Our ecovillage utilizes a biodigester as an excellent solution for sewage treatment. Biodigesters offer the ability to transform waste into usable energy, in the form of methane, and leftover product for fertilizer. Our biosystem consists of a biodigester (left), compensation box (middle), biofilters (right), lake of macrophytes (algae), and root zone (far right). It can be built with relatively low cost and ease, and does not require sophisticated materials or advanced construction knowledge to build.
The biofertilizer produced in the treatment process has no pathogens, due to the anaerobic fermentation it passes through, and is ideal for use in the maintenance of community squares and gardens because it does not pose health risks. It is consolidated as a perfect substitute for chemical fertilizers, which can be more expensive and aggressive to the environment.
The methane gas that is captured in the biodigester is of good quality and can be used in the kitchen of public schools, nurseries and hospitals, or, in large quantities, in thermoelectric plants.
Here in our reserve, initially, we built the biosystem with a focus on sewage treatment. However, the extraction of products from the process far exceeded the expectations foreseen in our planning, and today we have at least two hours of gas daily for consumption in the kitchen and workshop, while biofertilizers are used in the orchard, where we obtained a gain of productivity of at least 50%.
Thanks to these cages in our city, recycling has become easier for everyone. If you have plastic bottles, cardboard, or glass at your house, instead of mixing it with organic matter, you take it out to these cages. It is also easier for our city’s waste collection team to take proper care of the recyclable waste.
While waiting in line at the post office, I noticed these post-consumer waste packaging options. There were many, and in researching them, I also learned how much effort the USPS was putting into sustainability through its website :
Residual materials are sorted at each work station. Here, the organic ones will be composted.
This is one of the nice reusable bags we had received at a local store, after legislation regulating plastic use was enacted in Colombia in 2016. Due to the large amount of plastic waste ending up in surrounding water bodies, Colombia has banned all plastic bags smaller than 30×30 cm, and placed a small charge on others that can still be purchased in stores (with a plan set to increase the tax each year until 2020).
By the middle of 2018, this initiative had served to decrease plastic bag consumption by 35%, and raised around $4 million in taxes [see articles below]. Success from these efforts is spurring other similar initiatives and will hopefully continue to drive progress toward mitigating damage from plastic moving on.
More on Colombia’s Plastic Initiatives:
My apartment building offers a composting option in addition to the general waste and recycling bins.
We noticed these earthships while driving through the state of New Mexico. Earthships are incredibly well designed, innovative, low-impact homes. They generally offer a multitude of sustainable features, are built with sustainable materials, designed for efficient heating and cooling, harvest both energy and water, and utilize a great variety of other friendly practices.
Our apartment complex has recycling bins in community mail areas, encouraging recycling directly at the source, where there is a high potential for mass paper waste. This has been an easy way to help residents responsibly dispose of unneeded letters and other mail that may otherwise be thrown away with regular trash.
While paper and plastic recycling bins are common in public settings, it’s rare to see glass included. Now the product least likely to break down can be reused & recycled infinitely!
All of the waste produced in Minnesota’s Olmsted County that is not able to be reduced, reused, recycled, or composted is taken to the Olmsted Waste-to-Energy Facility. This operation is one of many within the County’s waste management network, and reduces the volume of general waste produced by the area by 90%. Neighboring facilities within the network serve to reduce this amount even further, and include a municipal recycling center, hazardous waste facility, and compost site.
Through the waste-to-energy process, both electricity and steam are created and directed to local buildings within the County’s ‘District Energy System’, including to local medical centers, the Rochester Public Library, and the Mayo Civic & Art Center.
As reported by the County, mixed garbage is sent to a combustion chamber within the facility, and after being fully processed, exits at 10% of its original volume, in the form of ash. Emissions from the process are heavily monitored and filtered in accordance with state and federal air emission standards. The final produced ash is then sent to a local landfill and ‘permanently stored in an environmentally protective holding cell’.
More information on the Olmsted County Facility and Waste Management Network:
I was not aware of some of the options for disposing of more complex materials (including light bulbs, batteries, and other items) until seeing some of these separated bins at our Home Depot. For the past few months now, I have made sure to put aside those items as they stop working and make a quick trip over to drop them off.
Our reserve practices a zero waste approach toward all of our operations, and recycling methods are well integrated into each particular area of use. The separation of garbage facilitates both the transport and storage, though we maintain a low overall volume due to the care we take in choosing the products we use. We make sure to look for items that are reusable or have a low ecological impact, and contain smaller amounts of packaging or recyclable packaging.
Most of our waste produced is organic and is directed to composting, transformed into fertilizer, and used in the garden, thus restarting its biological cycle.
Many other materials are otherwise used in our studio, for the creation of artistic products or towards construction efforts, allowing for a good alternative to conventional materials.
To date, the university’s campus features 80 dual recycling receptacles and solar-powered trash compactors. While the compactor takes little space more than an ordinary receptacle, it may hold 5 times the capacity of waste, due to the self-powered compressing process.
This also saves on the amount of labor required to keep up with accumulated trash. BigBelly Solar, the product manufacturer, notes that this can reduce trash collections by up to 80%.
Our camp uses a composting toilet system, which requires very little water and is excellent for soil regeneration. Such a system utilizes decomposition and evaporation to process waste. What is not evaporated, we mix with wood chips. This remains an active process in which aerobic bacteria transform the waste into fertilizing soil.
Due to the important contribution of the bacteria, the final product is non-harmful and safe to use. This is why we spend a great deal of effort to ensure a hospitable and warm environment for the process, especially through our very cold weather.
Our septic system is a composting system whereby the water flows into a septic tank, and then to soak a field. These fields are contained in large block vats, lined with several feet of PVC pipe, then covered with earth and banana trees. The banana roots form a dense mat which then absorbs the water and nutrients from the vat, creating a closed system of bio and phyto (plant) remediation (restoring balance). As a result, our land and river are waste free.