Category Archives: Ecology

DIY Sustainability in the Media

Please find out more about these shows to get an idea of some of the concepts I convey in DIY Ecology.

Today on the Science Channel premiers a new series called “Stuck with Hackett.” In this series, Hackett takes up radical projects to create items in “western civilization” out of the junk and scraps that western civilization leaves behind.

Also shown on the Science Channel on Thursdays is a series called “JUNKies.” It the same concept, but taken up by a team of three who have made a business out of selling junk to people looking to create or fix things.

Visit the links for schedule information and a preview video.

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DIY Ecology: Transportation

Transportation in DIY ecology involves more social interaction and new ways of travel that do not rely on the current system of fossil fuels. I am not talking about new hybrid cars, solar powered vehicles, or electric vehicles coming out on the market. I am talking about things like converting used oil into car fuel, localizing businesses and services, and a surge in the use of human powered transport.

The cut back on car usage is the first phase of this transportation shift, mostly due to rising gas prices. For the society around during this time, the near-depletion of fossil fuels became a reality, rather than something far off in the distance. With less and less of those fuels, several things happened.

Carpooling. People start getting together to drive their friends and family to and from. It comes to a point that you rarely see people driving alone. Great networks of travel are established, and through these carpooling networks friendships are created. People who carpool to work soon get together for leisure trips.

People recycle oil for fuel. People recycle motor oil more often, but what gains the most popularity is the conversion of cooking oil into car fuel. People do DIY conversions, or go to people who offer conversion kits and other accessories to turn cars with diesel engines into vehicles that can run on this fuel. People make deals with restaurants and other businesses to buy fuel or get fuel for free by being a patron for the store or making a trade. When veggie oil powered vehicles become commonplace, restaurants sell unfiltered oil at a price.

Human Powered Vehicles

In  DIY Ecology, the city boundaries  “break down” to reduce commuting distances. Residents in counties of large cities seek independence to become their own “city” or community. This focus on smaller communities brings about a need for basic centers to be localized. There’s an increase in neighborhood markets (and keep in mind that in DIY.E Societies, people grow most of their own food, which cuts down the need for markets), as well as health clinics and small k-8/k-12 “community schools.” The goal of schooling is no longer to get a job to compete in the “global economy.” There is an increase in apprenticeships, unschooling and homeschooling circles. Large high schools are converted into age mixed schools, libraries, and cultural centers. This high localization means that it is not even necessary to get in a car to run errands. The following are the most used vehicles in DIY.E Society.

The Bicycle. There are also tricycles, recumbent bikes, and tandem bikes. They can be fitted with carrying racks, panniers, baby/toddler seats, carts, and passenger carts for any people or things that need to come along for the ride.

The quadracycle, or surrey bike. This is comes in two-seater or four-seater designs. I first saw one of these while I was visiting a friend in San Diego. In the Balboa Park pavillion and museum grounds, you can rent one of these and travel through the area with them. This is a human powered option for families. The customization with bikes like this are numerous – they can even be outfitted with solar panels and motors. Do you like to be big and flashy with your vehicles? Well look no further than what I call the hummer of human powered vehicles.

There are many brands of quadracycles, and people can even build their own out of pvc piping.

HumanCar (R). This is a four person human powered crank car. Type this into youtube to see a video of it in action. It is quite fast with four people and it is “street legal” today. Here are some alternate “body” options and ideas:

Skateboard, Longboard, or Cruiser board. These are really simple one person vehicles, and they are not good for carrying anything, but they are still human powered.

Homemade Ripstick (instructables.com)

Then it gets more obvious and simple with scooters, roller blades, and skates. And let’s remember – WALKING! What is “DIY” about these things?

  1. Many of these vehicles can be repaired are fixed by people without a large top-down intemediary. Most of what is required is a learning curve and teamwork. The human car might be the only exception cecause it is manufactured with special parts that are hard to find elsewhere or substitute.
  2. These items (the ripstick is an example) can be built by people with the right tools, help, and guides.
  3. The veggie oil cars come with DIY kits, or people often get together to learn about the system, purchase and gather the materials, install it, and even create fueling stations out of defunct water heaters. I hope that it would be hard to set up company-owned veggie oil stations when it is possible to create your own and teach others how to do it.
  4. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle comes back into play, because older diesel engine cars can come back into use.
  5. Widespread use of various human powered vehicles would keep the cost of used cooking oil vehicles low. Therefore, these innovations are inexpensive.

I argue that fixing and using these vehicles creates a more open and resourceful society.

Some top-down innovations that could be implemented in DIY.E are

  1. increase in public transport with electric/solar/hybrid trains and buses and cabs.
  2. right turn only street efficiency
  3. Using electric/solar/hybrid vehicles for Para-transit and school busing

Why [I Assume] this is Unrealistic

The private, gas powered car, with it’s ease of travel, flash and daring sounds, is a great treasure in the United States. In all of the first world (with the exception of Amsterdam) this is also the case. One sign that a third world country is “developing” is if there is a large amount of people using gas powered vehicles (or at best electric vehicles). Human powered cars don’t go as fast as gas-powered cars (the solar powered quadricycle that I linked to only goes 14 mph, the non-motored HumanCar goes 25-30 mph top cruising speed – and that seriously depends on the stamina and health of the riders). These vehicles are not as good looking as the cars we have today because they are bodyless (human car is an exception).

It is possible to ride bikes in rainy weather (a great book on the subject is Urban Biker’s Tricks and Tips) – but people are not going to do that.

People seem to believe that things that aren’t private and in the control of important companies and government agencies are part of some State socialist scheme to control everyone.

As a nation leading in obesity rates and sedentary lifestyles, people do not like the idea of having to use their own energy to get from place to place. The main point of owning a car is to avoid physical effort. Just imagine the energy it would take to ride from central Los Angeles to the beach in a surrey bike or HumanCar – you would be really tired by the time you get there. Although if  DIY.E society was real, I would hope people would be smart enough to use something like the veggie oil car or public transport for long trips.

DIY is tedious and most of all, intimidating. It requires a major change in that way you live and interact in life.

Social Ecology: Water

At this point that I have to stretch far beyond what I know. Water is essential to survival. Getting fresh drinking water is now a complex global issue. The goal with access to water is to figure out a way to recycle water that isn’t chemically harmful and destructive to the environment.

How compost saves water
In “Social Ecology: Food,” I explain the common use of technology like pee separating compost toilets. Turning that waste into soil or fertilizer is not only good for growing food. Gallons upon gallons of water can be saved and used for other purposes if composting toilets were the norm. Sewage systems would not be strained by millions of inhabitants in some cities.
In real society, people love the idea of never having to deal with what comes from their body – down the drain it goes – it is someone else’s problem. Well, even still a good solution is to use low flow toilets.

The Banana Filter
I found out about this from The Science Channel. According to a report covered in a Live Science article, “Compounds in banana peels contain atoms of nitrogen, sulfur and organic compounds such as carboxylic acids.” Those compounds are able to pull and attract some heavy metals – keeping them out of your water. There are manufactured filters too.

Greywater Recyling – editing

Rice filtration systems – editing

A top-down innovation, treated wastewater
During a field trip tour of a ski resort during my first semester of college, the guide told us that they use treated wastewater to spray onto the grounds of the park. This water, when tested, turned out to be on par with regular tap water. The guide wondered why they were not allowed to use that water for snow-making, because if they did, it would save a lot of money. Apparently there are health codes that disallow that. In DE, that is different, and in a slow way, some places are coming around to the idea – or at least to developing a stable way of ensuring that the water is drinkable.

Desalination: converting salt water into drinking water
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are plants in America and other parts of the world that use treatment plants to take out the saline in salt water. The webpage with this information shows that on a small scale, desalination can be done without a plant, and has been that way before modern times. However, places like Tampa, Florida use plants to provide freshwater to citizens. More on the topic here and here.

Low Flow Shower Heads
Self explanatory. If you get one that spreads out wide, you can enjoy a comfortable shower.

DIY Ecology: Food

Like clothing, food soon becomes a necessity that gets evenly distributed as best as possible in DE society, without regard to monetary access. As with housing, people look for ways to sustain themselves and their communities by ditching superfluous consumption. The first food situation I will address is Food Not Lawns. Again, all of these things are established practices today – they just aren’t widespread.

Edible Gardens
Food Not Lawns, or Edible Estates, is the practice of growing food in lawn-space. In DEsociety, this becomes a normal phenomenon. This means several things. Large farms would have to shrink their size or close down. Whole neighborhoods would become local farms, with the exception of large farm animals. Gardens need to be tended to more than lawns. That means pest control*, composting, and weed control become daily or weekly activities. No matter the amount of households doing this in any neighborhood, community building is fostered as people get together to keep the gardens in check and to trade food, small animals, or seed. It would be in the edible estates person’s best interest to abandon the modern day neighborhood culture which subsists through alienation and confinement. Food not Lawns isn’t a social regression back to outmoded times, because this practice would not be restricted to rural towns. Urban areas if anything, would be at the forefront of such practice.

Edible Weeds
In order to curtail overconsumption or over-planting of certain foods, as well as to keep certain plants from taking over the landscape, people make use of edible weeds and flowers. These plants include, Dandelion, Japanese Knotweed, and Lamb’s Quarters. This is also a segway to wild foraging.

*There are organic insecticides such as insecticidal soap or horticultural oils. And there are natural pests like birds, bees, praying mantis, and ladybugs (you can even get mantis cocoons and hang them in the garden, being careful not to overdo their population).

Food Not Bombs
Food Not Bombs is a worldwide organization that started in Massachusetts. It aims to cook and give away “free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry” as a way of non-violently acting against war, because war causes displacement and destruction of crops and resources vital to people’s survival. Similar acts of cooking and giving away food serve as a domestic protest against the treatment of homeless people, and calls into question the effects of capitalism on the access to necessities.
If all the DIY Ecology that has been mentioned up until now is assumed to be in effect or largely on its way, Food Not Bombs can serve several purposes. In DE society, Food Not Bombs will not only be a political initiative to feed the less fortunate. With the erosion of things that contribute to homelessness, FNB can at times be a neighborhood potluck or cookoff in which anyone is welcome to partake in eating and being with others. In combination with edible gardens and other things I mentioned, other things should follow.

  1. A detraction from the fast food industry. In a society in which people are taking ownership of what gets to their plates by growing and preparing most of their own meals, fast food industries will become less in power and number.
  2. A return to organic food at a cheaper price than the current organic food industry. People will come to rely less on supermarkets, and also will have healthful organic food at their own disposal, the front/back yard. People can still visit health food stores like Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s. DE society might even have these as its average “supermarket,” but people will not need to rely on them to be healthy. Nor will poorer people be barred from eating healthy because they cannot afford shopping in such markets.
  3. A move toward self-reliance and community engagement. DEsociety practices, varied and creative, will allow poor and rich alike access to food, clothing, and shelter. That is the main point I aim to convey in this series. You can leave some innovations to a “market,” but food, clothing, and shelter should be free for everyone. It is easier to get to that point if we live in a society that allows the communities themselves to be their own “welfare provider” in ways like I have described so far. DE is also sufficient if we live in a society that aims to distribute this free welfare as evenly as possible. That means having a distribution focus that is localized and decentralized.**

Dumpster Diving
I learned about this through contact with people from Claremont Food Not Bombs. Dumpster Diving is not a good term. It conjures up images of homeless or dirty people wading through putrid trash bins for leftover scraps. That’s what I thought it was at first. It is better described a retrieval of perishable food and other goods, but obviously that is not everyday English. Dumpster diving is when one or more people get together to search through dumpsters for food that is still fit to eat. How can that be?
If food has reached or in a few days of approaching its “sell by” or “best used” date, markets are required to throw it out in order to abide by certain codes and laws. In my experience with purchased food, I have been able to eat bread, cereal, and eggs at least a few days past date. I once refrigerated a quarter loaf of bread I noticed was 2 days after date, and used it over a period of 5-6 days. If people throw away unblemished fruits and vegetables, and even meat, those can be taken. Besides markets, you can salvage food from the end of the day from places like donut shops and restaurants. I have only eaten few (but really delicious) meals from food that was retrieved from dumpsters, so you can find more information here. I have had donuts, chili, barbeque baked beans, and salad!
Food isn’t the only thing that can be retrieved. You can check out places like college campuses for items thrown away at the end of the school year (clothing and furniture). In DEsociety, dumpster diving is not an obscure practice, and all businesses do what they can to make sure that their refuse goes to good use and reuse.

Community Gardens
This is the same as Food Not Lawns, but with the intention that the food can be grown and taken by people who have no space of their own to grow food (homeless people and people in apartment complexes). I remember mentioning in the overview that people will get smart and use the cityscape for food use. Thinking more on it, I think it is a bad idea to use nearly all parts of the community to grow food. That will take too much time, and can lead to overuse of the community’s soil. Rather, having a few city or town gardens should suffice. The rest of the space should be grass or native plants.

**I doubt that laws should be distributed in the same way. But when it comes to those three necessities it is best for consensus, participatory democracy, or “really really free market” systems to do the distributing. Food Not Bombs, Food Not Lawns, Free Stores, Squats, and Giveaway Centers allow everyone in the community access to the three necessities without the government or an impersonal market system getting in the way to determine who gets access.

Tending to the land becomes a serious consideration in DE. There are several ways to go about this that don’t involve chemical fertilizer.

  1. The best is composting. This is when food scraps, tea bags, napkins and the like and put into the soil to decompose over time. At the end of a composting period you get rich soil to put on the land.
  2. Composting toilets allow a person to turn their waste into soil. NO, it does not mean crapping in a ditch. There are actually compost toilet systems. I heard on KPCC news the other day that these toilets are being used in Haiti as a sanitary toilet system, because some places do not have a sewage system.
  3. Urine can be used as fertilizer. The linked article reporting these findings says that it is sterile, unlike fecal matter, making it safe to use. True, but we use poo as fertilizer anyhow, so I really don’t understand why the article put that bit in here – perhaps to ease readers’ reactions. Anyway it’s not like you would poop directly on the plants! Urine also has things like nitrogen, and other things that help plant growth.

So another key component of DEsociety is “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” but it doesn’t stop at bottles, cans, and paper.

DIY Ecology: Housing

This is the hardest area to explain, because it is far from the glamor of upscale apartments and suburbs. It will be a really bitter a difficult road, filled with anger and frustration, but I think that maybe with time, people will learn how to use these settlements in helpful ways. The problem is that we live in a culture that is 1)alienated and 2) not accustomed to DIY-living. Most people will gasp in horror at this edition of DE, because it is not as uniform as the current housing market system. Many will view this as asceticism or wanting to live in destitution. This is more than that. It is a speculation about the potential people have to transform their lives, and, it is something that people are doing now. I wouldn’t be able to write this had it not been for the information out there of people doing these types of things.

Squatting
This is a term used to describe the process of occupying an unused and vacant building. Due to the financial crisis now, there are many such buildings, at least in my town. They are homes and businesses that were closed down. This brings to mind images of homeless folks and vandals breaking into buildings and doing what they please. It’s a potential situation, but I’d like to argue that most homeless people are trying to survive, they are not all crazy people who have lost all sense of reality. Vandals are probably already using vacant buildings for illicit purposes, but I disagree with the slippery slope belief that vandals will slowly come to take over all towns and become overlords by occupying buildings. Squats are used for many reasons, including as ad-hoc community centers, unofficially regulated co-housing, and meeting centers. In DE society (DE/DESociety), this is just more open and prevalent. For a while it the sheer number of squats actually joins competition in the housing market. As people decide to work with others to make ends meet in a squat, landlords try to do what they can to keep tenants by at first calling the police and ordering arrests. But the levels of people doing this grow to a number in which the only ways landlords can make money is if they provide low rents. Also, good people who before would not even consider trying to acquire a building, get together and occupy buildings to provide services to their community.

Amsterdam Squat

Classical music concert in squatted Berlin building

Taking over vacant lots
People start using these for makeshift homes, mobile home, and movable homes/classrooms.

Tent cities
These exist today. In DEsociety, they become community hubs and “illegitimate” homes just like squats. Once occupying space becomes commonplace, tent city dwellers either go to those places, or focus on interacting with others to make tent cities livable. With the wide spread of Food Not Bombs, and Lawn Gardens, tent cities have access to trading/doing minor chores for food. *I highly doubt people will allow folks to just take food from their lawn (unless it’s at night when theft goes unmonitored).* I also idealistically (well this whole series is an ideal) believe that in DE, the goal is to give and spread wealth without government, which should encourage people to be mindful of what they take. I don’t think that gardens will just be ravaged to nothing by squatters and tent city people.
On a less positive note there is one tent city in current times, in Arizona, being used as county jail grounds.

Tent city near a homeless shelter in Reno, NV

Shipping container homes and apartments

Home in Hawaii

This is my personal favorite in the category of alternative housing. People take retired shipping containers and convert them into homes or schools. It is cheaper than building a regular house from the ground up, or buying a regular house. They can be stacked and turned into apartments or multistory homes.

Retired Train-cars
This comes under the same concept as shipping containers. There are so many train-cars just sitting on tracks without a purpose because the transportation industry has upgraded to new designs. I saw real present-day examples of this home on a train ride from Vermont to California!

Living in busses/converting them into permanent homes
Same concept. So in DE, all of this reusing and recycling is commonplace.

Using scraps from old cars and airplanes in renovation/housing projects
In DE, people use any sturdy/stable material they can to build on a house. The result – houses that may not have the uniform appearance that stucco provides, but it’s still livable. There are all sort of things used for roofing, flooring, and walls.

Scrap Cities
These are places where most of the homes, schools, and businesses features reused and recycled materials. In DESociety they are on defunct military bases and abandoned shipping yards. It takes many years for these to be converted.

Then there are tiny houses, underground houses, earth houses, and much more. Many of these buildings in cities are open to graffiti and street art.

DIY Ecology Overview

…a world in which imperfection is accepted and dealt with. In which we don’t try so much to strive for what we don’t have and instead deal with what’s actually here. Innovation and improvisation is key. DIY culture is nothing new. In the area of ecology it is growing. In light of the protests in various parts of the world, and the threat of government bankruptcy, I am seriously questioning the story that we have come to believe about the nature of life here. The notion that never-ending monetary growth and ever-rising consumption is the best thing civilization has to offer is unsettling. Why has life become about earning a living instead of just living? So I want to do some writing and thinking about alternatives. I have already said much about democratic education, but I think there are other facets of life that also need to be decentralized. From this I have thought to call it “DIY Ecology,” or DE. I’m sure this has been coined elsewhere, but this is my version, and I am sure there are many others (it wouldn’t be DIY if there was only one methodology, now would it?). I make a distinction with DIY because society has already come to the realization that ecological stewardship and mindfulness is necessary for the survival of the planet and all the things it provides life for. However, my qualm is that the current ecological movement is at risk of becoming more commercialized. Ecology and permaculture is not a capital venture or an economic choice. It is an absolute necessity if we want to live more efficiently, conscientiously, and with emotional well-being. Rather than create markets of “innovations” that are inaccessible to most “consumers” in terms of creation and repair, we need to open the building and skill sharing to the people. We already have doses of DIY technology – open source, youtube, hacking. DE merges the technology with permaculture. We should use technology to make certain things easier, but at the same time focus on community, locality, the health of our environment, and frugal sustainability.

If a society like what I describe were to arise (and in some ways it is) it will probably develop in pockets and spread slowly. The following series is a half fictional, half underground hybrid of what is possible in society. The verb tense changes a lot – sorry in advance.

The United States.

The idea of a debt based economy is preposterous – why should our lives be based on never having enough? Unending growth of economy, money, and material goods is not possible. Yet politicians always talk about raising the economy and encouraging consumption in order to “boost” it. In the early stages of DE society, people sit around in unemployment, hoping for a bone to be thrown to them. But after much squalor, those who are ingenuous or most wanting to survive will find and learn various ways to live within their means.

This mean-based economy yields many things. Things once reserved for the poor or impoverished become respected. Clothing exchanges and “free stores” are popularized due to the realization that we already have enough clothing. The problem was that the monetary system unevenly distributes the amount of clothes available based on who could afford them, rather than based on who needed them. It also encouraged over-consumption through fallacious ad populum advertising (people were led to believe they needed more and more). The early 2000’s was the decade of throwback fashion anyway, and so that continued on with the increase in people trading and giving away clothing. Throwback fashion lead to skillshops and workshops where people who knew how to tailor and mend clothes helped and showed people how to make their clothes fit and look nice. Something that used to be a “college thing” was adapted by others, and people are satisfied with leaving unwanted clothes out in the open in “freeboxes” for others in to take. In order to keep up, stores like the salvation army and thrift stores became free stores – and tradeshops. Clothing centers like target/walmart/forever21/ross lost millions in profit or shutdown. Stores are broken into and clothing is taken and redistributed into the community. Sometimes groups get together to send surplus over to other states/countries once their own community learns to use the most of what it has. The euro-centric profit-based fashion system thus lost hold over the U.S., and people became okay looking how they wanted to look. Local fashions become more distinctive.

Infrastructure
Power companies, and places of infrastructure become more important than ever. But something happens. The aging of “the grid” finally catches up. Brown outs and black outs increase. This causes bosses to strategize with specialists about ways to deal with the problem. Power is purposefully shut off at 3am, 10pm, 2am – for x amount of hours depending on the density of the city. There is first gripe and protest, but public service campaigns revealing the weakness of the system are eventually understood. This causes a good thing. People re-learn the importance of nightfall. Companies change hours of operation so that workers only work during the day. This causes a slow down in the delivery of goods and services. People learn to deal with the time it takes to receive goods or they start relying on local services.

Trains, planes, and buses – I don’t know what that would look like without much money. Disorder at first, but then people will figure something out. Ethanol might finally triumph when the oil companies shut down. In real present times, people have figured out ways to convert used cooking oil into fuel. I dunno. With the lack of money, anarchistic tendencies develop, and what I mean is that people figure out ways to do things themselves without money or government directives. There have been times for instance, that I rode the metro bus and the driver decided to just let people get on, even when the change machine was working. Relying less on money might increase such tendencies. Perhaps first come first serve becomes important. Maybe the seniors and handicapped are taken from place to place for free at certain times of the day by para-transit volunteers. Carpooling may increase when the bus service becomes more scarce. Meet the new and old neighbors, they won’t bite.

Without gov’t money, street maintenance will decline, and cars will not be as useful as they once were. This causes a long period of service redistribution, in which the main buildings of schools, hospitals, markets, and other areas, once located “downtown,” are put into more local branches. Small businesses and tradeshops thrive and places to get goods. People who repair things become very important as the manufacturing system breaks down once the infrastructure breaks down.

FOOD!
Permaculture takes precedence when the delivery of goods slows down. Eco-villages, urban “farms” and community gardens are commonplace. “Food Not Lawns,” “Edible Estates,” and seed swaps are popularized. People get together to transform their neighborhoods into local food sources. In rural areas the same things are adopted, and farmers turn their attention to the nearest communities/cities now that they aren’t competing for money. Miracle grow and soil chemicals are no longer used when people use lawn-space to grow food. People get crafty and use the city-scape for food as well as art/design. So they line the streets with native plants and food. Also people learn to rely on edible weeds such as dandelion, purslane, lambs quarter, and young japanese knotweed. The homeless will have a lot of food available, and they will probably be on raw food diets from the food they steal (yes, they WILL steal the food, and they might redistribute it to others). Food Not Bombs initiatives gain ground. It is normal for neighbors to get together to cook and serve meals for the homeless.

Gangs and Drugs. These things will always be around. This is something I have NO understanding of. Will lack of money cause the drug cartel to lose power? I don’t know because addictive drugs are so powerful that people will do anything to get them. In a society that doesn’t use much money, will addictive drugs be freely handed out? Maybe drugs are used because the monetary society causes alienation and  too much stress. Maybe people who make drugs like meth or heroin will be alienated by their new communities which have come to know and depend on each other. maybe addictive drugs thrive because there is no community to put your time into. As far as gangs – they will rule certain areas by the threat of violence. This is obviously a negative thing. The communities strong enough to not back down and/or integrate gang members into their activities will do the best. Likewise a place that is deeply involved in a network of people might have a better chance of averting youth initiations. Communities of color will have the hardest fight with this issue. In some communities, the police might become gangs. This is more guesswork than anything else I am writing about.

Well, that’s it for now. My views are far from soundproof. It’s just fun to speculate.

Lawns Are Stupid

Seriously, WHAT is the point? You have this neat square of green stuff…great, now what? You have an occasional barbecue in the back patch – big deal. Sometimes this society engages in some strange and pointless things, and lawn maintenance is one of them.

Why go through through this just for vanity sake…

When you can grow FOOD and have an actual purpose for your yard?

About Permaculture

In mainstream society, we all know about recycling, reusable bags, fluorescent light bulbs, and the moves to wind power and solar power (renewable energies). There’s even a bit more awareness of composting.

Here are some things I’ve picked up on my own so far about Permaculture and Sustainable living

  1. Eco Villages: Intentional communities that focus on sustainability by actively re-using, reducing and recycling in any ways possible. Many of these places grow their own food and use “off the grid” supplies of energy such as their own renewable sewage systems or wind, water, and solar power conversion systems.
  2. Composting toilets or low water toilets: Low water toilets use the least amount of water to “get things done.” In Japan there are even toilets with sinks attached to the top, so that when the toilet top refills with new clean water, you can use that water to wash your hands. Composting toilets get right to the point of sending waste right back into the ground. As an innovation to the outhouse or “ditch toilet” composting toilets allow for waste to be deposited into a container that is combined with mulch or wood shavings. After they are full they are taken out to composting bins or facilities to decompose into nutrient rich soil. Holes in the bottom of the container allow liquid to run out into the ground so the composting goes right. You can make these yourself, but for a more professional look, Lovable Loo, Environlet, and Sun Mar are good companies to purchase from.
  3. Food not Lawns, Edible Estates: These are initiatives to localize food supplies even beyond that of community gardens which are also efficient. Instead of tending to vacant lawn space, people turn this space into edible gardens. It allows gardeners to control the upkeep of their own food and to understand what naturally grows in their environment. By not buying out of the country or manipulating landscapes to buy out of season, edible gardeners hope to contribute to the reduction of the the chemicals used to manipulate and the fuel used to transport produce thousands of miles out.
  4. Getting off the grid. There are numerous ways to produce your own current and power through use of wells, solar power, wind power, water flows/wheels, non water septic systems, and hand powered tools and machines. Keith Thompson does it, in New Mexico. The Dervaes Family does it, in South Pasedena, California.
  5. Turning retired freight cars into homes. This is pretty simple. You take one or more old freight cars and fabricate them into livable space. It is a type of miniHome, turning box like things or trailers and turning them into stylish homes. More information here.

  1. I’ve also learned about getting along with public transportation and bicycles and how to do practical things, like grocery shopping, using these methods of transport (and accessories such as racks and luggage-like baskets).
  2. Aquaponics Systems: using fish to grow food. I heard about this one from my friend Brad.
  3. Greywater Recycling: Filtering and reusing the water used in sinks and washing machines.
  4. Family Cloth wipes: an innovation on cloth diapers; using cloth/rags in the bathroom to wipe instead of toilet paper and washing/reusing as one would do with a cloth diaper.

Am I willing to try all this? I can’t wait. 🙂

“Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”