Tuesday, June 01, 2010

My "Green" House

This is an effort to list out my and my family’s efforts in making a small patch of land which we call “Our Green House” go green. Going green is not a pain; it’s a way of life which makes you feel proud of what you are. Heres the list ranked as per my analysis of effectiveness in reducing carbon footprint.

1) Go VEG. And I rank it on top of the go-green efforts. Apart from the satisfaction of not killing to eat, it helps you minimize your carbon foot print. Going as low as possible on the food chain makes your carbon footprint (w.r.t food you eat) almost equal to an herbivorous animal. And never waste food. Think of the "nature days" (just like staff days) gone for one of your meal. If every grain of rice takes 4 months. Can you count the nature days of your one meal?
2) Have some breathing space around.
Having nearly half of your site as a green garden space is a luxury for city dwellers. I’m blessed to be one such :) . Apart from supporting a small eco-system in itself and providing a lung space; it also provides sufficient raw materials for chutneys, some veggies and fruits. Also, having space all around will give you access to ample air and sunlight within your house. What more can you ask for in life, when you are privileged enough to be able to smell the aroma of soil and get soiled when you water your plants after a tiring/boring day at work. Infact I read somewhere that Bangalore “was” once called Garden city not because of Lalbagh or Cubbon park, but because of the small small gardens that used to decorate every patch of land (once upon a time).
3) 5-bin system to segregate garbage generated at home.
a. BBMP bin – This fella gets only the garbage which has to go out. This includes too soiled plastic, thermacole, sanitary waste etc. This hardly goes more than a kilo per week.
b. Dry combustible waste – This includes coconut shell, waste paper, cardboard, other dry waste from garden. This goes to our waste-wood water heater (more about it later)
c. Plastics – This obviously goes for recycling. We also take care that plastic covers are re-used as much as possible before they are recycled. Also, even as small as chocolate wrappers go to this bin.
d. Wet kitchen waste – Wet kitchen waste (vegetable peel, fruit peel etc) along with liquid waste from kitchen (like water used to wash rice, left out sambar, spoilt milk etc) goes to this bin. This is later consumed by our “Biogas plant” (more later).
e. Newspaper and other recyclable waste – This bin gets newspapers, cardboards, electrical items and other items that go to the Kabadiwala.
4) Fourth in my ranking is our biogas generator. This joined our family only a month ago and the work it does is astonishing. I got it from Biotech. After lot of homework, procrastination and suspicion, I ordered this one.
Just half a bucket of kitchen waste (liquid+solid) and it gives us gas enough to meet more than 80% of our cooking needs. We spent around 20k on this unit and atleast initial figures show that it’ll save atleast 2k per year (considering one LPG cylinder lasts for a month and costs 350Rs). Not only it saves bucks, it makes you self-sufficient. Believe me, the shift from being a consumer to a producer is a very radical one. Its so amazing that the waste you were supposed to throw away is still so valuable. And yeah, forgot to mention, the liquid which comes out as waste from this is high in NPK which is a feast for plants.
Also, think of the methane which would have otherwise escaped to the atmosphere (from landfills) and contributed to green house effect; you are using it to cook. And methane is ranked more dangerous as green house gas than carbon-dioxide. Earth would bless you for converting methane to CO2 :)
5) Use solar energy:
a. Solar water heater: I think almost all houses in Bangalore have this one. Not only it is environment friendly and saves bucks, you also get a 50Rs discount on your monthly electricity bill.
b. Solar inverter: Almost every household nowadays has an inverter. How about having a solar inverter? Got an 800VA hybrid solar inverter from Tata BP solar half a year ago. Its initial costs are high, costs about 2-2.5 times more than a normal inverter. Solar panels cost more than half of the amount. But, having it means, you have a power plant at home. Clearly visible savings of 200-250Rs per month. This inverter can be charged by either solar energy or electricity. It comes with a charge controller which basically is a comparator that selects the stronger signal between solar and electricity. At home, we generally switch on to this inverter every morning (once the sun is out) and it generally comes upto 8pm, satisfying all our lighting needs (lights, fan, TV).
c. Solar lantern: This one has moved to a corner after we got the solar inverter, but still we keep using this sparingly. A very valuable asset too..
6) Rain water Harvesting: Apart from the rainwater harvesting that naturally happens through our garden, we have altered the landscape of our garden such that all the excess run out rainwater is directed towards one location in a corner of our site. Apparently, that corner had an old defunct underground tank 4X4X5 in size (defunct due to the coconut tree roots that ripped it apart). The only thing we did was to make the tank bottomless i.e. remove concrete from its bottom and make way for rainwater on its top. The bottomless tank was made deeper (about 10ft now) and 4ft of it was filled with sand and pebbles. Also made sure that the rooftop run out rainwater also gets directed towards this percolation pit. Not much spent on rainwater harvesting; only a day’s job for the mason; no plumbing/pipes installed. Works wonders. Our borewell is also adjacent to the percolation pit. In just one year, hardness of the borewell water has come down. Happy that its become mandatory in Bangalore. More happy that BWSSB didn’t have to compel me to do this :P
Cities flood because there is concrete everywhere and no place for rainwater to seep in. Just imagine if every household harvests rainwater; how much less stressed our drainage would be and how much less flooded our cities.
7) Waste wood boiler: I think this one was bought about 6-7 years ago. Before we got the solar water heater, we used to heat water using this daily. Waste wood from our garden is more than enough for 3-4 days per week. In bangalore, we get around 300 days of good sunlight for solar water heater. For the rest 65 days, we have this Waste wood boiler :). I think it costed around 8k at that time. We had got it shipped from Warm Stream, Gujarat. Heats water quickly with very less smoke. A nice way of waste management indeed.
8) No more wood policy - Whatever wood(i.e furniture, doors etc) is there at home right now is fine.. but no more of it. During the renovation of our house a year ago, used PVC doors; used PVC panels to make shelves on our chajjas; got plastic furnitures; used metal for ventilators. But no wood .. There are a lot of alternatives available for wood nowadays and they workout to be cheaper as well. One just has to lookout for it.
9) Replaced every incandescent bulb with a CFL. This change was done long ago, ranking it at 8th position. Also, with just a bit of survey, reduced the wattage of CFLs at places wherever possible. For ex: If you have 2 CFLs in a room, change the most used light to one with lesser wattage. If you need more light, you can always switch on the other one. With some small changes like this, you can see a significant change in your electricity bill.
10) It has become a habit to check for corporation water before using the overhead tank tap. Generally, overhead tank water is costlier as it involves pumping and storage costs. Its not a tough habit to cultivate, isn't it..
11) Apart from the biogas generator for kitchen waste, we also have a large drum to compost dried/green leaves from our garden.
12) Never throw away even small bits of paper or plastic on the roads. Think of it, if you can carry a chocolate, why not it's wrapper after eating it. Afterall, it is lighter than the chocolate. Be sensible citizens and dispose properly. Also, buy packaged drinking water only if it absolutely necessary. Generally, wherever you go, our people are kind enough to provide you potable water to drink.
13) Use things until they are no longer usable. If you are bored of something, donate it to the needy. Don't have a consumeristic approach.
14) Walk or cycle to places nearby. It improves your health and environment both. Stay fit. Involve yourself in more physical activities. This will cut your medical expenses. Spend more on eating good food rather than medicines. In a way, even this makes you light on the environment (by reducing effluents from medicines factories).
As I said earlier going green is not an effort, its a habit; a way of life.
Next in my list of things to do is a roof garden. This would increase the green space as well as reduce the room temperature (inturn reducing the fan usage). Still thinking of more options that can be implemented at home.

Apart from turning my house into a "Green household", I have to get more involved in green groups like "Green Commandos" and do my part towards the society. After all, for the success of any project, first oneself, then the society should get/made involved wholeheartedly.
Lets do our part and paint the earth Green..