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New Tricks with Old Dirt

Compressed Earth Blocks

Adobe bricks are a traditional building material in the Southwest. Made with water, sand, clay and straw, adobe is simple to produce, has good thermal mass and is appropriate for arid climates. Unfortunately, building with adobe is very labor-intensive which has made this dirt-simple material quite expensive to use. Now there is a modern alternative to adobe that retains its earthen qualities at a much lower price - Compressed Earth Block.

Just in Time Rain Barrels

Rainbarrel Daisy chain

Just in Time Production is a popular manufacturing strategy with the MBA crowd. It's also a popular strategy for the procrastinators among us. At the Santa Fe Master Gardener's Fair this spring I saw a simple demonstration of how to build an inexpensive (Woo Hoo!) rainbarrel.

Paint It White

White Rooftops Bermuda

Summer is nearly upon us in the Northern Hemisphere and for city dwellers and suburbanites (like my family) summer brings the 'Heat Island Effect'. The sub/urban Heat Island is the result of acres of black-tar roofs and dark asphalt absorbing solar energy during the day and radiating that heat out late into the night. It turns out there is a simple way to turn off the Heat Island - Paint it White.

Sustainable Local Lumber

New Mexico Pine Boards and Block Plane

Warped, cupped, twisted, split and checked. I end up sorting through an entire rack of lumber at the Big Box store to find enough good boards for any project. I've also noticed a distinct lack of FSC-certified wood at most of our local lumber yards. Finding quality and sustainable lumber for wood-working projects has become a frustrating experience for me. But, I've found another answer - locally harvested and milled lumber!

From Grey Water to Green Plants

Grey Water Drain Pipe with Cleanout

Have you heard of La Niña? Despite the name, La Niña isn't a person 'she's' a thing - specifically a weather pattern. The important thing to know about La Niña is she tends to bring dry winters to the Southwestern US and that means drought. In my efforts to use water more efficiently I've added a grey-water system from our washing machine to irrigate a planting bed.

Tiny House vs. McMansion

I clearly remember wanting a room of my own as a teenager. I settled for a room in the finished basement of our family home. Austin Hay of Santa Rosa, CA has gone well beyond my teenage aspirations and is building his own Tiny House. As Austin tours his 130 sq. foot home built on a double axle trailer he notes that it is less space to clean and will have a small carbon footprint. Austin's Tiny House brings up a question, 'How big a home does a person need?'

A Toast to Sustainability

Ska beer and Homemade Pizza

Sustainability is hard and thirsty work. Whether you're farming organically, insulating a house or just riding your bike across town you can work up a mighty thirst. While I do like a glass of wine, after a long day's work I usually go for a beer. What tastes even better than a cold beer after a hard day of trail maintenance? How about a sustainably produced, craft-brewed beer from Ska Brewing?

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