Sustainability DIY – May 10

May 10, 2012

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.

Dutch ‘Repair Cafes’ keep stuff out of the trash by fixing it for free

Sarah Laskow, Grist
In the Netherlands, there are more than 30 “Repair Cafes” — groups that meet once or twice a month to repair (for free!) clothes and gizmos and tools that might otherwise be discarded. The New York Times visited the original Repair Cafe, which began two and a half years ago, and found that people want to keep their stuff — even cheap stuff, like H&M skirts. They just don’t know how to mend it themselves:

“This cost 5 or 10 euros,” about $6.50 to $13, [Sigrid Deters] said, adding that she had not mended it herself because she was too clumsy. “It’s a piece of nothing, you could throw it out and buy a new one. But if it were repaired, I would wear it.”

The group repairs electronics, too — everything from big-ticket items like vacuums and washing machines to the little gadgets that go haywire, like irons, toaster ovens, and coffee pots.

Repair Cafes are mainly driven by the time and efforts of volunteers who pool their skills to fix what needs fixing.
(9 May 2012)
Suggested by Michael C. of Palo Alto. -BA

Food Fundamentals – interview with food security writer Lolo Houbein
Philip Adams, Late Night Live, ABC (Australia)
Food is a source of joy and comfort but how we produce it is crucial to our collective survival. Lolo Houbein is a South Australian food security advocate and writer. She is author of “Outside the Magic Square.”
(1 May 2012)
Recommended by EB contributor Michael Lardelli who writes,

“A great radio interview by Philip Adams (considered by some as Australia’s leading “intellectual”) of Lolo Houbein from Adelaide, Australia who progagated the idea of the “magic square” (1 square metre ~ 9 square feet) to teach people about growing their own food. Some interesting ideas about reserving agricultural land from development and support for local farmers. Mentions Cuba and transfer of food security ideas to Venezuela after oil export revenues interfered with the latter nation’s domestic food production. .”

Don’t Throw Away Your Wealth

John Robb, Resilient Communities
I met Dr. T.H. Culhane a couple of years ago at a National Geographic conference.

He is on a lifelong mission to help the world’s poor, both urban and rural, bootstrap themselves out of poverty and improve the quality of their lives.

How? He shows people how to avoid throwing away wealth.

Specifically, he teaches them that the food and bathroom waste they produced every day (about thirty percent of the energy they consume and most of the waste) can be transformed by a biogas digester into:

  • the fuel (methane) they can use to cleanly cook their food and
  • a composted slurry they can use to fertilize their crops.

Biogas digesters aren’t new. They are in use in many places. However, there are many, many more places, both intensely urban or spartan rural, that need them but don’t.

To give you some insight into how these systems work, here’s an example of an in ground biogas system that TH initiated in the Philippines (see TH’s blog for more detail on the entire project). This system is set up so that the wife/kids can feed the digester biological waste every day and get methane gas and fertilizer in return (he teaches people to treat it as a family cow).

The system they are installing is essentially a septic tank with some minor tweaks that allow it to be manually fed and output methane/fertilizer.

… PS: Here some of the ways biogas digesters reduce poverty and improve lives:

  1. It eliminates biological waste that can cause a health hazard.
  2. The methane produced burns cleanly inside the home (as opposed to wood/garbage smoke).
  3. It makes it possible for kids to go to school/play, since they aren’t required to spend 3-6 hours a day gathering fuel for the stove. If they are buying bottled gas to cook, this saves them income.

PPS: Bureaucratic road-blocks. Here’s an interesting nugget from TH. He found that municipal authorities and development agencies are often stopping people in developing countries from building DIY digesters for methane production. Why? They believe that they are dangerous. So, the authorities have been telling people to shut them down and wait for electricity deliveries from a plant to be built-in the far future. TH maintains, and I think he is right about this, that the small volume of low pressure gas produced by these systems is safer than the alternatives available, and much healthier.
(9 May 2012)
Suggested by EB contributor Luane Todd who writes, “This guy finds some really neat ideas…pleases my dumpster diving soul… “

I think this is the same John Robb who posts at always interesting Global Guerrillas . He quotes Dmitry Orlov and seems to be thinking along the same lines as we are at Energy Bulletin / Post Carbon (Changing to Resilience).

Resilient Communities – site to watch. -BA

Methane Biodigester – How To

The Urban Farming Guys

Today, we’re gonna bring you into the world of bio-gas digestion. The whole idea is to create methane, just like you do in your stomach; as you’re churning up your food, one of the bi-products is methane. Here, we’re gonna show you today four different ways. You can go as simple or as high tech as you wanna go with this. Here’s one real simple method right here where you take two cylinders.. & as you put food waste & your manure & everything else in there, as it churns up, the methane bubbles to the top & forces that upper cylinder up, which is good for several purposes. It holds the methane, it pressurizes the methane so you can send it back to your utilities or whatever you’re gonna use it for.

So, you put in your rotten vegetables, & your manure, & whatever you got ground up you put it in here. This isn’t built yet, but you’ll get the idea. & it goes down to the bottom, & as methane builds up under this chamber, it raises up slowly like this, til it would eventually fall off. So, you build a cage to keep it from falling off, & then as you use it, as you turn your cook stove on or your generator, this thing goes back down by itself. This is kind of a proof of concept. Right here, we’re gonna do the same thing, with a much bigger scale. We got these old fuel tanks on a farm, had them welded together, made one a lot bigger..They just happened to just fit inside each other.

So, here’s another concept. Here’s a whole other way..The whole idea is to have a sealed chamber that seals off the oxygen. This is what we’ve done right here with these three tanks. This tank right here, you put the food scraps in here. … (more at original)

Who are we…..

We are the urban experiment…

We are the seed that died and went into the ground. We are about 20 families who have purposefully uprooted from out of our comfortable suburban homes and moved into one of the worst neighborhoods in Kansas City. We each bought homes within a 5 block radius of each other and we put down our stake for the sake of the youth and the poor. What is going to happen to us … who knows, but this is certainly not a novelty idea, and please don’t try it yourselves without thinking it through. We are a band of pioneers. We don’t claim this is even a good idea…. it is our lives. We are cultivating the life of the innercity. The Police helicopter is our favorite bird. Neighborhood meetings are our drama. Dropping crime stats are our touchdown cheer. Just to see people walking their dogs around the block again is a sign of good things to come. Stay tuned, lots of adventure to come…
(March 2011)
At our film series last Friday, we showed some videos from “The Urban Farming Guys” – a neat group – amazing to see how much they are doing with so few resources. Their videos are funny and informative, but very non-slick. -BA

Tags: Building Community, Food, Waste