Living Sustainably

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Archive for May, 2012

Wild Elephants Hold Eery Vigil

For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives.The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony, who had grown up in the bush and was known as the “Elephant Whisperer.”

For two days the herds loitered at Anthony’s rural compound on the vast Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu – to say good-bye to the man they loved. But how did they know he had died March 7? Known for his unique ability to calm traumatized elephants, Anthony had become a legend. He is the author of three books, Baghdad Ark, detailing his efforts to rescue the animals at Baghdad Zoo during the Iraqi war, the forthcoming The Last Rhinos, and his bestselling The Elephant Whisperer.

There are two elephant herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both arrived at the Anthony family compound shortly after Anthony’s death.“They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” Dylan is quoted in various local news accounts. “The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later. They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush.”Elephants have long been known to mourn their dead. In India, baby elephants often are raised with a boy who will be their lifelong “mahout.” The pair develop legendary bonds – and it is not uncommon for one to waste away without a will to live after the death of the other.

A line of elephants approaching the Anthony house, but these are wild elephants in the 21st century, not some Rudyard Kipling novel.

So, how after Anthony’s death, did the reserve’s elephants — grazing miles away in distant parts of the park — know?
“A good man died suddenly,” says Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Ph.D., “and from miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home.”

“If there ever were a time, when we can truly sense the wondrous ‘interconnectedness of all beings,’ it is when we reflect on the elephants of Thula Thula. A man’s heart’s stops, and hundreds of elephants’ hearts are grieving. This man’s oh-so-abundantly loving heart offered healing to these elephants, and now, they came to pay loving homage to their friend.”


Build a Better Greenhouse – Did you ever want a good quality greenhouse? Tired of hauling your wife’s plants into the house each fall or tripping over them in the garage all winter? Or perhaps you want to extend your growing season, start plants several months ahead of the season, or just want to experiment with some of our hydroponic gardening systems?

Well, this DVD makes it not only possible – but easy, fun, and cheap. Building a better greenhouse is something that has needed to be done for a long time. Most small greenhouses (also called hobby houses) are either outrageously expensive, or incredibly low quality – sometimes both! But with this plans-and-DVD set you will learn how to build a better greenhouse – a professional-quality greenhouse at a price that can’t be matched by anyone.

First we lay down professional-grade weedblock for a floor – this is a special plastic fabric that blocks weeds, but allows water to penetrate. Then we take 1-3/8 galvanized tubing – the toprail off of chainlink fence, so you know it’s going to last for decades! – and we teach you how to bend this in three places so it’s shaped like a house.

Then we show you how to build the base and the ends out of treated, 30-year ground contact lumber, and stretch professional quality greenhouse plastic over it – and stretch it without wrinkles.

We teach you how to build the door for the greenhouse, install a fan, thermostat, and shutter, where to get all the materials, and how to put them all together. This plans-and-DVD set contains step-by-step instructions showing you every process. You don’t need any special skills – if you can use a vise, drill, circular saw, and hammer, you’re in business!

The key to a top quality greenhouse is top-quality materials. We buy most of our materials from the same place that the huge greenhouse growers do, and that’s what makes this greenhouse different. We tell you where you can buy the materials you need locally, or we offer a kit that contains all the items you need – everything except the wood, metal, fan/thermostat, and shutter!

The greenhouse structure should last you at least 30 years – I’ve had one up for over 10 years myself. Periodically – every 4-6 years under normal conditions – you’ll need to replace the plastic, but that’s a very simple process – one you’ll know how to do before you finish the greenhouse – and a very small expense. And the best part of that is, when you’re done you have what looks like a new greenhouse – all shiny new plastic for another 4-6 years.

And did I mention that this greenhouse is AFFORDABLE? The last greenhouse I built cost me less than $600 including all the materials – that includes the price of our Build-Your-Own Greenhouse Kit and this DVD!

The greenhouse in the video is 10′ wide and 15′ long, but you can easily make it longer, wider, or taller – of those, it’s easiest to make it longer. Generally doubling the length only adds about 50% to the price – so it’s easy to make a greenhouse large enough for that Ficus that takes up half the front porch!

And the best part of all is that you can use this as a small business – for over 12 years now I’ve been building and installing these greenhouses in my local area, at very competitive prices – and yet at a very good profit, too.

By buying the materials in bulk you can cut your costs down to as little as $400 per greenhouse, and with a suggested MSRP of $999 delivered and installed – a price less than half of any other similarly-sized greenhouse available on the market – you can make a nice side income.

So if you want to have a good greenhouse – a beautiful, upscale greenhouse, one of such high quality that your children can enjoy it years from now – go to our website buy this plans and DVD set. We’re sure you’ll like it – we have.


DIY Power Monitor

I’ve designed this open source project along the lines of a Kill-A-Watt, but for DC instead of AC. This week I’ll be adding a nice 4 line white on blue LCD display, and I’ll be adding AC monitoring soon as well. It monitors Volts, Amps, Hours, and calculates Watts, Watt Hours, and Amp Hours. It can be configured for multiple sensors to monitor the power consumption of several devices, or the power production of several sources, like solar, wind, hydro, etc.

DIY Power Meter

I’m currently using a 30 amp unidirectional sensor, but again, this can be configured for bidirectional monitoring, ac or dc sources, and to several hundred amps, with dozens of different sources/loads. We will eventually add web based monitoring for internet or intranet, and sd card datalogging on board. The neat thing about this project is it’s customizability and extendability, and that it costs several hundreds dollars cheaper than the Bogart Pentametric or Outback Flexnet DC, and has much more flexibility than the single source low end Doc Wattson.

Follow along at or participate in the design at


Giving plastic bottles a second life

I recently received a laptop bag made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. It’s a high quality bag, and I’m very pleased with it. It’s well padded, and stylish, and the eco-friendly materials and socially responsible labor are a real plus!

How a plastic bottle became your bag

What makes B2B Green?
The fabric in this product, both the exterior and interior, are derived from 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles. This process is the end point for the process which begins with the collection of bottles, which become ground up, washed to become fiber, spun into yarn and woven into our fabrics. The overall process also uses less energy than making polyester out of virgin chemicals.

Sustainability means building products that last:
That’s why we stand behind the quality, craftsmanship and design of every product we make. However, in the unlikely event that you find a defect in materials or workmanship, we will repair or replace the bag. We believe that you don’t have to sacrifice good quality for eco-friendliness. Being greensmart means expecting no less.