Tag Archive for 'composting'

Jackson's Journal – Team Freshwater


Gooooood Morning SuperForest!

As I think I made clear in my last post, I spend a lot of time thinking about and dealing with water. In my world, water truly is life. Access to it dictates the growth of my gardens, the cleanliness of my body and clothes, the ease and comfort with which I travel through my days.

Without it, I’d be in dire circumstances.

When I lived in New York I barely thought about water. I mean, I thought about it all the time, but in an abstract and removed way. I thought things like: clean water is important. I thought things like: access to clean water should be considered a human right.

Good thoughts these, but removed from the nitty gritty of the issue. My problem was a remote, consumer-centric, “they” should have better access to water and doesn’t it get me steamed that we in the West treat water with such disdain sort of head trip.

A good example of my silliness was the idea for Team Freshwater. Team Freshwater was something that I schemed up with the help of SuperForester Carla. The idea was to create a group of people who promoted sustainable water usage and directed attention to the work of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, an Indian humanitarian and water rights activist who has built many low-water use toilets throughout India. The communal toilets that Dr. Pathak and his team build help free the caste of Indians called “Untouchables” whose job it is to crawl under the homes of more affluent Indians and empty their privies.

This unfortunate job is done mainly by women who are often made very sick by the exposure to raw human waste. The sickness of the mother often means that the eldest daughter has to step in and take over the job of scraping up poo with their hands into a bucket, carrying the bucket on their heads to wherever they can find to dump it.


When Dr. Pathak and Co. come in an build a communal village toilet, it means that legions of women and girls no longer have to work as poo-scraper-uppers. Pathak’s work is truly marvelous. He has built thousands of toilets throughout the Indian continent, freed thousand of women and children from disgusting servile slavery, and the proceeds from the small fee for using the toilets go to re-education for former Untouchable women.

The man is a saint. His work is amazing. But do we really need another group of bleeding heart Westerners moaning and chest thumping about the plight of Indians and sustainable water usage while they simultaneously poop and pee in the very clean water that they are bemoaning other humans lack of?

Did I really want to ramp up my hypocrisy that high? It’s right to admire Pathak. It’s right to want sustainable water usage on a large-scale level. But to do all of this and still use a Western-style flush toilet is absurd.

Kicking the flush toilet habit was one of my goals for living sustainably here on Kauai. If I can stop pooping and peeing in water, then and only then would I be able to talk about sustainable water usage and the work of Dr. Pathak without hypocrisy. Only then could I begin Team Freshwater.

So here we are.

Ladies and Gents, SuperForesters, I present to you: Team Freshwater.

To join things on the internet is very easy. Click a button. “Like” some new brand thing. In creating Team Freshwater I wanted to create a team that would be VERY HARD to join.

To join Team Freshwater you must stop pooping and peeing in clean water.

Bammy! That’s it. Stop pooping and peeing in your water and you can claim to your friends, neighbors, and fellow net denizens that you are a member of Team Freshwater. Creative, willing, and brave you must be to join this team.

Will you do it? The odds are certainly stacked against you. If you live in an apartment, or a house and have no access to open land, and you cannot poop into a toilet, where then will you poop? In a bucket, most likely. But when that bucket is full where will you empty it? How will you empty it? How will you turn your “waste” into “not waste”?

Here’s how I do it:

Melissa and I both do our business into five gallon buckets. The bucket is dug down so as to be flush with the ground. When I have to go, I squat over the bucket holding an old plastic cup under my schnitzel to catch the pee. I do my business, sprinkle a mixture of peat moss and cedar shavings over the poo, and pop the lid back on. The cup of pee is poured under a tree.

It takes a week or two for us to fill the bucket, and when it is near full I pull the bucket out of the hole and set it in the sun for a few weeks. A clean bucket goes in the hole, a layer of peat moss/cedar goes on the bottom, and the process continues. After the full bucket has sat in the sun for a while I make a little nest of leaves in the compost bin that I have made specifically for our poo. Into this nest in the heap I dump the bucket and quickly cover the now dehydrated and broken down poo with leaves and a layer of dirt. I then spray the now-empty bucket with a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution and set it in the sun.

We have three five gallon buckets dedicated to this task. One is in use while one sits in the sun while one sits empty and waiting. It is a very effective and non-gross system and it uses ZERO water. The wash water for the buckets gets poured at the base of fruit trees and covered in dirt. No flies. No cholera. No typhus. No worries.

I know this sounds totally disgusting. I know it through and through. I’ve written before about how pooping in water is a huge part of our conditioning. We’re not “good” boys or girls unless we poop and pee in a toilet and thus pollute 1.6 gallons a drinking water every time we flush. Get that? We’re “dirty and gross” unless we pollute.

Getting over this conditioned poo-phobia has been a huge part of setting myself free and starting Team Freshwater.

What is very funny is that once I was over the conditioned response to responsibly handling my own humanure, I found that it is not only infinitely more sustainable and environmentally responsible, my method is actually much cleaner than the old way. Cleaning a cat box is far more gross than composting Melissa’s and my humanure.

I’ve found that much of my conditioned poo-phobia was based on three very faulty ideas:

1.) The idea that flush toilets are cleaner than composting toilets.

This is totally false, as anyone who has ever plunged or cleaned a toilet can attest. Flush toilets clog often and overflow. That overflow runs onto your bathroom floor, into the cracks in the tiles, onto the carpet, into the floorboards, down into your neighbor’s ceiling. When it rains sewer systems (which were not built to withstand rain apparently) purge millions of gallons of untreated human waste into our oceans. Every year this happens.

Next to every toilet sits a little scrubby brush in a little holder and perhaps a plunger. How clean are those brushes and those plungers? Not very. Compost your poo and you will not have to deal with this. Flush toilets themselves, while being white and made of porcelain are often poorly maintained, thus giving the illusion of cleanliness while being a breeding ground for funky bacteria. My buckets get a good scrub when they are empty, and thus are much cleaner than flush toilets. When is the last time you scrubbed your toilet in its entirety?

Ironically, composting your humanure means that you will have less exposure to poo than in the old system. The flush toilet system means that you have to take zero responsibility for your waste. There it is in the bowl, flush the handle and there it goes, off to whatever fairyland poo goes to visit when you are done with it. All is fine and good until something in the system breaks and you must call a plumber to come out and wade through the stream of nastiness that you created.

Furthermore, a composting toilet system means that you will never, ever, again have to feel polluted water plash against your butt as you sit on the can.

2.) The idea that flush toilets are more environmentally sound than composting your own humanure.

Ever use the toilet and not have everything go down on the first flush? What about the second flush? Or even the third? I’ve rarely had to flush a toilet more than three times to clear it, but the fact remains that with each flush 1.6 gallons of fresh water are polluted. Flush a toilet three times and you’ve polluted nearly five gallons of fresh water.

Now multiply this three flushes by each person in America using the toilet roughly three times a day and you end up with a volume of water too staggeringly huge to comprehend. Water that we’ve polluted and must be handled and treated every single day. It’s insane.

The flush toilet came about in an era when people thought it was fine to fling the contents of ones chamber pot into the street from a high window. Admittedly, a flush toilet and municipal sewer system is far better than having poo flung into the street. But there is a world of difference between simply flinging your poo into the street and responsibly composting it yourself. What is funny is the striking similarity between flinging your poo into the street and flush toilet systems; both represent a “let someone else deal with it” mentality.

3.) The idea that flush toilets use less energy than a composting system.

The water in your toilet comes from somewhere. When you flush it goes somewhere too. The arrival and departure of that water represents a huge amount of energy and infrastructure. Think of all the people employed as plumbers and sewer workers and toilet scrubbers and poo-carriers. Think of all of the products designed to help de-stink and sanitize your toilet. Think of all of the people engaged in the creation, marketing, sales, and distrubition of those products.

The energy required by the flush toilet system is an order of magnitude greater than the energy that I expend in responsibly and personally handling my waste stream. When I choose to deal with my own waste, it negates the needs for all that infrastructure, all those products, all those jobs. I am no longer reliant on those fragile and needless systems. If the water goes off, I am unaffected. If the power goes out, my system stands strong. If gas

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prices skyrocket and the sanitizing and cleaning product flow ceases, my system is unaffected. If I cannot get peat moss and cedar chips for my bucket I can use leaves, grass, dirt, hair, whatever.

Turn off the water and power in New York city and see how long people will want to stay on the island of Manhattan. Think of the stench wafting Eastward over Brooklyn.

What we need is large scale, waterless, municipal composting of humanure. A system that uses nature instead of industry to deal with our outputs. Because we do not have that system, the onus is on us as anti-consumers to blaze a new path. We must create the new way for ourselves, as it seems that change will not come from outside of us.

Questions arise:

Q: What about the danger of handling infectious waste?

A: Infectious waste comes from infected people. Infected people are often very sick and thus are in treatment at a hospital. Their waste must be handled with greater care than a non-infectious persons. But healthy people make healthy poo. Healthy poo breaks down quickly and the component chemicals within (nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, iron) are very good for plants, not to mention very expensive to buy and ship. Keep a separate compost pile for composting humanure and spread the resulting compost on already established trees and not on leafy greens and risk of exposure is minimal.

Q: Isn’t handling poo really gross?

A: Yes. But I’m not handling poo. I’m moving buckets around, spreading leaves, digging dirt. Composting my poo and gardening are very similar activities. In fact, they are so similar I cannot see the remove between them. I don’t poop or pee in water and so have more water to use on my garden, and the composted remnants of my poo are exactly what my plants need to thrive. Win/win/win.

Also, isn’t it funny how squeamish people can be about their poo when you consider that it comes from inside of us? One moment it’s in your body and all is fine. The next moment it’s in a bucket, separate from you and now it’s disgusting. This separation anxiety is a classic fixture of the consumer mentality. It’s a part of me and so it’s good vs. it’s not a part of me and so it’s bad.

Q: How does it feel when you are not on your land and you must use the toilet?

A: Weird. To poop in water feels really weird. I walk outside to pee. My mother makes fun of me for this. There is a cold hearted thrill I get from pooping in water now. A dark, black part of me laughs and laughs. It feels like the most anti-social thing I can think of, and when I do it, I appreciate not only that I no longer have to do it, but the madness of how long I mindlessly did it in the first place.

Q: Earlier you wrote that the Indian women who have to deal with poo are often made very sick by their exposure to human waste, yet here you say that it is safe to handle. What is the difference?

A: The Untouchable caste in India is made to crawl under houses and scrape humanure into buckets and bowls. Often they use shovels and whisks to do this, but sometimes they must use their hands. Once their buckets are full, they walk with them on their heads to wherever they dump them. When it is raining it means that the buckets overflow, and waste-tinged poo water will run down onto the head and face of the noble women carrying them.

To get poo on ones hands or have it run into ones eyes would be very dangerous. I am not advocating that in any way, shape, or form. I am advocating a system of self-reliance, where each of us individually arrives at the choice to compost our own poo, and not simply fob the job off onto the plumber, the sewer worker, the Untouchable. My poo is my issue. To make it your issue against your will is to do violence against you.

When it rains in California, and the sewers overflow into the Pacific Ocean and the beaches must be closed, and sea life is threatened, and the environment contaminated, this is a tremendous act of violence against ourselves. Yet this violence remains the status quo, and thus far nothing is being done to change it. How many times must sewage overflow into our oceans before we move to change something?

When I lived in New York, I rented a basement apartment in a brownstone in Brooklyn. The sewer line between the house and the main on the street got clogged, or cracked, or was somehow rendered inoperable. A human being (plumber) had to come out, drill a hole in the wall of the basement, and crawl through that hole, through a stream of waste, in order to ascertain and remedy the problem. To force another human being to do this by technological and economic necessity is a violence against them, and by extension, a violence against us all.

To join Team Freshwater means to give up this violence.

There is a new age upon us, SuperForesters. An age of reason, logic, beauty, and love. One of the hallmarks of this new age will be the voluntary giving up of violence. To compost ones own poo is a huge step toward creating this new violence-free world. It’s funny to think it, but it is true.

I deal with my poo, now you deal with yours. Can you do it? Do you dare?

Q: I live in an apartment in the city, how can I possibly compost my own poo?

A: It will be very difficult, but it can be done. Imagine the changes in

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your life if you took on this level of self-responsibility. Conceivably you could use the same bucket system that we use, but you’d need a place to empty the buckets. That means teaming up with someone who is sympathetic to your wish to responsibly compost your own poo, someone with a bit of land for your compost heap. This land could be as big as a farm or as small as a back yard. What if every other weekend you ferried your buckets out of the city to a bit of countryside where you kept and maintained your compost heap? To take on this task would mean to change your lifestyle considerably, but all for the better. You would be spending more time outdoors. You would be raking leaves, and shoveling dirt. You would be making friends with farmers and people who have land and most likely use it to produce food. All good things. You would be doing what so very few others are doing and thus you could feel good about being quite elite in a time when being elite at anything is very difficult.

Ultimately you’d be better served to leave the city and find yourself a piece of land. With humanure composting comes gardening, with gardening comes food, with food comes feeding people the excess abundance. This cycle produces community and neighborliness. Sharing and caring levels rise, separation and environmental destruction levels drop.

Team Freshwater, y’all. It’s where it’s at. Pooping in your water is so yesterday.



For further reading:

Jackson’s Journal – I Poop in a Hole
SuperForest Heroes – Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak & Sulabh International

p.s. Remember:



Jackson's Journal – I Poop in a Hole

(image via brianfey)

Goooood Morning SuperForest!

I poop in a hole in the ground. So do you. The difference between our holes is that mine is dry and composts directly into the earth, and yours has water running through it and leads into a series of pipes before it empties into the ocean.

When I moved back to Kauai and was living at the first incarnation of Zero One, I used a conventional flush toilet. It was stinky. It ran unless you jiggled the handle. It got stopped up from time to time and needed plunging. It was a pain in the rump. A stinky, nasty, needs to be scrubbed, pain in the rump. Also, sitting to poop instead of squatting straight up inflamed my roids. There, I said it.

One day, Mama Mea, in all her pregnant glory, dug a hole at the back edge of the property. It wasn’t a very big hole, maybe two and a half feet square? She built a wooden box with a nice fitted lid and she painted it and set it atop the hole. This became tree machine version one.

I found myself going out to the hole to do my thing more and more, using the inside toilet less and less. It was so much nicer. No lingering stinkyness, no overflowing, no need to scrub the beast, just do your thing, sprinkle some wood chips on top to keep the flies away, replace the lid, and walk away.

This made sense to me. I keep my tooth brush in the bathroom, why would I want to poop in the same room as my toothbrush? Furthermore, why would I poop so near the kitchen? Why poop inside the house at all? Any Japanese person would read this and go: of course, silly, we figured that out like a thousand years ago.

The tree machine, as we lovingly referred to our composting pit latrine, became an indispensable part of life at Zero One. There were quite a few of us living there, staying there, or just passing through. To have had all of those people using the same indoor toilet would’ve been funky. So I became the de facto tree machine wrangler. I would watch as the hole gradually filled up, and when it was nearly full, I would cover it with fill dirt and plant a papaya seedling on the top. Then I would dig a new hole and drag the cover over to it.

Here, I’ll just say it for you: EWWWWWWWWW!!!!! OMG! Gross! What about diseases? What about touching poo? What about infection and cholera and typhoid and your poo going into the water table?!

Here’s what I learned: The chances of you picking up a nasty bug from a conventional toilet are much higher. People have this false sense that toilets are clean because they are white, and have perfumes and deodorizers sprayed on them, and have clean water running through them. A well tended composting pit latrine is cleaner, less smelly, uses zero water, will never splash your bum with poo water, will never overflow, and provided that you dig your hole a bare minimum of five feet above the water table and at least fifty feet from a water source, your chances of cross contagion are basically nil. In the tropics, where the air is humid and the days are warm and the soil is still relatively healthy, the average time it takes for soil microflora and fauna to find your poop and start eating it, thereby rendering into rich, beneficial humus is five minutes. Five minutes. Five minutes from poop to compost. That my friends, is a miracle.

The average toilet uses 1.6 gallons of fresh clean drinking water every time it is flushed. Flush a toilet three times a day and you’ve polluted nearly five gallons of water. That’s an Arrowhead bottle. That’s a lot of water. Now, times that five gallons of water by the number of people in the US, which is approximately 312,205,804 and you get the astonishing figure of 1,561,029,020 billion gallons of drinking water pissed and shat in every day. I am very happy to have opted out of such insanity. Furthermore, the energy and infrastructure required to move and handle and process and sterilize and vent all that now waste water is incredible, and too massive a metric to wrap my head around. Now consider all of the toilet related products being sold, created, shipped, put on shelves, bought, used, thrown away, etc. All so that our toilets don’t smell or look like that which they were created to whisk out of our lives.

So what is to be done? How to fix this glitch in our life operating system? How does someone living in a city, or a suburb, or a house with no lawn or garden make moves to compost their own waste responsibly? My answer is, for now, they can’t. I mean, they could, but it would involve far more contact with uncomposted waste than I feel comfortable advocating. It will come down to the private sector. Someone, somewhere will design a building or settlement or habitation where the toilets all compost the waste either as individual units, or by combining the humanure into a larger mass and composting it thusly.

The benefits from switching over to a massive humanure composting system are too many to name. Firstly, think of the water used, which in a composting system is zero. Imagine going from polluting 1.5 billion gallons of drinking water a day to polluting zero gallon a day. It makes a big difference. Then there is the fact that our poo contains a lot of what plants like to eat. Nitrogen, urea, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, proteins, carbohydrates. Plants looooove these compounds and people pay a lot of money to drive to gardening stores and buy them and then take them home and spread them on their trees and plants. So we’re pooping money down the drain. Also, if you’re clever and set the system up right, you can collect the biogas that the microbes exhale as they digest and use it to heat your home, heat water, and cook with.

(image via i-sis.org.uk)

All of this talk might not sit right with you. It may very well upset you. I think I might have an insight into why this is:

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One of the very first things we are taught as human beings is to poop. Where to poop, when to poop, how to poop. This teaching is a fundamental building block of our operating system. Poop in the wrong place or at the wrong time and face the wrath of your peers. Poop in the nice water filled bowl and you’re a good boy or girl. Pee pee in the potty and you get a smile from mommy!

This fundamental component of our OS is deep rooted and a hard place to challenge without the right idea framework to buttress an objective observation. To challenge the idea that we should and need to poop in our water is practically sacrilege. I understand this. So thank you for listening to me.

I have cleaned many toilets in my life. I have plunged them, scrubbed them, unclogged them. I have examined and adjusted and fixed many a toilet, and I know them well enough to say that they simply don’t work very well. Here’s a post I wrote about toilet hacks from 2008. I believe that in the absence of a responsible system of waste management, our only option is to create one for ourselves. If that means moving out of the city to a place with a bit more space where an outhouse style system is feasible, well, that’s exactly what I did.

Ideally, the bathroom experience would be beautiful. In all ways. It would look nice, smell nice, feel nice, and be totally environmentally responsible. It would make you feel good to use because you knew that it was harming nothing, and adding beneficial nutrients to a system that craved them. In addition the ideal system would have an input for poo and pee on one end, and at the other end a nice little door where you could open and shovel out magically perfectly decomposed and non-gross compost for use on your fruit trees, ornamental plants, and herbs.

At the old Zero One one can see the remnants of the old poo-system we utilized. Just look for the papaya trees. Every time the tree machine moved, a papaya went in the ground. When I visit Zero One version one, I see vibrantly healthy papaya trees dotting the foodscape, each one sitting atop a perfectly composted pit of nutrients, and each one totally stoked to be there. In an ideal system, everything is in its right place and nothing goes to waste.

Our system wasn’t ideal. I had to dig new holes once a month or so, which was hard, sweaty work. Sometimes our peeps would use the hole and not cover up their leavings, so flies would appear. Sometimes people would use the hole barefoot. Sometimes a bit of poo would get on the edge and need scraping off. It was by no means perfect. But it used zero water, served the needs of approximately four hundred people, polluted no water tables, and no one got sick. No one got worms, cholera, typhoid, or an infectious disease of any kind from using the tree machine. AND we planted many new papayas. In contrast to the current flush-and-forget, system, the tree machine was a massive success.

We use the same system now at Zero One. Luckily the holes were already dug when we got there and nice wooden covers already waited for our squatting selves. (Squatting to poo is light years better for your digestive tract than sitting.) It does mean that I get the occasional mosquito bite on my bum, and the occasional raindrop on my head, but it also means that while I’m doing my thing I can look out at my chickens walking by, or look up at the blue sky, and be surrounded by flowers and plants, and know that I am taking full responsibility for my outputs, and am using them to feed trees and create healthier soil. And it never smells. And I never have to plunge it. And it has never once splashed my bum.

To opt out of the consumer lifestyle takes some getting used to, but the results are extraordinary. I feel great. It is a feeling I want to share. Now when I poop into a flush toilet it feel so decadently naughty. Like eating a whole pint of coffee ice cream by yourself. There’s a weird naughty pleasure in it. Take that, conditioning. I’m a good boy and I poop in a hole.

Love to all,



Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost

This is the view from the cabin where I lived one summer, working on the farm. The farm was my first experience with LARGE scale composting. I struggled for a little while after that to apply the same practice to my home (I don’t live on a farm, where will my compost go, I produce so little, does it really matter?). It took me a couple years to get myself moving on the composting front, but after that internal struggle, I’m pleased to report that yes, it does matter!

I started with an experiment last fall, collecting all my compostable things in a tupperware container, and seeing how much I was wasting by throwing those things away was enough to kick my butt into gear and start composting properly. The answers to my questions were simple.

Where will my compost go? There are three units in my building; together we contribute to the compost heap out back. When it’s ready, some goes to the tiny raised beds in our driveway, and the rest is shared with a community garden down the hill.

I produce so little, does it really matter? After my little tupperware experiment, it was clear that I did NOT produce so little, and when combined with my neighbors, we’ve got ourselves so much compost that we don’t even use it all.

So, if you need a little kick start like I did, just collect your compostable bits for a week. See how much there is (you’ll be surprised). And, check out these wacky things that can be composted (I learned this from Gayla of You Grow Girl):

  • Gum
  • Hair
  • Toothpicks
  • Pet bedding (Rabbits, hamsters, and other herbivores only!!)
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Tissues and paper toweling (Depending on what was on them)
  • Cotton balls (Depending on what was on them)
  • Paper bags
  • Toilet rolls
  • Shredded paper, newspaper, receipts and documents (non-glossy)
  • Wine corks
  • Matches
  • Dry dog food (Be careful about attracting vermin but makes a good compost activator for getting your pile rocking.)
  • Cardboard
  • Old spices and herbs from the cupboard
  • Nut shells
  • Wine (Another decent compost activator)
  • Felt, old wool, bamboo or cotton socks
  • Dust from sweeping and vacuuming
  • Old pasta
  • Spoiled flower bouquets and their water

Wow! Compost, watch your trash pile shrink, and feel good about putting something awesome back into the earth. If you need instructions, just do some Googling. There are a myriad of sites out there with good guides. I like this site. Or do a little search on SuperForest; the topic’s been covered many times.

And just for Sunday-morning-kicks, here’s a cute baby goat:

Consumer Trends Worth Trending

Good Afternoon SuperForesters,

Looks like its overcast here in Saint Paul after a glorious sunny and action-packed weekend.  No worries, though.  I am sitting on my 3rd floor balcony having some Triscuits and a glass of wine.  What a great way to relax!

Looking at the back of my Triscuit box, I noticed this:

A “plantable dill seed card!”  What a great alternative to the usual cereal box surprises: growing your own home farm using the seeds given to you in your Triscuit box.  It’s fun, friendly, and encouraging the revival home grown food (one of the most basic skill sets that we need).  If you check out Triscuit’s website you can find tips on how to start your own home farm.

Then, browsing the internet, Google popped up an ad for SunChips compostable bags.

I feel so hopeful seeing these two shining examples of consumer demand.  These are big brands finally responding to what could be good for us.  Can anyone else believe its taken so long to get to this point?  I mean, they can put a man on the moon, but they can’t make compostable consumer goods packaging?  Never say can’t.  Don’t say never either.  Also, try not to say “don’t” or “not”.  Just say “Yes!”

I am very excited for the day that everyone has their own compost bin.  Most (if not all) packaging could be made of this kind of material,  and rooftop gardens wouldn’t just be a premium – they’ll be as standard as doors, walls, and windows.

Keep up the good work, everyone.  The more you demand from your products, the more those producers must respond.



SuperForest Heroes! – Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak & Sulabh International!


Gooood Morning SuperForest,

This great man is Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. He founded and runs Sulabh International.

Sulabh International is a social service organization in India that builds toilet complexes. Three quarters of people living in India are without access to toilets, so these complexes do wonders for the local communities. The Sulabh complexes free people from the indignity of having to poo out in public, as well as keeping the environment free of human waste. Women who had to “hold it” during the day or risk their modesty now have a place to go, helping them avoid a number of health issues. The Sulabh complex provides toilets, showers, and rooms for nursing mothers, all for the equivalent of two cents. The toilet/sanitation complexes also frees the former scavenger class (predominantly women) whose job it had been to go and manually pick up the humanure.

Here are some numbers:

“More than 7,500 Sulabh public toilets constructed and maintained throughout the country.
Each day, over 10 million people use the 1.2 million individual toilets and more than 7500 public toilets constructed and maintained by Sulabh.
Number of scavengers liberated: More than 120,000 scavengers have been liberated from scavenging and rehabilitated after proper counseling and vocational training.
Towns made Scavenging-free: 240”

With the money generated from the toilets, Sulabh runs a chain of schools dedicated to educating the former scavengers who job it used to be to go and clean up the poo. These lucky folks receive the education free of charge.


“(Dr. Pathak) has made innovative use of biogas creation by linking Sulabh toilets to fermentation plants, he had designed over three decades ago and which are now becoming a byword for sanitation in developing countries all over the world. One of the distinctive feature of Pathak’s project lies in the fact that besides producing odour-free bio-gas, it also releases clean water rich in phosphorus and other ingredients which are important constituents of organic manure. His sanitation movement ensures cleanliness and prevents greenhouse gas emission.”

His initial invention was the dual pit composting latrine. A low water-use system that can serve hundreds of people, it turns humanure into biogas for lights and power generation, and in the end renders the manure inert and useful for agriculture.


This simple system is now in service all across India, serving millions of people, cleaning the environment and freeing people from manual scavenging. The Sulabh complexes are a massive win for the people of India.

And I’m very much hoping that they could be a win for the United States as well. A clean, composting latrine facility that uses very little water, creates fertilizer and biogas, cleans the water, and gives people a comfortable place to do their thing, all while generating income is a great idea. Saves water, runs clean, generates energy, makes people happy, makes money.

SuperForest is beginning a partnership with Dr. Pathak and Sulabh to help communicate their incredible work within the US and wherever SuperForesters are reading this. In return, Dr. Pathak has agreed to an interview (hopefully series of interviews), as well as sharing the details of his technology with us, and sharing with SuperForest the stories of his works and triumphs.


Dr. Pathak, you and your organization are an inspiration to me and Team SuperForest. Thank you for the hundreds of thousands of lives that you have improved with your selflessness and generosity. You have worked to fulfill Ghandi’s wish to free the scavenging class from the horrors of manual refuse cleaning, and worked to rehabilitate and educate those who your work has freed. Thank you for your dedication to creating happiness.

We look forward to working with you and Sulabh for many years.

-Jackson & Team SuperForest

Mayor Boris and EFRA Strategise to Reduce Waste


Good Evening SuperForesters

Following the UK news this week, I was excited to see that with the new year comes politicians setting out new strategies to reduce waste:  EFRA (the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee made up of Members of Parliament) published their Report into UK waste and London Mayor Boris Johnson announced “London’s Wasted Resource”, his draft municipal waste strategy for London. And to those unfamiliar with him: yes, that really is his hair.


The EFRA report recommended that the government introduce “mandatory collection” of food waste from our houses (or flats) and ban leftovers going to landfill.  They also encouraged the government to set targets for separate collection of food waste for composting or producing energy, and said that councils should provide support for us to compost at home  (incidentally, it’s definitely worth checking out whether your local council does provide composting support – Camden, although being significantly more expensive than I’d like, did offer me a heavily subsidised wormery delivered to my door – not the worms, they were sent to my office by special delivery – when I delved into the website. Yay!)

The report also called for action to reduce the amount of retail and industrial waste, including suggesting that retailers above a certain size to be required to publish their recycling statistics – which, given that less than 10% of England’s total waste (of a shocking c.330m tonnes a year) is domestic, seems a hugely important area to focus on.  You can read more at the Guardian.


Then came Boris! London’s Wasted Resource outlined plans to cut the amount of rubbish going to landfill sites to zero within 15 years and included his support of a 2010 London-based trial of an American scheme called Recycle Bank, which gives householders shopping vouchers or donations to charity to the value of how much they recycle.  The Strategy is now being consulted on by London Assembly and Greater London Authority until March 15 2010 with a full public consultation due for this summer. You can read more about it here (or if you’re really keen you can scope the whole 174 page document here!)

If you’re at all interested in waste (hey, you’re SuperForesters!) then do please read a truly eye opening article on food waste here (45% of bagged salads?!) and if you’d like to do something about your own, check out Love Food Hate Waste –  a super resource of info and doable tips for how to plan your shop, recipes and clever storage ideas.

It struck me that what both reports have in common is their conception of waste as a resource – both directly (via energy-from-waste technology) or negatively (by reducing waste you open up previously lost revenue).  It seems a little odd, but perhaps that’s the way to get things done on a city-wide/national scale?

Sure, it’s just announcing of broad strategy – and politics (especially in an election year) is full of policies that end up unfulfilled – but it’s great to see it on the agenda, and remember we can vote (literally) with our feet (not literally. Unless you’re really flexible)



(and thank you, as ever, to The Grauniad for bringing me the news)

SuperForester Jackson On Kauai (Updated)

Good Morning SuperForest!!

Yesterday was a very interesting day. I woke up in Manhattan amidst flurries and scurries of snow, and two plane hops later I went to sleep in the greenest, freshest paradise imaginable.

This morning I woke to the singing of birds, the hum of the Wainiha river in the distance… and that’s it. No cars, no horns, no planes, just the sound of the tangelo juicer making fresh juice for all.

As her surprise Christmas present to the family, my wonderful mother worked her butt off and installed an organic garden in the yard. Plus, since we lightly quarreled about it last year, she’s begun composting!

So, I’ve got to go and plant some seedlings and turn a compost heap over.
Such incredible abundance.

I will post more soon.

Love to each and everyone,



Seedlings planted, compost turned.

Nature Mill Makes Indoor Composting Easy and Non-Stinky!

SuperForester Jesse just sent us word of this: the Nature Mill Indoor Composter.

If you haven’t got the luxury of a yard, you put the Nature Mill in your kitchen, where it can turn up to 120 pounds of kitchen scraps a month into compost. That’s super duper, y’all.


Can has for $299.oo plus S&H.

Luckily here in NY we have the farmer’s market, where this wonderful lady stands and not only does she take food scraps, she sells worm compost and educates city dwellers about ways to better use their resources.

You rock, farmer’s market compost lady.

Worms! Can ya dig?

Hey everyone!

Say you wanted to compost your organic waste for a while, but you live in an apartment, or don’t have enough room for a traditional compost in your backyard. Well, with worm composting, now you can! The Can-O-Worms lets you have your very own composter right in your kitchen.

Please allow me to introduce to you some of my friends:

These little guys are the world’s best recyclers. Vermicomposting, simply put, is the process of composting using earthworms. It is very similar to regular composting, but with a few differences. Let’s take a minute to learn about these crazy crawlers, courtesy of Abundant Earth:

They can live for a long time (15 years or more!)
They have both male and female reproductive organs
They can be bred easily at home or school
They produce castings which have a neutral pH (around 7)
Their castings increase crop and pasture yields
They increase the level of essential microbial activity in the soil
They can consume their own body weight in food every day
They double in population every 2-3 months, in ideal conditions

Imagine eating your own body weight in food every day! Worms will eat just about any organic material (except meat), even the useless junk mail you receive. Not so useless anymore, eh? And the castings that your worms leave behind work as a great natural fertilizer!

The Can-O-Worms retails for around 120 bones. If you would like a cheaper, DIY alternative, try making your own!



G Diapers, the modern answer to disposables!?!

Good Afternoon,

I’ve been thinking about this post and diapering, in general, for a long time now. To be honest, when my son was born, I was not ready to start thinking about cloth diapering. I knew it was probably the right thing to do and I have been feeling guilty about using disposable diapers for the last year. But why should I feel guilty? Really, I should. If you saw how many dirty diapers one child can produce in a week (let alone, a year), it makes you wonder why anyone is still using disposables, knowing what we know about landfills. I always rationalized what I was doing with the common excuses, “At least I’m using Seventh Generation diapers that are chlorine-free” or “I’m a new mom, I have a lot of things to deal with right now”.
For the past few months, I’ve been doing some research to try and figure out what would make the most sense for us. We live in NYC and I don’t have a washer/dryer in my apt. The thought of using cloth diapers and doing laundry every two days, still seems a little overwhelming. Yes, there are diapering services. That is an option that I may still look into. I can go on and on about the pros and cons of all the different ways to catch poo, but let me focus on what I have just tried: G Diapers.
Here’s the low down: They are marketed as somewhere in between cloth and disposable. They are made of 3 parts: A cotton cover, a waterproof snap-in liner and a flushable insert. The plastic-free insert can be tossed, flushed or composted. Whichever way you choose to dispose of it, our environment is definitely better off. If you can compost it-it will break down in 50-100 days. Check out their cool video showing the different diapers breaking down (or not breaking down!).

So, here’s some great news-If you live in NYC, I went to the Union Square Market yesterday, where there is a compost drop off, and they will accept the wet diapers! I just need to keep them separate from food scraps (and not use diaper cream with zinc or the poopy diapers). How awesome!

Some people have issues with their septics, but I live in a big building and the flushing has been no problem–totally easy! To be honest, I haven’t completely switched over. Sleeping through the night and staying dry is not something I’m ready to mess with, but I will soon and I do believe that every little bit helps.
Let’s face it, disposables are easy. I am always in a park, or on the go somewhere and disposables make life easier. But, G diapers are pretty easy too. I think there is a learning curve with getting the fit right and making sure the 3 parts are all where they should be, but I’m willing to figure it out. They are Cradle to Cradle Certified and they are trying to revolutionize the way we are dealing with poo!
Two thumbs up to G diapers! If you have a little one and have been hesitant to making the switch, try their starter kits-It is a great way to test them out!
Happy Diapering!

Green Building in Battery Park

Good Morning!

If you are moving to NYC or already living in New York and are looking for a new neighborhood, how about trying Battery Park? Many developers have been attracted to the area and there a couple options for cutting edge “green” buildings.

The Riverhouse and the Solaire.

By comparison:
They both have on-site water and air filtration systems for the purest air and cleanest water. Both use materials that are locally acquired and renewable. They use non-polluting emitting paints and materials (you know, all the nicey nice woods and flooring), Energy Star appliances and lots of other good stuff that has been carefully thought through to make your surroundings as environmentally responsible as one can expect from a luxury high-rise building in Manhattan.

They both also have Photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight to electricity.

Some differences are the Riverhouse seems to be more luxury and cater to the more posh crowd. Yes, this is the one that Mr. Dicaprio might be moving to.

The Solaire also has a neat water system. They use an in-building waste water treatment system that supplies toilet water and make-up water for central air conditioning. They also catch the rainwater from the rooftop garden for irrigation.

Neither one seems to address the issues of composting or recycling programs, but maybe in time…

These aren’t new concepts or something that hasn’t been done before, but they are novel for these urban environments. It is very forward thinking for developers to hop on the “green” trend and realize that just because we live in a loud, dirty, congested and polluted (but absolutely spectacular and inspiring) city doesn’t mean our homes need to be that way.

We can look forward to going home at night and enter our own oasis amidst the chaos.

Nice progress New York!
Live well!

This is from The Solaire’s website-I just think it’s funny:

Clever Swiss

Apparently, Switzerland’s trash situation is so together, they have specific trash cans just for batteries.

NYC needs these too.

Here’s a great International Herald Tribune article about “waste collection” in Zurich.

Have a good Monday.


(Thanks to Andrew for the photo.)