Sustainability Journal – Greenhouse with old windows

This is the first post in the Sustainability Journal that will share some of the measures we take to have a sustainable and zero waste lifestyle, respecting permaculture principles. The goal is to have some weekly update with something about our lifestyle. It can be small measures or big projects which contribute to a better world.



Greenhouse was something that was thought to be a small project, dreamt before Pedro came (around July of the last year), in one interview, but it ended to be a project with a lot of work hours and energy spent from a lot of lovely people.

The idea was to create a greenhouse for our house/garden out of old windows, something that was the beginning of a big adventure.

The first step was to find some old windows, but not too damaged. We had already some windows in our shed, we got more windows from one friend and one familiar of Tanya, our coordinator.

Because we had different shapes, we had to design the best way of using them in a structure that fits our available space, not too big and not too small.
We selected the windows we needed, we passed sand paper by hand to remove the old paint and we paint them.

During all the process, because of a windy days and bad spot for windows to rest or because handling around 20 big windows every time can be tricky, we lost some windows that compromise our first design. After that catastrophe we had to reduce the size of the greenhouse and the top was designed to have a slope (for more solar gains and to prevent snow accumulation in the top) but some mistake happened in the redesign and we ended up with an almost flat top. The slope in the top is good to increase the radiation gains in the greenhouse and to not let the water stay in the top of it.

The access to the plants should be imagined also. There should be enough space to be easy to remove and water the pots and trays and the doors should be in a strategically good place for that purpose. Also the greenhouse should not have too much levels for the plants because the solar resource will be more limited for all of them.

In the end everything was ok, the greenhouse is finished, we celebrate, we forgot about the bad times spent with this project and we hope it will bring a lot of new life.


  • You should evaluate at first if you have the right tools (good tools can save you a lot of time and give you better results) and if you have good enough windows to use for this construction and how much you are willing to invest in a project like this, that it can appear inexpensive, but in the end the sum up of all the resources can turn it to a not so viable project. Materials like: wood planks, screws, nails, good painting, and other small details will add up to the bill.
  •  You always should have more windows than you need, because until the construction is finished everything can happen and it is nice to have additional ones to replace them during its life.
  • Screws usually are better to guaranty a good structure, for not so important details, nails can be used.
  • Every small detail of every window should be considered before doing the design. Metal parts and crazy wood shapes can give you some mad headaches and be sure that, because of this, you will not have holes in the structure promoting too much air circulation or entrance of rain/snow.
  • If the structure is made from wood, it should not be in contact with the floor, to not decompose. Our structure is made with wood, so we put some bricks under it, to become dry and ventilate.
  • For roof design you should do your analysis to find which is the best slope accordingly to the latitude of your region and to your goals for the greenhouse. Also, the orientation of the greenhouse is important. In the north hemisphere, the sun path is at south.


For more Zero Waste recipes and info about our lifestyle, take a look at our Zero Waste Book here.

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