The Mess of it all – Going Green

Well it’s Blog Action Day for Climate Change day – so here goes…

“Going green” is not always as easy as it sounds…if it ever did sound easy.

I live in an established house in suburbia and climate change was a burden to me and I wanted to do something about it…

1) A veggie garden. I wanted to stop buying vegetables that were grown thousands of miles away from where I live, or ones that are grown local but have petro-chemical fertilisers and insecticides all over them. There are some local semi-organic growers, and we use them when we can, but we began to plant the occasional plant in the backyard, then we dug up almost half of the backyard for this purpose. We used old roofing tiles from the rubbish dump to make raised beds and use all organic (mostly made in the back yard) compost. We made a chook pen and bought 3 chickens. The pen was also made from rubbish from the tip bits. This season we have spread into the front yard and have planted melons and pumpkin around the front rose bush. We already have olive, apricot and nectarine in the front along with a bunch of flowering native trees to attract bees and birds. We have a nice pond running on a solar pump in the back that attracts frogs, birds and all sorts of nice visitors. The upside of this is … well obvious, the downsides are, less yard for kids play (we have 3 girls under the age of 13). But this has forced them out into the parks and bush lands with friends and neighbours – so that’s not bad! The garden is very water intensive so…

2. A Water Tank. In Perth, Australia it gets pretty dry! We have major water restrictions at times and vegetable gardens are water intensive. (So is making bio diesel, but we’ll get to that later). So we found a spot that had an ideal spot for a 5000L water tank (after removing a Date Palm). We catch only the water off the patio roof, and this is enough to fill the tank to overflowing numerous times over winter. WHY DONT THESE BECOME LAW FOR EVERY HOUSE BUILT AROUND HERE!! What we have discovered is that 5000L used for the washing machine and the garden and washing bio-diesel does not go far at all. It is only just the end of our Australian winter and a few weeks into Spring and the tank has only about 800L left. I would dearly love to install a couple of others to be honest! Maybe even dig up what is left of the backyard and put in a 10 000L underground one!

3. Biodiesel. Much talk about this alternate fuel is on the internet and in the media. Just the other night on some current affairs programme I saw a guy I know from Perth here talking about running his old Nissan on straight Vegetable Oil. I had been reading about how to convert used vegetable oil into Biodiesel for a while when I attended the Sunfair in 08, an alternate fuels fair at the University of Western Australia. I met a group selling the “BioMaster” processor. I grabbed 3 mates to put in $1600 each, which well and truly paid for itself in a short amount of time. We make sure we only use oil that has already served its original purpose and would otherwise be thrown out or turned into pig food…or women’s cosmetics 🙂  There is too much deforestation and ‘take-over’ of existing crop for the purpose of bio fuels for me to ever justify buying new oil for the purpose of making bio fuel.

This is where the mess of it all comes in…The process of collecting used cooking oil from the back of a restaurant or sports complex etc is rather ugly. I used to hate that used oil smell that wafted up my nose if I rode past the back of the fish and chip shop as a kid, now I loath it! Take last Monday for example. I had to pick up a couple of hundred litres from one place and about 180 from another, and maybe 50 from another.

Place 1 – For some reason unknown to me mould had developed over the whole thing, it was disgusting. Bits of old fish and chicken floated around the open drum and when I tried to extract it all with my pump an old cloth got sucked up. I got as much as I could, oil dripping down my arms and on the floor. I climbed back into our nice family car, oil on the floor, steering wheel and door handles and gear stick!

Place 2 – As usual someone had left the lid open and it had rained, there was so much water mixed in with the oil it was almost worthless, again the pump jammed with some unidentifiable deep fried object and I got frustrated and moved on with only 100L and wondering when I would get back to properly clean out this drum!

Place 3 – easy, clean golden used oil, love it!

I got it all haf way home and was at the traffic lights when a pedestrian called out that I had liquid (oil) running out from the back of my trailer. I jumped out to see that one oil container had fallen over…the only one I had not fixed the lid on well 😦  I kept going, leaving a small trail of oil all the way to my house. At this point I did a silly thing. I removed the trailer, the oil rushed to the end and ran out all over the road, my drive and into my garage as I pushed the trailer in there. For 4 hours yesterday I scrubbed everything with Glycerol (a handy waste product of Biodeisel that is a soap base). This did not work as the brick paved drive and road are porous and soaked it all up. The stain from the oil mixed with Glycerol is all down my street and the smell is wafting through my open office window as I type this.

My shed has never been the same since I installed the plant over 18 months ago, everything I touch around the house has a greasy mark on it, I have bundles of oil covered clothes that stink and I am constantly wondering where to pour all this waste water and glycerol, 2 by-products of the process. Some of the Glyc goes good in the compost.

In the meantime, I have a pretty environmentally clean car (not perfect, but better than normal diesel. I have more money in the bank as this process is cheep. I have a hobby that I quite enjoy and a couple of guys who have been on the journey with me that I enjoy a quiet beer and chat in the shed with while we play with chemicals.

But let me tell you this. I need a bigger bit of land and a bigger shed 🙂 Which makes my footprint bigger I know, but this is getting ugly and the neighbours are only just smiling still – it stinks around here!

It’s fun to live greener and these ways are not the only way we try, we/I catch public transport a bit, we only have one car and a scooter. We catch excess water in buckets to flush toilets where possible, we carbon offset flights when we travel for what that’s worth…or is that just a guilt offset for using such a big carbon emitter(!!??) we compost a lot and feed every bit of food stuff to the chickens! We do a bit here and there, hoping that others might ‘catch the bug’ too. But with 2 working adults and 3 kids in all sorts of activities, it makes for a constant messy active ongoing campaign, but – you know, I think its worth it.

See other posts and pictures – Here (My Backyard) and  here (environment), also here (Bio diesel)

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Stuff White People Like – So Good it HURTS!

I can’t help myself, I love my Vespa, If I am not in my veggie powered 4WD (with Apple sticker on the back window), I drive my Vespa to sit in a non-franchised, un-corporate cafe drinking fairtrade organic coffee, in front of me on the table is my Apple Macbook with a Molskine notebook on top and my iPhone alongside.

I AM A STEREOTYPE – aghhhhhh, I need a new life!  🙂   This website I found has caught me out. I am predictable, readable and … aghhh it hurts so much I could not help but laugh … and laugh  … and laugh. I had tears running down my cheeks. Christine has been saying the things this guy blogs about for years to me. This is so clever!

He was on Triple J last week apparently. He writes about Things White People Like, here is his list – You need to visit his site!

Bulk Rubbish Discoveries

Well, it is the season … for putting out your bulk rubbish.

We live in a funny age, never before has there been the need for so many ‘extra’ rubbish collections. Who remembers growing up with just one of the small round tin bins? The rubbish men would run from house to house, with an even bigger plastic version of what we would put on the verge. They would throw two, maybe three, maybe even four bins worth of rubbish into the bin they carried on their shoulder before manually dumping it into the back of the truck that was being driven (usually by a big fat guy who wouldn’t run!) Where was all our rubbish in those days? Imagine a rubbish man running (just that is enough!) around with 3 or 4 wheelie bins worth of rubbish on his back!!! Now we have 2 full sized wheelie bins for all our rubbish, an occasional trip to the tip as well as our annual bulk rubbish collection!

On this topic have you ever seen Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff“? I have posted it here before, but it’s worth another look.

From Roll 141

It was fun, a few weeks ago when our area had bulk rubbish. Christine and I got up early one Saturday morning before the kids were even stirring. I took the dog for a walk while Christine began the clean up around the yard. Whilst on my walk I discovered a fantastic compost bin as well as 2 big sheets of marine ply maybe 2.5M by 1.5M! I ran home, grabbed the car and went back and grabbed it. As I was off-loading my find, Christine was busy dragging out stuff onto the verge, some of it admittedly was stuff I had brought in last time…one man’s trash is another man’s treasure they say 🙂 We laugh at people in their utes driving up and down the street filling their cars with other peoples ‘rubbish’ but maybe they are the ones with the last laugh. As they never need to spend $500 on that swing set for the kids because they found a perfectly good one on the roadside. They laugh as they remove the broken keyboard from the perfectly good monitor and replace it with the perfect keyboard they found attached to a broken monitor! Where does most of this stuff go? Well after the guys at the tip (who are heroes in my mind!) have sorted the good for the crap…it gets put into landfill, mostly. Our region is just experimenting with a massive composting factory, millions of bucks to avoid so much land fill. Great stuff, but you should see the environmental footprint it creates to keep the engines running 24/7 so the fumes remain neutral! I know, I know, it sounds hopeless and negative, but I guess I don’t see a future in better ways to deal with our rubbish. I only see a future in learning to create less at a domestic level – YES domestic. Because when Mr Production Plant owner has a revelation about how much ‘stuff’ he puts in his household bin, I think…I hope…he would carry that over into his factory waste.

So next time you go to throw out something, I dare you to ask yourself NOT which bin should this go into, NOR do I need to throw this out? BUT rather, did I need to buy what was in this box in the first place, could I have made something? Borrowed it? Done without it? Got it second hand? I know this is the question that perplexes me always too late. That my purchasing of stuff is directly related to my environmental footprint. “stuff in – stuff out”. And I just love ‘stuff’ too much!

I get a pleasure from buying stuff, all that lovely packaging, the sound of unwrapping the box…the smell of the fresh plastic…

From Roll 141

I can even justify stuff. Take for example my new water-pump, lost f nice smelly plastic in that new box hmmm But I justified it ok…prices are low now, I wash my diesel in rain water now, our veggies are watered in rainwater now, we wash our clothes in rain water now… all great, but I still loved the power of the purchase more than all these sweet reason to buy such a ‘nobel’ toy!

We yesterday I put my guilt to rest…for while at least, I was out with master collector and bio-diesel buddy Andy Longhurst and we decided to drive the streets near his house where bulk rubbish is happening, my discoveries?

1) Another great compost bin, this one with a liquid catchment and tap on the bottom.

2) Two good milk crates for the shed, storage and seating 🙂

3) A pair of blundstone boots in my size.

4) A couple of jerry can holders for my car…admittedly they were in Andy’s shed…but he was going to get rid of them!


So call me a scab – but I’m having fun!

The Journey So Far – Bio D

Well the shed is a mess, the grass in dying outside it, the garage where we pump the diesel into our cars looks like a petrol station around the diesel pump and the driveway has big oil stains all over it.

But – between the 3 using it at present we have driven about 1000km on our home made juice!

It is midnight and I have just come in from the shed.
I don’t have a good feeling about this 100L for some reason, well, a good reason really. Normally I can see the reaction taking place as it pumps through the tank for 2 hours, but not tonight. I see very little, if any glycerol settling in the view tube. I was going to transfer it over to the new settlement tank and run another batch of 100L through (we have 400L of oil sitting waiting for processing!)
Anyway I have come inside, I will wait for morning and see it has reacted.

Poor Sophie (7) is grunting and groaning as she has a throat infection and is feeling very off indeed! You just want to go in and cuddle her and make her better 😦

Where have I been?

Been Slack on the Old Blog stuff, here is a quick update;

Going Where?
I have spent the last 2 weeks with Scripture Union. Camp one was with Mirrabooka High Yr 8 boys doing a selective boys to men type camp. 17 kids, lots of attitude and not all good. The last night we had to sleep out by ourselves in the bush under our own hoothchies, I was wet, very wet! The talks I did on Men as Lover, King, Monk and Warrior went well (Thanks to Mike’s suggestions on this site!)
Last week’s camp was a bit less intense, Winthrop Baptist yr 11’s Kayaking on the Murray.

Reading What?
Reading a few books;
Mark Sayers, “The Trouble With Paris
Rob Hopkins, “The Transition Handbook
Henry DeWitt, “Fathering Daughters – Reflections By Men

Watching What?
Last night watched Kung Fu Panda – Great Laugh, even some Python style humour!
Watched a 1999 flick called Pitch Black which was the first in the Chronicles of Riddick series, Vin Diesel – Good watch!

Playing With What?
My bio diesel processor…we made a batch of 50L, then 80L went great, then a batch of 150L, not so great but managed a rescue and it looks great now. Then a couple of weeks ago did a 100L batch and managed soap. Yes soap is an unfortunate bi-product of stuffing up with this process. Glycerol is one of the waste products, it is also the base product for soap manufacturing, stuff up some small element in the bio process and wham – you have litres of liquid sticky glue which is actually heavy grade soap. My mate Lance has done most of the rescuing as I have been away. It looks like we may have saved a good deal of the oil!

Enjoying What?
Loved a walk to the library and then take-a-way and movies with my family yesterday arvo.
I am also enjoying the thought of 2 weeks leave over the July school hols. 3 days at Contos camp group near Prevally/Yallingup. 2 days up at the farm, lots of days just pottering at home.

Working For Whom?
I am still full time with Churches of Christ (3 days Youth Vision Ministry Coach and 2 Days OnEARTH/GMP). The SU (Scripture Union) stuff is really to keep a hand in with youth ministry experience as well as looking at options for next year.
I will be working for SU 2 days a week next year in their Neighbourhood Outreach/Forge area as well as doing a camp a term for them in Warriuka. Hopefully I can continue doing the OnEARTH stuff as it is hotting up a little.

Looking Forward to What?
Well 2 weeks leave, then 3 days in Sydney with Youth Vision, then starting up a 14 week study (OnEARTH/Ignition) which includes 2 weeks in Halls Creek with a crew from our Church as well as some others, I am also running a weekend leaders retreat in August which looks like fun.
Finishing off our new raised garden beds out the back, fixing my dead roller door, tidying up my yard a bit and generally slowing down and reading some more.

So that is it. Been way too busy, but feel ok. Not pumped. Always dreaming too much of a quiet life in the country, working less not more. But I need to learn to be in the moment more, “be where you are”.

Why I Will Only Use Used Veggie Oil


I found this cartoon and comment on a site I view from time to time called Transition Culture.

It feels appropriate that I should mark the day when the UK government makes it law that all petrol and diesel must contain at least 2.5% of biofuel in some way. In his usual frank and thorough way, George Monbiot tells it like it is in today’s Guardian; “In the midst of a global humanitarian crisis, we have just become legally obliged to use food as fuel. It is a crime against humanity, in which every driver in this country has been forced to participate”. The most appropriate way I can mark this day of momentous stupidity is with the above powerful and to the point cartoon which Richard Heinberg used in his presentation at Findhorn recently.

Pondering BioDiesel

Yes, I know, Scott is on another full blown obsession, so get me a counselor!! Sitting here in Melbourne airport at 5am in the morning surfing Biodiesel sites sipping Gloria Jeans Long Macs.
But I thought I would confess to you my readers that I have bought a profession biodiesel production plant. I went pro so I could register it and do it legal like as well as the safety factor combined with the greater chance of not stuffing up my cars!!

The company that sold the plant to me has some great sites, an extract from one of the is below.

What could go wrong at this point?

  • I need a source of used oil. Yes, I know I should have got it before I paid out the cash (Matt!!), but I have faith…and a few good leads. There is lots of oil out there, I just need to convince the people to give it to me rather than the company that has the contract to take it now.
  • And secondly…I don’t have a diesel car …yet.
  • It’s all about timing, so the other thing on my mind is the whole balance thing (no not in my mind and life). But things like, what if I get a source of used oil, a big one, and all of a sudden, before I even know how to make it, I have drums of oil lining my drive before my license kicks in or before I even know how to make the stuff. (I am doing a course). What if I do all of the above, start making it, but don’t get the car for 4 months. I then have drums of biodiesel lining the driveway, not used veggie oil!!! Anyway, all about timing.

Useful WA sites – http://www.bioworks.com.au/index.shtml
http://ww.biodieselwarehouse.com.au/
UWA

Main attributes of biodiesel

Renewable resource – Biodiesel is derived from vegetable oil, used cooking oils and animal tallow. These feedstocks can be produced indefinitely, using sustainable farming techniques to provide an environmentally friendly, sustainable fuel.

Widely used and accepted – Biodiesel is a proven fuel with an extensive history in the US and wide usage in Europe.

Carbon neutrality – Plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and store the carbon primarily in the form of carbohydrates and oils. By using vegetable oils as a raw material, biodiesel recycles carbon through the biosphere, allowing a significant reduction in carbon emissions when compared to traditional sources of energy.

What is biodiesel
Biodiesel is a clean burning fuel made from vegetable oil or animal fats. It can be used in modern compression-ignition (diesel) engines without requiring any engine modifications. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, non-toxic, carbon neutral and is essentially free of sulphur and aromatics.

How is it produced
Vegetable oils and animal fats consist of a glycerine molecule, with three ‘fatty acid’ molecules attached to it. Biodiesel is made through a process called transesterification whereby the glycerine is separated from the fatty acids. The process leaves behind two products – biodiesel (Mono-alkyl ester) and glycerine (a by-product used in soaps and other products).

The process of manufacturing biodiesel is relatively simple. The feedstock oil is mixed with methanol and a catalyst (NaOH or KOH) to produce a reaction that creates biodiesel and glycerine. Applying heat and pressure to the reaction decreases the processing time. The Glycerine fraction is heavier than the biodiesel, allowing it to separate out naturally after the reaction. Ethanol can be used instead of methanol for biodiesel production, however the reaction is less predictable.

Advantages of biodiesel

  • Renewable – vegetable oil derived fuel
  • Potential for Carbon Neutral lifecycle
  • Simple to make
  • Non-toxic
  • Biodiesel is free from sulphur (
  • The only alternative fuel that does not require engine modification or retuning
  • Safer for storage and handling than petroleum diesel
  • Can be used neat or blended in any ratio with petroleum diesel
  • Biodegradable
  • Higher Lubricity – can prolong engine life
  • Dramatically reduced emissions
  • High flashpoint