Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!
I enjoyed meeting new green people this year and having occasional email contact with you. Have you been able to implement any green practices this Christmas Season?
My husband and I wanted to participate in the "Buy Nothing" Christmas program. But that is really hard. So far I have been able to winnow down and help the environment by purchasing locally made gifts.
I went to my UMW's annual craft bazaar and purchased locally made crafts and/or other goods. This included: soap, candles, jewelry, tablecloths, pot-holders and canned items.
My husband purchased some playing cards for his family made by an artist who attends our church, Gary Lundstrum who owns Great Lakes Design. I also went to a couple art events. Our friend, Wendy Grethen organized a "Get it Local" event which was well attended even though it was a stormy day.
If it is too late now for you to do something similar, perhaps you will remember for next year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tour of an environmental home in Nickerson, Minnesota

Hello everyone,

Prof. Cricket and I asked our friend to write a story about a environmentally conscious family and their home in Nickerson, Minn. We hope you enjoy this article about sustainability.

Caption: CERT participant, Chris Reed, by his greenhouse in Nickerson, Minn. (Photo by Wendy Grethen)

By Wendy Grethen

The Clean Energy Resource Team project
is your opportunity to play a role in shaping energy conservation and renewable energy implementation for your region of Minnesota . A growing number of Minnesotans envision an energy future built on using energy wisely and generating energy from local renewable resources like wind, solar, biomass, and even hydrogen from renewable sources. By relying more on community-scale renewable energy resources and energy conservation, communities can help prevent pollution and create local economic development opportunities.

The CERTs (Clean Energy Resource Team) held an Open House tour of the Reed Family home in Nickerson , MN on October 18. About 20 people attended and were shown several aspects of the home and operation that lead to a more environmental friendly practice. The family has been living on the site since the early 1980’s and it has been powered using renewable energy since 1981. The off grid home uses solar and wind (120 foot tower) power and is completely off grid. The Reeds have used a solar wind combo for their energy supply with about 50% of the electricity is generated by the wind turbine, 45% from the PV array and the remainder of the electric needs comes from a propane powered generator. Electric use for the home is about 270 kWha per month.

Their 3400 square foot log home has a heated in floor hydronic heating system using wood and propane boilers and a wood fireplace. Extra effort has been put in to extensive use compact fluorescent light and having good air sealing and re-insulating their roof. On the lower level, the Reeds have (and are still working on it)3 separate cellars to store produce. Each cellar area has a separate temperature and humidity range. A large barrel of water is in one of the cellar rooms to help in regulating the temperature and prevent freezing. A great deal of insulation is in the walls of the cellars to also assist in providing a uniform temperature to store the food.

The tracking solar array is “planted” in their garden area where they grow most of their own veggies. They also have a large hoop house greenhouse which is movable. They created a wooden rail system that allows the hoop house to slide and he shifts the location of the greenhouse depending on the season. Fresh veggies for over half the year? Yes - tomatoes, beets, bok choy, and more can be harvested. Chris has harvested lettuce until the end of November and starting in April using the greenhouse. Chris recommends the book by Elliot Coleman called “Four Season Harvest” as a must read for anyone considering expanding their produce production. He says most of what they do is an experiment. Some “trials” are more successful than others. The Reeds love to share what they are learning with whoever may be interested. Future plans include a solar hot water heating system integrated with the wood and natural gas boilers. Chris is on the CERTS steering committee.

If you live in Minnesota and want to get involved click here.

Friday, July 20, 2007" target="_blank">Carbon Conscious Consumer

Please join me by clicking here

Monday, July 16, 2007

What about the Mercury in fluorescent lamps?

Earlier this year I broke a fluorescent light bulb while packing up my display from my talk to the Ogilvie United Methodist Women. Sharon help me put the broken glass in an empty Pringles can. That can is is sitting under my kitchen sink. Yesterday my husband was helping clean because we were having company. He opened the can and saw the broke glass.
I feel guilty because I still haven't taken this to the hazardous waste disposal site in my town which is WLSSD in Duluth.

Click here for PDF on CFLs and disposal in Duluth area

The Western Lake Superior Sanitary
District (WLSSD) provides free recycling
for residential fluorescent bulbs at its
Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 27th
Avenue West and Courtland Street, Duluth,
MN. You may drop off household bulbs and
tubes during open hours. Businesses should
ask about WLSSD’s Clean Shop Program.

Do any of you have this problem? Have you broken a cfl bulb? What did you do with the broken glass...and Mercury?

Do you know where in your town to dispose of it...and do you tell yourself it is not worth the trip?

Please email me and tell me if you think the cfls are worth it.

This article is from the website

Compact Fluorescent Lamps: Health Hazard or Environmental Benefit?
From Larry West,Your Guide to Environmental Issues.Stay up to date!
Recycling CFL mercury a small price to pay for energy, cost and health savings
One of the brightest strategies for everyday household energy savings is using compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in place of standard incandescent bulbs.
Unit for unit, compact fluorescent lamps cost more than the incandescent bulbs they replace, but they’re actually much more cost-effective. Because CFLs last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use only one quarter to one third as much energy, every CFL you use will save you about $30 over the life of the Click here to read the rest of article on

Thursday, February 22, 2007

There are many steps you can take around your home. You will save money on your energy bill also. Among several items seen here is a brush to clean behind your refrigerator and insulation to put around the pipes coming out of your hot water heater.
Here Naomi visits with the United Methodist Women at Asbury United Methodist Church in West Duluth, Minn. Jan (left) holds up environmentally friendly laundry soap. Naomi is holding conpostable dishes, Barb is holding Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck and a CFL bulb.

If you would like Naomi to speak to your group about steps you can take to be a steward of God's earth please contact her at naomi AT sundogpress DOT com

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Minnesota State University News Feature

Karen Branden and Dennis Jacobson by thier thermal mass swimming pool.
Capturing heat in a recreational thermal mass…A SWIMMING POOL HEATS THEIR HOUSEWhen the oil crisis hit in the early 1970s, Dennis Jacobs had a choice. Either sink into an addiction to high-energy costs, or swim against the stream in search of alternatives.
He chose swim, and now he and his wife Karen Branden are enjoying incredibly low heating costs for their 4,000-square-foot home north of Detroit Lakes with the added luxury of swimming all winter in their 16-by-32-foot heated indoor pool.
That’s because the swimming pool heats their house.
It’s called pooling your resources and resourcing your pool.
“When I first installed this heat exchange/thermal mass system 13 years ago, our heating bill for the entire year, supplemented by off-peak electricity, was $180,” he said. “Energy prices have gone up since then, so our annual heating bill now is about $350.”
It’s an ingenious contraption, using a wood stove, a small pump, a series of insulated pipes, passive solar energy and a heat exchanger to raise the temperature in their 22,000-gallon indoor pool, which doubles as a thermal mass. The energy the pool absorbs is released throughout the day to heat the house—by convection, radiation and an occasional boost from a small electric furnace.
Humidity problem? “Not at all,” Jacobs said. “We cover the pool when it’s not in use. In fact, any extra humidity we do have adds to our comfort and health during the dry winter season.”
As the Swedish moderator told Jacobs last month after his presentation on “The Use of a Swimming Pool as a Thermal Mass in Residential Heating” at the International Conference on Fluid and Thermal Energy Conversion in Jakarta, Indonesia: “You just can’t beat the American lifestyle, can you?”
Total cost for the project, including the pool installation: about $13,000, an amount he figures they recouped within the first couple of years.
For Jacobs, a specialist in energy conservation and renewable resources who teaches at Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Corrick Center for General Education, and Branden, a professor in the university’s Sociology department, it’s been one huge experiment.
It was 35 years ago when Jacobs joined the back-to-the-earth movement in the wake of the Arab oil embargo, buying 80 acres of land where his current house sits. The former Peace Corps volunteer then built a geodesic dome there from recycled materials and attached a greenhouse to grow winter herbs and vegetables.
Jacobs, kind of a hybrid Henry David Thoreau/Rube Goldberg philosopher-tinkerer, lived an ascetic lifestyle in the dome until it burned to the ground 15 years ago while he was out of the country. (A friend was using it at the time.)
Then he met Branden, and they began planning to build a modern, super-insulated home on the same site.
“The idea of using a swimming pool as a thermal mass started when I was living in the geodesic dome,” Jacobs said. “In the fall I began planting vegetables in the greenhouse, but soon found that on a sunny day it would reach temperatures above 100 degrees and at night it would drop below freezing.”
So he began looking for a way to moderate the temperatures and decided to try putting a 55-gallon water-filled drum in the greenhouse, which he figured would absorb excess heat during the day and releases it at night.
“I soon noticed the more drums
of water I added, the cooler it stayed during the day and the warmer it stayed throughout the night.”
Bingo! “It was a lesson well learned and I decided to incorporate a very large thermal mass into the design of our new house,” he said.
It took Jacobs and Branden two years to build the home themselves, and 13 years ago they began their grand energy experiment.
The design is simple enough. It starts with a wood burning stove located in a small shed about 50 feet behind their house (for insurance reasons). “We use wood scraps from a local lumber mill, so it doesn’t cost anything to fire up,” he said.
The wood stove heats the water/glycol liquid that’s forced through underground copper pipes by a small 1/12th horsepower pump to a liquid-to-liquid heat exchanger inside the house.
“Before this heated water/glycol mix approaches the heat exchanger, we switch to neopryene valves and stainless steel pipes because in the next step the heated water pipes come in contact with the pool water,” he said. “Chlorination, we’ve found, is very corrosive on copper.”
The heat exchanger, a device used to transfer heat from one fluid to another, is the heart of the operation. It works like a car radiator, where water or antifreeze transfers heat to air flowing through the radiator.
Simply put, the hot water pipe runs through the center of the pvc pipe carrying the pool water. That’s where the exchange is made.
“We pump water from the pool into the heat exchanger through two-inch pvc pipes,” Jacobs said. “At this point, we run the heated water/glycol mix through ¾-inch stainless steel pipes we’ve installed inside the pvc pipes that carry the pool water. What happens is that the heated liquid in the stainless steel pipes gives up its heat to the pool water flowing around it. I’ve also added ribbons of stainless steel inside the pipes that carry the heated water/glycol mix, which agitates the liquid to increase the heat exchange.”
By just burning wood on the weekends, Jacobs said, and taking advantage of solar heat coming from our south-facing windows, they can heat the house and keep the pool at a comfortable 70 to 80 degrees throughout the week.
It’s still a work in progress.
“We have a super-insulted house where the walls are rated about a 45 R-value and the ceiling about a 60 R-value,” he said. “But the windows are a problem, even though they’re all low-E, argon-filled and double-paned, they only rate a 3 R-value. So I’m thinking of installing some kind of moveable, insulated shutter system we can use to cut down on heat loss when the sun goes down.”
He’s also intends to tinker more with the heat exchanger and the piping system to make them more efficient. Down the line there’s even a wind turbine and an electric car in the mix.
“In the meantime, we just enjoy the house and love being in the country,” Branden said.And not surprisingly, the pool has become a very popular winter escape.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hello Everyone,

I attended a Chlorine Free Products Association Summit and learned about what some businesses, states and universities are doing to protect our environment.

At this summit we learned or ways to network to gain more power with your purchasing choices. I hope to be adding to this blog soon.