Category Archives: environment

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!


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.

Harrison Center Collects Unusual Electronics

HEC adds to district electronics collection

On a crisp October 29th 2011, William J. Harrison Center (HEC) in collaboration with Midwest Recycling Center (MRC) collected a respectable 3500 pounds of electronics and appliances.  This event was our seventh and last for the St Louis Community College, pushing our total district amount to 228, 767 lbs diverted from the landfill! All of the electronics and appliances STLCC collected escaped our region’s one landfill, and saved the college over $2000.00– our fee for inhouse CRT (lead glass in monitors) recycling.

HEC’s manager, Kimberley Porter, and green team, led by Alandrea Stewart, came out to volunteer their valuable time for their first ever recycling event for the community.  Being a LEED-Goldfacility, recycling is part of the daily operations for students, faculty and staff. All the volunteers stayed warm laughing and telling stories while watching the really unusal items brought in by the community.

HEC volunteers
Here are a few oddities that caught our attention:

Officer Watson peers into the world's tiniest dishwasher

Oldtime TV!

Peep warmer (it had a cord!)



















St. Louis County Health Department is kicking off their “Recycling Becomes Me” campaign today, November 15th for America Recycles Day.  This clever campaign grabs attention as people “wear” recycling bins in various fashions–all meant to raise awareness and increase recycling efforts. The program shows that folks from all lifestyles recycle.  The County Health Department’s goal is to increase recycling by only 5 percent this coming year.  Just that small amount can fill the Edward Jones Dome 3 feet high 25 times!  And though St. Louis County has done a great job recycling, we still throw away enough to fill a quarter million dump trucks!  According to John Haasis, Program Manager for the St. Louis County Department of Health, “if each household in the county recycles just one extra aluminum can each week, that’s the equivalent of taking 720 cars off the road in a year. Imagine how much gasoline that saves from being used!” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct 24, 2011).   Show your own creativity by posting your “becomes me” photo at their Facebook page:  And if you are in the Clayton area today (Nov 15th) join the fun as they kick off this attention-grabbing program!

Recycling becomes STLCC–what about you?

Community Collaboration is the Key

A well-oiled MRC team--ready to take electronics DOWN

STLCC is truly taking trash DOWN!  At present, we are well over 200,000 lbs collected and diverted from the landfill. I am humbled by the momentum of these electronic collection numbers.  Last Saturday at the Meramec campus, over 800 cars rolled through the two well-oiled lanes of Midwest Recycling guys unloading 3 cars at a time.  No one waited more than a minute or two.  And even during that short time, participants were pleasantly greeted by guys who love what they are doing for a living.  Several members of the public have emailed me to praise how the event was managed.  Not only were folks able to recycle electronics for FREE, they didn’t have to wait to do the right thing and responsibly divert dusty, some toxic, items from their homes and offices.

There has been such a win-win on these events.  More than saving folks in the community money and protecting Ma Earth, there is a true element of social justice operating.  Next week will show this justice clearly at our last event at the William J. Harrison Education Center in underserved north city. Two key just developments are ongoing in the Jeffvanderlou neighborhood: a brand new LEED-Gold campus of St Louis Community College, and dozens of LEED-Platinum homes built by Habitat for Humanity and the owners.  Research shows these shining examples of green architecture INSPIRE occupants to dream big.  Not only do these buildings save energy–money that can be reallocated into educational goals–but residents are healthier.

International studies from India show that urban poor are more than motivated to recycle given the opportunity and means to do so (Wahid Murad & Chamhuri Siwar, 2007). In fact, community co-ops find a living wage re-using and re-manufacturing waste, but need policy to protect them from commodies pimps who force labor at horrid health consequences. “It is no exaggeration to say that, throughout the world, the poorest people are forced to live in, on, and from the waste produced by the rest of us” (Leonard, 2010).  Education remains a key for resource management and way to improve quality of life in underserved areas.

This whole quest to collaborate with the community on these recycling events began with one elderly man trying to dispose of 3 televisions and not having the $45.00 to do so.  He left dejected and unserved with his TVs. Tony Krieg (MRC Co-Owner) and I could only wonder what would happen to those units.  Hopefully they ended up at Goodwill who still accepts TVs without charge.  But what if they ended up by a stream all because of fees? We knew that to really succeed, we needed the help of the surrounding communities to get the word out.  And that is exactly how these events have grown and succeeded. Many are faced with economic challenges, but none more so than those without employment and living below the poverty line.  The grand idea was to help across the board–financially for those monetarily challenged; environmentally for those with too much STUFF; and socially for those who live with trash as a part of their landscape.

Kudos to Mayor Richard Detweiller who got the word out to his staff and community; to Hands On Kirkwood, a consortium of churches volunteering their labor of love and time; to Dr. Emily Neal and her Meramec Green Team (including Toni Oplt in Community Relations); the Kirkwood Community Newspaper; and Kristen Cornett at KMOV Ch 4 TV who all got the word out to bring in a guestimated 85,000 lbs of electronic and appliances.  And of course to Tony and MRC–together we all have made a true difference.

The conspiring duo, Peggy Moody and Tony Krieg


Leonard, A. (2010). The Story of Stuff. Retrieved on 24 Oct 11 from…/demand-fair-recycling/

Wahid, M. & Chamhuri, S. (2007, Feb.). Waste Management Resources, Vol. 25, 1: pp. 3-13.

Let’s talk TRASH–diversion, I mean.

MRC tech assessing value

St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley’s electronic collection was the 3rd of 7 recycling events.  Saturday October 1st was the quintessential fall day–cool morning temperatures, a light breeze, cloudless blue sky and warm sun.  Working with Midwest Recycling crew, I admitted to Tony Krieg, co-owner, that I had “collection anxiety.”  This was our 4th year together at Flo Valley.  For the past 3 years, the Environmental Quality Commission in the City of Florissant organized the electronic recycling events at Flo Valley.  The first year we collected 37,000 lbs of electronics and appliances.  The second year, the numbers dropped to 17,000 and the 3rd year to only 10,000 lbs.  I couldn’t understand why the numbers dropped–was it poor signage?  Not enough advertising? Was it procrastination? “Oh, I’ll just catch the next event.”

So this time I engaged community relations and all my green team leaders to reach out.  We decided to do 7 events for those procrastinators to catch up.  And indeed this year my “collection anxiety” has been soothed by all the awesome participation on the part of college employees, students and community neighbors.

I decided to challenge each campus to out-do the others.  Cosand Center collected 5737 lbs on a rainy day.  The second event at Forest Park collected 10,030 lbs!  Yahoo!  I’m still waiting on the numbers for Flo Valley, but know they will be high!  It took 4 large box trucks to take all they collected to their warehouse where they sort, count, weigh, and send off to the appropriate final processing places like Doe Run who process the toxic materials in the cathode ray tubes (CRTs).  Other materials are locally processed too.  Steal is processed a short 3 miles from the warehouse in Crystal City to Farmington; plastic is processed in Quincy, Illinois, and the various metals like copper are processed through a broker in Illinois as well.  For those really unique odd-ball items, his crew singles out and posts them on Ebay.  Tony said they have shipped these treasures all over the US and even to Russia!

Diversion is the main goal of any recycling.  It is important to keep this waste out of the landfill and away from leaching into our water table. Even more important is to get the toxic lead, zinc, mercury processed here in the US rather than shipping to Asia where materials are burned to extract gold and copper resulting in horrid lung and cancer health problems.

Call me Retro, but I am most interested in reusing.  When items can be rebuilt and put back into use, no new materials are needed to create it.  No mining.  No mixing of petroleum to form plastic casings. There is something COOL about styles of an earlier time.

STLCC Student Maddison Crooke stands with Wildwood Mayor Tim Woerther.

This past weekend, Wildwood campus was busy too.  They collaborated with Cintas and the City of Wildwood to collect and shred 30,000 lbs (15 tons) of paper and some plastic! Tiny Wildwood is a diversion giant, and next they are taking down electronics.

This weekend, Sept 8th, South County Center will have its first collection on Meramec Bottoms Rd off Rt 55 south.  And if you are one of those procrastinators out there, help keep my “collection anxiety” at bay by pitching in at Wildwood on the 15th, or Meramec on the 22nd or lastly at Harrison Center in north city on Oct 29th.  Let’s keep taking trash!

Oil Addiction Sucks

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes me more aware than ever about my oil addiction.  This relates to my car obviously, but also to all the plastics that come with my lifestyle.  I consider myself an environmentally aware person. My feeling on this drilling disaster isn’t outrage, which would seem natural if I wanted to point and blame the oil company, the makers of the faulty cement cap, or the greed of Wall Street that ignores the finite source for this fuel.  I could be angry at the politicians who don’t listen to the climate scientists for fear that addressing carbon emissions will mean hardships for industries tied to fossil fuels.  But instead, I feel really sad and maybe even scared, that it is us, the consumers, who are responsible for this disaster.  We let industry keep miles per gallon low rather than setting a standard for efficiency.  We let our politicians be persuaded by deep-pocketed lobbyists who buy votes. We don’t speak up.  We don’t purchase wisely. At the grocery stores, it is impossible to buy food without plastic [an oil product]!  And when we do speak up, still don’t change our own behaviors.  I may drive a Prius with minimal emissions, but I am still at the gas station sucking the non-renewable fuel into my car. This morning in the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Tom and Ray Magliozzi [Car Talk brothers] spelled out why each gallon of gas [which weighs 6.5 lbs] equals 20 lbs of CO2. You add air—almost 100 lbs of it for combustion.  Air + fuel = 20 lbs of CO2/gallon.  Now I have a carbon cost per tank of gas, which luckily for me is only 10 gallons/2 weeks driving. The average person drives about 3,000 miles to and from work every year. Not driving just one day a week can reduce CO2 emissions by about 8 pounds per week. That adds up to about 400 pounds of CO2 per year. The less you drive, the more you’ll save, according to Greener Choices Organization [].

 I have not found MY way to get back to public transportation this summer.  I signed up for RideFinders. This is a great organization that links drivers and schedules so that fewer cars are on the roads.  And yet, I haven’t called to match with anyone.  Every match for my schedule provided by the organization is off by 2 hours.  Metro riders can also find wait time between buses and trains.  We want convenience, privacy and we want life the way it is comfortable. What is it going to take to change?  Environmental Psychologist, Doug McKensie-Mohr Ph.D. ( shares research at his insightful website, Fostering Sustainable Behavior []. He says awareness and desire are not enough to change behavior.  He believes that it takes a social network.  When we share and encourage each other to reach our values, change happens.  I feel almost embarrassed that I don’t role-model in this critical area.  As a college, we have to work on commuting to address our carbon footprint. It is 2/3rd of our footprint beyond what we consume from Ameren and Laclede.  So this year, Florissant Valley and Meramec campuses will address transportation head on due to the President’s Climate Commitment.  I am one who struggles, but maybe adding the numbers of others who also want to make a difference will bring the social support I need to lower my commuting carbon responsibility.  I see hope when eager members of our green community come and take small steps together. In the gentle spirit of my colleagues, I am certain I will take my next step to make a difference.


Water Indeed Matters Here in the Midwest

Water indeed matters.  Yesterday began the 5 part seminar series I’ve been working on collaboratively with St. Louis University and University of Missouri-STL Harris World Ecology Center.  Dr. Patrick Osborne, Director of the Harris Center, presented the global picture linking water with climate change.  What we here in St Louis take for granted—abundant clean fresh water—other parts of the developing world struggle to find on a daily basis. March 22nd 2010 is World Water Day.  This is an initiative that began in 1993 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.  According to, “The average American uses 150 gallons of water each day, while people in developing countries struggle to find 5.”  Conserve Water video In those countries, collecting water consumes their waking hours, and in many cases, the water they find and depend upon is vastly unsanitary because that source has been used for human waste and/or is polluted by unregulated industrial byproducts.  We are lucky to have such fresh water in our aquifers. Ground water is particularly good in the Midwest because layers of earth and time take rain and surface run off and filter to its underground purity. According to, aquifers can be as new as hours and deeper wells as old as thousands of years in the making. Here in the Midwest, as well as in developing countries without adequate water sources, wells are being used at rates that will outstrip the natural time it took for water to collect in the aquifer. In parts of the world where the population is exploding, or where arid conditions prevail, wells are being emptied for human survival.  As our world population climbs to a predicted 9 billion by the end of this century, water will become an even more precious staple, and may become worth fighting for.  I hope as we come to see the state of water as a shared global necessity, we humans will rise to the challenge to protect and allow for its renewal naturally.  Creative solution might come from population management in the form of reproductive education for women so they can focus on health for their own and their children’s lives.  Desalination might be another answer given that our planet is 97% water.  But
taking the salt out of water is energy intensive at the moment.  What I hope we don’t create is “Water in a pill.”  I’d hate for technology to market a chemical equivalent to what comes to us naturally through the ecosystem. My fear is that chemists wouldn’t just create a way to make H2O, but would make superH2hypedO, just because “we could” and money was to be made.  I hope that with the state of water in a world of bulging population we humans will come together and take responsibility for our actions that contribute to water shortage.  If we all pitched in for our own little part of the world we could make a tremendous ripple in the global pond.  Session two through five of the Water Matter Series will focus on solutions we can practice at home and work.  In session two, Chad Pregracke of Living Lands and Waters Organization will speak about his dedication to the
rivers.  In session 3, our utilities will share their ideas for water conservation. And in sessions 4 and 5, local nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity will share how they support water health. Like our donations sent to Katrina and Haiti, small heart-felt contributions make a difference.  If you’d like to calculate your water footprint for World Water Day, check out water footprint. My water footprint was 577.80 gallons per day!  This site estimates that the average American uses 1,190.5 per day–way higher than the 150 cited above.  It is my 15 minute showers that I need to work on! Hope to see you on the next 4 Wednesdays from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 [March 24th through April 14th] at SLU.  WaterMatters Website