Governments and societies have to take the initiative to protect our soil, air and water.
We, as individuals and communities, can start in tandem to make the greatest longterm impact at
the local, grassroots level by changing our (over)consumption habits, including energy.
Over the years we have been able to conserve more and more in many minor ways at our house
and in our daily lives:
- Fluorescent lights ( CFLs, now LEDs ) and appliances on power
strips and turned off when not in use,
- Using less water
for showers and washing, and capturing gray water in a rainbarrel for earthquake
- Drip irrigation, combined with low water-use landscaping, trees and
shrubs, wood chips and no grass lawns ( the "forest floor" look ),
appliances, such as ultra low-flow ( ULF ) toilets, refrigerator, washer/drier,
- Lowered, set-back
thermostats and insulation,
- Low-flow faucets and showerheads, etc.
Now, with greater agreement and a broader consensus on the imminence of climate change
and global warming
we have an incentive to conserve even more efficiently at home: through solar electricity and
rainwater harvesting and filtration.
Even at the dojo we've converted from purchased bottled water to city tap water after
becoming more aware of some
serious drawbacks to water privatization not only in the U.S. but worldwide, especially in the
poorer, developing countries.
This site documents our major, most aggressive activities. Each section title is a link to an
overview of what has been accomplished to date. The accompanying pictures, data sheets, links and
analyses illustrate some aspects of the respective projects. The Contents column on the
right lists links and
pages with more detailed information or images. This documentation is essentially duplicated in a
binder of the same data for browsing at our Mountain View dojo.
As you browse this site or the binder we hope that you'll find some interesting ideas and
possibilities suitable for yourselves. Not everyone can do all of the same things, but everyone
can do something! If you or your family want to explore any or all of these
conservation areas or topics, we'd be delighted to share the results of our experiments. We
also welcome your feedback, and share your experiences.
By now everyone knows that the sun daily delivers clean energy free of pollutants, and solar
panels in a range of sizes and configurations have been installed throughout the world in sunny
regions to generate electricity for cities, towns and households. The technology has become
cost-effective and improved enough to have solar arrays ( an array is a group of solar panels )
of photovoltaic ( PV ) cells on roofs generate enough electricity to power a home. In our case,
an array of twenty-one ( 21 ) panels,
roughly 600 feet square, produces nearly our entire annual consumption of 10,000 kilowatt hours
( Kwh ),
virtually turning us into a ( very ) small electrical utility and power company. Ultimately we expect to
rely on public utility power for no more than 1,000 Kwh/year ( 1 Mwh/year ).
As of Spring 2012 the house is all-electric. The house, and 1 1/2 vehicles,
are free of non-renewable fossil fuels, and operate entirely on solar power, except for the 10 gallons of
gasoline per month to run the hybrid Honda Insight.
Home & Auto Electrical Use & Cost Tables provide more data:
Energy generated beyond our needs is fed into the public electrical grid,
triggering a corresponding reduction of our utility bills.
The table provides a snapshot of the savings of tons of fossil fuel that would otherwise spew into the
atmosphere, and also on our water and other heating bills.
- Public Utility Service & Fossil Fuel Use
- Representative Household Electrical Consumption & Cost
- Automobile MPG Fuel Cost Comparisons
- Nissan Leaf EV Operating Costs
We've saved much water over the years with low-flow restrictors and aerators on all faucets,
showers and baths, and
by installing ultra-low flow ( ULF ) toilets. A new HET ( High-Efficiency Toilet ) toilet now uses
merely 1.3 gallons per
flush, compared with 1.9 gallons per flush for a ULF or 3 or more for a standard toilet. Turning
water off when not in use is
another way to use less water. Replacing grass with wood chips, and planting trees and shrubs,
changes the landscape to a forest or woodsy look and feel. Replacing sprinklers with drip
irrigation conserved even more water.
|Solar Power Generated
|4 Megawatt Hours ( Mwh )
||100 houses for one day; or,1 house for 100 days/3 months+
||3 tons, equivalent to 90 trees
Still, irrigation on average represents up to 40% of a typical home's water use. Harvesting
rainwater ( RWH ), collected on the roof, captures water from the sky and returns it to the soil,
replicating the natural water cycle ( Supposedly every drop of water on earth has existed since the
earth was formed, and no new water was ever added: ocean water evaporates to the sky, rains on
earth and returns to the sea through the ground! ).
Our 3,500 square-foot roof captures approximately 30,000 gallons of water per year. Six
drainspouts pour the water into four ( 4 ) underground cisterns with a total capacity of 7,000 gallons.
The harvested rainwater irrigates the yard. Further water treatment filtration in the house purifies
the water to potable quality levels for clothes and dish washing,
showers and toilet flushing inside the house, and to date has covered 100% of our annual water use.
Testing Potable Water Quality: Before using domestic water in the house, it should
be tested periodically for contaminants, to ensure family safety and health.
Water testing and test laboratories are discussed in detail
in the sections on Potable Water and
The Carbon Cycle & Our Carbon Footprint
Landscaping: Technology contributes less to reducing our carbon footprint than
planting trees and shrubs, replacing grass lawns, composting and recycling.
A wood chip "forest floor" not only looks attractive, but regenerates the soil and
absorbs rain runoff. Honeybees forage in a 2-to-5 mile radius for nectar and pollen from
drought-resistant, flowering plants and shrubs native to California, and pollinate
fruit trees and vegetable gardens.
Removing concrete "tarmac" and creating permeable spaces between stepping stones and
driveway slabs also helps reduce runoff into storm drains. Simply removing the wood separators
between the concrete slabs in driveways and terraces allows the rain to seep back into the soil,
instead of contributing to city waste water and stressing storm drains. Trees and shrubs provide
oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, and the vegetation supplies a canopy for shade and cooling
during the summer.
Combatting Honeybee Colony Collapse:
Healthy bee populations are critical for
cross-pollinating 30% of our food supply. Ninety percent (90%) of the world's food supply
100 crop species, and 71 of those species--Many of our vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains
and cattle feed --depend on bees for pollination. Mysteriously, since around 2005 up to 30% of
honeybee colonies worldwide have been
dying or disappearing
for only partly known reasons. Suspects include systemic
pesticides, such as neonicotenoids; monoculture, besides the
traditional threats of mites and viruses, etc.
Hosting beehives is a small way to contribute to countering or even reversing Colony Collapse
Disorder ( CCD ), but bees take a lot of work to support. Some enterprising small beekeepers
nationwide, including the SF Bay Area, are now providing not only guest, say 1 to 6, beehives and
their colonies, but also
regular honey harvesting, "housekeeping" support and maintenance, in exchange for an
annual fee, 80-90% of the bees' production, or other, individual, arrangement.
Contact us if you want more information,
or to explore hosting one or more bee colonies.
Roofing & Insulation
An off-white PVC "membrane" replaced the original tar-and-gravel roof. The pale color
reflects the sunlight, thereby helping to cool the interiors. R-22 fiberglass insulation
between the roof and the
cover further reduces heat exchange: cooling during the summer, retaining heat inside the home
during the winter. The PVC roof also complements rainwater harvesting by improving the flow of rainwater
over the roof to the drainspouts. Although we haven't installed them, "Green" roofs, i.e.
plants and planter boxes on the roof, are another way to conserve energy.
The Carbon Cycle