Most resources have more than one life to give
Waste is nothing more than something we have designated as being no longer of use. Under this definition, as we consume more and more things that have been designed with increasingly short lifespans, our ‘waste’ has grown exponentially.
Although we try not to think about the ‘away’ when we throw things away, waste has become the elephant in the room. Much of it is toxic and is polluting our air, water and soil as a result of the unenvironmentally friendly means we have developed of disposing of it: either through landfill or through incineration.
Thankfully, this is changing.
Viewed in another light, waste is a resource – to be used again, recycled or resurrected for another use. This necessitates a closed-loop waste stream where nothing toxic goes in and nothing toxic comes out. Closing the loop on waste means shifting our design culture from one focused on ‘cradle to grave’ to one focused on ‘cradle to cradle’. It means shifting human behaviour out of an obsession with things ‘new’ and shifting markets to reassess the importance of preserving natural resources in perpetuity. From human excrement and car tyres to food scraps and tired furniture – most resources have more than one life to give.
Cradle to Cradle design
A paradigm shift in the world of design, the C2C manifesto of architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart as detailed in their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things (Vintage, £8.99), aims to replace the outmoded ‘take, make and waste’ industrial system with ‘a new spirit’ of ecologically intelligent design to create buildings, manufacturing systems and regional plans that work with, not against, nature.
Nearly Out Of Date
A website that allows businesses to advertise products and resources that are close to their sell-by-date, and consumers to buy them at a discounted rate, thus saving them from landfill. The brainchild of Scottish entrepreneur Ray Conn, the site’s usefulness can only grow as more new businesses sign up.
The Book of Rubbish Ideas
If your life and home are overflowing with unnecessary junk, this guide to cutting down on clutter by Tracey Smith, founder of International Downshifting Week, will help. Escape the buy-now-throw-later culture, and you’ll soon be seeing ‘rubbish’ as a resource, as well as saving yourself waste, time, money and stress.
Published by Fragile Earth, £6.99
Biologic Design and Humanure
Biologic offers a sustainable alternative to the industrial way we treat waste: localised Wetland Ecosystem Treatment (WET) systems – earth banks and ponds planted with wetland trees and plants – for wastewater purification, resource production and enhanced biodiversity. ‘Humanure’ is a term coined by Joseph Jenkins in the Humanure Handbook (Jenkins Publishing, £16.95) to describe human excrement recycled through composting, avoiding the use of harmful chemicals.
A charity that offers a home to the homeless in self-supporting ‘Emmaus Communities’, and work collecting, renovating and reselling donated furniture. Residents receive board, food, clothing and a small weekly allowance in exchange for their hard work and a fresh start in life. You get a recycled, reconditioned chair.
An independent not-for-profit charity founded in 1987 that aims to ‘make waste issues mainstream and encourage waste reduction, reuse and recycling’. Through research, monitoring, education and training, it helps businesses, government and individuals improve efficiency, save money and reduce environmental impacts.
Aiming to ‘keep good stuff out of landfill’, this grassroots movement allows people to relieve local Freecyclers of unwanted possessions and gift theirs in return. With 5,000 Freecycle groups and almost seven million members, it’s a global community that offers a rewarding way of passing on stuff you don’t need.
People Against Incinerators
With roughly 2½ million tonnes of municipal waste incinerated in the UK each year, this campaign to stop Veolia and Nottinghamshire County Council building an incinerator in Rainworth has repercussions for us all. Endorsed by David Bellamy, PAIN advocates more environmentally friendly waste technology, such as anaerobic digestion.
Concerned about the amount of unnecessary packaging of food on supermarket shelves, in 2005 the WI passed a resolution calling for action to reduce waste and preserve natural resources. The WI Packaging Day of Action saw 200,000 members from across the country return excess packaging to shops.
With earth roofs and walls made of car tyres and other recycled materials, Michael Reynolds’ pioneering Earthships are cutting-edge ‘biotecture’ that utilise natural resources to provide heat, power and water. They heat and cool themselves, use plants to treat wastewater and harvest rain for drinking – a blueprint for the way we should all be building in the future.
FareShare is a national charity that has supported communities to relieve food poverty since 1994. Food waste in the UK has reached shocking proportions and FareShare uses quality food surplus from organisations and the food industry to provide meals for vulnerable groups such as the elderly or the homeless. It also offers training and education on nutrition in the Eat Well, Live Well programme. Today, FareShare has 12 locations throughout the UK and relies on some 300 volunteers. Its Three-Year Vision campaign aims to open 18 more depots and offer 6,000 volunteer opportunities, enabling it to redistribute 20,000 tonnes of food per year by 2011 and help 100,000 people everyday.