ecoexist store

Green server hosting

Posted by admin on Mar 29th, 2010
Mar 29

I just received an email today from my server hosting provider that they are in the process of opening a new data center in Boston Massachusetts that will be fed 100% by wind power. Unfortunately it’s *just* the Boston colo (my server is in Seattle, they will have three total), but I think it’s awesome that they are doing anything at all. Data centers use HUGE amounts of resources so this will have a big impact on their overall footprint. I looked all over their site and blog for info about it but, alas, couldn’t find anything there. All I have as proof is the email…. This does bring to mind that I’d like to research more “green power” colocations (i.e. colos, i.e. data centers).

I’ve started on a VAWT (Vertical Access Wind Turbine) this past weekend which is made out of 2.5″ pvc tubing and 5 gallon bucket lids. We’ll see how it goes, but so far I’m having issues connecting the tubing to the lid very securely. I have the rest of the week to think it over though as I won’t have time to work on it until the weekend. I’ll update with pictures, details, and other info when it’s done. I built a rough turbine style prototype as a test last weekend, but my back yard seems to have swirling winds so the VAWT seems to make the most sense.

Researching solar oven plans

Posted by admin on Mar 13th, 2010
Mar 13

Lately I’ve been itching to retry my solar oven experiment. For one, it seems to be one of the projects that gets the most interest on this blog, and secondly I want to see how far I can take it. Someone left me a comment asking if I thought it possible to boil water, which I do – and then some. But what are the upper limits of a home made solar oven? Well, I want to bake something – how’s that for a goal?

While researching different plans for building an oven I came across this site. My favorites are the tire cooker and the Fresnel parabolic cooker. Seems that a lot of the plans on the first page are of an open air funnel design using things like a reflective car windshield shade. I’m not sure how well that might work….

I’m going to find one that I think is practical, easy to make, and has the potential of baking something and start working on it this weekend. I’m expecting to be able to cook at least part of a meal by Sunday afternoon.

Back to my eco-projects again

Posted by admin on Feb 14th, 2010
Feb 14

Even though I haven’t posted anything in a really, REALLY long time, it doesn’t mean that my eco-projects haven’t been poking me in the brain to give them some attention. Things that I have on my list: solar oven, micro turbines, a second effort towards my insulation project, and building my own solar panels.

For now, here are a couple of links to some cool products that go hand-in-hand. The first is called T.E.D. – a.k.a The Energy Detective. It’s a device that you can hook up to your breaker box and it reports on the whole house energy consumption. If you get the upgrade from the base package, you can use Google’s PowerMeter software with it. Being a techno-geek, I want this really bad.

Solar oven part three

Posted by admin on Oct 10th, 2009
Oct 10

I have been an avid subscriber to the Instructables email list for a few years now and occasionally there is an instructable that catches my interest. This week’s edition had two such items – The Office Workers Portable Solar Oven and Non PV Solar Power. I’ve only read partially through the second one, but the first one, the solar oven, has re-kindled my intentions to rebuild my first attempt and second attempt (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) at a solar oven. I think this time I’ve got some pretty good ideas and, as usual, I’ll take some pictures and document my trials and tribulations in the endeavor. My goal this time is to pop popcorn!

The Office Workers Portable Solar Oven Instructable apparently wasn’t highly successful, but that may be due to the projects strict guidelines of using only what was readily available around the office that he worked at. I believe his biggest downfall was using a piece of a clear garbage bag as the cover for the top instead of being able to use glass or plexiglas. He did have an amazing amount of technical information provided on how he calculated the efficiency of the oven – which I’ll try to duplicate in my reporting of my third attempt.

Apr 8

We’ve all been told, for years now, that CFLs are the best way to start in out quest to save the environment. I’ve probably changed out about 50-60% of my bulbs at home, and that’s only because it doesn’t seem right to me to throw away a pe
rfectly good lightbulb to replace it with a CFL.

Apparently now we find out that CFLs are not quite as efficient as we once thought due to the load they put on the power grid. There’s a link on that page that gives a much more technical description to the issue.

Renter or no renter, these are some good tips

Posted by admin on Feb 27th, 2009
Feb 27

I signed up a long while ago for my daily dose of Treehugger newsletter goodness. Most of the stories I find are interesting, informative and useful. Occasionally I find a story that is particularly well suited for the founding basis behind my enviroblog and I feel I need to share it with those who may be regular readers. This article highlights 22 ways for renters to reduce their overall consumption. This is especially important for renters since they don’t have many options to alter their residence to be more efficient, but it really applies to anyone – whether they own *or* rent.

Unfortunately I haven’t had much of a chance to keep up with my eco-updates lately. Things have been pretty crazy with the bathroom remodel, the job search, the weather (who says it never rains in Southern California!?!?), and guests. I start a new job next week so I don’t foresee much of a change in the frequency of updates but I will do my best. I still have a couple of projects that are still waiting in their final stages to be completed so I will hopefully be able to get them done soon.

The christening of the crapper

Posted by admin on Jan 30th, 2009
Jan 30

It’s been nearly a month since I started the unavoidable demolition and remodeling of our guest bathroom, which had been brought on by a water leak in the wall. The plumbing has been fixed, the walls have been put back up, the new fixtures are mostly installed, and finally – last night – we put the new Toto Aquia II dual flush toilet in. In a house that currently has 5 people and only 1 toilet, this was a BIG deal. We were all fighting to be the first to use it.

It was surprisingly easy to install, considering there are lots of complaints in various forums about how hard it is to get it to seal properly to the flange which can cause it to leak. I even read replies from plumbers on some forums who say they charge double to install these toilets. We didn’t have any trouble at all.

My wife was the first to have the honor of using it, while we waited patiently outside the door with anticipation of her review of the experience. A resounding thumbs up from her.

I’ll update with pictures and a bit more of an in depth review after it’s been tested a little more thoroughtly. For now, though, we did notice that the dual flushing mechanism is going to be something we’ll need to get used to. For the light flush, if we just push and release the button then there isn’t much water released into the bowl. If we hold the button down then it will release all of the water into the bowl – all 1.6 litres of it. We must be doing something wrong, but again, I’ll give a better review after the break-in period is complete.

Generator exerbike 2000

Posted by admin on Jan 14th, 2009
Jan 14

It seems that the projects I have planned always take a lot longer than I expect them to. It’s not that I’m not motivated to build these things, it’s more a matter of time and resources usually. For example, two weeks ago I heard water leaking in the wall of our guest bathroom. After opening the wall and finding/fixing the issue we needed to then replace the tiles that I had to take out in order to get to the leak. This turned into a demo of the shower area, which turned into a demo of the rest of the bathroom, which turned into rerouting some plumbing and vent tubes. Now, a little over two weeks later, we are finally starting to put everything back together again. Whew.

On a somewhat positive note, I accidentally broke the toilet when a huge chunk of concrete and tile fell from the ceiling (the ENTIRE bathroom was covered in tile and about 1.5 inches of this concrete type stuff). The positive part is that we replaced it with a new dual flush toilet from Toto. Once it’s installed and has been taken for a few “test drives” I’ll give my review. I’ve read installation is extremely difficult on tile – like what we are doing – and that the flush is powerful enough on the low setting for most of what needs to get flushed. So good and bad, we’ll see.

That is just one example of unexpected things coming up which prevent me from working on my eco projects, there have been quite a few lately. Fortunately I have been able to find some time to finally put together my generator bike that I mentioned here and here, currently dubbed the GB2000. I used an old bike I had laying around. I pulled off the back tire, had to do some magical alteration and rerouting of the the rear tension gear, got a lawn tractor v-belt, and attached it all to a 12v 4.5amp water pump motor. I still have to figure out what to use for a regulator (I can get over 24v of output pretty easily without a regulator) and also some kind of diode setup so the power flow is only out to the batteries and not in to the motor. I’m leaning towards using a controller for an electric scooter, which also has a battery charger hookup. Most of them are 24v or higher, which is fine since it would allow me to charge two batteries at a time in series.

Here are pictures of the bike. I used some scrap 2×4’s I had and bought some deck joist ties from the local hardware store to hold the back of the bike up. It’s because of the joist ties that I had to reroute the tension gear.

View of the deck joist and the chain tensioner

View of the deck joist and the chain tensioner

Insulation project

Posted by admin on Dec 24th, 2008
Dec 24

We live in a home built in 1952, which apparently is before the concept of insulation. Last spring we tackled insulating our attic. It was probably, at best, insulated to an r-value of 5 in a couple of areas and completely devoid of insulation in most places. Now it’s probably somewhere between an r-value of 30-35 with 8-10 inches of blown in cellulose insulation. It cost us about $350 for the materials ($325) and blower rental ($20) and about 3 hours of our time one afternoon. It was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t have much of an effect in the heat this summer since the walls aren’t insulated.
One of the big projects I have slated for this winter is to finally insulate our walls. I’ve been looking into all of the different insulation methods and narrowed it down to two in particular – denim cellulose and spray foam. Both of which are (or at least can be) green, and I can do them myself. Without going into too much detail, the decision was ultimately made based on ease of installation and overall r-value. Cost was also somewhat of a factor initially, but comfort won out over cost in the end and I decided on soy foam insulation. Here are the basic comparisons base on 1200 sq ft of wall space (@ 1 inch deep):




    • installation requires at least 2 people and a hopper that can be turned off/on by the person applying the insulation


    • total cost for 1000 sq linear ft = $1050 (sorry, can’t find the link at the moment)


Spray foam (soy) Thanks for the correction Jamie!



    • single person insulation is feasible


    • total cost for 1000 sq linear ft = $1370


So for about $300 more than cellulose insulation we’ll be getting twice the rvalue per square inch. The decision was pretty easy in the end. There is one other “honorable mention” that I should point out. It is still green in the long run and a little closer in price to the cellulose insulation at about $1050 as well, although you will need to keep in mind that the foam I listed above includes shipping and 17 installation tools, while this kit does not (at least not at the time of this writing). I’m hoping to complete this project by mid-January.

Greening up your holiday cards

Posted by admin on Dec 9th, 2008
Dec 9

I’m sure many of you have seen this product before, but I recently came across it again and thought it was the perfect time of the year to mention it. It’s called Grow-a-note. It’s really a great idea – you send a Grow-a-note card to a friend or a loved one, and once they are done with it they can “plant” it in thier garden, wait a few weeks, and then get part two of the gift – a bouquet of wild flowers.

The Grow-a-note cards are made with 100% recycled “post consumer waste” and are embedded with the wildflower seeds. The site says the cards have clear instructions printed on the back of the card on what to do with it once it is ready to be planted.

« Prev - Next »