photo by Mark Cato (hoi polloi on Flickr CC)

Los Angeles Times columnist Susan Carpenter spent two years trying out several sustainable lifestyle practices in her California home – from compost toilets to keeping her own chickens – and wrote about the results.

Which ones were worth the time and money and which were duds?

After two years, the green retro-fittings Carpenter is most please with are her gray water system and her Photovoltaic solar panels, followed by rainwater barrels. Since she lives in a small house in sunny, dry southern California and keeps a garden, this should not come as a complete surprise.

Her forays into growing her own food and using compost toilets were – for reasons both practical and personal – less successful.

The idealist in me finds value in every improvement, but the realist can’t deny that some have been far better in terms of payback — if not financially, at least morally. The systems that easily fold in to my busy life are the ones I’ve enjoyed most.

–Susan Carpenter, LA Times

For those who don’t know, gray water or “greywater” is wastewater from household usage that isn’t sewage (blackwater). So any water from laundry, bathing, doing the dishes, etc., can be used for irrigating gardens or can be recycled. If a household doesn’t use harmful detergents, greywater can be used directly without going through a purification process.

Having a gray water system installed saves Carpenter around 2,000 gallons/7,500 liters of water per month.

Read the entire article in the LA Times for more details on Susan Carpenter’s eco home experiments, including some easy and practical tips to save money while reducing your environmental footprint.