My Green Dream includes many things that are simply not practical at the moment. Right now, we have seven people living in our three bedroom house, which is less that 1,100 square feet. Besides my wife and my self, we have two daughters (ages 20 and 22), a nephew (age 21) and my inlaws who are 82 and 90. Our daughters do not desire to take the same steps that I am.
A water well. I'm not necessarily planning to use the water as our normal drinking water, but for irrigation, washing the cars ...etc. It will also serve as a backup to our drinking water supply in the case of emergency. It would be really cool to have a hand pump.
Clothes lines outside and drying racks in our sun room to dry clothes. I have dogs that can jump, so this one will take some thought.
Wind turbine. I would love to have one of these. We can get some pretty strong winds here and it would be great to take advantage of that. Problem is they are very expensive, but I am hopeful that the technology in this area will continue to improve as will the prices.
Solar panels to generate our own electricity is an important step to my dream of getting off of the electrical grid. One problem is that I have two huge trees which provide my house with a generous amount of shade. This is both good and bad. The good is that these trees keep our house cooler during summer. They block the house from the cold wind in winter. They convert a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide to oxygen. The bad is that the shade prevents the solar panels from working effectively. There is another issue. All of the companies I have contacted want to sell solar system that are tied to the power grid. I want to be off the electrical grid. I hope to build a deck out in the back yard this year or next. I will want it covered and hope there will be enough good space to put the panels there.
Solar Water Heater is one of the most cost effective use of solar power. This technology has been around for many years and I can't wait to get one.
Tankless water heaters are interesting. I'm not positive I want one. I really like that if we get hit by an earthquake and we loose water pressure, the tank of the water heater contains perfectly good drinking water.
Key to getting completely off the electrical grid is to reduce our needs. According to an electrician friend of the family, there is a 15% loss of power converting from AC to DC. Therefore I want to install a DC line in the house so that could use DC lights and appliances such as a DC air conditioner.
Whole House Fan. You run these for about 15 minutes a day when it is hot. At a certain point of the day, the air outside cools down faster than the air inside the house. Running the Whole House Fan will suck the hot air out of the house, which is replaced by the cooler air from outside. Very efficient.
I plan to build a solar oven. I looked over a number of designs and I looked up how to build one on a website called eHow.com which has instructions, submitted by users on how to build or do just about anything you can imagine. The submissions are rated by the readers. I think this is one of the best uses of the Internet I have ever seen. My only complaint is that the instructions do not include pictures.
I can't wait to install Sinkpositive which allows you to wash your hands with the water before it enters the toilet tank. I think my daughters are actually beginning to give in on this one. I included it on my Christmas/Birthday wish list for 2009 and did not get it, but perhaps for the BIG 50, I will be lucky.
Waterless Urinal. I first discovered these at the Solar Assisted Living center in Hopland, California. I have to admit that there was a bit of a smell. In the last month I have encountered waterless urinals in a number of main stream businesses and in each case there was no smell at all.
Composting toilet. Just the mention of this embarrasses my daughters. This not only reduces the load on our waste treatment plants, but also provides the garden with valuable fertilizer.
Gray Water system will allow us to reuse the water from the shower, sinks and washing machine. This water can be used for the toilets and irrigation. After "Reduce", "Reuse" is the next best thing.
Electric car. There are several approaches. One is to buy a new one, but I want one that you can drive on the freeway and ideally 500 miles. I also don't want to pay more than $40,000 for it. It is more likely that one will be available over the next year or two for that price range, but with a range of 200 miles. Another approach is to convert an existing car to electric. This is an option we are seriously considering. This would not have the range we want, but would be good for driving to and from work, the store ...etc. If electric cars at a reasonable price and reasonable performance do not arrive soon, an alternative is the plugin hybrid. The Chevy Volt is supposed to be a plugin hybrid, if Chevrolet ever delivers it. In the meantime, the Prius (which currently has issues with sticking accelerator pedals and break issues) and the Ford Escape hybrids can be converted to plugin hybrids giving the electric only for short trips, yet able to use gasoline for long trips.
Bees are something that I would like to raise, but my daughters are opposed to it. I want to raise bees, because there is a shortage of bees, and because they make honey. Consuming locally produced honey is a very effective way of fighting off allergies.
Olive Trees are interesting. All of my trees produce very sweet fruit. I would be nice to have some fruit trees that produce something that is not so sweet such as olives, avocados ...etc. How cool would it be to not only can our own olives but produce our own olive oil?
Peanuts are for peanut butter. I made some peanut butter this year. It turned out good, I will grow peanuts next year so that I can make and can our own peanut butter. I have a brand name I came up with "Peanut Bear Butter". Peanut butter will require a pressure caner. I have one that was given to me and I am working on finding a new seal for it.
Replace most of the non-edible plants with edible ones. This is a long term goal. There are two trees, both elms. One in the front, the other in the back that are very big, very old and provide a lot of shade in summer. I will never cut these down as long as they are healthy, but why not replace the other trees with ones that will help feed my family.
Dog poop composter. Right now we have four dogs. I never wanted four dogs, but my daughter works for an animal care clinic and now we have four dogs. That equals a lot of dog poop. I saw on a show a dog poop composter and we need one.
Speaking of dogs, I need to put in a doggy door into the door of our laundry room. Two of our dogs are very old so we let them sleep inside there where it is much warmer in winter. Unfortunately, we have to leave the door open so they can in and out to go to the bathroom. The laundry room is below the bedrooms in the upstairs portion. This lets in a lot of cold air under those rooms. They would stay warmer with a doggy door than leaving the door open all night.
We need an awning that can be retracted for our bedroom window. It faces the west and in the summer it is very bright and very hot. Since we are on the second story and because it faces the street, it will have to be a very nice one that can be controlled from within the bedroom from an electrical switch. Gary Dahle, a friend from elementary school implemented a very simple and intelligent solution to this problem. He was lucky in that the room with the problem faced his back yard.
Thinking of all the things you can do to be more green can be depressing, it is almost like buying insurance. You can go broke trying to do everything you can think of, and spend all of your waking moments working on it. When Les Stroud started his project to reclaim an old Farm house, he started in October and needed to be done by the end of December. He didn't make it. He had to stop and wait for spring to finish. There were times where he had to make choices because of costs. There are certain choices he made because of comfort. We don't have to do everything at once. As long as we continue to make progress, that is what is important.