Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mid-Project Report on Rainwater Control

House roofs and gutters are not my favorite subject, but they are turning out to be key elements in managing our rainwater. When we bought this place, rainwater was simply an inconvenience to be kept out of the house, collected and disposed of, but it is now in addition a source of nourishment for the garden at a slight cost savings. Every drop that is saved for the garden is one we don't purchas from the municipality, which is not only grateful for the reduction in demand, however slight, but is helping cover some of our costs in order to cut its need for stormwater treatment.
We are still working out our system but what we've figured out so far:

  • Metal roofs provide cleaner run-off than composite shingles, because rainwater doesn't pick up anything significant from the paint, whereas in running over shingles it picks up grit and gunk that you really don't need in your garden. Metal roofs, while more expensive up-front than composite shingles, are fair better in the long run because they don't have to be replaced every 20 or 30 years.
  • Our photovoltaic cells don't seem to interfere with rainwater collection, so long as the lowest point of the installation is over a part of the roof that drains well into the gutter. The cells are covered in glass and the framework holding the cells are aluminum, both of which are pretty neutral as to rainwater.
  • Our downspouts had to be re-routed to drain into our cisterns, rather than into our lawn. As a result, the flow of the gutters has to be checked and adjusted. 
  • It is especially important to keep the gutters clean so detritus (mostly pine needles in our case) don't block the drains into the cisterns.  Here's another place that metal roofs beat composite shingling: the gunk you get in the gutter off a metal roof can go into your compost because it's all organic leaves, pine needles and probably some bird poo; in contrast, the gunk from off a composite roof can be laced with bits of shingle you don't want going in your food.
  • Invest in a good-quality ladder so you can periodically clean your gutters and generally check on your system. A cheap ladder is poor economy since it takes only one fall to eat up all the cash you "saved".
  • Formerly we had four downspouts releasing water either directly into the side sewer or into the yard, to flow eventually into the ally and eventually the storm drains. Now we have two downspouts draining into cisterns with overflow into our rain garden. Our replacement downpipes are roughly twice as wide as the originals, either to ensure that they can handle the extra flow or because that's now the standard size. We have a good quantity of old-school downspout pipe ready for use on some other project and are open to suggests as to how to re-used it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Shirt Cycle is both #Green and #Frugal

New Shirt, Old Shirt
Shirts wear out; that's just a part of life. But instead of throwing away worn shirts and buying new ones all the time, I use a simple cycle that gets me good quality at low price and minimal impact on our environment.
1. Buy used.
Good quality thrift stores almost always have shirts that appear to have been worn rarely for one-quarter to one-tenth of the price of new. Unless you're going to an event for which you would have bought a new shirt, a thrift store shirt will look the same to you, everyone who sees you, and everyone on earth except your banker.
Another reason to buy used in the USA is to help save jobs. Nearly every item of clothes is now made abroad in places where people work for starvation wages, pretty much killing off our domestic garment industry. The many labor and environmental costs of that practice are born by the first buyer, whose money goes abroad to continue the cycle. However, when the item is donated to a local thrift store, the new money you spend on it tends to go to local workers who staff the store. It's not a perfect substitute for a domestic garment industry, but it's something.
2. Buy natural fibers.
Unless you have a special need for polyester or whatever, cotton, silk, bamboo (a very nice fiber!) and so forth will give acceptable results or better in everyday wear. There may be a few situations, such as performance atheletics or safety gear, where artificial fibers have earned an edge, but most of the time you aren't going to be in such a situation. (And of course if you *are* unfortunately in an accident involving fire, the last thing you want touching your skin is something that melts. Natural fabrics will burn before they burn you!)
3. Rag Them.
When your shirt reaches the end of its usefulness as a shirt, you simple convert it into a rag if it's a natural fiber. Cotton rags are amazingly useful for cleaning, and can be used over and over.
4. Compost Them.
When your cotton rage has become too raggy even to use as a rag, you can shred it and compost it as long as it hasn't been contaminated with stuff you don't want in your garden (if you use your rag to clean up machine oil, trash it in good conscience - your health is important!)
I haven't composted a whole lot of rags, but the little bits of rag I added to my compost heap were gone when I turned the heap the next year, evidently processed by helpful worms into beautiful brown soil.
I prefer Hawaiian shirts with coconut shell buttons, mostly for the look, but I'm pretty sure the buttons would compost better than plastic.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

4freeCLE: The Free CLE Newsletter! January 27, 2013

4freeCLE: The Free CLE Newsletter!
January 27, 2013
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