Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

The Homeowner’s Handbook to Energy Efficiency: A Guide to Big and Small Improvements

The Homeowner’s Handbook to Energy Efficiency: A Guide to Big and Small Improvements

In The Homeowner’s Guide to Energy Efficiency, John Krigger and Chris Dorsi help homeowners set realistic personal goals for reducing their energy consumption. Their methods for making homes more energy efficient will also improve comfort, safety, durability, and resale value. They guide readers through the process of assessing current energy usage and predicting the benefits and estimating the costs of remodeling options. With projects ranging from simple fixes to large-scale renovations, this book offers solutions for the energy-conscious homeowner, regardless of budget, technical ability, or time.

A. T. Sterner says:

I am an energy auditor and I spend much time educating people about energy efficiency, conservation, products, building science, and more. This book is a life and time saver! Since it became available, I’ve been able to point folks to it and have saved myself lots of time. The book is very easy to understand, very thorough, with good graphics. Everyone who owns a home should have this book. And, everyone who is wanting to reduce their energy use and carbon footprint, AND fix their home should have this book.

About the Author
John Krigger is a highly respected authority in the field of energy conservation for buildings and the author of several books. He has been a passionate advocate of efficient construction technology for over thirty years. He is now working with other building scientists to develop the next generation of construction techniques for North America. Chris Dorsi has spent the last thirty years fine-tuning homes across North America. He has founded construction companies, developed real estate projects, and audited thousands of residential buildings. He is a widely acclaimed author and speaker who has motivated and enabled both homeowners and trade professionals to improve the efficiency and minimize the environmental footprint of their buildings.


Self-Sufficiency: a back to basics guide

Self-Sufficiency: A Complete Guide to Baking, Carpentry, Crafts, Organic Gardening, Preserving Your Harvest, Raising Animals, and More! (Back to Basics Guides)

Abigail puts it best in her introduction:

“Self Sufficiency” as a term is somewhat misleading. “The Good Life” that most of us are seeking in our varied ways does not involve cutting off ties from those who surround us. Complete independence is not possible and, for at least most people, would not bring much satisfaction anyway. The early settlers banded together whenever they could, knowing their lives would be made easier and better by the community’s support.

All the helpful details and useful advice of Back to Basics and Homesteading—now with projects and tips geared toward families. Now, more than ever, people across the country are turning toward simpler, greener, and quieter ways of living—whether they’re urbanites or country folk. Following in the footsteps of Back to Basics and Homesteading, this large, fully-illustrated book provides the entire family with the information they need to make the shift toward self-sufficient living.

Self-Sufficiency provides tips, advice, and detailed instructions on how to improve everyday life from an environmentally and organic perspective while keeping the focus on the family. Readers will learn how to plant a family garden and harvest the produce; can fruits and vegetables; bake bread and cookies; design interactive and engaging “green” projects; harness natural wind and solar energy to cook food and warm their homes; boil sap to make maple syrup; and build treehouses, furniture, and more. Also included are natural crafts readers can do with their kids, such as scrapbooking, making potato prints, dipping candles, and constructing seasonal decorations. Whether the goal is to live entirely off the grid or just to shrink their carbon footprints, families will find this book a thorough resource and a great inspiration. 1,000 color illustrations

About the Author

Abigail R. Gehring is the editor of Back to Basics, Homesteading, and Self-Sufficiency, and author of Odd Jobs and Dangerous Jobs. She’s practiced living self-sufficiently since her childhood in Vermont, being home-schooled, home-canning jams and jellies, and enjoying natural crafts. She lives in New York City and Windham, Vermont.


Free 77+ page Vermiposting Guide

Bently has released his new Vermiposting Guide, free, for subscribers of his email list. So subscribe, and avail yourself of his expertise!

Dear Worm Friends,

I am happy to report that I have the “first edition” of my Red Worm
Composting Guide to Vermicomposting all ready to go! Here are some
important things to mention before I provide the link:

1) This is VERY MUCH a work-in-progress. In fact, there are at least
two entire sections that need to be added. I would also like to add
some images before too long. It currently stands at 77 pages – so as
you can imagine it is pretty solid in terms of content even now. As
a “work-in-progress”, please forgive me for typos and general grammatical
weirdness (is “grammatical” a word?? lol) – don’t hesitate to point
any of these out either. It’s nice to have a lot of “eyes” helping me out.

2) I decided to add a “Q&A” section to help compensate for the missing
sections. I cover a wide range of topics there, and if you are fairly
new to worm composting that is probably a pretty good place to start
(well, perhaps after you read “The Basics”)

3) I consider this a foundational guide – focused on sharing my approach
to worm composting and what I consider to be the “fundamentals”. Some
may be disappointed to learn that I don’t really get into any of the
special topics like “Vermiponics”, “Winter Vermicomposting” etc. Rest
assured, I DO have plans to either create a series of special reports
and/or to incorporate those sections into the “bigger” worm composting
resource I’ve been starting to put together. I will definitely keep
everyone posted.

4) This is a special gift for my email list subscribers. Please do not
share it freely with others – yet! I will almost certainly make it more
widely available in the new year, but I want “my” people to benefit from
it first! 🙂 Should you wish to recommend it, simply point people in
the direction of the “newsletter” sign up page:

5) Speaking of which, make sure you STAY signed up for this list. I will
be notifying the list of any new updates, and this will just generally
be my main communication channel for keeping everyone up to speed on
things. I also hope to start talking about various topics covered in
the guide at some point as well (may even put together some sort of
“mini course” to make the info a bit easier to digest).

6) The guide itself will be best viewed on a computer (although a PDF
reading device may work just fine as well). Aside from being an electronic
file, it also contains a lot of links – some link to other areas in the
guide, others link to webpages. You can certainly save it to your
computer – just look for the little disk symbol up on the upper lefthand
side. You may want to reduce the viewing size when the PDF opens up.
The default seems to be super BIG for some reason. You will find “+”
and “-” symbols at the top of the page (and perhaps a box with “130%”
– what I see when I open it up). My preference is “66.7%” but that will
likely be smaller than a lot of people will want – so adjust to your
own tastes.

If you have ANY questions/comments/concerns etc, don’t hesitate to
let me know!

Red Worm Composting


Wind & Solar Electricity – A Practical DIY Guide

We just finished reading this book, and it’s a very educational guide on how solar and wind can help you become independent, save money, and reduce your environmental impact. Written by a DIY’r, it’s practical and no nonsense. The details are all there, wiring diagrams, illustrations, explanation of concepts and expected results, as well as troubleshooting when things don’t quite work right. I highly recommend this.

Also recommended: Wind Power, Revised Edition: Renewable Energy for Home, Farm, and Business


Mother Earth News Wiser Living Guides

Just got this in email, and what a bargain. All six 100 page guides for $20:

At 100 full-color pages each, these six reference books present our best articles organized into four popular categories: Gardening, Energy, Country Skills and Living on Less. Each volume includes tips, information and instructions from the most relevant MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles.
Order Today!

The MOTHER EARTH NEWS Wiser Living Guides set includes:

Guide to Energy Savings – Learn what you need to know to spend your money wisely. Compiled in this guide is a set of the most informative, most up-to-date articles available from MOTHER EARTH NEWS to educate you on all relevant aspects of energy savings, from solar space heating to small-scale wind power.

Guide to Organic Gardening – Find out how organic gardening can help you grow fresher, more nutritious and better-tasting food in a way that’s as natural and nontoxic as possible. This special issue is packed with advice for growing your own food using organic methods that are easy to apply in your own garden.

Guide to Growing Your Own Food – Save money and improve your health by growing your own food all year-round. Covering growing, harvesting, feasting and everything in between, this guide will help you grow a great garden and save money on your food bills.

Guide to Country Skills – Learn the basic country skills that will make you more self-reliant and secure. This guide has all the information you need to be more self-sufficient, from do-it-yourself projects to inspiring stories from those who have created successful homesteads.

Guide to Living on Less and Loving It! – Are you looking for simple ideas to save money and live more lightly on the planet? Find out how you can do both with the simple, satisfying and fun ideas in this special collection.

Guide to Home Energy Savings – You’ll save money on home energy bills for years to come using advice in this convenient collection of articles. The Guide to Home Energy Savings is filled with information on solar heating options, natural ways to cool your house, energy-efficient appliances and windows, and so much more.


Conserving Water with Greywater Irrigation

We have been advocates of water conservation for many years. The usual plan is to harvest rain with your gutters and a cistern, install water saving appliances, and using your greywater for irrigation. As we install composting waterless toilets instead of flush toilets, which make up almost half the typical non-irrigating home’s water consumption, the only wastewater left is greywater, and can be used to irrigate plants. Irrigation is the number one water consuming process in many homes. Art Ludwig has written a number of books on harvesting and conserving water, and has a new DVD out on recycling your greywater for irrigation purposes. Check out the free preview at

Additional references:

The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 1): Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life And Landscape

The New Create an Oasis with Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systems – Includes Branched Drains


New Podcast: Organic fertilizer with Worm Composting

Hear our new podcast on wormcomposting, and get our DIY guide for free. Learn how to compost your food scraps and harvest rich fertilizer at Free download of our DIY Guide. Additional resources for worms and bedding.


The best resources for biofuel info

In our travels, we have come across some amazing resources for learning about biofuels. I will list our favorites below for a few of the major types of biofuels we have experience in:

Ethanol – Alcohol Can Be A Gas

BioMethane – The Complete Biogas Handbook

WVO – Sliding Home

Biodiesel – Biodiesel Homebrew Guide

Wood – A Guide to Residential Wood Heating (free)

These are not the only good resources out there, just some of our favorites. Please discuss these and your favorites below in the comments section.


Make your own vegetable oil with this simple press

From the free “Guide to making edible oils” at

During his career G. Blaak received numerous requests from farmers, development agencies and local authorities how to improve farmers income. Of course the introduction of improved varieties, better agronomic practices and crop protection help only temporarily the individual farmer until his colleagues catch up with him. A more permanent income improvement can be made by transformation of the crop on the farm. In general a big profit (value added) can be realized that is otherwise realized by the large scale processors. Successful examples of on-farm transformation are fermentation of fresh cocoa pods to cocoa beans, sugarcane to brown sugar, fresh tea leaves to green tea, essential oils by steam distillation of freshly harvested aromatic plants, making chocolate from cocoa beans, latex from rubber trees to ribbed smoked sheets and oilseeds to oil and press cake to a protein rich animal feed.


Making a small battery charger with a lawnmower engine

stevesmallgenMaking a small dc charger with a small engine and a car alternator is a common, and fun project. It doesn’t take much to put one together, and with scrounged parts, it can be very inexpensive. The picture here shows a 6hp horizontal shaft engine, turning a 60 amp 12v alternator, but mounting brackets are available for vertical shaft engines, and a push mower not only donates an engine, but also the portable chassis to move it around. We discuss these generators at and kits are available at Donate at and I’ll send you the construction guide and methane/propane conversion guide.