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These Ideas Might Sound Extreme, but They Would Have a Massive Positive Impact on Our Environment.

Sustainability Activism
by Emma Thieme Sep 19, 2016

We should stop naming our natural disasters after people.

And name them after the corporations that continue to pollute our air and dump their waste into our water instead. I heard this idea on a low-budget HBO documentary called How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things, and it makes a lot of sense.

According to a report by Natural Society, Tyson Foods, Cargill, Inc., and Perdue Farms dump more than 206 million pounds of garbage into our water every year. In 2010, BP dumped 3 million gallons of oil into our water over the course of just 3 months, and the Gulf still hasn’t recovered. And those are just some facts about four corporations, think of how many others there are.

So why are we continuing to give these natural disasters cutesy names like Sandy and Ike? We need to start calling out these businesses for the destruction they continually cause (and ultimately profit from) to our forests, our air, our water, our health and our overall life expectancy on this earth. Shifting the thinking behind what we call our natural disasters would take the negative connotation off of people — how many Katrina’s have legally changed their name since 2005? — and automatically place it where it belongs. Maybe we should stop thinking of this next tropical storm as ‘Julia’ and start thinking of it as Tropical Storm Monsanto.

Every household in the United States should be required to have a compost pile or use a curbside program.

If you live in a 7-floor walk-up in New York City maybe having a compost pile wouldn’t work for you, but every home, apartment, duplex and neighborhood with any amount of green space should have one. And if no green space is available, we should all be taking advantage of curbside programs, which should be government-funded and free for citizens to use.

According to the UNEP, organic waste makes up the second largest component in our landfills, which are the largest producers of methane emissions. So food and plant waste, stuff that would naturally decompose if you were to just throw it onto a pile of dirt and forget about it, is instead being piled up on end — creating massive mountains of trash, along with old mattresses, electronics, plastic bags, batteries, dirty diapers and whatever else we carelessly throw away.

There is absolutely no excuse for a city to not have a curbside composting program. And fortunately, these programs are popping up in some parts of the States, although slowly. There’s a great one in Portland, Maine called Garbage to Garden, which I used for years while I was living there. It’s $14 a month, or free if you have time to volunteer. They provide you with a special bucket that you throw your food waste into — including meat and bones — and they come pick it up every trash day, replacing your bucket with a clean one. And in some cities like Seattle, you’ll actually get fined for not composting. Which, is that really such a bad idea? Enforcing a policy like Seattle’s drives home the fact that it’s our duty as citizens to be responsible with our waste.

If your city or town doesn’t have a curbside composting program, which it probably doesn’t, MIT has a great guide on how to implement one.

We should all look into using a composting toilet.

I use a composting toilet. Every morning I go out to an outhouse and sit on a beautiful, custom built, cedar plank seat that rests over a 5-gallon bucket. When I’m done, I use a scoop of ash — collected from my fire pit, and sawdust —the waste from my boyfriend’s custom building business, to cover up whatever I did. Then, every few mornings, I dump whatever’s in that 5-gallon bucket into a separate compost pile that absolutely does not smell like anything but cedar woodcarvings. Am I crazy? Does that gross you out?

I don’t care. At least I’m not wasting 3.5 gallons of clean drinking water every time I flush the toilet while California rounds out its fifth year of severe drought.

This is a very crunchy idea, I realize that, and in a lot of places in this country, it’s probably illegal. But if you own a living space, just try looking into it. You don’t even need to do it the 5-gallon bucket way, there are plenty of composting toilets that look like actual toilets out there. And once you start digging into the idea, you’ll find that I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a good one. This woman lives in the middle of freaking Oakland. She built a gorgeous tiled composting toilet in her home and offers workshops on how you can do the same. If you’re just doing desktop research, The Humanure Handbook is an excellent resource and you can download it for free in .pdf form.

This might seem like an out-there idea in 2016, but I predict we’ll start to see a lot more of this kind of thinking in the coming years.

We need to seriously reconsider what we do with our deceased.

According to research published by Disabled World, every time an embalmed body is buried, the funeral industry is legally putting at least three gallons of formaldehyde-based formalin embalming solution into the ground, which eventually gets into our groundwater. And the embalming of the body isn’t the only issue, the coffins and all the bells and whistles that go along with them contain toxins, chemicals and paints in order to keep them from degrading in the earth. Casket manufacturers are listed as one of the EPA’s top 50 hazardous waste generators. Contaminants like lead, mercury, arsenic, methyl and so much more to even list, are all being lowered into the ground during every typical western world funeral.

There’s a new burial method called Resomation that is environmentally-minded. This funeral process is similar to one of cremation, except the body is put into a wool casket and water and alkali are used to rapidly decompose the body into ash. It’s similar to how a body would decompose to bone all on its own in the ground. The name derives from the Greek/Latin word ‘resoma’, meaning ‘rebirth of the human body.’

Not only is this new method free of earth-harming chemicals, it turns something that’s not going to take up space in the ground. There are 7.4 billion of us on Earth right now, there just isn’t enough space for us all to have our own little cozy after-world nest. To give you something to picture, research by Coutts states that there are 76 million Americans who will reach the typical life expectancy age by 2024. If they were to all receive a typical burial, that would require 130 miles of pure grave space — roughly a plot the size of Las Vegas. Does that sound sustainable to you?

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