Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for December, 2011

Human Power

One of our interests is human power. The average human body can sustain about 100 watts of output. One of the easiest ways to convert human power into work is with the bicycle crank. You can build a electrical generator, pump water, propel a boat, even grind wheat. Here are some very good resources about the history of human power, human power projects, and maintaining bicycle components.

Bike Cult: The Ultimate Guide to Human-Powered Vehicles

The Human-Powered Home: Choosing Muscles Over Motors

Bicycling Science

Pedal power in work, leisure, and transportation

The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair: For Road & Mountain Bikes


Cabins & Cottages: The Basics of Building a Getaway Retreat for Hunting, Camping, and Rustic Living

This book is free with the order of two or more DIY eBooks at

Whether building a summer cottage in the woods or homesteading off the grid, Cabins & Cottages gives readers a logical and sensible approach to building permanent shelter in out-of-the-way places. Including everything from choosing and clearing a site and creating an electrical power source, to clearing the land and creating a foundation, this book offers instruction on building an A-frame cabin or a rustic log cabin with a framed roof. Also included is a special section on designing small buildings to cope with Mother Nature, including earthquakes, heavy snow, high wind, and flooding.

John Kelsey is a journalist, an editor, and a writer specializing in woodworking and furniture making. He is a former editor in chief of Fine Woodworking magazine, and the author of Furniture Projects for the Deck and Lawn and Kid Crafts: Woodworking. He currently serves as the Editorial Director for Fox Chapel Publishing.


Open Source Window Hydroponics

“Interdependence is an extremely powerful social infrastructure that we can actually harness to heal some of our deepest civic issues, if we apply open source collaboration.” –Britta Riley in her May, 2011 TED talk

Britta is an artist and technologist from New York, and owns a company called The company makes hydroponic platforms for growing food in city windows, designed with the help of more than 1,800 enthusiastic collaborators from all over the world.

Britta took her inspiration from NASA, which uses hydroponics to explore how to grow food in space. She reasoned that many apartment windows have less than stellar conditions for growing plants, especially in a Northern winter. Conditions in any particular window would limit what could grow there—but perhaps hydroponics could contribute to food security on earth.

NASA (or a large corporation) would be able to fund their own research and development (R&D) to solve the problem, but Britta took a more egalitarian approach.

“When we hand over all of our problems to specialists, we cause the kind of problem we see with the food system,” she said.

Britta decided to open source the project. She published the design on the web and invited anyone from anywhere in the world to improve the system. With no intellectual property issues, it was open to co-developers. Collaboratively, they have developed a system that grows a salad a week in an apartment window and allows an individual to cut their carbon footprint nearly in half.



Turn a 5 Gallon Pail into a Wet/Dry Vac

We are always looking for new uses for used 5 gallon pails. From making water filters, to micro hydro units, a used bucket is a versatile thing, and by using a used bucket, you are reducing waste, and the energy needed to make a new bucket.

We discuss the many ways to reuse buckets at

Now a wet / dry vac is also a useful thing to have, but can be quite expensive. Enter the Bucket Head wet / dry vac! Snaps onto the top of a used bucket, and for under $50 you have a very powerful (1.5 hp) suction or blower ability.

We have tested this on a Xantrex 1800 watt inverter and a Walmart Marine deep cycle battery.

We have put together a special package included the power head, hose, 4 filters, and a variety of accessories including crevice tools, brushes and nozzles for home and car.

Free Shipping to Lower 48 States, USA

See your purchase, and checkout:

Bucket Vac with free shipping$49:

Bucket Vac with Accessory Pack and free shipping (save $20)$99:

Other destinations will incur an additional shipping charge. You provide the bucket. New buckets (and additional filters) available below with no shipping charges if shipped with Bucket Vac with Accessory Pack, or with Accessory Pack by itself.

Accessory Pack with Free shipping$70:
Includes –
Micro Cleaning kit – The kit is ideal for cleaning computer components, glove compartments, keyboards and stereo equipment.
Car Cleaning Nozzle – Car-Cleaning Nozzle helps you clean your vehicle quickly and easily.
Carpet and Hard Floor Nozzle – Carpet and Hard Floor Nozzle is a great all-around floor-care tool. It cleans carpet and hard surfaces.
Brush and Crevice Tool Combo – Brush and Crevice Tool Combo offers 2 vacuum-accessory tools with 1-1/4 in. attachment configurations that are suitable for a range of cleanup needs around the home, yard, shop and garage.

Bucket 3 pack for Bucket Vac$10:

Additional Bucket Vac Filters (3 pack)$10:


Build the Green Trust Compost Bin

For under $15, you can have a very nice compost bin. Get a used 55 gallon plastic drum (removable top is best, but you can cut out the top of a closed top drum), and about 7′ of 3′ wide wire mesh (your dimensions may vary, see instructions).


  • 1- 55 gallon plastic drum that has been cleaned out very well, especially if it contained something inedible
  • ¼” square galvanized hardware cloth or other welded wire mesh(1/8″ to 1/2″ is ok)
  • Tools:

  • Drill, preferably electric because you will be doing a LOT of drilling
  • Drill Bits:
  • ½” normal twist drill
    2” hole saw, Size may vary from 1-3”, adjust instructions below to suit the size you choose.

  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers (to bend down any sharp points on the wire)
  • Gloves (because hardware cloth has better teeth than piranhas)
  • Steps:

  • Wrap string around top of barrel, mark where end meets
  • Measure from the end of the string to the mark, and write that down
  • Divide the measurement by 20 (at least an even number), call this “X”, and write it down
  • Mark the string every “X” inches. If this is an non standard (not on your ruler) number, and you want you last set of holes to look right, use a digital caliper to make a set of marks on a board to transfer to the string.
  • Wrap the string around the barrel again, marking the barrel at every “X” mark
  • Repeat 1-5 at the bottom lip or bottom rib if you don’t have a lip, be sure that your #1 mark lines up on both sets of string. I start at one of the seams, and go to the right for the first line, then flip the barrel over, and start at the same seam, and go to the left for the second line. This way if your lines are not evenly divisible all the way around, at least the marks are straight.
  • Connect your top and bottom sets of “x” marks with lines and number each line.
  • Measure down 2“from the top of the barrel, and mark this level on ODD NUMBERED LINES
  • Measure down 4” from the top of the barrel, mark this level on your EVEN NUMBERED LINES
  • On each line, measure down 4” from the marks you just made, and make another mark
  • You should have a staggered pattern of marks till you get within 4” of the bottom of the barrel
  • Drill 2” holes at each mark you made
  • Drill ¼” holes in bottom of barrel for the drains. See pattern in image below. It’s not critical.
  • Measure the inside height of your barrel to the top of the top row of holes. Cut your welded wire about 6” longer than the middle of the barrel measurement, and 1” wider than the height measurement.
  • Drop the wire into barrel.
  • Optional Improvements:

  • Add a pan or other container under your barrel to catch good compost tea
  • Add Earthworms
  • Ad Nasuem (User imagination required)
  • Images by Byron Morgan


    Making Cookies, Early Christmas Gift

    Years ago my wife inherited her mother’s Kitchen-aid mixer. It’s a old unit, but works beautifully. Fortunately she brought it with her when we went on the road, or it would have been lost in the house fire last December (a terrible time of the year to lose a home). Unfortunately, she left the Flat Paddle behind, so it was lost. Well, I got home early this afternoon from work, and found her baking cookies. She mentioned it would be a lot easier if she had her flat paddle, as the whisk does not do a good job on cookie dough. I could tell she was struggling a bit emotionally, as she lost a lot of her Mom’s stuff in the fire. I walked into the Living room, grabbed a present from under the tree, handed it to her, and said “Merry Christmas”!

    Inside was, you guessed it, a new K45B Flat Paddle. She is very happy, and these cookies are yummy!


    Plant Based Lubricating Oils – Biodegradable, and Ashless

    G-Oil Garden and Recreational 2-Cycle Green Engine Oil is a patent-pending superior performance 2-cycle engine oil made from American -grown base oils that uses the power of nanotechnology to provide ultimate protection for air-cooled 2-cycle engines. The advanced G-Oil formula does not sacrifice viscosity or durability to be safe for the Earth.

    Advanced Technology for a Truly “Green” Oil

    G-Oil is proven to perform equally or better than synthetic oils, including top brands. Ash content is proven lower than past products that have been marketed as “ash-less.” You no longer need to choose between a good price, a clean engine and high performance.

    G-Oil replaces the petrochemical base of traditional oil products with an “ultimate biodegradable” bio-base. At a molecular level, the G-Oil bio-base material is unique for its low temperature of operation and high degree of stability. The G-Oil base can operate at negative 40- degrees Fahrenheit. Previously sold bio-based products were limited to use at temperatures over approximately positive 40-degrees Fahrenheit. Further, the G-Oil base material is stable, showing little or no reactivity with additives, allowing for easy enhancement of its natural properties just like petrochemical oils and lubricants.

    G-Oil 2 Cycle Green Engine Oil does not utilize a solvent to increase gasoline miscibility and offers a significant safety advantage since the product has a flash point of 365-degrees Fahrenheit and is not classified as flammable or combustible according to OSHA or D.O.T. regulations.

    Environmentally Safe and Ultimate Biodegradability

    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over 40% of our nation’s oil pollution comes from the improper disposal of used motor oil by do-it-yourselfers. One five quart oil change, improperly disposed, of can create an oil slick on the surface of ten acres, render five acres unusable for planting for decades, and contaminate one million gallons of water. G-Oil is 100% biodegradable, achieving an Ultimate Biodegradability ranking from the ASTM standard D5864 that defines “ultimate biodegradability” as a product that is rapidly absorbed (eaten) by microorganisms.

    Additionally, G-Oil Garden & Recreational 2-Cycle green Engine Oil is the “green alternative” and meets and exceeds Motorcycle API TC and Husqvarna Chain Saw requirements. This no-smoke formula contains stabilized technology to improve fuel stability in a variety of general purpose equipment and personal recreational engines including motorcycles, lawn and garden equipment, snowmobiles and chain saws. Even the packaging is “green”: G-Oil bottles are 100% recyclable and the labels are printed with soy ink on biodegradable paper.

    About Green Earth Technologies, Inc.

    Green Earth Technologies produces “G”-Branded superior-performing “totally green” products made entirely from American-grown base oils. Their products harness the power of patent-pending nanotechnology and dehydrogenation. These technologies enable customers to “do their part” for the environment without having to sacrifice performance or value. Green Earth Technologies prides itself on its perfect four-zero National Fire Protection Association safety rating, which measures chemical flammability and reactivity. This means that products from Green Earth Technologies are non-toxic, not flammable, have no detrimental reactivity with other chemicals and are safe on the environment.


    Toshiba’s A19 7.8 Watt 450 Lumen LED Dimmable Replacement Bulb

    Toshiba International Corporation, Dec. 19, 2011 – Toshiba International Corporation announced today that its innovative new A19 LED lamp is now available on Best Buy’s website and in special sections of select Best Buy stores.

    450 Lumens at only 7.8 watts!

    The 40-watt equivalent LED light bulbs are featured in three Best Buy stores – one each in Houston, San Francisco, and Chicago – that just launched special home energy departments highlighting the latest and greatest energy-saving technologies. The LED lamp is also available on Best Buy’s website.

    Unlike many other LED lamps launched to date, Toshiba’s A19 boasts a more traditional light bulb shape – a feature that research shows is important to lighting designers, specifiers, and consumers. Toshiba’s new A19 lamp is manufactured using patented technology that enables omnidirectional light distribution similar to that of an incandescent lamp.

    The A19 lamp is also dimmable and comes in a 2700K color temperature. “Toshiba is extremely proud that its LED lamps have been selected as featured products in Best Buy’s Home Energy Departments,” said Ken Honeycutt, Senior Vice President at Toshiba International Corporation and the Chief Venture Executive for Toshiba LED Lighting Systems Division.

    Manufactured to ENERGY STAR® performance levels and undergoing ENERGY STAR® testing now, Toshiba’s A19 LED lamp reduces energy use by more than 75 percent and lasts up to 40 times longer than incandescent lamps. In fact, based on an average use of three hours a day, the A19 lamp is rated to last 22.8 years. The lamp also features a 450-lumen output, reaches full brightness instantly, and contains no mercury or lead.

    “Toshiba’s LED lighting is already featured in art museums and businesses around the world; now consumers can experience this beautiful lighting in their homes,” said Peter DallePezze, Vice President of Marketing and Product Development, Toshiba International Corporation LED Lighting Systems Division. “We believe Best Buy’s decision to carry LED lighting speaks to the exciting transition that’s taking place in the lighting industry,” DallePezze said. “Thanks to advances in technology, we are producing LED lamps that last for years and significantly reduce the energy usage in homes and commercial buildings. This represents a fundamental shift from selling a commodity product to a durable product with innovation behind it.”

    The A19 lamp is backed by Toshiba’s 120-year heritage as a preferred lighting manufacturer in Japan and by Toshiba’s reputation worldwide as a reliable manufacturer of quality electronics products. As one of the largest lighting companies and LED lamp manufacturers in the world, Toshiba is dedicated to creating high quality light, while keeping energy consumption low. One hundred percent of Toshiba’s current lighting product offering and lighting product development in the U.S. is based on LED technology.

    To demonstrate their commitment to LED technology as the superior choice for lighting, Toshiba abandoned production of incandescent light bulbs in March 2010. Toshiba was the first major lighting manufacturer to proactively discontinue the production of incandescent light bulbs in favor of energy-efficient LED lamps. Further exemplifying Toshiba’s commitment to producing high-quality, energy-efficient LED lighting, 25 of the company’s LED light bulbs recently received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR label.

    In order to qualify for ENERGY STAR certification, light bulbs must use up to 75 percent less energy and last at least 15 times longer than comparable incandescent lighting.

    About Toshiba International Corporation

    Toshiba International Corporation (TIC) is a Toshiba America Inc. (TAI) Group Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation. TIC is headquartered in Houston, Texas and employs approximately 1,100 people. TIC provides application solutions to a wide range of industries including lighting systems, industrial, power systems, and transmission and distribution systems. For more information about TIC, please visit

    About Toshiba International Corporation’s LED Lighting Systems Division

    Toshiba International Corporation’s LED Lighting Systems Division provides the North American market with a variety of high-efficiency LED products. Drawing upon Toshiba’s 120-year heritage of lighting innovations in Japan and world-class electronic and semi-conductor technologies, the LED Lighting Systems Division is emerging as a leader in solid state lighting. The LED Lighting Systems Division is committed to providing lighting solutions that enhance the quality of life and meet the diverse needs of its customers. Further information is also available online at


    Inventiveness: Electric Vehicles, DIY Structures, Furniture

    We talked about Grid Beam as a inventors and experimenters dream before, but the more we dig into it, the more we get excited about it. If you missed our last article on the subject, Grid Beam is a system of easy to bolt together modular components made of metal, wood, or plastic. This system has been developed over the past 60+ years, starting with the original inventor, Ken Isaacs. He called the system “Living Structures”.

    Ideal for rapid prototyping, ease of disassembly, moving and reassembly. Fun for kids and adults. Solar mounts, wind turbines, hydroelectric, electric vehicles (cars, trains, submarines and more) are just some of the ways to use this system. We develop solutions using microcontrollers in a variety of electro-mechanical, hydraulic, and pneumatic applications and have many uses for grid beam as a platform for these solutions. Check it out!

    How to build with Grid Beam

    Isaacs, Ken – How To Build Your Own Living Structures (Free Download)


    What is disaster preparedness?

    There are many types of disasters, ranging from physical (ice storm to tornado), financial (job loss), or geopolitical (misguided political decrees to all out war). When preparing, it’s important to decide what you are preparing for, what is most likely to occur, and what can you survive. Not much point in preparing for an asteroid hit, because the odds of surviving one are as remote as the event itself happening. If it does, don’t worry about it too much, you are toast anyway. Lists of stuff to buy are much less helpful than learning how to use what you have. Stock what you normally use in life, and learn how to use it in ways never considered, the old panty hose as a fan belt trick for instance. We have several books on preparedness, from Rawles’s “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It”, to Gehring’s “The Homesteading Handbook”.

    The most useful I believe is Bradley’s “The Disaster Preparedness Handbook”. It’s written like your Uncle Bob showing you how to split wood in the backyard. Not preachy, not telling you all the stuff you need to buy, just practical advice on basics, what things to look for, how to handle events, and how to stay safe and healthy, regardless of what life throws at you. The emphasis is on learning to do, not “I have more pails of wheat than you do, therefore I’m a better prepper”.

    There’s a plethora of gung ho, survivalist books out there who indicate survival is about how many rounds of ammo you have, or describing the need to forage wild edibles, build a lean to, and skin a squirrel. This isn’t that kind of book. Decide what you need to survive, how to survive it, and built a network of like minded friends, and you’ll be prepared for much of life’s surprises.