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Composting toilets, backyard chickens and waterwalls: Susan Carpenter's eco-living experiment

October 19, 2010 |  7:00 am


It started with gray water, then escalated to chickens, composting toilets and rain barrels. I'm talking about the two years I've spent transforming my humble California bungalow into a test case for sustainable living — an experience that's cost me hundreds of hours of my time and thousands of dollars, an endeavor that has tested the limits of not only my checkbook but also my sanity — and my DIY skills.

When I launched the Realist Idealist column, the idea was to look at environmentally promising home improvement projects through the eyes of a budget-minded consumer. I had seen so much media coverage that heaped praise on newly constructed eco-manses or expensive retrofit products, but the stories didn't answer my biggest question: For the green-minded person writing the checks, are the improvements worth the time, effort and expense?

Keep reading this story on what's been worth the money and effort, and what hasn't when it comes to the two year eco-living experiment.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos from left to right: Composting, rain barrels and chickens are three green projects the author tackled in the past two years. Credits: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times


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