and I took turns reading to each other before bed, and enjoyed the experience.


Pedal Power – Producing electricity with a bike

The human body is capable of sustaining between 75 and 150 watts, depending on what shape you are in. This is sufficient for lighting, radio, a laptop computer, water pumping, and other small devices. It’s also good exercise. This video will explain more, and also check out other bike gen resources at


Free DIY Solar Install Guide

Our Methane Digester and Wind Turbine Tutorial give away was so popular (over 5000 requests so far), we have decided to do the same with our DIY Solar Install Guide. Learn the basics of installing your own solar panel (PV), charge controller, battery, and inverter. We even show a dc water pump accessory. This is an actual install we did in Anguilla for an offgrid cottage. Go to to download your free Guide, and tell your friends!

You can learn how to build your own solar panels at We have tested and approve this resource!

We have a DIY Solar discussion group at