Category: Consumer

Great article in the NYT about how environmentally friendly straw houses are, but then the twist: they’re great in an earthquake!


I have written before about straw building here, that time inspired by the New Orleans Common Ground Collective, who was using straw bale building as a cheap way to house returning Orleaneans.

Nothing inspires me more than this kind of thinking and utilization of resources!! 🙂



Just in case you weren’t convinced that our synthetic surroundings were causing you cancer and countless other illnesses, here’s an article from treehugger stating the following disturbing findings:

TreeHugger has been reporting for years about the dangers of phthalates, the endocrine disruptor that is used to make vinyl flexible. We have noted previously that it might cause “phthalate syndrome”- smaller penises, and undescended or incompletely descended testicles- in humans…

But NOW:

Now a new study links it to autism. Scientific American says that the Swedish study was looking for something else, a relationship between phthalates and allergies, but found that “Infants or toddlers who lived in bedrooms with vinyl, or PVC, floors were twice as likely to have autism five years later, in 2005, than those with wood or linoleum flooring.”


Obama Picks Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture CNN reports Obama’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture: Tom Vilsack, the former Governor of Iowa.
The Organic Consumers Association argues that he “originated the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, effectively blocking local communities from regulating where genetically engineered crops would be grown,” (Wikipedia) making him a dangerous choice for head of agriculture for the whole nation.
The issue of Genetically Modified Food is a hot one. For a president in precarious circumstances, like President Obama, it must be particularly difficult to pick sides on the topic. On one side is the argument that food prices are skyrocketing and people are in difficult times, so any technology that increases crop yield will be a positive component to solving the economic crisis. On the other had, it is arguable that GMO’s are completely dismantling any remaining “clean” food, by inseminating non-GMO crops. If this is the case, in the long run, this choice would have the opposite effect, causing billions of dollars in health care costs after years of VIRTUALLY EVERY AMERICAN CITIZEN being exposed to high levels of genetically altered food, which has been linked to cancer.

An open letter from the New York Times to President Obama.


Here are a couple good sites for green (sustainable and/or organic) products for your home.

Here’sgreenhome.comand GreenCulture

Green home has stuff like recycled laptop bags and compostable dinner ware.
Green culture has stuff for gardening and composting along with regular bed and bath stuff. 🙂

The ski and snowboard resort Jiminy Peak is the first in the northeast to bring windpower to the table. Here are some of the specs.They’ve nicknamed the turbine “Zephyr.”

Jiminy Peak strongly believes in preserving the Earth for future generations. We are showing our commitment by being the first Mountain Resort in North America to install a wind turbine in order to generate clean, natural energy. Together we can shape a sustainable community for the future.

A great organization called TakeAction.Org is doing their part to work on the issues of environment and sustainability in the UK. They offer workshops, classes and lectures on green business, living, leadership and climate change.

I saw a poster for this in Burlington VT. An organization which encourages conversation and activism around environmental issues. They call themselves GreenDrinks.Org They meet over beer, just everyday people interested in green ideas, in 32 countries and 312 cities world wide. Each chapter has their own structure, their own goals (or lack thereof) and their own drinks (not necessarily green.) Find one in your area, or better yet, create your own!

Etchedbystone has a great post about Eco Friendly Giving this Christmas. As you may remember, I posted a few times on the holidays and ways to avoid the consumer drive, here and one on Thanksgiving that (I think) still applies.
Some of my favorite gift ideas for the holiday season are:
~Gift Certificates to Restaurants (one of the top selling gifts this year)
~Certificates for massage, haircut, ect.
~Planned day trips to the museum, theater, local cities,movies, ect
~Baked gifts (I made wonderful cranberry-lemon bread for people this year (message me for the recipe)

~My other fave, and people seem to love them is anything hand made (soap, scarves, candles, potholders, wooden furniture, ect.
~Next, a simple offer of spending time with someone. Try typing out a “certificate” offering your services, or a dinner together, or babysitting, what-have-you
~Last, if you know someone collects something, second hand and ebay are great ideas for collectibles (especially older stuff)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Troy, New York has made some huge changes lately. They’ve been booming with new privately opened businesses and farmer’s markets who are in to stay. They’ve taken steps to stay connected to their community, by buying ingedients and products locally instead of nationally or internationally.
Today has been dubbed Albany’s Buy Local Day Saturday December 8th.
I’ve mentioned the Warehouse in downtown Albany before, well they, in conjunction with a few other businesses from Albany and Troy are offering incentives and information in regard to buying local and the benefits of doing so.
Here’s The Warehouse, and here is the story on the businesses working together.
Sustainable community is where it’s at!

There is a national Buy Local Day on November 18th, but as always Albany and Troy like to do their own thing 🙂

What’s great about Troy is, it is set up the way some theorists predict communities will have to be set up in the future, with urban living in the center and hundreds of miles of farm land surrounding it. That way, the food grown will only be able to sustain the people living there and everyone will be responsible for contributing!
The set up looks something like the old colonies, with the houses and business in the middle and a circle of fields around. I love that idea.

First, a tidbit that amuses me: Ecologists have referred to human waste as “black water” for years now. How fitting.

Moving on, today’s RUST inspired lesson will be on DIY grey water systems.
What is grey water?
It is anything that goes down the drain (not the toilet). In other words, the kitchen sink, the bath tub, the laundry.Generally there may be cleaning solvents, soap, food particles or other fairly harmless organisms in it. There are some really fun and easy ( did I mention cheap) ways to do this.
Why would you want to?
The water that goes down the drain could just as easily go back into the soil and therefore back into the water table.
Why do you need to filter it?
Those soaps and food particles are best not going directly onto your lawn, for example.
What you need:
(look at used materials shops and keep an eye out for found materials)
50 gallon blue barrels, best if 2 or more.
standard poly tubing
gravel- enough to fill each barrel 2/3
plants (think anything that would live in a pond or ditch.)
*my instructor told us he just grabbed a bucket full out of a ditch along the road
*suggested: pussywillows, rice, duckweed, water celery,water hyacinth, azolla

How to:
1.Cut the barrels in half
assemble the piping so that where the water comes in the tubing is high on the barrel, then low where the water comes out

*It is necessary for the barrels to be tiered as shown in order for the water to move through the gravel as much as possible.
*you may need rubber to tightly seal the tubing
2.Fill 2/3 with gravel
3. Plant your tubers and other vegetation
*my instructor recommended dumping in some sludge from a pond you trust in order to cultivate the microbe culture that will work best
4. Try it out!

At their property in Texas they have a different system with the same principals. They set it up with found bath tubs and the same gravel and plants. The water went into the top of the tub and the drainage went out the bottom, into the top of the next (preferably at opposite ends)
The goal is to have the water move through as many of the roots and gravel as possible, because that’s where the cleaning roots and microbes are.
Here’s an image of the tubs:

Here’s a good image of a grey water system from

*Note: it is not recommended to eat the vegetation in this system. The vegetation is using the toxins as fuel and stores it in the cells.
I will post on a closed water system for growing food later.