Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blue skies and water worries

Most people love spring and fall because of the more seasonable temperatures and the fact that it signals the changing of the seasons. I love spring and fall for these reasons as well, but this weekend while we were in Oklahoma, I remembered why I like the Oklahoma countryside so well. If you've never been to Oklahoma it is really quite pretty. There's nothing like driving down the highway to see wide open spaces of green dotted with varying shades of green from the trees. And all of this against the backdrop of a vivid blue sky that is often dotted with puffy white clouds. To me, this is beautiful scenery but I'm also fond of the open spaces.

I also love a cold glass of water on a hot day, but I read an article about how Oklahoma City wants to meet its water needs for the next several years and it concerns me. The city would like to buy the rights to a reservoir about a hundred miles away to supply the city and surrounding areas with water. The reason for this is that demand is expected to exceed supply within the next 20 years. The price tag for this little endeavor is around $42 million.

Apparently someone is not looking at some better ways to conserve water. I understand the need to meet the water demands for a large city, especially considering that within the next 20 years we may see more people migrating into large metropolitan areas due to the effects of Peak Oil. As those who commute to work find it more difficult to maintain their current suburban lifestyle, I am sure we will see more people either finding ways to work from home or moving closer to their places of employment. Naturally, this could put an increased strain on any city's resources.

I don't understand why the city is looking at this as the only way to supply the city with all of its water needs. The amount of rainwater runoff in a city is enormous due to the decreased amounts of green surfaces that can absorb and transfer that water back into the water tables. It would seem to me that the city should begin looking at ways to retain some of that rain water. Why not look at using some of that money to establish a city wide rain water catchment program? Offer some incentives for home owners to implement their own rain water catchment systems. If they expect there to be water shortages in the next 20 years, then how long do they think that reservoir will last? What will they do when that resource is no longer available?

Unfortunately, this just goes to show how little forward thinking there is. I'm sure this type of problem is happening all over the U.S. and as usual our leaders are looking for the quick fix and worry about the bigger problems when they happen. This course of action may be inevitable but I hope the city leaders will be looking at other alternatives to help solve this looming problem. In the meantime, I'll continue with my plans to set up our own rainwater catchment system in the future to hopefully meet most of our water needs.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The best laid plans

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Earth Day last week and is looking at new ways to enhance your lives by being greener and living more simply. Unfortunately, I was not able to post Thursday or Friday like I had hoped and like so many other things, our best laid plans often do not work out like we had hoped.

Well, first for the bad news. This weekend we paid another visit to our future homestead and discovered that while we were gone someone else apparently enjoyed our home site as well. The last time we were there we had bought a small storage unit to leave our camping gear in so wouldn't have to haul it back and forth every time. So what did we find we got there? Nothing. The storage unit and all of our stuff was gone. To say the least we were not very happy. We filed a report with the Sheriff's department but I would say it's a safe bet that we will never see any of that stuff again. Because of this event we felt we had to change our plans yet again.

Originally we had planned on building our temporary house on the weekends until time for us to move. However, with this theft we did not feel safe in leaving any construction work unattended for a couple of weeks at a time. Now, we plan on buying a storage building that we can live in while we build the house. This was not what I had wanted to do but compromises have to be made.

We still had an enjoyable weekend camping out and meeting some of our neighbors. We were also able to put the Permaculture principle of observation into action by putting up the prerequisite hammock. As you can see, my husband and son did very well at putting this principle into action.

The kids also picked some pretty wild flowers for me that we found growing at the back of our property. I have no idea what they are so if anyone knows please let me know!

So in a way we are back to square one but we are more anxious than ever to make the move and really get things going. The process is slow but we will get there eventually. Anything worth having is worth working for and this will definitely be a lot of work!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yesterday I posted some Earth Day facts which included some facts about water. One of those facts is that the Earth is composed of 2/3 water but only one hundredth of one percent is fresh water. So what does this mean to us?

Water is essential to our survival. We can go about a week without food but we can only survive three days without water. We drink it, cook with it, and bath in it. Water is an intricate part to our quality of life. Without clean water we face numerous health and sanitation issues. So why do we misuse our water resources so badly?

There are numerous things that we need to be concerned about getting into the water table and contaminating our water supply. The majority of these dangers come from us, not terrorists. So we need to be more aware of not only how we dispose of toxic substances such as oil and paint but also what chemicals are being sent through our treatment systems from soaps, shampoos, and cleaners.

Believe it or not there are several things that we can do to help conserve the fresh water that we have available to us. One of the biggest things that can be done is to set up a rain water catchment system. It can require a significant investment of money if you plan on having large holding tanks but it can also be as simple as having a couple of rain barrels sitting beneath your gutters downspout. With a smaller system, enough water can be collected to water your yard or garden for a few days depending on how much you need. With a larger system the water could also be used within the home as well as outside. Depending on what your goals are a filtration system may also be needed for household use.

If collecting rain water is not an option for you, there are things you can do within your home that can help conserve water and in turn decrease your water bill. Aerators can be placed on your sinks to limit the amount of water that is coming through but give you the same amount of pressure. If you don't feel like replacing your toilet just because it's getting a little old, place a brick or a bag filled with air in the tank. This will displace water so the tank is actually not holding as much water therefore you use less with each flush. Installing a low flow shower head will also reduce the amount of water that is being used.

Water is a critical resource that we cannot afford to lose. If we are not careful the lack of fresh water will be the next global crisis. So look around and take those small steps that can make a big difference.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earth Day facts

Here are a few Earth Day facts that I thought I would share and I hope you find interesting. Happy Earth Day!

  • The garbage in a landfill stays for about thirty years
  • In 1995 about 200 of the world's landfills were full
  • Each person throws away approximately four pounds of garbage a day
  • Most families throw away about 88 pounds of plastic every year
  • We each use about 12,000 gallons of water every year
  • 1/3 of all water is used to flush the toilet
  • The 500 million cars on the planet burn an average of 2 gallons of fuel a day
  • Each gallon of fuel release 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air
  • Approximately 5 million tons of oil produced in the world ends up in the ocean
  • Every ton of paper recycled saves 17 trees
  • The amount of wood and paper we throw away is enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years
  • Earth is 2/3 water but all the fresh water streams only represent on hundredth of one percent
  • 14 billion pounds of trash are dumped into the ocean every year
  • 84% of all household waste can be recycled
  • One gallon of motor oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of water

Monday, April 19, 2010

Finding our way to sustainability

Happy Earth Day week! Since Earth Day is this week I am going to make the effort to put up a post every day regarding an environmental topic. Earth Day is a time to look at not only what environmental problems we are facing but how our everyday actions affect the world around us.

In the last few years the word green has come to mean more than just a color. But what does "going green" mean? Unfortunately, much of the public perception of going green means changing your light bulbs to CFL's, buying energy star appliances, and recycling. All of these things are helpful and if everyone did them it would help considerably but there is more to being green. So what else can be done? Well, let's look at a new word that is being used more and that is sustainability.

From an environmental point of view, sustainability means that an action can be continued with little impact on the environment. When you take a look at how we live every day, it becomes pretty obvious that how we currently live is not only not good for the environment but it is not sustainable. We are consuming resources at an incredible pace and at some point those resources will give out. So how can we live sustainably so that we can make those resources last longer and continue with the same level of comfort we have come to expect?

First, let's start with where we actually live. Increase the amount of insulation in your house so that you are conserving energy. If replacing your windows is not an option, then look at placing solar film on your windows. It will increase the efficiency and is a more affordable option for many people. Go ahead and change those light bulbs and consider placing an aerator on your sinks so that you are using less water.  These are just a few simple things that we can do that will make a big difference when put together.

Now, let's look outside. If you have room, one of the obvious options is to start a small garden to provide some of your food. Did you know that on average, food travels 1,500 miles to reach your plate? How sustainable is that? It's much more efficient and healthy if it comes from your own back yard. Instead of having expansive lawns, replace them with drought tolerant plants and rock gardens. Grow plants that serve multiple purposes and create areas that provide habitat for our non-human neighbors.

This may not seem like monumental steps, but who said it had to be? Make what changes you can and do what is effective for your family. Take time this week to decide what changes you can make that you can stick with and see how much better your home and your environment is for it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Green Blogger Event

Happy Earth Day Celebration Week!

This is the 40th Earth Day!! What does Earth Day mean to you? We will be exploring that during our week long Celebrate Earth Day All Week 2010 Blogging Event.

Each Day will hosted by a different blog with green interests. Each blog will discuss green tips, green experiences, and/or green reflections. Each blog will also be hosting a green giveaway(s) that will run through our week long blogging event.

Monday- Hosted by Moms Wear Your Tees Blog with giveaways sponsored by SprigToys and Shaklee
Tuesday- Hosted by Tales of the Wife with giveaway sponsored by ArtsyFarstyFooFoo
Wednesday- Hosted by Once Upon a Baby with giveaway sponsored by Bagnesia
Thursday- Hosted by Retro House Wife Goes Green with giveaway sponsored by The Soft Landing
Friday- Hosted by The Crunchy Wife with giveaway sponsored by SodaStream
Saturday- Hosted by The Eco-Friendly Family with giveaway sponsored by Greenzys

Earth Day 2010 can be a turning point to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs.

Earth Day 2010 is a pivotal opportunity for individuals, corporations and governments to join together and create a global green economy.

Please visit EarthDay.org to take action, sign petitions, and join events in your area.

We would love for you to leave us a comment with something special you are doing for Earth Day!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Green Clean

You know, in the last few years we have begun to see more and more "green" products on our store shelves. Not that this is a bad thing, on the contrary, I have been very happy to be able to find some products that help me to live more lightly on the planet. However, I do think we have to be careful and not buy something just because it says it's green.

Recently I took a stroll down the cleaning aisle at a local store. I don't go down the cleaning aisle that much anymore because I have found other more natural products to use.  Out of curiosity I stopped to look at some of these so called "green" cleaning products to see if they meet the claim of being green and my own standards for a green product. Now, I expect that if I am going to use a product that is good for the environment that it will be safe for my children and pets. That is if someone happens to chew on a bottle, get some in their eyes, or in their mouth that I won't have to call Poison Control. Not surprisingly, these products all had the same warnings we are all familiar with. You know the ones, don't get in your eyes, avoid contact with skin, etc. So here is my question, what did they do to make these products green and if they are so green why are these warnings on the packages?

I have used some truly safe cleaning products that clean just as well as the commercial stuff if not better. These products are made from natural substances that pose no threat to myself, my family, or any pets that I may have. Not mention they are non-toxic so they are safe to use in a gray water system. Most of these products are available by mail order although some can be found at your local health food store.

So what are these companies doing when they are promoting "green" cleaning products? Yes, they are trying to take advantage of a growing demand for products that are good for the environment but how much of an effort are they really making? Personally, I think it's more green washing than actually trying to create a product that will work and not pollute our ground water. I think many of these companies are counting on the fact that most people will not explore beyond the flashy label whether or not these products are truly safe and good for us. So the next time you need to buy some glass cleaner or bathroom cleaner read your labels and consider if this product really meets the standards you want for yourself and your family. Hold these companies to a higher standard, yours.

Friday, April 2, 2010

And so it begins

Well, we have signed the papers and written the check...the first of many. Yes, we have purchased 6 acres of land to call our own and now the fun begins. What seems to be the monumental effort of trying to carve out a homestead and create something that we can be proud of.  Our dilemma however, is that we live about 6 hours away from the property that we have purchased. A long distance move is a big enough pain, much less when you are trying to build something to live in. We are hoping to have something ready to live in by the end of June. If not, I may be shopping for a new tent!

We did go to the property this past weekend and at least got to spend a night in what is to be our new home. As much as we enjoyed that, the weather decided to not be very cooperative. It was cold and windy for two days. Even though we didn't get as much done as we would have liked, we did at least get the mailbox put up and discovered that the ground is much rockier than we had hoped. We thought we would be able to dig the trench for the water line from the well to the house site by hand but now we see that we will have to rent a mini excavator to complete this task.

Since we were able to spend more time on the property we were able to get a better feel for the lay of the land and where we want to put certain structures. I have not begun to create a Permaculture design yet but I will list some of the elements that we want to include in the overall plan.

1. Veggie and herb gardens
2. Greenhouse
3. Barn
4. Outside shower
5. Education center
6. Outdoor kitchen
7. Meditation area
8. Chicken coop
9. Fruit trees
10. Berry bushes
11. Composting

This is only a short list that I am sure will grow and be refined. Hopefully it will give you an idea of what we want to accomplish. Now if I can just find some good windows, cheap.