Recently an email came through decrying that produce was grown in human poop and that Chinese suspend chicken wire crates over the fish ponds and the fish with their shit. While this sounds sensational, in truth, human manure was a standard farming nutrient prior to the flush toilet.
I am not overly concerned about chicken poop or people poop – where do people think dirt comes from? it’s worm & bug poop (also known as castings). The “Circle of Life” is not just a cute song from the Lion King – creatures eat predominantly other creatures – bones, stomachs, poop and all. Cows & horses poop on the land that grows the grass that they soon graze on. Human poop starts as food and is simply food that has been burned as fuel or excess nutrients that cannot be fully absorbed at the time. Allan Savory in his TED presentation establishes how new deserts have been re-established as verdant grasslands by re-introducing traditional cattle herding whereby the droppings both enrich the soil and contain the grass seeds for reseeding.
We need those excess excreted nutrients over and over again each day and they need to return to the food stream through the soil, though a diet entirely of poop is probably not very well balanced and should be mixed with veggie matter for a full-bodied compost. Composting and percolation through the ground to underground aquifers (except those exposed to fracking or other underground toxins) exposes excrement to the pro-biotic bacteria necessary to cleanse it for eventual safe reabsorption into plants. The Rich Earth Institute in Vermont does just that with collected urine (rich in nitrogen, phosphorous & potassium) in a [rpcess they call “peecycling” which is used after it is pasteurized !
That being said, excrement of sick humans and animals should be contained and kept out of the food stream.
No less an authority than our founding father, George Washington, considered people and horse casting to be more valuable than gold. Though he was many things to our nation, he considered himself, first and foremost a farmer. He studied it, saved seeds, used crop rotations, fertilizers, was intimately knowledgeable about the micro-climates of Mt. Vernon & the 8,000 acres he maintained for his wife’s family around Virginia. He built lovely “necessaries”, outhouses, throughout his estate from which the proceeds were harvested regularly and encouraged everyone to use them. The farms were extraordinarily prolific and provided all the food for the family and 300 workers.
Amish have been recycling their refuse regularly though some municipalities are now requiring them to put in leach beds.
Composting, Gardening, Landscaping, manure, Organic, Re-use, Recycle, Sustainable Food, Toxic Chemicals, Water | Comments (2)
Hello Eco- Mom!
Please explain to me why leaving water running is bad! Fresh water is a limited resource; how does running it and using it end up ruining the fresh water?!
Love, Your Daughter
Hello Wonderful, Curious Daughter,
In order for water to get to your faucet it must first:
- Be pumped from sewers, storm drains, resevoirs to a water treatment plant. Pumping takes lots of electricity
- That water must be filtered, stirred (again more electricity) and treated (lots of not so nice chemicals)
- Bad stuff from filtering must be lifted out, transported somewhere (more electricity and gasoline to transport to waste disposal site)
- Good treated water must again be pumped from the plant all around the city through the water mains (again more electricity)
- If you’ve used hot water, there is also the natural gas or electricity used to heat that water that is just going down the drain to no good purpose
20% of energy in the US is used just to pump, clean and filter water. Even if you pour clean water back into the drain it gets mixed up with the dirty stuff and has to be re-pumped and re-cleaned endlessly.
PS. Here’s a wonderful design concept to clean your water at home.
Electricity, Reduce, Solar Thermal (hot water), Toxic Chemicals, Transportation, Water | Comment (0)
A furtive meandering email forward about Chinese vegetables, Pacific Rim seafood, poop as nutrients & American jobs going overseas got me to doing a lot of research on food chains, food safety, sustainability & food ethics. A lot of territory, and this does not presume to be complete, but here goes.
It’s a lot of work but basically, caveat emptor, read the labels on every food product you buy, their sourcing may change from month to month. Consider writing an email to companies when you decide not to buy a product because the the origin or production values of the product. Buy foods in season. Off season foods come from far away places. Maybe you should be eating pomegranetes not strawberries in December. Processed foods are always a sourcing, and disclosure, nightmare, an example:
In the NutriGrain bar, the list of sources and ingredients is as follows:
• USA: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, wheat flour (produced and milled), whole grain oats, sunflower oil, strawberry puree, cellulose, red dye #40;
• China: vitamin and mineral supplements (B1, B2, iron, folic acid), honey;
• Philippines: carrageenan;
• India: guar gum;
• Europe: citric acid;
• Denmark: lecithin (soy);
• Italy: malic acid; and
• Scotland: sodium alginate.
“The 2002 Farm Bill and the 2008 Farm Bill amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require that retailers inform consumers of the country of origin of all perishable agricultural commodities beginning September 30, 2008…” per this excellent full article.
What this really means is re-thinking your budget putting a priority on paying for organic, sustainably raised foods and making as much of your food from scratch as possible. They are better for both your body and the planet’s health. Are you willing to buy fewer clothes (or movie tickets, or tech gadgets) to have more quality & control in your foods?
When choosing imported foods consider the carbon impact from shipping. East Coasters are actually using less carbon when you choose European (wine, olive oil, fruits, seafood ) over California grown because sea shipping is more energy efficient than trucking) , Mexico (even we Californians now get most of our tomatoes from Mexico, the big farms are pretty attuned to US standards), Canada. West Coast folks cause less transportation CO2 by buying from the Pacific Rim countries if we can’t get it from Mexico or western Canada. Though I enjoy the European and South American Wines, I generally buy California wines. If I’m traveling I always look for local fare & wines.
Just as we cannot categorize all US food as good or bad, we must make the same distinctions within other countries. There are honest and unethical people around the world. QVD Aqualculture out of Bellevue WA provides farmed fish from the US, Vietnam & Singapore and you will be impressed by their standards & certifications .
FDA has a lot of seafood inspections but can’t possibly inspect everything. China is the only entire county on their seafood watchlist.
A great seafood guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium includes guides for different regions of the US see: Print a copy and keep it in your purse or with your coupons.
There is a HUGE difference between Chinese veggies for the US/Canada frozen market & Chinese seafood, meat & products grown for their internal markets.
“ Farmland is communally owned, so a foreign business, often working with a Chinese agent, will approach a village council and propose a farming arrangement. After a community vote, the entire village contracts with the company to supply the agricultural product. The farmers agree to use the seeds and other inputs the foreign company provides… export crops are part of a separate food system. .. vegetables headed abroad are monitored along the food chain: farmers grow the organic vegetables on plots of land that are often less than an acre, then bring the harvest, usually by hand-pulled cart, to a company processing plant, where it is inspected. Plant employees.. wash and prepare the vegetables—all by hand. Before leaving the factory, the vegetables are put through a double metal detector. …“The Chinese are super careful,” echoed Rozelle. The vegetables destined for foreign supermarkets are inspected by government employees before they leave the country. “They know if they get to the port and find residues, it will be rejected.”
Overseas trade is a huge balancing act. Depending on US markets for the wellbeing of the Chinese population certainly keeps them from extreme military measures; slowly their population is becoming consumers who will begin to be their own best customers.
I was thinking about how I could save more water at the sink, then thought:
QUESTION: how much water evaporates from an uncovered pool?
ANSWER: 200-300 gallons per WEEK (Marin MWD). In Redwood City, that would cost
about $12-15/mo (but our rates are scheduled to increase soon) and that’s before splash replacement, what people and dogs drip out. An older pool with leaks could increase that evaporation many times over.
Surprisingly, most evaporation occurs in autumn when water temperatures are
high and air temperatures are cold (especially at night).
You can eliminate 80% of evaporation with a pool cover.
A lawn v pool study for Sacramento (much hotter & dryer than Redwood City) figures that a pool still uses less water than a lawn.
A lawn the size of a pool uses 4,270 gals divided by 748 gal/unit = 5.71
units X $6.2/unit =$35/mo to water a swimming pool-sized piece of grass.
So… 1) don’t swap out your pool for a lawn
2) Cover your pool when not in use
3) If you’re eliminating the pool (pool maintenance is getting pricey) replace it with native and drought tolerant plantings that don’t require much water after they have been established.
PaxDonnaVerdeGardening, Landscaping, Toxic Chemicals, Water | Comments (3)
My daughter sent me an image of a factory spouting smoke with the tagline ” Explain to future generations that it was good for the economy when they can’t farm the land, breathe the air and drink the water”
“Americans from coast to coast are living with the human health and environmental costs of factory farms that cram together thousands of animals in filth conditions… producing huge quantities of manure that taint local water supplies and air quality. Consumers…end up eating meat, poultry and dairy products loaded with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and artificial hormones” – Food and Water Watch. See the online map of farm factories near your water supply.Sustainable Food, Think Globally, Toxic Chemicals, Water | Comments (2)
We enjoy our California wines and watch pennies buying by the case. Those nifty cardboard dividers are useful for storing glassware of all sorts but I just found a new use in the garden. In dry climates, such as ours, many of us are transitioning to drought tolerant landscaping with native plants. Still, in order for the individual plants to stand out, we need to discourage weeds. Pulling weeds out of dry soil leaves the roots intact so, instead, we can create a light/weed barrier of cardboard boxes topped with wood mulch. (Weeds won’t grow because they lack light). Still, cardboard is broken where we put in new plants. Watch the video to see how to solve this problem:
You can do a variation with the 4-prong pieces. Break into 2-prong pieces. Fold back one prong on each . Place the center of the inside “V” shape on either side of the plant. Cover with mulch. Voila!
Gardening, Landscaping, Packaging, Re-use, Water, Zero-Waste | Comment (0)
Have you scrubbed a pot using one of those green scratch pads lately? Most of us have. Did you know that they are made of oil-based plastic that breaks down as you scrub and those small pieces go down your drain, into the municipal water treatment, are filtered out and end up eventually in the Bay and ociean? Along with microscopic broken bits of plastic bags and bottlecaps they become part of fish and crustacean diets. Plastic has now become a defacto part of seafood flesh – yum, yum.
Solution? Loofah & agave scrubbers. Loofah (my sister grew some in LA one year) & agave are plants. Loofah can be purchased as a yarn if you have time to knit or crochet your own scrubber. As for me, 3M recently introduced scrubbers from agave (found some at Target) but there are probably others (let me know in comments).The sponge part of the old double-sided scrubbers has been natural sponge but with chemical dyes (bye-bye purple, orange, blue). The new sponges are made of recycled paper and natural fibers and have no chemical dyes.
I’m less enthusiast about the 3M soap loaded scrubbers. Soap is phosphorus free and scrubbers are from recycled plastic, but, again, plastic bits into the water stream. Their wipes are from bamboo, rayon (pulpy part of cotton plant), cotton & corn, presumably new material since recycled isn’t mentioned but all are compostable. Read labels & go online for details.
Remember, you don’t need to see scads of bubbles for a dish detergent to do its job. Though it seems counterintuitive, rinsing with cold water is best because bacteria thrive in warm (i.e. temperatures that our hands can handle) water but not cold.
Absorb grease and other food stuck to plate with old napkins, paper towels and put in garbage. Keep a strainer in the sinkhole. The more grease and food particles that go through your municipal water plant, the more energy they must use to clean your water.Energy Wise, Plastics, Reduce, Water, Zero-Waste | Comment (0)
Water is an essential element of life. Most folks incorrectly link global warming with outside air temperatures. The true problem is occurring in our seas which most of us rarely see, feel or think about. The warming of our oceans, lakes and stream affects the type of fish we can eat, sources of seaweed (seaweed is an ingredient in more foods, beauty products and medicines than you can possibly imagine), and the purity of the water we drink.
I’ll be expanding this post regularly but today’s news is that Target has announced that all their stores will stop selling farmed salmon products.
“Target announced that the reason they are discontinuing the sale of farmed salmon is because of the significant environmental degradation it causes. Aquaculture (farming fish) is often called the future of the seafood industry, but some types of aquaculture – such as conventional open-net salmon farming – can cause tremendous damage to the environment. Parasite infestations, concentrated fish waste, the uncontrolled spread of genetic material, and the unsustainable use of wild fish to feed farmed animals all pose significant threats to the sanctity of our marine ecosystems.
While some types of aquaculture, such as closed-containment systems and many bivalve farms, are relatively environmentally responsible sources of protein, many fish in conventional, open-containment aquafarms suffer from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries. Conditions on some of these farms are so horrendous that a large percentage of the fish die before farmers can kill and package them for food.”Sustainable Food, Think Globally, Water | Comments (2)