Rainwater Harvesting or Snow Farming?

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Rainwater Harvesting or Snow Farming? (Week #9)

The Why:

In New England we have been deluged with ice crystals measuring a record breaking accumulation of 105″ today (2″ from the all-time record in 1995-96). With 40% of our nation under winter storm watches I am reminded of how much our lives are controlled by water. This past 30 day snowfall has caused delayed schedules, injuries from shoveling driveways and raking roofs, untold property damage, loss of work, income, our youth’s education, unsafe driving and walking environments and so on.

But look on the bright side, while we complain we have no place to put it, there are thousands of the earth’s inhabitants who have NO WATER.

According to the World Water Council, 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 14-30,000 people die every day due to water related diseases.

My complaints of a sore back from shoveling are quickly replaced with blessings, gratitude and a renewed vow to understand more about stewarding this resource.

The picture above shows one of many snow farms in our area.

The picture to your right is onecreat European apartment complex’s creative and innovative water collection system.

The why of this sustainable best practice is clear and this week we want you to design a rainwater collection system for your apartment or home. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or large. Start small on your deck or at a gutter junction until you are comfortable before you dig a huge hole for a 10,000 gallon cistern!

You could even begin harvesting snow. You may want to check water equivalents from the USGS before you start; because one inch of heavy snow over an acre can equal 5400 gallons! Just think of the money you will save and the precious resource you will have at your disposal to water your plants and your landscaping!


First you need to find out how you, your condo association, apartment complex, your town, or your workplace get water, manage its usage, treatment and collection. You may want to get involved in your watershed’s stewardship.

Another consideration is whether it is legal to harvest rainwater where you live. Lucky for me, where I live it is legal to harvest what lands on your property. You may want to find out about your watershed resource here or here.

Secondly, you can decide what type of water catchment system is best for you. (Courtesy of http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org)Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 11.42.29 AM

We observed our water footprint last week, this week we are going to harvest rainwater and recycle grey water.


The HOW:

Purchase or repurpose a rain barrel and attach it to your gutter via a PVC pipe like one of our followers did. If you are reclaiming a metal barrel, make sure it is food grade.

Some great Wiki How DIY instructions here. You can use any container, really, with a funnel to its input chamber.

Or get your artist on, have a water harvest party, get the kids involved and be creative!

successive waterpots

More about grey water recycling here.

The Deep Dive:

Modern Rainwater harvesting made beautiful here.

9 Simple Things you can do to prevent storm water pollution here.

The World Water Council’s 2010-2012 Strategies here.

World Water Day 2015

Gray water gardening here.

More rainwater harvesting systems here.

Please tell or show us your unique water harvesting system in your comments!

Water Works

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Water Works (Week#8)

The Why:

March is water month!  And March 22nd is World Water Day! Our next few posts will examine our sustainable practices with our most precious resource, water.

Did you know that in the winter, the average person in the U.S. uses 80 gallons of water per day?  According to the U.N. Human Development Report, an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum will use in a whole day. Our showers, faucets, laundry machines and toilet flushing comprise 79% of our water usage in the US according to the EPA.

Observe your water practices when brushing your teeth, taking a shower, dishwasher and laundry usage, lawn, auto and garden care. Are there ways you could be reducing your water footprint or purchasing more eco-efficient appliances and fixtures?

Out with the old, in with the cold – that’s this week’s challenge! The average American household spends $600-800 dollars annually to heat water for their home. All of this water heating can be a big deal when it comes to our energy use and personal carbon footprints.

Take, for instance, Proctor and Gamble, which did a lifecycle assessment of their products and found that heating water for washing clothes was the biggest single impact on the environment! So, this week, take a stand and implement at least three Cold Water Solutions – use cold water detergents, turn down the temperature on your water heater, wash dishes in a cool temp…all this cold H2O will lead to hot savings.



Examine your use of water in your home and at work by calculating your water footprint and learning more about where your water comes from. Reduce your usage by 50% and implement cold water practices.

The HOW:

Calculate your water footprint here.

The Department of Energy tells us all about reducing hot water usage here.

100 Ways to conserve water here.

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The Deep Dive:

The carbon footprint of a load of laundry here.

Find out all about water usage in the USA here.

Find your water resources here.

Do you know where your water comes from? Find out about your watersheds here.

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Nomad Simplicity

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 1.42.43 PMNomad Simplicity (Week #7)

2.8 Million Self-Employed People Consider Home Their Primary Place of Work—That represents 2% of the US workforce and 21% of the self-employed workforce. The working landscape has changed to one of telecommunication; many have become digital nomads, vagabonds who will be cloudcommutinghotdesking, and being even more local by being virtual. This is a good thing.

If we can balance our life and work styles to have the best of all the worlds (environmental, social, cultural, economical) we can save the planet while remaining connected both digitally and physically.

The convergence of dramatic changes in technology, psychology and the environment have driven an increase in teleworking described below.

Three major technology changes have taken place over the last decade: the decreased cost of laptop, tablet and mobile technology, cloud-based computing and significant improvements in online security.

The shift in thinking is occurring on both sides of the equation. Employees and employers are moving from their fears of loss of control, performance and competitive edge to acceptance as the statistics come with the results of increased employee productivity, increased health of workers due to less stress, decreased office costs and smaller environmental footprints, among others.

For example, the savings on the environmental footprint of 50 million US remote workers that would telecommute 50% of the time (from Lister and Harnish 2013):

• The oil savings would equate to over 37% of our Persian Gulf imports

• The greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce permanently off the road.

• Reduced road travel and the associated injuries/wear on infrastructure

• Reduced off-shoring of jobs

•Save over $500 billion a year in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover and productivity, that’s more than $11,000 per employee per year.

• The telecommuters would save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year


Make the case for working remotely for two days a week to your employer. Make an appointment to discuss and negotiate your proposal. Or if you are an entrepreneur, make a plan to try a year of becoming a digital nomad living the tiny sustainable life. I know many who have made the switch to a happier, more pleasurable, substantive and less costly lifestyle.

Happy Trails to you…and let us know if you have made the switch. Tell us your story.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 1.44.44 PMThe WHY:

• It Saves You (and your employer) Time By Not Having to Commute

• It Helps the Environment

• Saves You (and your employer) Costs

• It Cuts Down on Interoffice Conflict

• It Prevents Complications and Loss of Work Due to the Weather

• It Saves Money on Moving Expenses

• It Increases the Productivity of You and Your Boss

• It Eliminates the Possibility of Spreading Disease

• It Keeps Employees Happy

The HOW:

If you work for someone else, check the employee manual. If there’s an existing telecommuting policy or flex schedule then your chances of success are good. You can use the information provided here to make your case in your remote work proposal.

If you are an entrepreneur or company owner who has employees, consider initiating a remote worker program. Learn more about how to build a strong remote workforce here.

If there’s no written information but some of your co-workers currently have flexible work arrangements, ask them for advice on proceeding; they’ll have the inside scoop.

But don’t worry if no one ever has established a flexible work schedule or remote work agreement at the company; you can be the first!

Use your experience to your advantage:

• Because your supervisor’s support and approval will be key to getting your request granted, you’ve got a leg up if you are an established employee whom your supervisor trusts and values. Make sure you maintain that respect and continue to make yourself invaluable to the company.

• When creating your remote work proposal, reference past employee evaluations that had positive comments related to critical telecommuting traits, such as: initiative, ability to work without supervision, communication skills, etc.

• If you’re a new hire, prove your ability to telecommute productively using examples from past experience at other companies. If you don’t have past remote work experience, highlight the expertise you do bring to the company; they hired you for a reason, so they will probably want to keep you. Perhaps delay the request, however, until you’ve developed a strong rapport with your supervisor and proven yourself invaluable to the company.

•Offer up a 90 -120 day remote work trial period with dual performance assessment when the term is completed

The Deep Dive:

How to transition into the simple life here.

Advantages and disadvantages of teleworking here.

Digital nomad jobs.

Learn what it takes to become a digital nomad here.

Ten life tips for digital nomads.

Role of teleworking in reducing carbon emissions here.

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The Pro’s and Con’s of having remote employees.

The Pro’s and Con’s of digital nomadism, here.

Best cities to live and work remotely.

Remote Work: An Examination of Current Trends and Emerging Issues (2011) from Cornell here.

Remote Work myths here.

Check out a legitimate telecommute job search site worth paying for here.