Sustainability: From Biodiesel to Water Waste

Sustainability: From biodiesel to water waste 

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When it comes to sustainable-living, not many people can say they are living a sustainable life, much less a green one.  Don’t get me wrong, many people have parts of their life where they are trying to be green or trying to act more responsible when it comes to the environment, but aside from maybe using biodiesels, driving a hybrid, recycling or trying to conserve water, how much are we really doing?

Well the DerVaes family in Pasadena, CA decided they wanted to do more.  Over the past 20+ years, they have transformed their early 1900’s Craftsman bungalow home and run-down yard into a whole new level of urban living.  Determined to live a self-sufficient, low-impact life right in the middle of a big Southern California city, the Dervaes set out along their “Path to Freedom”.

Here are just some of their accomplishments on their Urban Homestead:

Biodiesel Homebrew GuideTo start off, they try to do four days every week without using their car.  That’s four days where they walk, ride their bikes or take public transportation.  The other days when they do drive, they use their own homemade biodiesel.  Since they average less than 4000 miles a year on their car, every month or so they just brew up a 30-gallon batch of biodiesel made from used vegetable oil provided by one of their restaurant clients.  (NOTE: For those of you who don’t have vehicle that runs on diesel or don’t have a hybrid/electric vehicle, using a reliable fuel additive is another good alternative to help reduce emissions and increase fuel economy.) 

They have organic vege-fed ducks and chickens which provide eggs and goats which are used for milk.  None of the animals are grown for meat purposes, but the manure from those animals (and their rabbits) is another re-usable product and great for gardens and future growth.   

organic gardenThey have about 4350 sq ft of gardens where year-round they grow fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and even edible flowers.  Any excess the family doesn’t use is usually sold to local restaurants and caterers, however individuals can also get on the mailing list to be notified when excess produce is available.  They grow over 350 varieties of edible and useful plants (seasonal, of course) totaling about 6,000 lbs per year.

They have cut their energy use in half with 2/3rds of their energy coming from their 12 solar panels.  They also follow key energy saving tips such as using rechargable batteries, line-drying their clothes, using energy-efficient appliances, using olive oil lamps and homemade candles.  They use people-power to run many of their small applicances including a hand-powered toaster, bike-blender and radio.  They even have a solar powered oven.  They have no A/C and no central heating, but have solar attic fans and a wood-burning stove which uses up their scrap wood.

They have dramatically cut down on their water-waste, even with the large volume of produce they grow throughout the year.  They have incorporated low flush toilets and solar outdoor showers into the household.  They also do hand watering, mulching, re-use laundry water, etc.

I, for one, am very impressed not only with their dedication but with their accomplishments.  They aren’t living on a 12-acre farm somewhere, instead they have turned their city home into a profitable and viable way of sustainable living.  Incorporating everything from biodiesel to water waste, the DerVaes family has set the pace for urban homesteaders everywhere!

Biodiesel Home Brewing Guide photo from Garden photo from

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