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We Can Be Garbage Free

Ruben Anderson, The Tyee
Trash is a choice. Time for ‘Cradle to Cradle’ design.

A month after Vancouver finally settled its garbage strike, people are breathing easier as their cans once again fill and miraculously empty every week.

Which means we’ve missed a huge opportunity here. We should still be asking the true question raised by all that smelly inconvenience:

Why do we have garbage in the first place?

In fact, there is no reason we have garbage — that is, no good reason. In fact, a world without garbage may be as easy as the red-faced emperor pulling on pants and a t-shirt.

It turns out that garbage is a choice — and not just in the “do you recycle” kind of way. Garbage is the product of how we have decided to produce things and run our society.

Robert Ayres, who studies Industrial Metabolism, has calculated that 94 per cent of the inputs, the raw materials and energy that go into a product, never make it into the output, the finished item. In other words, we make way more garbage than we make stuff; it’s just “easier” that way. And of course, most of the stuff we make is garbage.

Factor Four: Doubling Wealth — Halving Resource Use, a study published for the Club of Rome, (a global non-profit that works for social change) found that, in North America, 80 per cent of products are discarded after a single use. Furthermore, 99 per cent of the materials used in the production of, or contained within goods, are discarded within the first six weeks. Factor Four estimated that we could maintain our current standard of living with only one-quarter the resources and energy, using current off-the-shelf technology.

Ruben Anderson is a Vancouver based writer and consultant with a focus on sustainability issues.
(28 November 2007)

N.Y. Activist Preaches Deliverance From Retail
‘Stop Shopping,’ He Cries In the Pre-Sale Darkness

Robin Shulman, Washington Post
This time of year, the Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping has a difficult ministry.

5:45 a.m. on Black Friday — or as he calls it, Buy Nothing Day — found him bellowing his message into a megaphone outside the flagship Macy’s store in Midtown Manhattan.

“Stop shopping!” he called, his voice echoing through dark streets filled with thickly bundled silhouettes with shopping bags.

People stopped and stared. And then pushed past him.

The Rev. Billy, a.k.a. the actor Bill Talen, is not an ordained minister or even a practicing Christian, but he is a true believer. He hopes to avert “Shopocalypse” and save our souls, our wallets, our communities and the planet. As a performance artist and activist, he has been preaching against consumerism since 1997, when he began delivering his gospel outside Manhattan’s Disney Store.
(23 November 2007)

EB Review: The Humanure Handbook
Eugene Duran, Energy Bulletin
Peak Oil planning requires real solutions to a low energy future. This much we know. One of the most important books offering real solutions is an oft mentioned book making the rounds in alternative circles is entitled The Humanure Handbook (2005) by Joseph Jenkins. This is Joseph’s third printing as it has garnered a great deal of attention around the world including a nomination for an environmental award.

From a sustainability perspective, this book is perhaps the most important book I have ever read.

A great deal of the book is dedicated to changing people’s opinions of fecal matter, so as to begin a dialogue of this important bodily function. Joseph does this with intelligence, humor and wit needed for this topic. Basically, we need to kick the shit out of crap. (Sorry for the vulgarity)

Of greater importance is the science behind much of Josephs work. According to the book, the compost pile is capable of improving soil in ways we have never been taught. This is way beyond the composting toilet. Joseph teaches others to compost many things we organic gardeners have been taught is taboo. Things like cheese and bones and even carcasses. It gets better. The book outlines the mounting evidence and research into the idea that the chemistry that works in the compost pile is capable of healing the soil. Soil remediation in the compost pile. This can be used in the garden and Joseph has been doing so for 26 years without a single sickness which he can trace to his composting. Caution must be exercised when dealing with people with sickness so as not to expose oneself to pathogens and this is covered in the book. Multiple studies indicate that the compost pile is capable of killing even the most stubborn pathogens.

Why is this important? This helps to solve three problems we will have to confront in a low energy world. 1. Water – Less clean drinking water flushed down the toilet. 2. Safely handling our fecal matter. 3. How to get enough nitrogen inputs to sustain productive crops in a low energy world.

Joseph is stating that the process must be done right and he goes over it many times.

The flush toilet has served us well in a world where we can waste three gallons of drinking water and flush it down and know someone else will have to deal with it. Will our future sanitary systems be able to continue on its current path in a low energy world? Will we have enough water in the future to ensure we can continue to “flush”? Will there be enough nitrogen available for us to grow enough food for a hungry populace in an energy depleted world? The Humanure Handbook not only addresses these problems but offers real solutions for real people.
(30 November 2007)
As Eugene points out, the process must be done right (e.g. compost must get hot enough for a sufficient length of time) to render fecal material safe. The process for dealing with urine by itself is much safer.