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“Waste Equals Food”

by Megan on July 20, 2009 · 5 comments

in Design,kitchen,landscaping

We imagine a way of life where waste is significantly decreased by our Extreme Green Kitchen, backyard garden, and composter working together in a self-sustaining cycle. Many of you have probably heard of the concept “waste equals food.” William McDonough, architect, designer and author of the esteemed book Cradle to Cradle, developed the idea. Working alongside his colleague and co-author Michael Braungart, McDonough calls for “the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design.” “Waste equals food” is a system of “true recycling”—a system designed with the Life Cycle in mind. By applying this concept to our kitchen we hope to revise the current relationship between food culture and production so that they connect more closely to the home.

I recently met with Alison Hastings from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to discuss a current project she is involved with entitled the Greater Philadelphia Food System Study. They are researching ways to redesign the food system so that it is healthier, more efficient and able to exist in a world without oil. She gave me the contact information for Roxanne Christenson, co-founder and President of the Institute for Innovations in Local Farming. The Institute operates Somerton Tanks Farm, an urban farm acting as a prototype for Small Plot Intensive (SPIN) farming. I will be contacting her to discuss her work and thoughts on backyard farming kits, which could be sold with Postgreen homes. We also currently have our eyes on the Nature Mill composter because it is fully automatic, able to break down meat and dairy, and Energy Star approved. And don’t be worried about odor because it includes an odor-absorbing air filter that lasts up to five years.

So, our general idea is that owners of Postgreen homes could use these kits to plant their own backyard garden, which, using the SPIN method of farming, could produce a large amount of their fresh produce. The food is then cooked and stored efficiently in their Extreme Green Kitchen. The food scraps would then be transferred to the included composting system located under the kitchen sink. Food that would have been wasted, instead becomes nutrient rich soil that is added to the backyard garden to “feed” the existing soil, and continue the cycle of growth.

If you have any other product ideas, methods or even words of warning, share them with us in the comments.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan July 21, 2009 at 9:33 am

Although the idea of urban agriculture is appealing and makes sense on many levels, I have always wondered if growing our food in a polluted urban environment is really a long-term sustainable idea? Is there a negative effect on the foods chemical composition and nutrients or is it all dependant on the soil?

2 d_glynn July 21, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Megan,
You may also want to read up on “square foot gardening”, it may be more suited for the smaller space of an urban backyard.
David

3 Brandon July 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

@Ryan,
Plants need two types of nutrients for healthy growth; mineral and non-mineral. Non-mineral nutrients are Oxygen(O), Hydrogen(H), and Carbon (C). CO2 and H20 are changed into the plants food during photosynthesis. Since these nutrients are found in the air and water it’s hard for farmers/gardeners to regulate just how much of these nutrients a plant uses (unless you’re setting up a controlled indoor environment which is a whole other topic).

Mineral nutrients are received via the soil and these are mostly what cause the plants growth. The soils makeup (texture and acidity/pH) determines the amount of nutrients available. This can vary greatly by location. If the soil does not have enough nutrients for healthy plant growth, a form of fertilizer will be needed to supplement or you may need to balance the pH levels.

As for pollution in the urban environment I would imagine most of it would be concentrated in the ground/soil. This is something you should be able to control since you determine where the plant is actually planted. You could dig up your entire garden area and install a form of barrier walls/lining or simply plant your garden in individual pots or a giant potter. The only element you can’t really control is the rain, so just hope that we don’t get any toxic/acid rain.

I’ve been growing small vegetables and herbs in my 10×10 concrete back patio area for the past few years with pretty good success. I’m very far from an expert, but each season I learn a little more, my plants look a little better, and I reap a few more pieces of fruit/vegetables.

4 Bruce July 23, 2009 at 10:13 am

While I’m definitely in favor of localizing the food cycle, it bothers me that a simple concept like composting has to be turned into a product. The main benefit I see of the Nature Mill composter is that it can handle meat and dairy, which is a no-no for a back yard compost pile in the city for pest reasons. Beyond that it seems like just one more appliance to buy. A small closable plastic bin on the counter top emptied weekly into a back yard bin with leaves from the sidewalk stored in garbage bags is a pretty easy-to-implement system and doesn’t require an appliance.

As far as a back yard gardening kit, I would think that permanent, attractive raised beds 3 or 4 feet wide pre-filled with a soil/compost mix would be a simple, useful way to go.

5 Shags August 11, 2009 at 10:28 pm

What about rooftop access and use? The basic build seems like it has a flat roof. That’s usable space for a container garden. Or just more lounging area.

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