Green Living

Green Living

How Permaculture Can Save The World From Monsanto

Speaking to the UK newspaper The Independent last month, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant made some remarks that are just as hard to swallow as the company’s gene engineered food crops.

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For one thing, he blamed the widespread public opposition to eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on lack of attention to marketing during the rollout of the technology. Never mind that other new technologies launched without coordinated marketing campaigns have done just fine as far as public opinion goes. (Cell phones, anybody? The Internet?) Never mind the numerous perfectly legitimate concerns about tampering with the DNA of what we eat. No, obviously the ad agency’s fault.

Grant’s probably not too bothered by anti-GMO consumer advocates, though, because he doesn’t believe that people have any choice but to eat Monsanto products. “Can you [feed the world’s increasing population] without biotech? I don’t think so,” he said. “If not this, then what? How are we going to crack this thing? If Monsanto and this entire industry did not exist then what would the alternative look like?”

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Well, maybe Hugh can’t figure it out, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Let’s help him out a little bit here. Farmers in many parts of the world are still using traditional agricultural methods that are surprisingly congruent with the modern concept of permaculture. Intercropping, organic pest control, soil conservation, and other sustainable practices all feature prominently.

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All well and good, Grant might say, but it’ll never produce enough food to feed nine billion people. But in that case he’d be on the wrong side of a comprehensive 30-year study by the Rodale Institute comparing the effectiveness of organic versus chemical agriculture. Rodale found that organic farming produced at least as much – and in many cases more – food as modern industrial methods. Their conclusion was that “organic farming is better equipped to feed us . . . it’s clear that organic farming is sustainable, while current conventional practices are not.”

How do you like them apples, Mr. Grant?

She Transformed A School Bus Into An Artistic Ecovillage Dwelling

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Once a perfectly ordinary yellow school bus, Aubergine is now an unusual tiny house in an unusual community, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri. Dancing Rabbit is a commune with a focus on ecological sustainability, so when their bus reached the end of its mobile life it was only natural to find a new use for it. In contrast to many bus conversions no attempt has been made to retain a bus aesthetic, and the bus itself has all but disappeared behind a sheet-metal roof, earthen berm and adjacent greenhouse.

Here’s Aubergine, getting towed into her final resting place…

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There are good practical reasons for all of the add-ons. The roof diverts rainwater to a collection system, the berm protects the bus body from the wind, and the heat from the greenhouse radiates so well to the living area that the woodstove inside is only needed at night.

Rainwater from the roof fills the blue plastic barrels, and the simple sun porch looks like a great place to read a book.

Aubergine 1Aside from heat, the greenhouse provides kale, horseradish, and strawberries.

Aubergine 6With the greenhouse on one side and an earthen berm on the other, Aubergine stays in the high 60s even when covered with snow.

Aubergine 5The drawback is that the interior’s rather dark, but colored glass bottles serving as small windows brighten it a bit.

Aubergine 4Katherine’s workspace – and coworker looking less than enthusiastic about the photo op.

Aubergine 3There’s no bathroom, but plenty of space for working, relaxing, and sleeping.

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Dancing Rabbit residents built Aubergine over several years at a cost of about $6,000, and it’s now home to eco-artist Katherine Hanson, who’s even found room for a small studio workspace inside the 150-square-foot bus frame. If you’d like to learn more, check out the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage website.

DIY greenhouse provides 365 days of personal gardening bliss

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The Greenhouse of the Future is a new design by a new designer (Francis Gendron), but it traces its pedigree directly to sustainable living guru Mike Reynolds of Earthship fame. Gendron was the first graduate of Reynolds’s Taos, NM, Earthship Biotecture Academy and has obviously taken a considerable amount of inspiration from Reynolds’s work.

Aside from giving you a nice vegetable garden, the greenhouse puts a tropical getaway just past your door.

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Gendron took solar heating as a starting point and expanded on it to develop a passive, sustainable greenhouse that’s built of natural and recycled materials and stays warm year-round. It’s set into the ground so that geothermal energy supplements the sunlight, and utilizes aquaponic gardening to increase productivity and reduce inputs.

A good day to be inside – and thanks to the solar/geothermal combo, it’s still warm in there!

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A team effort always makes things easier.

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Highly functional, but not just functional. With a little attention to detail, the greenhouse looks great.

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Grow your own pineapples and bananas!

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Washing Clothes Offgrid Just Got A Whole Lot Easier

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Washing clothes by hand is difficult, time-consuming work. But then, getting a standard washing machine to run off solar panels is pretty difficult too. So aside from trips to the local Laundromat, hand washing, tiresome as it is, has been the best option for many people who live off-grid.

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Now Canadian company YiREGO is looking to change that with a 5-liter foot-powered device that looks a little like a high-tech wastebasket. The size means you can’t wash very many clothes at once, so it wouldn’t work for a family, but for someone living by herself it could probably save a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately it won’t ship until July of 2016, but you can pre-order now to lock in an introductory price of $129.


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Turn A Pringles Can Into A Lean, Green, Hot Dog Cooking Machine

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If you have a hankering for a roasted hot dog but you don’t have any fire, and you left your solar oven behind, you might still be in luck, assuming you have an empty can of Pringles laying around. This quick and easy DIY will show you how to re-use the empty can to heat a hot dog (or anything else you can skewer) up to 170 degrees in the sun.

First you need to outline the panel on the can

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Cut the panel out and save the piece of cardboard to use as a stand.

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Get a skewer and poke it through the end cap.

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Drill a hole in the bottom of the can to place the other end of the skewer into.

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Voila! A DIY hot dog roaster is finished.

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Use your cut out panel to make a stand, and set it in the sun, where the highly reflective interior will warm up to a toasty 170 degrees.

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Audi Turns Water Into Diesel

In a move taken straight from the Jesus miracle playbook, Audi has successfully converted water and carbon dioxide into an ethanol diesel fuel they call “e-liquid”. The breakthrough isn’t actually a new process, and the German automaker uses the Fischer-Tropsch process which has been known by scientists since the 1920s, but the context of this announcement makes for exciting news in today’s modern world where there’s a huge demand for clean, renewable fuel sources.

The breakthrough comes on the heels of a commissioning phase that lasted just four months. Audi teamed up with clean tech company Sunfire to develop the fuel in a Dresden facility. To demonstrate its suitability for everyday use, Federal Minister of Education and Research Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka put the first five liters into her official car, an Audi A8 3.0 TDI clean diesel quattro.

The breakthrough signals a big step toward developing cost-effective renewable fuel, and the announcement added they achieved a 70% efficiency in the process, a figure that’s surprisingly high. No word yet on what the next step will be, but we hope they can bring this to market at a fair price per gallon.