Moving water without electricity

Plumbing raised out of the spring-fed stream runs 200 feet down to a reservoir.

Plumbing raised out of the spring-fed stream runs 200 feet down to a reservoir.

Spring is just starting to bud out here in the Ozarks on the Springfed Farm.  The temperatures are rising making me search for my shorts and t-shirts.  Then they drop and I know it is too early to put away my hat, scarf and gloves.

During a warmer winter week, my brother-in-law began the new water pumping project.  The star of this neat energy efficient project is the hydraulic ram pump.  According to “How stuff works” website (, ram pumps operate on the force of the moving water.  The spring on our farm runs approximately 40 gallons per minute pretty much year round.  To utilize this pump, we had to redesign the plumbing that was in place for raising trout in a stock tank.

Pipe cemented into the small rock dam.

Pipe cemented into the small rock dam.

To raise trout, a small dam was built at a raised level to the tanks.  Water dropped from the dam and when it reached the tank, it climbed up a pipe and sprayed out the spout, creating an oxygen supply for the trouties who swam round and round “upstream” of the clockwise water direction.

Spring water meets mini dams directing water into 3 inch piping.

Spring water meets mini dams directing water into 3 inch piping.

To engineer the water force needed, Tom calculated the drop should be 17 feet from a reservoir tank.  He did 2 things to make this drop–dig out the stream bed until he reached a ledge bedrock. This platform had to be out of the way of the spring’s flow.  From there, he calculated the 17 foot rise and built a reservoir tank there.  To get the water to the reservoir, we had to move the 3 inch pipes that were in the stream 4-5 feet up the hillside of the stream.  A new elevated dam was built to allow for a 1 foot drop from the spring’s source to the reservoir.

The homemade concrete reservoir holds the water 17 feet uphill from the ram pump down in the stream bed.

The homemade concrete reservoir holds the water 17 feet uphill from the ram pump down in the stream bed.

This home-made ram pump (bought online from an entrepreneur) will allow solar energy to be reserved for the new air conditioning minisplit unit that will be our main cooling source this summer. Here in Arkansas, getting the humidity out and temperatures down is essential for comfort.

So though this pump only directs 10% of the water moving through it up the hill to the irrigation tanks for the farm, it works by mechanical not electrical force.  I can’t wait until warmer temps when the ram pump is launched!


Living in the Ozarks

Contemplating life in the Ozarks.

Contemplating life in the Ozarks.

The picture of me on my blog banner is overlooking the Buffalo River.  For the past 5 years, I’ve been trekking to northern Arkansas to assist my sister and brother-in-law in their woodsy lifestyle.  They built their own farm and live off-the-grid on solar, collecting their water from rain off the roof, and feeding the plants from year-round spring water.

I moved to the midwest from Hawai’i.  My soul is connected there.  But the Ozarks have captured my heart and ignited my imagination to live as sustainably as possible.  I retired from St. Louis Community College where this blog tells the story of all the projects we engaged in as a family to raise awareness about recycling, greened our office practices conserving paper, and gathered to explore ways to synchronize our curriculum with nature through sustainable practices.

I plan to continue this blog about green spaces from my new home in Arkansas.  I moved here over the holiday break between semesters. I feel blessed to teach online classes in psychology for the college as an retired adjunct professor from my cabin in the woods.  Teaching has been a passion for decades.  Here in retirement, I want to branch out and teach beyond my academic training.  Writing is teaching–if not the reader, then me penning thoughts to page (or bytes to virtual space).

Dad visiting the "hoop" green house on my sister's Springfed Farm.

Dad visiting the “hoop” green house on my sister’s Springfed Farm.

Snowman and Red Bird on Mauna Kea

Prof K’s “Snowman and Red Bird on Mauna Kea” pillow

I am learning about organic farming, raising trout, building energy-efficient structures, and about nature all around me abundant with life even in the dark and quiet of winter.


I have my first quilt commission from my pal and patron, screenwriter and director Rich Krevolin. I’m piecing a throw-sized quilt from 40 silk ties. I’m excited to collaborate and fill my studio with creative energy. The snowman pillow is Hollywood Prof K (Krevolin) checking out the observatories atop Mauna Kea.

As soon as I sell my home in Florissant, MO, I plan to break ground on my energy-efficient home. Until I get that project underway, I am cozy in my studio/garage.  I like living more simply out of 2 rooms–I’ve dubbed one room my Prius‘s bedroom. I’m exploring nano-architecture. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle melding style and function; like living on a boat where every space has more than one purpose.  My “lofty” space on top of my built-in storage is guest bed, reading corner and couch when company drop by!

Lofty couch atop of built-in storage unit.

Lofty couch atop of built-in storage unit.


STLCC Shines in RecycleMania

During winter 2012, St. Louis Community College (STLCC) got busy with RecycleMania at all 4 campuses and 3 education centers. Each campus created their own plan to raise awareness for recycling efforts.  Meramec got busy with “Waste-less Wednesdays”  handing out drink coupons for “Getting Caught Green-Handed.”  Cosand Center, Wildwood and Meramec did “exchanges” with clothing, books and “new to you” household and garden items.  Electronic recycling was a new category to RecycleMania this year. Meramec added e-waste to their participation. Wildwood also collected electronics for Earth Month but not during the challenge.  Motown music inspired the Cosand Center Green Team’s first Recycling Fashion Show where employees hooted and laughed over outfits made from paper and recyclable items.

Cindy Green "Hawaiian-Style"

It was an amazing Earth Month full of many celebrations, including the Second Annual Recycling Extravaganza at Forest Park campus in collaboration with St. Louis Earth Day, and a Household Hazardous Waste collection at Florissant Valley Campus .

The BIG RESULTS for the district were that even though TRASH increased by 1847.5 lbs, recycled paper also rose by 3079.5 lbs; bottles by 2758 lbs; and newly collected compost added 5111 lbs so that the district diverted 10,948.5 lbs MORE from the landfill than in 2011.  This is a savings for the college because our trash contract costs 2.5 times more than our recycling contract.  Recycling truly SAVES both the college pocketbook as well as the planet. 

Though our challenge was informal, the STLCC campus Benchmarking winners were:

  • The STLCC Gorilla Winner went to Meramec campus for collecting 41,810 lbs of recyclables (Flo Valley at 29,456; Forest Park at 28,991; and Cosand Center at 13,996 lbs). Tiny Wildwood collected 25,499 lbs. More on them in the Competition Category below.
  • The STLCC Per Capita Winner went to the Cosand Center where employees collected 52.42 lbs of recycling per person!!! (Flo Valley at 5.45; Forest Park at 4.70; and Meramec at 5.25 lbs/person).
  • The STLCC Waste Minimization Winner went to Meramec where their recycling + trash were 9.72 lbs/person (Cosand Center at 75.74 lbs; and Flo Valley at 13.79 lbs/person). In this category, the lower number signifies better trash management.
  • The STLCC Grand Champion went to the Cosand Center at 69.39% recycling rate (Forest Park at 44.28% and Flo Valley at 39.49%).

Huge cheers for Wildwood because they decided to compete this year in a crowd of 605 nation-wide schools.  Here are their rankings:

  • Gorilla Prize—247th place—no surprise—Wildwood is tiny compared to the big 4 year schools;
  • Per Capita—56th place—amazing—in this category their efforts connected with their campus size;
  • Bottles and Cans—43rd place—even more exciting—targeted materials were a strength;
  • Grand Champion—20th place—remember this category measures strong recycling and reducing trash;
  • Paper—8th place—AWESOME—targeted material ranked Wildwood a giant!

Next year I hope each campus competes rather than benchmarks.  If tiny Wildwood with 1,144 students and staff can, we all can.  If Meramec had been competing, their electronic collection of 47,851 lbs. would have ranked them 6th in the nation!!!

Another important thing I learned by participating this year was not to do it alone.  Each campus collaborated with ideas for activities.  At our regional level, 18 colleges and universities of the St. Louis Regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium (HESC) joined together to share their program ideas to raise awareness within and beyond their campuses.  More than just one school’s success, HESC hopes to shift the waste management culture by being shining examples for businesses and municipalities.  Together in 2011, we created a regional impact by diverting 883.15 tons from the landfill.  We are still crunching our results for 2012. Talk about educating sustainably!

Wildwood Book Exchange

If I could get across one message– be more aware of consuming. The most important R stands for Reduce.  Ask “do I really need this?” If you say yes, see if you can get it by borrowing, renting or buying used–the second R–Reuse.  At the end of that item’s life-cycle, certainly get it into the recycling stream for repurposing. This whole process reflects the 4th R–Rethink!!

Each campus is a pebble and together our effect can reach a region. Just like Earth Day is every day, waste awareness is every day as well.

Growing fish and sprouts

Baseball field repurposed for a garden

How many champions does it take to grow a community garden?  Of course it takes more than one focused passionate leader, but at Florissant Valley campus, Dr. Mark Manteuffel is a light to spark growth.  He leads the community garden effort for not only his campus, but his project is the pilot to inspire the other campuses.  A project of this magnitude and responsibility can better address cost and labor when it is infused into curriculum.  Students lend their time, curiosity and solutions at each step. 

Flo Valley Students Interact with Food Sources

Green Teams at each campus expressed desires to have a community garden, especially Meramec with its Horticulture program and Forest Park with its Hospitality program.  One key obstacle for each team was where to place that garden and who would maintain it.  When the district reduced athletic teams and a baseball field became obsolete, Florissant Valley faculty jumped on where their garden could be.  With the help of the groundskeepers, the field was plowed twice and is resting for early spring when deep beds will be shaped.  These beds, composed of organic soil, allow for easy deep root penetration for nutrients and require less watering.

Garden sustainability dimensions feature teaching about local food production as a lab, not just lecture.  As food is grown locally, it has more nutrition.  Crops are fresh without preservatives to maintain shelf-live while they take their long journey from a mega farm to the grocery store.  The strategy to teach about organic farming allows for students and the community to learn about carbon-saving aspects as well as health benefits.  The short trip to the store means less carbon emissions (fuel = carbon), a goal that Florissant Valley’s president, Dr. Marcia Pfeiffer, committed to reducing when she signed the ACUPCC (college presidents climate commitment).

I think one of the coolest parts of this project includes aquaculture.  Two fish tanks were assembled with the help of engineering faculty and students.  Fish waste is very nutritious.  It will be used as part of the nutrients for the garden.  Laura Stevens, Auxiliary Manager, is working with our kitchen composting efforts so that food scraps

Aquaponic fishies arrive

 can also feed the garden’s soil structure.  Flo Valley students can look for a new collection system in the cafe’ allowing for student food scraps as well.


Jessica Sippy, Sociology faculty at Forest Park campus, has studied organic farming techniques at Earth Dance (Mueller Farm).  She recently attended a conference for organic farming strategies.  I hope to soon connect Jessica and Mark to share best practices with our college community.  Next, my scheme is to include Rob Hertel in Hospitality at Forest Park and Paul Roberts in Horticulture at Meramec and Mark Weber at Wildwood who assists the Eco-Art festival.  Each of these champions can lend creative directions for the garden.  Garden Landscaping, Art sculptures and a teaching gazebo, and of course edible landscape.

“We planted 150 seeds to sprout!  We got the fish in!  We got the greenhouse rockin’!” said Mark after this last week’s efforts.  We are at the genesis of this pilot.  Inspiration abounds, but the design is surely in the details, and Mark needs our help.  Weekly planning, planting and sharing are underway.  If you are inspired to witness this project grow, you can contact Mark at  Be a seed.

Saving Sustainability at St. Louis Community College

Spring 2012 semester gallops forward and I am just catching my breath to write.  Twenty students signed up to take my morphed Think Tank capstone featuring greenhouse gas inventory training.  I am teaching this class with Rene Dulle, former Meramec student and intern for the Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the City of St. Louis.  Our students seem jazzed about climate issues and the training that can translate to green career value.

RecycleMania has begun across the district with the Green Team Elves planning “Waste-less Wednesdays” programs like a clothing exchange at Meramec and “Trash Tally” surprise audits and a Recycling Fashion Show  at Cosand Center.  Later in the semester, the college will again offer electronic recycling at no fee.  On Saturday, March 31, 2012, Meramec campus and Midwest Recycling Center will collaborate again with Hands On Kirkwood to collect electronics and appliances.  On Sunday April 22, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., the college joins with St. Louis Earth Day and 15 recycling vendors for the second annual St. Louis Earth Day Recycling Extravaganza held at the Forest Park campus (  Start saving your hard-to-recycle items now!

My goal this semester is to keep wonderful programs and alliances in place that raise awareness about waste and recycling.  More than that, I want to leave a legacy when my 3 year position as sustainability coordinator ends this summer.  This past 3 years has shown the region that St Louis Community College (STLCC) is serious and committed to sustainability by advancing green career pathways, infusing systemic thinking into curriculum and greening operations through energy efficiencies, carbon mitigation and reduced paper use.  Fellow schools in the St. Louis Regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium look to the college as a role-model as we have paved the way in innovation and leadership.

To sustain sustainability at the college, I am working to create a strategic plan that colleagues and campus leadership can follow should the college not be able to create a sustainability position past this 3 year pilot.  On Friday January 27, 2012, campus leaders gathered for a “Conversation for Sustainability.” Twenty leaders across the 4 campuses and Cosand, including Presidents Marcia Pfeiffer of Florissant Valley campus and Pam McIntyre of Wildwood campus. I presented a very brief overview of our successes and raised trigger questions to address the challenges ahead( Everyone generated fantastic strategies and I am synthesizing them into a hopefully “living” document–one that grows and shows sustainability as a journey.  My next blog will develop this work and it is my hope that readers who were not present will add their ideas as well.

Climate Change Skeptics

St. Louis Community College  has 2 presidents who have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).  They felt taking steps to reduce carbon and other Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) was a worthy endeavor.  Dr. Pfeiffer at Florissant Valley campus, and now President Wasson at Meramec, are leading the way for the college and our area communities to measure carbon and develop strategies to lower their footprints.  I created a capstone class for the college this spring 2012 that will teach how to measure GHGs in the context of environmental issues that humans are facing due to climate change.

What most skeptics of climate change seems to believe is that the science is doubtful.  They question the scientific process that leads scientists to the conclusions drawn from their data.  They accuse scientists of an agenda to deceive and create panic. It seems completely inconceivable that there is a mass conspiracy among scientists from across the globe where data is being collected from climatologists, oceanographers, biologists, planetary physicists, astrophysicists, atmospheric chemists, paleoclimatologists, glacialogists, and meteorologists to name a few.  Could the agenda be competition for grants?  Do all these scientists own stock in oil and coal companies? Are they all in the pocket of powerful politicians?

I recently faced a nay-sayer in my capacity as the chair of an environmental commission.  I wanted to address skepticism in a way that would be convincing yet not demean the skeptics’ worldview.  Being a person of science (albeit the “soft” science of psychology), I know that scientific methodology can have flaws and be manipulated. Perception is fundamental.  Context for information is essential.  It IS important to question how data is collected. In fact, that is the hallmark of scientific methodology.  Denial is a perspective, but putting one’s head in the sand will not lead to the truth.  And truth is the core value of science.

I found a lecture on “Answering Climate Skeptics” given by History Professor Naomi Oreskes at the University of California-San Diego. In this hour-long talk, she addressed how climate research findings went from accepted science  in the 1970s to a political playing card today.  I felt angry like I do after watching a Michael Moore expose’.  How could loud, strategically placed protests gain momentum to erode belief in science established across multiple countries?  If Professor Oreskes uncovered a story of deceit tantamount to the tobacco companies coverup of health risks in order to make money, then once again, we must expose this manipulation of belief.

Mayor Schneider of the City of Florissant joined 1109 other mayors across the nation because he believed we as a City and nation need to address climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.  As I assist my leaders at the college and City to move past nay-sayers, I will search to find common ground for action that makes sense (both economically and environmentally) because I truly believe we share one planet and that actions here at home do indeed have impact on our neighbors.  At the December 2011 climate talks in Durban, South Africa, even China and India agreed it was time to join its neighbors and act for the health of its citizens.

Robert Kennedy Jr. made the point at a talk he gave while here in St. Louis that even those who protest the loudest about climate change hoax want their children to breathe easily, be able to swim and fish in clean waters, and have energy that comes from renewable sources.  My goal is to find common ground for action.

Sharing Best Practices

HESC luncheon at Meramec campus

Nine area colleges and universities from the bi-state converged at St. Louis Community College-Meramec on November 29, 2011 to learn more about waste management strategies and to consider and fight for best practices leading up to 2012 RecycleMania from January to March. The St. Louis Regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium (HESC) invited representatives from Waste Management, Aspen, and Midwest Recycling Center to share their strategies for handling trash, recycling, composting and electronics.  Jeff Macko at St. Louis University (SLU) has negotiated a way to measure their RecycleMania trash and recycling by having Waste Management run their campuses like a wee city–taking the full trucks back for weights.  This works for SLU because of their size.  It is understandably costly to run a truck for one small campus back to the scales, then out again to area businesses.  So another best practice was negotiated with Aspen by Peggy Lauer, Director of Sustainability at Maryville University.  Aspen offers scales on each truck that can capture a weight at each bin and tally those weights onto their invoice.  This practice of tying weights to payment assures Maryville getting their measurement in a timely fashion.

Getting accurate weights was one big frustration by participating schools last year.  At STLCC, I had to calculate volume-to-weights because my recycling hauler does not have the equipment to provide actual pounds.  Another snafoo that occured for my measurements came from my trash hauler who summed our trash with 5 other companies.  That week’s measurement was 5 time larger than the week before!  I called to ask if we were being combined with an anvil company.  What I learned keenly is that participating in RecycleMania is a journey–there is yet no exact science yet in the trash biz.  What I also learned is despite not having true numbers, we are BILLED as if there are true numbers.  As a consortium, we with our numbers, want this to change.

Linda Adams from Solid Waste Management District urges schools to apply for grants

Midwest Recycling Center (featured in many earlier blogs) shared about the collaboration with STLCC to collect 232,767 lbs at no cost to the college and community because of grant support from the St. Louis-Jefferson County Solid Waste Management District (SWMD).  Linda Adams, from the SWMD, urged the HESC schools to follow suit to get supporting monies to make their recycling programs happen. Steve Fishman from the regional EPA urged our consortium schools to sign up for Waste Wise program focuing on composting.

I felt proud to have STLCC host this important regional event. Acting Vice President of Academics, Dr. Vernon Kays, gave a warm welcome and honored our work gathering to share best practices.

Acting Vice President for Academics at Meramec, Dr. Vernon Kays, welcomes the consortium member schools

Our next HESC luncheon will be in January at Maryville University where the discussing and sharing will focus on Green Purchasing.