Living Sustainably

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Make your own Paracord bracelets, hatbands, belts and more

paracordYou never know when you need a length of paracord to tie down a load, lower yourself out a second story window, or other emergency or day to day use. What better way to have the cord with you, than to make a functional piece of clothing or attire out of it. Here are some great instructionals on how to make these useful gadgets:

Sources for paracord:

Fire Starter Buckle Flint Buckle Whistle Buckle Combo



The DIY $20 Rocket Stove

Today we built and fired up our new rocket stove. It took 13 Fire Bricks at $1.35 each, one cement block, and less than a pint of furnace cement. The pictures document the build, and the video shows the operation.




Build a Earth Bermed home for under $50k

wofatiThe Wofati is a Earth Bermed home made of materials primarily found on the building site. Virtually no heating or air conditioning expenses, it works with nature instead of against it. From the inside it looks and feels like a log home, and with more light than a underground home! A living roof with plenty of thermal mass, this pole building is worth checking into! –


5 Gallon Bucket Book – DIY Projects

5gallonbucketbookThe common 5 Gallon Bucket is useful for so many things after it’s initial use. We have been building water filters, clothes washers, and composting toilets, but there’s a whole lot more you can do with this everyday object. Chris Peterson has written a full color photo and diagrammed book that lists parts, tools, and step by step instructions for over 50 neat projects including:

Small Room Air Conditioner

Cable and Cord Organizer

Trash Compactor

Shoe Rack

and so much more. We have been avid bucket upcyclers for years. This book is fantastic! I can’t wait to start some of these projects. A few of my favorites are the mailbox, dryer lint trap, and the storage stool.

You can read a preview of the book for free at, just click the book cover.

Discuss these projects at


Take Yourself Off-Grid!

pv_systemYou probably have heard horror stories of $30k + solar power systems that don’t work when the power goes out (grid tie), complicated power company rules, and expensive and complicated equipment.

We lived off grid for 6 years, and designed and installed our own power system. I’m sharing some of the things I learned, and the full journey is found in the pages of this blog.

You can start the off grid journey yourself, with minimal investment, and grow your system at your own pace. No legal complications.

I’m providing a DIY guide to setting up your own off grid power system for free. Great for cabins, boats, and RV’s, it gives you the basics you need to expand to a larger system.

Good starter equipment includes a small wind turbine if you live in a windy location and a good quality solar panel and charge controller:

400 Watt Wind Turbine

100 Watt PV Kit

This is a good start on your journey, and you will learn a lot about the technology before you build a larger, and more expensive system yourself.









Can Thermoelectrics Replace a Vehicle Alternator?

thermoelectric exhaustBorla®, the pioneer and leading manufacturer of stainless-steel performance exhaust systems and Alphabet Energy, the global leader in thermoelectrics for waste heat recovery, announced today a nonexclusive partnership to deliver the industry’s first aftermarket thermoelectric fuel-efficiency product for vehicle internal combustion engines.

Sixty percent of the energy from fuel used in cars and trucks escapes through the exhaust tailpipe as waste heat. Borla’s technologically-advanced exhaust systems coupled with Alphabet Energy’s PowerModule™ thermoelectric generator has the potential to capture 5 to 10 percent of a car or truck’s waste heat and use it to improve fuel efficiency by reducing alternator loads or replacing the alternator entirely. This captured heat can be used to power the multitude of electrical components on a modern car normally powered by the energy-hungry alternator, such as lights, heating, air conditioning, sound, and navigation systems.”

“Our customers count on us to deliver the highest quality exhaust products while also helping them manage their most pressing challenges for the Class 8 truck fleet operator, and that’s fuel efficiency,” said Alex Borla, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Borla. “As we expand into new markets, it’s our vision to combine Borla’s state-of-the-art exhaust and filtration technologies with thermoelectrics, and Alphabet Energy is the ideal partner to fulfill this vision.”

According to the US Department of Energy, a Class 8 truck traveling 150,000 – 200,000 miles per year averages $70,000 – $125,000 in fuel costs. For many, the lifetime fuel costs for a Class 8 truck are approximately five times the original purchase price of the vehicle. Heat captured by a Borla Exhaust and delivered to an Alphabet Energy’s PowerModule™ could deliver a fuel savings of 3 to 6 percent or as much as $7,500 per year, per Class 8 truck.

“Alphabet Energy is committed to transforming waste heat into value for our customers and partners,” said Dr. Matthew Scullin, Founder and CEO of Alphabet Energy. “Borla’s passion for innovation and design parallels our own and we’re excited to partner with them on the future of heavy-duty trucking exhausts and fuel efficiency improvements.”

Alphabet Energy’s PowerModules™ will undergo testing on both gasoline and diesel truck exhausts at Borla’s state-of-the-art research and development centers in Oxnard, Calif. and Johnson City, Tenn. Based on positive results from the testing, the two companies intend to co-develop and commercialize the next-generation Borla Exhaust for trucks and other mobile and stationary internal combustion engines with Alphabet Energy PowerModules™.


First City to be 100% powered by renewable Energy?

PBS recently announced that Burlington VT was the first city to be 100% powered by renewable energy. As fun as that sounds, PBS was off by more than 100 years.

A quick search of Wikipedia shows:

The old Schoelkopf Power Station No. 1 near Niagara Falls in the U.S. side began to produce electricity in 1881. The first Edison hydroelectric power station, the Vulcan Street Plant, began operating September 30, 1882, in Appleton, Wisconsin, with an output of about 12.5 kilowatts. By 1886 there were 45 hydroelectric power stations in the U.S. and Canada. By 1889 there were 200 in the U.S. alone.

I personally grew up in communities that were 100% hydroelectric powered, either in their past, or currently. Nice try PBS. We realize your heart was in the right place, but a little fact checking goes a long way.


Make your own fuel from waste plastic?

Turn that waste plastic (2, 4, 5 & 6) into fuel. This machine cooks the plastic at over 300 Celsius, and condenses the gas back into a liquid oil. 1kg of plastic + 1 kWh of electric, = 1 liter of fuel (3 hours). At just over $13k, it would pay for itself in about 6 years (including the electric costs to run it).

Models and Specifications


“Bride of Frankenfood”

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ties to agribusiness giant Monsanto, and her advocacy for the industry’s genetically modified crops, have environmentalists in Iowa calling her “Bride of Frankenfood” — putting yet another wrinkle in her presidential campaign’s courtship of liberal activists who are crucial to winning the state’s Democratic caucuses.

The backlash against Mrs. Clinton for her support of genetically modified organisms (GMO), which dominate the corn and soybean crops at the heart of Iowa’s economy, manifested itself at a recent meeting of the Tri-County Democrats, where members gauged support for the former secretary of state.

A large faction of women voiced strong support for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy until the GMO issue came up, prompting them to switch allegiances to Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, a liberal stalwart challenging her for the Democratic nomination.

Read more:


Water Conservation in Las Vegas

Water Conservation in Las Vegas

bellagio fountain

In the middle of the Mojave Desert lies an oasis known as Las Vegas. Although the desert is among one of the driest places on earth, water supply doesn’t seem to be a problem considering the 22 million gallons used at the Bellagio fountain and the amount water used to fill the canals of the Venetian. From 2000 to 2010, Las Vegas was the third fastest growing city in the fast growing state, and rates of water consumption went through the roof. The city only gets about 4 inches of rainfall on average, which makes the public question what exactly are casinos to do to fight the drought.

Other than endangering the environment, the lack of eco-friendly practices can also be a risk for businesses as operators are missing opportunities in accelerating non-gaming revenue and expanding their target consumers. Evidently, online casinos don’t face the same handicaps as the land-based facilities, which give online casino providers the upper hand in target marketing. Without the worry of environmental impacts and the hassle of leaving your home, online consumer profiles can range from conservationists to those residing in a country with strict gambling regulations – an example of this is Japan. Despite Japan’s conservative views on gambling, the world’s first internet-based casino InterCasino was able to expand their market to accommodate Japanese players.

The Japanese aren’t only known for their gambling regulations. Other than revolutionizing the world’s technology, they also happen to have one of the lowest water distribution levels in the world. The nation has universal access to sanitation and a steady water supply. They also maintain strict standards in water treatment, and continue to exceed global standards for conservation. Much of this stems from cultural practices that limit excessive water use, which can be seen in the design of a typical Japanese bathroom. They show that a simple restructure of a bathroom can easily cut down the amount of water wasted, which a few casinos on the Strip have already done.

To address the public’s concern for the environment, land-based casinos started increasing their efforts in conservation and minimize dependency on their only nearby natural water supply, Lake Mead. The snow from the Colorado Rockies continues to replenish this body of water, but expansions in the metro and recurring droughts have prevented it to maintain the proper lake levels.

Last year’s drought that heavily affected California was a wakeup call for Las Vegas casinos. Though water conservation programs were always in place, there is always room for improvement. The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has worked time and time again to make sure that they recycle almost 100 percent of indoor water. MGM and Caesars implement a low-flow shower and toilet system across all their hotels, demonstrating that water conservation is not only a necessity in Las Vegas, but in other parts of the world as well.