BioCycle Magazine

Compost integral in new website in building soil


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A website called “BuildingSoil” has been launched by the Washington Organic Recycling Council to help builders preserve healthy soil on building sites. It's the latest Soils for Salmon project

which aims to change standard site development practices. These new “soil best management practices” will soon be required by local governments around western Washington, as they update local codes to comply with the Department of Ecology's Stormwater Manual.

Soil BMPs include preserving site topsoil where possible, correcting soil compaction, and amending soils during construction with compost. “Home buyers are increasingly demanding low-impact landscapes which are beautiful, low-maintenance and healthy for families,” says David McDonald of Seattle Public Utilities. (See “Don't Treat Building Soil Like Dirt,” March 2008.)

Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's renewable initiative, has awarded grants totaling more than $973,000 to help finance five state bioenergy projects. Projects include anaerobic digesters and a biomass wood energy system that produce heat, electricity - or both. When completed, “these projects will generate 6,232,300 kilowatt hours of electricity per year - replacing 1,299,800 therms of natural gas,” says Don Wichert, Focus on Energy Director of Renewable Energy Programs. Annual environmental benefits of these five projects are equivalent to offsetting 3,116 tons of coal from being burned.

The following were awarded grants to help them carry out the anaerobic digestion projects: Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy in Kewaunee, Wisconsin; Quantum Dairy in Weyauwega, Wisconsin; Volm Farms in Kewaskum, and United Liquid Waste Recyclers in Watertown, plus funds for a biomass wood energy system was awarded to Action Floor Systems in Mercer. Funding is available for industrial and municipal anaerobic digesters, as well as biomass combustion systems that replace natural gas use.

“We strongly encourage dairy farms that are considering anaerobic digesters to contact the Focus on Energy Renewable Program to learn more about our assistance,” says Larry Krom, biogas project manger for Focus. A digester for a 1,000-cow dairy farm can produce enough electricity to power 150 average Wisconsin homes.

The latest issue of National Wildlife features an article on Green Roofs that shows how important it is to use living roofs to support plant and animal populations. Temperature inside the building stays cooler in summer while in winter energy is conserved on heating. Plants on living roofs act like sponges, taking up much of the precipitation. Additional environmental benefits include filtering pollutants from unhealthy air and adding green space in cities. As pointed out by many authorities, green roofs have really captured attention “as a beautiful way to help fight climate change and save money.”

Recent research is suggesting that green roofs can provide living space for plants and animals, particularly insects and birds and can be used as a strategy to preserve biodiversity.

With a recycling rate of 24.2 percent, Brazil is a leader in the Americas, remaining above the world average of 16.6 percent and approaching the European average of 30 percent.

According to the Brazilian glass manufacturers association, last year recycling became a tool in combating counterfeiting and illegal reuse of glass (where unauthorized companies buy bottles and package nonoriginal products in them). In addition, almost 7 million tons of iron were processed by 2,500 small and medium sized businesses. The Brazil tire manufacturers association (Anip) reports that collection points have grown significantly - with increased partnerships with local governments and more private initiatives. And 2006 saw an increase in prices for postconsumer aseptic cartons, reaching U.S. dollar levels of $190 per ton.

Dr. Bruce Dale, a researcher at Michigan State, started his work in the early 1970s when the federal government first funded research on cellulosic biofuels. The rural Midwest sits on half the nation's biomass from its croplands, pasturelands and forests - with such harvests as crop residues, leaves, wood and grasses. What would the Midwest rural economy look like if the $1 billion a day now spent on imported petroleum started flowing here?

The questions arise: What amount of biomass can we safely remove from the land? How can we overcome the logistical hurdles of handling bulky biomass? How will cellulosic biomass change the local ownership landscape for producers? With his research on the Regional Biomass Preprocessing Center (RBPC) model, Dale foresees RBPCs encircling a centralized cellulosic biofuels plant. Farmers would have the option of investing in the RBPC and/or the central biofuels plant. The RBPC addresses logistical concerns related to biomass handling plus provides the diversification of a biorefinery. According to Dale, “It is time for agriculture to assert itself and insist that the $1 billion per day that we now send abroad for imported oil be spent on biofuel production on our own lands.”

A number of of abandoned mine tailings storage facilities (TSF) exist in north and central Chile as a result of current copper and gold mining activities. These fine wastes are physically and chemically unstable, thus posing environmental risks when dispersed into surrounding areas. Some forestation programs have been developed on postoperative TSF in Chile to stop erosion of tailings, but most are not adequate as nutrient deficiency and metal toxicity occur in plants and no long-term sustainability is accomplished in created plant systems. Therefore, sustainable rehabilitation that leads to physical, chemical and biological stability of TSF requires more than transplanting adequate plant species.

One of the nine Austrian Provinces, Upper Austria is located in the northwest, touching the German and Czech borders. It covers 12,000 kilometers with about 1.4 million inhabitants, explains the February 2008 issue of Warmer Bulletin. A region-wide system of 180 recyclables collection centers (RCCs) has been established in Upper Austria in the last 20 years. In 2007, more than 210,000 tons were collected by the RCCs. Following are the special characteristics set up by RCC:

Uniformity throughout the province about what is collected and how the centers operate; Great variety of collectable materials and high recycling rates (80 different waste categories, each of which is collected separately and 90 percent recycled); Waste materials from both private and commercial waste holders are accepted; Specific logistic-system and data management; and High economic efficiency.

Lavu Ag, an enterprise owned by the Upper Austrian waste management associations, is in charge of planning and establishing the infrastructure of these RCCs. The technical standard and the appearance of RCC buildings have been developed into a modern shop-like infrastructure. Lavu Ag - certified according to ISO 14001 - controls the management and staff recruitment, currently 500 employees, for the centers.

The Minnesota Valley Alfalfa producers (MnVAP) will supply pellets to Minnesota's growing renewable energy sector, writes E.M. Morrison in AURI Ag Innovation News. The group will work with the First American Scientific Corporation to test a pulverizing method known as a kintect disintegration system (KDS). KDS combines grinding and drying into one operation, lowering fuel use, and cutting costs in half. “Some things we'll be looking at are pellet quality, moisture, output and energy savings,” says Al Doering of AURI. MnVAP makes 40,000 tons of alfalfa pellets annually, shipped to feed mills.

In the small village of Visivan, rain is an almost daily reality - more than 100 inches per year. To meet family needs for drinking and bathing, villagers often walked 20 to 30 minutes each way carrying jugs of water gathered from natural springs - as many as five times a day. But, the water they collected was often unsafe, with contaminants that could cause diarrhea and debilitating diseases. Leaders contacted Water For People partner Aqua Para la Salud to help meet water needs. Following a study, it was determined rainwater catchment tanks would be the most effective technology for the community.

The rain catchment solution involved attaching PVC gutters to the roofs of individual homes to catch rainwater during rainy months. A pipe was attached to the gutter to feed rainwater to a closed concrete cistern that could hold up to 530 gallons of water. It provides a plentiful, convenient supply of water during the long rainy season and supplies needs during the dry months. It reduces the community's reliance on unsafe, remote water sources. Each homeowner was involved in construction of rain catchment gutters, pipes and cisterns. It was a project completed together to create a safe water supply for all.

Unbuilding - or building deconstruction - is gaining popularity as a preferable way to reuse building material, a kind of reverse construction in manual disassembly. Very high material recovery and reuse rates are possible, which is described in a book that has the name - Unbuilding. Not only does reuse save resources, but it also yields higher-quality materials. Much of the salvaged lumber available through deconstruction is from decades of old-growth harvest (higher density, slower grown, fewer defects), which represent a resource largely unavailable today. You'll find heart pine, redwood, fir timbers pine, chestnut and oak in old barns; quality maple and fir in school bleachers. Groups like the U.S. Green Building Council, National Association of Home Builders and the Remodeling Industry have all developed such green programs. Unbuilding offers a way to preserve for reuse materials that would otherwise end up in overcrowded landfills. Staff at the Army's Fort McCoy in Wisconsin has deconstructed more than 140 buildings, estimating that it has reduced costs from $40,000 per building to $2,000 to $5,000 using deconstruction.

According to a survey released in April, almost 7 out of 10 consumers are willing to pay more for products made from renewable resources. The study, conducted by MarketTools (sponsored by DuPont and Mohawk Industries), also reveals that a third of consumers would consider purchasing more expensive products if they helped to deter global warming, or if they would help American farmers. “On average, U.S. consumers are wiling to pay $8.30 more on a $100 product that uses renewable resources,” notes a press release about the survey. The survey also looked at differences in geographic region, gender, age and income.

To dramatically reduce global warming emissions, there needs to be improvement on vehicle fuel efficiency, miles traveled, and shifts to lower-carbon fuels - fuels produced from plants or other biological material. Biofuels are quickly gaining support, writes the Union of Concerned Scientists, because they can be integrated more easily to electricity or hydrogen from our existing fuel distribution infrastructure. However, emissions of each biofuel over its life cycle can vary widely.

Human activity has caused an increase in greenhouse gases that have warmed the planet, and recycling is one way to reduce emissions. Writes Marc Hequet in his article, “Change Is In The Air,” in Scrap (March-April 2008): “As this industry has long known, recycling uses less energy than creating goods out of virgin materials, and less energy means less emissions.”  The public sees considerable urgency in the climate crisis: In the United States, 62 percent of people believe life on Earth faces major disruptions unless society takes immediate and drastic action to reduce global warming. “The good news for the U.S. is that the country can make significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions without hurting its economy or demanding big lifestyle changes,” writes Hequet. Coordinated, deliberate action can cut projected 2030 emissions by one-third to one-half with existing and emerging technologies. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped 1.5 percent in 2006 - only the third decline since 1990, according to the U.S. EPA.

Gathered from sources like railroad tracks, barns, shipping pallets, warehouses and high school gyms, old wood is being refinished to fit new spaces. It offers aesthetic advantages that fourth-growth plantation pine for $3.99 a foot will not, writes The New York Times Magazine. The grain runs deep, and the wood is marked with knots and nail holes. Trestlewood, one of the West's largest reclaimed wood providers, is located near Ketchum, Idaho. Much of the wood it sources comes from a 12-mile-long structure over which the Southern Pacific Railroad crossed the Great Salt Lake from 1904 to the 1950s. Since 1993, the company has been salvaging and refinishing tens of millions of feet of Douglas fir and redwood that made up the trestle. Although using old wood saves new trees from being cut down, fuel costs for transporting it around the country cuts down on the environmental benefit.

Incorporating sustainable building materials into the MTV Real World Hollywood House television show, Ice-Stone's kitchen countertops are manufactured from 100 percent recycled glass within a concrete matrix. “I commend MTV for incorporating green practices and sustainable building materials into the home. This is a great example to show the world that being green can be stylish,” said IceStone's CEO Miranda Magagnini. IceStone LLC is the only durable surface manufacturing company to receive McDonough Baungart's Cradle to Cradle certification.

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