Posts Tagged ‘brooklyn’

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  So it goes for antiques, and now so too for human waste.  Why let a good source of energy go literally down the toilet?  Aside from recycling possible sources of electricity, new  technology saves sewage from contaminating waterways and breeding illness and helps conserve water. With 860 billion gallons of of sewage and contaminated rainwater making its way into our waterways every year, the innovations from these forward-thinking engineers, green-builders, and scientists, are becoming more and more valuable contributions to issues of global health and infrastructure.

Poop and Paddle-  Adam Katzman, a former New Jersey suburban dweller, now calls a houseboat home.  The off-the-grid floating residence sails down the Gowanus Canal in New York.  Located in Brooklyn, the canal is known one of the most polluted waterways in the United States.  Thankfully, Katzman can sail true knowing that his waste processing system makes sure that he is not sullying his watery neighborhood.  By creating a “constructed wetlands” aboard a separate structure, his floating toilet uses bioremediation to clean the water that runs through the contraption.  It uses rainwater catchments to flush,a holding tank that utilizes anaerobic digestion , wetland plants and gravel to filter urine and fecal matter.  Water eventually irrigates a group of planter boxes and is evaporated back into the clouds as clean H20, ready to fall again onto the roof of the “Poo and Paddle” as precipitation.  Each flush makes its way through the whole setup every 30 days.

Reinvent the Toilet- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has long been interested in making a positive difference in the developing world.  Among major concern is the lack of access for adequate sanitation that nearly 2.6 billion of the world’s population cannot afford to install.  In an effort to encourage collaboration, the Foundation awarded eight universities with grants to design toilets that use minimal amounts of water, use waste as a form of potential energy, and could be distributed within the next 2-4 years.  The top prize of $100,000 was awarded to a team from Caltech for their solar-powered apparatus.  Electrical power is produced from solar cells atop an outdoor stall and from the hydrogen gas produced by decomposing waste collected in an electrochemical reactor.  Hydrogen can be stored in fuel cells and saved for low light conditions.  Recovered water is treated through the operation of the toilet, and is used to flush.

Do you own a composting toilet?  How do you let your poo work for you?


Everything breaks.  It is a law of the Universe.  At some point in its life span, an object will begin to wear, degrade, and eventually come undone.  However, some of our tools, pieces of clothing, appliances, and furniture last longer than others.  For the past 80 or so years, planned obsolescence — the intentional design and manufacturing practice meant to ensure the failure of a product — has been a major contributing factor to landfill crowding, waste, and woefully poor construction.  As seen in Annie Leonard’s animation, The Story of Stuff, precious natural resources and good, hard-earned cash are being squandered in the pursuit of acquiring junk and replacing it with new, poorly-made models.

The clear answer to ensuring the longevity of your stuff is simple: fix it.  Yet, where do you go nowadays to make simple repairs that will not break the bank?  Head on down to your local repair cafe, a concept that is beginning to draw proponents of conservation, tinkerers, caffeine hounds, and community advocates.  Beginning in the Netherlands two and a half years ago by a former journalist, the world’s first Repair Cafe occurs in an Amsterdam community center every couple of months.  The gatherings are open to whoever needs assistance or to those willing to help others tune up their miscellaneous odds and ends.  Branching out from its initial humble incarnation in the foyer of a theater, the Cafe is now supported by an official foundation, small donations, and grants from the Dutch government.  There now exist over forty similar start-ups throughout the country, and even a Repair Cafe bus.  The Foundation is working on translating DIY material and tutorials for use in the  United States.

A little closer to home, repair collectives are sprouting up in community centers, coffee shops, and auditoriums.  The West Seattle Fixers Collective holds meetings twice a month at the West Seattle Tool Library, featuring events such as re-sewing umbrellas, repairing espresso makers, laptops, appliances, and mending antiques.  In New York, the Fixers Collective, which has been running since 2008, began as part of an art exhibit in Brooklyn, and continues as a project in residence at Protues Gowanus, and interdisciplinary gallery and reading room.  Fixing sessions include “Master Fixers” who have a range of knowledge and experience, apprentices, and drop-in visitors looking to putter and socialize.

Here in San Luis Obispo, you can cruise on over to the SLO Bicycle Coalition’s Bike Kitchen (860 Pacific St., Suite 105).  The space comes equipped with tools, gear, parts, and experts who can help guide you in your mission to tune up your ride.  The Coalition offers seminars on traffic safety and bicycle maintenance with hands-on demonstrations.  The Kitchen is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4-7pm, and Sunday from 12-4pm.  Day use is $5 (plus any parts purchased), and Coalition members receive 4 free visits.

Give your possessions a little TLC instead of the old heave-ho.  Ask a friend, attend a repair cafe meeting, or search for a video on YouTube.  Your wallet and Mother Nature will thank you!