Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Gravitation water vortex power plant


A gravitation water vortex power plant is a micro hydro power plant, which is capable of producing energy using low heads 0.7 to 3 metres. The technology is based on a round basin with a central drain. Above the drain the water forms a stable line vortex which drives a water turbine.

As an added advantage, the inventor refers to the fact that the turbine aerates the water, helping improve water conditions, while the reduced speeds of the turbine, and the lack of cavitation ensure that most types of fish can pass through the turbine without danger, something which is much more difficult to achieve at normal hydro plants that require additional structures for the fish migration.

Because of the intensive aeration of water by the gravitation water vortex – in the rotation tank of the gravitation water vortex power plant is an ideal living area for aquatic plants, microbes and fish.

This particular unit (14′ diameter), with 5′ head of water and a .7 m³/s flow, can produce approximately 120 kWh daily. That’s enough power for 4 average US homes. At a kit cost of approximately $45k USD, that’s about a 7 year payback if maxed to capacity, and no subsidies are available. That does not include installation and concrete costs, or any permit fees.


Every Man Jack

Are you looking for soap and shampoo designed for men, without harsh chemicals and are environmentally friendly? I was, and I found them. These products keep me clean, and smelling manly. No artificial additives, testing on animals, or harsh chemicals, just pure clean hair, body, skin and shave products. These products are based on simple plant based materials that are biodegradable, soothing, and moisturizing. Why should women get all the good stuff for their skin? I use these products, and enjoy them!


Creating Healthier Environments with Plants

By Chris Karl

Recently I met with an architect who designs healthcare facilities. He relayed how he absolutely detests the use of live plants in the properties he designs. “I don’t like that I can’t control the life cycle of the plant and how it continually changes its look,” he said with obvious disdain. I believe this obviously sedentary and obese architect has become, like so many people in this country, so far removed from nature and healthy living that he has forgotten the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and being in the company of greenery. Here is a man who designs for a population that is predominately sick and unable to control their own lifestyle that have been forced to rely on an out-of-touch designer who does not know understand the healing power of nature. I wonder when we lost our ability to appreciate the primal connection we all share with the natural world?

More and more companies today are reducing or eliminating plants in the workplace to save money. They fail to realize, however, that this cost-cutting measure is short-term thinking that will compromise their employees’ well-being. Just as plants oxygenate the environment and soothe the soul, obesity cannot be altered with empty calories but requires thoughtful nutrition to turn around a life that is heavily compromised and destined not to function optimally without those changes.

A growing body of research demonstrates that access to a natural environment indoors, where we all spend the majority of our waking hours, may improve health and well-being. As a design professional, I have seen first-hand the healing and calming benefits of plants in the workplace. Human beings are hard-wired to appreciate nature. Despite our “plugged in” and sedentary lifestyle since the 1950’s, humans were hunter gathers for over 10,000 years and living as part of nature. Today we have become so far removed from nature that some of us are unable to appreciate the beauty of a living, breathing plant within our workplace. Being around plants reduces stress and engenders a feeling of well-being and improved energy in most people; a benefit that is even more acute if correct lighting is in place. Because plants have a large surface area and exchange water and gases with their surroundings, they have a unique ability to tackle and improve many environmental problems.

“A pleasing and positive workplace that is presented as a spiritually satisfying sanctuary with natural light and greenery is enormously beneficial for a person’s well-being,” says Dr. Gilda Carle, psychotherapist, author and professor. “Being able to access and enjoy surroundings that reduce stress and engage the senses is highly therapeutic for people.”

Here are my selections for the top five plants, which not only heighten and satisfy our senses with their funky and trendy style, but also help to keep our workplace environments happier and healthier:

1) Ficus Pandurata – The Ficus Pandurata or Fiddleleaf Fig grows best in a high to medium high light environment and is an interesting variation on the standard well known Ficus elastica rubber plant. The large leaves can add a striking accent to the home or office.

2) Polyscias Fabian – A native of Brazil, Polyscias or Geranium-leaf Aralia or Arilia Favian is an evergreen shrub or small tree with a compact habit. While it is widely used as for hedges in the tropics, in the United States, we use it as a beautiful, eco-friendly border as well as a captivating stand-alone “look at me” tree.

3) Dracaena Janet Craig Compacta – Dracaena is a genus of forty species of subtropical, evergreen, woody plants grown for their statuesque form and ornamental foliage. They are sometimes mistakenly identified as palms but are actually more closely related to lilies. The name Dracaena is derived from the Greek word “drakaina”, a female dragon. The link between plant and beast is the resinous red gum produced when the stem is cut which, when thickened, is supposed to resemble dragon’s blood. It is used as a varnish and in photo engraving.

4) Dracaena Marginata Character – Originally from Madagascar, Dracaena are known for their visually arresting ornamental foliage. An increasingly popular indoor plant in the modern workplace, the plant, which can grow up to 15 feet in height, is supported by an aged and knobby trunk which gives it a unique character.

5) Philodendron Red Congo –The Philodendron Red Congo is a new and distinct cultivar of Philodendron. It is a product of the cross or breeding between Philodendron ‘Imperial Red’ as the female parent and an unidentified cultivar of the Philodendron tatei. This plant grows vigorously in an upright but spreading or open manner. New Red Congo leaves are brownish maroon to almost red in color while the large mature ones are dark green in color with a touch of red. The plant’s leaf petioles remain reddish purple to bright right with long-lasting petiole sheaths.

“There is now general agreement within the scientific community that plants improve the indoor environment, and are useful weapons in the fight against the modern phenomenon known as sick building syndrome (SBS),” says Kenneth Freeman, International Technical Director at Ambius who has led many research initiatives on the benefits of plants in the workplace. “No specific cause of SBS has been identified, but poor air quality, excessive background noise and inadequate temperature and light control are thought to be important factors. Because plants have a large surface area and exchange water and gases with their surroundings, they have a unique ability to tackle many environmental problems.” In particular, plants can reduce levels of carbon dioxide, which can accumulate in buildings from the breathing of its occupants and the by-products of heating systems and electrical equipment. Plants also increase the relative humidity, which should be between 40% and 60% RH for maximum human comfort. Plants reduce levels of certain pollutant gases, such as formaldehyde, benzene and nitrogen dioxide as well as airborne dust levels. Plants also reduce air temperatures and background noise levels.

In many office towers and hospitals, there is a need to channel pedestrian traffic towards significant landmarks, such as exits, check-in desks, escalators and common passageways. Plants offer an attractive and practical solution, providing a living barrier that gently guides people to where you want them to go. Choosing the right plants and containers for this purpose is very important. Spiky plants or those with sharp-edged leaves would clearly be inappropriate in an area designed for heavy pedestrian traffic flow. Containers need to be robust, take up the minimum of floor space and in some situations be linkable to form an impenetrable wall.

About the author:

Based in Orange County, California, Chris Karl is a Design Specialist for Ambius, a division of Rentokil Initial which offers a full spectrum of services to enhance the interior space for the hospitality, healthcare, retail, and commercial industries. Chris’ design savvy was recognized with an Award of Excellence from the Plantscape Industry Alliance (PIA) for his horticultural work in the Beckman Coulter lobby in Orange County, California. With a B.A. and Masters Degree in Fine Arts from California State University in Long Beach, Chris designs and implements interior projects for commercial clients. He can be reached at


Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products

Ever on the look out for cleaning supplies that are plant friendly, we found some that are made of plant materials. Non-toxic, biodegradable, grey water recycling friendly, and no waste. Even the packaging is made from recycled materials. They have everything from glass cleaner and bathroom cleaners to vegetable washes. We are using the Glass & Window Cleaner, All-Purpose Cleaner, and the Bathroom & Odor Neutralizing Cleaner. Our package came with a re-usable spray bottle. Just mix the crystals with water and spray. Made in the USA was a bonus!

Our Glass and Glass & Window Crystals Compound Additive cleans without streaks and uses no harsh chemicals. Excellent for effectively cleaning glass, mirrors, chrome, and other hard surfaces around your home.

Comes in packages of 1, 3 and 12

From our clamshell packaging made from recycled materials to our biodegradable and water soluble sachets of crystallized cleaning concentrate, Bio Green Crystals are the most environmentally friendly products available.

Bio Green Crystals is proudly made in the USA, by both Union and non-union workers.

Bio+Green Crystals are revolutionary new compounds. Products in water-soluble pouches containing premeasured amounts of powdered concentrates. When immersed in the water, pouch and powder dissolve formulating a precise cleaning solution for specific cleaning purposes. Bio+Green Crystals are proud to be ZERO-WASTE products.

Crystal Additives and Boosters can be added to any type of cleaner.

Bio+Green Crystals refills are the safest and most eco-friendly cleaners on the market.

They generate zero waste, 100% biodegradable product and carrier reduce your secondary carbon footprint at home, the office and everywhere else they are used.

These products achieve a carbon footprint reduction throughout the entire supply chain.

Bio+Green Crystals are sustainably manufactured and can help your company reduce waste

We can help you save water, save energy and reduce waste:
Environmentally the Bio+Green Crystals are the only true zero waste product on the market. When one weighs the enormous benefit of Bio+Green Crystals with today’s demand for environmental consciousness, added safety and overall value; bio+green crystals are simply the greenest choice for the planet.

Every time you use a bio+green crystal refill, you are conserving 20-40 Megajules of energy and countless amounts of water.
If your Company really wants to save, then do the math on your waste!
* This is the energy and water used to make the plastic bottle and sprayer from manufacture to disposal.


The Tree of Life

Is there a more useful plant than Moringa? Possibly, but this one has great potential for reducing malnutrition, enhancing quality of life through medicine, water purification, biofuels, fertilizer, and many other uses.

Moringa is the sole genus in the flowering plant family Moringaceae. The 13 species it contains are from tropical and subtropical climates and range in size from tiny herbs to massive trees. The generic names are derived from the Tamil word murunggai (முருங்கை) or the Malayalam word muringa, both of which refer to M. oleifera.

The most widely known species is Moringa oleifera, a multi-purpose tree native to the foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India and cultivated throughout the tropics. M. stenopetala, an African species, is also widely grown, but to a much lesser extent than M. oleifera.

Moringa oleifera silviculture is currently being promoted as a means to combat poverty and malnutrition. It grows quickly in many types of environments, and much of the plant is edible, including by livestock. The leaves contain all essential amino acids and are rich in protein, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, and minerals. Feeding the high protein leaves to cattle has been shown to increase weight gain by up to 32% and milk production by 43 to 65%. According to Dr. K. Shaine Tyson of Rocky Mountain Biodiesel Consulting, the degreased meal contains 60% protein, 40% more than soybean meal. The defatted meal can also be used to purify water, settling out sediments and undesirable organisms.


Aquaponics Raffle

We have embarked on a new Indoor/Outdoor Solar Powered Aquaponics Self Sufficiency Survival Food project. Basically, this system raises fish in a tank. The fish fertilize the water, which is pumped to the grow beds. The grow beds break down the ammonia into plant food, and the the bacteria and plant activity cleanses the water that then returns to the fish.

This project not only includes the base fish and vegetable production system, but also optional solar power system, LED grow lights, and hopefully a DIY greenhouse and methane digestion system for hot water and winter heating of the greenhouse. Fish will be fed by a Black Soldier Fly Larvae composter.

The fish will be bluegill and catfish (other varieties are being investigated), and the veggies are picked for nutrition, hardiness, and ease of growing, specializing in water plants in addition to traditional plants.

We are raffling off a basic Aquaponics kit in order to fund our Solar Aquaponics project. The kit includes two grow beds, a 55 gallon flood tank and a 55 gallon fish tank. Every ticket purchase comes with preview access of the project, the in-progress ebook/video set (a $40 value).

Pics on our Facebook page.

Add a $15 Ticket to your cart:

See your purchase, and checkout:


What is a survival plant?

by Brett Campbell

It’s a little difficult to define “survival plant”. In a survival situation, any plant that can be eaten would be considered a survival plant. That would include any vegetable or fruit you have in the garden right through to local weeds or plants that are edible (well at least a non-poisonous form of nutrients!).

I think a survival plant is one that you put in the garden once and it grows continuously with a minimum of care. A plant you can turn to in times of need.

A survival plant should meet the following criteria (in order of importance):-
It should be edible (of course), tasty and nutrient rich
It should perennial – or at least readily self-seeding
It should need a minimum of care
It should have a long or repeated harvest

There’s not too many conventionally grown vegetables that will meet all of this criteria. Most require regular preparation of the soil, regular & seasonal planting, regular watering, regular fertilizing and once the plant has yielded it’s crop, you have to pull it up & start all over again.

Growing conventional crops is very rewarding, but let’s face it – it’s a bit of work.

For the ebook and more information, visit


Consolidated bioprocessing: a revolution in biofuels development

by Jeremy Fordham <>

In 1956 M. King Hubbert, a geoscientist working with the Shell research laboratory, developed a controversial theory of petroleum production that rocked the oil industry. The model, known today as the Hubbert Curve, was widely criticized at the time. In a nutshell it predicted that overall petroleum production in the U.S. would peak sometime between the mid-sixties and early seventies. Scientists and oil speculators thought he was crazy and dismissed his model as irrelevant and poorly constructed, especially because Hubbert was reluctant to publish the methods and equations behind his theory. Then, in late 1970, United States petroleum production actually did peak. A few years later the U.S. entered an energy crisis characterized by high gas prices and a frenetic rush to find new resources in places like Mexico and elsewhere.
Lots of people mistake the actual implications of Hubbert’s theory, which he later developed to predict a world petroleum production peak around the year 2000. Since the oil industry is fragile and dependent on things like wars and the shape of the global economy, this prediction is subject to much more variability and fluctuation than normal. What is certain, however, is that mass implementation of renewable energy systems is a viable alternative to consuming depletable petroleum-based resources. In the last couple decades, renewable energy initiatives have skyrocketed all around the world. Britain recently finished building the world’s largest offshore wind farm, which is a daring and trend-setting achievement for the country. All across the world academic programs have cropped up in attempt to instill interest in this now-blossoming realm. While online PhD programs have yet to come to full scale, places like Loughborough University in the U.K. are helping people gain extensive and professional expertise in this field from their own homes. Renewable energy is an infectious ideal that has effectively swept the entire world.

Biofuels are a particularly interesting form of green energy because they don’t require the construction of a secondary infrastructure for use. You can take biodiesel created from algae and put it directly in your gas tank, just like ethanol derived from corn-based biomass can be added directly to gasoline to improve its octane number substantially. Many companies have attempted to take advantage of everything from solar algal systems to gasification reactors that turn woody biomass (woodchips, etc.) into heat and fuel oil. Unfortunately, these reactor systems can cost upwards of $100 million, which is a lot of money to invest in something that hasn’t yet proven its power. Biofuel researchers are working hard to break through the barrier holding this industry back from macroscopic economic viability, and by far one of the most creative, and cost-effective, recent developments is consolidated bioprocessing.

Microorganisms are incredibly abundant and diverse, especially in their metabolic functionality. Consolidated bioprocessing takes advantage of this versatility. To obtain ethanol from a plant like sugarcane, a factory must grind the biomass, heat it up, feed it to microorganisms that can degrade cellulose into glucogenic byproducts and then feed those sugars to another set of microorganisms that can digest them to create ethanol. Cellulose is a crystalline molecule that is critical to a plant cell’s structure, so it is hard for microbes to break down naturally.

This is a very complicated and sensitive bioprocess that requires lots of temperature-controlled reactors and expensive grinding equipment. Consolidated bioprocessing, then takes this entire concept and minimizes the components needed to create ethanol from biomass, by genetically engineering one microorganism to both break down a plant’s cell wall (cellulose) and ferment its constituent sugars. This eliminates the need for an expensive grinder and for separate reactors that contain different microbes with different functions.

The genetics are approached in many interesting ways. A microorganism that is capable of degrading crystalline cellulose but incapable of fermenting its sugars, for instance, could be engineered with alternative metabolic pathways that allow it to use molecules like glucose, xylose and arabinose (components of cellulose) to create ethanol. This is typically done by introducing homologous genes into the target microbe’s DNA that cause it to develop novel fermentation pathways. Alternatively, a microbe that is widely used as a fermentative species (yeast, for instance) could be engineered with genes that give it the ability to break down plant material, which it cannot do naturally. This “super microorganism” would only need one reactor to function optimally in a biofuel production system.

The macroscopic consequences of this difficult genetic manipulation are astounding. Engineers can save millions of dollars by eliminating more than half of the reactors involved in biofuel processes if they create a microbe that can “do it all.” This drives down operating costs and ultimately makes the price tag on a biofuels plant that much more bearable. Companies like the Mascoma Corporation and Qteros (who actually discovered their own microbe in the wild) are working rigorously to develop technologies that rely on consolidated bioprocessing to make biofuel production worth the cost. They are making great progress.

The USDA is also actively involved in this research, so it will be interesting to see where things go in the next decade. Solar and wind technologies are still very expensive and bulky, so biofuels have an outstanding opportunity to outshine them as a resource whose implementation will be relatively transparent.

While nobody knows the exact date and time that petroleum will run out, the overarching point is that someday it will be gone, whether it’s 30 or 300 years from now. Biofuels have an opportunity to slow this depletion and are sure to come to the forefront of renewable energy in time, so be on the watch.


Bio-Butanol – The practical replacement for gasoline

By Robert Warren

Butanol is another amazing alternative fuel, because it can be made from things like rice straw and old newspapers. It has as much energy as gasoline (BTU’S/gal), it burns with the same air/fuel ratio, and it will even mix with gasoline which means that you don’t have to drain your tank first in order to use it. You don’t even have to re-tune or adjust your engine. The best part is that it can even be made from lawn clippings and leaves.

Butanol is normally made by anaerobic bacteria feeding on cellulose, and it is damned smelly stuff, stinking beyond belief. It reminds me of toe-jam! But it is also a well-known chemical by-product, and is used for tons of things, especially the perfume industry, but usually in tiny quantities. It is related to Butyric acid, which is what synthetic orange and strawberry flavours are made of. It is hard to believe you make one out of the other, with such a God-awful smell, but then,chemistry is an amazing science.

While I have read various pieces of literature on the subject, I only have personal knowledge of two people who ever tried to make it. The first was Pete Charles, the same person who designed the Charles 803 alcohol still which I have written about extensively. (I have built this still over 130 times.) Pete tried to make it from lawn clippings (ordinary grass). It is a biological decomposition, via an anaerobic process (no oxygen), but the smell was so bad, and extremely difficult to get rid of the smell afterwards. In fact it was a serious nuisance! Several other by-products, including butyric acid, are produced (although in small amounts), but they are can be a serious danger to eyes, nose, and skin. The biological bacteria process is an organic process, but yet it has to be very closely controlled in a sealed environment, preferably sealed stainless steel or very heavy plastic fermentation tanks, with closed pumps circulation for mixing, and large sealed plastic settling tanks. I really don’t know enough about this process to help you make it. But that’s what the Net is for, right?

The other person I met during this period, about 20 years ago, was Dr. Sydney Levi, a former chemistry professor, chemistry textbook author, and holder of many patents involving plastics extrusion processes. He was going to build a huge $3 million dollar plant in Fresno, Calif. and convert rice straw to butanol. He said he had the funding in place and he was working on his proposal full time when I met him. He had made it in his laboratory many, many times. I spent over an hour with him, he showed me the plant diagrams and chemical processes for how the process would work. We discussed many different issues, as I was at that time writing freelance articles for a trade journal, Gasohol, USA. Somehow, the project died, and I moved to Oregon, and I never was able to follow up and find out what happened.

More recently, a US government group in Colorado, NREL Laboratories, has done some research on this subject and has some articles available on the net. I visited their facility 4 or 5 years ago and got a private tour, where they showed me the complex laboratory where they were researching acid hydrolysis in combination with biological decomposition of various lignums and cellulosic materials. They said it looked completely feasible in terms of economics. But doing something successfully in the lab and then making it work in the real world are two different things entirely. You need a lot of money and a lot of scientific knowledge.


LED Grow Lights – Do’s and Don’ts

First, when it comes to growing with LED lights it’s important to know what the light you are using is made of. The wattage of LED, the angle of the lens, and the total wattage consumed by the light. These factors paired with the intensity of the light will determine the best method to follow when using your new LED grow light.

Determining Color and Power of LED Grow Lights

Let’s start with the type of plant and light intensity you desire first. Vegetative types of plants like lettuce or spinach do not need as much intense light to grow. If you are growing flowering and fruiting plants you will need a very intense light with a strong emphasis on red colors. Flowering plants can be hard to grow with LED grow lights if the light uses very cheap 1w LEDs and a wide angle lens (120 degrees) which makes the light spread out and drastically reduce the intensity of the light. Flowering plants should have as much light as possible and usually do much better under all 3w LEDs with a 90 degree lens. With this type of high intensity LED grow light, flowering plants are grown best with the light hung about 18 inches above the plant canopy.

If you have cheap low wattage 1w LEDs with the traditional 120 degree lens you will want to hang the light no higher than 6 inches above the plant canopy in order to produce results. If you have less than 1w/LED of in your lights then I would suggest only using them for vegetative growth, seedlings and clone transplants. These cheap low wattage LED grow lights are not all they are claimed to be and usually will result in a frustrated grower with little to show for a harvest.

Using Light Movers with LED Grow Lights

Another factor in growing with LED grow lights is side light and light movers. LED grow lights are directional lights that focus their light in one direction. If you add some florescent lights to the side of your garden you can see proportional benefits in harvest without much of an increase in your wattage or cost per unit of harvest. Light movers with high powered LED grow lights work great to increase the number of leaf sites that receive intense light and will allow your plants to fill out more evenly. Remember though to check your lights specifications regardless of side lights and light movers because if your wattage or lens angle is weak you will need to be much closer or not use those cheap lights on your flowers at all.

The #1 Rated 3w LED Grow Lights

If you are looking for a great place to find high intensity LED grow lights with all 3w LEDs and 90 degree lens angles then check out Advanced LED Grow Lights. They have the best LED grow lights money can buy and they back it up with a 90 day risk free guarantee. They also sell many custom LED grow lights and small LED lights they call SpectraBoost LEDs to add certain colors to your garden.