Category: Housing


Check out this week’s issue of The Free Weekly for a concept design of one acre for Making Ripples!

Ryan & I have been thinking hard since August 2011 about how to make the most ripples on a small piece of land.  There are so many wonders to be created on just one acre for Ripples, if it’s healthy, protected and sustainable: native pollinators, trees, and wildlife; rainwater harvesting systems; technology that makes a difference globally; alternative power sources like solar panels; fresh organic vegetables and herbs; healing pathways through the forest, and much more!  These are just ideas, but some of them are already alive and well: technology help for non-profits, our blog and column, a rain barrel, bicycles, and more.  But we can’t make a more tangible difference in Northwest Arkansas without the land.  Have you seen this acre?  If so, let us know by emailing MakeSomeRipples@Gmail.com

Thanks! :)

More details about our earthbag house plans!

Check out today’s issue of The Free Weekly for more detail about our earthbag home design, as well as some pretty cool articles on GMOs and social justice that I can’t wait to read!  We’ll be learning from other small home builders and even earthbag builders in the coming month, and I’m really excited to combine our knowledge and live even more sustainably thanks to the expertise of others who have come before us.  Today, we’re on another land search with our friend Jacob to explore more opportunities for conservation and community service.  Wish us luck!!! Next week’s Making Ripples column will have an update on how this land search is coming along.  Do you know of anything for sale in Northwest Arkansas?  Let us know, so we can start making a more tangible difference with our energy and resources. Thanks!

We’re getting ready to build our earthbag house…and you’re invited!

I’m not sure how to write this post.  This will be a refreshing change from writing how-to guides, recipes, or links to factual and inspirational sites on the internet.  This post is what is literally going on at Ripples this week!  It isn’t about the future or dreaming, it’s about right now.  For some reason I think “right now” details will sound boring to you.  But they’re very exciting to me! View full article »

Get the scoop about composting toilets!

This week’s issue of The Free Weekly includes a Making Ripples column dedicated to helping you pick out your very own composting toilet.  My mention of “several readers” (names left out) wanting to purchase a composting toilet was cut out of the column, maybe for space considerations, but it’s worth stating that so many people have asked me about composting toilets during the past month that I felt the topic was relevant, as families are trying to decide which model to build or install. Ryan and I are leaning towards a Sun-Mar self-contained unit, but I’m still undecided because the reviews point to problems with the design.  There are so many options, and it’s not like picking out curtains!

What I’m most excited about is conserving drinkable water with a dry toilet. For more information about water, such as the fact that women spend 200 million hours a day collecting water, check out Water.org or visit this infographic illustrating the Global Water Crisis.  Also, here is a great, concise Prezi presentation by Travis Hitchcock about Freshwater:

An introduction to killing watts with this fun toy!

This week’s issue of The Free Weekly (which came out last Thursday, sorry for the delay) is worth a look.  If you haven’t used one before, Making Ripples column talks about using a Kill-a-Watt meter to reduce energy consumption from entertainment appliances like the TV and video games.

Hey all, this is Ryan finally hoppin’ in here to add some detail to this post.  Measuring appliance energy consumption can be tricky.  The easiest appliances are those that pull a steady amount of power as long as they’re plugged in.  These include things like TVs, stereos, and other items that are not pulling energy to simultaneously power the device and charge a battery – they run, pure and simple, on wall power while powered on.  However, as you’ve probably heard, these devices also usually draw energy while powered off, to maintain various internal functions like clocks, “instant turn on” functions, and other things.  This is often know as a device’s “phantom pull,” though I’ve also heard it called “vampire power.”

The more intriguing appliances include refrigerators, laptops, and other devices that draw power sporadically or consume varying levels of energy depending on at what stage in the recharge cycle their batteries happen to be.

Our old apartment was 100% electric, meaning that not a single appliance used gas or any other form of energy.  By watching the movements of the meter, I could determine that we would use, when we avoided using the heating/cooling wall unit, between 3.0 and 4.5 kWh of energy per day.  This apartment provides a more useful comparison to the kind of living conditions we’ll have in the off-grid earthbag house.

That all said, let’s look at a few of our devices:

  • Our “entertainment center,” which consists of an ancient 13″ CRT television, DVD player, and VCR (which mostly just acts as an RF modulator for the DVD player) varies between 60 – 80 watts while fully powered on, and has a phantom pull of 13 watts when everything is powered off but the power strip remains active.  This series of devices would leach nearly 1/3 of a kWh every day if we didn’t turn off our power strip when finished with it.
  • Our refrigerator uses 13o watts while running, and the frequency it kicks on depends on how often it’s opened, how good the seals are, how much/little is inside of it (actually having more is better since the items inside store and radiate cold, which helps modulate the internal temperature), how hot it is in the house, and how clogged the air intake filters are.  On average, during a warm day, ours would run for about 16 hours per 24-hour period.  This equals just over 2 kWh of power consumed.  This actually accounted for, generally, more than half of the power we would use day to day.
  • In our old apartment, we used to have an electric stove.  Classically, converting electric power to heat is one of the most inefficient ways to use it.  Every bit of heat you feel radiate off of something hot is “lost” power, which is not being channeled into your food.  This is why one coil on an electric range uses 1000 watts, a full kilowatt of power at all times while active.
  • In the same vein, our old heating/cooling unit would use 6,000 watts of power, which blew my mind so much that we made every effort (most of them involving shivering like crazy) to avoid using it.  That used to floor me until my dad told me about the industrial-strength heating units hanging from the ceilings of some parking garages.  Each unit, spaced about 20-feet apart, and totaling perhaps 50 or more for the whole garage, used between 20,000 and 30,000 watts.  EACH UNIT!  This is 1,000 and 1,500 kilowatts of power, which would consume 1.0 to 1.5 MEGAWATTS of power every hour.  I am humbled, and slightly sickened, I must admit.
  • Our various laptops use anywhere from 25 – 75 watts of power.  The netbook, from ASUS, uses the least, charging at around 40 watts to start, decreasing to 10 when the battery is almost full.  When shopping computers, I always look for the EPEAT designation, which means the device is made with many environmental considerations in mind.

And that’s just a snapshot.  If you’re curious about anything else, just let us know!

 

This is for women who need to know how to fix basic problems that could happen at home.

It recently occurred to me, while browsing the library stacks for the usual mindless entertainment I enjoy, that I have absolutely no knowledge about simple home repairs.  This PBS home video jumped out at me as a solution to wanting to build a sustainable house with a lack of skills in plumbing, electrical wiring, etc.  Dare to Repair was a great introductory video in how to fix minor problems in your standard house or apartment, and much of what I learned can be applied to our off-grid earthbag house someday. View full article »

I love these cork oak trees!

The latest issue of The Free Weekly is out today, so grab a copy and check out what we’ve learned about sustainable flooring options.  We decided on cork for our earthbag home, but as always, research and exposure to new information could change our minds over time.

In Portugal, cork oak trees are harvested every nine years, helping to protect the man-made forests with profits from the sale of corks and cork flooring, employing about 60,000 workers, and sustaining habitat for native species.  How cool a floor is that, which can do all those things?  Here’s a video about harvesting cork from trees without harming them!

“…the environmental issues, the social issues, and the economic issues are in good balance, and it all starts with harvesting the cork itself.” – Carlos de Jesus, Director of Marketing, APCOR

Why not decorate a home with inner peace?

Here are the Dalai Lama quote cards I’ll be using as tiles for Ripples’ homestead, pictured here laid out upon a beautiful Tibetan rug from Himalayan Mountain Shop!

His Holiness the Dalai Lama sure has his share of peaceful, inspirational quotes.  This is no doubt putting the cart before the horse, but today I began organizing my thoughts for a crafty project for Ripples’ eventual earthbag homestead.  These beautiful cards each contain a quote from the Dalai Lama, with different Tibetan Buddhist symbols on the back.  Maybe someday I can learn what each one means!  Fun challenge.  I was considering using these tiles for the bathroom tile, but not the floor.  Probably the wall, or a border, or perhaps glued to the surface of something we refurbish so that I can see them daily and be reminded to stay compassionate and centered throughout my life.

“Change only takes place through action.  Not through prayer or meditation, but through action.” – H. H. the Dalai Lama

 

Our homestead will use creative lighting.

What do you use to light your home without electricity?  I’ve seen some people use candles, or solar lanterns, or strings of paper lights powered by the sun during daytime.  Has anyone tried using glass jars with candles? I was totally impressed with this idea and plan on trying it.  I haven’t yet figured out how to attach the metal chain through the lid, but assume there are alternative options.  This is such a cool idea to light the way without harming our relatives and friends in Appalachia via mountaintop removal. But don’t get me started on candle types.  Some candles are more harmful to the world than others, and I tend to purchase soy wax, beeswax, or all natural candles.  Do you have any alternative lighting tips? Share with us!

Source: etsy.com via Tracy on Pinterest

Check out the latest issue of The Free Weekly!

The cover story on Seeds that Feed is fantastic, and there are many Ripples’ readers and supporters featured in the article and in the cover photo! Way to go Care Croppers! You can also read Ripples’ latest column on recycling old junk and creating intentional rooms here. View full article »