Your Home’s Most Underused Resource – The Roof


Insects collecting nectar unintentionally tran...

Honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of pollination, making up 1/3 of the human diet.

Forget tearing up that beautiful front lawn you have so beautifully landscaped. The roof is the most overlooked and underutilized space in your home. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities and benefits to moving your sustainable ‘green thumb’ to the roof.

Bees On The Roof

When you think of bee keepers, you think of them on terra firma, right? Think again.

Once the colony is up and running, you don’t need to visit the hive(s) every day. Matter-of-fact, having your bees on the roof makes perfect sense. They’re out of the way and you won’t have to warn your guests every time they sit in your back yard.

Most of us seldom even consider the importance bees have in our ecosystem. But, consider that one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Not just the urban homesteader crowd is into keeping bees topside. Rooftop beehives are also a growing restaurant trend http://ow.ly/5oyM6.

Bees are also the ultimate locavores, as they look for food just within a three-mile radius. Try getting everything you eat from only 3 miles away.

Arvin Pierce places a brood of honeybees into one of the hives on the roof next to Maldaner's Restaurant in downtown Springfield.

The good news is that if you are gung-ho to get your rooftop producing sustainable, local honey, you’ll likely have no conflict with city hall. Unless of course they are prohibited in your municipality, which is unlikely. Ernie Slottag, spokesman for the City of Springfield, said he is not aware of any ordinance prohibiting beekeeping within city limits.

Roof Gardens

Roof gardens are being seen as the next frontier in the urban farming movement. And for good reason.

Many urbanites don’t have the space on their window sills or balconies for a descent garden. But, some are taking to their buildings’ roofs and making the most of the space with container gardening.

Rooftop gardener re-purposes old kiddie tubs for use as plant containers in Westerville, Ohio.

City rooftop gardens are also gaining momentum in the Big Apple. Gotham Greens in Brooklyn has just beg harvesting from the 15,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility that will grow over 100 tons of fresh, local produce per year. See video: CNN – A farm on every rooftop. Created in 2008 with a mission of providing New Yorkers with local, sustainable, premium quality produce year round, they sustainably grow everything from seed to harvest, in their hydroponic rooftop greenhouse.

Chicago City Hall Green Roof

Living Roofs
The term green roof refers to the concept of covering the majority of the roof’s surface with flora. A key benefit to this coverage is the dissipation of solar energy in the summer months. Living roofs can also be used to indicate roofs that use some form of “green” technology, such as a cool roof, a roof with solar thermal collectors or photovoltaic panels. The term eco-roofs, has been used to describe any of these systems.

Depending upon your needs, budget and space, the possibilities are endless. As with any roof system you plan to install, you’ll want to consult an engineer or builder about the load bearing capacity of your own roof before starting construction.

Up On High

The views from your roof are seldom enjoyed unless you’re a kid. Why not enjoy a sunset, sunrise or just look around your neighborhood from atop your humble abode? Creating a space where you can sit and enjoy your urban homesteading efforts can be very rewarding and expand the livable area of your home.

Having a safe way to get to and from your new rooftop chill space is a must. But with a little planning and some forethought, you could soon be drinking margaritas at sunset from your new perch.

Water Catchment

Water catchment systems direct rainwater falling on your roof to a storage system for use in landscaping or sometimes even a new potable water source. Believe it or not, the average person uses 18,000 gallons of water per year! The importance in offsetting this consumption will only grow in a world of scarce water supplies.

Home systems range in scope and cost, but a modest home system can run you $5,000 – $8,000 to install, with a capture capacity of up to 100,000 litres of water or more per year.

Think you’re selfishly stealing the water for your own uses?

Rainwater harvesting, as it is also called, is actually viewed by many, as a partial solution to the problems posed by water scarcity: droughts and desertification, erosion from runoff, over-reliance on depleted aquifers, and the costs of new irrigation, diversion, and water treatment facilities.

True, harvested rainwater in the U.S. is used mostly for irrigation. But, with water becoming a growing issue, there is a growing interest in using rainwater for drinking and other indoor uses. Over 50% of household water is used indoors; bringing rain indoors could save the expense and environmental costs of treating and transporting water.

Rooftop System Benefits
Increased thermal efficiency is one main benefit to rooftop systems. By covering your roof with greenery, your inside temperatures remain cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. You save money and energy in the process.

  • They cool and shade buildings, which reduces the ‘heat island‘ effect of a city.
  • Retains and utilizes rainwater, provides wildlife habitat, and enhances the roof membrane life.
  • Has an aesthetic appeal creating a private haven.
  • Removes heavy metals such as: cadmium, copper, and lead from runoff.

Sustainable Coffee


Café Mam is sustainably grown, fair trade, organic, shade grown and hand picked.

Two words. Café Mam.

There it is folks, the best coffee I’ve ever had the pleasure to brew. Not only that, but it’s the most sustainable and at a price that beats most lesser quality brands. Less than $10 bucks a pound for a 5 lb. bag and that includes tax and shipping!

Why care about the coffee you drink?

Simple. By purchasing coffee that is sourced from growers using sustainable agricultural methods, you are part of the solution and not the problem. Café Mam coffee is grown by fair trade cooperatives of native Mayan farmers living in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala. According to their website –

“The farmers believe that by taking care of the soil, they are taking care of the entire bio-system. Their beliefs and sustainable approaches to agriculture benefit their communities in many positive ways. Café Mam farmers seek to conserve and rebuild the natural environment and work toward a higher quality of life for their families.”

The growers that supply the beans belong to a collective. The collective is organized according to egalitarian democratic ideals that emphasize hard work, responsibility, and high standards. The cooperative’s programs provide countless benefits to outlying native communities.

Over the past 30 years coffee grown from sun tolerant trees has been the norm. However, the mono-cropping methods used depletes soil and has a negative impact on the environment. Conversely, shade grown varieties support biodiversity and house up to two-thirds of the bird species found in natural forests in the same geographic areas.

You can feel good about the coffee you drink, knowing it provides so many benefits to the environment. I like to keep Café Mam coffee on hand so I don’t run out. Going online to order is easy, convenient and makes a wonderful gift for that sustainable someone in your life.

The New Era of Food Politics


Food for Life distributes food on an internati...

Food for Life distributes food on an international level.

Most of us have heard a great deal about food lately.

Michael Pollan‘s book Omnivore’s Dilemma caused the agribusiness conglomerates to refer to the millions of his fans as having been, “Pollan-ated”. Food Inc. grossed over $4 million worldwide and was nominated for an Oscar, making it one of the highest viewed documentaries of all time. And recently Michelle Obama just announced the USDA’s program to educate us about proper nutrition by replacing the decades old Food Pyramid.

Multiple factors are fueling this focus on food and nutrition;

  1. Health Care today is eroding American‘s ability to pay for their own health insurance
  2. Food security is breaking down with numerous outbreaks of federal recalls of meat and produce
  3. Increased information about antioxidants and the importance of eating fruits and vegetables
  4. Food prices have soared worldwide, powering a surge in urban farming
  5. The aging Babby-Boomers are demanding better nutrition through food and food supplements

Millions of Americans are now more concerned than ever about what goes in their bodies. Many different definitions have been used to describe people’s choices of what they eat. Vegetarian refers to those who do not eat meat or anything with eyes. Lacto-ovo vegetarians add milk products and eggs to their diets.

Mycena Interrupta is one of many organisms that belong to detritivores.

Unfamiliar to most are the lesser known terms such as “vegcurious”, referring to those that do not identify themselves as vegan or vegetarian but are curious about reducing the amount of meat and dairy in their diet. “Flexitarians”are people who occasionally eat meat, fish and dairy, but stick to a mostly vegetarian lifestyle.

There are also “pescetarians”, who eat fish and seafood to supplement their vegetarian diet. Then there are the “freegans,” who eat only free food, particularly food about to be tossed in the dumpster. This group is out to make a political statement while acting as the human equivalent of the detritivore.

Whatever group you fall into, there is one overwhelming conclusion – we are becoming aware not only of the personal benefits to a more healthy diet, but of the impact our decisions about food have on our planet. We are approaching a time of awakening for human kind (akin to the Age of Enlightenment) where we take a fresh look at the effects of all food related systems that affect our health and our environment.

World Population Chart

This new perspective will be a critical element to our ability to create sustainable agricultural systems that build economic stability, improve quality of agricultural lands and insure the viability of a world population that is on track to reach 10 billion by the year 2040.

How to Save Money and Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle


Energy Conservation and Efficiency in the Home

The reality is, that we aren’t always as energy conscious as we would like. We leave our cars running, don’t shut down our computers at night and sometimes forget to turn the lights off when we leave a room.

The first step on the path to being more sustainable is admitting this universal fact; we can all improve our energy efficiency. The suggestions listed below will cost you very little or nothing at all to implement. If you want to go further and attain dramatic energy reductions, the basic rule is that for every $1 you spend on making your home more energy efficient, you’ll save $3 to $5 on the cost of the renewable energy system.

Many people are not aware how wasteful their energy habits are. They are willing to pay large electric bills, without question, and do not even consider that reducing their energy usage will result in lower utility bills.

In this case, knowledge is power. Enter the Energy Calculators and Carbon Footprint Calculators, free for all to use. They have been created by industries and utility companies to help consumers realize where most of their energy is used and help to identify areas in which they can reduce their usage while saving on their bill.

To many this may seem like an ominous task. However, the process only takes minutes to evaluate, resulting in saving you money and enhancing our environment for future generations. This is a simple step you can take to creating a more sustainable lifestyle.

Consider that in the past 30 years, residential energy consumption from appliances and electronics in the US has approximately doubled, from 17% to 31%. This increase has essentially offset the gains from energy efficient appliances made possible through programs such as Energy Star. Efforts have been made by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) to educate citizens of where our energy is used; transportation, commercial, residential, and industrial sectors are the main sectors.

Over the past 25 years, energy use in residential dwellings has grown.  The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has on their website a list of ways homeowners can improve their home’s efficiency – items ranging from HVAC system replacement to purchasing of low energy usage electronics and appliances, lighting, and refrigeration.

For example, per ACEEE, water heating consumes 12% of residential energy.  To offset this, options such as solar hot water systems, recirculation pumps, geothermal, and gas and electric tank less systems exist.   Buyers are often directed to purchase items with the Energy Star logo on them – but what does that mean? Energy Star is a result of a cumulative effort between the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1992, and aims to inform consumers of how purchasing these rated items that will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emission and will ultimately reduce their energy usage and save them money in the long run. Energy efficient programs such as this are essential and allow us to accomplish the same tasks while using less energy.  Residential energy conservation will soon become a normal aspect of cost savings and will support a sustainable lifestyle.

“How can I reduce my home energy consumption without making drastic changes to my lifestyle?”

Begin by evaluating your energy usage by using an energy calculator and carbon footprint calculator.  Then, start to identify areas you can begin to conserve energy.

By exercising these suggested action items, you can lower the cost of your monthly utility bill and help protect the environment, right from your own home.

Turbocharging Your Health


Recently I wrote an article entitled, “Healthy Living Starts In Your Back Yard – Juicing”. Since that time I have continued to experiment with my juicing in combination with exercise. I have made some amazing discoveries.

When we make one lifestyle change such as beginning a new exercise program, we gain the results of that effort. What was a big surprise for me was the effect of several changes at once.

Fruit and Vegetable Juicer

I will refer to the following suggestions as a detoxifying lifestyle, as they promote the body’s natural detoxifying processes while invigorating the endocrine, circulatory and respiratory systems.

I’m not a big drinker but, this January I decided to join my friends and abstain from drinking for the whole month. This coincided with my new Bikram Yoga regimen and juicing routine. I discovered that instead of my usual cup of water mixed with Emergen-C immediately after my Bikram class, I would drink juice made earlier that morning.

What I discovered really surprised me – I was immediately energized and relaxed at the same time. Now, you might say that I was on a sugar high. Vegetable and fruit juice do have relatively high amounts of natural sugar (more on this later). But, the effect was noticeable on multiple occasions and with others besides myself.

I believe that what is happening is that the body is being stressed to the point of sweating, which is a detoxifying process. At the time your body needs and wants nutrients and vitamins to replenish what has been used as fuel, you give it high potency vegetables and fruit. The body readily accepts and assimilates the nutrients and utilizes the antioxidants at the time it needs it most.

I have combined this regimen with a combination of eating well and taking Juice Plus on a daily basis. Taken together, this ritual has increased my energy level, allowed me more restful sleep, given me better stamina and has had a calming effect on my system.

This is, of course, all anecdotal but, the conclusion is unavoidable. Fruits and vegetables are what our body needs and craves. For those who are physically active, such as athletes the process of free radical damage to cells is even more pronounced.

Juice Plus protects the cells very effectively from this oxidizing damage. 17 fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness (nearly impossible to find anywhere save those who grow them),  juiced and then dried, preserving the maximum amount of antioxidants and vitamins.

For a great example of what taking Juice Plus can do for you, especially if you are an athlete, is Dave O’Brien’s funny and informative explanation.

I’ll write soon about using the pulp, what’s left of the fruits and vegetables after you juice, in another post.

Good luck with your health plan and please send to me any feedback you might have.

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