Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Permaculture, Part 2

Produce No Waste:

By valuing and making use of all the resources available to us, nothing goes to waste.

On the land, on the farm, this is easy to understand. The animals consume and return to the eco-system in the form of their young, fiber, eggs, milk or meat. Along the way, their "waste" is composted and used to improve the soil. The compost enriches the fields and the crops enjoy heavier, healthier yields, to be consumed by both human and animal; once again coming full circle.
But in the city, this concept of "produce no waste" is a little more complex. We recycle. Magazines, newspapers, glass, plastic, office waste (including computers and assorted electronics), we can re-direct our rainwater, garden waste and kitchen trimmings are composted. Even urine can be used! Free nitrogen, anyone? I know of one heroic soul who doesn't use toilet paper. Now THAT'S reducing your waste!

So how do we reduce our waste even more? One idea is to pay attention to packaging. A friend and I had a discussion about this one day. She told me they were putting fewer bags out at the curb. Ever since, I've been wondering how my own family could produce less waste. We drink quite a bit of Coca-Cola, but much less now than we used to. I wonder which packaging harms the environment less, plastic bottles, or cans? Anyone know? We re-use our grocery bags (we have dogs), we use our backpacks when shopping and if we need more room than those provide, we always have 4 or 5 cloth bags with us. I have a few travel mugs to help me be a more responsible coffee drinker. But that begs the question...What do we do with the travel mugs when they are no longer usable? I have cups that leak and need replacing, are they recyclable? (Kudos to Tim Hortons for the .10 cent discount if you come in with any travel mug. Theirs or anyone elses) Even when we sit in, I use china mugs to go easy on the landfills.

I'm proud to say we compost, even though we live in an apartment. I get food grade buckets from Tim Hortons, so it was relatively easy to convert one into a compost tumbler. All one needs to do is drill a few holes in the bucket large enough for air to get in but small enough to keep stuff in and critters out. It's an interesting dance of 3 parts green matter to 1 part brown. Too much green and the compost-in-the-making will stink. Too much brown matter and it won't "cook", as I found out a few weeks ago. For those of you unfamiliar with composting, "green matter" is things like vegetable ends, peelings, cores, coffee grounds, tea bags and even the water the veggies are cooked in. My cold coffee goes in too unless I remember to water the tree with it. "Brown matter" in our neighborhood is the hay bale someone dumped down the road, last year's corn husks and leaves from the path beside the corn field. I make sure the composter lid is on tight and flip the bucket around a few times, roll it around a bit and take a peek to make sure it mixed thoroughly. yes, it's more work than just tossing it all out, but I know I'm giving back to the Earth. In the end, I'll have the greatest soil I've ever had, full of micro-nutrients that will give me happy plants and I'll know that I did my part to NOT clutter up our planet.

So enough from me, now it's your turn. What do you do to minimize waste?

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