Category: Technology


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

Thanks to Care2.com

Stream videos at Ustream

It’s Fun to Change the World.

Ripples' New Logo

Ripples’ New Logo

So often I’m studying science, technology, or some other such subject like organic gardening and earthbag building, that I forget about creativity.  Ripples isn’t just living without a car and making vegan dinners, it’s also about admiring the rainbows reflected in a prism catching the afternoon light from our window, and playing with the swirls of white “fire” after pouring coconut cream into a cup of black tea.  And, yes, it’s about dreaming of rainbow lollipop trees, with rippling branches and spreading roots.  This logo was sketched on paper with copic markers and ink, but later converted into a digital representation of what we’re trying to express.  Organic. Social Justice.  Deep roots.  Ripples of change.  And before you think, “Wait, nature doesn’t make rainbow trees!”  Think again: I had the enormous pleasure of seeing in person a park full of “Rainbow Eucalyptus” trees when I visited Costa Rica.

I need to remember that our homestead without an artistic spirit is really just a building.  It’s our creativity and personalities which make it come to life with a new message for sustainability-seekers: this is fun.  This is creative.  This is going to make people happy.

We’re continuing with our redesign of Ripples, to include more hand-drawn art in the margins, header, and background of the site.  Expect more changes in the months to come, and please give us feedback on how these changes affect you and touch your experience of Ripples.  We want it to be fun to read about conservation.  We’d like you to laugh when you read about capturing rainwater.  So let us know how we’re doing in the comments below our posts or on our Facebook Page.

What do you think of the new logo?

So far, about 50 people have seen it without commenting or clicking “like”, so I’m beginning to wonder if they’re just busy this week or if I’ve created some socially-taboo tree or something…

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!

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 »

Just like Peter Pan, we can fly with happy thoughts in our daily life!

Introducing the NEW Happy Thoughts box!

NEW on Ripples – located at the bottom right-hand side of every page on Ripples’ blog, you will find a new feature called our “Happy Thoughts” box.  Right now, you can see this box is filled with one happy thought from Ryan, and one from me, Amanda.  Every day around 6:30 in the evening, before cooking dinner together, we sit underneath a rainbow umbrella and tell each other what thoughts we’ve had that day which make us feel the happiest about our future dream of living off-grid.  Maybe it was a good day, or a challenging day, or sometimes even a day of despair and great physical or emotional pain, but no matter what happens, we always take turns sharing one happy thought. 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

Making Ripples in the World

I find it really hard to write about Ripples as an entity, with measurable effects on the world.  Of course, things are measurable: number of NGO’s helped, number of blog posts receiving readers, number of comments, number of columns written about sustainability…but are they visual?  Not nearly enough.  This video, shared with me by my friend Teresa, illustrates the way I see Ripples.  I guess technically Ripples is just Ryan & I, and you could argue Ripples includes projects with our partner organizations, and the growing list of volunteers wanting to build with earthbags.  But when I picture what Ripples actually does, well it looks more like this video.

So I invite you to watch this video and enjoy these scenes, then watch it again and replace them with scenes from the past year at Ripples.  Notice in the video that the love flows both ways :) Same with Ripples.  Here are our real life “scenes” painted with words so you can see them better as you watch the video (I’ve tried to keep identities anonymous just like the video).  Ripples’ scenes are about gardening, websites, compost toilets, sharing information, and little acts of kindness.  Someday I would love to actually put together a video with photos and live scenes from Ripples!  For now just try to imagine it:

  1. A toilet built with locally harvested bamboo in Kathmandu, Nepal, inspires a girl in the United States to use local bamboo to build a solar shower with a 5-gallon bag.
  2. Better publicity makes sponsorships grow for a trail maintenance organization, encouraging more people to enjoy and protect our parks after the re-development of their website allows the web developer to learn more about web development for helping non-profits in the future.
  3. 235 youth in Cameroon are trained in fundraising after a local leader learns about capacity building via the internet, sparking more support for free access to the internet.
  4. Writing about raising baby chicks inspires people in other locations to consider urban farming.
  5. A child with food allergies is able to enjoy eating a totally safe cookie, so his mother helps pay for a solar platform for Ripples’ blog.
  6. An Armenian organization supporting people with disabilities creates a Facebook page after receiving training in the importance of online communication.
  7. A woman with experience in gardening helps a youth learn to grow herbs, and the resulting cilantro and basil are given as gifts to neighbors.
  8. One girl receives training in non-profit management and contacts an international organization to provide curriculum materials for an online class taken by students in 34 countries who then pass the materials to their organizations, improving them with their own ideas.
  9. After learning in workshops about native species and their needs, native habitat is created and publicized on Ripples’ blog, helping a city become the first in its state to receive certification due to the whole community working together.
  10. A trip to a sustainably built retreat center inspires us to use cob for sculpting shelves in the walls at Ripples’ future homestead, and our post on sustainable building inspires a family to get in touch with us to learn more about how they can do it, too.
  11. [insert your Ripples moment here]

 

On Wednesday night, I made my first rain barrel for our future homestead and garden!

I got four decent photos before my camera battery died.  But I’ll be painting our barrel in the coming year and taking photos of it’s progress into it’s new home once we’ve built the earthbag house and started a new garden.  How exciting to be building towards this dream, no matter what!  Every week brings something new to Ripples, whether it’s a full-length mirror for our handmade bathroom, an old stool to be decoupaged with animal photos (more on that later!) or from this week, a rain barrel!  Next week might even contain a bathroom sink, we’ll see :) View full article »

Check out these recipes for planet-friendly treats!

The latest issue of The Free Weekly is out today, and Making Ripplesis all about baking and goodies that aren’t secretly baddies. Here are some recipes from Ripples to help you get started eating green and baking with organic, fair trade ingredients:

Try baking Solar Cookies with the recipe of your choice!  Here’s a how-to video from YouTube.

Want soup? Go vegan and try out this Vegan Cheddar Baked Potato Soup. Warm and comforting!

I love pancakes, and this recipe from Ripples is great for putting autumn flavor into your breakfast: Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Apple Butter

Just for fun, our friend Chris and his students from Colombia want to teach you how to make gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies with your host, Piggy. :)