Business Commute Challenge 2011

In a previous post last October, I talked about transportation options. It was my first year trying the Business Commute Challenge and I drove, rode my bike and rode the bus. It was that year I “discovered” the bus.

Well, this year, I “discovered” my bike. Not that I didn’t bike a fair amount over the last couple of years, after all, I have just passed 2,000 miles on my bike, but I made a commitment to ride all week during the Challenge. Regardless of the weather.

You need to understand, I’ve traditionally called myself a “fair weather cyclist.” I’d ride if it was nice and ride the bus if it wasn’t and drive if it was more convenient. And driving is still an option. But the week before the Challenge, it was nice weather and I rode. Partly to get in shape for the BCC and partly because it was, well… nice weather.

I work a four day week, so on May 11, I rode my bike. May 12 I had a bunch of meetings where the bus was a better option. The week of the 16th, which was the week of the BCC, I rode my bike.

Every day.

Rain or shine.

And then, I got inspired enough since my car’s gas tank was on empty for a week and a half and it was OK, to ride the week of the 23rd.

Rain or shine.

And I did. And it was mostly shine. But there was some rain. One day, I called it the Master and Commander Day.

It REALLY rained.

But you know what I found? I can ride in the rain. After all, I spent money on rain gear, was I actually going to use it?

I did.

And now, I’m thinking the personal “challenge” for me now is to see if I can go a month until June 10 (at least) riding my bike.

That’s my next goal.

I’ll let you know.

the Lawrence Street House – Rainwater, Part 3

Another area we are looking at to save water is our toilets and clothes washer. These two appliances probably use the most water inside the home as any other. And they are easy “targets” for rainwater use. That’s because they don’t need to use drinking water to be effective. Our thought is to also plumb our home to use some of the rainwater we collect to flush toilets and wash our clothes. 
We will likely have to balance the amount of rainwater we can collect with our irrigation, toilet and clothes washing demands. Our rooftop has the potential to collect far more than we can store practically, but we can’t practically store all we could collect (about 15 to 20,000 gallons), so we’re looking at where to hit that balance. I just received our irrigation estimates and, in our climate, we face the challenge of very wet winter months and pretty dry summer months. So the challenge is to know how many gallons is best overall for storage.
Plus, another challenge we’re facing is our clothes washer. Conventional wisdom (ie LEED points and marketing) says we should get rid of our 28+ year old Maytag washer that uses 40 gallons per load and get a new Energy Star washer that uses 15 to 20 gallons per load. HOWEVER, my question is what happens to our old washer (landfill or reuse?), we only run 2 to 4 loads per week (family of 2) and about half of those are  cold water, if we’re using rainwater for those cold water loads and we’ve never had a problem with our washer in those 28 years (The lonely Maytag repairman ads were right), does it make overall sense to replace our washer? Right now, we’re thinking it doesn’t. So we are probably going to forego that 0.5 point for LEED in lieu of what we feel makes more sense overall. 
I’d be interested in your opinions.

The Lawrence Street House – Rainwater, Part 2

Our primary us for rainwater will be for landscape irrigation. We’re designing our landscape first to need less water to start with. That’s the way it is with good design in anything, reduce is the first “r”.

So we’re being strategic in our plant selection, using the concept of the right plant in the right place. We’re reducing our actual lawn area to just about 100 sq ft. Lawns are the largest irrigated “crop” in the US, and we often use clean, drinking water to do it.
Then, after we reduce, we’re going to reuse (the second “r”) our rainwater that already would have fallen onto the ground where our house will be. The landscaping that needs irrigation will largely be fed by a drip system. Drip irrigation is hugely more efficient than pop-up heads.
We’re also looking at using rainwater for two of the major water-using “appliances” inside our home: our toilets and clothes washer. More on those next time.

The Lawrence Street House – Rainwater, Part 1

In addition to harvesting the solar on our site, we are seriously considering harvesting our rainwater. Eugene gets about 50 inches of rain each year. The rooftop of our main house is about 3,400 sq ft (remember, this includes porches and the garage), and our secondary unit has a roof area of about 1,570 sq ft.

There are several resources you can get online to calculate how many gallons of water this translates into. that’s helpful as we get into our irrigation demand and other things we might want to do with our water.
I’ve talked with the people from RainTech in Jacksonville, Oregon, just over 150 miles from here. Their system (pictured above), is called RainSpace. It’s underground, simple low-tech and just seems elegant to us. Visit their site, watch their installation video and see what we mean.
We’re hoping to use rainwater for all our irrigation and maybe even flush our toilets and wash our clothes with it. I’ll get into a bit more about that tomorrow. Meanwhile, check out RainTech, their green certifications and learn a little more about their company.