Category: Sustainability


While I continue to recover my health, please enjoy these baby hummingbirds!

Thanks to Care2.com

Stream videos at Ustream

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! :)

Dogs that save endangered animal and plant species!

This week’s issue of The Free Weekly is probably my favorite issue ever, because of the wonderful inclusion of a new comic strip: Eve of the Ozarks.  It’s got a unique art style, awesome fairy-like characters and a decent plot set locally in Arkansas.  Also, check out this week’s Making Ripples column about trained dogs working as conservation heroes around the world, with lots of potential to help local species make a comeback, too. Here’s an incomplete list from Care2.com on the species that dogs are trained to find:

Black-footed ferrets
Bird and Bat Mortality at wind farms
Individual Siberian Tigers
Desert Tortoise
Kit Fox
Spotted Knapweed Invasions
Ringed Seal lairs and breathing holes
Discriminate between individual Maned Wolves from scat
Right Whale Faeces
Javan Rhinos
Sea Turtle Nests
Invasive Pythons in the Everglades

 

Check out Day by Day the Farm Girl Way!

This blog is one of the best I’ve found that discusses the life of a woman living on 10 acres and photographing wildlife.  I strive to learn more about native habitat creation, and get better with my camera (and my hand-drawn illustrations).  Recently, Day by Day the Farm Girl Way made an informative blog post about following animal trails and learning which species are visiting the area, what they’re eating, and more secrets of the forest.  Hop on down the trail and check it out!

Valentine’s Day is a great time to share your care; here are ways to do so without hurting anyone or anything.

I love Valentine’s Day and spreading little notes and treats around.  Although I’m not perfect at it, trying to spread the love without spreading injustice and destruction is a top priority for me.  This week’s issue of The Free Weekly is out today, and contains great articles on Comprehensive Sex Education, loving meat-producing animals, and the latest Making Ripples column about creating a Valentine’s Day gift box from a toilet paper roll!  Here are some reminders for how to love your sweetie without harming the planet and other people:

  1. Buy local.  Shipping things from far away adds to our climate change problem.
  2. Be fair. Chocolate isn’t harmless if children were enslaved to produce the sugar and the farmers don’t get paid fairly, so purchase fair trade chocolate.
  3. Know your ingredients. Even if a product doesn’t have a certified stamp on it, chances are, it could be harmless – research the ingredients if possible.
  4. Reuse before recycling. Turn something old into something new, and help reduce the waste stream.
  5. Roses have more than thorns. Make sure yours are produced sustainably.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Ripples!

I love animals, and recently discovered ways that pets can help us “go green”.

Check out the latest issue of the The Free Weekly for great articles on pets, including the latest Making Ripples column.  Want more information about how hamsters can generate electricity?  Here’s the link to a few videos explaining how the process works, including how a hamster wheel can charge your cell phone, and a hamster ball that can vacuum your carpeting.  Amazing stuff!  So how does this relate to Ripples’ work?  We’re considering adding a bunny mower, aquaponics bed(s), hamster charging station and other animal-related features to our home, rather than simply keeping lots of pets without considering how they might help our mission to live a sustainable lifestyle.  I’m sure it’s more fun to be in a bunny mower or running around the house in a hamster ball, than living in a small cage in the basement.  These green changes can improve the quality of life of our pets, too!

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!

 

Are you ever asked, “Why do you go to so much trouble trying to be more sustainable?”

If so, keep reading for some objective responses that don’t involve tree hugging.

Frequent reasons for people not wanting to do more include not having enough time, money, or desire – after all, life is short, and money is scarce.  But life could be much shorter and money much scarcer without at least some effort to live sustainably.  Although death can come knocking at surprising times, such as after a freak accident involving rabid skunks, there are things we can control in life and things we can’t control.  Ignoring information about what we CAN control leaves us at the mercy of both.

One of the biggest reasons I’m choosing to live sustainably is because my first two decades of life were so unsustainable, I felt that the quality of my life made living less worthwhile.  I coped with my poor health by embracing creative escapes from reality through reading, art, and music.  Switching to a more sustainable life, however, is not a light switch turning on good health.  Many of you know I’ve been struggling with gluten intolerance that damaged my gut and kept my weight too low.  The lab technician says that this began about 12 years ago, when I was 15 and still living unsustainably, not to mention taking loads of pharmaceuticals.  Now that I’ve been diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis, the doctor said such an advanced stage must have begun close to when puberty began.  Thus, my lifestyle cannot be held up as a reason for disease or health (yet).  I think of it as planting an orchard today to enjoy the fruits 20 years from now.  It may take awhile…but it’s something I can choose to do, unlike avoiding a meteor collision.

What will you do to live more sustainably and try to avoid cancer in 2013?

Here’s an interesting article from Care2.com about the difference between believing we can heal ourselves, and shaming ourselves or others for being sick.  I had to share this because I had no idea some people focused on Western medicine could misunderstand when alternative medicine is suggested, as though the sick person had brought the disease on themselves or could cure themselves if they really wanted to.

 

America's Cancer Clusters
Image source: www.best-nursing-schools.net