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From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

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From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

Original article: treehugger.com//how-to-go-green-babies

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

tiny baby foot photo

A new baby entering your life can create an enormous number of unexpected changes. Along with the little one comes a whole new category of things to purchase — not only the obvious large items like furniture and diapers, but also all the unforeseen extras that seem to accumulate. While having a baby is consumer heaven, the key is to not be gulled into an unnecessary buying frenzy. In truth, a baby has very minimal needs. On the flip side, there is more to a sustainable life with your baby than cloth diapers, organic baby food, and fair-trade clothing…read on for more.

Top Green Baby Tips

    1. Choose the right diapers
      Studies are divided on the subject of environmental impact of disposables vs. cloth. But knowing that your baby will use approx 6,000 diapers before toilet training, and that disposable diapers take 200-500 years to decompose, this is certainly a key issue to ponder. Washing cloth diapers takes water and energy (not to mention time), but it’s a great way to avoid chemicals. Use natural laundry detergent then set it out in the sun to bleach out any stains. You could also consider the benefits of a laundering service. One study has found that home-washing cloth diapers has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and if you use a diaper laundering service that impact is halved again. Another plus is that the same cloth diapers can be passed down to future babies.

       

      Cloth diapers: Reusable diapers aren’t what they used to be and the days of diaper pins are all but bygone. Go for fitted cloth diapers with Velcro or snap closures for convenience, made from an eco-friendly material such as hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton. Use an organic wool cover that is both warm and breathable, minimizing diaper rash and cold bottoms at night. Use either removable or flushable liners and when washing either use a laundering service or wash at home at lower temperatures. With a new baby around you’ll probably notice a lot more laundry piling up, so make sure you’ve optimized your setup with an efficient machine and non-toxic detergent. If you can line-dry, that is ideal, but don’t bother ironing.

      Biodegradable diapers: Made with plant-based plastics (also known as bioplastics), these diapers are non-petroleum based and are compostable. While these have been found not to break down under landfill conditions, there are other options to compost them such as using a composting toilet, an earthworm system, or a highly active and properly conditioned composting area. Hybrid diapers, like gDiapers, have removable inserts that can safely biodegrade when flushed. But be careful, some so-called ‘green’ diapers, like Seventh Generation, can contain petroleum gels,so make sure to do your research first!

    1. Feed your little one: From breast or bottle?
      This one’s a no-brainer: breastfeeding is best. It’s free, has health benefits for mother and baby, has no environmental impact, and is a precious bonding experience. However, in our commerce-driven society there are products for everything, and breastfeeding is no exception. For breast pads, ditch disposables and try re-usable organic cotton or wool felt pads. While there are many great, organic nipple creams available, some locally produced olive oil or organic lanolin does a great job. If bottle feeding becomes a necessity, pumping your own is the first choice. Beyond that, using a fair-trade organic infant formula is preferable. If this is neither affordable nor accessible, then the next best thing is to ensure the brand of formula you buy is from a company not profiteering from marketing their product to developing countries. These companies disregard or try to get around the marketing code set by The World Health Assembly.

    1. Chow down on solid foods
      At about six months, babies starts to eat real food. Rice cereal and mushy veggies turn to combinations of fish, meat, eggs, legumes, and vegetables–yep, a regular person’s diet. Buying jars of food is sure convenient, but as an adult you don’t live out of jars, so why should your baby? For those occasional situations,purchase organic or fresh frozen baby foods. Otherwise, make your own. Cook up veggies, casseroles, or tofu and lentils, whatever is your thing, and freeze it in tiny containers or ice cube trays ready to take out and defrost when needed. (Be sure you discuss any concerns over dietary requirements with your health professional)

    1. Dress your baby in smart green clothing
      All those designer baby clothes are cute and oh so hard to resist in their fruity colors. But be careful. Not only does a baby grow out of clothes amazingly fast, they are constantly sending bodily fluids flying onto those precious outfits. The baby couture might be better replaced with convenient one-piece suits in practical white terry cloth. Choosing organic hemp or cotton, bamboo or wool fabrics made without toxic chemicals are best against a baby’s sensitive skin and last longer with the constant washing. Second-hand clothing is the cheapest and most sustainable option. Get hand-me-downs from friends and family or look in thrift shops, Craigslist, or Freecycle.

    1. Lather up with natural skin care
      It’s very easy to get sucked into the constant advertising of baby powders, creams, and lotions, but avoid soap on a baby’s delicate skin – less is more for their skin care. The best baby lotion is plain old olive oil or coconut oil–cheap, natural, and un-perfumed. As for other products, keep it as natural, organic, and fragrance-free as possible. Weleda diaper creams and lotions are great. For more on this, take a look at our guides for How to Go Green: Women’s Personal Care and Everything you need to know about natural skin care.

    1. Wash up: Green laundry and washing
      It’s quite possible that our war on germs is actually making things worse. Studies have shown that children brought up in over-cleaned houses are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, or eczema. The best thing you can do for sensitive baby skin is not to cover it with synthetic chemicals. Wash nappies with pure soap and warm water. Make your own non-toxic cleansers with simple ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. For more, see How to green your cleaning routine.

    1. Make play-time green-time with greener toys
      Get back to basics and try old fashioned wooden toys and organic cotton or homemade teddies. Because babies put most things in their mouths, go as natural as possible, then when baby is a little older, get hold of second-hand toys. Also aim for toys that help build a child’s bond with nature and the natural world. The sad truth is that the average American kindergartener can identify several hundred logos and only a few leaves from plants and trees.

    1. Rest easy with green furniture and accessories
      Babies don’t need much–a secure place to sleep, a car seat, a high chair, and a way to be trundled around. Go for second-hand furniture, everything except cot mattresses (some research suggests a link between second-hand cot mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome) and car seats, (which can have invisible accident damage). If you buy new furniture, purchase high quality, durable pieces made of sustainable, low-toxicity materials. Think about some alternatives to the regular old wooden baby bed; try using an organic cotton baby hammock or a cot that extends into a bed and lasts 6-7 years. The most ethical option for stroller (pram) is recycled. For more on furniture, see our guide for How to choose green furniture.

    1. Improve your indoor air quality and maintain a healthy household environment
      It goes without saying that alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking while pregnant are bad for a baby. But it is also very important to avoid exposure to the synthetic chemicals contained in everyday products such as paints, carpet, furniture, bedding, and pesticides which make up Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)in the air you and your baby breath. When decorating the nursery, use natural and low-VOC paints and don’t lay new carpet before the baby is born. Suspicious new items should at least be left outside to off-gas for a few days before bringing inside.

  1. Wipe out chemical cleaners and disposable liners
    Diaper wipes and liners commonly include propylene glycol (a binder also found in antifreeze), parabens (a family of compounds commonly used as preservatives) and perfume, which can be made from up to 600 different chemicals. Try using good natural organic cotton wool and water and avoid disposable changing mats and perfumed diaper bags.

 

Babies use A LOT of diapers every day by Sean Dreilinger/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: By The Numbers

    • 6000: The number of diapers the average baby uses before potty training.

    • 200 to 500: Years it takes petroleum-based disposable diapers to decompose.

    • 49 million: The estimated number of disposable diapers used per day in the United States; Australia uses 2.2 million, Japan uses 6.7 million, and the U.K. uses 9 million.

    • 53 percent: A home-washed cloth diaper has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and a diaper laundry service has a mere 37 percent of that footprint.

  • $1.4 billion per year: The estimated amount of money Americans spend on complicated births due to smoking while pregnant.

 

Josh Dubya/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: Getting Techie

Toxic chemicals can have great impact in babies’ lives since they do so much growing and developing early in life, so it can be more important to keep them out of our youngsters’ systems. Here are some of the worst:

 

Bisphenol a is an endocrine disruptor — meaning it mimics hormones in our bodies, upsetting the delicate natural balance and changing the way babies develop — used often in polycarbonate plastic water bottles. When it’s done in baby’s body, it enters the water system, where it effects the hormonal development of fish and other aquatic life. TheFDA acknowledges it’s risky for youngsters.

Lead, which was used in paint for many years, and still pops up in some kids toys even today (yikes!), is a banned neurotoxin that can disrupt your child’s brain development. Learn more about getting the lead out of your home.

Attachment parenting, involving sleeping with and wearing your baby, while not for everyone, is said to promote a strong bond leading to a sensitive, emotionally aware child. It is based on the theory developed by Dr. William Sears that babies are born with a need for nurturing. Attachment parenting has been a controversial parenting method in the media and the extent to which it can be considered ‘green’ is debatable. Many parents who are opposed to attachment parenting feel that letting the baby sleep alone or not responding every time it cries teach a baby independence. Find out what feels most natural and go with it. Trust your parenting instincts.

Elimination communication is a technique of timing, signals, cues, and intuition to help baby/infant express his or her poo-related needs; using it may help you not use diapers at all. This is best begun before six months of age, and while it is most commonly used in third-world countries where parents are in constant contact with their children, it has been used in the West with some success.

With reporting by Manon Verchot

DIY; 20 uses for leftover fruit and vegetable peels.

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20 uses for leftover fruit and vegetable peels
The skins of fruit and vegetables are full of flavor and vitamins — and they’ve got a lot to give.

By Melissa Breyer

Original article; http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/responsible-living/stories/20-uses-for-leftover-fruit-and-vegetable-peels 

Related Topics: 

Photo: fdecomite/flickr

Don’t throw your kitchen scraps away; put them to work. The outer skins of fruit and vegetables are filled with flavor and vitamins, and most often have enough matter left in them for another go-round.
Some people are peelers, some people aren’t. Some people swear by the nutrients and fiber found in produce skins, others shy away from the taste or texture, or prefer removing the outer layer to reduce pesticide load. Regardless of your peeling preferences, citrus rinds, potato and other root/tuber peels, scooped-out avocados, and even cheese rinds all have more than one life.
Aim to use organic produce in these applications, and make sure to scrub well. And if you don’t have time or need for them at the moment, most of them can be frozen for future use.
Home
1. Clean greasy messes: Before bringing out the big (toxic) cleaning guns in the kitchen, try lemon. Sprinkle affected area with salt or baking soda (to act as an abrasive) and then rub with juiced lemon halves. (Be careful using lemon on sensitive surfaces such as marble.)
2. Shine your coffee pot: For the old diner trick to make glass coffee pots sparkle: add ice, salt and lemon rinds to an empty coffee pot; swirl around for a minute or two, dump and rinse well.
3. Clean your tea kettle: For mineral deposit build up in tea kettles, fill the vessel with water and a handful of lemon peels and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for an hour, drain and rinse well.
4. Dye fabric: Pomegranate peels make for great coloring material. Use a stainless steel pot large enough to cover the fabric, fill with hot water and add peels, let it sit overnight. Simmer the water and peels the next day and then remove peels and add wet fabric. Simmer gently for one hour and allow to cool overnight. Remove the next day, rinse in cool water — from thereon, wash with similar colors.
Food
5. Make zest: If you’ve juiced lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit but don’t have an immediate need for zest, you can make it anyway and dry or freeze it for future use. Zest is a versatile item to have on hand for a bright boost in any number of dishes. If you don’t have a microplane or zester, you can also use the small side of a box grater. Try to scrape just the outer layer, the white layer of pith is bitter. Freeze in an airtight container. To dry, spread the zest on a towel and leave until dried, then store in a clean jar.
6. Make citrus extract powder: Make zest or twists (lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit) being sure to remove the pith and allow to dry, about three or four days for twists, less for zest. Put in a blender (or spice grinder) and pulverize into a powder. Store in a clean jar.
7. Make citrus sugar: Make citrus extract powder and add it to sugar, or you can use fresh twists, put them in a jar with sugar, let the oil from the peel infuse the sugar and remove.
8. Make lemon pepper: Mix lemon extract powder with freshly cracked pepper.
9. Make citrus olive oil: Pound citrus peel (pith removed) in a mortar and pestle with some oil added. Place in a jar with more oil and let rest for six hours. Strain into a clean jar.
10. Make infusions: Infuse honey or vinegar with citrus peels by placing twists and letting the flavors seep. Strain the liquid and store in a clean jar.
11. Make potato crisps: Mix potato peels with enough lemon juice and olive oil to evenly coat. Spread the potato peels in a layer on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees, stirring once, until golden brown (about 10 minutes). Season to taste.
12. Make stock: Boil potato peels, onion skins, carrot peels, leek ends, etc. for vegetable stock. (Also save fresh herb stems for this!)
13. Boost soup and stock: Cheese rinds (sans wax) can be placed in soup stocks for an awesome secret boost of flavor and texture.
14. Add “meat” to greens: Cheese rinds can also be added to braised greens for added depth of flavor.
15. Keep brown sugar soft: If you regularly fall victim to the brick in the pantry known as hardened brown sugar, try adding some lemon peel (with traces of pulp and pith removed) to keep it moist and pliable.
16. Make vanilla sugar: If you use fresh vanilla, after scraping the bean, add the pod to sugar to make vanilla-infused sugar.

Beauty

17. Make a banana sugar scrub: Sprinkle sugar on the flesh side of banana peels and use as a soft, exfoliating loofa. Rub gently all over your body and then rinse in the shower.
18. Refresh your face: For a skin tonic, rub orange or grapefruit peels on your face (avoiding your eyes) and then gently rinse with warm water.
19. Moisturize: Rub the fleshy part of an avocado peel on your face for a rich moisturizer.
20. Relieve your peepers: Potato peels can reduce puffiness around eyes; press the moist side of the fresh peels to the skin for 15 minutes.
Related stories on MNN:
20 household things you can clean with salt
Add this kitchen mainstay to your arsenal of natural cleaners.
Thu, Jan 31 2013 at 3:52 PM

Photo: Nenov Brothers Photography/Shutterstock

As an enthusiastic green-cleaning connoisseur, I’ve tried almost every DIY solution on the Internet. Vinegar, baking soda, washing soda and castile soap are my mainstays, but black tea, lemon juice and peppermint oil are tucked into my arsenal as well. My cleanser of choice is vinegar — I use it to clean almost every surface in my home, from carpets to counters, and oh but I love its cheap and powerful nontoxic goodness. And, I recently learned that I could pump up the potency of this antibacterial maverick with the simple addition of table salt. Amazing! An easy paste made from 1 part vinegar + 1 part salt will do double duty on those extra-tough stains, tarnish and mineral deposits. And that got me wondering: What else salt can clean? As it turns out … a lot!
cast iron skillet1. I love my cast iron cookware and I’m going to use this method next time I need to deep-clean it: fill the bottom of the pot/pan with oil, heat it up a bit and then add a few tablespoons of course salt. This will form a paste, which you can use to scrub-a-dub-dub. Rinse with hot water and then wipe dry.
2. To clean enamel cookware, a paste of equal parts salt and vinegar will do an excellent job.
3. For those burnt crusties on the bottom of pans, apply a sprinkling of salt as soon as you’re finished cooking. This will help the sticky stuff come up later.
4. To deal with extra-greasy pans, add a bit of salt and then use a piece of paper to buff. Follow with a normal wash.
5. Clean oven spills with a mixture of mostly salt and a dash of cinnamon. Keep this mixture on hand so that you can cover spills (both inside and stove top) as soon as they happen. The salt will absorb the liquid and both salt and cinnamon will fight any odors. Wait to cool completely before wiping away with water.
coffee pot6. To clean your automatic coffee maker’s coffee pot, add a few tablespoons of salt to the water and bring the whole thing to a boil.
7. To remove stubborn coffee stains from cups, use a sponge to rub them with a paste made from salt and vinegar. Rinse with water.
8. To shine most metals (steel, silver, gold, pewter), make a paste from equal parts salt, flour and vinegar. Use a cloth to rub it on, let it sit for an hour, then rinse with water and wipe dry.
9. Shine up your chrome (sink faucets and other fixtures) with a mixture made from 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Buff with a rag then rinse with water and wipe dry.
10. To shine up copper and brass, take half a lemon, squeeze out the juice, then sprinkle salt inside the rind. Rub this all over the brass/copper, then rinse with water and wipe dry.
11. To remove the tarnish from real silver flatware, put a piece of aluminum foil over the bottom of a pan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda, fill with water and drop the silver in. Bring to a boil and watch the magic happen. After 5 minutes or so, remove from the heat and let cool before rinsing.
12. To remove rust from metal, make a paste from salt, cream of tartar and water. Apply the paste and then let the item sit in the sun to dry. Buff clean.
sponges13. Keep your sponges fresher, longer, by soaking them in a saltwater solution after cleaning with them.
14. Clean out your refrigerator with a simple mixture of salt and soda water. It works, and there’s no strange smells to infiltrate your food.
15. Buff and brighten your cutting boards once in a while after using them. Just rub with a damp washcloth dipped in salt.
16. To deal with water cup rings or other marks on the surface of your wooden furniture, make a paste of vegetable oil and salt. Use a rag to rub it in, then use a clean rag to wipe it off. This can also work for treating nicks and dents.
17. Treat your carpet stains with a paste of 1/4 cup salt and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Rub it in, allow to dry and then vacuum clean.
18. To treat mildew stains on cloth, make a paste of equal parts salt and lemon juice. Apply this to the stain and then hang in the sun to dry. Follow with normal laundering.
19. Freshen and whiten your faded or yellowed linens by boiling them in a salt and baking soda solution. In a washing tub or large pot, add 5 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Boil for 15 to 30 minutes, then remove and rinse in cold water.
20. Remove soap scum from bathroom tile by scrubbing with a solution of 1 part salt in 4 parts vinegar. Wipe clean with a damp rag.
Sayward Rebhal originally wrote this story for Networx.com. It is reprinted with permission here.
Related green cleaning stories on MNN:

Eco News and Gadgets

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I ofttimes find interesting articles on eco – gadgets that excite or interest me. I thought to share a few.

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A Waterless Dishwasher You’ll Never Have To Empty

There are some chores I’ve just never stopped hating. Dishes are one of them, making the bed is another. Although we’ve got a fairly new dishwasher it still takes some doing to get me motivated enough to start the process. We have to be down to our last couple of forks. Even after they’re clean, there’s still the task of taking everything out, making sure it’s really dry, and putting it away.

Although using a dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand, it’s still a major consumer of both water and electrical energy in the household. But what can we do? Dishes have to be clean, and the only way to do that is with hot, soapy water, right? Wrong. The DualWash Bipartite Dishwasher is a complete reinvention of the humble dishwasher. Not only does it operate without water, it doubles as the cabinet so once it’s loaded, the dishes are already put away.

dualWash-waterless-dishwasher

Image via Gökçe Altun, Nagihan Tuna, Pınar Şimşek, and Halit Sancar/Tuvie

I know you’re desperate to know how it works (I was too), so here it is: Instead of hot water, the dualWash would use carbon dioxide. When the washing cycle starts, the carbon-dioxide cycle is activated, and supercritical carbon-dioxide  (liquid CO2) is pumped to the cleaning chamber. “Supercritical carbon-dioxide has a very low surface tension, meaning instead of beading up into a ball like water, it spreads out widely covering all surfaces,” explain the designers. As this review points out, should there be solid particles, the supercritical carbon dioxide is returned to carbon dioxide’s gas phase, and forces and stubborn particles into the filter. When full, just remove the filter and clean it.

dualWash-waterless-dishwasher-2

Image via Gökçe Altun, Nagihan Tuna, Pınar Şimşek, and Halit Sancar/Tuvie

The great part is that this futuristic dishwasher has not one but two cabinet areas. Simply slide the door over the side that’s due for cleaning, while the clean dishes in the other side are on display. This concept is perfect for single individuals or couples, because it allows you to wash just a few dishes without the guilt of wasting water and energy.

DualWash uses the Carbon-dioxide cleaning rather than water-based cleaning as a reaction to the water shortages of coming decades. When the washing cycle is started, Carbon-dioxide cycle is activated, and Supercritical Carbon-dioxide is pumped to the cleaning chamber. Supercritical Carbon-dioxide has a very low surface tension, meaning instead of beading up into a ball like water, it spreads out widely covering all surfaces.

During the washing cycle, Carbon-dioxide flows around the machine and cleans it. For solid particles, Supercritical Carbon-dioxide is turned to gas phase and food particle filter holds contaminates. The filter can be removed and cleaned.

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Environmental concerns drive innovation

zeolite technology;  http://www.bsh-group.com/index.php?120358

Revolutionary new developments are rare in the home appliances sector, which makes the BSH dishwasher with Zeolith® Drying System all the more remarkable. The zeolite dishwasher won the inaugural German Innovation Prize for Climate and Environment (IKU) awarded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI) in February 2010. This innovation promises to change the market altogether.

 

Award-winning zeolite technology

Our novel drying technology uses zeolite minerals to reduce dishwasher electricity consumption by 20 percent as compared with what were previously the most efficient appliances in the top efficiency class. All in all, our engineers have managed to halve the electricity consumption of our dishwashers over the last 20 years. Zeolite, a substance formerly used only in industry, adsorbs moisture and releases heat in the process, making it ideal for use inside our dishwashers. The hot air produced dries the load after the rinse cycle without any additional energy input.

In the Garden

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Composting.

All About Composting

Compost is a rich and crumbly blend of partially decomposed organic material that does wonderful things for your garden.

Building and maintaining a compost pile is the surest, easiest way to become a better gardener. Not only will you be producing the best possible food for your garden, but by watching leaves, eggshells, orange rinds, and grass clippings become transformed into rich compost filled with earthworms and other soil creatures, you’ll be learning what healthy soil is all about.

Compost improves soil structure. Most gardeners don’t start with great soil. Whether yours is hard and compacted, sandy, stony, heavy, or wet, adding compost will improve its texture, water-holding capacity, and fertility. Your soil will gradually become fluffy and brown—the ideal home for healthy plants.

Compost provides a balanced source of plant nutrients. Even if you are lucky enough to have great soil, you can’t expect that soil to remain rich and productive without replenishing the nutrients that are consumed each growing season. No commercial fertilizer, even one that is totally organic, provides the full spectrum of nutrients that you get with compost. The nutrients are available gradually, as your plants need them, over a period of months or years. The microorganisms in the compost will also help your plants absorb nutrients from fertilizers more efficiently.

Compost stimulates beneficial organisms. Compost is teeming with all kinds of microorganisms and soil fauna that help convert soil nutrients into a form that can be readily absorbed by your plants. The microorganisms, enzymes, vitamins and natural antibiotics that are present in compost actually help prevent many soil pathogens from harming your plants. Earthworms, millipedes, and other macro-organisms tunnel through your soil, opening up passageways for air and water to reach your plants’ roots.

Compost is garden insurance. Even very experienced gardeners often have soil that is less than perfect. Adding compost moderates pH and fertility problems, so you can concentrate on the pleasures of gardening, not the science of your soil’s chemical composition. Unlike organic or inorganic fertilizers, which need to be applied at the right time and in the right amount, compost can be applied at any time and in any amount. You can’t really over-apply it. Plants use exactly what they need, when they need it.

Can a gardener ever have enough compost? It’s doubtful. Compost is the perfect thing to spread around when you are creating a new garden, seeding a new lawn area, or planting a new tree. Compost can be sprinkled around plants during the growing season or used as a mulch in your perennial gardens. You can add compost to your flower boxes and deck planters. You can also use it to enrich the potting soil for your indoor plants.

How Compost Happens

Organic matter is transformed into compost through the work of microorganisms, soil fauna, enzymes and fungi. When making compost, your job is to provide the best possible environment for these beneficial organisms to do their work. If you do so, the decomposition process works very rapidly—sometimes in as little as two weeks. If you don’t provide the optimum environment, decomposition will still happen, but it may take from several months to several years. The trick to making an abundance of compost in a short time is to balance the following four things:

Carbon. Carbon-rich materials are the energy food for microorganisms. You can identify high-carbon plant materials because they are dry, tough, or fibrous, and tan or brown in color. Examples are dry leaves, straw, rotted hay, sawdust, shredded paper, and cornstalks.

Nitrogen. High-nitrogen materials provide the protein-rich components that microorganisms require to grow and multiply. Freshly pulled weeds, fresh grass clippings, over-ripe fruits and vegetables, kitchen scraps and other moist green matter are the sorts of nitrogen-rich materials you’ll probably have on hand. Other high-protein organic matter includes kelp meal, seaweed, manure and animal by-products like blood or bone meal.

Water. Moisture is very important for the composting process. But too much moisture will drown the microorganisms, and too little will dehydrate them. A general rule of thumb is to keep the material in your compost pile as moist as a well-wrung sponge. If you need to add water (unchlorinated is best), insert your garden hose into the middle of the pile in several places, or sprinkle the pile with water next time you turn it. Using an enclosed container or covering your pile with a tarp will make it easier to maintain the right moisture level.

Oxygen. To do their work most efficiently, microorganisms require a lot of oxygen. When your pile is first assembled, there will probably be plenty of air between the layers of materials. But as the microorganisms begin to work, they will start consuming oxygen. Unless you turn or in some way aerate your compost pile, they will run out of oxygen and become sluggish.

Do I Need a Recipe?

Sample Compost Recipes

Recipe 1

  • 1 part fresh grass clippings
  • 1 part dry leaves
  • 1 part good garden soil

Spread the ingredients in 3-inch-deep layers to a height of 3 to 4 feet.

Recipe 2

  • 2 parts fresh grass clippings
  • 2 parts straw or spoiled hay
  • 1 part good garden soil

Spread ingredients in 4-inch layers, adding water if needed.

Recipe 3

  • 2 parts dry leaves
  • 1 part fresh grass clippings
  • 1 part food scraps

Spread ingredients in 4-inch layers, adding water if needed.

Microorganisms and other soil fauna work most efficiently when the ratio of carbon-rich to nitrogen-rich materials in your compost pile is approximately 25:1 (brown to green) but most people find three parts brown and one part green works quite well. In practical terms, if you want to have an active compost pile, you should include lots of high-carbon “brown” materials (such as straw, wood chips, or dry leaves) and a lesser amount of high-nitrogen “green” materials (such as grass clippings, freshly pulled weeds, or kitchen scraps).

If you have an excess of carbon-rich materials and not enough nitrogen-rich materials, your pile may take years to decompose (there is not enough protein for those microbes!). If your pile has too much nitrogen and not enough carbon, your pile will also decompose very slowly (not enough for the microbes to eat!), and it will probably be soggy and smelly along the way.

But don’t worry about determining the exact carbon content of a material or achieving a precise 25:1 ratio. Composting doesn’t need to be a competitive, goal-oriented task. All organic matter breaks down eventually, no matter what you do. If you simply use about 3 times as much “brown” materials as “green” materials, you’ll be off to a great start. Take a look at the sample recipes and check the chart of common compost materials. With experience, you’ll get a sense for what works best.

Compost Gets Hot

Common Compost Ingredients

Brown

High-carbon materials

  • corncobs and stalks
  • paper
  • pine needles
  • sawdust or wood shavings
  • straw
  • vegetable stalks
  • dry leaves

Green

High-nitrogen materials

  • coffee grounds
  • eggshells
  • fruit wastes
  • grass clippings
  • feathers or hair
  • fresh leaves
  • seaweed
  • kitchen scraps
  • fresh weeds
  • rotted manure
  • alfalfa meal

Ingredients to Spice Up Your Compost Pile

The following materials can be sprinkled onto your compost pile as you build each layer. They will add important nutrients and will help speed up the composting process:

  • Super Hot Compost Starter, applied at the rate on the package.
  • Garden soil or finished compost (high in microorganisms), 1/2 shovelful on each layer
  • Bone meal, blood meal, or alfalfa meal (high in nitrogen), 1/2 shovelful on each layer
  • Fish waste or manure (high in nitrogen), a shovelful on each layer
  • Wood stove or fireplace ashes (high in potash and carbon), a shovelful on each layer
  • Crushed rock dust (rich in minerals/feeds microbes), a shovelful on each layer

Heat is a by-product of intense microbial activity. It indicates that the microorganisms are munching on organic matter and converting it into finished compost. The temperature of your compost pile does not in itself affect the speed or efficiency of the decomposition process. But temperature does determine what types of microbes are active.

There are primarily three types of microbes that work to digest the materials in a compost pile. They each work best in a particular temperature range:

The psychrophiles work in cool temperatures—even as low as 28 degrees F. As they begin to digest some of the carbon-rich materials, they give off heat, which causes the temperature in the pile to rise. When the pile warms to 60 to 70 degrees F, mesophilic bacteria take over. They are responsible for the majority of the decomposition work. If the mesophiles have enough carbon, nitrogen, air, and water, they work so hard that they raise the temperature in the pile to about 100 degrees F. At this point, thermophilic bacteria kick in. It is these bacteria that can raise the temperature high enough to sterilize the compost and kill disease-causing organisms and weed seeds. Three to five days of 155 degrees F. is enough for the thermophiles to do their best work.

Getting your compost pile “hot” (140 to 160 degrees F.) is not critical, but it does mean that your compost will be finished and usable within a month or so. These high temperatures also kill most weed seeds, as well as harmful pathogens that can cause disease problems. Most people don’t bother charting the temperature curve in their compost pile. They just try to get a good ratio of carbon to nitrogen, keep the pile moist and well aerated, and wait until everything looks pretty well broken down.

Commercial activators can help raise the temperature in your compost pile by providing a concentrated dose of microorganisms and protein. Other effective activators that can help to get your pile cooking include humus-rich soil, rotted manure, finished compost, dried blood, and alfalfa meal.

To Turn or Not to Turn

Unless speed is a priority, frequent turning is not necessary. Many people never turn their compost piles. The purpose of turning is to increase oxygen flow for the microorganisms, and to blend undecomposed materials into the center of the pile. If you are managing a hot pile, you’ll probably want to turn your compost every 3 to 5 days, or when the interior temperature dips below about 110 degrees F. Monitor the temperature with a compost thermometer; use garden shovel, fork or a compost aerator to help turn the pile.

After turning, the pile should heat up again, as long as there is still undecomposed material to be broken down. When the temperature stays pretty constant no matter how much you turn the pile, your compost is probably ready. Though turning can speed the composting process, it also releases heat into the air, so you should turn your pile less frequently in cold weather.

There are several ways to help keep your pile well-aerated, without the hassle of turning:

  • Build your pile on a raised wood platform or on a pile of branches.
  • Make sure there are air vents in the sides of your compost bin.
  • Put one or two perforated 4″ plastic pipes in the center of your pile.

Worm Composting

Employing worms to make compost is called vermiculture. Manure worms, red worms, and branding worms (the small ones usually sold by commercial breeders) are dynamos when it comes to decomposing organic matter—especially kitchen scraps. The problem is that these worms cannot tolerate high temperatures. Add a handful of them to an active compost pile and they’ll be dead in an hour. Field worms and night crawlers (common garden worms with one big band) are killed at even lower temperatures.

To maintain a separate worm bin for composting food scraps, you need a watertight container that can be kept somewhere that the temperature will remain between 50 and 80 degrees F. all year-round. Ready-made worm bins are available, but you can also make your own. Red worms are available by mail.

Types of Composters

Plastic Stationary Bins. These bins are for continuous rather than batch composting. Most units feature air vents along the sides and are made from recycled plastics, such as our Pyramid Composter. Look for a lid that fits securely, and doors to access finished compost. Size should be approximately 3 feet square.

Tumbling or Rotating Bins. These composters, such as our Dual-Batch Compost Tumbler, are for making batches of compost all at one time. You accumulate organic materials until you have enough to fill the bin, then load it up and rotate it every day or two. If materials are shredded before going into the bin, and you have plenty of nitrogen, you can have finished compost in five weeks or less.

Wire Bin. Use an 11-foot length of 2-inch x 4-inch x 36-inch welded, medium-gauge fence wire from your local hardware or building supply store. Tie the ends together to form your hoop. A bin this size holds just over one cubic yard of material. Snow fencing can be used in a similar fashion. Another option is our 3-Bin Wire Composter, which holds 48 cubic feet.
Trash Can Bin. To convert a plastic trash can into a composter, cut off the bottom with a saw. Drill about 24 quarter-inch holes in the sides of the can for good aeration. Bury the bottom of the can from several inches to a foot or more below the soil surface and press the loosened soil around the sides to secure it. Partially burying the composter will make it easier for microorganisms to enter the pile.
Block or Brick or Stone Bin. Lay the blocks, with or without mortar, leaving spaces between each block to permit aeration. Form three sides of a 3-to 4-foot square, roughly 3 to 4 feet high.
Wood Pallet Bin. Discarded wooden pallets from factories or stores can be stood upright to form a bin. Attach the corners with rope, wire, or chain. A fourth pallet can be used as a floor to increase air flow. A used carpet or tarp can be placed over the top of the pile to reduce moisture loss or keep out rain or snow.
Two- or Three-Bay Wood Bin. Having several bins allows you to use one section for storing materials, one for active composting, and one for curing or storing finished compost. Each bin should be approximately 3 x 3 x 3 feet. Be sure to allow air spaces between the sidewall slats, and make the front walls removable (lift out slats) for easy access. Lift-up lids are nice.

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12 EASY Steps to Building a Bathtub Worm Farm! From fellow WordPress-er; http://permaverde.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/composting-with-worms/ Posted by PermaVerde in Permaculture 16th Sept 2011

With a little bit of added effort you can turn your daily food scraps into nutrients for your garden. One great way to do this is by composting with worms, also known as vermi-composting. Most people assume worms are dirty and smell gross, which is far from the truth. Maintaining a healthy worm bin is not challenging, does not smell bad, and will not invite large bugs such as cockroaches.

Healthy and happy worms eat at least half of their body weight every single day. That means if you are farming two pounds of worms, they can easily consume one pound of dinner scraps a day! After just 3-4 months you will have a whole container full of vermiculite (worm manure) and your worm population will double. Vermi-composting is really simple and everyone can do it; even if you live on the 7th floor without a balcony.

Preparation: 24 hours for sealants to dry properly
Building: 2 hours
Cost: $44.99
Skill Level: Moderately Easy

Tools you will need:

Hammer

Saw

I am a hand tool sort of guy. There is nothing like putting your own energy into any job that you need to get done. If you would prefer to use a skill saw, go right ahead!

PVC Cable Saw

The cable saw uses friction to cut through the the PVC like butter. I prefer the cable saw, but you can use the PVC pipe cutter instead.

Flat bar (optional)

A flat bar can make the job really easy when trying to remove nails from salvaged wood.

Materials you will need:

Salvaged Bath Tub $25.00 USD

I called a couple bath companies and found a “bath tub skirt” (a mold to go over an old bath tub) that a customer decided they didn’t want after it was custom made for their particular tub. Instead of this bath tub being thrown out, I was able to utilize it for a cozy worm home.

Recycled 2×4’s for building frame FREE: Legs Four 32″ Length: Two 64in Width Two-33in.Cross Bars: 2- 33in.

While I was driving I found these on the side of the road waiting to be picked up by county municipalities. Instead of allowing a great resource go to the dump and spending money I decided (after a little nail removal with a flat bar) these would work perfect. NOTE: These measurements were for my bath tub, make sure to measure to fit your bath tub.

2in shower drain $2.00 USD.

A shower drain is only needed if your bath tub doesn’t already have a shower drain installed. Since I used a bath tub skirt I had to drill a 2inch hole into the bath tub in order to fit this drain.

Underwater sealant $8.63 USD

Used for sealing the shower drain to the bath tub. Allow 24 hours for a proper seal.

Note: This exact product may not be necessary. This sealant is used specifically for sealing anything that will stay underwater, which my shower drain will be since i am using a valve. This product is not made up of friendly ingredients and can only be used up to 48 hours after you open it. I would recommend doing some research to find a better, less toxic, sealant. I had my worms before my bin was built, so I  had to settle for what ever my local store had.

Drain pipe materials $5.63 USD : 1in. Ball valve $5.15USD, 2in. to 1in. pvc reducer $.48 USD, 1in pvc pipe FREE

These drain pipe materials will help you to collect the leachate (great plant food that is rich in microorganisms, and can be added to enhance a compost tea) and to make sure your worms do not drown inside the bin.

PVC primer and cement.

In order to connect the drain pipe materials together, you need to create a weld by simply applying the PVC primer and cement.  I am not including the $8.00 USD cost because these were left over from a different job. Make sure to allow 2 hours for a properly sealed weld.

Moist Cardboard

The worms will need a nice place to rest and lay their eggs. Moist corrugated cardboard works perfect for this, as they love wiggling their way through the “veins” of the cardboard.

Peat moss

Worms love peat moss, which is why I used this old bag of peat moss and added compost for my worm’s bedding material. You can also use cut wheatgrass trays as that is mostly made up of peat moss.

Compost

The compost was mixed with peat moss for a high nutritious worm bedding.

Drainage rock

The drainage rock will allow an even drain throughout the worm bin. I was able to gather some rocks from an old drain field that is not in use anymore. You could use planks of wood (see suggestion below) if you don’t have access to the drain rocks.

3inch Nails $3.25

I recommend to use 3inch nails if you choose to not use any wood smaller than a 2×4. (ie: If you are using 1×4′s, 1×6′s or any other 1 “by”  you are going to want to use a 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 inch nail)

Tarp for a cover

A tarp can work well protecting worms from the sunlight and heavy rains storms.

Construction

Shower drain installed in bath tub

1.Installing the shower drain:

  •  Clean all the surfaces that the sealant will be applied to as instructed by the product. (I disregarded it and just used water. Oops! ;) )
  • Apply the sealant as recommended.
  • Insert shower drain into bath tub hole.
  • Clean up excess sealant.
  • Allow to dry/cure according to product directions. (My underwater sealant took 24 hours to cure)

Priming and gluing drain materials

Step 2: Connect drain parts together

  • Cut your PVC pipe into one 6inch and one 3inch piece.
  • Prime all ends that you are connecting with the PVC primer.
  • Glue  your 6inch PVC pipe to the pipe reducer (if you needed to use a reducer).
  • Glue the other end of your 6inch PVC pipe into the ball valve.
  • Glue the 3inch piece into the other end of the  ball valve.
  • Make sure to wait two hours for a proper weld before applying liquid.

Drain materials installed to bath tub.

Drain materials installed on bath tub

Step 3: Connect drain materials to bath tub

  • You will connect your drain materials to the shower drain that is already connected to your bath tub.
  • Prime the shower drain and the other end of the reducer (if reducer is not used, prime the 6inch pipe).
  • Glue shower drain to the reducer (if reducer not used; glue shower drain to the 6inch pipe).
  • Do not apply running water for two hours.

Building the frame

Step 4: Build the frame

  • Measure the bathtub’s long and short sections (my long section was 64inch and short section was 33 inch).
  • Cut four 2×4′s the same size as the short section (two for the short section, two for cross bars).
  • Subtract 3 inches from the long section, and cut two 2×4′s the new size. (61 inches for me. Once we nail the short section onto the long section, the length will be the original size. A 2×4′s actual size is 1.5″ x 3.5″).
  • Cut four legs to 32 inches.
  • Nail or screw the short section and long section together.
  • Nail or screw the legs to the inside of the frame. Make sure to nail or screw legs to the short section and long section for proper strength.
  • Nail or screw the cross bars for support 10 inches from the bottom of the legs.

Finished frame

Step 5: Flip frame over and bring it to its final resting ground.
Fully constructed and ready to be filled.
Step 6: Insert bath tub into frame.

2 inch layer of drain rocks placed in the bottom of the bath tub

Step 7: Add a 2 inch layer of drain rocks to the bottom of your bath tub. (You can also choose to use multiple planks of wood that run the width/short section)

Cardboard bedding layer

Step 8: Rip up moist cardboard and use as the bottom bedding layer where the worms will sleep and lay their eggs.

Peat moss and compost bedding

Step 9: Bedding
  • Make a mixture of peat moss and compost approximately 6-8inches deep. (You can use soil from wheat grass trays too).
  • Water down this mixture so that it is like a moist cake. Too much water and the worms will not have enough oxygen and too little water the worms will dry up.

Red wigglers

Step 10: Welcome the worms into their new home.

  • A good housing ratio is: per 1lb of pure worms, you should have 1ft squared of space.
  • Worms will double every three to four months, so make sure to plan for this. Some ideas are to set up another bin, add them to your garden, give them away or sell them to friends, neighbors, and clients!

Worm Food

Step 11: Feed your worms!

  • Worms love horse manure, fruits, and vegetables. You can also feed them dinner scraps such as pastas, cooked roots, or breads. Make sure you do not use animal products as they will rot and attack predators.
  • Do not feed your worms hot peppers, onions, oranges, meats. One rule of thumb is if it can hurt your eyes, then it can definitely hurt the worms.
  • Important tip: Keep the food only in the center of the bed and leave the sides food free. Worms are really sensitive to heat, if your worm food starts composting and heating up to high temperatures the worms could be killed. By leaving an area empty of food, such as the sides, the worms can escape and they will be happy and safe.
  • Cover the food with burlap sacks, newspaper, or even cardboard so there aren’t a ton of flies and other insects being attracted to it.

Finished worm farm! (with a temporary cover)

Step 12: Goodnight worms!
  • Worms do not like light, so make sure you provide a cover for them so they can safely come up to the surface.
  • Adding a pitch to the cover will promote air flow and water runoff during a rain storm so the worms will not end up drowning.

Food Waste – a particularly Irish Problem?

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We all like to eat out – and we rarely finish all on the plate (it grieves me to say I was taught to always leave something behind – “or they’ll think you were never fed”) – the indication being that by leaving some behind one is rich enough to do so and one doesn’t starve at home.

Ironically it’s a fashion that is relatively new to the Irish. In tales of old the idea of wasting food was seen as something almost criminal – and I don’t mean in famine-times. In an old tale I read once someone threw away a crust of bread and s/he was told that one day ”you’ll follow a crow for just such a piece of bread” !

Personally I hate waste and would eat all before me even if I knew I really didn’t need it – just to avoid waste. Fortunately now we have 5 hens and as we’re vegetarians (though we eat a little fish sometimes) we can feed them all out ‘scraps’ – though they do have to be sharp if the dogs are about. Generally all but Trix, who was twice molested by (strangers) dogs, are well able to fight (nose-peck) their own corner.   To see two hens fight over a length of spaghetti is worth a tonic.

Do you have worms Mister?? We have a vermiculture unit or simply a wormery. I looked at various options and at the time I could only buy kit (expensive) and worms via UK and I really didn’t want to be importing anything as sensitive as worms from a different country. Anyway it meant ‘importing’ to an address in N. Ireland and then driving up and collecting – too much hassle. I got some used shuttering from a building site and cut panels to make a ‘box’ 61cm x 122cm and about 61cm high I lined it with plaster’s gause – used to make rounded ‘corners’ (as anti-vermin shield) and set it on ‘legs to keep it up off the ground – this way I can also keep old oven rays under it to catch the ”worm-tea” that drips out. This needs to be diluted 1:10 or more before feeding to plants. The worms I simply collected as I did a bit gardening and simply popped them in with vegetable waste and garden clippings etc. Any chicken poop found on pavements or car area goes in too as does some of our food-waste – usually after it’s been in a brown(wheelie) bin for a few months and I need to make space. The worms are – usually the stripped-red ones no matter how many earth-worms I put in but they are great for fishing and sometimes when I clear out some of the ”waste” from the bottom of the unit it’s amazing to see huge bundles of worms gathered around something ‘tasty’ – easy way to gather them too. I fork out some of the bottom and put that with fresh waste in one of our 3 compost ‘bins’ these are in fact open at the bottom and two are actually IN the raised beds so at some date when I move them the ground should be very rich.

Article HERE on food recycling – but I prefer THIS one as it first takes off the gas from decomposing food. This gas can in turn power the lorries that collect the waste as well as heating it to the right temps for the enzymes to do their thing. This gas is normally released into the atmosphere as one of the worst pollutants of all – methane.

Lots of figures relating to all waste matters HERE.

Collection of waste veg. oil Europe HERE

Study done on waste veg. oil Algoma HERE.

Waste oil (non-food) collection HERE.

 

Restaurant Waste Costs €8,840 pa Print E-mail
Written by Frank Corr
Thursday, 29 September 2011 08:51
Since the introduction of new Food Waste Regulations in Ireland last summer, food waste remains a hot topic among restaurateurs. Unilever Food Solutions Ireland commissioned research among 100 Irish chefs and operators via the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) which shows that Irish restaurants each throw out on average 4.5 tonnes of food waste a year, at a cost per establishment of €8,840. Portion sizing has been identified both by diners and chefs as a serious problem, with 34% of diners saying the reason they last left food behind them when eating out was because the portion was too big. This compares with 27% of diners who left food behind because they weren’t happy with the food.The majority (85%) of Irish chefs and operators are concerned about the amount of food wasted by their business with 71% willing to avail of an expert food waste audit to learn how to manage food waste more efficiently.
Portioning and plate waste is the No. 1 area that chefs and operators want to improve on with 57% of those polled strongly welcoming expert training in this area. 35% of restaurant owners and chefs admit they need to improve in creative cheffing, training staff to be more resourceful when it comes to prepping food and using ingredients so as to reduce avoidable waste.Unilever Food Solutions’ managing director Tracey Rogers delved into the findings: “The phrase waste not want not comes to mind. We know that the Irish Government is committed to moving toward a zero waste society and our actions in foodservice are going to be under the spotlight. We have the opportunity to take the initiative to be ‘United Against Waste’ and with small everyday steps we can reduce waste, respond to consumers concerns, improve kitchen efficiency and also help caterers to save money.“Some caterers are already reducing avoidable food waste very effectively and we have also launched a toolkit for reducing food waste, Wise up on Waste, which will help caterers to make their businesses more efficient. Together we must be united and share best practice so we can tackle the issues head on,” Rogers added. ?

At the event, Unilever Food Solutions launched a waste reduction toolkit, ‘Wise up on Waste’, offering simple solutions for Irish restaurants and foodservice outlets who can monitor and measure food waste and ensure the whole team, both back and front of house, are aligned. It includes a manual waste audit that only takes 10 to 15 minutes a day to complete and is expected to reduce food waste by at least 20% if implemented.

Other research highlights:
The top 5 ‘hot zones’ of food waste in Irish commercial kitchens are:
1.     Customer plates (65%)
2.     Preparation waste (53%)
3.     Bones/fat trimmings that can’t be recycled (40%)
4.     Food that gets prepared but not served (27%)
5.     Food that has been stored in the fridge or cupboard for too long (15%)

–        58% of Irish restaurants currently provide training to their staff on food waste management
–        Almost one in three restaurants (30%) would embrace the new Food Waste Regulations (SI 508 of 2009) more if better tax breaks were linked to the regulations-        41% of chefs and operators believe the introduction of brown bin legislation was a positive initiative to reduce the environmental impact of food waste in commercial outlets –        21% said they are confident the new regulations will leave to cost savings for their business, with 22% saying that the new legislation has already helped reduce the cost of waste disposal in their business Consumer worry

To download the full World Menu Report please go towww.unileverfoodsolutions.ie.

Beneficial Bacteria: 12 Ways Microbes Help The Environment

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Beneficial Bacteria: 12 Ways Microbes Help The Environment

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 10:00 AM PDT

[ By Steph in Energy & Fuel & History & Trivia & Science & Research. ]

We have become obsessed with eliminating bacteria, attacking with gels and wipes the microbes we associate with infection, illness and death. But not only are many types of bacteria actually helpful, some strains may hold the key to fighting global warming, cleaning up pollution, breaking down plastic and even developing a cure for cancer. These 12 amazing discoveries demonstrate the many ways in which microscopic organisms help maintain the health of our own bodies and the entire planet.

Gulf Oil Spill Gases Eaten by Bacteria

(images via: wikimedia commons)

Certain types of bacteria can actually clean up troublesome environmental pollutants like spilled petroleum. In fact, a specific strain called Alcanivorax drastically increases in population when an oil spill provides them with large amounts of food, so that they’re able to remove much of the oil. They’re at work on the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico right now, and while they certainly can’t undo the vast damage that has been done to this region as a result, they definitely provide a beneficial effect.

Bacteria Eat Pollution and Generate Electricity

(images via: science news)

Bacteria with tiny wire-like appendages called nanowires not only digest toxic waste – including PCBs and chemical solvents – they produce electricitywhile they’re at it. One type in particular, called Shewanella, is a deep-sea bacteria that grows these oxygen-seeking nanowires when placed in low-oxygen environments. Researchers discovered that when the microbes’ nanowires are pricked with platinum electrodes, they can carry a current. If these capabilities can be harnessed effectively, they could one day be used in sewage treatment plants to simultaneously digest waste and power the facilities.

Geobacter Consume Radioactive Contamination

(images via: wikimedia commonssharenator)

The nanowires grown by certain types of bacteria can also be used to immobilize harmful materials – like uranium – and keep them from spreading. A research team at Michigan State University has learned that Geobacter bacteria, which is found naturally in soil, essentially electroplates uranium, rendering it insoluble so it can’t dissolve and contaminate groundwater. These bacteria can be brought into uranium contamination sites like mines and nuclear plants in order to contain the radiation, potentially limiting the disastrous consequences of these types of spills.

Plastic-Eating Bacteria Breaks Down Bags

(image via: katerha)

Non-biodegradable and far too ubiquitous on this planet, plastic becomes a big problem when it comes to disposal. But in 2008, a Canadian student carried out a truly amazing science experiment in which bacteria were able to consume plastic. Since then, research teams have been working on developing this ability and using it to our benefit. A professor at the University of Dublin got the bacteria to metabolize cooked-down plastic bottles into a new type of plastic that’s actually biodegradable.

Earlier this year, scientists discovered that bacteria are already breaking down plastic debris in the world’s oceans on their own, though they’re not yet sure whether this will have a positive or negative effect on the environment. Items like fishing line and plastic bags are devoured by these bacteria; the problem is that the waste that the bacteria then produce could potentially be harmful to ocean ecosystems as it travels up the food chain.

Nylon-Eating Bacteria Clean Up Factory Waste

(image via: ingrid taylar)

We count on a polymer called Nylon 6 for all kinds of everyday uses like toothbrushes, surgical sutures, ropes, hosiery and strings for instruments like violins. The manufacture of this material produces toxic byproducts that get carried out in waste water – but – you guessed it – there’s a bacterium for that, too. Flavobacterium actually evolved to produce special enzymes to digest these byproducts that they didn’t have previously, and that aren’t seen in similar bacterial strains.

In fact, the ability to produce these enzymes in order to consume a material that didn’t even exist prior to the invention of nylon in 1935 is often used as evidence against the theory of creationism, which denies that any new information can be added to a genome by mutation.

Metabolizing Methane, A Greenhouse Gas

(images via: livescience)

One of the most dangerous greenhouse gases, methane is produced by all sorts of industrial and natural processes, including the decomposition of our own waste and that of livestock. Scientists fighting global warming are struggling to find ways to control the effects of methane, but one solution could come from a simple single-celled microorganism. Some types of bacteria use copper from the environment to metabolize methane, eliminating both the greenhouse gas and toxic heavy metals all at once.

Researchers are still trying to determine how to use this in real-world applications, but some options may include venting methane emissions through filters of these bacteria. What’s more, after eating the methane, the bacteria turn it into methanol – so we can harvest their waste for use as fuel.

Turning Newspapers into Car Fuel

(images via: striatic)

Microbes named T-103, found in animal waste, can produce the biofuel butanol by eating paper. Tulane University developed a method for growing the cellulose-consuming microbes so they can produce fuel in the presence of oxygen, which is lethal to other butanol-producing bacteria. This could make the whole fuel production process far less expensive and thus more potentially applicable in the real world. The researchers say that butanol produces more energy than ethanol, which is produced from corn sugar, and doesn’t require engine modifications. It can also be carried through existing fuel pipelines.

Soil-Dwelling Bacteria Kills Cancer

(images via: wikimedia commons)

Cancer and bacteria don’t go well together – at least, when you’re talking about immune response. But one type of bacteria, called Clostridium sporogenes, may actually be used to deliver drugs in cancer therapy thanks to its ability to target tumors. Professor Nigel Minton of the University of Nottingham has learned that C. sporogenes will only grow in oxygen-depleted environments – like the center of solid tumors. When injected into a tumor log with cancer drugs, the bacteria can help the drugs kill the tumor cells without affecting healthy tissue. Researchers expect to have a streamlined strain developed for use in a clinical trial by 2013.

Panda Poop Bacteria Makes Biofuel

(images via: wikimedia commons)

“Who would have guessed that ‘panda poop’ might help solve one of the major hurdles to producing biofuels, which is optimizing the breakdown of the raw plant materials used to make the fuels?” says Ashli Brown, Ph.D., co-author of a study on how bacteria in panda feces can break down a super-tough plant material known as lignocellulose. This discovery could speed up development of plant-based biofuels that don’t rely on food crops. Several types of digestive bacteria found in the panda feces are similar to those found in termites, which of course are pros at digesting wood.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that panda waste will suddenly be in demand for the production of biofuels – that would probably be a lost cause, given the extremely precarious status of the species. The bacteria that have been identified for their cellulose-processing abilities will be isolated and grown on a commercial scale. However, it does prove how important biodiversity really is, and that many species around the world may have more to offer than we realize.

Turning Human Waste into Rocket Fuel

(images via: elvertbarneswikimedia commons)

Pandas aren’t the only species whose waste may hold the key to producing fuel. With the help of the bacteria Brocadia anammoxidans, human sewage could be transformed into hydrazine, better known as rocket fuel. The bacteria naturally consume ammonia and produce hydrazine in the process. Until their discovery, scientists thought that hydrazine was only a man-made substance. However, this is less of a boon to NASA than it is to sewage treatment plants. In standard plants, waste-eating bacteria require oxygen to be pumped in with power-chugging equipment, so this development could save a lot of money.

Sulphur-Eating Bacteria Reduce Acid Run-Off

(image via: wikimedia commons)

When sulphur in mine tailings from mining operations react with water and oxygen, they produce toxic sulphuric acid, a major environmental problem which may also be contributing to climate change. Researchers at McMaster University found that two species of bacteria isolated from a mine tailings pond in northern Ontario work together to use sulphur as an energy source, producing and consuming each other’s sulphur-containing waste in a cycle that reduces the amount of toxic runoff Acid Mine Drainage (AMD). This runoff dissolves carbonate rocks and releases CO2, worsening climate change, so the more it is reduced, the less carbon dioxide gas is released into the atmosphere.

Probiotic Bacteria That Treat Depression & Anxiety

(images via: alancleaver_2000)

We already know that beneficial bacteria play an incredibly important role in our own biology, helping with everything from dental health to digestion. But probiotic bacteria may even alter brain neurochemistry, helping to treat anxiety and depression-related disorders. Researchers at McMaster University in Canada and University College Cork in Ireland demonstratedthat mice fed with the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 showed a marked decrease in stress, anxiety and depression-related behaviors as well as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This opens the door to potential microbial-based treatments for psychiatric disorders.

Fuel’s Gold: 10 More Unusual Alternative Energy Sources

By Steve in Energy & FuelScience & ResearchTechnology & Gadgets

Mankind’s quest for energy has successively centered on wood, coal and oil though these fuels are slowly giving way to nuclear, wind and geothermal power sources. Even newer fuels have sparked alternatives, however, and what today seems odd and impractical may someday be commonplace. These 10 unusual alternative energy sources show real hope that goes beyond the usual hype.

 

Used Adult Diapers

(image via: InventorSpot)

Adult diapers – they’re more common than you think, especially in Japan where the average population is aging rapidly and the national output of used adult diapers has soared past the 5 billion mark. A company called Super Faiths thinks there’s a better use for used adult diapers than simply burying them – why not burn them as fuel?

(images via: InventorSpotGreen LaunchesJapan Times and Now Public)

The SFD Recycle System pulverizes and sterilizes used adult diapers, then forms them into pellets suitable for fueling large biomass boilers. The machines are rather large and are designed to process large numbers of adult diapers, not a problem because the expected users are large hospitals and retirement homes.

Urine

(image via: Unique Daily)

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are being developed by a number of researchers who seek to employ specialized bacteria to break down waste products of various types and, in the process of doing so, create energy that can be stored for future use. A team of British researchers is working with urine (from either Man or beast) as a medium, explaining that “Urine is chemically very active, rich in nitrogen and has compounds such as urea, chloride, potassium and bilirubin which make it very good for the microbial fuel cells.”

(images via: EbooksXNext Energy NewsSpace Fellowship and AOL News)

Organizations such as NASA have taken specific interest in MFCs that use urine and other, er, related wastes to produce energy as such substances would tend to either accumulate on board a spacecraft or would have to be ejected into space. Remember that the next time you wish upon a “star”.

Confiscated Booze

(image via: Autoblog Green)

You’ve heard that drinking and driving doesn’t mix, but don’t tellSvensk Biogas AB. The Swedish biogas company is partnering with the Scandinavian nation’s customs service to process 185,000 gallons of seized smuggled alcohol seized by the customs service last year into enough biogas to power over 1,000 buses and trucks – even a train (above). “We used to just pour it down the drain, but because of the increased volumes we had to look around for new solutions,” said Swedish customs spokeswoman Ingrid Jerlebrink. With the new partnership agreement in place, “We pump it into a big tank that we jokingly call ‘the giant cocktail’ and then a truck just comes and picks it up.”

(images via: Brain Tree HempBUSS Branschen and Daily Echo)

The Svensk Biogas AB plant in Linkoping, located 125 miles southwest of Stockholm, heats the confiscated booze and converts into biogas. One quart of pure alcohol is required to produce about a tenth of a gallon of biogas, and according to Carl Lilliehook, head of Svensk Biogas AB, “It is good business, because the material to make it is free.”

People Power

(images via: Daily Mail)

Power to the people? How about power FROM the people! A number of initiatives currently being pursued look to harness the kinetic energy created – and wasted – by groups of people performing energetic tasks. One project already in place in Tokyo, Japan, usespiezoelectric floor pads positioned where pedestrian commuters are more likely to tread: outside train stations and beneath ticket turnstiles, for instance.

(images via: InhabitatGlam and Telegraph UK)

Commuters can be somewhat tired and listless, but there are other places where people expend a lot of energy and have fun doing it – like dancing and working out. The former takes place at Club Watt in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, which calls itself “The World’s First Sustainable Dance Club.” The club’s dance floor features embedded LEDs that are powered by kinetic energy generated by dancers. Bee Gees, met BTUs. The latter occurs at so-called “green gyms” likeGreen Revolution, where a group cycling class with 20 bikes can generate up to 3.6 megawatts of renewable electrical energy annually – more than enough to pedal, er, peddle elsewhere.

Burning Seawater

(image via: Radiowaves)

How fortunate we would be if it were possible to drink seawater AND use it as fuel. Well surprisingly enough, one of those wishes might soon be answered and grab a beer because it’s not the first. Leukemia patient and researcher John Kanzius has been experimenting with a new cancer-fighting technique that destroys cancer-causing agents through the use of radio waves.

(images via: CBS NewsAmazon and How Stuff Works)

Kanzius noted that his radio-frequency generator broke the water molecules in the seawater into their component elements: hydrogen and oxygen, and as anyone familiar with the 1937 Hindenburg Disaster knows, hydrogen will burn fiercely in the presence of oxygen. As long as Kanzius kept his generator on, the seawater “burned” at a temperature of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, the huge potential!

Poultry Waste

(image via: Ribotto)

There’s a way to turn previously useless agricultural byproducts into clear, clean, fuel oil – if, that is, you’ve got the guts. Turkey guts, in this case. The recipe may sound disgusting but it works: grind poultry heads, feathers and innards fine and mix with water, then heat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit at 600 psi. Cook for about an hour, or until the complex polymers in the offal mix start to break down. A little distillation and what was once garbage is now as good as gold… black gold.

(images via: Chemistryland and Chosun)

Changing World Technologies is behind the push to turn organic, carbon-based waste from computer parts to turkey guts into fuel oil through thermo-depolymerization. Nature herself has paved the way: the billions of barrels of oil and gas buried deep underground were once living plants and animals “processed” into hydrocarbons by heat and pressure over hundreds of millions of years. CWT just speeds up the process a bit.

Landfill Gas

(image via: Savvy Studios)

So you’ve got a landfill that, like most landfills, burps (for want of a better word) methane from decomposing buried garbage. What to do? Well, one idea is to pipe it to a nearby school. Well, not directly – the EcoLine project uses purified methane gas captured from a nearby landfill to power 85 percent of the University Of New Hampshire’s heat and electricity needs. Rivals may still say UNH stinks but no, it’s just the landfill gas.

(images via: Treehugger and CNBC)

With the EcoLine project, UNH becomes the first school in the nation to source a majority of its power from landfill gas. The power isn’t free – infrastructure must be put in place to trap, store and purify the methane – but it’s significantly cheaper than burning fossil fuel with the added benefit of being non-polluting.

Cow Farts

(image via: Gr33nData)

Research by Argentine scientists has revealed that a single 1,210 lb (550 kg) cow produces 28 to 35 cubic feet (800 to 1,000 liters) of methane emissions each day – and let’s be frank, by “emissions” we don’t mean evaporating sweat. Nope, it’s cow farts. Cow burps too; these multi-stomached ruminants emit copious clouds of methane from both ends. Lucky for them some prankster doesn’t walk up with a lit match.

(images via: China Post and Thomas LaCour)

Methane is a much more reactive greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide and unlike CO2, it burns quite nicely. If only there were some practical way to capture the methane emitted by cows, sheep, goats, llamas… basically ANY domestic livestock, we’d be killing two birds with one stone. The cumbersome collection tank mounted on the recalcitrant bovine above is one possible solution but if not that, what?

Coffee Grounds

(image via: Daniel Talsky)

Next to oil, coffee is the most traded commodity on the planet. Unlike oil, coffee production and preparation creates a lot of waste. Now it seems that this so-called waste – coffee grounds in particular – can be put to good use as a fuel. Researchers at the University of Nevada’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering analyzed coffee grounds and discovered they contain a significant percentage of oil in the form of biodiesel. What’s more, the natural anti-oxidants in the extracted coffee oil help extend its shelf life. The leftover grounds can be compacted and burnt as pelletized fuel.

(images via: Science of Coaching SquashMarilka and BHIP Global)

While home users won’t be able to do much with their used coffee grounds beyond composting them, major coffee retailers could reap huge rewards by changing the way they treat waste grounds. It’s estimated that Starbucks generates 210 million pounds of coffee grounds annually. Processing these grounds could provide nearly 3 million gallons of biodiesel and about 90,000 tons of fuel pellets.

Bouncing Breasts

(image via: Slate)

What two things do female joggers have in common? If you answered breasts and MP3 players, you’d be right – and you probably need to get out more. The question is relevant, however, because some joggers have posited powering their iPods with energy generated by the repetitive motions of their breasts. Though companies like Triumph Japan have shown off solar-powered bras, there’s real science behind harnessing, if you will, the power of bouncing breasts.Victoria’s Circuit… you’ve gotta love it!

(images via: The Silverbacks and Zimbio)

LaJean Lawson works as a consultant for sportswear companies like Nike and has been researching breast motion since 1985 in an effort to design better sports bras. Lawson discovered that a runner’s breasts move from side to side, from front to back, and up and down with the most motion is generated vertically. That may seem obvious; this more so: “Naturally, the bigger the breast, the more momentum it generates.” Giggity.

(image via: HubPages)

Alternative energy sources are only unusual in the sense that they are unused, impractical, unprofitable or all of the above. That may just mean the times aren’t right for their implementation. Petroleum was known to the ancients but it wasn’t until late in the Industrial Revolution that oil was effectively sourced and processed into usable forms. It’s unknown what the future will hold for energy, but at least it’s certain there ARE alternatives.

Re-using Silica-Gel Bags

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DON’T THROW AWAY: They’re reusable, just not edible. (Photo: jorho123/Flickr)
We find them everywhere, popping out of all sorts of packaging, lurking like an ugly bug in vitamin bottles and new shoes. Working freight at my store, I touch dozens of silica packets each day and often ask what I can do to recycle them. Couldn’t we collect them and send them off to a manufacturer for reuse?
Silica gel is a desiccant, a substance that absorbs moisture. Despite its misleading name, the silicate is actually a very porous mineral with a natural attraction to water molecules. Manufacturers utilize the gel to keep goods from spoiling, molding or degrading due to humidity. The gel itself is nontoxic, but can have a moisture indicator added (cobalt chloride) which is a known toxin that turns pink when hydrated and is otherwise blue in its dry form. Most silica found in our food and household purchases looks like tapioca beads and is benign unless combined with certain chemicals.
Although silica gel has massive potential for reuse, I haven’t had any luck finding a recycler. But I did discover several great suggestions for using these packs around the house and keeping them from the landfill just a wee bit longer.
  • Put packs in your ammo cans and gun cases/safes to keep dry.
  • Protect personal papers and important documents by putting some gel in a baggie wherever these are stored.
  • Keep with photos to spare them from humidity. Tuck a small envelope in the back of frames to protect even the ones hanging on your walls.
  • Store in camera bags and with film. After snapping photos in cold or wet conditions, silica gel will absorb moisture to keep your lens from fogging or streaking.
  • Leave a couple packs in your tool box to prevent rusting.
  • Use the material to dry flowers.
  • Place with seeds in storage to thwart molding.
  • Stash some in window sills to banish condensation.
  • Dry out electronic items such as cell phones and iPods. Remember after the device has gotten wet, do not turn it back on! Pull out the battery and memory card and put the device in a container filled with several packs. Leave it in there at least overnight.
  • Slow silver tarnishing by using the gel in jewelry boxes and with your silverware.
  • For items in storage, such as cars or anything prone to mildew. Popular Mechanics offers a good suggestion for use in engines of sitting vehicles.
  • Tired of buying big bags of pet food only to have it get soggy? Store your kibble in a bin and tape some silica packs to the bottom of the lid.
  • Cut open the packs and saturate the beads with essential oils to create potpourri.
  • Use in luggage while traveling.
  • Tuck some in your pockets. Hide them in your closet in leather goods such as coats and shoes, and even handbags, to help them survive life in storage.
  • Gather your razor blades and keep in a container with several silica packs to stave off oxidation.
  • Video tape collections will last much longer with these to help keep them dry.
  • Litter is now made with silica. With its fantastic absorption qualities, this litter requires fewer changes and sends less mess to the landfill.
And my personal favorite:
  • Squirrel some away in your car, especially on your dashboard. This will help maintain a clear windshield and leave it less foggy during times of high humidity.
While these packets are annoying and seem like a waste of resources, they can extend the life of many items. Another reason someone needs to be collecting them to recycle: they can be reactivated repeatedly. To recharge, you just need to bake the saturated beads on a cookie sheet, as detailed on ehow.com.
From Mother Nature Network; http://www.mnn.com/local-reports/illinois/local-blog/how-to-reuse-silica-gel-packets