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Chris LaRoche's Posts


The rain-barrel connection: Building a better flusher

Photo by Chris LaRoche.

This piece, cross-posted from Sightline, is part of the research project Making Sustainability Legal.

Call me a dreamer. I want to flush with rainwater. Rain barrels already anchor my downspouts. I want to hitch them to my toilet tank. It would save me money and leave my city’s drinking water for better uses.

Yet so far local plumbing rules aren’t helping me, or thousands of others, make the rain-barrel connection. It’s not so much that rules prohibit it, but that even local authorities do not really understand what the rules mean. A little clarification -- and publicity -- would go a long way.

Already, outside my house in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, I’ve managed to irrigate my Victory Garden all summer from nothing but the 500 gallons of rain I collect in 10 barrels. During the other three seasons, though, the garden doesn’t need extra moisture, so my barrels sit unused and, often, full to the brim.

So I’m flushing my toilet with pure, treated drinking water that’s piped scores of miles from the Cascades while I’ve got hundreds of gallons of free, naturally delivered, and naturally replenished rain stockpiled just outside my bathroom wall. Perhaps you now understand the intensity of my dream? A Rain Water Toilet Flush system (RWTF)!


Couch surfers unite! Big business stomps on the sharing economy

Standing up on behalf of couchsurfers and room-sharers everywhere. (Photo by Brandon Cripps.)

Cross-posted from Sightline Daily.

Tight budgets and the internet have given rise to the hottest new thing in travel accommodations: spare bedrooms.

Web-based company Airbnb has received a lot of press recently for its for-profit service that matches travelers with empty bedrooms, such as mine, in Seattle. Airbnb and other companies that create a market for guest rooms could fundamentally change the hotel industry, boost income for thousands of homeowners, and slash the ecological footprint of travel.

That is, unless the emerging eBay of bedrooms is strangled by a thicket of rules and regulations that currently govern the operation of hotels.