There’s a lot of umph out there to go back to a simpler time.
After taking some leisure time to peruse other’s blogs and thoughts, I found a distinct pattern of people longing to go back to simplicity, to a clean planet, and to our roots. I should preface, I did search “Earth”.
There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t imagine myself living on a tropical island or in the prairie. No technology. No clothing as we know it today. No conventional toothpaste. All I would have is the love, support, and commune of my family; and the love, support, and commune of nature.
A “teacher” of mine once told me that moving back to these types of times would really not be ideal. Think about having to clean your clothes in a creek, or, yeah, not having toothpaste!
I don’t know that these inconveniences would have been considered inconveniences back then, though.
It’s like getting into your car. That’s not really a major inconvenience. But if thirty years from now we’re all teleporting, driving would seem like washing your clothes in the creek.
There’s just something about a pristine environment that I long for heavily. Maybe because I know it once existed and probably never will again.
Alright guys. Now, this book changed my whole perspective of the world in just a few hundred pages.
Cradle to Cradle, or C2C is more than just a book, it is a movement. To put it in the simplest terms, C2C means reusing items, instead of just using then throwing them out in the trash (aka the grave).
In traditional models, it goes Extract, Produce, Transport, Use, Dispose.
In circular models, it goes Extract, Produce, Transport, Use, Breakdown, Produce, Transport, Use, Breakdown, Produce, Transport, Use… ETC. You see the pattern.
Circular models allow for little to no waste.
What is SOOO important in this model, and what is really pushed in the book, is that we must first produce items thoughtfully. If we pollute quality wood with a bunch of toxic glues, then that wood is really not usable for another round of production.
This part of the concept reminds me of a time I was at work at a very well-known, global coffee corporation. I opened up a brand new, plastic measuring cup. When I took it out of the box, there was a sticker on the bottom. It read:
Caution. May cause harm to reproduction.
What the heck??? Why are we working with seemingly normal items that are so harmful to us there are actual requirements to put on warnings.
We must stop CREATING items that are unhealthy so that we can RECREATE AND RECREATE AND RECREATE items that are natural and without pollution to our bodies, environments, and probably our souls.
We are better than traditional models.
I urge everyone to not only ready Cradle to Cradle (I listened to it on an audiobook) but to also check out the website. There, you can find C2C certified companies that you can support. Reach out to some of your favorite companies that are not using acceptable, biodegradable and reusable materials to make their products. Make them feel the pressure.
It is definitely becoming trendy to raise your own food, and chickens are some of the easiest animals to raise for consumption.
But many aspiring homesteaders are finding out their municipality prohibits these efficient birds. But why?
Chickens are excellent and getting rid of pesky bugs like ticks, they provide scrumptious and nutritious fresh eggs, and can also be raised for their seemingly ubiquitous meat.
So why can’t people be allowed to have them everywhere in some places?
Some say they’re just too noisy. I’d say some untrained dogs are too noisy, too, but oh well.
Some say they smell. Not if they are maintained, definitely not! And I am definitely not opposed to animal control ensuring a smelly hen house gets cleaned up.
Some just don’t like the look. What the heck?
Either way, if you want chickens, I would recommend you to contact your village or city to ask about if they are allowed. If not, maybe put up a little fight. See what you can do to change their minds. It might take a little leg work, but plenty of people have overturned chicken laws in their areas just by starting up a Facebook page and getting some signatures.
Make chickens local. Make chickens legal. It is way better to have your chicken produced in your own backyard than in some dirty, musty and toxic facility thousands of miles away from you.
I whole-heartedly believe humans were not made to live their lives inside all day – especially children.
Yet, we force youth to live the first two decades of their lives in a building with limited access to the outdoors a majority of the day.
We can do better!
School Gardens provide an environment of wealth, health, and fun for children of all ages.
There is an abundance of activities and lessons that can be taught in a garden. Obviously, science can be used to tell how the plants grow, their life cycle, photosynthesis, geology, environment, and more. Math can be used by measuring plants, comparing sixes, adding pieces together, working with angles, and more. History can be used in sooo many ways, as much of our history as humans evolves around food. What did ancient societies eat? How did they farm? What traditions did they follow? These can all be discussed in a school garden. Art, reading, and exercise can also be conducted in and through the school garden.
School gardens are also a place for little ones to regulate themselves emotionally. When a child gets the opportunity to move, they simultaneously relieve stress and anxiety. It is no secret that being around nature is scientifically proven to help humans remain balanced, calm, and happy.
School gardens also teach us basic life skills like how to grow our own food (obvi), how to harvest, and how to cook a meal.
School gardens are way underutilized. If it were up to me, every school would be required to have a school garden – and use it!
Here’s my FAVORITE resource for all things School Garden related: kidsgardening.com
Another one is bluewatermelonproject.org – I actually had the honor of completing an internship with this organization last year. They have excellent resources for implementing garden related topics into school lesson guides! Additionally, they put together an even every year where children have to come up with a recipe that follows both monetary and nutritional guidelines that the school follows using the food grown in the gardens. They come up with some AWESOME dishes.
Get those kids out of the fluorescent lighting and into the sun!
It’s an hour, yeah. But amazing! Gabe Brown is not only an incredible farmer but also a very entertaining speaker.
In this photo, you can see that Gabe Brown never takes a plant out of the ground. Instead, he tramples them down once they are no longer productive. This makes for an excellent sort of “compost” cycle and keeps the nutrients where they belong – on the fields, not the landfills. He grows the new crops right over the old ones. This is a form of cover cropping.
It’s been a few months since I’ve watched this to be honest. But the main takeaways that I can remember is that cover cropping helps to reduce the amount of tilling and pesticide use required to grow adequate amounts of crops.
When you switch from rows and rows of a single crop, you’re making life really hard for nature and the soil. Nothing in nature has endless straight rows of the same plant.
You need diversity! Cover cropping helps the soil maintain a diverse biome. Diversity is essential.
If there is a pest that loves one plant, and if that is the only plant that exists, then that plant is going to get destroyed by the pest because there are no other plants around that can detract that plant. Nature has multiple protection systems like this in place to keep everything in balance. When we take away the diversity, we take away the balance. Cover cropping helps maintain a balance and ensure the soil is in good shape. Soil retains more water and anchors soil in place when the soil is abundantly COVERED by multiple CROPS (ie Cover Cropping)!
I hope you watch the video the next time you have some free time! Let me know what you think.
I can’t wait to have my own little homestead one day. One of the animals I’m looking forward to raising is goats because their milk is delish.
But, goats can offer a lot more than meat and milk nowadays.
Goats have the potential to mitigate against those deadly forest fires we have been seeing become so prevalent, especially on the west coast of the US.
How does this all work exactly? Well, National Geographic does a phenomenal job at describing the details on their article here. But here are the main points:
Forest fires can happen due to excess brush build up. Excess dry brush + extreme heat= fires. Goats come in by eating the dry brush. Typically, to manage brush build up, humans use herbicides and humans to thin the plants. But goats make this job wayyyy easier and less toxic to the environment.
California has recently started using goats to prevent such wildfires and have seen huge success!
Goats are the G.O.A.T when it comes to aiding in forest fire protection.
That’s all for now!
In Soil We Trust,
Check out these other resources on fire stopping goats:
In Gasland, producer Josh Fox makes the argument that natural gas drilling is severely harming waterways and human health, while regulatory commissions turn a blind eye and allow these practices to persist.
The documentary uses emotional appeal, manipulated point of view, and reasoning arguments to make its case. Anyone watching basic human capability and wellness tarnish, or multiple dead innocent animals along a stream, is bound to feel pain and sorrow.
A review of the film highlights these impactful scenes as they note that interviewed landowners experienced clouds of toxic vapor, unbearable smells, unexplainable pain, dizziness, and most notably water that burns when ignited from a running faucet (Johnson, J.D., 2011). These symptoms may very well link to fracking, as fracking brings dangerous wastewater, or produced water, to the surface, which must be stored and can be problematic (Bridge, G., 2012).
Furthermore, the director focuses his interviews on numerous people who are negatively impacted across the country, creating a sense of problem magnitude. The “redzone” was highlighted in some of the interviews, which is depicted in the documentary as a map of the wells in America. Viewers can see that these wells are built rapidly and excessively, and thus are subject to reckless error from moving too hastily, as Fox alludes (Fox, J., 2010).
Finally, and probably most critically, the film makes a crucial argument that fracking is unjustly exempt from regulations, most notably the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. This is not an exaggeration by Fox, as a replica of the Congressional text of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 confirms that, “Section 322 amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to exempt certain hydraulic fracturing techniques from EPA regulations,” (2005).
The documentary showcases defenders of natural gas as being certain there are no issues, and also revealed EPA information and EPA veterans reporting that investigations of the hazardous materials were toxic, yet not a risk (Fox, J., 2010). This argument is effective in captivating Gasland’s message, along with the manipulated point of view and emotional appeal.
While the documentary is heart-rending, there are pieces and perspectives ignored, like the notion that fracking may be less harmful than other energy sources, the voices of the energy industry, and reports indicating that methane water contamination can be naturally occurring.
Natural gas produced for electricity does produce waste, but “generates half of the CO2 that coal does, almost no SO2 or Hg, less NOx and particulates than burning coal, and does not generate billions of tons of toxic coal ash each year” (Jackson, et. al., 2014).
If we do not utilize our natural gas reserves, we are going to keep clinging to the coal monster.
John Hanger, Secretary of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was interviewed by Josh Fox (2010) and noted that “There is no such thing as a perfect energy source”, and we must make tradeoffs, bringing us to the voices of the power industry.
Consumers have a wicked demand for energy because more energy leads to a higher standard of living, and industry producers are simply trying to fulfill their invoices. It makes economic sense to use natural gas as the price has fallen significantly since fracking took off in the United States in 2005 (Kelman, J., 2022).
Finally, these allegations of fracking being the sole cause of flammable water may not be accurate. There have been numerous reports debunking Fox’s most impactful contention. To point out one example, scientists reported that throughout Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, methane has been naturally present for at least 2000 years (Molofsky, L., et. al., 2013).
Evidently, the documentary did not consider society’s iffy energy alternatives or holistic perspective and left out important evidence of plausible causes to water contamination.
Of course, energy demand must be met. Yet, I am deeply disturbed by the utter disregard by regulatory organizations to protect drinking water.
Even if the water burning on fire is not from fracking, there still ought to be an investigation. Overall, this film really urged me to share this information with everyone I know and advocate for regulatory environmental protections on natural gas wells. We have the opportunity to make natural gas clean, and to secure people’s liberties and independence, we must.
This documentary is a must watch but proceed with caution. You may cry, and don’t take everything you view at firsthand.
Bridge, G. (2012). [Review of Gasland, by J. Fox]. Area, 44(3), 388–390.
Okay ya’ll, this is a long one. Feel free to skim to get the general idea. This concept is cool to me so I went pretty hard. Enjoy!
Piezoelectricity is a result of the piezoelectric effect. “Piezo” means to squeeze or to press. This phenomenon was discovered circa 1880 by brothers Pierre and Jacques Curie. In the simplest terms, the piezoelectric effect is when certain materials are applied mechanical pressure or vibration (kinetic energy), they produce an electric charge (electric energy), and piezoelectric generation is a form of vibrational energy harvesting (Jintanawan, et. al., 2020). The charge created has the potential to be transmitted as usable energy directed towards the grid or within a technology device, also known as piezoelectricity. Oppositely, when an electric charge is applied to a certain material the material changes form slightly, which is known as the reverse piezoelectric effect. The Curie brothers discovered this effect by the use of crystals, like quartz. Today, over 200 and materials and counting have been found to have piezoelectric properties, most of these belonging to the ferroelectric family (Sharma, et. al., 2022).
This phenomenon occurs because of the elemental structure of certain crystal lattices, and some other materials, which have a neutralized balance of negative and positive charges throughout their atomical structure. (Mishra, et. al., 2019). When a mechanical stress like tension or compression is applied, and their original arrangement of protons and electrons shift and polarize. All of the electrons move to one end, and the protons on the other, creating an imbalance of negative and positive charge, thus generating the conditions for a voltage and potential current. This imbalance is mainly due to the asymmetry of the material’s structure, and the polar axes throughout the material. If the formation of the material were symmetrical, the charges would exhibit a one-way direction, and would not cause an electric charge because there would be no division of protons and electrons on either face of the material (Caliò, et. al., 2014).
Piezoelectricity is the harnessing of this effect and voltage derived from the polarization of charges (otherwise known as a dipole) when the material is put under pressure. When the materials are integrated into a circuit (like with the use of wires on opposing charged ends of the material), the voltage drop across it can be used to create an electric current (Cramm, J., et. al., 2011). This process requires three main components: a rectifier for converting alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC), a voltage regulator for regulating the DC power provided to the storage device, and a storage device for storing the output energy from the piezoelectric energy harvesting device (Cramm, J., et. al., 2011).
While the piezoelectric effect is widely used around the world in all kinds of technology like lighters, watches, sonar, ultrasounds, and much more, the focus here is on using piezoelectricity as an energy source for the grid drawn from floor tiles. Using human movement and the pressure from people walking, tiles with piezoelectric capable material are placed on the floor or sidewalks to harness the energy created using the piezoelectric effect and turn it into usable electric energy. There are a variety of designs used for these floor tiles, including but not limited to cantilever-based, curved piezo element-based, and piezoelectric diaphragm-based. All revolve around the basics of the piezoelectric effect and this technology is in constant evolution as technology innovation and material extraction improves overtime. (Sharma, et. al., 2022)
There are a number of considerable advantages to this type of electricity production. To start, piezoelectric tiles are nonmodular, in that they can be made to fit a certain area, and no one size fits all. Additionally, they are not at the mercy of unpredictable weather conditions. This means they can be placed outside, or indoors, which is already a leg up over solar, wind and hydropower renewables. Like other renewables, though, piezoelectric tiles have virtually no emissions, no sound or air pollution, and can aid in reducing CO2 emissions by acting as an additional source of energy that can replace some of the production share that fossil fuels hold (Solban, & Moussa, R. R., 2019). These tiles overall can further ignite innovation towards finding and implementing green energy sources.
Another beneficial characteristic similar to other renewables that these tiles have is that they are decentralized, as numerous companies have the capability to implement. This means that if and when a major power source/plant ceases to produce, these tiles are still able to generate because they work independently of one centralized source. The autonomy of these tiles also means they are modular systems that can be altered and updated overtime, with the ability of being moved if necessary. The shape of the tiles can be unique to a certain area, so these tiles can fit in a variety of already existing infrastructure without looking too out of place. Locomotion is essential, because when positioned in prime, heavily trafficked areas, the amount of energy produced, coupled with storage, would be enough for local onsite powering of street signs, lights, and other facilities (Mraz, 2017). Some examples of applied tiles show that in a single second, 0.1 W were produced in a single second by a person weighing 60 kg with just two steps, and this potential is even greater when used in large areas with heavy, continuous traffic (Moussa, Ismaeel, & Solban, 2022).
To further exemplify the minimal pollution and waste potential of this type of generation, piezoelectric tiles are generally extremely easy to recycle. The tiles consist of mostly already recycled car tires that can be converted into goods like playground surfacing or athletic tracks, Aluminum that is easily recycled or sold as scrap, and quartz (which is the typical piezoelectric material used) that can be recycled similarly to glass (Cramm, J., et. al., 2011). Of course, quartz is not the only material that creates a piezoelectric effect. The wide array of materials, both natural and humanmade, that can generate energy in this manner is another benefit. To name only a few of the materials that could potentially serve the tiles’ purpose, there is crystal quartz, thin film and polymeric materials like polyvinylideneflouride, and piezoceramic materials like lead zirconate titanate (Maghsoudi, et. al., 2019). Lead zirconate titanate (PZT) is an artificial material and one of the most popular and effective materials for piezoelectric tiles because it can produce an average of 8.4 mW per tile over 20 years, only costs $36.10 a tile, and is has a great efficiency with the ability to convert up to 80% of the mechanical energy into electricity (Solban, & Moussa, 2019).
Looking away from PZT tiles only, when comparing piezoelectric technology companies, a tile ranges from around $30 up to $400, with a lifespan of up to 20 years and an energy production varying from just 1 W to 250 kW per tile; this is fairly affordable (Moussa, Ismaeel, Solban, 2022). In essence, the tiles have the potential to recover the costs of the initial purchase, transport, installation, and disposal over their lifespan in the amount of energy they generate (Cramm, J., et. al., 2011).
Piezoelectric tiles allude the impression of being an effectively innovative and futuristic form of harnessing energy passively. There are numerous drawbacks to this technology, which may attribute to why these tiles are not widespread or significant. The lack of macro-scale implementation of means that there is much uncertainty about the actual efficiency of energy harvesting due to varying voltage that depends on factors like temperature, pressure, the type of material used (Li & Strezov, 2014) and even factors like pedestrian weight, speed, and amount of use. The novelty and uncertainty in itself are a, perhaps temporary, drawback of this technology because of the misunderstanding of how to measure inputs and results. An overestimated result produced by laboratory studies could lead to inefficient energy generation in the real world, thus leaving the system useless (Yingyong, et. al., 2021). Thus, there is unreliable and somewhat uncontrollable capacity factor. This means that high traffic areas should be identified to maximize efficiency (Li & Strezov, 2014) and even then, these areas may become obsolete or vary dramatically. If the tiles are not being stepped on or applied pressure, they are theoretically useless. The materials used themselves also have various errors in measurement, as crystals have a high impedance, or resistance to converting to an alternating current, so they need to be connected to an amplifier and auxiliary circuit (Solban, & Moussa, R. R., 2019).
The durability of these tiles is also in question, as both the tile construction and piezoelectric material can be rigid, brittle, toxic, high density, low voltage, and inflexible – all limiting the ability to create, harness and supply energy (Mishra, et. al., 2019). There is a bit of a safety concern with these factors too, because if a pedestrian is walking and the tile breaks, they can be hurt or exposed to electrical and toxic hazards. Additionally, the weakness of the materials means the tiles will require regular maintenance and will not survive in harsh conditions, like roadways – making their existence somewhat costly and labor intensive. This is a shame because harnessing the energy from roadways would be an extraordinary feat in the increasing levels of energy generated from heavy machinery and speed. Furthermore, the tiles are temperature sensitive, fatigue sensitive, and difficult to manufacture (Visconti, et. al., 2022). This means the tiles may not work well in all outdoor climates.
One major concern over these materials is level of toxicity, as the most popular and efficient piezoelectric material, lead zirconate titanate (PZT) is a toxic health risk. PZT is valued for its high cost-effectiveness, but contains a significant level of lead toxicity, so suggestions have been made to use lead-free alternatives, but these materials are not established nor or the cost benefits clear (Moussa, Ismaeel, & Solban, 2022). PZT is 100 times more efficient than quarts and produces a fairly high voltage (Solban, & Moussa, 2019) so it is the most common piezoelectric tile material, yet its usage is directly putting toxic materials into the ground right beneath our feet.
The piezoelectric effect is used widely, in propane grills, lighters, watches, record players, microphones, ultrasounds, sonar, and more common items used on a daily basis. This effect has only started to be used to harness energy into the grid, though. When it comes to piezoelectric tiles specifically, there exists a variety of companies utilizing this concept including but not limited to, Waynergy from Portugal, Soundpower from Japan, and most notably Pavegen from the UK (Li, & Strezov, 2014). While these companies are not yet mainstream, Pavegen is dominating the niche market, and according to their website they are currently installed in over 36 countries. They have developed a paving unit that is 600 mm x 450 mm x 82 mm and is able to generate up to 7 W electricity per footstep, which is totally competitive against other companies with only a 0.1 W per step generation (Li, & Strezov, 2014). The competitive nature of these novel companies will allow for surprising innovation and competitive prices, making the tiles more affordable and available overtime.
One place that successfully exemplifies Pavegen tiles is in a nightclub, The Club Watt in Rotterdam, where the tiles produced over 30% of the energy consumed, and the overall savings over a ten-year period are about $824,503 (Solban, & Moussa, R. R., 2019). A dance floor is an excellent example of the creative areas where these tiles can thrive. Another example is in Sydney at Macquarie University. Finding a the optimal high-traffic area was essential for this project because the building floor area was 16,000 m squared, and at the time the cost of tiles were $3850 per tile from Pavegen (Li, & Strezov, 2014). This example is exemplary of the importance of choosing a location due to the cost benefit factor and to maximize efficiency. In Tokyo, a transportation station, the Taesu North Exit, only became a success after a few rounds of implementation. The tiles in the station quickly deteriorated after only three weeks, which is not totally surprising because over two million steps are taken over that area each day. The next set of tiles were made much larger and thicker (Solban, & Moussa, R. R., 2019). With this new design, the payback for installation will be returned after only three years.
As for the future, these tiles can provide more than just electricity, but they can enhance the availability of data. For example, in London, there are various incorporations of Pavegen used around the city and in some experimental spaces each tile is equipped with the ability to transmit real-time movement data analytics by connecting to mobile devices and building management systems (www.pavegen.com). This information could be used to improve smart cities while simultaneously harvesting energy that feeds into nearby structures like interactive billboards or other signage.
Eventually, these tiles could also be built durable enough to withstand the tough conditions of roadways. When this happens, the tiles can sense and distribute information about roadway conditions, temperature, or traffic to vehicles (Mraz, 2017). Additionally, the integration of such sensors can provide safety monitoring both indoors and outdoors. For example, if there were an intruder in a building, the tiles can aid in finding the exact location. On the other hand, these sensors and data analytics can be viewed as a breach of privacy. These tiles might one day be ubiquitous on the streets, buildings, even in our shoes and chairs, and therefore basically documenting our every move.
These tiles can also be coupled with photovoltaic technology in the future, otherwise known as hybrid energy (HEF) tiles. This tile and panel combination is uses Copper Indium Selenide solar technology, which is beneficial because of the ability to perform well in shady areas. (Mousa, Ismaeel & Solban, 2022). This setup maximizes energy production while minimizing input, increasing efficiency further. These tiles are already in experimental use in some places, typically installed in commercial streets, public squares, and parks. Perhaps, eventually, this technology will replace streets, sidewalks and floorings as we know them today.
Caliò, R. et al. (2014) Piezoelectric energy harvesting solutions. Sensors. [Online] 14
Cramm, J., Ell-Sherif, A., Lee, J., & Loughlin, J. (2011). Investigating the feasibility of
implementing Pavegen energy: harvesting piezoelectric floor tiles in the new SUB
After graduation, I started applying to jobs and Too Good To Go (TGTG) was one of them.
Before applying I never heard of the company. But after doing research, I kinda had mixed feelings about their operations.
Their concept is solid. Ultimately, they work with restaurants and grocers to sell food to consumers that those businesses would have thrown out and wasted. Sounds good, right? Food that would have been tossed in the trash is now going to the consumer. Since it is “wasted” food, the consumer also gets this food for a discounted price.
Awesome! Although, the reviews of the food are less than stellar. Most consumers were really unhappy with the wasted food they purchased, even at the discount.
Either way, I think TGTG is a great concept. I also love all of their tips and tricks they share on their social media about saving wasted food. For example, they share how to use the leftover jam at the bottom of the jar. You can add other ingredients to the jam jar to make a salad dressing.
TGTG is a worldwide operation. You can download the app and see how you like it!