Environmental Waste Solutions

Kia Ora!  This page covers a few environmentally friendly waste solutions that can be applied from an eco-village point of view right down to where you individually can make changes.   By just glancing at this blog, you have shown that you have some sort of consideration for the plight of the earth.  And if this earthly worry is strong enough for you to be interested in creating your own eco-village, the world thanks you.  However successfully implementing this insightful way of thinking can sometimes be difficult.  This is particularly true when it comes to managing waste in an environmentally responsible way.

There aren’t too many human activities that don’t produce some sort of waste, be it in solid, liquid or gas form and with no way of eradicating waste totally its all about deciding on the best ways to approach the matter within each situation. This page will focus on how you as an individual and as part of a community can manage waste in a way that will make future generations proud.

There are many people and communities that have taken the initiative over the years in an effort to reduce their impact on their environment and this page will draw on ideas from around the world as inspiration.    It will begin by highlighting a school of thought regarding a eco-friendly waste management system, followed by a range of ideas and examples of how to go about reducing and managing waste while looking after number 1: mother earth.

So with a bit of luck one of the following ideas will rub off and you’ll find yourself leading your friends, family and community into the battle of the green like a true eco-warrior.

Thinking Waste?

A waste management system refers to the strategy used to treat waste materials, often including the collection, transportation, recycling, and disposal or processing of waste.  There are obviously a huge variety of waste management systems in place throughout the world, but not all are up to scratch ecologically.

Waste is only what we throw away, is it not?  Then why not just throw nothing away?  Zero Waste is a philosophy that encapsulates such an idea by encouraging the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused and recycled.  Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

The idea is easier said then done, so shoot for the stars and design a Total Recycling System (TRS) for your community.  A good TRS aims for zero waste and if implemented well is able to live up to its hype.  Of course this type of system is a big vision and takes a special effort from a dedicated community (such as those interested in living in an eco-village) to pull it off successfully.

Designing your own TRS will not be an easy task but here are a few things that need to be remembered when considering a zero waste scheme:

  • Waste isn’t waste until its wasted – the TRS state of mind and catch phrase
  • Recyclers handle discards not waste – Discards are either recycled or wasted, there will always be discards but recycling is the desired result.
  • Discards become Resources – By recycling instead of downgrading discards to waste, discards become resources.
  • Cover all your bases – provide recycling for the 12 master categories of recyclable materials.  http://www.grrn.org has a list regarding the 12 categories available, along with some other valuable insights into the world of zero waste.
  • Banning and Precycling (source reduction)- some things will never be recyclable, consume wisely.
  • Zero Waste is the ultimate goal – it won’t happen over night, but it will happen

Now that the ultimate goal of dealing with waste has been set, lets explore ways of reaching it.

One mans junk…..

A good way of reducing your waste and reaching Zero Waste is by looking at your waste in a different light. Could it be used for something else?  With this kind of thinking, things that previously considered as junk can often be turned into gold (not literally of course).  There are many examples of this thrifty, imaginatively green way of thinking world-wide.

One man leading the way for ingenious recycling is architect Mike Reynolds.  Reynolds affectionately known as the “Garbage Warrior” has been showing the world what can be done with common waste on a large scale for decades.

Mike Reynolds

Reynolds uses all types of waste such as old tyres, beer cans and plastic bottles to create houses in a process he calls Earthship Biotecture.   Reynolds recycles these discarded items as-is which is certainly not the conventional and energy-consuming method of recycling, but he has come up with a number of amazing results.  Reynolds houses offer a relaxed way of life, survivable without being attached to the grid.  In 2007 a documentary called “the Garbage Warrior” was made which celebrates Reynolds life and work and is worth a watch for inspiration alone.

One of Reynolds "Earthships"

This is obviously on the larger end of the recycling spectrum, but it does show what a little ingenuity and a lot of enthusiasm for creating a sustainable life can achieve in a theme that can be applied at all scales.  Need a new garden shed for your eco-village?  Follow Mike’s lead and use recycled materials

Changes in the Household

Create a list….

The Oxford Dictionary defines waste as: “eliminated or discarded as no longer useful or required after the completion of a process.”  This of course is right, but a green thinking person could see waste as any resource that hasn’t reached its full potential of usefulness.

Reducing waste is as simple as making wise decisions about how you use resources.  Turn lights off when you’re not using them…  Reusable bags instead of plastic bags…..  Hell, even turning the tap off while brushing your teeth.  It’s nothing new, we’ve all heard of these types of things before.  But the matter of fact is that it takes a conscious decision to make these little rules part of your daily life.  Of course the previous examples come as common sense for anybody who even slightly considers the health of our environment.  But these simple examples form a good base to begin a list on how to run a successfully greener household.

Extend your personal list of green behaviour to include things such as,  buying organic…..  driving your car less…..  using handkerchiefs instead of tissues……  By creating and adding to your own personal list, all of these little seemingly insignificant things combine to reduce your household’s waste and wastage and help reduce the pressure on the worlds resources.  Need help with some ideas?  The internet is stacked with them, google it!

Green Consumerism

If you feel like you might be needing to purchase something new, sit and have a ponder…..  Ask yourself if this is something that you might be able to borrow?  Save yourself the cash and ask old Bill next door if you can borrow his lawnmower, or ladder, or whatever.  He won’t mind.  A good way of embracing the community feeling within an eco-village is setting up a borrowing and lending system.

Bill doesn’t have what you want?  Pity.  Have a look at on the Internet at one of the many free websites and see if they’ve got what you want.  One such website is http://www.freecycle.org.  This website is a place for people to post things that they no longer want and if your looking at the right time you may find yourself just what your looking for.  FOR FREE.

No luck there either?  Second hand is the way to go from here.  Second hand stores usually offer an abundance of goodies at great prices.  Plus by buying second hand you a stimulating the second hand market, which stops goods from making it to landfills before its time is up.

Brand new huh?  There are many things that have to be considered when purchasing any type of goods.  Be it price, origin, fair trade, aesthetics, health values, organic….  The list goes on.  But it is this purchasing stage where you can decide on the future of what will and will not become waste.  By making a conscious effort to buy goods that have less packaging and are more adapt at being recycled you are cutting down on the amount of waste you produce before it even enters your home.

This smart shopping makes not only makes sense, but it also makes a difference in the amount of waste that will end up at the ever-growing landfills.

As a Community….

Eating your Discards….

One way of working together as a community is that of community gardening or permaculture (this is covered in depth in a previous chapter).   The benefits of growing your own food extend further than just eating fresh, cheap, healthy, tasty produce, but it is also a great way to reduce and reuse waste.

Reusing organic biodegradable goods on your community garden through composting is a tremendous way of making sure the nutrients from food, grass cuttings and the like are not wasted at a landfill.  With the entire community of your future eco-village providing nearly all of the nutrients needed for your community garden, you will soon be savouring the fruits of your labour.

Waste Water

Building your eco-village from scratch?  There are many different ways of successfully treating wastewater that differ from joining or building high outflow treatment stations.  An eco-village by the name of ZEGG located 80km’s out of Berlin in Germany has designed its own natural wastewater treatment system using soil filters.  The ZEGG community designated a 900 m2 area to produce high quality outflow for up to 300 people and in the process have created a treatment plant that has a low energy consumption and a low environmental impact.    The treatment plant has the following features:

  • A composter for the direct composting of solids
  • A pumping chamber, which applies the water onto the surface of the soil filter
  • Vertical flow in both treatment steps
  • Backflow of the treated water of the first step into the pump chamber
  • Use of willows and poplars instead of reeds as vegetation

These features mimic how nature filters water and with no chemicals used there is a hope that the treated water will one day reach drinking water quality.   Want to know more?  Visit www.zegg.de

Moral of the story

Aiming for the highly esteemed title of a Zero Waste community may seem like it’s a long way off and sometimes even unreachable, but fear not!  Embracing the mindset that comes along with interest in an eco-village means you are far closer to the goal than most people will ever be.  By looking at discards as recyclable materials instead of waste you will be there before you know it. So go now and learn, share and recycle your way into a world of sustainable living.  Good luck!


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