Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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2019: What’s New for Solar

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

“Supplying 100% of America’s electricity with renewable energy is not only possible but urgently necessary.”

By Linn Smith

January 13, 2019—–Well, it’s 2019. Time for the What’s New in Solar search. Solar isn’t going away! It continues to thrive and grow….from solar gadgets to panels to super solar farms. Here are just a few things that may be of interest for 2019.

Solar Charger

One of the best solar chargers to charge your devices.

Portable Solar Chargers

http://www.Outdoorlabgear.com tested many portable solar chargers to keep your gadgets charged instead of using your standard wall outlet. For 2019 the BigBlue 28, at http://www.ibigblue.com, is their top solar charger, the Instapark Mercury 10w, at http://www.instapark.com, is their best buy, with Renogy E.Flex5, at http://www.renogy.com, the top pick if you want a really light weight portable solar charger to carry in your backpack.

Solar windows

SmartSkin Solar windows

SmartSkin Windows

This company, http://www.physee.eu, has created what they call a SmartSkin for windows. The SmartSkin integrates solar cells into your glass which will turn sunlight into green energy. The smartskin also has sensors which reads the weather conditions. The sensors are connected to an energy efficient system that communicates data and calculates ideal room settings. The company states these windows will reduce your building’s energy use by up to 20%.

Most Efficient Solar Panels

From the website http://www.energysage.com here are their picks for the top 5 solar panels based on efficiency. Based only on maximum module efficiency (how well they convert sunlight into electricity) the top five manufacturers that make the best solar panels are:

1. SunPower (22.2%)
2. Panasonic (21.6%)
3. LG (21.1%)
4. Hanwha Q CELLS (19.6%)
5. Solaria (19.4%)

The Solar Motion Light

A friend has a solar motion light on her garage. It stays off until it detects motion, then pops on and is as bright as any outdoor light. These are reasonably priced, between $20-$40. According to http://www.solartechnologyhub.com several of the best are made by Sunforce, Frostfire, Nekteck and Litom.

And finally, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) believes that, “Supplying 100% of America’s electricity with renewable energy is not only possible but urgently necessary. We need to decarbonize our economy by the middle of THIS century in order to have any chance of constraining the global temperature increase to less than 2 degrees C, which in itself, will be disruptive to mankind.”

Solar

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Pollution and the Clothing Industry

Dirty Fashion

Fashion and Climate Change.

“Collectively the fashion industry has a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

By Linn Smith

December 15, 2018—The clothing industry contributes 10% of the greenhouse gases to our planet’s atmosphere and is the second largest polluter of our freshwater lakes and streams. The industry has been producing 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year, making it one of the top polluting industries on our planet.

Cotton and pollution

Most clothing worn in the U.S. contains some cotton. Sixty percent of women’s clothing and eighty per cent of men’s clothing contains cotton, and the streams surrounding clothing factories are polluted with dyes and chemical runoff from the clothing industrial sites.

Many cotton fields are located in the arid deserts of the Southwest United States, where farming the cotton requires water that is slowly depleting the rivers and streams. It takes approximately 2.5acre feet of water to grow cotton. (An acre foot is the amount of water it takes to cover one acre of the surface area to a depth of one foot.) To make one pair of denim jeans, 10,000 liters of water is required to grow one kilo (about 2.2 pounds) of cotton needed for the pair of jeans. In comparison, one person would take 10 years to drink 10,000 liters of water!

Climate Change

Clothing: Polluting our earth

The Fashion Industry and Sustainability

According to the World Resources Institution, “Growth of the multi-trillion-dollar apparel industry has been fed by “fast fashion,” which makes clothing cheap and fast with a low price-tag.” This is why the fashion industry is turning to sustainability in an attempt to mitigate some of its damage it has caused our planet. With the help of the United Nations many big corporations within the fashion industry have recently resolved to shift practices, following the guidelines of the Paris Agreement on Climate change.

An initiative of United Nation Climate Change attempts to lower the greenhouse gases attributed to the fashion industry by setting targets for the fashion industry to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The initiative attempts to work with the fashion industry by helping it select climate friendly and sustainable materials, by using low-carbon transportation to move the manufactured articles, by producing less carbon during the production of clothing and by encouraging sustainable fashion connections that offset the carbon emissions with investments in carbon emission reductions.

“Forty-three companies, including brands such as Adidas and Burberry, retailers such as Target, and supplier organizations – on Monday (Dec 10, 2018) pledged to find ways to reduce emissions in their value chains as part of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action that was launched during the ongoing United Nations (UN) climate change talks in Katowice, Poland.”

Climate Change

Clothing Producing Pollution

Fashion Companies and Sustainability

The fast fashion retailer H&M shared their strategy to be 100% renewable energy by 2040 with a fully circular production model, where the by-product of one industry serves the objective of another! Other signers of the Initiative include Esprit, Guess, Gap Inc, and Hugo Boss.

“Additionally, the famous blue jean manufacturer Levi, Strauss & Co has announced a new climate change action plan. Using Science Based Targets, the company plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% across its global supply chain by 2025. The plan also includes a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in all owned-and-operated facilities, which will be achieved by investing in onsite renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades.” The initiative remains open for others in the clothing industry to follow suit.

Designer Stella McCartney recently stated, “Climate change is undoubtedly one of, if not, the biggest challenge of our lifetime. It is and will affect everyone on this planet and our future. I want to call on my peers in the business, from other brands to retailers and suppliers, to sign up to this charter now and take the necessary actions to address the reality of the issue of climate change in their business and value chains. Collectively we have a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

Fashion industry and pollution


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Cities Accept the Challenge of Climate Change

“It seems clear now that political organizations other than national governments are going to lead in taking actions to reducing climate change.”

Sustainable living

It’s our responsibility to change.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 19, 2018—–Earth’s climate has been changing from the time the planet came into being. It has gone through times when it was much warmer than today and others when it was colder. The climate of today is one that is inseparable from the growth of the human population. The industrial revolution began about 1770 AD and is synonymous with the advent of the steam engine. Steam engines burned fossil fuels, primarily wood or coal.

Planet earth is a single system in which nothing or no process exists in isolation. The burning of fossil fuels began to change the composition of the atmosphere. The temperature of Earth began to warm above what might be expected from natural causes and the term global warming started to appear in literature. Professional conferences by groups of scientists and others began to occur.

In 2015 an international conference on climate change was convened in Paris, France to discuss the problems associated with a changing climate. What is known as the Paris Agreement was ultimately approved by representatives of nearly 200 countries. However, the Agreement does not dictate any actions to be taken by the signatories. Many have done little or nothing concrete to stem climate change

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

Cities, Provinces and Other Regional Governments Take Charge

Many homogeneous political units such as cities, states or provinces began to respond to climate change because governments of these units began dealing with problems of flooding, unhealthy air to breath, increasing heat, etc.

Cities and towns are home to the majority of people now living on the planet. The number living in cities is growing by more than a million each week. By mid-century the percentage of people living in urban areas is estimated to reach 70%.

Groups of cities are now actively working together to reduce greenhouse emissions. As of June 6, 2018, approximately 250 mayors of American cities have officially adopted the Paris agreement. These cities contain about 60 million people. They are part of a group called Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. Among the cities that have agreed to support the Paris Agreement is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is the very city where U.S. President Trump stated he did not represent Paris and might withdraw the United States from the agreement.

building green

Cities, states and individuals must do their part in preventing climate change.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

Perhaps the most concerted effort being made is to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary gas in the absorption of energy in the atmosphere. Cities account for about 70% of carbon dioxide emissions. A major part of the effort to reduce emissions is reducing carbon emissions from motor vehicles. Another is switching to renewable fuels for generating electricity. This means eliminating power plants using fossil fuels.

The Sierra Club recently estimated that encouraged by their Beyond Coal campaign, coal-fired power plants have been closing at times at the rate of one every 16 days. This month representatives from more than 70 countries are gathering in Edmonton, Canada, to explore how to develop cities that can create and maintain a climate that adds a minimal of carbon to the atmosphere.

While some national governments, such as that of the United States, refute the whole concept of climate change and do not want to take any action, the people are taking combined action through more localized governments. It seems clear now that political organizations other than national governments are going to lead in taking actions to reducing climate change.

Planning Sustainably

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Newsworthy Renewables

Boyan Slat

Slat looks over his System 001.

“At this point, cleaning up our planet can’t be left to someone else!”

By Linn Smith

November 13, 2018—-While leafing through renewable resource articles recently, I found many positive activities happening in an effort to counteract climate change. Now that most people have acknowledged climate change is real, renewables will continue to grow in 2019.

Weather extremes are affecting people in many countries. Someone said, “People won’t change until it’s in their own backyard.” Well, in the form of floods and fires, it is in many people’s backyard. It’s a harsh wake-up call by mother nature!

New With Renewables

So here are a few positives that are happening in the renewable resource area:

1. According to Reuters.com, “The Paris region plans to launch a large fleet of electric bicycles in a state-funded scheme aimed at getting commuters to cycle to work and reducing congestion and pollution. They will provide 10,000 electric bikes for long-term rental, eventually expanding to 20,000.”

renewable resources

Paris will add thousands to the streets.

2. According to electrec.co, “Canada will have the first all-electric ferries serving the area in Ontario. A battery pack will be installed on board to power the propellers and a diesel generator will serve as a back-up.”

3. TheGuardian.com states that, “Uber drivers in London will be banned from using vehicles that are not hybrid or fully electric in 2020 as part of a plan to help tackle illegal levels of air pollution in the capital.”

4. Treehugger.com says that, “The European based Easyjet will incorporate electric passenger planes into services within 10 years.”

5. And Tesla is coming out with a new pickup truck in 2019. According to Elon Musk the Tesla pickup will be large, maybe even as large as the Ford F150, a full sized electric pickup truck!

renewable resources

The truck of the future!

6. My favorite in trying to make our planet a better place, 24-year-old Boyan Slat created the nonprofit, the Ocean Cleanup, which is currently in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trying to perfect Wilson, the system created to clean up the plastics in the ocean!

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

At this point cleaning up our planet can’t be left to someone else. It is everyone’s responsibility. Find a way to be some small part of the cleanup effort!

Renewable Resources


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Boyan Slat and the Ocean Clean Up Project

Boyan Slat

Slat looks over his System 001.

“The System 001 is an unmanned system moving with the currents.”

By Linn Smith

October 7, 2018—–If you’re not following Boyan Slat’s attempt to cleanup the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), you should be! This young man put his heart and soul into this project and is currently headed for the great patch of garbage floating in the ocean.

#Boyan Slat

Garbage Patch swirls with the currents.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Slat is the poster child of sustainable innovation for his generation, putting his energy towards cleaning up the environmental mess past generations have created! According to some critics he may not have the perfect solution—but, who else is in the middle of the ocean right now trying?? Hummm, no one! And the mess has been floating and growing for years! Scientists have estimated the Garbage Patch would take 79,000 years to break down and dissolve in the ocean! With the models created by Slat, his system could clean up 50% of the mess by 2025! The majority of the Garbage Patch is large debris. Removing these floating pieces of plastic will prevent the breaking down into microplastics that wildlife and fish can mistake for food and eventually entering the food we eat.

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat

Boyan Slat is 24 years old and the garbage patch is almost as old as he is. By the time it was discovered in 1997, it was already massive. At 16, this Nederland’s born youth went on a diving trip to Greece. “There were more plastic bags than fish,” he told MNN a few years back. “That was the moment I realized it was a huge issue and that environmental issues are really the biggest problems my generation will face.”

Instead of accepting the floating plastic as an adult problem that needs an adult solution, he went back to his high school and went to work solving the problem. Back in his high school classroom he invented a multilevel trawl with centrifugal forces that separated the plastic from the plankton and ocean life.

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

System 001

“The System 001 is an unmanned system moving with the currents, looking like a u-shaped pipeline floating on top of the current. Beneath the pipeline is a 10 ft skirt which traps the plastic caught in the current, protecting sea life because it is solid and not a net.” Slat states, “Our systems fully rely on natural ocean currents and do not require an external energy source to catch and concentrate the plastic. All electronics used, such as lights, will be solar powered.

#theoceancleanup

Big Solutions for the ocean cleanup

Recycling the Ocean Plastic

What will happen to the plastic when it’s back on shore? Slat says he wants to turn it into The Ocean Cleanup brand of merchandise, selling it to support the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He states, “By producing merchandise that is not a single use item that might end up back in the ocean, it will reduce the chance of it ending up back in the ocean by 99%.”

Slat also humbly states, “Big problems require big solutions, if anyone has any better ideas, we’d love to know!”

This young man has the concentrated and innovative talent our planet needs!

You can follow the project currently underway on Facebook ((https://www.facebook.com/boyanslat) or see an up-to-date timeline on his site, The Ocean Clean Up, https://www.theoceancleanup.com/system001/. Also, you can find his TED talk on YouTube or follow on Instagram.

The Ocean Clean Up


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E-Waste: What Happens to those Electronics?

Renewable Resources

Building Sustainably

“E-waste does not belong in the landfills!”

By Linn Smith

October 1, 2018—Do you have a computer? Smart phone? Laptop? Half of the world’s population now uses the internet. In developed countries, nearly 90% of the population own some form of technology and many people race to get the latest up-to-date gadget without any thought of end-of-life disposal of that cell phone, laptop, or computer! There is no budget attached to the item purchased that reminds us of the need to recycle it, but what if we had to pay an extra 20% fee on the purchased item for recycling? Would that make you stop and think about its disposal?

In 2016, all countries combined generated 44.7 million metric tons of electronic waste. And where did it go? 4% was thrown in the trash, 76% was undocumented and just 20% was properly recycled.

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

Proper Recycling of E-Waste

What is proper recycling? Recycling electronics can be difficult because removing the wanted rare earth metals means removing glass, toxic metals, plastic and soldered connectors. Proper recycling is taking your unwanted e-waste to a certified company. A certified company has been audited to make sure the company is following strict regulations in compliance with state regulations.

Recycling electronics costs money, but often finding a certified company can cost less because the recycle center may receive subsidies from the local government. If the company isn’t certified you don’t know where your e-waste may end up. E-waste can create huge environmental hazards if not properly disposed of as it contains lead, mercury, cadmium and other toxins. Many uncertified companies are using unsafe methods to extract the wanted metals.

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

E-Waste: Thailand

China use to take e-waste, but now much of it goes to Thailand where environmental groups have submitted a letter to the government demanding that the government ban imports of toxic waste. Many factories in Thailand are using the unsafe method of burning the plastics of the electronics to get to the copper, gold, platinum and rare metals, creating toxic fumes in surrounding residential areas.

Rick Neitzel, Director of Exposure Research at University of Michigan, says, “As most users grow dependent on their cell phones, laptops, computers and tablets, the production of electronic waste continues to grow.” His team studied the toxins entering the bodies of workers in contact with metals from electronics, measuring the amount of lead and other toxins that find their way into the bloodstream. The blood tests show high levels of toxins!

Working toward 100% renewables

Working Toward Renewable Energy

Urban Mining: Used Metals

Some electronic manufacturers are using recycled metals from out-of-date electronics in manufacturing new phones. DELL will recycle 100 million pounds of e-waste by 2020 and Apple has developed a robot to take apart old Iphones, dissembling 200 Iphones in an hour and sorting the parts for recycling. The goal of Apple is to completely eliminate new rare metals from its manufactured Iphones, using only recycled metals (Urban Mining). An Apple representative states, “The challenge is to extract the metals at a cost that can compete with virgin metals in sufficient quantities.”

In Chili the attitude is to fix things because they figure they can make more money reselling a product than selling recycled parts.

Clayton Miller of http://www.Sustainablebrands.com states,”In the early days of my career I spent a good part of my time explaining to people what e-waste was, that it was hazardous and that it shouldn’t be in the landfills, but today I find that the majority of people want to ensure their discarded electronics are properly recycled.”

What can you do? Find a local, certified center near you to recycle your e-waste!

E-waste: Recycle!

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Lawns of the Future: Cash for Grass

cash for grass

Instead, plant food for pollinators.

“Together we can save precious water and invest in a more sustainable future.”


By Linn Smith

August 19, 2018—- Under Gov. Jerry Brown, Southern California has recently allotted $43 million a year to bring back it’s popular Cash for Grass program, a program which removes lawns and replaces them with  landscapes that require less water.

In the past Cash for Grass was implemented, but the program ran out of money, although it did manage to save a total of 237.3 billion gallons of water in the year it was in place. The past program was only partially successful, as it didn’t care what homeowners replaced their grass with, as long as it saved water.

climate change

The lawn of the future.

The New Cash for Grass Program

The new 2018 Cash for Grass program has strict guidelines. Here’s how it works:

In order to get the Cash for Grass rebate, homeowners must replace their grass with plants that are native, drought-tolerant varieties. Homeowners must cover 50% of the new area with drought-resistant plants and no more than 25% in rocks.

No bare soil can be showing. Bare areas must be covered with mulch to keep the soil moist. The homeowner must install some type of rain barrel to capture rain water from the surrounding area. The rainwater captured can be done by installing an underground tank that holds rainwater or digging trenches around plants to let rain soak into the roots.

Sustainable lawns

Cash for Grass

From Storm Drain to Ocean

In Southern California’s Cash for Grass program, no artificial turf may be used as it doesn’t give back to the ecosystem that produces food for butterflies and other pollinators or perform the necessary evapotranspiration—in other words, it doesn’t cool the environment! Also, artificial turf doesn’t hold water like healthy soil, but transports rainwater into street gutters which empty into the ocean in L.A.

Allowing rainwater to soak into the soil instead of running into the oceans will help replenish Southern California’s underground aquifers. According to http://www.dpw.lacounty.gov, “Storm drains in Los Angeles take rainwater and runoff from sprinklers straight to the ocean to avoid flooding, carrying contaminants to the ocean such as animal waste, auto fluids, fertilizers and pesticides which create health risk.”

Pollinator insects

Maintaining the health of our pollinator insects.

Urban Heat Islands

Allowing water to soak into the soil of a local area also helps cool large urban communities which have become heat islands. Heat islands are urban areas that have significantly warmer temperatures than surrounding rural areas because of city pollution and massive amounts of building materials. (For a history of heat islands see https://planetearth5.com/?s=heat+islands)

Greeley Colorado: Cash for Grass

The city of Greeley, Colorado recently implemented the same Cash for Grass program. They have started out by offering a free landscape lecture series on xeriscaping to residents. The class will cover the best way to transition from grass to a xeriscaped lawn, how to transform your landscape in a cost-effective way and planting areas that will attract the birds, bees and other pollinators.

Gov Jerry Brown says it well….. “Together we can save precious water and invest in a more sustainable future.”

Cash for Grass

Also see Planet Earth Weekly article: https://planetearth5.com/?s=history+of+lawns for further information


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Pollinator Prairies and Highways: Feeding the Bees!

Pollinators

Pollinator habitats are necessary for our food sources.

“Pollinators, especially bees, are responsible for producing 1/3 of the food we eat.”

By Linn Smith
August 6, 2018—-In May 2018, Interstate 76, which stretches through the high plains farmland east of Denver, Colorado for about 185 miles, was designated a Pollinator Highway. The Pollinator Highway Project will not only be planted with food for pollinator insects, but also maintain the health of pollinator plants already growing along the highway.

I have traveled this stretch of highway many times and have always wondered at the vastness of the landscape in this sparsely populated part of Colorado. With almost 9000 miles of highway corridors in the state, I-76 is the perfect test area for the Pollinator Program. The program was initiated by Denver’s Butterfly Pavilion because it is a highway that is not only frequented by migrating butterflies, but also has enough space to eventually create a positive change in our environment by providing food for all pollinating insects.

Pollinator insects

Maintaining the health of our pollinator insects.

Definition of a Pollinator

What is a pollinator? According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “A pollinator is any organism that helps with the cross-pollination of plants. They are vital to the survival of most of the world’s ecosystems, with an estimated 70-87% of flowering plants relying on pollinators. Many of these plants are food crops that humans rely upon and most of the others are key members of natural ecosystems. Bottomline: Pollinators are extremely important!”

Pollinators

Pollinator Prairies and highways

Colorado Pollinator Highway

For CDOT, Colorado Dept. of Transportation, this is a great opportunity to begin positive environmental changes using the space along its highways, replenishing and creating habitats for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies, bats, and hummingbirds. This will affect the future food supply of humans, as it’s said that 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat depends on pollinators. CDOT has stated that the pollinator plants along the highway will not affect travel, as the insects will stay in their habitat if it is well maintained.

Colorado will begin this project by planting an 8 mile stretch along I-76 near Julesburg, just over the state line from Nebraska. This test site will allow CDOT to gather data for plans on maintenance and longevity of future pollinator highways in the state. Besides creating habitats for pollinators, the pollinator highways will reduce maintenance in Colorado by reduced mowing. It is a win-win plan for the future.

If the dilemma of pollinator insect die-off is not addressed now, the future of the food we eat and the low prices we pay are in jeopardy. The decline of pollinators is due primarily to land use changes, pesticide use, invasive species, and climate change which can cause insect diseases and loss of habitat. According to CDOT, 30% of the honeybee population dies off yearly (with only a slight increase after die-off each year.) At this rate, the bee population is not sustainable in the long run.

Insect Pollination

Identify Plant Forage for pollinators

Protecting the Pollinator Habitat

The Colorado Department of Transportation will also be working to protect the pollinator habitat as a long-term solution for survival of pollinator insects. CDOT states, “Managing noxious weeds will also be more specialized along the corridor. In fact, we will have a roadside manager for the corridor, who will also oversee the statewide vegetation management program. The pollinator program will promote genetically appropriate plants that support self-sustaining dynamic ecosystems, which are resistant to invasion by non-native or invasive species.”

A variety of plants will be planted that will blossom at different times in the spring, summer and fall, creating food until the insects lie dormant (slow down) for the winter.

Pollinator Prairie

My friend’s well maintained prairie in the Midwest.

Pollinator Prairies

In the Midwest farmers are taking advantage of the CP-42 Pollinator Enhancement (PDF) program which helps and supports farmers that place part of their farmland in pollinator prairie. So far hundreds of thousands of acres have been planted in the CP-42 program.

A friend of mine has planted about 50 acres in pollinator prairie. He maintains it by going through on a regular basis and digging up invasive plants, such as small elm saplings. His land is near the river where the bottom part of the prairie floods several times a year, which hasn’t affected the pollinator plants so far, as they are not underwater for any length of time. He states, ““Once floodplain land is taken out of crop production and returned to natural prairie (pollinator Prairie), it acts as a very good filter in not only cleaning up dirty water ways, but preventing further flooding inland. Our rivers are dirty and prairie grass can act as a filter by allowing the water to run through the grasses.”

pollinator prairie

My friend’s well maintained pollinator prairie grass

Pollinators, especially bees, are responsible for producing 1/3 of the food we eat. What are the foods that need or benefit from pollination? Here are just a few: alfalfa (which can feed our meat and milk sources!), apples, berries, bananas, tomatoes, chocolate (Cocoa Bean trees) and coconut.

Learn how you can help to increase pollinator insects and food sources at: http://www.peopleandpollinators.org. You can also sign up to do volunteer work!”

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Pollinator insects and habitat


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Watering Your Garden with the Olla Clay Pot System

Olla watering

Garden with less water

“The ancient Olla method consists of unglazed, porous clay terracotta pots buried in the ground.”

By Linn Smith

July 24, 2018—–I was sitting in the shade outside a museum in Tucson last winter when a conversation started between my family and another family nearby. The topic? Olla (pronounced “oy-yahs”) pots…a watering system used by the Chinese 2000 years ago!

Why hadn’t I heard of this method? Growing up in the upper Midwest, where the soil is rich and rain plentiful, nothing ever needed watering! Crops thrived in the moist, rich, black soil of our farm and most farmers had never seen an irrigation system.

traditional watering method

Wheel crop irrigation

Irrigation Systems

On my first trip to Colorado, in my early 20’s, we traveled Highway 76 past crops being irrigated by a rolling irrigation system on wheels, which ran over the top of the crops, dispersing water from the above pipes. The Wheel Line system is mobilized through the field by a gasoline engine, spraying water on crops throughout the field. It seemed like an expensive way of farming, both environmentally and economically, depleting the nearby water sources, while battling with ongoing surface water rights.

Olla: Ancient watering system

Olla: use less water

The Olla Watering Method

As complex as the Wheel Line system is, at the other end of the spectrum is the simplest method…Olla pots. The ancient Olla method consists of unglazed, porous clay terracotta pots buried in the ground. The drier the soil the more water is pulled from the pots by roots sucking water through its pores, or by soil moisture tension which is the result of nearby drier soil drawing water out of the pots, allowing for moisture equilibrium between the soil outside and inside the pot.

Olla: make your own

Place putty on inside and outside of pot

Olla watering system

Bury Olla in soil

Making Your Own Olla Pots

You can either buy olla pots or make your own. Here’s one way to make your own:

Put white putty on the inside and outside of an unglazed terracotta pot (the clay pots you usually plant flowers in) to seal the hole in the bottom. Bury the pot all the way up to the rim next to your plants and fill it with water. Put the plant base (which usually comes with the pot) over the top of the pot to prevent evaporation. The roots of the plants nearby will find their way to the pot and attach to it, seeping out the moisture and also, as stated before, equilibrium will allow the drier soil to pull water out through the pot’s pores.

Olla pots

Pour water in the olla pot

The Olla watering system is a great water saver, plus a dependable method of watering the garden if you’re leaving on vacation for a few days!

The Olla Watering System

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Garden the Sustainable Way

Organic gardening

Gardening sustainably produces healthier food.

Life on earth is incredibly interdependent!

By Linn Smith
May 30, 2018—-Springtime! It’s time to plant the garden and flowerbeds. Here are a few tips for gardening sustainably, without destroying or putting toxic substances into the soil. Instead, sustainable methods provide nourishment to the soil and plants.

Go Organic

In 1987 a United Nations report defined sustainability as, “Practices that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is what our Planet Earth Weekly site is all about! For years now we have been writing, providing ideas and actions you can take to do just that! Leave a healthy planet for future generations!

Here are a few tips. First, compost. Look around you. Nature naturally decomposes living matter back into the soil, providing humus, decomposing leaves and plant life with microorganisms. Humus helps plants absorb nutrients and combat diseases.

At our house composting means putting otherwise wasted food parts in a steal bowl by the sink, which eventually makes its way to a fenced in compost pile near the garden. Everything organic can be put back into the soil, an environmentally healthier method than putting the waste in a plastic bag, sending it to the dump where it will stays for years. This is a year around endeavor, where the compost eventually makes its way to the flower and garden beds. It is worked into the soil in the springtime. When plants die in the fall, throw them back onto your compost pile—a completed sustainable cycle!

Build Trellises

Another tip, build trellises with fallen branches. Below are a few ideas.

Organic garden

Garden Sustainably

Sustainable gardening

Trellis made from tree branches

Living Sustainably

Be creative

Mulching the Garden

Mulch! It saves on water, and when you mulch sustainably using leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, sawdust or compost, you also enrich the soil. Make sure you weed before you lay down the mulch, and also provide a thick layer of mulch, usually 2-6 inches, depending on whether your garden is in partial shade or full sun. Also, if using sawdust, you may want to fertilize first with blood meal, a high nitrogen product.

rainbarrel

Rain barrel to harvest roof water

Rain Barrel

Next, get a rain barrel. You can save on your water bill by recycling rain from your roof onto your garden. In Colorado rain barrels were illegal until several years ago because of water rights. ( See https://planetearth5.com/2017/06/23/solar-uses-in-the-west-monitoring-the-irrigation-ditch/ for further explanation of water rights). Several states, such as Nevada, still have laws against it, so check your state policies before investing in a rain barrel.

Heirloom Seeds

Last, plant heirloom seeds. They are likely to produce more nutritious and flavorful veges and they are open pollinated so you can save them to plant next year. Seeds from plants that are cross pollinated hybrids don’t do well when the seeds are saved from year to year. When you save heirloom seeds you’re saving from plants that have thrived in your garden the year before, so most likely will do well the next year.

sustainable garden

Create natural arches to your garden

As Jayne Poynter stated after spending two years in Biosphere 2, “On a day to day basis I was very aware that Biosphere 2, with the plants, the algae, were providing me with my oxygen and I was providing them with their carbon dioxide. It was incredibly interdependent. It’s like that on Planet Earth, but it’s so big you don’t realize it, or think about it.” https://planetearth5.com/?s=biosphere+2

Keep the cycle going!