Archive for the 'Renewable Energy' Category

Dan uses Veggie Oil

Ever dream of buying a van, putting a mattress in it, and driving down to Costa Rica to explore Central America, surf all day, and sleep on the beach every night?
Nick, of Portland Oregon, lived that dream, and throughout the 30,000 miles he did not pay for fuel once, and he only filled up his tank three times. Nick is carpenter and musician. He splits his time between labor and playing in a Latin rock -with reggae undertones- band. A couple of years ago he wanted to take a trip. A long trip, to Central America. He wanted to drive, but something about driving all that way disturbed him. Fuel would not only be costly to him, but he would be responsible for all of those carbon emissions. The answer seemed obvious- vegetable oil.Dan in back of his van. (Tank is below wooden platform)
Veg-oil, which can be burned in most diesel engines, has zero emissions when burned, and is free; an almost too perfect answer to Nick’s need of guilt-free transportation. He bought a six cylinder Ford work van, and with his friend converted it to run on veggie oil. Technically, all you need is a vehicle with a diesel engine, but simply pouring it in to the tank is not the safest of ways to go about it. The proper way is to install a two tank system, that due to the higher viscosity of veggie oil, starts and shuts down the engine on diesel fuel to give the veg-oil time to heat up. Nick and his friend welded a 300 gallon tank that sits in the back of the van. His fuel source was not hard to find either. Nick found some people with stock piles of veg-oil that he took off their hands. Veggie oil is a waste product that most restaurants pay to get picked up and disposed of. If you want some, ask the restaurant owner if it is OK to scoop some out. Usually they are more than willing.
Using veg-oil is not biking, but it is still radically alternative to other fuel sources. The time and money devoted to converting it was more than worth it to Nick, who encourages more people to make the switch. I am waiting for the day when my bike breaks down, and first car that came by was powered by veg-oil. Tomorrow, maybe?

59th Street Bridge

May 2009 405Once again we rolled in to a driveway, this time K.K. and Ira’s, unannounced with only our bikes to keep them curious long enough to explain why we trespassed. K.K. and Ira are two of the kindest people we have met so far. After discussing biodynamics they invited us to camp in their pasture after a stir fry dinner with asparagus from the garden. Dinner, which included home made bread along with the biodynamic asparagus was better than any pasta dish I have had. Even Laura, who does not like asparagus thought it was delicious. It was a beautiful night when we went to bed and an equally pleasant morning when we woke. That day was their anniversary, so after a cup of coffee with milk and honey K.K. and Ira style we left and came back with a local pie. On our way out we noticed the array of solar panels on the roof which were very well disguised. Ira said they are completely energy independent!
Our ride West on Route 25 along the vinyards was very calm, quite the opposite of our evening trying to make it to Seaport, NY where Laura’s grandmother lives, and uncle was waiting to meet us. We rode in the dark along a very busy highway crossing intersections we should not have crossed. From Seaport we stopped in Howard Beach to have lunch with Laura’s grandfather. We went to a local diner. I got a sandwich that came with Cole slaw. I ate it, all the while thinking about K.K., Ira, and their vegetables. Where did this lettuce come from? What about these carrots? How was this radish grown?
We pushed along Queens Blvd to my

Entering the city

Entering the city

uncle Marvin’s apartment in the upper West side of Manhattan. We crossed in to the city on the 59th Street Bridge, the plan being to sing the Simon and Garfunkel song as we biked over it. To get to it there is an overpass which we mistook for the bridge, so we started singing, all the while thinking what a crappy bridge it was and why would anyone write a song about it? We soon realized our mistake and proceeded to sing on the real 59th Street Bridge.
Uncle Marvin

Uncle Marvin

That night we took a walk around Central Park before getting some soup with Marvin. Before we left for dinner I accidentally left my handlebar bag on his front stoop which was still there when we got back, but I would not be so lucky in the future…

Greenhouse Car Wash

While riding on Route 12 throughMay 2009 365 Oxford, MA, one might take notice of a greenhouse by the side of the road. Unlike all the other greenhouses there are no plants inside this one, instead it is open on either end, allowing for dirty cars to enter one end and clean ones to exit the other.
Owner Mark Mazziatti wanted to open a car wash but knew if he did he should run it in a responsible way. The car wash is a glass building, allowing for sunlight to heat the parts that need heating, including the machine room where people sometimes work.

Water reclamation system

Water reclamation system

The most impressive feature is the water reclamation system which reuses the wash water. To reduce cloth/paper waste, the cars are air dried after being washed with biodegradable soaps, waxes, and cleaners. Now, you would think that’s the end of it but the fun does not stop there. Soon renewable energy will power the wash after 35 solar panels are installed on the roof.
When I was there a woman in a black Scion came out of the wash looking sleek and fresh (I’m talking about the car), having chosen the green car wash over the conventional one three miles down the road. Happy with the job that the biodegradable soaps did she let me snap a photo of the sparkling car. So, maybe the next time a scheming flock of pigeons decide they don’t like your car, look for a car wash that can clean it without dirtying up the earth.

May 2009 366

Art Krueger & Trish Norton

The Sugar House

The Sugar House

After showing up uninvited to their house, it was not long before I was at the table with a plate of French toast and sausages in front of me, talking with Art about his lifestyle.
Art and his wife Trish support themselves and their two daughters with their sugaring operation and the sale of their blueberries. They practice organic stewardship of their sugar bush, and produce pure maple syrup with no chemical agents or preservatives added. The syrup is also sold in glass mason jars so they can be either recycled or reused.
What is more is that everything that requires energy on their property is satisfied by renewable sources. Art, an engineer by trade, and farmer at heart, has had solar panels on their roof since the eighties and has installed a micro hydroelectric generator in a nearby stream to accompany their small wind turbine. The syrup, which is made by boiling sap, is done so over a wood fire.
PV set up on the jarring house

PV set up on the jarring house

I asked Art how much electricity he produces. He just answered, “enough.” He really could not tell me. He just knows that he has the electricity he needs. His youngest daughter who is a year from finishing High School said it felt good to wake up on a morning the town is experiencing a black out and cook up some waffles. From an early age Art learned the value of being self-reliant. This self-reliance is apparent not only in terms of energy, but food also. Their garden grows vegetables which they store in their root cellar, and their chickens lay eggs which they eat, sell, and barter with neighbors. Sustainability is not necessarily the goal, but merely leading a more natural lifestyle, which inevitably is a more sustainable way to live than that practiced by the average American family. To learn more about their sugaring operation or to buy some maple candy or syrup, visit