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Oakland, CA

Posted By Bakari

I guess I'm not all that surprised.


A video I did for an environmental blog ( was posted on youtube.

It is up to 100,000 views.

I have been getting people all over the country tracking me down on Facebook and asking to be friends and asking questions after the see it.


Since there are probably plenty of people with the same questions who don't go to the trouble to track me down, I'm reposting my answers to some of those questions here:




I can't believe how popular that video has become.  It was done with no preparation, no script, no practice, really not even a clear focus (they split the interview into 3 parts, but the other two never gained any viewers)

Its funny, I don't really even think of it as a "lifestyle".
I guess maybe because I've been doing it so long.
I bought a camper van right out of high school, which I slept in during the week to avoid having to commute to work. My girlfriend of the time went on a 2000 mile bike ride, and when she came back she suggested we get a full size RV and move in together. Eventually an opportunity arose to join a traveling carnival in the mid-west, so we set out across the country. We ended up spending a year on the east coast before moving back to the SF bay area. We upgraded to the trailer in the youtube video not long before we ended up getting divorced. For the past 4 years I've been in one place, and don't really consider the trailer to be a vehicle.

So I have been in 3 sizes and types of RV, full timed on the road and in trailer parks, and lived in different climates, different size cities, etc.

For the most part, living in an RV is a lot like living in a house. Driving an RV is like driving a car.

You know, I never thought of what I did as "scavenging" until that video was taken. I didn't come up with a script in advance, and was just making stuff up as I went along. I didn't know it was a movement either.

Find the answers to all of the specific questions I have been asked on my non-charcter limited blog, with MySpace (yeah, that's right, MySpace.  I could start over with a free blogger account.  But I don't feel like transfering everything.  Deal with it!)

Posted By Bakari

I had been looking forward to buying a tankless instant water heater before I had even moved out of mom's place.

Unfortunately, each place I lived had a perfectly good water heater already.
Besides, my 6 gallon tank was no where near as wasteful as the 80 gallon monstrosities in regular homes.

Then, last week, the tank began to leak.
I had my excuse.

I discovered that there is only one company which makes instant water heaters specifically for RVs. Having no competition, they price it around 5 times higher than others.
I decided to go with a small house/cabin unit instead.
I found the least expensive one online; it arrived quickly. It spent a week in the box as I didn't have the time to install it. When I finally did, turned out I hadn't considered the vent when I measured, and it wouldn't fit. Damn.

I sent an email asking about exchanging it for a smaller unit.
Within 15 minutes they called me by phone. They said they couldn't accept a return since I had already begun installing it.
I was ready to just sell it on craiglist and buy the smaller one, accepting that it was my own stupidity to begin installation without measuring, plus the website did clearly say the original box was needed for returns, which I had already recycled.
And then, without being asked, the guy offers me a 15% discount on the new smaller one I was going to have to purchase. He emailed a custom order form, with a price even slightly lower than what he had just offered over the phone.

Wow. Beyond expectations.
The only business I know with customer service like that is, well... my own!

If you ever need a water heater, seriously, this is the place to buy:
And no, I don't get anything for recommending them. Come on. You know me better than that, don't you?

So, now it'll be a few days before I get the smaller unit and I can install it properly.
In the meantime, I was sick of being without hot water so I jerry-rigged the one I have into place. Between some parts from my old water heater, a flexible metal pipe I found on the street, a piece of wood 2x4, and a generous amount of tape, I have hooked up the water heater. It leaks a little where its attached to random-found-pipe, so I have to put a bowl under it while the water's running.

But as far as the heater itself goes...
you turn on the faucet, and within a second, the fire is blazing. You turn it off, poof, like that, its out.

It is much hotter than my old one ever was.
The total flow rate is higher too - its like taking a shower in a real house!!

I had gotten used to low flow showers. I had forgotten how pleasant being drenched with warm water while naked can be.
Well, I guess once my propane tanks ran out. In a few months.

As I was taking my 30 min long shower, I thought about how I am actually saving energy overall, compared to before. While before I was limited in the length of a shower when the hot ran out, the tank also kept the water hot 24hours a day, while I was a sleep, while I was at work, always.

The biggest unit they sell should be enough for a one bath house. For a really big house, if everyone wants to shower at once, you can double the capacity by linking two of them in series.
Or using with an existing tank heater, you could leave the tank at its minimum and have the output of the tank go into the instant, which would then raise the temp the rest of the way only when you turn on the hot faucet.
Way more energy efficient, endless hot water.
While an 80-gallon tank heater is anywhere from $600 to over $1000, a 4GPM tankless is only $325.
Why tank heaters even still exist, I really don't get.
Akin to American's rejection of the metric system and Dvorak I suppose.
Well, at least you know

Posted By Bakari

I never set out, intended, nor expected to become a representative of the environmental movement, an activist, or really anyone special at all.
As I mentioned in blogs past, I believe the most significant and positive thing we can do to be responsible citizens is to truly live each of our own individual lives as close to our own principals as we can. I believe this makes more real difference than all of the shouting, the signs, the email letters to representatives. If everyone just did their own little part, there would cease to even be a need for the grand gestures.
And yet, as it turns out, apparently living by my modest principals has propelled me into this role without my having to try.

In just the past couple weeks:

-I have been offered the position of vice-president of the board of a (not yet in existence) children's library, (I am the only member of the board with neither an advanced degree nor related education and/or non-profit experience)
-I was interview for a grad student's thesis (ok, granted, those first two are somewhat related)
-I was filmed by and have 3 short video interviews which touch on my home, my vehicles, and my business
-I presented the awards (and gifts) to the team in Alameda county which logged the most commute miles during bike-to-work month last May (when I also volunteered, packing gift bags as well as at one of the energizer stations) at the Dublin city council meeting (the winner's were all employees of the City of Dublin)
-I had the domain I originally wanted for my website donated to me by the previous owner - despite my specifically requesting to pay for it, on the grounds of his liking what I am doing with it
-Soon I will be running yet another free bicycle parking station at a local event yet another thing which I am not quite sure how I ended up doing.
-And with any luck, I'll end up a member of the Oakland Bike Patrol which is mostly an excuse to get me to ride my mountain bike more, but is also because, believe it or not, I kind of miss my old job as a private security guard sometimes - I actually got to help a lot of people.

You know what I always say: "Volunteering is for suckers. Did you know so called volunteers don't even get paid?" (Homer Simpson)

[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

Posted By Bakari

I got a free copy of the Utne Reader at the SF Green festival.
First one I had ever read, although I recognized the name as something Aileen had recommended years ago.

It was chock full of interesting articles on a wide variety of important issues, many of which are relevant to me.  I think I'll subscribe.

Three articles inspired letters to the editor, (two of which are available to read on their website).

Salvage Beauty


I realize that the San Francisco Bay Area in CA is not necessarily representative of the rest of the country, but around here at least, this is not exactly news.

Our version of the "Loading Dock" - Urban Ore - in Berkeley, has been open for 25 years.
It opened originally with materials actually extracted from a landfill, and continues today with drop offs from haulers and donations from the public, as well as a recovery team at the nearby transfer station.
They are very profitable, employ a full time staff, and pay haulers and the public for high quality good condition items.
They have by now spawned a number of smaller copycat stores in the area, with somewhat more specialized focuses.

As a hauler myself, I face plenty of competition in this area from other haulers who, like myself, run their trucks on vegetable oil and donate / recycle / reuse and sell as much of what we pick up as possible.

Far from just making an incredible difference environmentally (both preventing landfill and reducing the need for new materials being made), it also makes great financial sense for everyone involved.
People shopping at a reuse store pay a fraction of what they would, many times for materials which are in excellent condition - sometimes never even used!
As a hauler, I pay much less in dump fees than I would if I simply disposed of everything in one place.
And that means that I in turn can afford to charge my customers a lot less.
Everyone wins.
I hope before long every city can take this concept as much for granted as we are able to here.
Until then, keep up the good work, reporting on stuff like this.

Low Rent High Tech


One form of affordable and green housing which everyone always over looks is the RV park.

RVs as transportation are woefully inefficient, but keep one in one place...

RVs are designed to be able to run off of their own battery power and propane tanks off the grid for weeks or even months at a time.
Things like absorption cycle fridges and a tankless toilet (which have high premiums in home versions) come standard.

An RV uses less than 1/25th the electricity of the average American home, and around and 1/15th the average water.

At the same time, it is by far the least expensive (non-subsidized) form of housing. Both in the San Francisco Bay Area and 10 miles out of Manhattan (two of the most expensive areas in the country, where 1 bdrm apts can go for over $1500 a month) an RV space (with full hook-ups for water, electricity, phone, internet, cable, sewer, plus garbage and mail service) can be had for just over $400.

America Incarcerated

I was very happy with my first ever issue of Utne, especially the unusually straight-forward and un-biased article on the issues surrounding the US prison system.  Expect a subscription after I finish this letter.

There were, however, a couple of points I wanted to add.


<entire blog at MySpace>

Posted By Bakari

Buy an RV.
Move into a mobile home park with an empty space.
You get:
water, sewer, garbage, mailbox, (all paid for)
electricity, phone, cable, (you pay for - but electric bills in RV are very small -$10 a month- because it is built to be efficient enough to run off of a battery for a week)
More Space than a room - some larger ones have more space than a studio

$400 - $500 a month! No income guidelines, no rent control, that is just market value for an RV space. 20mins from SF, and 20min from Manhattan NY.

Plus, you don't have to share walls, you're safe in an earthquake (built in shock absorbers), if you ever have to evacuate you can take your whole house, it is really easy to move if you want to, you help the environment with super efficient lighting / fridge / etc, it comes fully furnished, you can take it on vacation...

And, you actually pay less than a homeowner - never mind the interest on the mortgage, you forgo homeowners insurance (full timers insurance is cheap), water / sewer / garbage bills, property taxes, any HOA fees, most home maintenance bills, large utility bills... but you still have a place that is all your own.

Posted By Bakari

(To Popular mechanics - letters to the editor section - published!)


Quarter million dollar 42ft ultra luxury coaches not-with-standing, there is another side to RVing which is the polar opposite of the one you illustrate. 
Using an RV primarily as a vehicle is of course very inefficient, using it primarily as a home (which, as you illustrate, can be much more comfortable than most would assume) is actually far more efficient than most regular homes.  The appliances in an RV are designed to be able to run off batteries and stored water for weeks, and therefor use a fraction of the electricity, water, and gas of a typical stationary house.  As an example, my electric bills are 1/5th the average for my area. 
In addition, while the average rent for a 1bedroom apartment in the SF area is around $1000 to $1500 a month, an RV space goes for $500 or less.  It is the most affordable (non-subsidized)housing available.