Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Solar Panels

Dan wrote a blog for Low Impact Living about our solar panel installation and it has some great information if you are considering solar panels.
To add to the blog, Our system cost $15,000. It would have cost $25,000 if we would have had it professionally installed. We got $8,000 in rebates from Pasadena Water and Power and we hope to get $2000 credit from the federal government this year. So overall, it should be about $5,000 out of our pocket.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Making Biodiesel

Dan has been making biodiesel for a few years now (this is the first fill-up). He taught himself how to make it and built his own processor. Biodiesel powers both of our cars, a 3/4 ton Dodge Ram truck and a 1982 Mercedes Station Wagon.

Dan did some videos where he answers some common questions about biodiesel and then explains how he makes it.

How To videos

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Living with Ed makeover

The bedroom makeover we did for the Living with Ed show can be found on Planet Green. They do a lot of reruns of the Living with Ed show.

I am very excited because I thought the bedroom came out great and it highlighted some great materials and local businesses. Unfortunately, most of the local businesses we tried so hard to promote did not get mentioned in the show. So here is all the info:

Reclaimed Wood Furniture:
The best part of the room for me was the furniture made of reclaimed wood. They were custom made by a company in Van Nuys called Urban Woods. They use wood from old buildings in LA that are being torn down. Not only is it a great way to recycle the wood but the wood is extra strong because it was harvested so long ago from old growth forests.
Check out their collections on Urban Woods also uses water based stain and organic fabric in their designs. Our headboard fabric came from this beautiful bolt of fabric I found at a garage sale for $4 (score!).
In our furniture we used Kirei for the faces of the drawers and the bed. It is a plywood that is made from the stalks of the sorghum stalks. The stalks would otherwise be thrown away so it is a great way to recycle and it is a neat looking wood.

Bamboo floors:
We did not know that the floors we picked were such a great product. We just thought they looked good. Later we learned they are bamboo strand which means the bamboo is woven, making it very strong (the company claims it is as strong as oak). It definately is stronger than the $1.99/per square foot bamboo we put in my daughter's room. It is also harvested from bamboo that is at least 5 years old when it is harvested, helping to make it stronger. So far we are very happy with it. The company the show got it from does not sell directly to the public but I have seen bamboo flooring that looks like it is the same at Lu
mber Liquidators.

Organic Cotton Sheets:
I was so happy to find a local store in South Pasadena that sells a wide variety of organic cotton sheets. Although b
amboo and organic cotton are available at a lot of stores and online I wanted to find a local store and I wanted to see the bedding. Organic Rush in South Pasadena (on Mission just West of the Metro tracks, near the Farmer's market) has a bed set up with a variety of sheets and pillowcases to see and touch. They also have a lot of home accessories, kitchen and baby stuff and beauty products. You can see their products online at

Tiled Mirror: I was very excited at how well my first tiling job went and that the entire mirror only cost me a few dollars. Dan helped me make the wooden base with wood we had leftover in the garage (a large piece of MDF would also work). Then we cut a piece of mirror we had leftover from a mirrored closet door and used liquid nails to glue it on the flat wooden base. The glass tile is from a box of samples that Shayna, the helpful interior designer, had around her house. Our friend Mark taught me how to tile and then I just spent hours sticking all the tiles on. The project was not hard at all, it just took a little time. A great place to get leftover tiles is the Habitat for Humanity Building Surplus Stores (there is one currently located on Fair Oaks Ave in Pasadena and the info is online).
The square wooden frames shown at the left are made from recycled Redwood and I got them at Organic Rush (see info above). I got the silver frames shown below from the Habitat for Humanity Builder's Surplus store and just stuck some of the extra tile on using tile adhesive.

Palm Leaves and Kaisa Grass Baskets: These baskets are from Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade store in Pasadena (on South Lake across from Borders). It has beautiful handmade home accessories along with great unique gifts. I will write another post to highlight how Fair Trade products are environmentally friendly.

Porcelain Flower Candle Holders: I purchased those from Organic Rush.

Burlwood Tray and Soy Candles: These were purchased from Regeneration in Eagle Rock ( It is a great store which has recycled/eco-friendly/fair trade home goods, clothing, and lots of unique items. It is located next to Fatty's on Colorado Blvd. Go check it out.

Closet and Paint:

Dan and Mark used FSC certified plywood and formaldehyde free MDF to build the closet. The doors were made by Urban Woods. The paint is No VOC paint from Dunne Edwards.

Jute Rug: Purchased from Cost Plus.

Lights: We used low-voltage lights in the hallway, but deadlines for the show prevented us from finding eco-friendly sconces. The only redeeming value for the ones we got was that they are made of recycleable glass and metal and can hide a compact fluorescent.

It was a great experience to makeover the room and to get a chance to get to know all these great local eco-friendly retailers. Thanks to Shayna for all her help and all the Low Impact Living staff who recommended us and especially to the Living With Ed crew.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summertime Projects

It has been a long time since we updated the blog. We have been recovering from the eco-home tour and the first year of preschool. So after a few weekend vacations and some time to sit and read a book I am inspired to update on our environmental endeavors. First I would like to say how much we enjoyed talking with everyone who came to the eco-home tour. It was great to meet people who are inspired to make changes in their homes. Since the house was all cleaned up (which is a great feat when you have a 2 and 4 year old) we got a few pictures of our place to share.

Summer so far has been really fun. Some of our goals for the summer
  • drive less
  • make enough biodiesel to take us to Seattle and back
  • make some progress on the electric jeep
  • watch some good documentaries and read some good books
  • research SRI (socially responsible investments)

There are a few reasons we are trying to drive less, even though we run all our cars on biodiesel. Biodiesel is messy and a lot of work so if we can drive less it means less work for Dan. We are also trying to save fuel for a three week road trip in August to visit family in CA, Or, and WA. Also, walking and biking are healthy and a great way to know our neighborhood better. On that front we are all doing well as a family, Dan has biked to work in Alhambra (7 miles) at least two days a week for the past three weeks and enjoying it. He has found some back roads which makes his rides more enjoyable.

I have been walking with friends and all six of our kids (combined) to swim lessons (1.1 miles) a few times a week. The kids will start off on scooters or skitters and eventually end up in the stroller but they make a good effort. The pool, library, water park, ice cream shop, and lots of great friends are all within walking distance (1 mile) so we should have a good summer even if we don't drive as much. I don't mind walking in the heat too if I end up at a pool or ice cream. Ask me in August though to see how die hard I really am?

As for the other goals, so far Dan is doing really well with stocking up on fuel, and slowly all his parts are coming in for the jeep.

We have caught some good documentaries, Last week we saw The Corporation again ( a good overview on the positive and negative effect large corporations can have on people, the environment etc) , and we also saw King Corn. It follows 2 guys who raise an acre of corn in Iowa and try to follow through to where it will end up in our food. It explains how corn is so prevalent in our food and how government subsidies work (in a way that even I could understand). It is pretty interesting.

I am working on the SRI but am feeling a little less inspired to wrack my brain on that one right now. Maybe I will wait until winter on that one.