Sustainable Decadence

A wind-powered spa built from scrap.

The Homemade Windmills of Nebraska

home made windmills of nebraska

“The merit of homemade mills has enjoyed such prompt recognition that they are going up daily. Not to the detriment, we are happy to say, of those important adjuncts to the farm, the shopmade mills, but in addition to them.

In a given community, the man who puts up the first mill generally furnishes the model for the rest of the community. Hence it seems the more desirable that good models should be at hand, the better models are often of quite as easy constructed and no more expensive than the poorer, and their efficiency considerably greater.

It is advantageous to have good models to copy, and the next best thing to the actual model is a good simple drawing. This is the first object of this paper on our homemade windmills; it aims to supply cuts illustrating all sorts of windmills, as found in this State.”

The homemade windmills of Nebraska” (pdf), Erwin Hinckley Barbour, 1899. Illustration: a wind powered sawing machine.

Related: Windmills and wind motors – how to build and run them (1910), Building plans of Dutch Industrial windmills (1850).

Can Renewables Power Consumer Societies? The Negative Case

“Virtually all current discussion of climate change and energy problems proceeds on the assumption that technical solutions are possible within basically affluent-consumer societies. There is however a substantial case that this assumption is mistaken. This case derives from a consideration of the scale of the tasks and of the limits of non-carbon energy sources, focusing especially on the need for redundant capacity in winter. The first line of argument is to do with the extremely high capital cost of the supply system that would be required, and the second is to do with the problems set by the intermittency of renewable sources. It is concluded that the general climate change and energy problem cannot be solved without large scale reductions in rates of economic production and consumption, and therefore without transition to fundamentally different social structures and systems.”

Read more: “Can renewables solve the greenhouse problem? The negative case” (pdf), Ted Trainer, Energy Policy, March 2010. Also check out the author’s website, where you can find similar papers, like this one.

Hand Powered Apple Peelers

hand powered apple peeler

Hand powered apple peelers can peel, core and cut apples with amazing speed and precision. They were available in a surprisingly large variety.

The 18th and 19th century saw a growing need for apples as a winter staple for both food and drink. Apples needed to be processed for winter storage. Paring, coring, and cutting enough apples for winter was difficult and time consuming.

Farmers used their creative skills to make wooden machines that made the process quick and efficient. Industrialization and the use of iron during the 19th century witnessed an explosion of patented creativity. More than 100 patents were granted from 1850 to 1890. Apple peelers were also used as a kitchen device.

There is a full website dedicated to hand powered apple peelers, explaining in detail the use, history and workings of the devices and showing many pictures and videos.

Solar Powered Laser Cutter

Solar powered laser cutter “This project explores the potential of harnessing sunlight directly to produce objects. The Sun Cutter is a low-tech, low-energy version of a laser cutter. It uses pure sunlight, focused by a ball lens, to repeatedly cut programmed shapes in up to 0.4mm thick plywood as well as paper and card.”

The Sun Cutter.

More projects from the RCA Design products Department.

Related: The bright future of solar powered factories.

Micro-Livestock: Little Known Small Animals with a Promising Economic Future

micro livestockMathew Lippincott sends in this link to a 1991 book on micro-livestock, including currently domesticated and potential future domestication candidates among large mammals, rodents, insects, birds, and lizards: “Micro-livestock: little known small animals with a promising economic future“.