Posts from — March 2008

The One Stop Septic System
by KELLY MEAD on MARCH 31, 2008 - 0 Comments in WATER

There are a number of options for your waste water, the water that has been used in your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry. Some options would mean keeping this waste separate and dispose of in different ways, but the one stop solution and most common is a septic system. As this option is the common for those who cannot get city water or in older homes this is an option that is not unknown to the common person. Though if you are considering this you need to make sure that it is an option in some suburban and urban (not practical in most cases) areas. In our area it is hard if not impossible to get approved for a new septic system as our county wants everyone connected to our city water. Since it has one of the best treatment plants in the country it’s not as big an issues for us right now. They have made this push to get and keep our waterways cleaner.

There are four main components to a typical septic system:

  1. A pipe to carry the waste from the home
  2. The actual septic tank to start the digestion process
  3. The drainfield to spread out the waste water
  4. The soil with microbes to do the final filtering and cleaning of the water

The pipe carrys all the used (grey and black) water out of your home and into the working parts of the septic system.

A buried watertight container is the typical septic tank. These tanks can be made of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. The purpose of the tank is to hold the waste water long enough to allow solids to settle out (sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (scum). This allows for partial decomposition of the solid materials. To prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and entering the drainfield, it is compartmentalized and has a T-shape outlet. Additional screens are recommended to make sure the solids do not make it into the drain field. On newer tanks risers with lids for easy location, inspection, and pumping of the tank.

When the wastewater has been process by the tank it exits the septic tank into a drainfield to complete it’s treatment by the soil. This wastewater is continually pushed into the drainfield every time new wastewater is introduced into the tank. Since drainfields can overload with too much liquid , flooding, and can cause sewage to come to the ground surface or create backups in your plumbing and prevent complete treatment of all watsewater. To prevent this having a reserve drainfield, as required by many states, also on your property is a good idea. This area should be cared for as well as you care for your primary drainfield.

The last part of your septic system is your soil. Soil is essential to removing contaminants from your wateswater before it is returned to your ground water. It contains microbes that are able to remove harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients from the wastewater. This is accomplished by the wasterwater percolating throughout the drainfield. Only suitable soil is able to do this so check with your installer or your local health department to see if you need an alternative to the final part of wastewater treatment. Another reason to look for alternative systems if to many typical systems are in one area or if your system will be to close to ground or surface water. New technology to improve the treatment process along with special care and maintenance could be used in alternative systems. Some systems use sand, peat, or plastic media to promote the treatment of the wastewater. Others can use wetlands, lagoons, aerators, or disinfection devices. Float switches, pumps, and other types of mechanical/electrical components are used often in these alternative systems.

Septic systems need to be inspected about every 3 years and pump out every 3 to 5 years. An alternative system may have additional needs or inspected/pumped more frequently. It is important and cheaper to maintain a septic system then to have to replace all or part of it due to mismanagement. Also failing and/or leaking septic systems can taint not only your but area ground water, be leached into streams, and have far reaching effects on your local environment.

pictures are curtosey of the EPA

Urban Sustainability Training
by VEG-HEAD on MARCH 30, 2008 - 0 Comments in OFF-GRID 101, URBAN
Learning to compost
Pitch(fork)ing in to compost

Oyster mushrooms grow in coffee grounds, a fig tree thrives on soapy gray water from a washing machine, and electricity is generated by a wind turbine made of old bicycle parts. As the transportation of oil and food grows pricier, sustainability might not mean living off the fat of the land as much as scrounging off the lean spots amid the pavement.
Scott Kellogg runs a course on Radical Urban Sustainability Training, or RUST. This is down to earth environmentalism. (more…)

Water and how to save it
by TECHSTAR on MARCH 29, 2008 - 0 Comments in OFF-GRID 101, WATER
water garden girl
…and enjoy it

Living off-grid you really appreciate the value of water. Here are some suggestions, and anyone reading this is free to suggest other tips in the comments below or the forum.

Drip irrigation

A happy accident and a leaky spigot led to the discovery of drip irrigation. In an orchard, a leaky spigot was drip, drip, dripping water at the base of a tree. Over time, the tree getting the steady drip of water was doing better than the surrounding trees. (more…)

Telecommuting spreads
by SALLY BUCHAN on MARCH 29, 2008 - 0 Comments in SPIRIT, WORK
Work from home
Stay local

In the U.S. today, just over 15 percent of us regularly work from home at least one day a week, according to latest figures from the US Census. About 5 per cent work mainly from home. Telecommuters even have their own publication – Telecommuting Times

For those who do commute on average, it takes about 25 minutes to reach their workplace.

More than three-quarters of Americans drive to their jobs alone. Nearly 11 percent ride in car pools and less than 5 percent take public transportation, including taxicabs. About 2.5 percent are lucky enough they can walk to work.

Telecommuting has been accused of all sorts of ills – including making the home a more stressful place, reducing communication in the workplace and reducing productivity, but a recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, firmly debunks these claims. (more…)

Make a Difference in NOLA
by KELLY MEAD on MARCH 28, 2008 - 0 Comments in EVENTS

Make It Right 9 Eco Friendly Home

We are happy to announce that Make It Right9 in NOLA (New Orleans, LA) has given us our own home to promote. Once you follow the link go down the list till you see our home, we we’re second to last at the time of this post. We also welcome anyone who wishes to use the banner above to let other’s know about this wonderful opportunity.

The home is sponsored in the name all those who are dedicated to having a healthier and/or self-sufficient home of their own. Let all of us who truly believe in this way of life make a statement by helping to get some people back on their feet in a way that we believe in. Showing that not only is it important personally to us, but to everyone because of the reduce strain on our environment, reduce strain on ourselves and our families, better health, less stress, and even lower costs for running a home.

You can donate as little or as much as you are able. $5 can buy a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Bulb), $25 low VOC paint, $40 a low flow shower head, $100 for a programmable thermostat, $200 for a ceiling fan, $500 for energy efficient lighting, $1500 for a tankless water heater, $3000 for the heating and cooling system , $5000 for a rainwater harvester, or even $25,000 for rooftop solar panels. As you can see there is a wide range of donations needed. This list is just a partial what can be sponsored. When you click to donate to the home at Make it Right 9 get an interactive home that shows you where your funds will be put to use and why that product was chosen. So not only can you do a good deed but you can learn while you’re doing it.

We also encourage you to talk with friends and family about getting this project finished. They are over half way to meeting their goal of 150 homes. The count is 81 homes and almost a quarter of the next one sponsored. Showing that this a way of life not only for rural areas can have a big impact on showing the public at large that this is an attainable goal for the average Joe.

Of course they approved The Eco Friendly Home today because yesterday we did our updates. Sorry that you got two updates in a row but we thought this was important enough to post as soon as we found out about it.

Take your spare room off-grid
by SSPENCE on MARCH 27, 2008 - 10 Comments in ENERGY, LAND, OFF-GRID 101

Small PV System
Small PV System

So, you want to go off-grid? Or maybe you want to find out what it’s like before taking the plunge? How about taking one room of your house off grid? It’s a less expensive way of learning the technology, before committing yourself.

We suggest starting with a bedroom. Look around your bedroom and see what devices you have that run on electric. As I look around my room, I see one table lamp, two floor lamps, wall lamp, digital TV, Stereo, satellite box, portable dvd player, vcr, and XBox. I also have a battery powered clock, powered by rechargeables, so I

Nick Rosen featured in Independent
by ISURU on MARCH 27, 2008 - 0 Comments in COMMUNITY, OFF-GRID 101
Nick Rosen and daughter Caitlin
Going up: Nick is part of global trend

The Independent Newspaper carried a double page spread today, featuring Off-Grid Editor Nick Rosen and his book How to Live Off-grid

The article, reproduced below, ran under the headline “Off-grid: Meet the pioneers living without mains power or water”:

You won’t find the phrase in the Oxford English Dictionary, yet, but living off-grid, outside or in between, the criss-crossing lines of power, water, gas and phone that delineate the civilised world, is a skill that everyone may soon need. (more…)

Updates on Previous Posts
by KELLY MEAD on MARCH 27, 2008 - 0 Comments in COMMUNITY

Thought it was time to update some of our previous posts. Since we started this journey back in October we have run across some amazing movements, events, products, and people and we wanted to check in on them and see how things have gone.

Make It Right 9 of New Orleans has raised funds to build 81 of their proposed 150 homes. We are still waiting on word whether we can sponsor our own home. So check back or if you can’t wait please visit them and donate to a worthy cause. You can also visit them to find out more about the amazing people and organizations that are involved in this opportunity to not only give someone a helping hand but to help show that being self-sufficient in our resource needs can be done in today’s world community wide.

Our Hollywood Going Green? post back in November was about a convention being held in December. I know I said I would wait for the movie so guess what they have posted their presentations. Now to find the time watch them! If you do or attended let us know what you think. We will be starting a thread at the forum about them.

We Love It’s Not easy Being Green was about the BBC show on a family transforming an old farmhouse to their off grid utopia. We haven’t seen anything about another season but the charity they started The Big Green Idea has continued on. Starting in summer 2008 they plan to have a green double decker bus touring the UK to let people have hands on experiences of products used to get off grid, while also offering movie and documentary viewings. Even though these sites are geared for the UK they are a great source of ideas to bring across the “pond”.

Ava Solar from our $1 per watt of Soalr Energy post has been moving froward on mass production of their new panels. “ We are very happy with our initial pre-production runs and have decided to move up production plans on our existing manufacturing line,” said Pascal Noronha, President and CEO of AVA Solar. “Although this will be relatively limited production, we intend to accelerate our production learning curve and get our products into the market faster than we thought possible last year.” They have also announced that instead of building a new manufacturing plant in Fort Collins they will be using an existing physicality in Northern Colorado which helped speed up the production time-line.

In December we wanted you to Help Focus The Nation. The online web-cast had problems as many more than anticipated people, groups, and institutions logged on to be part of it. Though they then made it available to watch anytime. We admit that we were part of the unfortunate ones that had problems and were kicked out of the live cast. If you had problems or missed it you can catch it here. Also the results are in on Choose Your Future and the top ten changes Americans would like to see are:

  1. Invest in the Clean Energy Revolution
  2. Create Green Jobs, Save Energy
  3. No New Coal Plants without “Capture and Sequestration”
  4. Cap CO2 Emissions, Share the Auction Revenues
  5. Build Green: Carbon Neutral by 2030
  6. Jumpstart Low Polluting Biofuel
  7. Support Stronger Forests
  8. Tax Global Warming Pollution
  9. Cleaner Cars, California-style
  10. Get Efficient- Cut Energy, Save Money

We United in Kindness in December also and would love to see other bloggers do so again with an emphasis on kindness to the Earth in April. So if you blog or have a voice in either the virtual or physical world we encourage you to promote or be kind to our environment on Earth Day, April 22, 2008. Or you can join with us and others on April 21 and Make Noise for your politicians and let them know how important you as voters find environmental concerns.

So that should bring you up to current posts and happenings. We will be continuing to bring you news and information to encourage and help you to go off the grid and green. Our journey has taken turns we didn’t expect already and are excited to keep going. We have learned valuable information, got to be part of historic events, met wonderful people both online and in person, and gotten even more excited about choosing this lifestyle (if that was possible) in such a short time. We will continue to grow and inform and have great plans, such as newsletters. We hope that you will continue this journey with us. As always we welcome comments, emails ( , information, and even criticism.

by WRETHAOFFGRID on MARCH 25, 2008 - 2 Comments in WRETHA

Just a few of our “neighbors” coming out for a visit. These are mule deer, they have large ears like a mule. These are very friendly, sometimes too much so, they will come pretty close to see if you have anything to feed to them. I throw a few crackers to them on occasion, I don’t want them to be hanging around too much though, they are wild animals and will get aggressive, especially when it comes to food. This is right outside my door, I was cooking dinner outside that day, I turned around and there they were.

We also have white tailed deer, but they are much more skittish around people, they literally turn tail (up) and run at the mere site, sound or smell of humans.

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