From the September/October, 2008 Issue of The Environment Magazine…
STEEL – Recycled steel and iron use 74% less energy than iron and steel made from raw materials.
Aluminum – Recycling aluminum uses 96% less energy than extracting it from virgin ore.
Paper – Recycled paper saves 36% of the energy that pulping trees would require. It also requires less chemicals to make.
Plastic – Making plastic from recycled material reduces the energy used by 80%. I know in my area, you can recycle almost any plastic. They take #1 – #6 and there is no sorting required.
Recycle Everything – No excuses.
I wanted to put in a rain barrel on the cheap. The ones I saw for sale were running $70-$110. They were nice, but you still have to install them and trash cans are cheap. I came up with this very simple design that costs about $23 to make (including the trash can). That’s $50 I saved to put toward a more efficient refrigerator or a solar hot water unit.
- $12.94 One 32 Gallon Trash Can with lid. Purpose: H2O storage
- $0.33 One ¾ inch Slip to Thread Adapter. Purpose: Pass through can for output.
- $0.82 One ¾ inch 90 degree Elbow Threaded. Purpose: Attaches and seals to above thread adapter.
- $3.82 One brass ¾ inch pipe to garden hose adapter. Purpose: attach garden hose.
- $1.38 *One thick rubber packing sheet. Purpose: cut two washers to seal output to garden hose.
- $3.98 (1.99×2) Two downspout Flex elbows. Purpose, water flow from roof to barrel. Overflow from Barrel back to downspout.
- Depending on where your downspout is fastened to your house, you may need 1 or 2
*Note, I cut my own washers out of this rubber sheet, but you might check to see if you can find a couple fat o-rings of the right size.
Drill with 1″ spade bit (the flat ones)
Aviation snips or Tin snips (you can probably use a good pair of scissors or kitchen shears)
Channel Locks or other large pair of pliers
- Connect the brass garden hose adapter to the threaded elbow.
- Near the bottom of the trash can, connect the slip x thread adapter through a rubber washer (you cut), through the 1 inch hole (you drill), through another washer (you cut), and into the ¾ inch threaded elbow.
- In the lid of the trash can, pass the flexible elbow through a rectangle hole (you cut). Pull it through (use pliers) until the first of the bendy ridges is inside the lid. This is the flow into the barrel from the roof.
- In the trash can, just below the lid, pass the other flexible elbow through a rectangle hole (you cut). Pull it through also until the first bendy ridge is inside the can. This will be the overflow back to your downspout.
- Splice the flexible elbows of the barrel into your downspout.
Tips and Notes:
- You should pick a trash can that is mostly smooth. Avoid the ridges because they’ll be harder to seal against.
- When you drill the one inch hole, make it as close to the bottom as you are able, but be sure you are in a flat enough area to seal against and that you won’t be bumping against a ridge when you try to tighten up the parts.
- When you cut the rectangle holes for the flexible downspout elbows, cut them to the size of the small end. The flexible plastic will bend in to allow you to pull it through the hole and should expand back out again when you pull it past the first ridge. These things will seal great without any extra effort.
- Any barrel you purchase will have a spigot type shut off valve. I just use one of those shut off valves you screw right into the garden hose.
- I was surprised how fast this barrel filled up. If you want more than 32 gallons, you can either get a bigger trash can or daisy chain two of these together. If I do it, I’m going to go the daisy chain route and I think I’m just going to use a garden hose to do it. The second can won’t have the spouting input or overflow. Instead, it will just have the bottom garden hose output. Then I’ll make a Y hose to connect these two together with the output to the usable garden hose. The flow to the second barrel probably won’t keep up with a heavy rain, but that’s ok for me; it will make up for that with simplicity of installation.
- If you have a spot where you don’t want a trash can sticking up, you could try using one of those large storage containers like you have your Christmas decorations in. Remember though that to get the water out, the end of your hose has to be lower than the water in the container and the pressure at which the water flows is related to the height difference between the two.
- I have a sump pump that runs a couple times a day, all year long (it even ran during some drought conditions). At some point, I’m going to route the water from the sump pump into the barrel as well.
32 Gallon Trash can with lid.
¾ inch Adapter
¾ inch threaded elbow
Brass hose adapter
Flexible downspout elbow.
It’s like a bendy straw for Java the Hut
Incoming water tube through lid
Incoming water tube underside of lid.
Overflow tube Inserted in can.
Overflow tube – inside can.
Garden hose assembly outside can.
Incoming tube spliced into downspout
Overflow spliced into downspout
Full barrel after one storm. You can see the water line is partway up the overflow hole – that is a good seal.
If you feel like a nice, depressing read, pick up the July issue of Discover magazine. Yesterday I got to read about the Great Eastern Garbage patch, a plastic soup in the Pacific that covers an area 1.5 x the size of the US. But that is so yesterday. Today I got to read about Ocean Acidification and let me tell you, never mind the garbage patch. By the time we could clean it up, there isn’t likely to be anything left in the ocean that minds the garbage anyway.
“Ocean Reflux” is about how our oceans are becoming more acidic. You may remember that experiment you did in high school chemistry class where you turned water into carbonic acid by pumping carbon dioxide into it? Well the oceans have been sucking up CO2 since the industrial revolution and in that time have become 30% more acidic. Prior to that, the PH level was constant for over 600,000 years.
Acidity may increase to as much as 150% the preindustrial level over the next century and a half.
The article mentions a similar event occurred about 55 million years ago. Although the cause is unknown, 4.5 million tons of carbon dioxide was released over 1,000-10,000 years. The oceans’ acidity increased, and the Earth’s temperature shot up as much as 9 degrees and it took about 60,000 years to recover. We’ve released that much CO2 over the last 300 years. You better start saving up for that winter retreat in warm, sunny Canada.
It’s all pretty unbelievable that we could change the acidity of the oceans. Unfortunately there isn’t really much room for debate. Carbon Dioxide + Water = Carbonic Acid. That is basic chemistry. We know about how much water is on earth. We know what the PH level of the oceans has been for millions of years. We know what the PH level of the oceans is now. We know about how much CO2 has been produced and how much has been absorbed by the oceans.
On the bright side: if you’re a polar bear, when the ice cap melts and you fall into the ocean, there won’t be any sharks around to eat you, so if you swim far enough south, you might be able to fashion a raft out of some of garbage floating there.
I was reading the July issue of Discover magazine last night and I was so disgusted I wanted to puke. The article, called “How the Pacific Ocean became the world’s largest dump” is about the Great Eastern Garbage Patch. I’d heard rumor of this thing before, but this is the first real information I’ve seen on it, and I’m an environmentalist, so that’s saying something.
If you don’t know (and I didn’t) ½ way between California and Hawaii, the Pacific currents form kind of a circular motion. If you’ve ever swirled water around in a bucket, you know that stuff in the water tends to collect in the middle of these sorts of things. So here, floating in the Pacific, garbage, mostly plastics, has been collecting since about the end of World War II.
Let me lay out the magnitude of this thing with some of the statistics they gave.
- The garbage spans an area roughly 1.5 times the size of the United States. It doesn’t say if that is continental US or not, but it doesn’t really matter at that point does it.
- The garbage runs a depth of 100 to 300 feet.
- In this area, plastic outweighs plankton 6 to 1
- This constitutes only 30% of the plastic that is lost to sea; the other 70% sinks (but continues to leach chemicals)
- 80% of this plastic originates from shore based activities. I assume the other 20% is from ships or from further upstream and inland.
- Did I mention it’s 1.5 times the area of the United States?
- There is also a Great Western Garbage Patch of the coast of Japan and other garbage patches floating in each of the oceans.