October 20, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

Basics of Green Roofing

October 11, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

Green Roofing is the practice of growing vegetation on the roof of a building for the purpose of insulation, reducing the environments wear on the roof surface, recycling the water drainage on the roof, balancing and filtering the emitted toxins of modern development, and Aesthetics. The history of Green Roofing goes back centuries in Northern Europe, and even today the Germans lead the way in its development and proliferation.

Traditionally Green roofing is implemented on a low graded roof (relatively flat) and can either utilize segments or one complete covering bed, green roofing differs from a rooftop garden in that is generally cultivates ground-cover species rather than large plants/trees. The depth of the substrate limits the variety of plants to be grown, and the depth of the substrate is limited by the strength of the roof.

The Insulation benefits of green roofing can reduce the need for air conditioning in the summer by 75% and lower the requirement for heating in the winter by20% depending on the extremity of climatic conditions. The water retention of green roofing relates to the season and thus the activity of the plants, the system can retain as much as 90% in winter and as as much as 50% in Summer leaving you with only a portion of run-off water to manage. The list of Green roofing extends to further include smog filtration and dust control, noise insulation, fire retardant, increasing the marketability/social acceptance of your building, and increasing the biomass of the surrounding environment.

Installation of Green Roofs are estimated to be around $15-$20 per square roof, the required maintenance is dependent on the circumstances of chosen vegetation and the requirements of water and fertilization and their effects toward the desired aesthetics if applicable. It should be noted that fertilization and watering aren’t generally issues if native plants are chosen and that saves the potential run off damage from added chemicals.


September 29, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

Composting is the act of recycling organic matter into soil, utilizing a compost area in the garden allows you to not only recycle the waste of the garden but also elements from the house. Composting at home can be achieved with a number of different methods but is most commonly done by designating an area or pile to add matter too, or with the use of a drum/bin. The act of composting basically means to provide an aerobic environment for microbial life to digest the food provided, being aerobic the environment must also have air and water.

Lawn clippings, trimmed/fallen branches, and leaves are common contributions added to the compost from the garden.  Waste vegetables, eggs/shells, paper, pizza boxes, tissues, napkins, bread, grains, meat, seafood and pasta, Coffee grounds, Dairy products all of which would otherwise be thrown away and are thus free. Composting can reduce yard waste that needs to be hauled to the dump by anywhere from 50 to 75% and in turn returning composted soil back into the garden it will add to the garden fertility and stimulate healthy growth and complex root development. Compost loosens boggy clay soils and aids in the water retention of sandy soils, furthermore the increased microorganism balances levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus eliminating the need for soil amendments to be added.

Depending on where you live and the surrounding environment/climate will depend on what maintenance your compost will require, a good rule of thumb is to keep the compost moist and aerated.


Dual Flush Toilet

September 29, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

25%-30% of the water used in each household is from the flushing of the toilet, and the average toilet uses 3.5 gallons of water per flush. With the objective of saving water, a number of companies have designed and marketed dual flush toilets. These toilets provide two flush options of different sized portions, thus enabling the user to decide which amount is necessary to clear the bowl. The half flush option as the name suggests saves water by not releasing a full flush. Utilizing a dual flush toilet can cut back on total water usage by 10-15% depending on the maximum capacity of the unit amounting on average to water savings of nearly 12,000 gallons per year. Conversion kits are available that provide the two flushing options for your existing toilet, this is also a great way to recycle the fitting that you already possess. A new dual flush toilet will cost from $200-$350 and conversion kits for existing toilets will cost around $50

Geothermal Heat Pump

September 26, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

Beneath surface of the ground the temperature maintains a greater consistency of temperature through natural insulation, this is more evident the deeper one goes (just 6ft below the land’s surface the temperature fluctuates only 30 degrees Fahrenheit). Tapping into this resource of consistent temperature in order to counter the fluctuations found on the surface is a very green concept and one that requires very little energy.

Geothermal Heat pump’s (GHP) don’t create heat, they transfer and move it through a series of pipes that move cold air in the winter below to conduct the warmer core temperature, and the reverse in the summer with warm air converting to the cooler temperatures below. This means that the process of heating your home is without the reliance on propane, natural gas or other fossil-fuel sources and are up to 60% cheaper to operate than conventional means.

Due to the complexity of installment and initiation GHP’s are not a feasible DIY project and cost around $3000-$10,000 depending on a number of variables  including the size of the house, the estimated heat loss of the house, and the surrounding climate with the average home requiring a system costing $7,000.

Hot Water Circulators

September 26, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

Have you ever thought about the amount of water wasted when you turn on a tap and wait for the water coming out to be hot? This happens due to the stagnant water in the pipeline loosing heat from conduction and becoming cold. The amount of water lost by waiting for the flow to come through the pipeline can be numerous gallons. By installing a hot water circulator you can eliminate this waste of water by having hot water available at your demand.

Hot water circulator’s run the water through your pipeline to keep hot water available at all times, they run on very low wattage so they are cheap to run (as little as a few cents per day), and are very easy/quick to install. They also frequently are available with 24 hour programmable timers so they only operate at hours when you potentially need them to further cutting down on the energy cost. In general, hot water circulators cost between $100-$400, and save the average household 16,000 gallons of water per year which means they generally pay themselves off within the year.

Bird houses

September 24, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

If we are to consider the natural pest control provided by birds, and the habitat loss to birds from housing development and, it makes sense to accommodate these animals in order to control insects and small pests from the house and garden and allow them to exist in a healthy urban abundance and distribution.

Bird houses come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are able to assist in the nesting of birds in the spring, provide shelter in harsh weather conditions, exist as a focal point of territory, and sanctuary on a migration pattern. Most migratory birds that were raised by their parents the season before will return to that point to do their own nesting in the following season. If attracting migratory birds is your goal, you will also need to provide more than one house as they will arrive in flocks.

As mentioned before, the benefit of having abundant birds in the backyard is the balance they create on the food-chain by predating on insects around the house, and mice and rodents in the case of raptors thus keeping the home owner in a more healthy environment and also in a position to not have to resort to insecticides and other synthetic pest control that can have a negative effect on the environment. Birds also passively contribute to the food chain by spreading seeds and recycling matter they eat through waste, which in turn fertilizes the garden.

Attracting raptors, notably owls to your garden is of great benefit as they will control any vermin and rodents that live in the area, owls can eat multiple rodents each night (keep in mind they are nocturnal). The difference between an owl box and a bird house is the size of

the entry hole and the height the box is positioned (around 12-15ft) furthermore nesting material should be provided for the owl at the base of the box. Birdhouses are an easy installment to the house and are very cheap to establish.

Encouraging Pollinators

September 22, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

Pollinators refer to the ‘vector’ animals that pollinate flowers enabling the creation of fruit and vegative reproduction. Common pollinators in the USA include Bees, Hummingbirds and butterflies.

The diminshment of pollinators is of great concern and significance, as without their presence plants will not be able to reproduce (unless they are ‘Asexual’ ie; they reproduce solo) which would devastate  vegetative biomass, damaging the bottom of the food chain leads to the the greatest effect on biodiversity.  This doesn’t just mean that we couldn’t have pretty gardens, it is estimated that 30% of all food we eat is the result of the work of pollinators (grains, fruits, vegetables) and only 20% of all crops do not require their involvement. It is estimated that if pollinating flowers for crops had to become manual labor, it would represent the biggest industry in the world.

Planting flowering plants is the natural way to not only attract  but provide for pollinating species. Seeing as habitat loss is the major threat to pollinators it helps a lot if you plant flowering plants throughout your garden where possible. Keep in mind that both Butterflies and Hummingbirds are migrating species, so they require food stations throughout their travels (think of water stands in a  marathon) so it is not just sufficient to provide small spread out nation parks for the the provisions of these animals. Limit the use of pesticides where possible int he garden as they will kill off the caterpillars that meta-morph into Butterflies and Bees. It is said that Bees are attracted to yellow, so if you aren’t too comfortable on the presence of Bees, it is best to limit yellow flowering plants.

Brick in toilet tank

September 22, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

25%-30% of the water usage in each household is from the toilet, and the average toilet uses 3.5 gallons of water per flush. In a different post we discuss the market of water saving toilets that use less water per flush, but here we talk of two ideas to reduce the amount of water your current toilet uses by placing either bricks or water bottles in the water tank.

How much water your toilet tank holds will dictate the size of or amount of void space you can include with either a brick or water bottle, and considering that the most efficient of toilets get as low as 1.5 gallons per flush, it is conceivable to fill 2 gallons worth of space (If you have the 3.5 tank). Having said that, it is advisable to test out your system a few times with different sizes to check the system is still efficient at passing on waste :)

This should be quite a simple task the costs nothing assuming you have an old brick lying around and can recycle a water bottle (a bit of sand or small rocks in the bottle will aid in sinking it) and can potentially reduce your water bill by 15%.


Low VOC paints

September 22, 2011 Posted by Tlittle

Whichever part to the house you might be painting whether it is the exterior, interior, or another element to the property like the fence or garage it is important that the paint you select is as environmentally friendly as possible. Not just for the sake of the surrounding environment but also for the inhabitants coming in contact with the paint. Paint has been known to include a vast array of toxins (called Volatile Organic Compounds) to aid in the defense against fungus, fading, mildew, insects, and fast drying to name a few like and these can effect us not only from inhaling the fumes but also from the effects of absorption from contact and potential consumption when the paint gets old/chippy. This is a major contributor to why the air inside the house can be much more unhealthy and harmful than the air outside.

Low VOC, Zero VOC, and Natural Paints are the categories of paint that reduce or eliminate the danger created by the emitted toxins through utilizing natural components and ingredients in the case of Natural paints,  minimising the VOC components to 5 milligrams per litre from Zero VOC’s (this is 0.5%) or under 200 milligrams per litre (20%) in Low VOC.  VOC minimal paint is usually about $2-3 dollars more per gallon.