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Case Study > Sufficient Living for a Happier Life


Neal Pressley and Tim Mercandetti

Sufficient Living for a Happier and Healthier Life

Sufficient Living (Click for video)



No grass?

Organic Gardening

Hoop House

Green Roof


Compost Toilet


Enviornmentally Friendly Light Bulbs

On Demand Water Heater

Low FLush Toilet System

Why Strive to Go Green?

Neal Pressley



Neal Pressley graduated from Millersville University class of 1983. Mr. Pressley has been a committed gardener for over twenty years. However, it wasn’t until ten years ago when he took his devotion to sufficient living to whole a new level when he learned about Permaculture. Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments. Permaculture deals with plants, animals, buildings, and infrastructures.

Neal Pressley has been a carpenter for over twenty years and has built his house to help improve his sufficient living and lessen his carbon footprint on the environment. He doesn’t have any grass surrounding his property. He is very passionate about organic gardening and has a hoop house to expand his gardening season. He has designed two “green roofs” in his home and keeps a rainwater collection for gardening use.

No Grass?

Neal has lived without grass for over eight years. Not having any grass is very beneficial for him because he was able to expand his gardening grounds and it is easier to maintain. Neal doesn’t have to worry about a weekly trip to the garage to retrieve a lawnmower and cut his grass. All he has to worry about is maintaining his garden that he feels very passionate about. Neal’s garden is truly a sight to see.

Organic Gardening

Neal’s garden consists of numerous different garden beds. He grows all of his fruits, herbs, and vegetables and prefers it as opposed to buying it in a store. He finds that by growing the food yourself, it is much safer because he is able to maintain it and is able to grow it in the comfort of his own home. By doing this he doesn't’t have to worry about where the food has been or where it has traveled from.

Having raised garden beds is beneficial as well. Raised garden beds are great for small plots of veggies and flowers. They keep pathway weeds from your garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide good drainage and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails. By raising the soil level, raised beds also reduce back strain when bending over to tend the bed and help organize your garden. It provides symmetry for plant life. Raised beds are available in a variety of different materials, or they can be made with no difficulty.

Organic gardening is the path to better health and a healthier way of life. When people garden organically, it can reduce the exposure to pesticides, which have been linked to many different health problems. The more people learn about pesticides and the effects they can have on the human body, the more receptive people would be to organic gardening. Organically grown food is more nutritious as opposed to food that is grown using conventional or unconventional methods.

Organic gardening methods also avoid using any chemical or synthetic pesticides, helping to ensure your family and the wider community and wildlife can enjoy your garden in safety. One of the key components to organic gardening would be the use of wildlife.

The greater the amount of different species we can attract to gardens the more people provide to nature in terms of maximizing nature’s ability to support life and to combat environmental changes. Neal keeps several birdhouses scattered around his property because he wants to encourage as many different birds and animals into his garden. Don’t scare away the wild life, but embrace it.

Organic growing methods increase antioxidant levels from a few percent to triple the amount found in conventionally grown produce. Antioxidants are important because they fight against free radicals, which are responsible for a variety of health problems ranging from joint and muscle pain to cancer.

Growing organically is not only beneficial to your health it is beneficial to your wallet. Once you have established a well designed gardening system the saving begins. You no longer have to go to the grocery store to “buy” your fruits, herbs, and vegetables on a weekly basis. It cuts down the cost of transportation use and puts a couple extra bucks in your wallet. If you don’t believe me, just go ahead and try it for yourself. Keep a journal and see how much you spend on a monthly basis on your fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Organic gardening is a way to a happier and healthier life. And Neal Pressley has perfected this art form in his home in Lancaster, PA.

Hoop House

Keeping a greenhouse can provide lots of benefits to having a plentiful garden. An alternative to having a greenhouse is to have a hoop house, which is a type of greenhouse. They are simple to build and assemble and are relatively inexpensive. The hoop house gives the garden extra time to grow his or her favorite plant. By having a hoop house a gardener can get an extra three to four months to grow whatever he or she wants.

Neal built a hoop house in his back yard to expand his gardening season into the elements of the cold bitter winter. It is an inexpensive way to aid greenhouse enthusiasts in order to promote agriculture. The hoop house is constructed to protect the plants from any harmful conditions from the environment, certain climatic conditions, and also certain harmful predators.

No permits are needed to build a hoop house because they aren’t considered buildings/infrastructures. Hoop houses are generally made out of galvanized steel. The galvanized hoops constitute the framework of the greenhouse. This material has a low maintenance, is very sturdy, and is very economical. Hoop houses are generally denoted by their natural regulation of the temperature. No need for extra equipment that is a source of extra costs in order to provide a fake atmosphere for plant life. Another fascinating benefit of a hoop house is that it never has to stay stationary. They are very easy to move and relocate whenever you feel the need to do so.

Cost of a Hoop House

People who choose to build a hoop house themselves will save plenty of money as opposed to hiring a professional to do it. They are easy and relatively inexpensive to build. A hoop house kit can range $500 to $1,000, depending on your needs. Hoop frame greenhouses can help make any novice gardener into a professional, but it is up to the gardener to maintain it and keep using it in a helpful manner to save money and expand the gardening season.

Green Roof

A green roof is a rooftop of a building/structure that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. Neal Pressley has built two Green Roofs on his property to help reduce the heat in summer and provide a much better form of insulation in the winter. Green Roofs can reduce run-off by retaining up to 90% of rainfall. It provides a habitat for wildlife and dampens noise levels entering and leaving the house.

A green roof provides excellent insulation and cools the building reducing energy expenditure and carbon emissions. It adds an extra layer of protection on your home from the outside elements. The roof forms another insulation barrier by helping keep the hot temperatures out during the summer and cool temperatures out during the winter. A home will maintain a more constant temperature with your HVAC system working less, thus saving money on your utility bills.

Due to the added layer of protection of a green roof provides your home; it can also act as a great sound barrier by muffling outside noises. The natural elements of this roofing system will trap and disburse the sounds and will make you home quieter and more pleasing to live in.

This type of roof will protect the material that is underneath the soil, often extending the average life span of the roof by several years. This is due to the fact the roof is not directly exposed to the elements and harsh weather conditions. The several layers a green roof is comprised of, including waterproof membrane, soil, mulch and plants themselves all provide additional protection. Roofs can cost several thousands of dollars to repair or replace, so a green roof can provide and insurance plan and save a significant amount of money over the years. Green roofs provide many advantages over a traditional roofing system. It helps maintain the temperature in a home, it helps water conservation, provides an excellent soundproofing, and it just looks cool.


Neal is a devoted gardener and in order to save money and lessen the usage of water in his house he has developed a rainwater collection system. Throughout his property he has four different barrels of rainwater that adds up to a collection of five hundred gallons. However with a rainwater collection it isn’t always there. When we experience droughts there are gardeners who experience that and do not have a rainwater collection to turn to. Neal has had his barrels empty on numerous occasions.

Rainwater is a natural resource that delivers a supply of water directly to your property. Houses and business’ have a built-in collection device delivering rainwater to ground level. Diverting this rainwater through a filter to a rainwater storage tank makes it readily available for many uses.

Rainwater harvesting provides a solution to the problem of water shortage. The shortage of, and cost of, providing purified water for drinking is likely to pose an increasingly large problem in the future. So much water is wasted on activities such as flushing toilets, washing clothes, washing a car, and watering a garden and water is such a valuable resource.

Neal uses his rainwater collection for his gardening uses. It reduces his water bills and improves sustainability of water use. Only uses roof water and not ground water because of the risk of surface contamination. Remember that going green and living a more sufficient life is all about trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Living organically improves a person’s way of life.

Compost Toilet – Sawdust Toilet

Neal has taken his gardening to a new level with the knowledge of thermophilic composting. He has learned a lot about this method from the Humanure Handbook written by Joseph Jenkins. Humanure is the combination of human manure and the ability to use human manure for composting in your garden. The way to accomplish such composting is to build a composting toilet – sawdust toilet.

The system is extremely simple. One bucket inside a wooden frame covered with a toilet seat. Each time a person decided to defecate they just cover their remains with a sprinkle of sawdust. When the bucket is full it is emptied onto a compost heap and left to rot before being used on the garden.

Sawdust doesn't actually need to be the medium used to cover the waste, anything of an organic nature and made of small particles is fine. However sawdust is cheap and easy to get a hold of and store for use in the toilet. And according to Neal Pressley it is a great use of an air freshener.

By sprinkling sawdust on the remains he says it doesn’t even smell. Obviously you don’t really want to be adding any chemical insecticides or pesticides to your compost heap so make sure your sawdust is not coming from a pressure treated timber. Remember organic gardening cuts down the risk of any pesticides and unwanted pathogens.

There are other alternatives to add to your composting toilet instead of sawdust. Pine needles add a pine-fresh scent to the whole toilet and are a great organic material. Grass clippings are good too but best used when left out to dry for a day or two or they will add an odor to the bathroom.

Using the Toilet

When you feel the need to “visit” the sawdust toilet it shouldn’t be too different from a visit to a real plumbed toilet. Lift the lid, do your business, throw your toilet paper in but then just add a layer of sawdust rather than flushing. Then put the lid down because by leaving the lid up will make the compost toilet look a bit uninviting for the next user.

The toilet paper should be basic, none of the pre-moistened stuff containing whatever materials. Always remember that whatever is going into the bucket will be going into your compost heap so it must be 100% compostable. The only real problem with the sawdust toilet is that you need to monitor the supply.

There should always be plenty of room in the toilet bin, and plenty of sawdust supplied next to it. The quickest way to put new users off the whole idea is to bring them face to face with a full one, or nothing with which to cover their own remains. The sawdust toilet doesn’t look too becoming, but it is very beneficial to organic gardening and provides a lot of material to the compost heap.

Emptying the Sawdust Toilet

Emptying the composting toilet should be done regularly, obviously, but having spare buckets/toilet are a great idea so if you’re not in the mood to wander the yard with your bucket of crap to your composting bin you can leave the job for another day by having the spare.

When you do empty a full compost toilet bin make sure you put it into the centre of your compost pile. Remove a little of the top compost material to form an indentation where you can empty the humanure into. Then cover it back over with more organic material/waste. The toilet bucket be rinsed out with soap and water, which is then placed onto the compost heap too.

Benefits of Humanure

Adding so much manure to your compost heap means it will break down very quickly. The compost containing humanure is incorporated into the vegetable pots. There is no harm to using humanure, because manure is composted and it is completely safe to use. Fresh manure can be hazardous, composted manure is completely inert.

Humanure just like all animals manure contains just about everything a plant needs to be healthy without keeping large quantities of livestock, utilizing your own fecal matter for manure is a good way towards self sufficient gardening. Not only is it a great way to improve your gardening it cuts down on the cost of soil. By composting your own material and manure your self you are able to provide a fresh soil for your entire garden for practical no cost at all.

Environmentally Friendly Light Bulbs

Neal Pressley makes a great effort of trying to reduce his carbon footprint in the great outdoors with his perfect system of organic gardening. Inside the home Neal has made adjustments in his home to use less gas and electricity. Throughout his entire home he replace all of his light bulbs with environmentally friendly 5-watt light bulbs.

At night it seems dark he said, but give it time and your eyes will adjust and you will realize that the light bulbs provide a sufficient amount of light for you to do whatever you need to do. So imagine all of the lights in your home being 5-watt light bulbs instead of the average 60-watt light bulbs. Making the transition makes for a more energy efficient lighting system.

The light bulbs use up less power and have a much longer life expectancy than your average light bulb. After making the adjustment to the environmentally friendly light bulbs Neal notice a significant decrease in his electric bill by 40%. So not only are they environmentally friendly they help you save money. It may not seem by much at first, but in the long run all of that money adds up to a more sufficient and happier living.

Electric lighting burns up to 25% of the average home energy budget. The electricity used over the lifetime of a single incandescent light bulb cost 5 to 10 times the original purchase price of the light bulb. Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs have revolutionized energy efficient lighting.

LED bulbs last up to 10 times as long as compact fluorescents, and much longer than a typical incandescent light bulb. They are durable and burn cool. These light bulbs are mercury free. Although these lights are more expensive, the cost is recouped over time and in battery savings. For the AC bulbs and large cluster arrays, the best value comes from commercial use where maintenance and replacement cost are expensive.

CFL bulbs are four times more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent light bulb. A 22-watt CFL has about the same light output as a 100-watt incandescent. CFL’s use 50-80% less energy than the average light bulb. As said before, these lights are more expensive, but you save money in the long run and energy. CFL lights can be applied nearly anywhere that and incandescent light bulb is used. Energy-efficient CFL’s can be used in recessed fixtures, table lamps, track lighting, ceiling fixtures and porch lights.

On Demand Water Heater

In almost every household everyone has a water heater. What some people don’t know is that the average water heater constantly runs throughout the entire day. The average water heater constantly cools and reheats water when it isn’t even being used. Neal has put an on-demand water heating system in his home. It is much smaller than the average water-heating tank.

Having the on-demand water-heater is a simple concept. Whenever someone in the house needs hot water the water-heater turns on. It may take a little bit longer to heat up, but what is a couple seconds longer? People can wait. So as opposed to a water-heater that constantly turns on and off throughout the entire course of the day and constantly reheating water that isn’t being used, people can use an on-demand water –heater so they only need it to turn on when they need access to hot water. So how about that? A water-heater that works at your convenience and can save you money and energy.

Typically, demand water heaters provide hot water at a rate of 2–5 gallons per minute. Gas-fired demand water heaters produce higher flow rates than electric ones. Sometimes, however, even the largest, gas-fired model cannot supply enough hot water for simultaneous, multiple uses in large households. To overcome this problem, you can install two or more demand water heaters, connected in parallel for simultaneous demands of hot water.

Most water-heaters without tanks have a life expectancy of more than 20 years. They also have easily replaceable parts that extend their life by many more years. In contrast, storage water heaters last 10–15 years. Periodic water heater maintenance can significantly extend your water heater's life and minimize loss of efficiency. Read your owner's manual for specific maintenance recommendations.

Low Flush Toilet

In Neal’s home he has developed a low flush water system. He has a sawdust toilet, but not every toilet in his home is a composting toilet. He does have a plumbed water system. The average toilet uses over 5 gallons of water and Neal’s toilet uses .8 gallons of water per flush. It’s not hard to make the adjustment from a 5 gallon flush to an .8-gallon flush.

Just imagine how much water we could save if we all switched to a low flush system in our homes and businesses. I believe that no substance is ever infinite, and if we continue to use these renewable resources at the rate we use them we may have nothing left to use in the future.

So Why Strive To Go Green?

A great benefit to sufficient living is that you can save yourself a lot of money. It will be an expensive transition, but in the long run you’ll save yourself a large amount of money and lessen your carbon footprint on the environment.

You may think, "How does helping the environment help me?" The answer to that question is that it will help you in a number of ways. One way that taking care of the environment can help you is that it will reduce your chances of developing health problems.

Health problems can damper a person’s way of life. An example would be that one develops asthma and allergies due to smog. Another way that caring for the environment can help you is that your body will be able to get proper nutrients compared to all of the chemicals you'd be eating if you were to just treat the environment however you wanted to. You will be in much better health compared to those who have chosen not to go green.

Going green will ensure that there are enough resources to sustain the next generations for years to come. While this does not affect you directly, it has a deep effect on those after you, such as your children and grandchildren. I want to live in a world where I know that in the future, my next of kin will be able to take pleasure in in the same benefits that I have had through the environment. Why shouldn’t you take the steps to go green today? Your body, wallet, and generations after you will thank you for it.

Neal Pressley

Neal is a devoted member to society to living a sufficient life. He has a passion for organic gardening and living a healthier and happier life. Neal has lived without grass for almost a decade to expand his gardening area. It has proven to be more efficient that way and easier to maintain. No more lawnmower is needed in the Pressley household. In order to sustain his gardening season into the cold bitter elements of winter, he has built a hoop house. A hoop house is inexpensive and very easy to build and move when needed to. The hoop house preserves his garden and protects it from the likes of wild life predators.

Neal’s method of using humanure, adopted by Joseph Jenkins, has proven to be very beneficial. There is always soil/organic material used to make compost. With the use of thermophilic composting kills pathogens and is much safer to eat. Without using any pesticides and growing a more natural garden for herbs, fruits, and vegetables reduces the risk of health problems. The use of humanure is cost efficient and provides a very rich soil for the garden. There are pros and cons to using this method but the pros certainly out weight the cons.

To see how Mr. Pressley install one of his green roofs you can find it on under “Caddy Wampus.” It shows him and a few of his associates put together his Green Roof. His roof is a 200 square foot residential Green Roof installation completed in the spring of 2009 in Lancaster, PA. The roof system installed is a Live Roof modular system that should soak up 99% of the first 1″ of rain.

Green roofs or living roofs reduce the run-off of water by up to 90%. The roofs are both beneficial to the environment and are aesthetically pleasing. They provide a habitat for wild life, protect the surface of the roof and pro-longing the life expectancy of the roof. The roof provides an excellent layer of insulation and can act as a sound barrier.

People don’t have to take all the steps Neal Pressley is making to live a sufficient life. All people need to do is lessen their carbon footprint in the environment. Which means try and use less water and less energy. Try and develop a low flush system in your home and change your light bulbs to more sufficient ones. They may be more expensive, but are proven to save you money and last longer than the average incandescent light bulb. These methods are proven to save energy and money. Go Green and help future generations by providing the resources that are available to us today.















This site was created by Tim Mercandetti

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