Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for August, 2011

The Solar Shower

Now that we have our rain barrel set up, I want to set up a solar shower. We get plenty of sun, most days, and I like a long hot shower. The method we will use is black plastic irrigation pipe strung out on the roof. There’s a bit of math involved to determine how much pipe is needed for a nice shower, but it’s not hard. A spreadsheet is helpful for playing what if, but not necessary. Let’s start with some assumptions:

I want a 5 minute shower
I have a 2.5 gpm shower head

2.5 gpm * 5 minutes = 12.5 gallons of water

One US gallon is 231 cubic inches, so
12.5 gallons * 231 = 2887.5 cu. in.

I have 1″ (inside diameter) hose available, so dividing by 2 to get the radius, gives me .5″
2887.5 cu. in. / (.5 * .5) = 11550
11550 / 3.14 (pi) = 3678 in.
3678 in. / 12 = 306.5 ft.

So, I need 307 feet or so of 1″ inside diameter black plastic pipe to take a 5 minute shower. I’ll use a SHURflo 2088-422-444 2.8 Classic Series Potable Water Pump to create the pressure needed, with a check valve to keep the pipe full of water. I may also run a “cold” water faucet to the shower so I can mix the temps. The barrel itself may get very warm depending on what color it is, and where it’s located in regards to sunlight. The drain water from my shower can flow right to the garden if I’m careful about what soaps I use.


Rain Barrel Installation Video

Our Rain Barrel Installation video is up and live. We document how quick and easy it is to install a rain barrel and start capturing rain water for irrigation, showering, washing clothes, and much more. With our DIY Berkey Water Purifier, it’s even useable for drinking and cooking. With a Solar Water Heating Kit, this solution will provide hot showers, and the solar collector will provide collection area for the rain water. More on this Rain Water Harvesting Kit and the irrigation options can be found at

The last bit of the video got lost, so I also made a overview video:


The 5 Gallon Chicken Feeder and Waterer

Ok, first the feeder:

1 5 gal bucket.
1 lid for bucket.
1 24 inch plastic planter base (3″ – 4″ deep)

Drill 1″ holes all the way around the base of the bucket. Bolt the planter base to the bucket. 5 gal bucket will hold about 40 lbs of feed. Lid keeps debris and critters out of the bucket.

Now the waterer:

1 5 gal bucket.
1 lid for bucket.
1 24 inch plastic planter base (3″- 4″ deep)

At the top of the bucket, about 1.5″ below the rim, drill a hole about 1/2″ in diameter or a little less. Fill bucket with water and place lid on tightly (must be air tight). Turn bucket upside down (water will come out as you do this) and set it upside down in planter base.

Planter base (saucer) can be found at for about $6.

5 Gallon Bucket and Lid can be found at Lowes for about $4.

Here’s a slightly different version:


The 5 gallon chicken nest

In the past, we have made egg laying boxes for our chickens out of 5 gallon pails. Lay the pail on it’s side, and cut 3/4’s of the lid surface away, leaving the ring and about a 3″ lip. Screw two 2″ x 2″ 10″ long rails down the sides at the 5 and 7 o’clock positions (roughly) to keep the bucket from rolling. However, the good folks at Fowl Stuff have made a $16 snap on cover for your bucket that is ideal, and takes the work out of it.


Reducing Your Carbon Footprint One Step At a Time!

Going Green

The carbon footprint is a term that we hear on a regular basis now, and when you consider your impact on the environment, it’s important that you reduce this effect by living a more ecologically sustainable life. Everywhere we look, we’re seeing changes. From those finding the organic nature of the Dukan Diet plan to the use of reusable grocery bags, the various elements are coming together to give many hope that we are going to be leaving a clean environment for generations to come. But, this doesn’t mean that we can simply revert back to our old ways. Instead, we need to continue to push forward, and we’ve compiled a list of small changes you can make to your daily life that will reduce your carbon footprint, and help usher in a sustainable future.

1) The Consumption of Organic Food

Farms everywhere are turning away from pesticides and chemicals and looking to operate with a more eco-friendly farming approach. Patronizing these farms and the goods they produce will go a long way when you consider the growth of their practice. When you avoid the chemicals, you’re helping your body and the environment, so be sure that you’re taking the time to understand what’s being put into your produce. Another idea that pertains to this approach is starting your own garden. You’ll know that everything is organic and you’re creating more plants in your area, which always improves air quality.

2) Participate In a No Car Day

The use of automobiles has had a detrimental impact to our global environment. The carbon emissions are really taking a toll, and though many may believe that a single car doesn’t make a difference, it’s millions of people thinking the same thing that’s been causing the problem. Look at your schedule and choose a day that you absolutely WILL NOT use your vehicle. This will save you money as well, as gas prices aren’t getting any cheaper, are they?

3) Use Recycled Goods

When you pick up groceries, take note of which companies are using recycled packaging. Don’t patronize companies that are not taking advantage of the Earth-friendly practice. If there are companies that you love, but they refuse to use recycled goods, consider writing them and letting them know about your displeasure with their practices. Your opinion will go a long way.

4) Be the Change You Wish to See, Start a Neighborhood Green Community

Sometimes change requires someone willing to step out and be the first to vocalize their thoughts. In your area, consider starting a green community which will share ideas and encourage the surrounding areas to make the small alterations that go a long way. Ultimately, you’ll clean up your immediate surroundings, and the hope is that other area communities will follow suit.

5) Ditch Bottled Water

Many purchase bottled water because they believe that the quality is much higher. However, most of the water you purchase in stores comes from the exact same place that your tap water comes from. In the end, you’re simply paying more money to produce more waste. That isn’t a quality venture, is it? Get a water filter and use the tap more often. The end result will be less landfill waste and a heavier wallet. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Green living practices are often much easier than people think. You can make small changes that will go a long way! Many of these ideas will save you money, as well, and with the economic climate, it’s a great benefit to know that you’re helping yourself financially and helping the environment at the same time. Share your ideas with others, and in time, we’ll begin to see a change. Remember, it’s your home, take care of it!

About the Author

Jay Chua spends his time near his Vancouver, Canada home seeking out ways to improve his immediate surroundings. From environmentally friendly gardening to sharing his tips with others, Jay loves every moment spent outdoors. In his free time, he creates Dukan Diet recipes that he share with friends and family, bringing the Dukan diet menu to others with similar interests.



Saving seed from heirloom tomatoes is not difficult. The flowers have both male and female parts; therefore, they can and usually are self-pollinated. Bees prefer the sweet nectar from melons, squash, etc and if these are grown nearby, the bees will seldom visit the tomato flowers. Unless you are demanding absolute purity in your seed, you can grow and save seed from several varieties even in a small garden.

Choose out the best plants and save fruit from several of your best plants. Or since tomatoes are self-pollinated, you can pick fruit from only the very best plant. (This is not true with cross-pollinated plants such as beets, carrots, and cabbage.) When the heirloom tomatoes are ripe, pick them and squeeze out the seed into a small container. I use half-pint jars. Add a little water and stir twice a day. It will begin to ferment and this will free the seed from the pulp (jelly-like substance) and it will drop to the bottom of the jar. Pour off the top portion with the pulp. Add a little water and let it set on the counter. Do this for two days if it is about 80 degrees and four days if it is closer to 60 degrees. Longer fermentation will reduce germination rate of your heirloom tomatoes. A few times each day, pour off the top portion of the jar, add water and let seed settle to the bottom again. Immature seed will float and can be poured off the top. Pour the good seed with the remaining water through a strainer. Spread the seed on paper towels or on glass. Let dry. Separate the dry seed by rubbing it between your fingers. Store is in the refrigerator to maintain better germination but do not freeze it. (The seed is not dry enough to freeze.)

We have saved lots of heirloom tomato varieties this way for planting the following years. We get what we are expecting about 90% of the time. When a mistake seems obvious, it could be a case of mislabeling in the process. These are only for my own garden, and I still get tomatoes, so I don’t worry about it. There are so many varieties of heirloom tomatoes these days, that each year I give in to temptation and buy a few new (old) ones from the seed catalogs that I haven’t grown before.

Last year was a wonderful year for heirloom tomato production. I gave away boxes of tomatoes to several friends so they had some to can for winter use, all from my heirloom seeds.

Scott and Char


A Healthier Life for Everyone and a Better Life for Anyone™

Shaklee makes environmentally safe and healthy products (no animal testing) for nutrition, weight control, home cleaning, and beauty. We have been long time customers of Shaklee products, and now want to share with you.

For over 50 years, generations of families have counted on us to do what no other company can do quite like Shaklee — make products that are naturally safe AND proven effective.

Every product that goes into every Shaklee bottle is designed to improve health, work without compromise, and be gentle on the planet.

We feel Shaklee wellness products are a ‘natural’ choice for all of our partners, customers and supporters who care about health and the environment.

Get the “real dirt” on clean. Is your home dirtier after you clean it?

You wouldn’t let your kids play with toxic chemicals, so why would you let your baby crawl across a floor that’s just been wiped with them?

Bring Shaklee Get Clean into your home, and you can count on cleansers that are safe for you, and your family – and that truly leave your home cleaner.

And when you change brands to any of the healthy, environmentally safe Shaklee products, you are also supporting in a big way! ALL of the distributor income will be paid to Green-Trust to help fund our environmental and energy-saving efforts!


Wood gasification

Over the years, we put together a collection of information on wood gasification. What is wood gasification? Our friends at All Power Labs have put together a nice tutorial, and have provided us with a gasifier to experiment with. More documentation on that project is upcoming.

Gasification is the use of heat to tranform solid biomass or other carbonaceous solids into a synthetic “natural gas like” flammable fuel. Through gasification, we can convert nearly any dry organic matter into a clean burning, carbon neutral fuel that can replace fossil fuel in most use cases. Whether starting with wood chips or walnut shells, construction debris or agricultural waste, gasification will transform common “waste” into a flexible gaseous fuel you can use to run your internal combustion engine, cooking stove, furnace or flamethrower.

Sound impossible?

Did you know that over one million vehicles in Europe ran onboard gasifiers during WWII to make fuel from wood and charcoal, as gasoline and diesel were rationed or otherwise unavailable? Long before there was biodiesel and ethanol, we actually succeeded in a large-scale, alternative fuels redeployment– and one which curiously used only cellulosic biomass, not the oil and sugar based biofuel sources which famously compete with food.

This redeployment was made possible by the gasification of waste biomass, using simple gasifiers about as complex as a traditional wood stove. These small-scale gasifiers are easily reproduced (and improved) today by DIY enthusiasts using simple hammer and wrench technology. The goal of this GEK is to show you how to do it, while upgrading the engineering and deployment solutions to something befitting the digital age.



Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products

Ever on the look out for cleaning supplies that are plant friendly, we found some that are made of plant materials. Non-toxic, biodegradable, grey water recycling friendly, and no waste. Even the packaging is made from recycled materials. They have everything from glass cleaner and bathroom cleaners to vegetable washes. We are using the Glass & Window Cleaner, All-Purpose Cleaner, and the Bathroom & Odor Neutralizing Cleaner. Our package came with a re-usable spray bottle. Just mix the crystals with water and spray. Made in the USA was a bonus!

Our Glass and Glass & Window Crystals Compound Additive cleans without streaks and uses no harsh chemicals. Excellent for effectively cleaning glass, mirrors, chrome, and other hard surfaces around your home.

Comes in packages of 1, 3 and 12

From our clamshell packaging made from recycled materials to our biodegradable and water soluble sachets of crystallized cleaning concentrate, Bio Green Crystals are the most environmentally friendly products available.

Bio Green Crystals is proudly made in the USA, by both Union and non-union workers.

Bio+Green Crystals are revolutionary new compounds. Products in water-soluble pouches containing premeasured amounts of powdered concentrates. When immersed in the water, pouch and powder dissolve formulating a precise cleaning solution for specific cleaning purposes. Bio+Green Crystals are proud to be ZERO-WASTE products.

Crystal Additives and Boosters can be added to any type of cleaner.

Bio+Green Crystals refills are the safest and most eco-friendly cleaners on the market.

They generate zero waste, 100% biodegradable product and carrier reduce your secondary carbon footprint at home, the office and everywhere else they are used.

These products achieve a carbon footprint reduction throughout the entire supply chain.

Bio+Green Crystals are sustainably manufactured and can help your company reduce waste

We can help you save water, save energy and reduce waste:
Environmentally the Bio+Green Crystals are the only true zero waste product on the market. When one weighs the enormous benefit of Bio+Green Crystals with today’s demand for environmental consciousness, added safety and overall value; bio+green crystals are simply the greenest choice for the planet.

Every time you use a bio+green crystal refill, you are conserving 20-40 Megajules of energy and countless amounts of water.
If your Company really wants to save, then do the math on your waste!
* This is the energy and water used to make the plastic bottle and sprayer from manufacture to disposal.


The ULTIMATE in composting has arrived!

Newest Breakthrough Technology

The new
BioPodTM Plus (video) is the latest technology to hit the home composting market. Almost a decade of R&D, combined with thorough testing on 3 different continents, has produced the next generation of bioconversion units.

Uber-Fast Composting: 24-36 hours

While many compost bins can take 6-12 months to break down their contents into usable humus, the BioPodTM Plus eliminates most of your food scraps in as little as 1-2 days using a naturally occurring, beneficial organism traditionally found in many compost and worm bins. The BioPod™ Plus optimizes the instinctual
abilities of this species, rapidly creating a live feed (for fish, chickens, and herptiles (reptiles and amphibians)) more valuable than ordinary compost.

The Future of Recycling: Prota™ Composting

This enhanced form of composting is referred to as Prota™ Composting, the method by which valuable molecules, specifically proteins and lipids, are recycled back into living feed in the form of usable biomass. The signature decomposer is Hermetia illucens (BSFL), a harmless, native arthropod that does not sting, bite or transmit disease. The juvenile form of these robust recyclers is referred to as Soldier Grubs and the device in which they reside is called a Grub Composter.

Valuable Finished Products: 5:1 Production Rate

A working BioPodTM Plus can easily handle the daily food scraps produced by a large family – up to 5 lbs/day. It even digests manure (animal and human, dump your Jenkins Toilet here). For every 100 lbs of kitchen scraps you will obtain approx. 5 lbs of friable castings (perfect feed for a worm composter), a few quarts of nutritious compost tea, and approx. 15-20 lbs of self-harvesting Soldier Grubs – which are the ultimate live food for fish, exotic pets, and poultry.

Complements Existing Compost & Worm Bins

The BioPodTM Plus is not designed for yard waste, but it will keep the critters out of your compost bin by diverting all the food scraps away from your active pile. The remaining compost mixture serves as the perfect worm bin food, allowing you to make voluminous quantities of nutritious vermi-castings faster than stand-alone redworm systems.


Divert and digest all of your food scraps from the garbage bin, insinkerator, or compost pile
Helps reduce your carbon footprint by reusing your garbage

Family-Friendly: provide your kids with an education in sustainability, science, recycling and organic gardening

Designed to be naturally seeded by female Hermetia adults present locally (or by the addition of starter grubs)


Re-capture the valuable lipids, simple sugars and proteins found in your kitchen waste back into usable food for pets, domesticated animals and wildlife

Use the rich, friable compost (grub castings) in the greenhouse, potted plants or garden

The remaining, undigested material (mostly composting plant material) serves as the ultimate worm bin food – add it to a worm bin and produce worm castings faster than normal

For harvesting smaller grubs, an electric heating pad may be utilized to encourage premature crawl off of juveniles

Beneficial soldier grubs are self-separating, auto-harvesting, robust, hardy, indigenous, easy-to-store, dry-to-the-touch in pupal stage, and a highly nutritious animal feed

Use the liquid tea as a nutritious plant fertilizer or as a means of attracting adult females to a second pod

Freeze your excess grub harvest for use in winter months

See your purchase, and checkout:

The composter below includes our DIY rainwater, solar water heating, and greywater recycling edocumentation set. Shipping is Free in the USA lower 48.

The BioPod Plus Grub Composter $169:

Soldier Grub Starter Colony

These starter kits include approximately 800-1000 live Black Soldier Fly juveniles (‘Soldier Grubs’) and are recommended for those who wish to begin their units earlier in the season or who live in regions of the country where native populations of adults may not be present. The grubs in the picture are mature individuals and indicative of what your crawl off will resemble. Younger juveniles are cream colored and noticeably smaller. These grubs are NOT sterile and are capable of reproduction.