Recycling & Reuse Projects

Over the past several years I’ve done several interesting recycling and reuse projects.  Below is a list of some of the more interesting items I’ve made.


boat600A cardboard boat

I got the idea for a cardboard boat from the many photographs and videos on the web of cardboard boat races.  But while many of those boats are designed to stay afloat for a few hundred yards, I wanted to make one that would be durable enough to last a few years.  So I took some ideas from the internet along with some ideas of my own, and made a single-person cardboard kayak. It’s been several years and it still floats.  I’ve made videos of the boat in action on Meadow Grounds Lake, the Juniata River, and the Potomac river. I wrote a blog post about the construction that includes some frequently asked questions and a video explaining the construction.  I also have a YouTube playlist that contains several videos of the boat, from construction to fishing out of it.

Solar ovens

I’ve made solar ovens out of anything from cardboard boxes to old satellite dishes. In the case of the latter, I have recorded a video of the construction.   And they can cook just about anything. Probably the easiest solar oven to make is one based on the CooKit design. I recently made a video of me cooking a whole chicken using that solar oven.  My other solar cooking videos are below:


completed ufoCompact Disc UFO

This little craft makes use of an old CD or DVD, a Styrofoam egg, and a couple of golf tees. This video explains the construction process, and this blog post will give you details and a materials list.

You might want to resist the urge to throw these things like a Frisbee, though, because the edges can be a little sharp. A better idea is to use fishing line to attach them to the ceiling for decoration.


broom-800pxSoda Bottle Broom

Like many of the others, this idea wasn’t original with me.  I found a picture of soda bottle broom on the Internet, but the instructions were vague, so I made one and recorded a video of the process as well.



Do you know of any other cool recycling projects?  If so, put your ideas on the comments below.

Cinnamon Rolls in the Solar Oven – A Video Demonstration

The design of the solar oven in this video is based loosely on the “Minimum Box Oven” plans located at Dimensions are about 15 x 24 (I’ll double-check this and possibly edit later).

The base was built pretty much according to the plans, but I diverged a bit on the lid.  Instead of using an oven bag to cover the opening, I opted for a piece of glass.  On a previous oven, I had tried Plexiglas, but it apparently does not stand up to the heat – after two seasons it started to get “cloudy”.

Lid DiagramFirst, I constructed the lid according to the plans, but instead of leaving the cardboard cut-out attached for use as the reflector, I removed it completely. Then I measured entire width and length of the cover and purchased the glass cut to size at my local hardware store. Then I made a second lid to fit snugly over the first one, with the glass trapped in between them as shown in the diagram.

The plans have three suggestions for improving efficiency, all of which I followed more or less:

Suggestion 1: Make pieces of foiled cardboard the same size as the oven sides and place these in the wall spaces.
My implementation: I followed this one, but I did not foil the cardboard.  I just filled the space between the boxes with layers of cardboard.  This makes the oven very sturdy.

Suggestion 2: Make a new reflector the size of the entire lid (see photo above).
My implementation: I followed this suggestion as well.  You then have to make your props in a “U” shape instead of a “Z” shape as shown in the plans.

Suggestion 3: Make the drip pan using sheet metal, such as aluminum flashing. Paint this black and elevate this off the bottom of the oven slightly with small cardboard strips.
My implementation: I used some aluminum flashing I had laying around and painted it with black paint.  I used the non-toxic type of paint that is designed for grills.

A final tip is that I have found water-activated packaging tape to work very well for cardboard projects.  I bought a roll years ago, and I have built two solar ovens, a cardboard footstool, and a cardboard boat and there is still plenty of tape left on the roll.  You just cut the length you need, brush on some water with a foam brush, and stick it on.  It is very strong, paintable, and presumably less toxic than plastic packing tape would be.

My first Google Chrome application

Light BulbI am a recent convert to the Google Chrome web browser.  In my opinion, the speed and simplicity of this browser is unmatched by the other popular choices.  Although Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4 are fairly good as well, Chrome is still my favorite browser on both the Linux and Windows platforms.

I also recently discovered the Chrome Web Store and became interested in developing Chrome applications.  To get an idea of what is required, I ported an old web based tool for calculating electricity cost from a PHP application to a Javascript-based Chrome application.   Since it is a “packaged” Chrome application, once you have it installed you can use it even when you are not connected to the Internet.  The application is located here.

A green computer … and a matching font

Fanless Mini-ITX ComputerGone are the days when you could save a bundle of money building a computer from parts.  However, there are still a few situations when it can make sense to do so.

I recently had the privilege of building a computer at my place of employment, using the following parts:

The result is an inexpensive, fan-less computer that can be mounted on a wall or on the back of an LCD.   The power usage of this computer ranges from 15 to 21 watts depending on its load, so I stand to save $30-$40 a year in electricity when compared with a more typical computer that consumes 50 to 80 watts (I leave my computer running 24/7).

There are prebuilt computers that are similar in price, such as the Zotac MAG, but they use proprietary parts.  That means if something breaks outside of warranty, you may find it difficult or impossible to find replacement parts.   With a standard mini-itx system like this one, parts availability should not be a problem for several years.

Speaking of “green”: did you know that you can save money on ink simply by using a different font when composing documents for printing? According to this article on Yahoo! News,  a font with thin lines such as Century Gothic can use up to 30% less ink than popular fonts such as Arial.  If you’re using Linux instead of Windows, you may not find either one of these in the list of fonts available to you.  However, the concept still applies; just look for a font with thin lines.

Goodbye to, hello to

eldon-landry-evAbout a week ago I pulled the plug on my website.  I started the site a few years ago with big dreams of it becoming the place to go for news on alternative energy and electric cars.  Unfortuately, one guy can only do so much in a 24-hour day.  So EVNow is one hobby that had to go.

On the bright side, is back on its feet.  Last spring I had replaced the home page of the site with a message about going out of business.  At the time I had taken a position with the Fulton County Government.  I am still happily employed there, but I have begun to do some web programming on the side.  No, I am not doing repair and networking, so don’t rush to the phone to call me concerning your virus infested home computer.

Electronics Recycling in Fulton County

Greg Reineke, who works at the Fulton County Conservation District, has announced an electronics collection event when you can drop off obsolete and unwanted electronic equipment.  The main event is Saturday, March 21 at 610 E. North Street (beside the American Legion) in McConnellsburg, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  You can also drop off your equipment at the Conservation District on March 23 though 27, during office hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Click here to see a poster with all the details, including which items can be accepted.

Solar Cooking in November

solar box ovenUntil today, the coldest day on which I had cooked food using a solar oven was 50 degrees Fahrenheit.   The temperature today was in the upper 30s and the sky was completely clear, so I decided to try my luck.  I used my best insulated box oven and placed inside it an oven thermometer and a black pan containing three eggs.

At 1 pm I checked the thermometer to see that it had reached 215 degrees, hot enough to cook just about anything with enough time.  I became engrossed in other things until 3 pm at which time I checked the oven again. By this time, the sun had sank low enough in the sky that the box was in the shade and the temperature had fallen to 100 degrees.  I took it inside and found the the eggs were completely “hard-boiled” and ready to make egg salad. Of course, there was actually no boiling involved because with a solar oven there is no advantage to including water with the eggs.

Electricity Cost Calculator

After a few years of wishing I could find the time to learn web programing, I am finally succeeding in that regard.  Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been tinkering with PHP programming.

My first successful PHP program is accessible to the world at (this is now hosted at  It is a calculator that can help you learn the cost of operating an electric device such as a light bulb.   If you are still not using compact florescent light bulbs because they cost too much, use my calculator to find out how much those incandescent bulbs are costing you.  You’ll see why nearly every bulb in our house is a CFL.