Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bio Char Vermicomposting Water Flush Toilet System

Theory: Using bio char to assist in the drainage of water from a vermicomposting tank.
Reclaim the drained water and distill it with a solar trough distiller or rocket mass heater when solar is unavailable.

When the sun is available, fuel for the heater could be made via organic matter or local ashei juniper dried in a solar kiln. Human waste gets flushed along with biochar into a holding tank filled with worms. The excess moisture would theoretically flow out of the compost leaving it drained enough for worm colonization, even with multiple flushes (assuming biochar is flushed with the waste).

The biochar can be produced in a tank inside the chimney of a rocket mass heater. This heater can also play host to a plethora of other experiments including the pyrolysis of hydrocarbon waste, casting plastics, and recycling water so that it may effectively be used as a vehicle of disposition while minimizing waste, particularly in the water department. (because it doesn't rain here.)

We will experiment with different ratio of biochar to waste to find an optimal drainage level for worm colonization.

The vermicompost remaining at the bottom of the system can be augered out through a rocket mass heater so the mix is heated to at least 160 degrees in order to kill e.coli .
After that the soil will be tested as a seed starter medium and compared against other vermicompost mixes.

The biochar would in theory absorb nutrients from the waste and urine mix before the worms composted it, assuming the nutrients would not be destroyed by pasteurization, these would add to the effectiveness of the biochar and the growth of the seedlings.

When the time comes where the worms must be harvested for sustainability, these worms must be used in another waste processing system or pasteurized as well (which would kill the worms) to kill e.coli (because e.coli is a big deal.). Pasteurization could be via any method, however solar dehydration would yield dry fish food allowing us to automate feeding in some aquaponics systems.

Men's health states that the average human generates about one pound of waste per day (360 being the average poundage for a years worth of twos.)

Five pounds of waste (five people) could be run on a 10 pound worms system with room to expand in six months.

Since the liquid has to drain through vermicompost and biochar, liquid movements would be caught and filtered before returning to the distillation unit, meaning less blockage.

The toilet water would be condensed back into a toilet flush tank and used to flush more waste and biochar. The water does not leave the system. Urine input would roughly make up the evaporation loss from the process. This would lead to a clean waste processing that yields plants that can be grown out in the aquaponics system. No risk for e.coli. Turning waste into a useable product.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Since we are done designing the lab and just waiting to gather materials, we started thinking about what we were going to need first and what we could build using the materials we could easily access.

Water is number one in Texas. It can be hot, it can be humid, but if you don't have water, your day is going to suck hard. Ergo, we need a water system. We can't dig a well (no materials) and rains for catchment are few and far between. So at the moment we need to truck water out to the lab. This is hard work, 55 gallons of water weighs upwards of 400 pounds! Then what? You take a shower, cook and eat, then you have 25? Not cool.

We need a way to clean and filter the water getting used at the lab so we don't have to bring more in.

Greywater and blackwater are a living liquid nutrient solution. Bacteria, fungus, fungi in our case, all manner of little buggers that could get you sick, so care must be taken to make sure there are no living organisms in your filtered water. We could use UV sterilization, reverse osmosis, distillation, or organic filtering. Given that we don't have many donations of reverse osmosis or UV parts, distillation or organic filtering were the options we could choose. Since we have to truck in water, the evaporation and water usage from the plants will end up using more water, especially on days when few to no people are out at the lab.

So distillation. And we have to build the apparatus, we have access to 55 gallon drums, limestone, Texas “Cedar” (Ashei juniper), aluminum cans and glass bottles. A rocket mass heater is a wood fired heater that uses wood extremely efficiently. We can use this heater to heat and boil water, then condense the steam and capture the pure water afterward.

This also makes us think about what goes into our water and how we are impacting the earth. Which is nothing but a good thing. “Not my chair, not my problem” is what leads to bigger problems and more broken chairs...and nobody likes a broken chair.

And then there's THIS!

This is the Rocket Mass Heater we mentioned in an earlier post. We modified it to accept a sealed container directly above the burn chamber to act as the initial heat dump and work as our water distiller! Everything else is just a standard rocket mass heater.

We would like to do movie nights where we project classic movies onto the side of the lab. So we stretched the mass out into a long bench for people to sit on and watch the show!*
*eventually, for now it's just going to be water purification.

Here is a picture of the inside of the burn zone, the tank on top is the distillation tank, with a line out running into a heat battery (tbd, maybe a hot tub or an algae bio-reactor??) to condense the steam back into water.

The applicability for this setup goes beyond water distillation, we can do anything that requires us to heat something without oxygen, or hold heat, or create a heat differential. I can think of about a hundred things we can use it for. So that worked out.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Do you want solar with that?

Do you want solar with that?

HA! Sounds hilarious right? But it is not only possible, but easier than most people think.

Solar cells work by taking pure silicon, and infusing (doping) it with other materials like boron to create an atomic structure with too many electrons on one side, and not enough electrons on the other. Add sun and the electrons move through the silicon wafer to try to fill those holes. If you make a circuit, the electrons can flow in a way that we view as direct current electricity!

So it looks like all we need is some doped silicon and a way to transfer electrons and complete a circuit.

We work with upcycled solar cells (doped silicon) that were removed from broken panels. These cells still produce power, but they are not whole so they would bring down the voltage of a new panel. However if you make a panel with like sized pieces you can still get a perfectly functioning unit! This works great for our larger cells that can make a very high wattage panel from a few more cells than a new cell panel. But when you are talking about pieces that are one square inch in size, it gets harder to justify using the pieces to build a large panel and it is a TON of work.

There is hope though, this is where the pizza boxes come in. If you take these tiny pieces, you can still easily build up a 6v panel with a voltage regulator to charge USB devices. The most expensive part of a solar panel is the frame and the labor, if we made the frame from a used pizza box, and use the smaller cells to teach people how to build their own solar panels, we could educate a large mass of people for less and make it fun! Buy a pizza, buy the kit, watch the “how to” video and go for it!

Then, adults would know how, kids would know how, you can easily move up to the larger cells and build more powerful panels. Go for 15 volts and charge a battery, then run a gaming system or tv off of it!
“You can only play as long as you have power.” Want more time? Build a larger panel!

This way you grow up in the solar mentality, you learn to unplug and save electricity where you can, so you can use it when it counts.

Think sustainable. How is what you are doing going to affect the world you live in 20 years down the line? 100 years?

Plus, all the coolest people build their own solar panels.

Step 1 is to build a prototype solar panel. We have acquired some used pizza boxes courtesy of Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza. ( The best pizza in Austin Texas, hands down ) so....ON TO STEP 1!

The focus

“I have more faith in our future now with people like you” -Several people

It is becoming increasingly regular for people that we talk to say that we have so many great ideas. Our problem is that we wanted to do too much! We wanted to teach how to:
Build your own solar panel
Build your own wind turbine.
Build your own parabolic heat generator.
Build a rocket mass heater.
Build several types of solar cookers.
Build a solar greywater recycling/reclimation system.
Build several sustainable toilets/waste disposal systems.
Build solar convection heaters/dehydrators.
Build a solar electric Hydroxy generator/torch/burner/grill/cooker/heater/etc...
Build a geothermal heating/cooling system.
Build a human powered generator
Build rammed earth structures
Build a portable eco-vacation home.
Build an off grid water system
Build an off grid electrical system.
Build a high efficiency refrigerator
Power the refrigerator on it's own array, removing it from the electricity draw.
Convert an engine to run on wood via gasification.
Convert a diesel engine to run on bio-oil.
Convert a car to run on electricity.
Cook with the sun.
Distill pure water.
Drive more fuel efficiently.
Generate electricity from heat.
Generate oil from plastic.
Generate heat from waste oil.
Generate ethanol fuel from decomposing fruits/vegetables.
Make your car more fuel efficient.
Make your own cheese.
Grow your own insulation from mushrooms.
Grow high efficiency, high density vertical gardens.
Grow natural aquaponics gardens for super crops.

Obviously for such a small operation, this was unattainable. We were trying to stretch our capacity doing everything at once and we went nowhere. Just a big pile of eco junk.

We want to be able to teach effectively, so we are focusing on just Sustainable Aquaponics. This will encompass the growing of the crops, vermicomposting to breed the worms to feed the fish that feed the crops, and the solar to supply electricity to move the water and ventilate our greenhouse.

Easy peasy! Right? Lets start on 1 July 2013. Start with solar, then bring in the worms, then full scale sustainable aquaponics.

We are currently looking for rear projection televisions, old empty propane tanks of all sizes, and food grade 55 gallon plastic drums.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Project Upcycle has been working had the last few weeks and we wanted to give you all an update!

First, the house has a working off-grid-tie toilet that functionally drains into the septic system! So that's a good thing. The holding tank leaks though...but then again, it was thrown away because it leaked.

The mushrooms are fruiting bountifully and the blocks are colonizing nicely, we had a few blocks ready to dehydrate, but it rained and hydrated them, no worries, we donated the resulting “oops” mushrooms to Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza who served them on their pies this last Sunday!

We are looking for a local source of 55 gallon drums, and 12-14 inch heavy walled steel pipe. We would like to build a gasifier to run Adventure. Since we already need tree trimmings for our hugelkultur gardens, the gasifier would serve to run us all around town on wood that we pick up. We could travel greater distances for parts that we need, and best of all, we could take road trips across the country to host workshops in a town near you!

Also, we are planning some experiments with HCL and NAOH from the electrolysis of salt water, using them as cleaning agents, then neutralizing one with the other to create salt water that can be distilled out into pure water and salt. Amazing acidic and alkaline cleaning power then back to neutral? Yea, we think it might be something we want to experiment with.

As soon as the weather clears up I am going to record and post a video on how to install trailer wiring, then we can start to pick up materials and start building systems, which means I will get several more videos up so you can learn from and improve on our ideas to make this an amazing open source collaboration of knowledge! Because that is what we want. Clean, green, energy, and we don't want to rely on big solar to provide it. You, your neighbor, us, working together to power the world.

Monday, March 11, 2013

About Us:

By jove there is no About Us on this blog!  No “who we are” or “what do we like for dinner”, what’s up with that?

My name is Nathan Wrzesinski, I am the creator of Project Upcycle,  I like Chicken Cordon Bleu, with a fat cut of salt cured ham in the middle and don’t skimp on the cheese.

But never mind that, more importantly, WHAT we are:

Project Upcycle is a renewable energies project with the mission of teaching people how they can implement renewable energies into their lives cheaply and easily.

"Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.” -Wikipedia

We have been working for the past several years out of an apartment with no real room to build the bigger projects. Recently we have been afforded the use of a sun drenched lot in South Austin, Texas!

We used to have ambitions of teaching the world everything we knew about renewable energies. Hundreds of projects to plan, start, document, and post. There was no focus and everything was just a big pile of eco junk with future ambitions of maybe getting used in a project someday after we amassed more eco junk. We got nowhere with the project.

Now we are streamlining our plans. Solar, Worms, and Aquaponics (all in the end feeding the aquaponics system) From WASTE. So we are using trash cleaning up the environment building devices to clean up the environment and help feed the world. Sounds good to me.

The profit that the project makes gets invested back into the project, allowing us to improve, buy tools and equipment, and allowing us to put more into the research and development of renewable energy systems so that we can design an upcycled version and bring it to you!

Our main focus is sustainability, so we are starting at the most basic system, and building up to the final system. For now, solar powered projects have priority over the aquaponic gardens, but they will all get their light in time.
We are different because we want to teach you how you can do everything we do, and we want to build it all from waste. Every Kilowatt/hour of electricity that is generated sustainably, saves one pound of co2 from being created. The end mission isn’t profits, This isn’t “Project Upcycle: Think positive, change your life.”
This is “Project Upcycle: Think Positive, change the WORLD.”

We think that the end impact to the Earth that plays host to us is more important than money. We try to use as many upcycled materials as possible, with as much of the remaining materials acquired from sustainable sources as practical. Sure it costs a little more now, but in the end it costs a whole lot less than cleaning up environmental damage. Most people have a “not my chair, not my problem” approach to life. Except when you DON’T use sustainable goods, you directly contribute to the damage being done. So, it kind of is your problem, but that’s OK! because we are here to help!


Our volunteer base is what allows us to do such fantastic things without having to hire a swarm of specialists. We need people that are interested in learning about renewable energies on a deeper level than “photovotaics make light from the sun, neato huh?” We are looking for people interested in building these systems for their own house. Someone who wants to install a photovoltaic array to their shop, a solar convection heater in the garage, or get some hands on experience with the solar dehydration/gasification waste processing system! Put in six hours and we will sustain ably make you lunch. put in enough hours and we will help you build your system. Someone once said “Lavarse los manos, one hand washes the other.” We took that to heart, so if you wash our hands, we will wash yours...sustainably.


Vermicompost is one of our  primary objectives at the current time. Using worms, we are able to compost all of our organic waste into nutrient rich castings which can be spread out over a garden to give it an extra boost, or used as the entire growing medium for your plants! The worms just eat and breed, so eventually we will be at capacity to harvest enough worms to start feeding a group of fish. who will in turn feed a crop of plants, who will feed the people to feed the worms with our waste!

Solar is the main focus for Project Upcycle. Not just photovoltaic, but parabolic trough, solar convection,  parabolic steam , OxyHydrogen production via solar electrolysis and more. The sun provides enough energy to power the world, so why are we burning all of this coal that could become diamonds, or oil that could be used to make better plastics and revolutionize the packaging world . Instead it gets turned into exhaust as we burn through it like wildfire rocketing down the road at 80mph.
We can do better with our resources.

Fight the Fear! :
The main fear with photovoltaic solar is cost, and most of that cost is derived from the batteries to store the charge at night so you can use your electricity while the sun is entertaining the other side of the world. With Project Upcycle, you don’t have to immediately take the jump completely off grid. We can take parts of your house off grid, saving on your electricity bill and getting a taste of renewable energy. If you don’t like it, you aren’t out 25 grand. If you do like it (which you will) then we can help you get the best bang for your buck. We want to work with you to come up with the best solution for you at the best price. Want to do it yourself? We can teach you everything you need to know, and we can help you get the parts you need from renewable sources.

What did you want to take off grid? The Refrigerator? The Bathroom? Everything but the kitchen sink? One step at a time, or hit the ground running, you can make changes at a rate that you are comfortable with.

We are Project Upcycle, our mission is to teach people how they can implement renewable energies into their lives cheaply and easily. We believe that the state of the Earth playing host to us is more important than personal gain.

Think Positive, Change the World.
-Nathan Wrzesinski