Living Sustainably

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Archive for November, 2011

DIY Solar Resource Package

Learn how to design and build your own solar power systems for your boat, rv, or home. We have been designing solar power systems for over a decade, in a variety of climates, and lived off grid for over 6 years. We have documented our tips and tricks in a series of resources so that you can save money doing it yourself.

This week we are offering a free gift with every purchase. A tutorial on building solar powered wifi networks for 3rd world and disaster hit areas.



The Energy Efficient LED Christmas Tree

We started putting up the Christmas Tree this morning (our yearly tradition is the day after Thanksgiving, the Christmas decorations go up). With Christmas music from Pandora filling the room, and help from the cats, we went to work. We use a inexpensive artificial tree for a number of reasons, including longevity, and LED lights for minimal impact on our electric bill. The jeweled lenses prevent LED “spotlighting” effects that can bother the eyes. Our first set projected colored “bulls-eyes” on the walls, floor and ceiling. When you walked by, and a LED lined up with your line of sight, OUCH. These are mush easier to enjoy. Next comes tinsel, balls and other ornaments.


10 Wackiest Ideas Ever for Improving the Environment

Katherine Tworsey from asked me to post an article called “10 Wackiest Ideas Ever for Improving the Environment” which was recently published on their blog at ( I am doing so with a note or two for clarification.

Throughout human history, there have been some quite noble efforts for sustaining the Earth. Many great innovations have resulted from mankind’s attempts at preserving our environment. Then again, there have been some real doozies too. Today we’re going to have a look at ten of the zaniest ideas ever devised for improving the environment.

1. There is a proposal before the United Nations for environmental justice, in order to save the planet. Said justice calls for legal representation on behalf of the environment – plants, animals, insects – against us pesky humans, with the power to seek financial compensation for damages.

2. This one is a bit of a touchy subject. Though the thought is in the right place, the evidence seems to suggest that the concept wasn’t entirely thought through. The push to replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL’s (compact fluorescent lamps) would indeed conserve energy. However, they contain significant levels of mercury which, without any safe means of recycling them, would introduce unsafe levels of mercury back into the environment. (Editor’s Note: The straight tube fluorescent has been sold since the 1930’s, and contains much more mercury than the little twisty compact units, which are almost mercury free in comparison. This argument is a strawman.)

3. In an effort to safeguard the sanctuary of indigent marine wildlife, the city of San Diego is set to enact laws that would ban birthday parties at local parks within the vicinity of said wildlife.

4. As a means to harness human energy and transform it into useable energy, the concept of the human-powered floating gym came into being. Imagine, if you will, dozens of sweaty fitness-minded bodies, powering their way upstream in a bubble, and you’ve got a vague idea of what this truly wacky project is all about.

5. Here’s another idea that someone pulled out of their, um … notebook: The basic premise is that the methane produced through cow flatulence is a major contributor to greenhouse gases (14%) and needs to be stopped. The answer? Kangaroo farts. Apparently their marsupial mates are methane-free down under, and possess a bacterium that it is suggested to be injected into cattle.

6. Based on the cooling effect that the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo had on the planet 20 years ago, scientists had the brainstorm idea of triggering other volcanoes in the hopes of having similar results. We can only hope that our tax dollars don’t literally go up in (volcanic) smoke, and ash.

7. The Eco-Kettle is supposedly the answer to a question we have no idea why anyone would even ask: namely, sparing our precious globe from the bane of our existence known as (wait for it) boiling too much water (gasp!). (Editors Note: I actually like this one. It cuts down on the power needed to boil water, decreasing my energy usage and costs.)

8. Asus came up with this gem a while back as a solution to excessive use of plastics in consumer product manufacturing: the bamboo laptop. We would love to have seen this sold as part of an office starter package, with a tiki torch desk lamp and margarita mixer.

9. Pig pee for plastics. The idea here is to reduce the use of petroleum in the manufacture of plastic plates. The urea in pig urine would act as a bulking agent in its place. Trouble is (among other things -ugh!) is that when these pig-pee plates are discarded? You guessed it, they will emit methane. Maybe we first need to cross-breed these pigs with kangaroos. Yeah, that’s the ticket: pigaroo plates.

10. And finally, a supremely sage environmental observation by none other than the Wizard of Wit himself, former Vice-President of the United States of America, Dan Quayle:

“It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.” (Editor’s Note: Can this really compare with Al Gore’s whole (possibly CO induced) notion of manmade global warming?)


The Jujube Tree, and it’s many uses

Jujube was domesticated in South Asia by 9000 BCE. Over 400 cultivars have been selected.

The tree tolerates a wide range of temperatures and rainfall, though it requires hot summers and sufficient water for acceptable fruiting. Unlike most of the other species in the genus, it tolerates fairly cold winters, surviving temperatures down to about −15 °C. This enables the jujube to grow in the mountain desert habitats, provided there is access to underground water through the summer. The species Z.zizyphus grows in cooler regions of Asia. Five or more other species of Ziziphus are widely distributed in milder climates to hot deserts of Asia and Africa.

Medicinal Use

The fruits are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress, and traditionally for antifungal, antibacterial, antiulcer, anti-inflammatory, sedative, antispastic, antifertility/contraception, hypotensive and Antinephritic, cardiotonic, antioxidant, immunostimulant, and wound healing properties. “The jujube-based Australian drink 1-bil avoids making specific stress-related claims, but does suggest drinking 1-bil “when you feel yourself becoming distressed”. The plant may help prevent impairment of hippocampal memory. A controlled clinical trial found the fruits helpful for chronic constipation. In another clinical trial, Zizyphus jujuba was proved to be effective against neonatal jaundie. A leaf extract showed anti-obese activity in rats. In Persian traditional medicine it is used to treat colds and Flu in combination with other herbal medicine.

Ziziphin, a compound in the leaves of the jujube, suppresses the ability to perceive sweet taste in humans. The fruit, being mucilaginous, is very soothing to the throat and decoctions of jujube have often been used in pharmacy to treat sore throats.
Fresh jujube fruits.

Culinary use
Dried jujube fruits, which naturally turn red upon drying.

The freshly harvested as well as the candied dried fruits are often eaten as a snack, or with tea. They are available in either red or black (called hóng zǎo or hēi zǎo, respectively, in Chinese), the latter being smoked to enhance their flavor. In China and Korea, a sweetened tea syrup containing jujube fruits is available in glass jars, and canned jujube tea or jujube tea in the form of teabags is also available. Although not widely available, jujube juice and jujube vinegar are also produced; they are used for making pickles in West Bengal and Bangladesh.

In China, a wine made from jujubes, called hong zao jiu is also produced. Jujubes are sometimes preserved by storing in a jar filled with baijiu (Chinese liquor), which allows them to be kept fresh for a long time, especially through the winter. Such jujubes are called jiu zao. These fruits, often stoned, are also a significant ingredient in a wide variety of Chinese delicacies. In Korea, jujubes are called daechu and are used in teas and samgyetang.

In Lebanon, the fruit is eaten as snacks or alongside a dessert after a meal.

In Persian cuisine, the dried drupes are known as annab, while in neighboring Azerbaijan it is commonly eaten as a snack, and are known as innab. Z. zizyphus grows in norhern Pakistan and is known as Innab, commonly used in the Tibb Unani system of medicine. There seems to be quite a widespred confusion in the common name. The Innab is Z. zizyphus: the local name Ber is not used for Innab. Rather Ber is used for three other cultivated or wild species i.e. Z. spina-christi, Z. mauritiana and Z. nummularia in Pakistan and parts of India and is eaten both fresh and dried. Often the dry fruit (Ber) was used as a padding in leather horse-saddles in parts of Baluchistan in Pakistan. The Arabic names Sidr is used for Ziziphus species other than Z. zizyphus. The most expensive honey in the world is produced from Z. spina-christi in the Hadramaut region of Yemen!

Jujube fruit is called ilanthappazham or badari in Malayalam, ilanthai pazham in Tamil-speaking regions, “Yelchi Hannu” in Kannada and “Regi pandu” in Telugu. Traditionally, the fruits are dried in the sun and the hard nuts are removed. Then, it is pounded with tamarind, red chillies, salt, and jaggery. Small dishes are made from this dough and again dried in the sun, and are referred to as ilanthai vadai. In some parts of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, fresh whole ripe fruit is crushed with the above ingredients and dried under the sun to make delicious cakes called ilanthai vadai or “Regi Vadiyalu” (Telugu).


Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis

by Peggy Layton

What if your life was disrupted by a natural disaster, food or water supply contamination, or any other type of emergency? Do you have the essentials for you and your family? Do you have a plan in the event that your power, telephone, water and food supply are cut off for an extended amount of time? What if there were no medical or pharmaceutical services available for days, weeks, or months? How prepared are you?

With this guide by your side, you and your family will learn how to plan, purchase, and store a three-month supply of all the necessities—food, water, fuel, first-aid supplies, clothing, bedding, and more—simply and economically. In other words, this book may be a lifesaver.

Inside you’ll find 10 steps to an affordable food storage program plus how to:
• Prepare a home “grocery store” and “pharmacy”
• Use what you store and store what you use
• Store water safely and provide for sanitation needs
• Create a first-aid kit, car kit, and 72-hour emergency kit for the whole family
• And many more invaluable hints and tips

“This clear, concise, step-by-step program is not only affordable and doable, it’s essential in these uncertain times. Now, everyone from apartment dwellers to basement owners can store a three-month supply of the essentials, including peace of mind!” — Joni Hilton, author of Once-a-Week Cooking Plan and Cooking Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis


Will the Real Organic Granola Please Stand Up

I’m sitting here this beautiful Thanksgiving morning, eating breakfast. Already feeling bad for what I’m going to consume later today, I thought I’d eat something healthy to balance it out. I grabbed some Grandy Oats Granola out of the cupboard, and started chowing down. Now it’s very tasty, but not everything tasty is good for you. Something I try not to do, is look at ingredients while I’m eating, but since I grew up with homemade granola, knowing everything that went into it (peanuts, honey, oats, raisins, etc.), I was curious. So many of the commercial granola’s have a lot of crap in them, like Bear Naked (Kellogg), Mother’s (Pepsico), Back to Nature (Kraft), and other “natural” products that contain or are produced with genetically engineered ingredients, toxic pesticides, sewage sludge, fumigants, and petrochemical solvents.

Well not Grandy Oats. Since 1979, in the White Mountains of western Maine, GrandyOats has made the tastiest granola by hand, in small batches, using the finest organic ingredients. GrandyOats now makes more than 40 unique handmade granolas, trail mixes and roasted nuts. They never use refined sweeteners or any artificial ingredients, only 100% organic ingredients that you can understand and pronounce.

Grandy Oats Cranberry Chew Organic Granola

Organic Oats
Organic Wheat Fakes
Organic Rye Flakes
Organic Triticale
Organic Dried Cranberries
Organic Dried Apples
Organic Honey
Organic Orange Juice
Organic Coriander
Organic Vanilla
Sea Salt


Climategate 2.0 exposes climate science hypocrisy

A second batch of leaked emails from scientists working on board and alongside the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have come to light. They contain shocking revelations which show an insular cadre of climate scientists coordinating efforts to place advocacy ahead of science, stifle dissent, and conceal information which detracts from a preconceived, ideologically driven, global warming narrative.

This shockingly candid look at the machinations of the high priests of global warming has given rise to renewed demands that the EPA, EU and global community cancel existing plans and programs designed to radically lower or cap and tax carbon emissions. These misguided policies already have created economic havoc in Europe, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. and pose a major threat to the world economy.

Marc Morano, publisher of CFACT’s, said that the emails, known collectively as Climategate 2.0, “arrived to drain what little life there was left in the man-made global warming movement.”

The new emails led Morano to conclude that they “… further expose the upper echelon of the UN IPCC as being more interested in crafting a careful narrative than following the evidence.” He notes, for example, that Penn State professor Michael Mann stated in one email that, “The important thing is to make sure they’re [climate skeptics] losing the PR battle.” The University of East Anglia’s Keith Briffa (a colleague of the already discredited EAU Climate Research Center head Phil Jones) also chimed in, “I find myself in the strange position of being very skeptical of the quality of all present reconstructions, yet sounding like a pro greenhouse zealot here!”

The revelations come just as thousands are preparing to descend on Durban, South Africa, for the IPCC’s COP 17 Climate Change conference that begins on November 28th. CFACT Executive Director Craig Rucker noted that “The release of these emails is yet another major setback for alarmists who are hyping fears over climate change in order to exercise influence over ever-increasing segments of the U.S. and world economy.”

CFACT, which has been a fully accredited non-governmental organization at these UN events for two decades, will be closely monitoring and offering daily reports on the developments in Durban. Rucker says the new emails provide even stronger reasons to oppose such radical Green initiatives as the World Wildlife Fund-Oxfam proposal for a new $25 per ton global tax on shipping with the goal of curtailing carbon emissions; the call by Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela for a new climate tax on worldwide financial transactions; and a proposed new “sustainability treaty.”

As Rucker notes, “The real agenda of the climate radicals is to promote massively expanded government regulation worldwide, at the expense of jobs creation and economic growth. The policies they advocate will do the greatest harm to the world’s poorest people and ensure that citizens of developing nations have no chance at true freedom and prosperity.”

Go to for details on Climategate 2.0. More information on CFACT’s mission to Durban at Also at, &


The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living

I am reading “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living” by Abigail R. Gehring. This is a large, comprehensive overview of virtually all the old ways of living self sufficiently. Written by a woman who has lived this way most of her life, it’s the real deal.

912 pages, 1250 color illustrations, high quality paper. This one is a keeper!

“From growing vegetables to crafting furniture to raising goats, this lavishly illustrated volume has everything you need to know to live off the land.

Packed with step-by-step instructions, useful tips, time-honored wisdom, and both illustrations and photographs, this might just be the most comprehensive guide to back to basics living ever published. Fans of Back to Basics, Homesteading, and Self-Sufficiency have been asking for a one-stop resource for all the subjects covered in that successful series. In response, Gehring has compiled a massive, beautifully presented, single volume that covers canning and preserving, keeping chickens, fermenting, soap-making, how to generate your own energy, how to build a log cabin, natural medicine, cheese-making, maple sugaring, farm mechanics, and much, much more.

Whether you own one hundred acres or rent a studio apartment in the city, this book has plenty of ideas to inspire you. Learn how to build a log cabin or how to craft handmade paper; find out how to install a solar panel on your roof or brew your own tea from dried herbs; Cure a ham, bake a loaf of bread, or brew your own beer. This book has something for everyone. ”

Find out more at:

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living

Since some have asked, this book is not the same as Carla Emery’s “The Encyclopedia of Country Living”. Abigail R. Gehring’s book is a completely different book, with some similar topics, but a fresher, more modern outlook, better organization, and lots of full color illustrations.


Grid Beam – Erector Sets for Big Kids

Grid Beam is a modular system for building all kinds of things. From go carts to bunk beds, it’s an open source construction set. It’s simple to build with, so kids of all ages can enjoy building life size projects. It’s just as easy to take apart, and rebuild, or build something else.

How to Build with Grid Beam: A Fast, Easy and Affordable System for Constructing Almost Anything

Yet grid beam is a real building system, not a toy (although children do enjoy it and can build their own play structures to boot!). With it, ordinary people can create strong durable, real-world projects ranging from furniture and sheds to vehicles, full-sized buildings, and industrial equipment. Key to grid beam technology is flexibility and reusability. We all strive to build or buy products that will be relevant in our future. But, since none of us knows what the future will really look like, design flexibility and reusability is essential.


LED Flashlight Upgrades and Solar Charging

This past week I upgraded several of our flashlights with 1 watt LED bulbs. These bulbs work in most 1 – 6 cell AAA – D sized flashlights. The 4 main benefits are long bulb life (30,000+ hours), virtually shock proof (bulb won’t go out if dropped), extreme white light, and extended battery life. Could be the last bulb you ever have to buy. Available from Amazon at:

The other recommendation I make is a solar capable charger for NiMH batteries. This is the charger I use, and recharges in 15 minutes. It comes with a AC and Car adapter, and has a 12v port on the side for easy solar hookup. Never be caught with discharged batteries again. Includes two 2200mAh AA and two 900mAh AAA NiMH batteries.