Unfortunately, remodeling this trailer seems to entail more than just slapping some paint onto the bumper. But we accept the challenge. Last month was all about examining the trailer, figuring out what needed to be replaced or added, and getting ideas for green materials to use for these repairs. This month, the project got more technical. After an inspirational visit from Matt and Mariah of the COMET Camper project, team Trailer Babes got more information about the plumbing and water systems of our trailer, and gained knowledge about using Google SketchUp to model our trailer’s interior and exterior.
But first let’s discuss plumbing. Our team learned that greywater is drain runoff water from washing dishes, the shower, etc. It can be easily filtered and reused. Blackwater comes from sewage, and can be more difficult to treat. However, by separating solid and liquid waste, the material gives off less odor and can be filtered to eventually use for compost. One option our team considered in terms of the plumbing in our trailer is a composting toilet, like the one below. Eventually, we ruled out the idea of an indoor toilet to save space. We figured that the people using our finished trailer would not be living in it off-the-grid for longer than a week, and human waste requires space and time to safely compost.
A big focus this month was the trailer’s water system. Some questions we have to ask ourselves in terms of plumbing include: How much water (conservatively) does the average American use per day for showering, washing dishes, etc? How much drinking water do people need each day? How much water in the tank could be lost or damaged due to evaporation? Matt claimed that a 15 gallon water tank could last him and Mariah off the grid for several days. The goal, of course, is to design the trailer to be self-sufficient off-the-grid, so it quickly became apparent that our group will need to purchase a water tank of 15 gallons or more that can transport water safely. Water tanks come completely sealed, so when determining how to hook up the water tank to the trailer, it seems our team will need to determine the size and placement of tank holes and tubing. Matt and Mariah gave us some suggestions on approaching both local and national companies to ask for tank and part donations. “The key,” explained Mariah, “is to branch out.”
Finally, the visit from Matt and Mariah taught our group a lot about using tools like Google SketchUp to model the interior and exterior of our trailer. In my group, I am responsible for modeling the trailer’s exterior. At first, creating a dimensioned model of the trailer that included windows, shutters, doorknobs, wheels, the hitching post, hubcaps, etc. seemed like a daunting task. However, Matt explained the components of Google SketchUp and showed us how to get started using various tools, such as the straight edge tool and the box tool. Although I was dreading working on my model of the trailer’s exterior, once I began making the model and actually knew what I was doing, it became sort of a zen thing. Everything is starting to fit together.
However, the most helpful lesson from Matt and Mariah’s visit was not anything technical. Instead, that hipster couple gave our group motivation by discussing the reasons behind their own renovations of the COMET Camper. Mariah described their trailer renovation project as “an insane, extreme example of sustainable living meant to inspire people to take small steps towards eco-consciousness.” While her quote did not simplify the daunting task ahead of us, it served to give our group more direction. Our trailer, VENTURA, will hopefully be the first in a fleet of school trailers. But more than that, projects like Matt and Mariah’s and ours demonstrate how easy sustainable living can be in the future. Everything we need is already all around us.