Plastic-Eating Fungi Found in the Amazon May Solve World’s Waste Problem

Degradation of polyurethane by fungi? Paul Stamets (Mycelium Running) will be glad to hear this. Lets hope this initial finding pans out after further investigation and field trials.

The Yoga Hub

Plastic-Eating Fungi Found In The Amazon

A group of students and professors from Yale University have found a fungi in the Amazon rainforest that can degrade and utilize the common plastic polyurethane (PUR). As part of the university’s Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory educational program, designed to engage undergraduate students in discovery-based research, the group searched for plants and cultured the micro-organisms within their tissue.

Several active organisms were identified, including two distinct isolates of Pestalotiopsis microspora with the ability to efficiently degrade and utilize PUR as the sole carbon source when grown anaerobically, a unique observation among reported PUR biodegradation activities.

Polyurethane is a big part of our mounting waste problem and this is a new possible solution for managing it. The fungi can survive on polyurethane alone and is uniquely able to do so in an oxygen-free environment. The Yale University team has published its findings in the article ‘Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic…

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PDC Learnings – techniques

The last aspect of the element/pattern/technique triad is  the specific technique used to meet one’s overall goals. Permaculture techniques tend to involve low or appropriate technology solutions which maximize the use of natural, recycled or recyclable materials.  Some of the techniques we looked at were:

photo: Greenminds Ecological Design

  • sheet mulching – a technique to build soil
  • swale construction – a technique to prevent runoff)
  • composting – a technique to decompose and recycle organic matter
  • rainwater catchment – a technique to catch and store water
  • cobb construction – a building technique

Techniques abound and are well discussed on other websites. It’s not my intent to reinvent the wheel; just to complete the picture.  For more information see these resources:

  • This section of Heathcote Community’s Online Permaculture Course provides more suggestions.
  • Also see Appropedia, an appropriate technology wiki and
  • Natural Homes a website providing picture of the home with a short description and links to the owner’s or the builders website for over 400 homes constructed with natural building materials,

Riot for Austerity – The Calculator is Back!

A very quick post (which turned into a much longer one than expected).

Riot for Austerity Year 2 Outcomes from MamaStories

The riot for austerity calculator that I talked about in this earlier post is back on line.  See link to the calculator here.  Brooklinemama’s current success (through February 2012)  in her quest to cut her family’s energy usage to 10% that of the average American family is chronicled  here.

Sharon Astyk (and friends) are the originators of the calculator. More information about the background on the calculator and references for source data about  current energy, water and resource use by American families appears in Sharon’s post Time to Riot here.

I’m planning to try this for March. It should be pretty easy to track.

  • Transportation mileage: I already pay for gas by debit card and keep receipts. Per Sharon, the average American uses 500 gallons of gas per person, per year.
  • Public transportation mileage: I keep receipts of when I travel by public transportation.  For MARTA, I’ll need to estimate the mileage of my average trip.
  • At home electricity: easily available from monthly bill. The average American uses 2,000 kwh per person (“at home” as opposed to “at work and other places you go”) per year.
  • Heating and Cooking Fuel: easily available from monthly bill.
  • Garbage: I’ll need to weigh my trash. I don’t have much  I do a lot of recycling and composting. Per Sharon, the average American household produces 40 lbs of garbage per week.
  • Water: easily available from monthly bill. I found Sharon’s figures confusing so I found some statistics from the American Water Works Association. They cited indoor per person use at 69.3 gallon per day and total household use at 350 gallons per day (at 2.6 person/household, this is equivalent to 135 gallons per person per day)
  • Consumer Goods. Easily available. I keep monthly receipts. Per Sharon, the average American spend $11,000 per year on items that don’t include food, insurance, energy, housing and other necessities.
  • Food: percent locally grown, dry and bulk goods, wet and conventional goods. The trickiest of the lot.  Initially I’ll estimate.  Probably I should weigh these for accurate figures.

Also, see here for link to “when to start what” planting date calculator from Johnny’s selected seeds.

I’m already way behind.  Trying to catch up with garden planning and garden work this week.

New School Indoor and Old School Outdoor Hydroponics

New School Indoor Hydroponics

I got a invite to support a “new venture” from Kickstarter the other day, Windowfarms, Vertical Food Gardens. They are a little high tech from a permaculture point of view but I think the idea of indoor hydroponics is worth additional consideration, especially as a way to grow food indoors for urban dwellers.

  • It provides food supply redundancy for the city dweller.
  • It uses heat and light already available indoors.
  • It obtains a food yield.
  • It makes use of the window “microclimate”.

If only the pump were solar powered and the nutrient pack was some combination of compost and worm tea……

Windowfarms DIY

While looking for a picture to add this post, I stumbled on this post at the Cheap Vegetable Gardener  from which I learned that the Windowfarms concept  started as a DIY and is an open source community continually improving the system design  and focusing on using recycled materials.   Now this looks more like where I want to go (though I’m still looking for a solar powered pump).

Chinampas, Old School Hydroponics

On another note, looking at my PDC course notes this morning (before heading out for Thanksgiving activities)  I also read about the Chinampas, the floating gardens of Mexico.  Although these do not exist as once did, here’s a more permaculture approach to hydroponics from back in the day.

“Abbe Francesco Clavigero describes the true floating gardens as follows: “They plait and twist Willows and roots of many plants, or other materials, together, which are light, but capable of supporting the earth of the garden firmly united. Upon this foundation they lay the light bushes which float on the lake, and over all the mud and dirt which they draw from the bottom of the same lake.”
The common form was a quadrangle, and the average size about fifteen by forty feet, although some of the largest were a hundred feet in extent. Many of the latter contained a small hut, in which the cultivator sometimes lmed; one or more trees were also growing in the centre of these largest plots. The earth used was extremely rich, and this being kept in a moist state by its proximity to the water (the elevation above it being not over a foot), the gardens were productive of the choicest vegetables and flowers, including also Maize.
The gardens of the present day are very different affairs. They do not float, but, on the contrary, are composed of strips of solid ground, usually about fifteen by thirty feet in extent, although some are larger. These plots are intersected by small canals, through which visitors are propelled in canoes. They are constructed by heaping up the earth about two feet above the water…..”

Charles H. Coe, Garden and Forest 8, [1895] :432-433

This is the power you have

This is a really great post from Jacqueline Windh from her blog Connections. The picture shows a week’s worth of her garbage. I thought I was an expert in reducing waste but this shows me I still have a way to go.  Jacqueline highlights an area I really need to work on, that of  rejecting–refusing to buy items that contain non-recyclable and excess packaging. Read part of her post below.

This past Monday, I forgot about garbage day (again). When I heard the truck rumbling down the street, I ran into the kitchen, grabbed my garbage bag, and prepared to run down to the street in my bathrobe (again).

But I looked at the garbage bag. There was little over a fistful of garbage in it.

This is how much garbage I produced this week! I have been putting a lot of effort into reducing the amount of garbage I produce – but even so, I actually surprised myself!

Yes, it definitely takes extra time to not produce garbage. Just like it takes time to undertake other initiatives that are good for our environment, such as walking or riding a bike rather than driving. I am not saying that it doesn’t take time. It takes time.

But honestly, I am tired of hearing people tell me how busy their lives are, and how they just don’t have the time in their busy days to cook real food rather than heating up something from a package, or walk (or make their kids walk) instead of zipping around in their cars. Many of those people can talk about TV shows that I have never heard of, and keep up a pretty active social life online. It’s not only a matter of time – it’s a matter of priorities.

The garbage thing, the consumerism, the waste… to me, these are important. They are important to our future and, especially, if you care at all for kids, even more important for their future. So I make the time for it. It’s a priority…….

So I am going to share some of the strategies that have worked for me:

Read more at: This is the power you have « Connections.

Waste Not Want Not

Scrap Cardboard from Watts Up

As a child, I was discouraged from creating waste.  I was told not to waste food; I should not to take any more food than I would eat.  I shouldn’t  cook more than I would eat. I was told to turn out lights when I left a room. I was encouraged not to waste paper, not to buy a lot of clothes, not to use a lot of resources. I brought that thinking to my permaculture practice.

But I’ve reflected on these teachings after seeing the film Temple Grandin on video last weekend.  The film which I’d encourage you to watch, explores the life of Temple Grandin, a young woman with autism who, with the support of her family and community, learns to work through the difficulties of autism to ultimately complete her PhD. Her autism, while presenting a number of challenges, also gives her access to an extremely powerful  visual memory and empathy which prove to be assets her in pursuing her life’s work, designing facilities for cattle.

What struck me in the film was how she would experiment and the waste she created in the process of experimentation. There’s a scene in the film where she is trying to build an exhibit to demonstrate perspective. As she tries again and again, she creates a pile of waste boards and paper.  As I watched it I thought, “I would never have created so much waste”. But them, maybe I’ve been missing the point.

I think our culture is obsessed with efficiency, eliminating waste.   We typically judge companies based on their productivity.  At every moment  we believe we should be doing something “productive”, making money even when you sleep.

Though permaculture say produce no waste, I don’t think we are  aiming to maximize production efficiency in the same sense that our culture typically does. In an ecological sense, waste to one is food to someone else.  Permaculture is about consciously completing the cycle, bringing in new elements to use up every bit of waste. Many organisms try to survive in each particular environment; some succeed and some fail. Those that succeed, over time, thrive.  Over time, the ecosystem as whole become more efficient.

Yes it is important to not use resources at an unsustainable rate but many trials are necessary for success. An equally important strategy in producing no waste is to bring in the new elements that will beneficially use the waste that I create.

Riot for Austerity – A Project

A few days ago I stumbled upon a blog that challenges its readers to cut their  emissions by 90% within a year and to hold them at that level.  The writer proposes that people do this by reducing use in 7 areas:

Riot for Austerity Year 2 Outcomes from MamaStories

  • Transportation
  • Electricity
  • Heating and Cooking
  • Garbage
  • Water
  • Consumer Goods
  • Food

(I’m not sure what the basis of a 90% emissions reduction target is.  Here is one thought. Looking at National Ecological Footprints produced by the Global Footprint Network,  the 2007 data indicates the US global footprint was then 8 hectares/person while the global average was 2.7.  In comparison, the average for Europe was 4.7 hectares per person while the average for China was 2.2 hectares per person. Their figures show that  global footprint exceeded the biocapacity in 1975 and that in 2007 the available biocapacity was 1.8 hectares per person. Getting from 8 to 1.8 is a 77% reduction.  I don’t doubt that available biocapacity has decreased since 2007.)

In any case, reductions to a consumption levels that matches the biocapacity of the planet is a good preliminary target on which to base any attempts at self-regulation (Principle 4).

This project was originally started in May 2007 at Simple Living but stopped.  Sharon Astyk one of the co-developers has resurrected it at Casaubon’s Book  here.

I don’t know what is doable in a year’s time, but this format makes a lot of sense in terms of tracking my use and making reductions.

This will also be a good blog to follow; there should be lots of good ideas that are relevant to permaculture beyond the garden.

Riot for Austerity – Project Information:

  • Leverage Point Priority: C (Increase access to feedback.)
  • Importance: A
  • Difficulty: 1 (collecting the feedback) 1 and 2 (initial reductions)
  • Cost: $0 – collecting the feedback
  • Comments on functions: This activity will provide feedback on electricity, natural gas and water use, food consumption and waste reduction.