House for 3 in 320 square feet

And we’re back in the States! Boy, it felt like a year since I left, but it’s only been a short while. The apartment wasn’t on fire, and this time, there were no earthquakes.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff to catch up to and post, but until I unwind a bit, take a gander at a video I found in my inbox. I.E. Back to my ultimate goal.

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Site of the Week: Permies

If sustainable living and environmental consciousness is in your thoughts these days, then you can’t miss the people who’ve been practicing what they’ve preached for ages.

Permies: goofballs that are nuts about permaculture

Permies is a site, a community and blog dedicated to permaculture. That is sustainability in its purest form without anything that will lead to collapse in lifestyle years, decades or even centuries ahead. The premise is to perserve the enviornment in a way that allows reasonable comfort in living without sacrificing the planet even in the short term.

Created by Paul Wheaton, also known as the “Permaculture guy”, Permies describes helpful methods of living off the land in a responsible way including bulding and maintaining a greenhouse, building with recyled materials and experiences of people who’re doing it all.

10ft x 10ft x 10ft Cube House

And I thought my college buddy’s room was tiny!

This cozy little cabin — part of the Cube Project — will definitely fall under the “tiny house” label, but it has all the basics.

Considering a lot of college kids already live in rooms just as small (except with no privacy), I think it’s definitely worth persuing as an alternative housing method rather than cramming 8 – 12 people into one communal house.

Note the induction cooker too. I’ve been a fan of induction cookers since the first time I saw them years ago and (precluding anyone with a pacemaker) it’s a much cheaper and effective alternative long term than other electric cooker types and even LPG.

Some of the older induction cookers had some issues, but newer models are energy efficient, extemely space saving, and above all else, safe. You’re only heating the cooking container, if it’s made of ferrous metal — which a lot of cooking utensils already are — so no energy is wasted heating the ambient air.

All the basics of living are included in a very neat little package at 10ft x 10ft x 10ft (or 3m x 3m x 3m for you metric folks).

And here’s how they built it.

Check out the interior/exterior breakdown animation that shows everything in perspective.

Certainly appropriate to mention this quote :

If we’re all destined to live in boxes, why not build better boxes?

Site of the Week: BioLite

Ever think to yourself, “if only I could power my USB device by burning wood”?

BioLite Campstove. Power your devices with fire!

If you need to charge your USB device, but don’t want to rely on nasty nuclear or ugly coal that’s powering your house (if you’re not already on solar), then BioLite has the stove to do it. By burning leaves, twigs or what have you, never run out of power.

At first, I thought this was a joke, but it turns out to be a totally serious product. For $129, you get a stove, according to the product page that is able to :

Charge your gadgets
By converting heat from the fire into usable electricity, our stoves will recharge your phones, lights and other gadgets while you cook dinner. Unlike solar, BioLite CampStove is a true on-demand source.

But the real appeal of this is that it needs :

No fuel to buy or carry
Our stoves cook your meals with nothing but the twigs you collect on your journey, eliminating the need for heavy, expensive, polluting petroleum gas. Quick to light, fast to boil and easy to use.

Of course, there are backpack USB chargers in the market these days, but they don’t work well when it’s cloudy and not at all at night. Presumably, these probably won’t work as well when it’s raining unless you’re in a shelter with plenty of ventilation for the smoke, but you can still charge outside when dry, day or night. I’m not sure how eco-friendly it really is since you’re still burning fuel, but I imagine it’s a lot less than the several tons of CO2 expelled by your local coal power plant.

Check out the product promo :

Farewell Planet Green

I used to watch this channel since before they started showing Living with Ed (which used to be on HGTV), one of my favorites. The appeal of Living with Ed was of course Ed Begley Jr. himself (but not Rachelle Carson who I found annoying) and his quirky personality, simple nature and of course, his pursuit of sustainable living and environmentally friendly alternatives to everyday things.

It was an old High School friend that turned me on to Planet Green which lead me to my goal of sustainable living, which in turn made me think of living in a cabin one day. I’ve made changes in my lifestyle that I initially thought was pointless and/or impractical, but over time, just by living through the changes I’ve realized I’ve been wrong.

I also enjoyed watching all the radical homes they used to show (including a truly marvelous tree house… and I do mean a “house” built onto trees acting as stilts) and very practical ideas like growing trees that shed their leaves in the winter on the South side of the structure. Why? Because when the leaves shed in the colder months, it allows more sunlight to hit the structure, heating it up naturally and reducing the demand on heating power. When the leaves grow back in the warmer months, it’s the opposite effect by providing natural shade and reducing the demand for AC.

Thanks to Planet Green, I learned about alternatives like Foam Core Structural Panels, the resurgence of Post and Lintel with composite beams, solar panels that look just like roofing tile or shingles. Planet Green showed me things like small, quiet, wind generators that don’t produce annoying noises or are harmful to birds, affordable solar panels and taught me the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline ones. For the record, the former is better in terms of output per sq/foot than the latter and is much lighter.

Planet Green showed me that you can actually have water features in your yard that can dramatically reduce the ambient heat in your home by pumping the air through coils under the water (similar to a geo-thermal setup). I learned about tankless water heaters and how they can dramatically reduce the amount of energy your house uses.

I’ve made a lot of the choices I have thanks to the network.

Every light in my apartment is CFL (carried over from my old place) since I moved in. The only reason I didn’t go with LEDs was because of the initial cost and I’ve spent a lot on renovations. The flooring here doesn’t use harsh chemicals or produce off-gas. Even the new paint was environmentally friendly and my AC is also Energy Star compliant. And all of these options were brought to my attention thanks to Planet Green because before then, I had no clue about being environmentally friendly, other than tossing the aluminum, paper and glass into the recyclable bin.

The building I live in collect recyclable stuff separately in the trash room and, believe it or not, that even more than the location was one of the big reasons for choosing the apartment.

Planet Green used to be the go-to place for anything environment related and sustainable living and I’ve learned a lot.

Well, no more

It started going downhill pretty fast when shows like Living with Ed stopped airing (at least as far as I can see) and  shows like the G Word was on at 3 and 4 in the morning.

Within a year or so, daytime Planet Green became all but unwatchable.

I can’t really blame this on Discovery execs, though I’m sure a lot of them made mistakes. But let’s be honest, every network survives on ratings. If ratings for lifestyles in green living don’t draw the crowds, I guess freak shows will do as a desperate measure.

Now we’re faced with “Paranormal” Fridays? We went from sustainable and green living to Big Foot and UFOs. A pretty hard fall from grace.

If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that the Internet doesn’t survive so much on ratings as it does on visits. It doesn’t matter if you tune in to chime in or to admire or mock, it’s a lot easier to get attention and as long as someone is paying attention, content will continue to grow.

What the network left behind will be sorely missed, though. At least by me.

The flu is still on and my Benadryl is starting to wear off… Time for another dose and it’s off to bed.