Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Spirulina, A Superfood (Grow your own)

spirulina-powderSpirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a blue-green algae (cyanobacterium), that’s very high in protein, vitamins, and amino acids. It grows in high pH (10-11) brackish water that is inhospitable to most other things, so it’s fairly impervious to being “polluted” by other strains. Basically a complete “superfood” that if you had to, you could exist on with only water. As a food additive, it balances your diet as it provides a complete nutritional, easy to process and absorb, supplement to what you already eat. It’s fairly easy to grow at home, with a 20 gallon aquarium, air pump, and some easy to make nutrients. Once you get a culture, you can spawn new tanks from that culture, so it’s self propagating. Below is a video of the process, a comprehensive tutorial document, and a source for basic starter supplies:

Free eBook: “Grow your own spirulina“.

More free ebooks at


Did the EPA Ban Woodstoves?

woodstovebanThe rumors are swirling in cyberspace. Folks on Facebook and Twitter are adamant that no more wood stoves can be sold after January 1st.  It must be true because I read it online 😉

Here at Green Trust, we are more interested in truth, than rumor, so I decided to get to the bottom of this. Forbes put out a misleading  headline (actually a lie):

EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Has Chilling Consequences For Many Rural People

The EPA has not banned your current woodstove, so no rural people will be “chilled” this winter. The EPA has not banned the sale of new wood stoves, so you can continue buying wood stoves. What the EPA has done is tighten up the allowable emissions from new wood stoves to under 7.5 grams per hour for non-catalytic wood heaters and 4.1 grams per hour for catalytic wood heaters. Local communities and or states may have tighter standards, or disallow wood stoves entirely. Wood stoves offered for sale in the state of Washington must meet a particulate emissions limit of 4.5 grams per hour for non catalytic wood stoves and 2.5 grams per hour for catalytic wood stoves.

There’s a big list of EPA stoves that meet these new standards. Fireplaces and Outdoor Wood Boilers are exempt from EPA regulations, but may be targeted by local regulations. You are also free to build your own woodstove. Again, local regulations and even your insurance company may have a say in this as well.

Stay warm, and burn safe!





Is it illegal to trade saved seeds?

Apparently in Pennsylvania it is. The PA Dept of Ag has sent a cease and desist to a seed saving library. This organization would let you “borrow” seeds, if you saved your seeds and returned them at the end of the season. PA says that’s “selling” seeds without a license.


In early June, the Simpson Public Library in tiny Mechanicsburg—the population is just shy of 9,000—received a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. It seems the library’s seed-exchange program is in violation of the state’s 2004 Seed Act, according to state agriculture officials who require all seed distributors to purchase a license, conduct germination tests on each seed distributed, and maintain copious records of each transaction. Their reasoning is that they want to prevent agroterrorism and the spread of invasive weeds.

Experts say the fallout at the Simpson Public Library is much more certain and immediate: the closure of the seed library altogether.

“Since the library is not able to provide testing services for seeds harvested by its library users, we will not be able to accept harvested seeds as we had originally planned,” reads a message on the library’s website.


2.5 kW Arkansas Solar Install

arksolar2We just got back from a Off Grid Solar Install in Arkansas. We helped the homeowner install nine 275 watt solar panels ( 3 banks of 3), twenty four 6v batteries ( 3 banks of 8 in series), and a power panel that included a 80 amp MPPT charge controller, a 48v 3500 watt sine wave inverter/charger, and associated breakers and disconnects. The Outback Mate 3 now includes a network jack for monitoring your system with a computer, either locally, or remotely. The install team consisted of myself, Ricky Todd, and Nathaniel and Crystal Burson. The homeowners were happy to see their deep freezer, lights, fans, and even a window A/C operating from sunlight. There is a ac input for times of low sun that can plug into the grid or generator for emergencies.

Now we are off to Mexico for the methane digester and aquaponics install.








The $50 Mexico Water Purifier

For my trip to Mexico next week, I’m taking the parts to build my DIY Berkey Filter. This is a homebuilt version of the venerable British Berkefeld water purifier used around the world for generations, producing potable water from bacteria ridden sources. The DIY version consists of two filter candles, a faucet, and two plastic buckets. No Montezuma’s revenge for me!


The DIY Cider Press

ciderPressWe have an awesome freebie for you today! Detailed plans for building your own apple cider press.

There are few drinks so satisfying as a well-made home-brewed apple cider and the process is a simple one. You simply grind the apples into a pulp that you then press to extract the sweet, flavorable juice. You can grind small batches in a blender, or buy / build a grinder for large batches. This free DIY article explains how to make an inexpensive press.

Cider Press Excerpt

For this project, and 24 more awesome DIY Self Sufficiency Projects:

Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency

1. Cider Press

2. Herb-Drying Rack

3. Solar Oven

4. Solar Fruit Dryer

5. Backyard Fire Pit

6. Firewood Shelter

7. Frame Loom

8. Solar Still

9. Manual Laundry Washer

10. Pet Door

11. Metal Kit Shed

12. Post & Board Fence

13. Cothesline Trellis

14. Two-bin Composter

15. Basement Vermiculture Bin

16. Potato-Growing Box

17. Soil Sifter

18. Octagon Strawberry Planter & Cover

19. Teepee Trellis

20. Jumbo Cold Frame

21. Raised Bed With Removeable Trellis

22. Pallet Planter

23. Chicken Coop

24. Brooder Box

25. Bee Hive



Are We Freegans Now?

freeganWe have embarked on our journey of Freeganism. What is Freeganism you ask? Well, think of dumpster diving for food. Not actual dumpster diving (although some do) as our free waste food comes straight from the grocery store shelves. We recently connected with a source of this still quite edible (and delicious) food that is just out of date, or has some easily removed bad spots. Included in this bounty were Melons, citrus, grapes, pineapple, even kiwi and mango, as well as cucumbers, corn on the cob, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower. Other fruits and vegetables are available at times as well. This method of recycling may be available to you, and can take a significant chunk out of your food expenses.

Wikipedia talks about Freeganism:

Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded. Freegans and freeganism are often seen as part of a wider “anti-consumerist” ideology, and freegans often employ a range of alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.

Freegans “embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.”

The word “freegan” is a portmanteau of “free” and “vegan”; not all dumpster divers are vegan, but the ideology of veganism is inherent in freeganism. Freeganism started in the mid-1990s, out of the antiglobalization and environmentalist movements. The movement also has elements of Diggers, an anarchist street theater group based in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in the 1960s, that gave away rescued food.



Mexico Aquaponics & Methane Digester Project

thechildrenWe have been asked to come to Mexico and show a village how to set up a aquaponics system to feed themselves, and set up a methane digester to provide gas for cooking and electricity. We are also setting up Black Soldier Fly Larvae Composters to produce food for the fish.

We will post project details and photo’s when we return. Many projects like these fail when the designers and volunteers leave because there is no local buyin or ownership of the project. Not the case here. The local mission and villagers are the ones being taught to build and maintain their systems. They are emotionally and physically invested in the project!

We have tentatively set the trip for the first week of August, but they need your help with the expenses. You can read about the Mission, their work with orphans and abused women, and place tax deductible donations for the trip at More information about the work they do in Mexico can be found at

UPDATE: Got the funds for the plane tickets, but still need some materials. Please consider helping out. Pictures, diagrams and details will be posted.


Shake Lights, No Batteries! (DIY)

shakelightMany folks have seen or used a batteryless shake light. The concept is simple: A magnet slides up and down in a tube wrapped with wire, charging a capacitor, that feeds a LED.  Well, now you can build your own. You will need a cheap flashlight, a bridge rectifier, capacitor, magnet, and some wire. A few other incidentals, but with scrounged materials, you may be able to build this for less than $10


Emergency Heat When The Power Goes Out

bigbuddyOur tradition has been to share what works. We have been using our Big Buddy portable propane heater for many years (7+), in our off grid home in NY, on the road in our camper (we full timed for 2 years), and even here in SC where the heating season is very short. The Ice Storm this winter left us powerless for a week, and the Big Buddy kept us warm!

The Big Buddy takes 1 lb. propane canisters, and although they can be stored pretty much forever, they run out quickly when it’s really cold, and they are expensive. They can be refilled from a larger bottle (20 lb grill bottle), but we find it easier to just use the 20 lb grill bottle with an adapter hose.

Very effective radiant heat, and uses 4 D batteries (I use rechargeable NIMh) for the fan. This one get’s an A+ from us for longevity, ease of use, and effectiveness.

Big Buddy –

Big bottle (20/30 lb) adapter hose –

1 lb bottle refill adapter –

Qty 4 Rechargable NIMh D Cells –

NiMH Charger –