Tag Archive: Sustainability


See how your neighbors & friends are making ripples in their community, and share what you’re doing!

Ripples’ sustainability column in The Free Weekly, “Making Ripples”, has just added a new feature today: “People Making Ripples”.  We’ll be interviewing and featuring local residents doing something large or small to make their lives more sustainable.  This will accompany the usual Making Ripples column as a photo series, replacing some of the stock photos that would have otherwise been used in that space.  People Making Ripples isn’t a series of blog posts, but will appear exclusively in The Free Weekly, so go get yourself a copy and meet people making ripples in our community today!

My apologies that the column’s references to people being featured in People Making Ripples is off by a week in each case; it was intended to begin last week, but space limitations made it impossible to fit into last week’s issue, I was told.  So instead we’re beginning this week with Alena DeGrado, and next week we’ll be featuring the work of Brad Volz.  If you know of someone doing something sustainable, or would like to share what you’re doing, submit your photos and a brief description to: MakeSomeRipples@Gmail.com

Now go make some ripples! Smile

Results from our Easter egg dye experiment!

Our “golden egg” – but where’s the goose that laid it??

You know sustainability is going mainstream when Fox News and Martha Stewart talk about natural egg dye methods. DIY egg dyes have been around for a long time, but are now popular enough to have their own kits sold online and in stores. And even though my great-grandmother may have dyed her eggs naturally, this is a new concept for me – I grew up thinking that placing magical fizzing spheres of color in plastic cups full of water was the only way to dye Easter eggs. View full article »

Generate electricity from killing flies! Or water your garden with CD’s.

Going off-grid takes a certain amount of ingenuity, and the willingness to explore the world and invent solutions to problems.  Wallace & Gromit’s series, The World of Invention, encourages this mindset and really inspired us to think of new ways to meet our needs for electricity, irrigation, and hauling heavy items.  The series is not so much the perfect, complete way to go off-grid, than it is a sounding board for ideas you’ve been brewing in the back of your mind.  If you’re the garden shed inventor type, that puts you in the ranks of inventor Emily Cummins who created a refrigerator that runs without electricity when she was still in school.  Meet inventors like Emily and learn more about some green inventions you can do at home with kids in this week’s issue of Making Ripples in The Free Weekly!

Here’s a video of how robots generate electricity by consuming dead flies.  If you’d like to watch the Wallace & Gromit “World of Invention” series, and see another robot that uses flies to generate electricity (and fly paper to attract them by itself) then head down to the Fayetteville Public Library where it’s available for check-out.

Like turtles, we’re sure to win with steady progress!

It was FREEZING out there! I’m drinking “pudding cocoa” which is chocolate pudding melted into almond milk.

Our friend Jacob looks over a map of Washington County with Ryan before we all head out to search for land.

Despite a never-ending upper respiratory infection and recovering from surgery, I’ve been putting time into searching for land for Ripples.  Check out what it’s like to look for land for sustainability purposes in the latest Making Ripples in The Free Weekly!  This column was a rare rant for me; I don’t like to be so negative about describing a process, but it certainly has been a challenge to even find an acre for sale.  Hopefully, as with most things in our life, when we’re ready and it’s the right time, land will become available. :)

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!

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!