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10 small, but powerful ways to help the environment
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10 small, but powerful ways to help the environment

Susan Koswan

Psychologists say we’re hard-wired to dwell on the negative. Our climate chaos and COVID can make it easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. We are also dreamers and tinkerers and innovators, capable to great joy and genius. The following, in no particular order, are a few of the initiatives I’ve found that give me hope we can find our way through our darkest days.

The Real Junk Food Project

Although our laws and best-before dates are meant to protect us against food spoilage, the reality of when food becomes dangerous is disputed. Food is wasted from production to consumption at every stage. UK chef Adam Smith is challenging the system by intercepting the food supply chain to “feed bellies not bins.” Since the first Pay What You Feel café opened in Leeds, England, hundreds of others have sprung up worldwide. You can also trade your skills for food.

The magic of mushrooms

My weekend workshop in Olympia, Washington with Paul Stamets, a mushroom expert, was amazing. Mycelium, which is the root system of mushrooms’ mushrooms, can be used to make leather, biodegradable packing material, water filtration, soil decontamination, and other purposes.

What isn’t hemp good for?

Hemp is an environmentally-friendly grass. The Ministry of Hemp websiteThe following list, published by hemp advocates, lists the 82 products you can get right away made from hemp: food and CBD oil, fabric, bioplastics, building materials, and even batt insulation that I just installed in my basement. It smells like freshly-mown grass.

Water-free urinals

l’UritonnoirAn outside urinal is made up of funnels that are inserted into large straw bales. It can be used at festivals and other public places like your backyard. Straw provides the carbon and urine the nitrogen and ammonia. After about six months, the final product is a nutrient rich compost that didn’t require water, power, or wastewater treatment. However, it does not mean that women will no longer have to wait in long lines to use the normal facilities.

Growing insects for food

What’s for dinner? The ultimate revenge! Insects have been dining on our agriculture crops for as long as we’ve been trying to grow them. Now, we’re ready to take back. TricycleMontreal-based company that grows bugs for food and makes fertilizer from their waste. The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory has held an annual bug-eating event for many years as a novelty, but now it’s time to go mainstream. Tricycle offers many recipes, including pork and mealworm dumplings, as well as oatmeal cookies containing cricket powder. They are high in low-carbon proteins and low in greenhouse gas emissions.

Repurposing used disposable diapers

Super FaithsJapanese company processes disposable diapers and sanitary pads for safe and odourless biofuel. The UK’s Know Your Taste resolved their disposable “absorbent hygiene product” problem by separating them, rather than pelletizing them, into “sanitized reusable paper pulp and plastic components” with the human waste portion going into the sewage system.

More bugs

China is using cockroaches as a beneficial pest. Cockroaches can be found in special facilities eating household food waste. Their bodies are then used to feed animals. Gooddoctor, a pharmaceutical company, raises them and gives their bodies to chickens. The facility is enclosed by a moat containing fish that eat them.

Closer to home

Waterloo Region’s multiple incubators are no exception for emerging solutions. Two standouts are Aqua-Cell Energy’s research into creating cost-effective solar energy storage for businesses, and DecompThis is a method that uses microbes in a bioreactor for faster plastic waste breakdown.

All it takes is one person with a good idea they’re willing to run with. You don’t have to be a big deal if you believe you are too small..

Susan Koswan is a contributing columnist freelance for The Record, Waterloo Region. Follow her Twitter: @SKoswan

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