Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Smart Charging your phone, tablet, and other 5v USB devices.

P1030804I have several devices that are charged with a USB 5v charger. Most have a warning on them “Disconnect charger when charged to save energy”. Why? Because most 5v chargers do not know when the batteries are charged, so they keep charging, wasting energy, producing excess heat, and reducing battery life (and the life of the charger).

This weekend we got a USB Smart Charger. This device stops charging when your device is fully charged, and displays a green light to let you know it’s done. Handy for my Kindle Fire which gives you no notification that it’s finished. This devices saves energy, and will extend the life of my devices, and itself.

At 2 Amp output, it’s fully capable of charging the most demanding 5v device, whether it’s a tablet or a phone, or a usb powered device with no onboard battery, like an Arduino.

Velvetwire Introduces First-Ever Apple HomeKit Device Smart Charger

Powerslayer Blu Eliminates Energy Waste and Allows for Customized Charging of Devices

SANTA CRUZ, CA – September 30, 2014 – Velvetwire, a leader in smart energy technology, today announced the winter availability of Powerslayer Blu, its Apple HomeKit-enabled USB charger. The Powerslayer is a cleverly designed intelligent smartphone charger that integrates a first-of-its-kind device-aware software for a more energy efficient charging process as well as a surge protector for keeping both consumers and gadgets safe. Now with added Bluetooth low energy (BLE) connectivity, Powerslayer Blu is compatible with the HomeKit-controlled ecosystem, allowing for customization and enhanced control of the charging process in addition to reducing energy waste.

“Our vision for Velvetwire arose during a two-year sailing trip around the world, where we realized the vital importance of conserving energy. Powerslayer is our first endeavor at tackling energy waste and creating a smarter energy future for the modern consumer,” said Jennifer Lee, co-founder and COO of Velvetwire.

Powerslayer Blu is a unique, eco-conscious way to charge devices. By turning off automatically when charging is complete, the device prevents overcharging and protects the battery life of USB devices. It also eliminates vampire power – the energy constantly consumed by electronics even in standby mode – while looking stylish.

“We are proud to be among the first group of companies to produce HomeKit-compatible devices,” said Eric Bodnar, co-founder and CEO at Velvetwire. “By integrating Bluetooth technology into the Powerslayer, we’re offering customers a new way to interact with their devices and be part of Apple’s HomeKit. Velvetwire is committed to developing intelligent, energy-efficient devices that allow users to live more consciously without sacrificing convenience. We look forward to sharing Powerslayer Blu and future generations of our power-saving devices with the world.”

Powerslayer Blu’s customization features include the ability to select between high power boost-mode charging and eco-mode to maximize battery life as well as the ability to receive a variety of device notifications. The charger interacts wirelessly with Apple devices through a Bluetooth-powered iOS application developed by Velvetwire and can interact with other HomeKit applications. The app allows users to visually see and monitor relevant information about the level of charge their device is receiving. By tailoring charging power levels to suit their situation, users are provided a whole new level of interaction with the charging process.

Pricing and Availability:
Powerslayer Blu is available Winter 2014 for $89. To sign up to learn more about Powerslayer Blu and become alerted when available, visit

About Velvetwire:
Based in Santa Cruz, California, Velvetwire produces intelligent technology products that help eliminate energy waste. After two successful startup exits, co-founders Eric Bodnar and Jennifer Lee journeyed on an extensive sailing trip around the world where they realized the preciousness of conserving energy – upon return they launched Velvetwire. The company is now at the forefront of wireless and mobile innovation with deep-rooted commitment to rethinking the way modern society consumes energy. For more information about Velvetwire, visit

For regular Velvetwire updates follow us at or

Introducing Powerslayer from Velvetwire on Vimeo.


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