LEED The Way

Over the past weekend I went out to Len Foote Hike-Inn at Amicalola Falls on a Team Green Trek. We hiked in five miles, checked in, unloaded our daypacks, and regrouped for a tour of the facilities before heading off for dinner. Len Foote Hike-Inn is a Gold Standard LEED certified facility complete with composting toilets, vericomposting bins, rain water harvesting, wild flower gardens, and a no trash policy (anything you hike in, you must hike out. There are no trash cans on the property). At dinner they have a no waste policy and encourage us to only take what food we can eat, with the goal of only 4 ounches of food waste between all fourty of us plus staff! We reached that goal every time, and would have managed zero food waste if it wasn’t for the kids!

Of particular interest to me was the rain water harvesting, vermicomposting bins, and solar panel water heating. Each of them are pretty simple (and relatively cheap in comparison to the energy and resources that we waste each year without them). I’ll discuss each of them with a description of how to install them in your own home.

1. Rain Water Harvesting.

Of couse it is not a good idea to use rainwater to wash dishes, bathe in or drink, but it is a wonderful resource of water for the garden and yard. Ideally you will install a metal roof because it will last longer than shingles and can transport the rain water more easily than shingles. With or without a tin roof, you can install rain chains. First, make sure that your gutters are covered either with screen or you can purchase gutters that are already partially covered. This prevents leaves from clogging your gutters.

Note: Notice a bunch of mosquitos in your yard? Mosquitos breed every three days in standing water. Often they breed in gutters that have been clogged with leaves. Remove those leaves, cover your gutters, and you’ll notice fewer mosquitos in no time!

Remove the piping that leads from your gutter to the ground. Instead, install a plastic chain leading from the gutter base opening to a large container. You have two options. You can either burry a large container in the ground (this keeps the water from freezing in colder seasons) and install a hand pump to remove the water, or you can have an above ground container with a spout (allowing the water to flow out by gravity rather than air pressure). Make sure that the container has a large opening covered by screen (again to prevent leaves and mosquitos). When it rains, gravity will cary the water down the chain links into the container. Even in the winter when water freezes on the chains, you can still see water making it’s way down the chain! There you have it, your rain harvesting system is complete. To use it to water the garden, simply attach a hose to the spout.

2. Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is composting of food and paper items using worms. Take this challenge.

  • Get everyone in your household to place their paper products in a bin each day. Paper products include non-glossy paper, thin cardboard, kleenex, coffee filters and paper towels. Also have them put their food scraps in another bin. Food scraps include all food items and coffee grounds, excluding fats, meats, dary products, and animal feces.
  • Weigh how much of your household waste is paper and food product. Take an average over a week. Multiply this number by 2, and buy that amount of worms! Works can eat half of their body weight in a day.
  • Next build a composting bin. It should be wider rather than deeper. Mine is about 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 6 inches deep. Be sure to drill medium sized holes in the sides near the base (to airate) and small holes in the bottom (to drain). Cover the holes on the sides with screen to prevent worms from crawling out and flies from getting in.
  • Next, shred or tear all of your paper and soak it in water. When the paper is soaked, add some crushed leaves and dirt to the mix. Squeeze most of the ater out and place it in the bottom of the bin as the “bedding.” The bedding mix should be more than 2 inches deep, but less than 12 inches deep. Add your worms and let them get used to their new habitat for a couple days before adding food. When you add food, be sure to bury it. Cover your bin with a dark plastic bag (works like it dark and moist).
  • Be sure to add your paper/food/leaf mixture in sections. Within a few weeks, harvest the wormanure in sections. To do this, remove a section of plastic. The light with drive the worms away, and the material will dry out. After a day or two, collect the dark rich soil-looking material (it’s just worm poop!) and place it in a sifter. The fine material is great for the garden (in fact, it can hold moisture better than most manure and does not contain the harmful chemicals that most mature contains). Toss the larger chunchs of partially decayed food and paper product back into the bin.

3. Solar Panel Water Heating

I am not quite sure how to go about doing it, but here is the gist. Your water heating tank requires an absurd amount of energy to heat the water. Often, the water is heated and never used. Other times the hot water runs out and you require more energy to heat more water. Solar Panel Water Heating reduces the amount of energy used to heat the water. Solar panels are placed on your roof, and all water is sent through the solar panel system before going to the water heater. The solar panels will heat the water between 5 and 10 degrees, thus requiring less energy to reach the correct temperature. Another option is a Tankless Water Heater. This works on the same premise, but instead of using solar panels or a water heater tank, the water is passed through the tankless water heat and only the water that passes through it is heated. This reduces the amount of energy used to heat the water. Why? 1. Because it takes more energy to heat a huge tank compared to a small pipe full and 2. Because you are not spending energy on heating water that will not be used.

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