What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Heating with Biomass....Finally!

We have finally got our wood stove installed. As it turned out the installation was the easiest bit, largely because I agonized over the details before ordering the parts, consequently they all fit perfectly and are operating as designed. Even breaking through the chimney was no big deal, turns out this side is only 1 brick thick so it only took about an hour to open up a hole big enough for the stove pipe. We used a liner all the way to the top of the chimney so we decided we didn't need to totally block off the fireplace on the other side. We just closed the flue and will probably stack a bunch of stone or urbancrete in there to add thermal mass and insure it never gets used again. The real work has been tearing out the wall and building a post and beam structure to support the upstairs floor. That part is still not finished, nor is the floor in the parlour tiled yet (we can't agree on the tiles). We put down some concrete board and laid a few remnant tiles on top to form the pad and protect the subfloor from cinders. You also see in the picture the silver outside air pipe leading around the corner to a hole in the floor. It is currently drawing air from the crawlspace/basement but will eventually be routed to the outside. This prevents the stove from cooling down the house by pulling indoor warm air thus requiring outdoor cold air to replace it. The same effect is why fireplaces are so bad at heating houses.

The other real time consumer has been dealing with the firewood. Since I forage the neighborhood for it on trash day, it has been coming in for many months and initially I cut it too large. This required cutting it all down to fit our smaller than expected stove. Also, I had collected so much that it was stacked in such a way that the driest wood was inaccessible behind the wettest. So I clearly had to rearrange the several tons of wood I already had and prepare the way for that which is still coming in. We have been heating with wood for several weeks now and it is amazing how quickly we are going through it. It won't be long before one whole stack, about 10' long and 6' high, one log deep, is almost gone. I've been moving much of it up to the porch and inside to free up the rack for wood yet to cut.

We paid about $1000 dollars for the stove and all the parts. The fuel is free and since we are doing almost 100% of our heating and about 70% of our cooking on it we should save over $100/month on our gas bill. At 4 to 5 months of heating season per year we should pay it off in 3 years or less.
Here is the sequence of construction and installation shots.

The wall and closet that had to come out.

Princess Ann doing a structural inspection.

busting through the chimney

assembling liner and cap before going up on the roof

screwing and sealing stove pipes

the royal seal of approval

the first break in fire

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Importance of Biodiversity in Farmers Markets by Thomas Morrison

Here is a guest post by Thomas Morrison  co-editor of Shadesofgreen.info. He spends a majority of his time writing on topics that are both green and progressive.

The Importance of Biodiversity in Farmers Markets

Doug Band and the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) as well as US Ecologist Gary Nabhan have recently come out as strong proponents for crop diversity. Nabhan’s position is that in order to keep the idea of diversity at the forefront of our society, we must apply it to biology of crop diversification.  His theories of promoting sustainability through grocery shopping have become popular. In a recent interview Nabhan said, “in other environmental issues we tell people to stop something, reduce their impact, reduce their damage.” His article Coming Home to Eat published in 200l can be cited as influencing the popularity of green culture, the local food movement, and the increased appearance of farmers markets all over the country.

A host of other organizations have begun to promote sustainability through the act of conservation. Bill Clinton, Doug Band and the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) have set their sights on emission reduction projects throughout the country. In order to do this, they have partnered up with Donlen, GreenDriver, and Environmental Defense Fund with the purpose of reducing commercial fleet emissions by 20% in the next five years.  The Earth Day Network has brought together local and national conservationist groups and green enthusiasts to participate in an open forum. This forum serves as a space to incite discussion and dialogue on new ways to create a sustainable planet. Individuals can reduce their carbon footprint, create less waste, and stop the unnecessary wasting of water. Gary Nabhan strongly suggests as members of society we take a larger look at the state of our planet.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization produced a study with results indicating that a quarter of crop diversity is left and a dozen species provides 90% of the animal protein consumed around the globe. More over, roughly four crop species supply half of the plant-based calories in the basic human diet. Nabhan theorizes that growing food locally will have a massive impact on our planet’s sustainability. The “eat what you conserve” theory says by eating the produce that we are attempting to conserve, we are simultaneously promoting the granular dissemination of a vast amount of plant types.

Agriculturist Marco Contiero adds to the theory by saying, “biodiversity is an essential characteristic of any sustainable agricultural system, especially in the context of climate change.”
According to Conterio, since individuals raise and harvest our own crops and plants, we should purchase the crops harvested and produced by other local growers. If individuals buy food grown and harvested locally, the large carbon footprint associated with the transnational transportation of food is no longer a problem. Both arguments require an active effort toward conservation and sustainability. As the spring approaches, visit your local farmers market to get all the best in seasonal fruit and vegetables. Visiting your local produce stand is also a great way to promote biodiversity, support your local economy, and experience the delicious regional food varieties.