the heart of this project, literally and figuratively, is a commercial
composting facility. This is a field
with a successful track-record, and one which can often be financed by grants. The operator of the facility would partner
with existing businesses and organizations to turn organic waste (food
residuals, paper, wood chips, animal bedding etc) into energy and a natural alternative
to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
that’s not all, as they say. Utilizing a
derelict building or buildings, one would create an entire green campus in
which a number of related enterprises would form a consortium to support each
other, cross-promote products and services, and share overheads. Made up of new and existing businesses, and a
strong educational element, the consortium would have the critical mass needed
to become a destination. Start-up costs would be covered by multiple sources,
and risk spread widely. It would in essence be an incubator or shop window for green businesses.
have a vision of what this would look like. But that is only a starting
point. With a dedicated groupd of people involved, the plan could
literally change our area into a model for the future: clean, Green and
STEUBEN COUNTY RESOURCE RECOVERY CONSORTIUM
wonderful phrase resource recovery is!
How much meaning is implied by those two linked words. In most cases,
resource recovery means keeping organic matter from going to waste either
through composting or by generating energy.
But for me the
phrase is far more evocative. It could
mean that our resources have been ill and we are helping them to recover; it
could mean that our resources were kidnapped, and we have recovered them. There are many, many resources and many ways
to recover them.
In order to
address the problems of waste management, energy security, climate change, soil
fertility and unemployment, I propose the establishment of a Resource Recovery
The goals of this consortium would be:
divert all organic material from the landfill to a compost facility, and from
there back to the land
recycle or re-use every possible scrap of non-organic material
provide education about resource recovery
demonstrate the possibilities of alternative energy
provide an outlet for all green businesses
offer support to green services
a location like the Ames Plaza in Painted Post (unfortunately already taken!!!!), there could be a Green Campus
made up of
indoor composting facility
zero-sort recycling drop off point
common office and switchboard
recycled art studio
locavore restaurant and farmer's co-op
With a critical
mass of inter-related enterprises, this could become a destination as well as a
center for green businesses, and we could begin to rival San Francisco which is
currently leading the march towards being a zero waste city.
An indoor composting facility
There is a
perception that any compost facility must be an eye-sore and smelly to
boot. By locating the facility indoors,
one avoids these negative perceptions, but there are also very positive aspects
to such a location. The most suitable
method of composting for an indoor enterprise, the aerated static pile, is also
the one of the most efficient and easy-to-operate systems. Furthermore, the heat generated by the
compost can be used to heat the entire complex.
feedstock (what goes into the compost) would require partnering with many
existing businesses to divert valuable organic material from the landfill. It is possible to deal directly with
restaurants, schools and hospitals to gather food residuals, or offices to
gather waste paper and cardboard, tree services for wood chips and stables for
horse bedding. But perhaps it is easier
to use existing trash haulage businesses to gather the material and deliver it
to the compost facility rather than the landfill.
It is possible
that one of the existing businesses in the area would see this as an
opportunity to expand and diversify.
Perhaps an entrepreneur would like to become the co-ordinator who brings
together existing businesses to supply the new facility.
There are costs
involved with setting up an enterprise like this. The building would need to be adapted,
(access doors, fans) and some equipment purchased (a grinder, aeration devices).
However, because of the climate change
implications (compost is carbon neutral), there are grants available to help
A zero-sort recycling drop off point
several ways this could go. I envision
it as a joint venture for any company in the area that is already dealing with
recycling. I would like to see the scope
of recycling expanded to include electronics, batteries, all glass, all metal,
all plastics, construction material, and more.
In the poorer parts of the world, there is no trash because everything
is re-used in some way or another. There
is a company called Terracycle which collects things like drink pouches, chip
bags, tooth brushes and many more. They
have found a way of “upcycling” many products that are considered
un-recyclable. What an opportunity for
some imaginative people to find new uses for junk. Studio space would allow
artists to come, select materials and actually work on the spot.
become a factory of some sort, not just a collection point. I see many
An off-the-grid building
the heat generated by the compost, one could retrofit the building to be highly
energy efficient, add solar panels to the extensive roof, collect and store
water, install waterless toilets, maybe have a wind turbine. All this work would be done by alternative
energy companies who need a way to show how effective their methods are – a
working showroom, if you like.
A retail store/shared office
This would need
some capital to set up, but overheads would be low as all utilities would be
free. The staff of the store could
double as secretarial staff for other businesses in the consortium, again
reducing and spreading costs.
The store would
be the outlet for the composting facility selling in bulk or bagged, as well as
home composting kits, rain barrels, thermometers, soil-testing kits, books, and
It would also
be the outlet for solar panels, wind turbines, hydrogen cells and other
alternative energies as they become available.
A service desk would put customers in touch with companies which perform
energy audits and retrofit buildings, sellers and installers of insulation,
installers of green roofs or rain gardens, sellers of greenhouses, creative
plumbers (to divert gray water into the garden, for example). Any business with an interest in renewable
energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation and green living should have a
presence. Along the theme of resource
recovery, there would be registry of
anyone who repairs anything, so that stuff can be renewed and not thrown away –
appliances, small machinery, computers, jewelry, clocks, DVD players (that’s
personal – I need one), shoes, guitars, anything that can be made to work
This is the
part that I would like to do. I’m on a
mission to save the earth one compost heap at a time. This would be a great way to get the message
to a large number of people.
I envisage a
classroom for lectures and workshops; a demonstration garden made up of
different home composting systems; various ways to grow vegetables at home – raised
beds, containers, in ground; samples of stakes and supports; a solar
greenhouse; cloches, row covers, cold frames (all available in the store) and
so on. The garden would be anchored by a
shed built entirely out of recycled or repurposed materials. What a wonderful project for a school, BOCES,
a scout troop or the College to take on. Students would design and then
construct the shed, hopefully videotaping the process to encourage similar
structures in the future. There might be
space for a small community garden, although I have my eye on the temporary
parking lot off Pulteney Street for a larger, attractive, even artsy communal
garden, when it is returned to “green space”.
lectures and workshops, there would be tours for school groups, garden clubs,
and others interested in a green future.
The tour would include the garden, the compost facility, and the
generate a small amount of income, and take care of those items that can’t
easily be recycled, and are too interesting to throw away, there would be a
weekly or bi-weekly flea market. The British
have boot sales where anything you want to sell comes in the boot (trunk) of
your car. For a modest fee, anyone who
wanted to could park near the demonstration garden and try to sell their
bric-a-brac, junk and odds and ends.
A Locavore Restaurant
complement to all this “greenery” would be a breakfast and lunch restaurant
with a simple menu sourced entirely from local farms. Those farms might also like to have an outlet for all their produce. They could have a co-op grocery store including baked goods, preserves, meats, eggs and seasonal fruits and vegetables.