Suntracker

Brief linkage today. While Homegrown Revolution doesn’t like to overdo the technology thing, we think this natural light collecting skylight device called the Suntracker One has promise. Similar in principle to the Solatube, the Suntracker, as the name implies, has an additional feature that the Solatube lacks — it tracks the sun with a built-in electronic brain and mirrors. Both the Solatube and the Suntracker direct the light down a tube, thus replacing the heinous blocks of fluorescent fixtures that typically light most commercial buildings with a more aesthetically pleasing natural light. Solatubes are available for residential use, but the Suntracker is oriented towards larger commercial applications.

LED Light Bulbs

The geeks over at BoingBoing have jumped on the LED light bandwagon with a post about the C. Crane Company’s CC Vivid and CC Vivid+ LED light bulbs. While it’s great that folks are beginning to think about conservation, it’s disappointing that this interest seems to be about chasing the latest new techno-gadget. As concerns about impending climate and ecological disaster increase, it’s prudent to greet all new technical solutions with skepticism. After all, why replace one kind of over-consumption with a new “green” consumerism?

Now back to the topic of LED lights. The price of LED lights continues to fall as the their light output increases. However the technology, in SurviveLA’s opinion, is not quite ready for general lighting applications. One way to measure efficiency of light bulbs is a ratio between the light output measured in lumens and power usage measured in watts. Most compact fluorescents have a lumens to watts ratio of about 50 lumens per watt. The CC Vivid light lumens to watts ratio is 24 and the CC Vivid+ ratio is 34 according to the specifications we obtained from the C. Crane Company web site. The spotlight profiled by BoingBoing, which we assume is also the C. Crane spotlight also has a lumens to watts ratio of 34. For more on these issues see the Department of Energy’s FAQ on LEDs.

As the DOE notes in the FAQ, it’s not entirely fair to directly compare compact fluorescents to LED lights, since LED bulbs have a more directed light making them perhaps better for applications such as bedside reading lights, where you don’t want to bother a dozing partner. LEDs, due to their exceptionally long life — upwards of 60,000 hours — are also great for installation in hard to reach locations where the lights will be on continuously.

LED lights, however, still bust the wallet with their high price. This issue reminds us of all the yuppies in our ‘hood tooling around in their expensive new Toyota Priuses. It’s 19th century technology, but a bicycle is still a hell of lot more efficient . . .

Far Side of the Stairs

The folks over at SoapboxLA have tossed down the stair climbing gauntlet with their participation in this weekend’s alley cat race and fundraiser for injured bike messenger Orlando Godoy. The race, entitled “Thus Climbed Zarathustra” in honor of Nietzsche’s birthday involved miles of racing around Echo Park and Silver Lake interspersed with climbs of the region’s many horrendous staircases. SurviveLA had important business to attend to and was not able to attend, though even if we had been free the idea of combining “alley-cat” with our “middle-age” we feared might lead to a trip to the “emergency-room”. But the brave folks at SoapboxLA were clearly up to the challenge and took first place in the categories of non-crocodile wrestling Australian and fiery high-horse Hungarian.

But seriously, part of this urban homesteading thing is about whipping our communities into shape and LA needs a serious thrashing, and I don’t mean the sort delivered by the ladies in the back of the LA Weekly. We need to make LA a walkable, bike-able and livable place just like the folks in the other great cities of the world have done. Why is it that LA suffers from low self-esteem and low expectations? Why is it that when our downtown skyline appears in a movie, the image is shorthand for crime infested ghetto hell-hole? Why is it that when you point out the pedestrian and cycling amenities of cities like Portland and San Francisco the immediate response is, “that will never work in LA”?

We urge all revolutionaries out there to join with SoapboxLA to call our city officials on their complacency and make this city a great place to live. SoapboxLA had an important victory in helping insure bicycle and pedestrian access to the Griffith Observatory and they are also fighting for a safer bike lanes on the soon to be constructed Santa Monica Boulevard Transit Parkway. Brothers and sisters, it’s time to saddle up the high-horses and ride off with the Soapboxers!

The Green Cone

SurviveLA contributor and neo-country singer Corey Travis, currently on tour with his band in London, Malta, and Tunisia, sends us word of a “kitchen waste eliminator” called the Green Cone, that he bought after seeing a review in that modernist porn magazine Dwell. The cone part of the Green Cone sits on top of a basket buried in the ground. You put your kitchen waste in the cone, add some “accelerator powder” provided by the company, and let the waste dissolve into the ground. The system is similar to dog waste disposal products such as the “Doggie Dooley” and is basically a primitive septic tank, that turns solid waste into liquids which then, if all goes well, percolate into the soil.

The Green Cone, supposedly digests all kitchen waste including meat, fish, bones, animal waste, and dairy products, items not recommended in most compost piles due to the fact that they smell bad while decomposing, attract pests, and could possibly transmit Salmonella and E. coli bacteria if used on food crops. The green cone is, however, not a composter and the end result should not be used as garden compost due to the fact that home compost piles usually can’t generate enough heat to kill the bad bacteria in meat and animal waste. For the reasons you shouldn’t put meat products in compost piles check out the excellent composting safety tips found at the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.

The Green Cone could work as a good solution for folks who don’t have much of a garden, have access to a small bit of soil, and want to lesson the amount of waste going to the landfill. The key thing will be to see how well the waste dissolves, since most septic systems have to be pumped out occasionally. We’re also curious to see if any bad smells or critters manage to break into the cone. Once again the Green Cone is a septic system and not a solution for anyone who wants to create compost for a food garden.

Lastly, we don’t know if this will work in a Green Cone, but a town in Sweden has an even more advanced waste disposal plan, which involves a new kind of funeral rite, where bodies are freeze-dried, ground up and spread on trees as compost.

Homegrown Evolution Food Review: Backpacker’s Pantry Huevos Rancheros

On our recent Homegrown Evolution journey to Santa Rosa Island we taste tested another freeze-dried food item, Huevos Rancheros from Backpacker’s Pantry. While this product has an impressive shelf life and ease of preparation, making it appropriate for emergency food supplies, we’ve had better freeze dried entrees. Our fellow campers had the same reaction to the visual look of the cooked and re-hydrated product: dog vomit. The taste wasn’t all that bad, but it had the overly salty and questionably seasoned feeling of almost all dehydrated foods. Imagine eating just the seasoning packet from a bowl of ramen. We’ve had much better luck with some home made foods that we’ll share in future posts.

And, perhaps this is a cheap shot, but Backpacker’s Pantry has really got to consider redesigning the package which has a sort of rear view of a llama in an Andean landscape. The marketing folks probably want us to have the feeling of, “wow, isn’t this food great – now I can take a hacky-sack break on my high altitude Peruvian trek” rather than “so that’s what end of the animal this food comes from.”