Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting is simply a process of collecting, storing, and later using precipitation. There are many different ways to succeed in rain capture and different uses for your captured water.

Rain capture can be as simple as hooking a drum barrel to your house gutters and using the water for your garden or as complex as burying a tank in your yard to use gray water in your whole house.

Connecting barrels to your house rain gutters is a very quick and simple process and the benefits can be astonishing depending on how many barrels you have. Here's an example of a "pretty" version of a single barrel. The gutter connects at the top of the barrel through a cut slot, and the water is usually filtered through a screen (for leaves and twigs and things). Typically, you also want to have an angled runoff pipe. This will allow the excess water from alot of rain to slowly leak from the barrel so that the water does not back up into your gutter. You also will need to install a spigot to connect a hose to fill a watering can.

If you typically receive a lot of rain and one barrel will not be enough for your area, you can make a series of connected barrels. Instead of having a excess runoff pipe in the first barrel, your runoff pipe connects directly to the second barrel - and if needed in runoff pipe from the second barrels can connect directly to the third and so on as long as your last barrel has a regular runoff pipe still. Then each of your barrels gets its own spigot.

Here's how it would look to connect multiple barrels.
The benefits can be overwhelming from rain capture. Unless you have a well on your property and only pay for the electric for the pump - you probably pay for incoming city water, and then you pay for that water a second time in your sewer water fee. What a financial waste!

Here's the kicker - most of that water waste is from toilets, laundry, filling swimming pools, washing your car, and watering your garden and flowers. Water that you can harvest from your impervious surfaces can be used for these purposes!

This is what a tank might look like when using the water for these purposes. This system would cost you around $1500
Here's an example of an entire system in place. The pipes are a little harder to see, but if you look hard, you can follow them throughout the entire system.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Obtaining Recycled Glass

I was recently asked where someone might be able to find glass to be reused. And well, I'd love to ask this question in its many subcategories as finding glass to reuse greatly depends on what you are reusing it for. First, let me say - glass is infinitely recyclable to make new glass products as long as no contaminants are present.

To relate to a recent post about cold frames, glass in the form of windows old or new can be found at many very accessible locations.

  • Go to the reuse store at landfills, your local salvage shop, Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. They have almost every building material then is reusable.
  • The first place to check is the dump. Many dumps sort incoming building materials and sell them for reuse or have "swap shops" where you can just take them. They can do this because it's less they have to transport to the actual landfill. Now, understand that the windows you find at the dump will very rarely and almost never be in perfect condition. No one throws away new windows, but they are perfect to sit outside in the sun and insulated your all season garden.
  • The next best place to look is yard sales! Many people replace their own windows, especially if they are only doing a few and don't know what to do with their old windows. Also, sometimes the wrong size windows are purchased and not able to be returned to the store because of damage caused by trying to install them and taking them back down or missing parts. Usually people will then try to sell them on their own.
  • Referring to my post on the Scrap House: you can find windows by speaking with the site manager or a building owner for a skyscraper in your nearest city. When building sky scrapers, architects usually buy 5% extra glass in case of breakage (31 story building = up to 200 extra windows)
  • Post a want on Freecycle for old or used never know what people have stashed in their garages!
If you are looking for glass for crafting project like making mosaics, you will have to tap somewhat different resources.
  • Freecycle is one of the best places to look. Post a want for colorful glass - you will probably want to ask for chipped or broken china, empty wine bottle, marbles, tile, broken or small mirrors, sea glass, etc.
  • Mirror/Glass/Tile stores. Ask if you can have their broken glass/tile scraps, provide them with a plastic bin you would like filled and when or how often you will pick it up. Most stores will be okay with this as they most likely pay to haul their trash.

Still have questions? Leave a comment and I'll gladly update this post with an answer.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Hi everyone! As you may have heard, the semester, my final semester has come to an end- but this blog will not. This blog does not have a shelf life and will therefore be continuing - expanding - evolving.

Over the next few days or weeks maybe I will be revamping this blog into a more broad spectrum of REpurposing!

I plan on focusing on the various possibilities and methods of repurposing items including sections on:
Household interior items
Household outdoor repurposing projects
Craft/just4fun repurposing projects.

I will also be including links to websites I find helpful with instructions and/or pictures of projects or ideas. Also of completed projects I have found online that are of interest to me and hopefully you also. I will also include information, and pictures on projects I have completed or am working on.

I also plan to open the blog to advertising for companies that allow for donations of reusable building materials and/or sell used building materials. I haven't forgotten about those who create to sell handmade items, yet strictly adhere to being repurposers- you're advertisement are also welcome! If you are interested in advertising-please email me for pricing info.

I hope that you will continue to follow this blog and grow with us as we continue our journey.

I welcome your ideas, your suggestions and your feedback.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Earth Day Tweet up Game

Welcome Earth Day 2009!!!

Game: ( #greenphilly #contest )

Hosted by @Envirosavvy @SustainableHous

Time: The game will take place on Earth Day 2009 (4/22) from 2pm-8pm Eastern Standard Time. A Winner will be announce between 9:30pm-11:30pm.

Rules: The #greenphily #contest will take place completely on Twitter, if you haven't joined twitter yet, you should.

This will be a point based game, and therefore ALL POSTS for the game must include the TWO hashtags #greenphilly AND #contest .

1 pt - tweet your entry into the contest (EXAMPLE: I'm in! #greenphilly #contest )
1 pt - Earthday related tweet (EXAMPLE: I love Earthday because so many trees get planted! #greenphilly #contest )
1 pt - for each photo of an Earth Day 2009 event in progress; include caption of location for fun~
5 pts - share your EarthDay blog post link (EXAMPLE: "Post Title" "Link" #greenphilly #contest )
10 pts - re-tweet about the #greenphilly #contest between 2-8pm EST

You can post as many photos as you want.
The blog post must be from your own blog.
You can only retweet the contest between 2-8; and not more than once per hour!!

PRIZE: Although I originally planned having 2 prizes, one has had a little mishap and has been replaced! So, I'm sorry for any confusion regarding the prizes of the game, but here they are:

The first prize winner of the game (most points) will receive a tote bag made from 100% repurposed by me 16lb cat food bag.

It is very versatile; it can be used for many various activities - including gardening. Because it is completely plastic, you can simply hose it out and let it sit to dry to wash it.

You can see below that it holds 2 beach towels comfortably; and it has a small pocket inside goods for holding seeds, gloves, cell, anything small.

The runner up by point count will receive this lot of garden seeds. It includes pumpkins, carrots, cucumbers, head lettuce, and Marigold flowers seeds grown and packaged right each on the east coast of the US!

Good luck, and start racking up those points!
I will announce the winner between 9:30-11:30pm 4/22 (depending how long it takes to count points!!)

PS- DON'T FORGET: Every tweet must have 2 hashtag: #greenphilly AND #contest .. Tweets without both will not be counted!!!

UPDATE 8:15pm: Elliot wins!! Tote bag to take to critical mas at the Temple University Bell Tower this Friday 4/24

Cold Frames

Cold frames at Temple University Ambler Campus,
Ambler, Pennsylvania, U.S.
More Photos of these cold frames available here.

What is a Cold frame?

A shelter make specifically for plants in cold weather. It consists of four walls to trap heat and shelter plants, made of any sturdy material — plywood, concrete, even bales of hay and a transparent lid that admits light, typically an old window works perfectly as a lid, but Plexiglas or plastic sheeting tacked to a frame also works just as well.

But why use a cold frame for plants you ask?
Well, it's a great way to start plants earlier in the season (before the last frost of spring) and also a great way to acclimate your seedlings begun indoors to outdoor conditions.
A cold frame can extend you growing season by up to a month! In some climates, you can even grow straight through the winter!

Setting up a cold frame
According to Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening the best site to locate a cold frame is a south-facing, sunny spot with good drainage and some protection from the wind. Western facing Ideally, the site should get full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. The glass lid should have at least a 10 percent angle for added sunlight exposure.

Cold frames can be permanent features in your garden where in the summer you can vent by opening the lid, of temporary structures you can put away when you're not using them. It will depend on the style you choose .

Before you set up a cold frame in a permanent spot, dig out the top 3 or 4 inches of soil inside the frame and replace it with a layer of coarse gravel; Then replace 6 inches of topsoil back ontop of the gravel - this is help with drainage! Mixing compost, processed manure, peat moss or other forms of organic humus with your existing soil to create a good fertile soil.

You can grow cold frame plants in pots, flats or right in the soil. Example: if you're growing just one type of plant, like salad greens, plant right in the soil.

Care Tips
Each cold frame will have specific requirements when it comes to the amount of care it needs.
Consider it you're own little experiment.

The watering requirements will vary from day to day and season to season. Generally, during the winter season the cold frame will only need to be watered once a week. Or you can let Mother Nature do the job by opening the top of your cold frame on a rainy day

If the soil is prepared properly, there should be little or no need for feeding (fertilizer) during the winter. The exception may be leaf crops, like lettuce, spinach and chard. A light feeding of an organic type 'Vegetable Garden' fertilizer two or three weeks after planting would be beneficial.

*Beware of slugs! The warmth will attract them and you will need to take appropriate actions to control them

Keys to using a cold frame successfully
You have to pay attention to the temperature!! The trick involved is keeping it COOL rather than warm.
Typically you want the temperature in your cold frame to stay BELOW 75 degree Fahrenheit if you're growing summer plants; and BELOW 60 degrees F for plants that normally grow in spring and fall.

A good rule of thumb is to prop the lid open 6inches when outdoor temperatures are above 40 degrees; when the outdoor temps clear 50 degrees F, remove the lid completely.

You can also purchased automatic venting systems from gardening catalogs. A crawlspace vent can something also work this way and can be purchased at any home improvement store.

On very, very frigid nights, a bit extra insulation may be required; Most heat escapes through the glass, so pile insulation on top. You can use old blankets, straw, newspaper or whatever is handy. And although snow insulates well too, you will want to brush heavy snow off the glass so it doesn't break!

Check out this video featuring many different designs of cold frames. Some are very easily assembled and good for small yards (if you live in a city). Others are large and good for big yards, but still easily put together and movable! At night you want to replace the lid to restore the warm environment for the night.

Information obtained from Organic Gardening and Ed Hume Seeds .

Sunday, April 12, 2009

This is a short video I found on tips on selecting green building materials like concrete, reusing wood floors and glass.

Fu Tung Cheng explains Concrete counter top sustainability and conservation of materials.

Materials: Glass from dump, wood from Treasure Island where navy tore out old building, gym floor from local junior high school to reuse in house.

Counter tops: good design is sustainable! Good designs last a lifetime- aren't changed or updated as often ---less material in landfill!

Counter top Materials: harvesting/quarrying local materials: aggregates, sands and combining = regionally made material: cement
Carbon footprint: low, very local - 100 miles radius

Granite: quarried in Italy; Hauled to China to be finished, Boat to our coast and trucked to local people install and process
Carbon footprint: Large -1000s of mile

Here are some other examples of concrete cement countertops: