Monday, September 9, 2013

Net Zero

Is it possible to completely remove our impact on the environment around us? Net Zero is the concept of having zero impact.

Even though the concept is simple there are differing definitions commonly used. Each with a different view of what it takes to reduce our impact. 

Energy consumed = energy produced
For each type of energy, consumed = produced
Carbon neutral: the carbon footprint = 0

For our purposes we will be using the concept of energy consumed = energy produced. To me this definition says that atleast in theory its possible to live off the grid even within an urban, on grid location. 

There are many different areas where this equation of balancing resources can be applied. 

Energy consumed = energy produced
Water consumed = water acquired onsite
Food consumed = food produced

When trying to balance out the net zero equation there are really only two variables, either produce more, or reduce the amount used. In general the later is your best option. There are many simple ways to reduce the resources we use. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to produce more. Lets use electricity as our example. It's simple to just turn off the lights, but more costly to add another photovoltaic panel. 

In my families case we are using a house that is attached to the grid, but also are producing energy. At times we are taking from the grid, other times we are contributing to the grid. We have a net metering agreement with the power company. If we can balance our equation then the power bill will be only $5, the fee for being attached to the grid. 

That's our goal, to be completely net zero. For now we constantly monitor the resources we use compared to what we produce. From this we find ways balance our Net Zero equation by first, using less, and second, producing more. 

Please comment with your ideas. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Do you know why the order of these three simple words is important?


Step one is to reduce waste at its source by taking steps to eliminate its production completely. It takes energy and resources to produce everything.  The best way to eliminate waste is to not produce it in the first place. This can be done by:

Understand the difference between needs an wants.  This simple understanding when followed can be the biggest key to reducing waste.

Avoid disposable goods, such as paper plates, cups, napkins, and razors. Throwaways contribute to the problem, and cost more because they must be replaced again and again.
Buy durable goods - ones that are well-built or that carry good warranties. They will last longer, save money in the long run and save landfill space.


There are some things that we just can't eliminate there need completely. In this case we can work to get multiple uses out of it. The same energy is used to produce the item, but the much more use is received.

Reuse products for the same purpose the were originally created for. 
Reuse products for a different purpose than their original creation. Be creative. The more creative you can be the better your chances of keeping resources out of the landfill. 


I consider this actually to be a last resort. Recycling does help keep resources from going to the landfill, but energy will again need to be used to turn it into a usable product. Each time a material is recycled the material becomes less and less of quality. Down cycle is term often used for this process of a material loosing quality through recycling.

Recycle everything you can. Check with collection centers and curbside pickup services to see what they accept, and begin collecting those materials. These can include metal cans, newspapers, paper products, glass, plastics and oil.
Buy products made from recycled material.

By following the three steps of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, not only are resources beong diverted from the landfill, but resources are used more efficiently. There are limited resources at our disposal, and the better they can be used the more sustainable our future is. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Sustainability Experiment

We are at an incredible moment in history. Society has learned many ways to tear the world apart. We have also learned how to take care of it. History has taught us much about how past cultures lived sustainably, and today's technology gives us an added edge to make it happen in the present. A sustainable world is within reach. That's why it's time for a little experiment.

We will see how sustainable of a home we can create starting from an existing home.  Throughout this process we will outline the good, and the bad of the process. The goal will be an understanding of how close we can get to a sustainable, Net Zero home.

We will gauge how well we are doing based on a series of criteria. Resources used compared to resources produced is the basic concept.  If there's something you think we should add let us know. We want this to be an open dialogue that can help us all live more sustainably.

As always, please comment.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Not So Big House

The Not So Big House book series by Sarah Susanka brings to light a new way of thinking about what makes a place feel like home - characteristics many people desire in their homes and their lives, but haven't known how to verbalize. How big is Not So Big? Not So Big doesn't necessarily mean small. It means not as big as you thought you needed, but designed and built to perfectly suit the way you live.

In the very first chapter Sarah says “What…I suggest is that when building a new home or remodeling an existing one, you evaluate what really makes you feel at home.  In other words, concentrate on, and put more of your money toward, what you like rather than settling for sheer size and volume.”  This sums up for me what is at the heart of this book and the lesson it tries to impart on current and future homeowners.
Throughout the book Sarah takes us on a journey from one beautifully designed home to another explaining all along the way that our idea of the “modern home” is essentially a den of wasted and unused spaces that were never meant for modern living or entertaining.  She offers us an alternative that is the Not So Big House ideal of homes designed with purpose, designed for THE homeowner not A homeowner.  Again, Sarah says it best: “The Not So Big House offers a way to bring the soul back into our homes, out communities, and our society’s fabric.  The house of the future will be Not So Big – and an expression of who we are and the way we really live. 

The sustainability experiment - September 2013 - The base line

We have decided to use September as our base line month. We have done this for a few reasons. September is a fairly neutral month. Reduced heating and cooling loads. Daytime is equal to nighttime. During the day we use a significant amount of daylight to light the house, but during the evening we need to use electricity from the grid. 

Here's the data:
Electricity produced: 170 kWh
Electricity purchased from grid: 220 kWh
Total electricity used: 390 kWh
Gas used
Water used: no data
Water collected: none
Food produced: none produced onsite. 50 quart jars canned. This came from neighbors trees who allowed us to use their surplus. 

If you have a metric you would like to see us track, please comment and I'll start tracking it. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Personal Finance

Step 1

$1,000 Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is for those unexpected events in life that you can’t plan for: the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, a faulty car transmission, and the list goes on and on. It’s not a matter of if these events will happen; it’s simply a matter of when they will happen. 

This beginning emergency fund will keep life’s little Murphies from turning into new debt while you work off the old debt. If a real emergency happens, you can handle it with your emergency fund. No more borrowing. It’s time to break the cycle of debt!

Baby Step 2

Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball

List your debts, excluding the house, in order. The smallest balance should be your number one priority. Don’t worry about interest rates unless two debts have similar payoffs. If that’s the case, then list the higher interest rate debt first. 

The point of the debt snowball is simply this: You need some quick wins in order to stay pumped up about getting out of debt! Paying off debt is not always about math. It’s about motivation. Personal finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior. When you start knocking off the easier debts, you will see results and you will stay motivated to dump your debt. 

Baby Step 3

3 to 6 months of expenses in savings

Once you complete the first two baby steps, you will have built serious momentum. But don’t start throwing all your “extra” money into investments quite yet. It’s time to build your full emergency fund. Ask yourself, “What would it take for me to live for three to six months if I lost my income?” Your answer to that question is how much you should save.

Use this money for emergencies only: incidents that would have a major impact on you and your family. Keep these savings in a money market account. Remember, this stash of money is not an investment; it is insurance you’re paying to yourself, a buffer between you and life.

Baby Step 4

Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement

When you reach this step, you’ll have no payments—except the house—and a fully funded emergency fund. Now it’s time to get serious about building wealth. 

Investe 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans. Don’t invest more than that because the extra money will help you complete the next two steps: college savings and paying off your home early. 

Why shouldn’t you invest less than 15%? Some people choose to invest a small amount, if anything, because they want to get a child through school or pay off the home in a hurry. But the kids’ degrees won’t feed you at retirement. 

Read more @

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Greenest Building - The One Already Built

This groundbreaking study published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation concludes that building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction. Moreover, it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process. However, care must be taken in the selection of construction materials in order to minimize environmental impacts; the benefits of reuse can be reduced or negated based on the type and quantity of materials selected for a reuse project.

This research provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental impact reductions associated with building reuse. Utilizing a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) methodology, the study compares the relative environmental impacts of building reuse and renovation versus new construction over the course of a 75-year life span. LCA is an internationally recognized approach to evaluating the potential environmental and human health impacts associated with products and services throughout their respective life cycles. This study examines indicators within four environmental impact categories, including climate change, human health, ecosystem quality, and resource depletion. It tests six different building typologies, including a single-family home, multifamily building, commercial office, urban village mixed-use building, elementary school, and warehouse conversion. The study evaluates these building types across four U.S. cities, each representing a different climate zone, i.e., Portland, Phoenix, Chicago, and Atlanta.

The Greenest Building.pdf

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Greenest building is the one already built - Historic Preservation

Preservation is knowing the history of your old house, your neighborhood, or the places nearby.

Do you know when your house was built? Or who established your neighborhood? One of the best ways to get involved in preservation is to delve into the history of your community.

Here are a few ideas to get you started exploring the history around you:

  • Visit your local library to research historic tax and property records for your house. You might uncover some hidden mysteries, like clues to who the first owners were, subsequent previous occupants, whether changes were made to the original structure, historic maps of the surrounding neighborhood, and even old photos.
  • Get in contact with your State Historic Preservation Office. They’ll be able to tell you about local preservation laws that protect the outside of your house, offer assistance in restoring or preserving your home, and provide more information about current preservation projects in your state.
  • Visit the National Register of Historic Places, maintained by the National Park Service, to find out about other historic houses, neighborhoods, destinations, and more in your area.
It can be easy to find a personal connection to preservation when you start just by looking around you.

Or, if you’re looking to make a change, buying a historic home is a great way to become a part of your city’s story.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff -

The Film

The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute film that takes viewers on a provocative and eye-opening tour of the real costs of our consumer driven culture—from resource extraction to iPod incineration.

Annie Leonard, an activist who has spent the past 10 years traveling the globe fighting environmental threats, narrates the Story of Stuff, delivering a rapid-fire, often humorous and always engaging story about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.”

Leonard examines the real costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, and she isolates the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. The Story of Stuff examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of “planned obsolescence” and “perceived obsolescence” —and how these notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today. Leonard’s inspiration for the film began as a personal musing over the question, “Where does all the stuff we buy come from, and where does it go when we throw it out?” She traveled the world in pursuit of the answer to this seemingly innocent question, and what she found along the way were some very guilty participants and their unfortunate victims.

Written by Leonard, the film was produced by Free Range Studios, the makers of other highly popular web-based films such as “The Meatrix” and “Grocery Store Wars.” Funding for the project came from The Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption and Tides Foundation.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Indoor Environmental Air Quality

Feeling good in our homes or offices isn’t just a matter of having a beautiful space. No matter how fabulous your furnishings, a poorly designed indoor environment can literally make you sick. Building green means considering not only the environmental impact of materials and construction, but also the physical and psychological health of the occupants.

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) addresses the subtle issues that influence how we feel in a space. It’s not some airy-fairy concept; these are scientifically proven facts. Companies that make the move to green buildings have employees with lower turnover rates, fewer sick days and higher productivity; schools demonstrate higher test scores, lower absenteeism and heightened academic enthusiasm among students. At home, of course, these factors are vital, since the way we feel at home affects every area of our lives.

Some can argue that it is not only desirable, but also a fundamental human right to live and work in spaces with healthy indoor environments. Buildings enhance people’s lives when they permit ample air circulation, maintain clean air and comfortable temperatures, and allow individuals to have a sense of control over their own indoor experience.

1) Design a sense of control over personal space.
People generally experience a greater sense of well being when they can make easy adjustments to their immediate space, such as through operable windows, skylights and sliding doors. Particularly in shared spaces, like family homes and offices, it’s important to feel that the indoor environment can meet your own needs. Climate controls designed into multiple rooms can also promote comfort and conserve energy by allowing temperature changes only where needed.

Studies show that employees are actually far more productive in an office space that permits awareness of outside conditions. Isn’t it nice to be able to look out on a tree or garden — or better yet to step out for a few minutes for mid-day stress reduction?

2) Help buildings breathe better.
Spaces that are closed up like hermetically sealed boxes can cause pollutants to accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems and contribute to Sick Building Syndrome. Instead, naturally ventilate spaces as much as possible without compromising reasonable humidity levels. Variations in temperature are also important — spaces kept at a constant temperature do not mimic our natural internal fluctuations, and can cause a sense of malaise.

The building envelope can provide cross ventilation through narrow floor plans and openings in floors and ceilings that allow vertical circulation. Solar chimneys and other types of stack ventilation draw heat up and move air even when there is no breeze outdoors.

When using mechanical ventilation, make sure that the “exchange rate” is high, meaning that the majority of air in a space is coming from the outdoors, thereby reducing the amount of pollutants inside. Fan-powered ventilation is recommended to remove air from single rooms, such as bathrooms and kitchens, where the pollutant levels from human activity, cleaning agents and mold are high. Air handling systems use fans and ductwork to constantly remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned air to strategic spaces throughout a building.

3) Reduce indoor air quality problems at the source.
Identify potential sources of indoor pollution that stem from design choices, existing conditions, and lifestyle activities. Moving into a new home, remodeling a space, and bringing in new furniture can expose inhabitants to abnormally high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are the toxic gases, such as formaldehyde, released from everyday materials that are responsible for contributing to cancer, asthma, fatigue, and other ailments. Formaldehyde is found in household products and fuel-burning appliances, “permanent-press” clothing and draperies, and many paints, coatings and glues. The most significant source is pressed wood products for cabinetry, furniture, and subflooring.

4) Eliminate poisons and beware of harmful pest control substances
Use non-chemical methods of pest control when possible. If the roach won’t take to being led outside with a nudge from a newspaper, then be sure to ventilate the space well after using a pesticide. Natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects and break down more quickly in the environment than synthetic chemicals do. Don’t forget that they are still poisons and harmful to humans. Try Poison-Free Ant & Roach Killer, which uses food-grade Mint Oil to kill bugs in seconds. It’s also a good habit to frequently wash indoor plants and pets, which attract bugs indoors.

To control pollution already existing in a house, test basements for radon, and other spaces throughout for excessive dampness and mold. Prevent mold growth, which also contributes to asthma, fatigue, and other ailments, by preventing the accumulation of water at drainage systems and at areas where mechanical ventilation condensates. Also inspect the house for leaky pipes, windows, skylights and other areas to eradicate problems from mold. The Environmental Protection Agency’s website contains strategies for improving the quality of indoor air in your home.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Using dōTERRA Essential Oils to Help Counteract Bad Air Quality

Using dōTERRA Essential Oils to Help Counteract Bad Air Quality

Brrr, it’s cold outside! And depending on where you live, the air quality you are being exposed to right now might not be so great. In fact, air quality seems to be a trending news topic worldwide. Cold weather often leads to a temperature inversion where cold air is trapped underneath warmer air, resulting in hazy skies and poor air quality from the suspended pollution.

Pollution can have a significant impact on human health, the economy, and the environment. Negative outcomes from exposure include respiratory and cardiovascular problems, reduced visibility, degraded water quality, contributions to global warming, poor air quality, and public health risks.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), pollutants released into the air can impact air quality, as well as terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems when the pollutants fall back to Earth. When particles and gases are released into the air they are exchanged with the Earth’s surface. Some chemicals that are in the air-surface exchange (including nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury compounds) can have a significant impact on the environment, and sometimes human health.

Air quality can be determined by the type of gaseous and particle pollutants found in the air we breathe, and more than half of the people in the U.S. live in areas that do not meet the health-bases air quality standards established by the United States. Poor air quality can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular problems along with tens of thousands of premature deaths each year! Read more about air qualityhere.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some of the major sources of pollution are caused by emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents.

Many people have starting to take an initiative to help eliminate pollution and bad air quality in their states. Mothers in Utah have even started a rally to call for a statewide movement towards clean energy.

Although you may not have a lot of control over pollution and air quality outside, you do have control over the air quality in your own home. The EPA lists poor indoor air quality as the fourth largest environmental threat to our country. The American Lung Association recommends that the first line of defense against indoor air pollution is finding ways to keep the pollutants from being added to the air in the first place. Read more about measures you can take to improve indoor air quality in your home.

Luckily, using and diffusing essential oils on a regular basis in the home can help eliminate indoor pollutants and pathogens. Start by diffusing our Purify Cleansing Blend, On Guard Protective Blend, or Breathe Respiratory Blend to help improve indoor air quality. Also, you’ll want to replace any chemical or toxic substances in your home, such as your cleaning cabinet and medicine cabinet.

If you or any loved ones suffers from asthma or other respiratory issues, read our previous blog post on Breathe Respiratory Blend to see how it can be a complementary support agent for your health. Breathe works great to open airways and soothe lungs irritated from breathing contaminated air. Begin by massaging Breathe onto the chest area with a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil. Remember, bad air quality is usually at its worst with extreme hot or cold weather, so limiting outdoor exposure during those times may be best for your health.

Here is a list of essential oils that can help get rid of bacteria, germs, fungi, and mold to help reduce indoor pollutants in your home:


Cypress, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon, Lime, Marjoram, Melaleuca, Peppermint, Roman Chamomile, Rosemary, Sage, sandalwood, Wild Orange, Wintergreen


Cinnamon, Clove, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon, Melaleuca, Oregano, Sandalwood, Thyme


Eucaluptus, Lavender, Lemon, Melaleuca, Patchouli, Sage, Sandalwood, Thyme


Bergamot, Clove, Eucaluptus, Lavender, Lemon, Lime, Melaleuca, Oregano, Patchouli, Roman Chamomile