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Earth Is Now Our Only Shareholder

If we have any hope of a thriving planet—much less a business—it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have. This is what we can do.

Read Yvon’s Letter

Patagonia Employees’ My Footprint Series: Grow with the Flow

 /  Jan 23, 2009 4 Min Read  /  Our Footprint
Series intro: A new citizen is emerging. That citizen is engaged, concerned, and most of all, confident; confident in his or her choice as a consumer, confident in his or her power as an employee, confident that change is possible.
The Lines[Ed note: This installment comes from a local Ventura canoe paddler; someone whose time on the water has influenced their concern for water resources. Faced with a different set of problems than our previous contributor, the solution outlined below is a do-it-yourself inspiration. Enjoy reading this footprint, and remember to click the "About" section if interested in submitting your own.]
Our family had long considered doing something to solve both the problem of old plumbing running over from our laundry, and needing to water our large backyard — adding a greywater system to the washing machine seemed the obvious solution. Our laundry room is in the back of the house, conveniently perched at the top of a hill above the backyard. A simple water-diversion scheme for the laundry's greywater made a great deal of sense.
[Looking more elaborate than it is, a simple valve system controls which portion of the yard receives irrigation through a newly installed greywater system. Photo: tps]
Before2It seemed simple enough to create an alternate drain line that, instead of going to the sewer system, went to a greywater system in the backyard, taking

advantage of gravity to water our hillside, and perhaps the lower section of the yard. Given wash water is accounts for a large percentage of total household water use, we’d make a large contribution to a greener backyard without any added water. What a deal!

We contacted Devin Slavin of BackyardIt took us about 5 months to complete, but only because we were occasionally slow at taking whatever “the next step” of the project might be from time to time. Our greywater project was finally completed in late July of 2008. We now have an alternate drain line for our laundry that runs under the house, out the back and to a hillside. Every time we do our laundry now, we are watering a different level of the hillside’s many fruit trees and shrubs. And nearly everything we have planted there will provide us with food, too. It’s awesome!
Here’s a breakdown of the project. First of all, major props go out to Devin for overseeing, planning and helping us execute this project. He helped not only do it, but do it right.
PipesDevin devised a great valve system (photo above) that allows us to turn on one level at a time. We simply flip a couple of switches with each laundry load and this allows us to get water to any of the four different levels on the hillside. He spent a day carefully grading the four different levels in the terraces so that the water would flow properly. This is a low pressure system that relies on gravity to disperse all of the water. If the water is allowed to sit in one place, it becomes blackwater, not graywater. Yuck!
Pipes2We used Finished1
We planted several different fruit trees and berry bushes, with everything having a gopher basket, too. There are “tee” connectors that feed water to each of these plants that we easily spliced into the yellow lines. We then got mulch from a community garden nearby and put layers of it all around.
Finished2We spent a fair amount on this project, but knowing that our hillside is now well landscaped, a source of food, and really easy to maintain, made it all worthwhile. We’re very happy with the results.

[All photos: tps]

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