Posts Tagged ‘waste’

Cow Power: Reducing waste, boosting electricity supply

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on January 23rd, 2013

Article source: The Morning Sentinel.

Cow Manure CC BY Ian Barbour

Image by Ian Barbour via Creative Commons

From ”Cow power’ turns manure, food waste into mighty electricity source’ by Ben McCanna

“Every day in rural Penobscot County, a large dairy farm harnesses clean-burning gas from cow manure and food waste, and it generates enough electricity to power 800 homes continuously. The process, commonly known as cow power, has the potential to earn the facility $800,000 a year. It also creates byproducts — animal bedding and a less-odorous fertilizer — that save the farm about $100,000 a year. Cow power is more consistent than solar and wind energy, and it eliminates greenhouses gases that otherwise would enter the atmosphere. The $5.5 million project could pay for itself in five years.”

>>> You can learn more about cow power here or here.


Open-Source Modular Design Systems

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on December 20th, 2012

Source: Resilience

Evolution of Coffee Filter

From “How to make everything ourselves: Open modular hardware” by Kris de Decker:

Reverting to traditional handicrafts is one way to sabotage the throwaway society. In this article, we discuss another possibility: the design of modular consumer products, whose parts and components could be re-used for the design of other products.

Initiatives like OpenStructures, Grid Beam, and Contraptor combine the modularity of systems like LEGO, Meccano and Erector with the collaborative power of digital success stories like Wikipedia, Linux or WordPress. An economy based on the concept of re-use would not only bring important advantages in terms of sustainability, but would also save consumers money, speed up innovation, and take manufacturing out of the hands of multinationals. A modular system unites the advantages of standardisation (as parts can be produced cheaply in large amounts) with the advantages of customisation (since a large diversity of unique objects can be made with relatively few parts). Modularity can be found to a greater or lesser extent in many products (like bicycles and computers) and systems (like trains and logistics), but the best examples of modular systems are toys: LEGO, Meccano, and Erector (which is now the brand name of Meccano in the US).

[…]

In spite of the similarities, there is one fundamental difference between modular construction systems such as OpenStructures, Grid Beam and Contraptor, and modular toys such as LEGO, Meccano and Erector. The first group consists of “open” modular systems, where everyone is free to design and produce parts, while the second consists of “closed” modular systems, where all parts are designed and produced by one manufacturer. Closed modular systems produce uniform parts. For instance, all LEGO building blocks are made of plastic. LEGO does not produce building blocks made of wood, aluminium, glass or ceramics. There is a limited range of colours. And because LEGO is a closed system, nobody else is allowed to produce LEGO pieces.

[…]

An open modular system has many advantages over a closed modular system. Since anyone can design parts in an open system, it generates a much larger diversity of parts: they can be made in different colours and materials, and none of the producers can set a fixed price for all consumers. And because many designers constantly review, adapt and improve each others’ work, innovation is accelerated. All open software systems described above are arguably better than their closed counterparts, and some of them have become more successful. A closed modular system only has one advantage: the one who holds the copyright makes a lot of money.

[…]

Open modular construction does not mean that everyone should make their own consumer products. An object like a coffee maker or a workbench could be obtained in at least three ways. Firstly, the consumer can download the digital design and then assemble the object with parts that he or she buys, re-uses, or makes using a 3D-printer or laser cutter, whether at home or at a fab lab or tech shop. It can also happen in a more low-tech fashion, as is the case with Grid Beam: the consumer buys wood or metal beams, and drills the holes himself.

A second option is that a company buys the license of the design (if it is not free) and converts it into a building kit, comparable to a kit from LEGO, Meccano or Erector. In this case, the consumer would not have to search for the parts himself, but he still assembles the product himself, just like he would assemble a piece of furniture by IKEA. Similarly, a company could offer a more general building kit, which can be used to make whatever one would like, similar to a box of basic LEGO bricks. Bit Beam, Contraptor, Open Beam, Maker Beam and, recently, Grid Beam offer one or both of these options.

The third possibility is that a manufacturer places the object on the market as a finished, assembled product. The coffee maker or the workbench would then be sold and bought just as any other product today, but it can be disassembled after use, and its parts can be re-used for other objects.

[…]

Read the full article by Kris de Decker at Resilience or at Low-Tech – the grabs (above) from the article don’t do true justice to the original.

 


Sweden’s trash power – keeping up with demand

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on November 27th, 2012


Photo by Vattenfall via Flickr CC.

From the article “Sweden imports waste from European neighbors to fuel waste-to-energy program” on Public Radio International.

When it comes to recycling, Sweden is incredibly successful. Just four percent of household waste in Sweden goes into landfills. The rest winds up either recycled or used as fuel in waste-to-energy power plants. Burning the garbage in the incinerators generates 20 percent of Sweden’s district heating, a system of distributing heat by pumping heated water into pipes through residential and commercial buildings. It also provides electricity for a quarter of a million homes. According to Swedish Waste Management, Sweden recovers the most energy from each ton of waste in the waste to energy plants, and energy recovery from waste incineration has increased dramatically just over the last few years. The problem is, Sweden’s waste recycling program is too successful.

Catarina Ostlund, Senior Advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency said the country is producing much less burnable waste than it needs. “We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and that is usable for incineration,” Ostlund said. However, they’ve recently found a solution. Sweden has recently begun to import about eight hundred thousand tons of trash from the rest of Europe per year to use in its power plants. The majority of the imported waste comes from neighboring Norway because it’s more expensive to burn the trash there and cheaper for the Norwegians to simply export their waste to Sweden. In the arrangement, Norway pays Sweden to take the waste off their hands and Sweden also gets electricity and heat.  But dioxins in the ashes of the waste byproduct are a serious environmental pollutant. Ostlund explained that there are also heavy metals captured within the ash that need to be landfilled. Those ashes are then exported to Norway. This arrangement works particularly well for Sweden, since in Sweden the energy from the waste is needed for heat. According to Ostlund, when both heat and electricity are used, there’s much higher efficiency for power plants. “So that’s why we have the world’s best incineration plants concerning energy efficiency. But I would say maybe in the future, this waste will be valued even more so maybe you could sell your waste because there will be a shortage of resources within the world,” Ostlund said.

Ostlund said Sweden hopes that in the future Europe will build its own plants so it can manage to take care of its own waste. “I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries. They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste,” Ostlund said. In fact, landfilling remains the principal way of disposal in those countries, but new waste-to-energy initiatives have been introduced in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania. It is also important, Ostlund notes, for Sweden to find ways to reduce its own waste in the future. “This is not a long-term solution really, because we need to be better to reuse and recycle, but in the short perspective I think it’s quite a good solution,” Ostlund concluded.

>> You can read the original article on Public Radio International.
>> You can also listen to the interview with Catarina Ostlund by Bruce Gellerman on Living on Earth.


Fix-it culture thriving in Amsterdam repair cafes.

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on May 18th, 2012

Source: NY Times


Photo from 1010uk via flickr CC

From “An Effort to Bury a Throwaway Culture One Repair at a Time” by Sally McGrane

AMSTERDAM — An unemployed man, a retired pharmacist and an upholsterer took their stations, behind tables covered in red gingham. Screwdrivers and sewing machines stood at the ready. Coffee, tea and cookies circulated. Hilij Held, a neighbor, wheeled in a zebra-striped suitcase and extracted a well-used iron. “It doesn’t work anymore,” she said. “No steam.” Ms. Held had come to the right place. At Amsterdam’s first Repair Cafe, an event originally held in a theater’s foyer, then in a rented room in a former hotel and now in a community center a couple of times a month, people can bring in whatever they want to have repaired, at no cost, by volunteers who just like to fix things.

Conceived of as a way to help people reduce waste, the Repair Cafe concept has taken off since its debut two and a half years ago. The Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus. Thirty groups have started Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, where neighbors pool their skills and labor for a few hours a month to mend holey clothing and revivify old coffee makers, broken lamps, vacuum cleaners and toasters, as well as at least one electric organ, a washing machine and an orange juice press.

“In Europe, we throw out so many things,” said Martine Postma, a former journalist who came up with the concept after the birth of her second child led her to think more about the environment. “It’s a shame, because the things we throw away are usually not that broken. There are more and more people in the world, and we can’t keep handling things the way we do. I had the feeling I wanted to do something, not just write about it,” she said. […] “I think it’s a great idea,” said Han van Kasteren, a professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology who works on waste issues. “The social effect alone is important. When you get people together to do something for the environment, you raise consciousness. And repairing a vacuum cleaner is a good feeling.” […]

Ms. Tellegen added that older people in particular find a niche at the Repair Cafe. “They have skills that have been lost,” she said. “We used to have a lot of people who worked with their hands, but our whole society has developed into something service-based.” Evelien H. Tonkens, a sociology professor at the University of Amsterdam, agreed. “It’s very much a sign of the times,” said Dr. Tonkens, who noted that the Repair Cafe’s anti-consumerist, anti-market, do-it-ourselves ethos is part of a more general movement in the Netherlands to improve everyday conditions through grass-roots social activism.

“It’s definitely not a business model,” Ms. Postma said. She added that because the Repair Cafe caters to people who find it too expensive to have their items fixed, it should not compete with existing repair shops. The Repair Cafe Foundation provides interested groups with information to help get them started, including lists of tools, tips for raising money and marketing materials. Ms. Postma has received inquiries from France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, South Africa and Australia. […]

Theo van den Akker, an accountant by day, had taken on the case of the nonsteaming iron. Wearing a T-shirt that read “Mr. Repair Café,” Mr. van den Akker removed the plastic casing, exposing a nest of multicolored wires. As he did, Ms. Held and Ms. van der Rhee discussed the traditional Surinamese head scarves that Ms. Held, who was born in Suriname, makes for a living. When Mr. van den Akker put the iron back together, two parts were left over — no matter, he said, they were probably not that important. He plugged the frayed cord into a socket. A green light went on. Rusty water poured out. Finally, it began to steam.

Read the full article by Sally McGrane.


Smart Low-Tech Designs: Improving harvest yield and storage

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on January 11th, 2012

This week Nourishing the Planet TV showcases some of the work that Compatible Technology International is doing to help farmers preserve or process their crops to reduce loss:

“In its effort to alleviate poverty and hunger in the developing world, Compatible Technology International (CTI) designs, builds, and distributes affordable post-harvest tools—such as a cool storage shed and food processing grinder—for rural farmers in the developing world. CTI’s devices can help farmers process, store, and sell their crops.

While many organizations are focused on improved seeds, access to fertilizers, and irrigation to improve crop yields, relatively few are focused on post-harvest improvements. But many poor farmers live on yields from a hectare or less of land and getting the maximum benefit from those yields can make up the difference between abject poverty and a livable income.

CTI’s technologies are scaled to fit the needs of small villages, families, coops, and micro-businesses. Extra attention is paid to developing safe, affordable, environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, and culturally compatible devices in the hope that they will be more widely adopted and facilitate lasting change in poor farming communities. CTI encourages craftsmen and entrepreneurs in and around these communities to build and sell their devices, reducing dependence on outside assistance once the technology has been adopted.” Matt Styslinger

The episode is essentially taken from an article published by Matt Styslinger for NtP in June last year, so you can choose between reading the full article or watching the synopsis.


Making Toys From Waste: Small interventions

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on December 21st, 2011

Makedo:

Wouldn’t you love to make play objects, kid’s costumes, furniture, decorations for the home and well, just about anything you can think of from the materials around you? makedo makes it possible and impossibly fun. makedo is a connector system that enables materials including cardboard, plastic and fabric to easily join together to form new objects or structures. When you’re done playing, simply pull it apart to reuse over and over again.

http://mymakedo.com/

Box Play for Kids:

We make eco-friendly, 100% recycled, custom-designed stickers* that (combined with a little imagination) turn any old box into a wonderland of possibilities. Good for the imagination. Good for the earth. Good for the pocketbook.

http://www.boxplayforkids.com/


Diverting waste to make durable products: Replas on Kangaroo Island

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on December 19th, 2011

From the Re-Plas blog:

Not only was Kangaroo Island, in South Australia, one of the first locations in Australia to ban the use of plastic bags, but now the KI Council has gone a step further in helping the planet by installing 27 outdoor settings, 900 bollards and a staircase, all made from recycled plastic.

Ian Woolard, Co-ordinator Civil Works, Kangaroo Island Council, said, ‘We were looking for a product that would stand up the elements experienced on the South coast of Kangaroo Island and one that would incur the minimum ongoing maintenance cost to Council’.   As a result of choosing to use recycled plastic KI council has diverted approx. 22,000 kg of plastic waste from landfill in 2010-11 alone.

Six years ago Kangaroo Island started the trend by purchasing recycled plastic seats for their school. More recently the local Landcare Group built a staircase out of garden panels and the Kingscote Jetty was also refurbished with Enduroplank™ decking as part of a trail by the South Australian government to see if recycled plastic proves more durable and cost effective than timber.  All of this adds up to an estimated 35 000 kg of plastic waste which has been diverted from landfill and made into Replas recycled-plastic products for use throughout Kangaroo Island. Not bad for an island with a population of 4500!


Food Waste & Blaming the Individual: Research Article

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 13th, 2011

Source: Food Climate Research Network (FCRN)


Photo by abbyladybug via flickr CC

From “Attitudes to and behaviours around food waste“:

This paper is written by David Evans of the Sustainable Consumption Institute. It is based on observations of ‘ordinary’ people shopping for and preparing food (19 households in all). It argues that, contrary to the prevailing view, people do know how to cook and do care about throwing food away. However it argues that the pressure to ‘eat properly’, in part a consequence of the styles promoted by celebrity chefs, gives rise to food purchasing habits that are unrealistic and give rise to waste. It concludes by suggesting ways in which food waste can be reduced – by portion resizing and by moves to “normalise the provisioning of foodstuffs that are not susceptible to rapid decay” (ie. tins, dried foods, frozen foods etc).

Reference and abstract as follows:

Evans D (2011). Blaming the consumer – once again: the social and material contexts of everyday food waste practices in some English households, Critical Public Health, 1–12

DOI:10.1080/09581596.2011.608797

In public debates about the volume of food that is currently wasted by UK households, there exists a tendency to blame the consumer or individualise responsibilities for affecting change. Drawing on ethnographic examples, this article explores the dynamics of domestic food practices and considers their consequences in terms of waste. Discussions are structured around the following themes: (1) feeding the family; (2) eating ‘properly’; (3) the materiality of ‘proper’ food and its intersections with the socio-temporal demands of everyday life and (4) anxieties surrounding food safety and storage. Particular attention is paid to the role of public health interventions in shaping the contexts through which food is at risk of wastage. Taken together, I argue that household food waste cannot be conceptualised as a problem of individual consumer behaviour and suggest that policies and interventions might usefully be targeted at the social and material conditions in which food is provisioned.

Read the article and related links on FCRN.

Or read about it on the SCI website.

 


Design for Repair: Teakettle Craft Project

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 11th, 2011

Source: Fast Company‘s Co.Design

Photos: Jean Baptiste Fastrez

From A Series Of Teakettles, Merges Craft and Mass Production by Belinda Lanks:

Like so many generic office towers, electric teakettles (standard in European households) soak up precious real estate without offering the slightest bit of aesthetic value. The Parisian designer Jean-Baptiste Fastrez wants to change that, by creating one-of-a-kind teakettles, with the help of artisans and a few mass-produced parts. For his “Variations Upon a Teakettle” project, Fastrez merged the industrial and handmade, combining standard-issue electric parts, which meet safety and heat regulations, with beautiful, artisan-crafted vessels. In his words: “In opposition to the industrial ideal (an object for all) is a more human and sustainable production: something for everyone.” The project is a touch profound — demonstrating how craftspeople can still add lasting value, despite all the trappings of modern production.

If an electric teakettle can be assembled from off-the-shelf (OEM) heating elements as well as handmade vessels, then these separate components can be repaired or replaced if they are damaged or when the owner’s taste changes.  That would be an enormous improvement on the current system, where mass-manufactured kettles are very difficult to repair and are usually thrown away. Kate A


Eco-Ideation Tool: Re-Thinking Product Design

Posted in Research, Tools by Kate Archdeacon on August 3rd, 2011

Source: Food Climate Research Network (FCRN)


Bocken N M P, Allwood J M, Willey A R and King J M H (2011). ‘Development of an eco-ideation tool to identify stepwise greenhouse gas emissions reduction options for consumer goods’ Journal of Cleaner Production 19 1279-1287

Abstract

Pressure on consumer goods manufacturers to develop new products with significantly less environmental impact is growing, through increased consumer awareness of environmental issues and governments setting ambitious emissions reductions targets. A strategic response to this pressure is to prepare a portfolio of innovative product ideas to meet a range of future emissions reductions targets.However, although extensive work exists on ideation (the generation of novel product ideas) and ecodesign (design for reduced environmental impact), eco-ideation (generation of ideas that particularly aim to reduce environmental impacts) has had little attention.

The challenge of eco-ideation is to release the creativity of a broad range of employees, only few of whom may be familiar with the drivers of environmental impact. This paper proposes a novel tool to facilitate the generation of radical product and process ideas giving step-change reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The features of products and processes that drive greenhouse gas emissions across the product life cycle were characterized with a set of indicators. A simple visual tool was created to show these indicators on a sliding scale between best and worst imaginable performance. A leading question associated with each slider was designed to stimulate lower impact ideas.

The tool was iteratively refined and simplified through structured testing with individuals from across a range of roles and differing knowledge of environmental impacts. The final eco-ideation tool used 14 scales, with leading questions for each scale developed to stimulate idea generation. The tool’s effectiveness was evaluated through use in a series of 15 individual workshops and compared with the outcomes of an equal number of conventional 12-person group-brainstorming sessions.

The comparison suggests that using the simple tool generally leads to a wider range of more radical ideas than emerge from group brainstorming.

Read more about the Eco-Ideation paper here.