Fall 2011
Appropedia, World’s greenest DIY guide started at Humboldt State

An HSU instructor and his students have helped create one of the web’s largest do-it-yourself sites and it’s designed to help users go green. Known as Appropedia, the name brings together three words: appropriate, apropos and encyclopedia. The brainchild of Lonny Grafman, an instructor in HSU’s Environmental Resources Engineering department, the website appropedia.org is quickly becoming the go-to site for solutions on sustainability.

“The site has gone through a lot of incarnations and it’s an idea that people have had for many years,” Grafman says. “It’s just that technology is finally catching up.”

The website is a wiki, which allows users to create new pages and contribute content to already existing pages. Since its launch in April 2006, the website has attracted users from almost every country and has over 18,000 pages created by contributors.

Lonny Grafman (right) works with students to build a wind belt that will help power the new sustainable-living hostel at the historic Samoa Cook House building in Samoa, Calif.

Energy, construction and community, and health and safety are three of the most popular topics for readers. For example, you can find information on different compost methods, materials needed to make a compost pile and tips for how to use the finished compost.

Grafman sees a bright future for the site. “I hope that everyone can find a use for Appropedia in their everyday lives,” he says. “I want people to ask new questions and solve new problems instead of asking the same questions and making the same mistakes.”

Solar oven: a step-by-step guide

Check out appropedia.org for more instructional guides

We enlisted one of our staffer’s nieces, Hannah, 8 and Maggie, 5, to guide us through a very tasty project: making s’mores in a student-designed solar oven for kids. With less than $20 you can find everything you need for this project.

You’ll Need
  • Large glass bowl
  • Black oven or BBQ spray paint
  • Small metal cooking bowl
  • (must fit entirely within large glass bowl)
  • Lids for both bowls (or plastic wrap)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tape
  • Cardboard box
  • (the box should be at least 18 inches on all sides)
  • Oven mitt
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
Classic S’mores Recipe
  • Graham crackers
  • Chocolate candy bars
  • Marshmallows

Sandwich a piece of chocolate and a marshmallow between the two crackers. Cook in the solar oven for
5 to 10 minutes.

According to Hannah and Maggie, the solar oven s’mores were delicious!


1 Start by spray-painting the outside of the smaller bowl
and let it dry.

The Oven

2 Flatten the cardboard box and lay it down in front of you with the bottom flaps closest to you. Using the ruler and scissors, cut 2-inch tabs into the upper flaps of the box bottom, stopping at the fold. Flip the flattened box over so the 2-inch tabs lay resting on the ground. Cut 8-inch tabs into the other side of flaps, stopping at the fold.

3 Roll up the box, from the non-tabbed side, to create the oven’s curved shape.

4 Next, prop the box up and unfold the bottom flaps so the 2-inch tabs face toward you and the 8-inch tabs face out, creating a stand. On the curved inside of the oven, tape the 2-inch tabs to each other until it is sturdy and retains its shape. Lastly, tape the aluminum foil to the oven until covered. Be sure to keep the shiny side up and try to keep the aluminum smooth so it will reflect as much sunlight as possible.

Cooking the Food

5 Nestle the spray-painted smaller bowl within the larger bowl. Place your food in the smaller bowl and cover both bowls with lids or plastic wrap. Temperatures inside the solar oven will max out well below 200 degrees (ours hit 167 degrees), so be sure to only cook foods that are already fully cooked or don’t need high-temperature cooking to be safe.