Dan's Environmental Resume
Despite being a hard core freedom loving conservative, I have put more work, money and thought into green technologies than most of myfriends.
Here is a list.
- When moving from our furnished apartment in Vallejo California to our unfurnished rental house in San Jose California I harvested furniture that had been dumped outside of town rather than buying new furniture. In fact, we were married 25 years before we bought our first couch, before then it was all dump furniture and hand-me-downs.
- When living in San Jose I rode a motorcycle to work virtually every day, rain or shine, freezing or baking. In the early days I rode a Suzuki T305 two stroke, but two years later after going to work for GenRad I bought a Suzuki Tempter GR650. Both of these bikes got about 50MPG, I ended up with 32,000 miles on the T305 and 50,000 miles on the Tempter. If I had driven my Olds 442 to work instead I would have burned 5,400 gallons of gasoline commuting, instead I estimate that I burned only 1,300 gallons of gas, a 4,100 gallon savings. This was not without a cost though, riding a motorcycle in all weather conditions is extremely dangerous, and just by sheer luck did I survive unscathed. Very few people can claim to have ridden over 80K miles without a major accident or injury.
- I would occasionally scavenge discarded junk from illegal dumps along the roadside and repair items for our use. Most of the kids first bikes and trikes came from discarded toys that I had found and restored, in some cases taking parts from two or three trikes to make one good one.
- For years I used a discarded push mower rather than a gas mower to mow the lawn. It was tough work, not just to use it, but to maintain it!
- Also in San Jose we went to extreme measures to save water. I put in rain gutters on our house and fed the downspouts into buckets. We would use the water to wash clothes, pouring the rain water into the washing machine for the wash cycle and letting the city water go for the rinse cycle. I also took a clue from my neighbor and plumbed the washer output hose to a garden hose that I used to water the lawn and other vegitaria around the house. Of course this was later after we had a washing machine. Early on April would wash all of our clothes by hand, including the kids cotton diapers. For years we used a clothesline in the backyard instead of the dryer, which only worked intermittently anyway.
- I researched, designed and installed my own solar hot water system for heating our backyard swimming pool. It consisted of up to 2000 feet of half inch black polyethylene tubing mounted on the roof of the house with separate pump to recirculate pool water onto the roof. This extended the swimming season by 3 months without using more than about 6 amps of 120V power. I insulated the 12 foot diameter Doughboy pool by placing one inch thick two foot by four foot styrofoam insulation panels between the liner of the pool and the steel wall, increasing the efficiency of my solar heating system.
- I added many energy saving features to our home in San Jose including pulling down sheet-rock in many rooms and adding R11 fiberglass insulation, adding a thermostatically controlled attic fan and extra insulation in the attic. We never installed air conditioning and used a fireplace for extra heat in the winter most often burning waste wood from our summertime tree trimming.
- Also in San Jose I built a compost heap to keep our yard clippings and leaves out of the landfill. I turned this into a science and ended up with an endless supply of high quality soil for use in the gardens and lawn.
- We never added air conditioning in our two story Aloha Oregon house, instead we worked out a system of window fans where we sucked in cool nighttime air overnight and then closed up the house in the daytime. This worked wonderfully, as long as we could convince the kids to keep the doors closed.
- I traded my brother a car for a dead sailboat that he left rotting on my folk's property. I totally refurbished it and sold it for a profit, turning a worthless hulk into a valuable chunk of wealth and keeping one more piece of fiberglass out of the landfill.
- Since 1999 when we bought The Keep I have walked the beach of Caterpillar Island and picked up glass, steel and melted aluminum (from beer cans burned in fire-pits). I have disassembled and removed homeless camps, furniture and barbecue grills and other debris left by campers. I have removed other flotsam and jetsam that has floated up on the beach and taken it all to the dump at my own expense. I walk the beach almost daily and often come back with a pocket full of glass shards from broken beer, wine and whiskey bottles. In 1999 the island beach was strewn with glass shards, now they appear only occasionally.
- When we bought our houseboat, Great Ambition we had the manufacturer install an extra wire run for solar panels on the front awning. I added four 123W solar panels and a charge controller as well as extra batteries to store the charge current from the panels. This allows us to run on solar power almost exclusively four months of the year, and this supplements our power needs the rest of the year. We still don't have air conditioning, never have, never will.
- I wrote and published an article on the benefits of living on solar power for Houseboat Magazine (The Joys of Free Power, Houseboat Magazine, March 2010). While solar isn't for everyone, I make the case that it's a very good alternative to wind (who wants to anchor in a windy spot on the water) and gas or diesel generators.
- Since I have retired I do not commute, saving gasoline, and I have a 70MPG gas powered scooter that I use to go into town for shopping and retrieving the mail. This saves a lot of gas, but just like motorcycle riding, can be very risky.
- For years we have used a power washer fed by river water from a submersible pump to wash our boats. This saves the marina's purified well water and still does a fine job washing, even without filtering the river water.
- I designed and built a water purifier that takes river water and creates ultra pure drinking water using only solar power to drive the pump. The system is based on a Reverse Osmosis unit with 5 prefilters to protect the RO membrane. With this system we never have to get water from anyone else and can go for long periods of time without having to go into a port.
Now that we live on the water we have (to use a well worn phrase) zero footprint on land, other than our cars, scooter and small storage unit, instead living in an environment that is unsuitable for all but the hardiest souls. Because of this:
- We use far less electrical power than the average home. Our power drop consists of two 30A 120V lines (7KW max). The typical home has a 200A 240V supply (48KW max) which means we use up to 7 times less electricity than the typical house. Our electricity usage is miserly in the extreme, especially away from the slip. Living on solar power isn't easy. You have to make sure you don't wantonly waste power to watch TV just to pass the time, or use the computer just to avoid your spouse. During the day you have to be cognizant of the need to save power for the evening. If you drain your batteries during the day you'll have to run the generator at night to watch your favorite TV show or movie.
- We cook, dry clothes and heat our water and our home with propane, which is very clean and nearly 100% efficient. If we used electricity for these things we would lose between 50% and 75% efficiency since generating plants, including our generator are only between 25% and 50% efficient. When you need heat to cook, dry clothes, heat water or get warm, nothing is more efficient than a flame, and that's what propane does for us.
- We only turn on the propane hot water heater when we need hot water. Rather than leaving the hot water on all the time we conserve energy by only heating 6 gallons of water at a time and we take "submarine showers", turning off the shower when soaping up, using the water only to rinse.
- We use far less fresh water than the average home. Our toilet uses only one cup (8 ounces) of water per flush both reducing the amount of water we use and the amount of sewage we generate. When we are away from our slip we treat water as a precious resource, consuming only about 20 gallons of water per person per week.
- We generate only 15 gallons of sewage per week, that's one gallon per person per day! We devised a system to pump our black water tank into the marina's sewage system which never goes into the river, and yet we don't overload it with laundry waste water, which goes directly into the river. This waste water is cleaner than the river water, and we use a phosphate free detergent which actually helps the river water quality by dissolving oil films that appear on the river from boat and ship bilges that might otherwise harm fish and wildlife.
- None of our boats have a bilge, so we don't accumulate engine oil into the bottom of the boat and discharge it into the river. Our outboard engines use the latest and greatest technology, all but the dinghy motor are ultra clean four strokes with advanced fuel injection for the highest efficiency possible.
- When we do motor our boats we use the least amount of fuel possible, on Great Ambition we rarely exceed 5MPH. We use the tides to our advantage, riding the incoming tide upstream, or using the outgoing tide to get a free ride downstream. For the greatest efficiency we run only one motor of Great Ambition at a time, letting the other motor remain off. This not only saves gas but also halves the number of engine hours it takes to get somewhere, virtually doubling the life of our engines.