Archive for the ‘Save Water’ Category


Déjà Poo: The Living Machine Sewage System

June 18, 2009

Déjà Poo: The Living Machine Sewage System

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Picture the lobby atrium of a new, green building, one filled with leafy plants and trees. Now imagine that those trees are growing in waste collected from the building’s toilets.

If that idea has the whiff of failure about it, well, sniff again. Increasingly, building designers are managing sewage in-house—really in-house. The Port of Portland, for example, is integrating waste management into the lobby of its new headquarters under construction. The Living Machine uses soil and bacteria to filter out pathogens, essentially turning wastewater into nonpotable water. But the signature element of the system is the plant life that grows up and out of it—right into the lobby. “It’s going to provide a kind of greenhouse feel,” says Greg Sparks, engineering design manager for the port. “It’ll soften the hard edges of the typical office building.”

Everybody likes trees, but (aesthetics aside) sending poop from the bathroom to the lobby may seem sort of icky. In environmental terms, though, it’s a solid choice. Just as photovoltaics can help take a building off the power grid, living machines take strain off the pipes and municipal wastewater facilities on the “sewage grid.” They also show that being green means thinking more creatively about our brown and yellow.

1 Wastewater from the entire building flows into a holding tank where solids settle, like in a septic tank. The reclaimed liquid up top gets pumped to the lobby.

2 Garden-like “wetland cells” layered with plants, soil, and rocks collect the water and capture biological compounds and pathogens.

3 On its way out of the garden, the water is further sterilized by ultraviolet light in the pipes. Then it’s recycled back into the plumbing system.


Gustov is coming, get your butt in gear

August 30, 2008

If you live in an area where you are totally safe from the approaching hurricane, then go plan for whatever disaster is prone to your area.  If you are live near the gulf coast of the US, then prepare NOW.

I know you already have your personal kit ready, and you have your car prepped.  I covered both of those here and here. Now, if you are sheltering at home and you lose electricity, here are some things you need to know.  (If you are ordered to evacuate, then for heaven’s sake, LEAVE!)

Here’s a link to a good resource, preparing food during a power failure.  Some of the best tips:

  • Conserve Fuel. Try to prepare food that does not require long cooking time, or cooking at all.  If you can, cook food in your fire place, or on your grill.
  • Conserve Water.  Use the liquid from canned food for some of the water required to cook it.  Save the liquid from canned fruit to use in place of water when making beverages.
  • Make only enough food for one meal at a time.  Anything you cook needs to be eaten within two hours if no refrigeration is possible.
  • Avoid most meat, seafood, creamed foods, and most dairy products because they can easily spoil.
  • Stock up on canned meat, canned vegetables, canned fruit and dried or dehydrated foods.

One important point I would not have though of is to avoid home canned vegetables.  The reason is the long cooking time needed to prepare these.  When the whole point is to conserve your resources, these are not the best option.

The paper has an extensive list of foods to avoid and foods to choose in the event of a power failure.  There are options you may not have even considered and luckily, you still have time to stock up on these before the power goes out.  For example, I’ll be making sure I have plenty of bottled hot sauce on hand so I can spice up whatever I prepare. No reason for your emergancy food to be boring.

Where I live, flooding is unlikely, but a power outage from downed power lines is a real possibility.  I have plenty of wood so I can make campfires, and I have the pots to withstand cooking over an open flame.  I would use a grill, but I don’t have one. If you have a grill, or a little propane cooker-use it OUTSIDE. Never use these in an enclosed carport or in your home.  I wouldn’t even put this warning in here if some people were not stupid enough to have tried it.  You can burn your house down or suffocate.  A disaster is no time to throw away your common sense.

I have water stockpiled and lots of canned food on hand.  Speaking of water, if you have not already done so, put some (or all if you have the space) in your freezer.  This gives you cold water when you need it and the ice will help keep your freezer cold longer.

All I have left to do is stock up on some essentials like crackers and a treat or two such as poptarts and twinkies.  Before you laugh, I have not eaten a twinkie in over 10 years.  If the worst happens, I will be thrilled to have such a delicious sugary snack to look forward too.  Plan some happiness into your preparations.  You will be glad you did.


Why Hemp is Better

July 28, 2008

Years ago I gave a speech to my college classmates about the benefits of hemp. There was a lot of snickering, and some of them thought it was a veiled speech about the benefits of pot.  Not so.  A lot of people think that hemp is synonymous with marijuana. While they are related plants, hemp contains no THC and hemp can be used to make thousands of useful products. Hemp and marijuana cannot be grown together, because if you try, you get useless marijuana.

Hemp has been harvested and used by mankind for thousands of years in most parts of the world.  It makes a  better cloth than cotton, and better paper than wood pulp.  It is naturally pest free and uses little water to grow.

Here is a video giving you some history on hemp, and showing a few of the ways it is being used today.

For more information, check out Allie’s Answers post, What’s so Great about Hemp?

For even more information, look at Vote Hemp.


Saving Water

May 5, 2008

Crunchy Chicken is having an Extreme Eco-Challenge for the month of may.  This are several choices, and basically she is asking you to do without some damaging item for the month.

I read through the options and knew most of them were items I could not commit too.  However, number six in her list, no excessive water usage, is one I do already.  It didn’t seem like a challenge if I’m doing this every day anyway.

I drink tap water, not bottled.  At work, I have an plastic bottle but I wash it at home and I refill it from the water fountain at work, or my tap at home.  I know a Klean Kanteen is a better choice, but that’s a new purchase, that would have to be shipped to me and I already have the bottles.

At home, I was all my clothes in cold water, and only full loads.  I hand wash my dishes and rinse them in cold water.  I have a low flush toilet already.  I turn off the water when I brush my teeth.   I take short showers.  I don’t water my yard.  Either it gets rain, or it dies.  Frankly, if the grass dies, that’s less to mow.

I wash my car rarely.

Now that I have a little bitty garden, I will think about how to water it.  Probably, I will use my gray water from rinsing my dishes.  I usually have a little coffee left over that I can pour on the plants too.

So overall, I try to pay attention to my water usage and make sure I’m not being wasteful.