Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

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 We recently connected with a source of this still quite edible (and delicious) food that is just out of date, or has some easily removed bad spots.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 –



Does Skim Milk Make You Fat?

It’s hard to resist a glass of cold, creamy whole milk with a warm brownie or a piece of pie. But resist we do, because for 50 years scientists have been presenting evidence linking fats, especially saturated fats like those found in animal products, with cardiovascular disease.

Fat-phobia has become a dietary axiom.

Pediatricians’ advice to parents to switch to low-fat or skim milk has become the norm. Some school districts in Connecticut are even considering banning whole milk for small children.

Yet new studies show that drinking low-fat milk is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater – and can even lead to obesity.

A 2013 long-term University of Virginia study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood shows that skim milk actually makes children heavier than whole milk.

More –


A Gourd based Hand Washer – AfriGadget

mukombeThe Mukombe is a gourd that is used to hold water for hand washing. The diagram really is self explanatory, tip to use, and refill the gourd when empty for the next person. Soap hangs from a string underneath, so as not to lose it, or get it dirty.

The mukombe holds about 2 litres of water and can provide enough water in a single filling to give about 35 hand washes.”

More info:



Win a free Baofeng GT-3 Dual Band Ham Radio!

gt-3.1Win a free Baofeng GT-3!

Just join the forum at and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free Baofeng GT-3 dual band HT! A new radio given away each month to a member of the pool that joined that month. Get in for May!


Journal of the New Alchemists

John and Mary Todd from their old “New Alchemist” days discuss aquaponics (yes, it’s an old concept), bioshelters, and more. Download the free tech info!

The New Alchemy Institute was a research center that did pioneering investigation into organic agricultureaquaculture, and bioshelter design between 1969 and 1991. It was founded by John Todd, Nancy Jack Todd, and William McLarney. Its purpose was to research human support systems of food, water, and shelter and to completely rethink how these systems were designed.






University of California, Davis
April 22, 2014


[Editor’s note: Photos of the UC Davis biodigester can be downloaded at ]

More than a decade ago, Ruihong Zhang, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the University of California, Davis, started working on a problem: How to turn as much organic waste as possible into as much renewable energy as possible.

Today, on Earth Day, the university and Sacramento-based technology partner CleanWorld are officially unveiling the UC Davis Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester (READ) at the campus’ former landfill. Here, the anaerobic digestion technology Zhang invented is being used inside large, white, oxygen-deprived tanks. Bacterial microbes in the tanks feast on campus and community food and yard waste, converting it into clean energy that feeds the campus electrical grid.

“It has been the thrust of my research to bring the innovations we made possible at UC Davis to commercial scale,” Zhang said. “This technology can change the way we manage our solid waste. It will allow us to be more economically and environmentally sustainable. I am proud and grateful to be a part of the team who helped make this moment a reality.”

It is the third commercial biodigester CleanWorld has opened using Zhang’s technology within the past two years and is the nation’s largest anaerobic biodigester on a college campus.

The system is designed to convert 50 tons of organic waste to 12,000 kWh of renewable electricity each day using state-of-the-art generators, diverting 20,000 tons of waste from local landfills each year.

The facility took unique advantage of its location at the now closed UC Davis landfill by blending landfill gases — primarily methane — with the biogas to create a total of 5.6 million kWh per year of clean electricity. It is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13,500 tons per year.

The READ BioDigester encompasses several of the university’s goals: reducing campus waste in a way that makes both economic and environmental sense, generating renewable energy, and transferring technology developed at UC Davis to the commercial marketplace.

“The biodigester is the latest chapter in UC Davis’ world-renowned legacy of environmental sustainability,” said Linda P.B. Katehi, chancellor of UC Davis. “This project stands as a model public-private partnership and demonstrates what can be achieved when research universities and private industry collaborate to address society’s most pressing challenges.”

The project is decidedly homegrown: Campus waste is converted into renewable energy for the UC Davis electrical grid using technology invented by a UC Davis professor and licensed by CleanWorld. The company’s chief executive officer Michele Wong and vice president of research and development Josh Rapport are UC Davis alumni. Rapport received his doctorate in anaerobic digestion from UC Davis under Zhang’s tutelage in 2011.

“There is so much to celebrate today as we recognize the far-reaching environmental and sustainability impacts this technology will have,” Wong said. “It will enable the more than 100 million tons of organic waste each year that is currently being landfilled in the U.S. to be converted to clean energy and soil products. CleanWorld is proud to be the commercialization partner with Dr. Zhang and UC Davis for these game-changing innovations. With this project, we’ve crossed the bridge from research and development to commercialization and proven that CleanWorld’s high-solid AD system can be a feasible, cost-effective, and repeatable solution, not only for municipalities and communities, but also for universities and public institutions throughout California and the U.S.”

The READ BioDigester is a closed loop system, moving from farm to fork to fuel and back to farm. Whatever is not turned into biogas to generate renewable electricity can be used as fertilizer and soil amendments — 4 million gallons of it per year, which could provide natural fertilizers for an estimated 145 acres of farmlands each day.

Nearly half of the organic waste, or feedstock, needed to operate the biodigester to full benefit will come from UC Davis dining halls, animal facilities and grounds. CleanWorld is working with area food processing and distribution centers to supply the remaining amount. Meanwhile, UC Davis will earn 100 percent of the project’s green energy and carbon credits and receive all of the electricity generated.

Anaerobic digestion is an age-old process. However, Zhang’s patented technology made it more efficient — capable of eating a broader variety and bigger quantity of waste, turning it into clean energy faster and more consistently than other commercial anaerobic biodigesters.

The project benefits from a unique public-private partnership. While Zhang moved the technology forward, CleanWorld’s commercializing efforts have made it modular, cost-effective and faster to deploy, making it one of the most advanced, commercially available anaerobic digestion systems in the country. The READ BioDigester, for example, went from bare ground to full installation within six months. Its $8.5 million cost was roughly two-thirds less than other anaerobic digesters the university researched as potential renewable energy sources.

CleanWorld financed the majority of the project with private equity and a commercial loan with First Northern Bank. Approximately $2 million in public funding came from the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission.

CleanWorld’s other two biodigesters are in the Sacramento area:

* The Sacramento BioDigester opened in December 2012 and can digest 25 tons per day. Construction is underway to expand its size to digest 100 tons per day and produce 700,000 gallons per year of renewable compressed natural gas, fueling both public and private fleets.
* The American River Packaging BioDigester in Natomas opened in April 2012. It can convert 10 tons of waste per day and generates roughly 1,300 kWh of energy daily.

About CleanWorld

CleanWorld is the leading North American innovator of advanced, high-solids anaerobic digestion (HSAD) technology. CleanWorld’s BioDigesters represent a generational leap forward in anaerobic digestion technology, dramatically reducing the time and cost of construction, commissioning and operation, while increasing output, efficiency, and revenue opportunities. A subsidiary of Synergex, a global leader in technology for more than 35 years, CleanWorld was founded and is managed by people committed to the idea that our precious organic resources should never be wasted.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

Additional information:
* Download biodigester photos:
* Watch a video about the UC Davis biodigester:
* Vine video: From lunch to lights:
* Visit www.CleanWorld.com

Media contacts:
* Ruihong Zhang, UC Davis Biological and Agricultural Engineering, (530) 754-9530,
* Tracy Saville, CleanWorld, (916) 853-0362,, cell: (916) 717-3250
* Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704,, cell: (530) 750-9195

See all of our news releases at


Spent Brewer’s Grains Controversy

In the past, the brewing industry supplied the cattle feed industry with “waste” brewers grains. This was a good deal for them and the cattle industry, and helped close the resource loop. That symbiotic relationship is soon to be over, thanks to the feds:

A fight is brewing between American beer makers and the federal government over happy hour … for cows.

For centuries, brewers have given or sold the leftover grain from the brewing process to local ranchers and dairy farmers for cattle feed. But new regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration threaten to end that relationship.