We Must Consider the Impact of Our Decisions on the next Seven
From the Great Law of the Iroquois Nation
GREYBERG ... or ... GREENDALE
Where Would You
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
In this section you will find a comparison between
two hypothetical cities, describing the difference between conventional
"hard path" ways of living and the solar-dynamic,
bio-benign "soft path" ways. The cities have the same
climate conditions, and both have populations of around 2 million.
The first city is Greyberg, and you will recognize many
of its methods of providing heating and cooling, wastewater
and solid waste management, food, electricity, and transportation,
because these are indeed the methods that prevail today in most
towns or cities in the United States and the rest of the industrialized
The second city is Greendale, and although the residents
there have the same needs as the residents in Greyberg or any
other city, the methods by which these needs are satisfied and
the resulting quality of life and cost of living are very different.
First let us visit Greyberg.
This city is located near the ocean, around a lagoon, in a valley
surrounded by beautiful mountains. However, the mountains are
rarely visible because of smog, much like Los Angeles. The smog
is created by emissions from the tailpipes of cars and the chimneys
of homes, schools and industry.
The city of Greyburg: dirty
... polluted air and water ... expensive
depressed ... insecure ...dirty beaches ... no fishing
inconvenient ... congested.
The city is heated primarily by oil, over one billion gallons
of oil annually (an average of 500 gallons per person per year,
which includes a share of public buildings and businesses),
at a price which is about the same as it was in 1996. (For simplification
let me say $1 a gallon, less than bottled water!) This totals
over $1 billion per year. Burning this oil causes almost 10
million tons of co2 emissions per year. (Almost 20 pounds of
co2 is produced by burning one gallon of oil, even with clean-burning
furnaces and engines.) Many have installed woodstoves in order
to reduce heating bills, but, due to serious air pollution,
their use is banned many days each winter. The heating costs
for the school district alone amount to over $30 million per
year. Little is left in the school budget for "luxuries"
such as arts, trips and new equipment.
In the bitter cold winter of 1999 Greyberg was severely impacted
for several months because of yet another oil embargo. As in
1973-74 and 1979, prices skyrocketed,
gas pumps were empty and people froze. This oil crisis resulted
in the United States again going to war in the Middle East to
secure continuing and ever-increasing access to the oil supplies.
The oil came back, but this war was far more devastating than
the one in 1991.
Just outside Greyburg: a
major oilspill that killed thousands of birds, fish, seal
and dolphins, and destroyed recreation and fishing for many
The oil crisis and war resulted in lifting the
preexisting ban against oil drilling off the coast and in the
wilderness beyond the mountains. Oil spills ruined the fishing
industry, and oil washed up on the beaches, severely impacting
the tourist industry. The wilderness and mountains, which had
previously provided a haven for fishing, skiing and hiking,
were devastated by trucking roads, pipelines and drilling towers.
In an attempt to improve the economics of the town, the ban
on clear-cutting forests was lifted. Driving along the road,
the forest still looks grand, but just behind this facade stretches
mile after many mile of denuded hills and valleys, deeply scarred
by erosion ruts, debris-filled streams running yellow, red and
brown among them. The few forest areas that are still intact
suffer from air pollution due to acid rain.
Several million pounds of nitrogen annually leach into the groundwater
from the city's sewage treatment facilities and the thousands
underground septic systems around the outskirts of the city.
The nitrate level in the drinking water has been rising steadily
to the point that it threatens public health because it reduces
the blood's oxygen exchange capacity, and many pay dearly for
bottled water imported from distant springs.
The groundwater is also being contaminated with oil leaking
from underground tanks, as well as hundreds of different chemical
effluents from the various local industries.
The lagoon, previously rich in fish, clams, scallops and oysters,
has been closed to fishing and swimming due to contamination.
This contamination is caused primarily by the nitrogen leaching
from sewage and septage systems via the groundwater, which in
turn causes massive algae growth that suffocates the aquatic
flora and fauna and putrifies and oozes up to the surface, periodically
causing vile odors that envelop much of the city.
These algae infestations were first blamed on ducks, geese and
other water birds and runoff from roads, lawns and farms, but
now it is understood that the primary cause is the effluent
from the conventional sewage and septic systems.
Not only are these polluting, expensive conventional wastewater
management systems allowed, but they are legally required. Requests
for permission to install various alternative technologies have
been delayed and obstructed in numerous ways, while millions
of dollars have been spent on team after team of engineers who
have proposed ever more complex conventional technologies. Greyberg
recently spent over $500 million for rebuilding the old sewage
treatment facility to reduce nitrogen contamination and odors,
and also to extend the sewer pipes to include most of the areas
that previously had on-site septic systems.
Greyberg has three public recreation centers with indoor Olympic-size
swimming pools, built before the city fell on hard times. They
are heated entirely with oil. During the oil embargoes and war
they were closed for an extended period, but are now open again,
with an annual heating bill of over $400,000. The pool water
is sanitized with the usual chlorine, bromine and other toxic
chemicals. This, along with the city's air and water pollution,
is considered a major reason for the ever-increasing rate of
allergies and asthma.
Supermarkets carry food from far distant places, most of it
heavily laden with residues of many different toxic chemicals.
Some food is produced locally in summer, none in the winter.
Public transportation, consisting of smelly, noisy diesel buses,
is inconvenient, slow and unreliable. The few bike paths do
not lead to where people want to go. Consequently, cars are
needed to get to work, schools, shopping and recreation. Pollution
and traffic are a nightmare.
The city does some recycling, but since methods of collection
and processing are inconvenient, it has never amounted to more
than 20 percent. Two million tons a year of solid wastes go
to the incinerator, at $100 per ton, or $200 million a year.
Citizens are alarmed that the prevailing winds bring back to
the city emissions from the smokestacks of this incinerator,
containing dioxin and other toxins, which are then breathed
in by the people and stored in their bodies. On the advice of
health officials, many mothers are sadly opting to feed their
babies formula instead of their own contaminated breast milk.
Of course, since the city drinking water contains high levels
of nitrate, the formula has to be made with bottled water.
The city's electricity is generated partly by an oil-powered
plant in the outskirts and partly by a nuclear power plant located
across the mountains. This nuclear plant is located close to
an earthquake fault, and radioactive wastes have been leaking
into groundwater that is flowing toward the city's water supply.
The leadership of Greyberg is strictly opposed to any of the
so-called alternative solutions. Any proposals that contain
words such as solar, organic, bio-benign, harmonious, sustainable,
renewable or alternative are rejected without even being seriously
considered. Most people believe what conventional engineers
and architects are stating, that such systems are too costly,
unreliable and inconvenient. The few people who make proposals
along those lines are labeled "impractical, unrealistic
idealists". Whether it has to do with heating and cooling,
wastewater or solid waste management, or transportation, when
proposals are considered, the leaders choose costly, polluting,
resource-consuming, business-as-usual methods, because, as they
say, "we know it works".
Not surprisingly, Greyberg, once rated among the most beautiful
and livable cities in the United States, is now low on the list.
The quality of life, water and air is among the worst, while
the cost of living, taxes, and health problems are among the
This tale about Greyberg is all too familiar as it in truth
describes the conditions in so many cities and towns in the
United States. Most people do not know any other ways to live
and are thus resigned to an ever-increasing cost of living and
a gradual reduction in the quality of life.
Now let us
visit the other city in our tale, Greendale.
This city has the same climate as Greyberg and also
about 2 million inhabitants. It too is located close to the
ocean around a lagoon and is surrounded by mountains. But there
the similarities end. The first noticeable difference is the
clean air. The breathtaking view of distant snow-covered peaks,
unobscured by smog, can be enjoyed even from the city center.
The city of GREENDALE: clean
... green ... economical
fun ... wholesome ... convenient ... secure ... intelligent
One reason for the clean air is the excellent public transportation
system. Bright yellow buses shuttle
back and forth every few minutes, topped with flags color-coded
by route. All buses are electric, powered by batteries. At the
end of each route are banks of solar photovoltaic panels that
recharge the batteries. Other generators, powered by methane
from the local wastewater treatment facility and wood chips
from the construction industry and wastewater-fed energy forest,
provide backup charging power. As the buses come in, their spent
batteries are exchanged for fully
charged ones, which takes only a few minutes.
Photovoltaic panels are manufactured in one of
Greendale's many thriving factory complexes at the
outskirts of the city. Batteries are manufactured at
another factory, and, when finally exhausted, they
are collected, disassembled andremanufactured. As
with all other manufacturing in the city, any reusable or highly
toxic chemicals are first removed from the wastewater, and then
the wastewater is purified through Biocarbon filters and used
for irrigating the city's extensive parks and landscaping.
Because of the excellent public transportation system, private
car use is much reduced, and most cars and trucks are electric.
Municipal parking lots are roofed over with banks of photovoltaic
panels, and people put money in meters to recharge their car
batteries while they are at work. The meters work even when
the sun is not shining, because electricity is assured by backup
Innercity of Greendale. Public
transportation, cars and trucks are all run by solar-powered
All buildings have comprehensive solar-dynamic bio-benign
designs, which provide heating, cooling, electricity, food
and clean wastewater, as well as comfort and joy.
Another reason for the clean air is that about 80 percent of
the heating and cooling of the houses and other buildings is
provided by the sun. The leadership in the city of Greendale
found out about truly comprehensive solar-dynamic design in
1998 and proceeded to apply it to a new school addition. It
quickly proved to be effective, reliable and cost-saving, and
soon the city went all out to retrofit every school and other
municipal building. This was found to be cost-effective immediately
because the resulting savings were greater than the cost of
financing the changes. It did not take long for the population
as a whole to follow suit, and soon most of Greendale's buildings,
old and new, were retrofitted to be heated and cooled primarily
by solar power.
Backup heat is provided by clean-burning stoves and furnaces
fueled with wood and low-grade wastepaper, and because the city
is not producing the normal amounts of pollution caused by burning
millions of gallons of fuel oil and gasoline, the air quality
is not threatened by these emissions. Most of the wood fuel
is in the form of wood chips, which are stored in hoppers and
loaded into stoves and furnaces by thermostatically controlled
augers. The wood chips are produced from rapidly growing shrub
willows in energy forests, which are fertilized and irrigated
by the effluent from the nearby wastewater treatment plants.
Thus, the nutrients in the wastewater is utilized for making
fuel, which purifies the wastewater in a most thorough and cost-effective
way, protecting the economy, environment, fishing industry and
Less than half of the city is serviced by the preexisting centralized
sewage treatment plant. This plant was fully upgraded with Biocarbon
filters at a cost of about 80 percent less than conventional
technologies. And it costs about 90 percent less to operate,
partly because the expenses are offset by the income from the
resulting popular compost product, Greendale Black Gold, as
well as from energy forest wood chip fuel which provides the
backup heat for the city and methane for electricity production.
The people of Greendale avoided the enormous expense of expanding
sewage pipelines, because on-site septic systems were instead
upgraded with individual Biocarbon filter systems. By choosing
these systems for upgrading wastewater management systems, instead
of going with the conventional sewage, septage and septic systems
that were chosen by Greyberg, the citizens of Greendale have
saved some $200 million, and the groundwater and the lagoon
are kept pristine.
A few years ago Greendale opted not to buy into a long-term
contract with a planned new $5 billion nuclear power plant across
the mountains. Instead the city invested in "negawatt"
energy conservation, such as leasing out super-efficient appliances
and light bulbs. This resulted in a 60 percent reduction in
electricity consumption, thereby eliminating the need for increased
Greendale has many Super-Power
Playgrounds where people of all ages go to have fun and
get fit. Swings, merry-go-rounds, see-saws, and various
exercise equipment and runways all generate electricity,
as do photovoltaic panels,
Each Super-Power Playground generates about 30,000 kwh/year.
Greendale also invited manufacturers of photovoltaic panels
to set up operations in an abandoned pesticide factory. Calculations
made it clear that it would be less costly in the long run,
and far safer, to provide electricity by solar power instead
The Greendale electric company scoped out thousands of small
sites within the city limits - rooftops, walls, fences and embankments
with good solar exposure - and installed PV panels. Far more
electricity is produced than is needed when the sun is shining,
and the excess solar electricity is used to generate waterpower:
pumping water into towers and releasing it through generators
when there is no sun.
Backup electricity is provided by the preexisting oil-powered
plant, which was retrofitted to also burn wood chips and methane.
This has proven to be cleaner, more reliable and less costly,
and consumes 90 percent less oil. To everyone's great relief,
the plan to build a nuclear power plant across the mountain
was canceled when Greendale, along with other cities, refused
to join the contract.
One of hundreds of indoor
swimmingpools in the city of Greendale. This one is on the
ground floor in one of the apartment buildings. Electricity
is generated as people use various exercise equipment both
in the pool and next to it.
Greendale, like Greyberg, also has recreational
facilities with indoor Olympic swimming pools. In fact, after
the three preexisting facilities were retrofitted with solar-dynamic,
bio-benign design, they became so popular and were so economical
to operate, that many more were built. These facilities have
not only one large pool each, but also two smaller, warmer pools,
one for babies and toddlers and another for the elderly and
handicapped. There are also several hot tubs set at different
comfort levels. All the water is purified through Biocarbon
filters, ozonation and UV lights. Exercise equipment is connected
to generators that produce electricity.
Unlike Greyberg, which imports almost all its food from far
away, Greendale produces a great deal of its food right within
its city limits, even in winter. There are many small farms
in the outskirts, most no larger than an acre or two. None of
the farms use pesticides or other toxic substances, and each
is a thriving business that provides local employment.
Some of the farms specialize in outdoor seasonal crops such
as carrots, onions, cabbage and squash, as well as berries and
fruits. Others specialize in salad greens and herbs, growing
them year-round in greenhouses and extending the production
outdoors in spring, summer and fall.
One of the many greenhouses
in Greendale. They produce fish, eggs, meat, vegetables
and herbs year-round, without any heating fuel or cooling
fans, and without any toxic pesticide. And the animal wastes
do not cause water pollution.
The greenhouses are entirely energy-self-sufficient,
heated primarily by the sun, with additional heat provided by
the chickens, rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows, or horses who live
in comfortable quarters along the north wall, within the insulated
greenhouses. The animals are raised in spacious freedom with
access to the outdoors and fresh greens, without any of the
usual chemicals. They are far happier and healthier than on
conventional factory farms. They provide food, fiber and compost
fertilizer, as well as carbon dioxide which doubles the greenhouse
productivity in winter. Most of the meat that is consumed by
the residents and visitors in Greendale is thus produced locally
Unlike Greyberg, where the school system offers education that
to some extent seems irrelevant to living reality, Greendale
offers true preparation for good living. The school system was
the first to adopt the new solar-dynamic, bio-benign design
principles. All schools have solargreen south walls that provide
heating and cooling, food, bedding plants and tree seedlings.
The plants purify the air for the schools and provide wholesome
salads for the cafeteria, with excess to sell. The schools were
also the first places to set up solid waste management systems
that resulted in 90 percent recycling. These systems have been
adopted by the entire city, saving the residents some $100 million
Students of all ages are also participating in the local farming,
manufacturing, building and business, and as they get into high
school and college many students earn money working after school.
Thus many students are well prepared to enter the work force
as productive members of the community. Most end up staying
in Greendale, because it is clearly the best place to live.
The people of Greendale could have chosen to follow conventional
methods, laws, rules and regulations, as Greyberg did. But they
realized that such systems violate the laws of Nature and cause
stress, waste and pollution, and spiraling costs. Instead, Greendale
chose to comply with the laws of Nature by using bio-benign
processes for dealing with wastes, to recycle everything, to
produce food and fuel locally, and to use the abundant energy
provided by the sun (even though this is 50 percent less than
is available in an area like Arizona).
As a result, Greendale is now rated as the most desirable city
in the U.S. The air, water and food are pure, the environment
and surrounding wilderness pristine. There is full employment,
and the standard of living as well as the physical and mental
health of the residents are the best in the country.
Consequently, crime and social disorder are the lowest anywhere.
Money goes around and around in the city, instead of being bled
off to far distant places to pay for imported food and energy
supplies. The city is exceptionally beautiful, with parks and
plantings expanding every year. Arts and culture are rich and
varied and available to all.
The wild mountains and the clean beaches, as well as the many
innovative solar-dynamic, bio-benign methods, draw visitors
from all around the world. Needless to say, people who live
here want to stay, and many more want to move here. There is
tremendous pressure to expand, and there is some room for expansion
up into the foothills of the mountains. This is being done with
carefully controlled planning and true public participation,
in order to maintain the exhilarating, prosperous, clean and
peaceful quality of life that has been attained. The development
expertise is available right within the city, and is in fact
one of the main export items of the city.
Greendale has become a lighthouse that shines bright and
clear, a guide to help both large cities and small communities
across the country and the world to make livable homes out of
their ailing societies.
Let us never
We Have a
Let us never
In Our Every
We Must Consider
the Impact of Our Decisions
on the Next Seven Generations.
for JUMP-STARTING a BETTER FUTURE
The Solviva designs, as well as many other designs
developed around the world, have demonstrated that our needs
for heating, cooling, food, electricity, transportation, wastewater
and solid waste management can be fulfilled in ways that are
far more reliable and secure, and are far less costly, polluting,
wasteful and harmful than conventional methods. It is now time
for us to be bold, to get up and do what needs to be done to
protect ourselves and our planet, for now and for the future.
In this section I present proposals for the creation of "lighthouses"
out in the "real world". If just one of each of these
proposals were to be properly and fully installed, well managed,
and thoroughly monitored and documented in order to prove the
advantages, I believe that individuals, communities, cities
and nations will then follow the lead. After all, why would
any reasonable person prefer a system that is more costly, and
causes more pollution and waste? We could thus see, within a
decade or two, the 80 percent reduction in pollution and resource
depletion that I outlined in the introduction.
Some people will consider these proposals hopelessly idealistic
and unrealistic. In the "real world" perhaps they
are, because unfortunately some people are mired in skepticism,
pessimism, inertia, and an inexplicable terror of speaking up
in favor of proposals they know in their hearts would probably
turn out to be just as wonderful as they sound, but that cut
against the grain of "business as usual". But I know
one thing for certain: from a practical standpoint these proposals
are all both achievable and cost-effective.
PROPOSAL No. 1:
The GREENING of the WHITE HOUSE
A Proposal to Transform the White House
into a Lighthouse
to Guide the Whole World toward Sustainable Peace, Health and
Throughout the 19th century there were extensive
greenhouses on both the east and the west ends of the White
House. At that time, greenhouses attached to city buildings
and mansions were prevalent all through the northern United
States and Europe. These greenhouses provided the buildings
with substantial amounts of solar heat, which on sunny days
offered a respite from the constant stoking of wood and coal
heating stoves. In addition, these greenhouses produced fresh
flowers, fruits and vegetables during the cold season before
the days of long-distance transportation.
By the end of the century, plans to expand the White House showed
that the old greenhouses were to be replaced with new ones elegantly
incorporated into the architectural design. But by early 1900,
as central oil heating became available, all White House greenhouses
were torn down and additions made to the east and west ends
of the main building without greenhouses or solar heating.
The White House, transformed
with solar-dynamic bio-benign design.
I propose that the White House provide leadership
by demonstrating contemporary techniques for sustainable living
by reinstating those greenhouses. The current White House complex
has a long facade that faces due south. I am not proposing changes
to the familiar look of the main central White House building,
treasured as a national symbol. However, the long east and west
wings on either side have no strong architectural or historical
significance and are eminently suitable for solar-dynamic retrofitting.
This proposal calls for restoring the historical greenhouses
by retrofitting these wingswith the best in solargreen design.
This could reduce the heating fuel requirements of the entire
White House complex by 70 to 80 percent. This can be done elegantly
and without adding to the summer cooling load. Flowers, greens
and vegetables can be grown as a model of nontoxic, high-yield
indoor agriculture, also demonstrating how plants freshen the
air with oxygen and negative ions and remove the carbon dioxide
and infectious organisms emitted by people, as well as the toxic
gases emitted by computers, carpets, paint and cleaning compounds.
In addition, this proposal calls for installing photovoltaic
panels, interfaced with the grid, unobtrusively mounted on the
roofs, to generate as much electricity as the White House consumes.
All wastewater would be cleaned through Biocarbon filters and
dispersed through underground irrigation pipes to benefit the
landscaping. This would reduce water consumption by some 15
percent and contribution to the city sewage system by 100 percent.
I propose that the Army Corps of Engineers or another military
entity be employed to turn this dream into reality. With the
training, skills, efficiency, and organization characteristic
of the military, temporary encampment right on the spacious
White House grounds, and superb planning and project management,
a comprehensive solar-dynamic, bio-benign retrofit could be
accomplished in a month or two. What better way could there
be for the military to promote national security and peace around
Imagine approaching the White House from the south, with the
new elegant solargreen retrofits enhancing the east and west
wings. Leaders from around the world meet with the President
around the table under the dappled shade of fragrant jasmine,
nasturtium and ferns, in a rooftop greenhouse above the Cabinet
Room in the West Wing. School children tour the White House,
meandering through the vibrant greenhouse gardens and rainforest
landscapes in mid-winter, as a guide explains the benefits of
these new designs and how they can be adapted to small and large
buildings anywhere in the world. Imagine the inspiration and
vision for a better future that will blossom within any person
who encounters this reality.
PROPOSAL No. 2:
That PROTECTS Our Economy, Health, Environment,
TODAY and TOMORROW.
Public schools are community centers which are
financed by taxes, and are therefore excellent places to apply
innovative designs and technologies that offer better methods
for heating, cooling and air purification, for food production,
and for sewage and solid waste management. Not only does this
offer communities a chance to save money and resources and prevent
pollution, but it also offers opportunities for students, teachers,
parents, and the community at large to learn important skills
for good living. The time has come to add a few more "R's"
to the curriculum: Recycling, Reuse, Resource Recovery and Restoration,
Retrofitting, and perhaps most important, Responsibility, Respect
and Reverence for Earth, life and coming generations.
Unfortunately, schools are being built and expanded in thousands
of communities across the nation, including the Martha's Vineyard
(my home community) with little or no regard for the needs of
tomorrow, or even today. This is a tragedy. Over the last few
years, five different schools on the Vineyard have been doubled
or tripled in size. In the early stages of the planning for
each one, I presented solar-dynamic, bio-benign proposals, which
were repeatedly ignored and rejected by the architects who claimed
that solar is neither affordable nor practical. This in spite
of the fact that both my home and the Solviva greenhouse were
available as eloquent proof.
Because of continued lobbying, some of the schools did get some
very small attempts at solar, but my input was refused. As a
result, these attempts are very costly and unsuccessful. Due
to the architects' lack of knowledge and experience in comprehensive
and efficient solar design, these token attempts actually consume
more energy than they provide, thus perpetuating the impression
that solar design is impractical and expensive. I am tempted
here to express my frustration by writing pages about the extraordinarily
expensive, impractical, wasteful, polluting, unattractive, unhealthy
systems these architects installed. The schools now have ventilation,
heating, cooling, lighting, and wastewater management systems
that would never have been built if committee members had considered
the real impact for both now and the future. Perhaps if architects
were rewarded for cutting costs for both construction and operation,
rather than earning a fixed percentage of the total cost of
construction, they would have provided a more economical, practical
and energy-efficient plan.
These five Vineyard school projects could have been built to
consume 80 percent less energy, reducing depletion of oil by
some 200,000 gallons per year, reducing annual co2 pollution
of our atmosphere by 4 million pounds, and reducing the tax
burden in our community by wee over $200,000 per year.
Comprehensive solar-dynamic design could have been installed,
complemented with multi-fueled, clean-burning, automatic furnaces,
fueled primarily by wood chips from planted energy forests and
deadwood from the adjacent State Forest, plus shredded low-grade
wastepaper, with oil only as an occasional backup. Solar-dynamic
design could have provided not only these savings, but also
a strong sense of security for the whole community, stemming
from the knowledge that these schools would never be threatened
with closures due to scarcity and crippling cost of oil caused
by future oil embargoes, wars or terrorism (certain to occur
again and again). Also, the community would gain a strong sense
of well-being by minimizing negative impact on economy, environment
and resources, thereby protecting future generations.
A solar-dynamic bio-benign
My proposal for a good school design has south-,
southeast- and southwest-facing walls and roofs that provide
solar heating and cooling, with long-term solar heat stored
in slab foundations, and ducts and fans distributing the heat
as needed. Some of these walls double as greenhouses, with vegetation
ranging from salad greens, vegetables, tomatoes and herbs to
tropical flowers and vines. A brief period each week is enough
to provide the opportunity for students to learn how to grow
organic food and ornamental plants year-round. It also enriches
the curriculum for art, sciences and vocational education. Students
can gain experience in business and marketing by selling the
produce, raising moneyfor school trips and other "nonessential"
As a fringe benefit, the school population benefits from cleaner
air, great places to study and hang out during breaks, and fresh
organic salads every day, all of which improve the health and
energy (and therefore the performance) of the entire school
Stale air from the classrooms is purified as it flows through
these greenhouses, because plants have an extraordinary capacity
for absorbing not only the co2 and infectious germs emitted
by people, but also other air pollution, such as formaldehyde
and other outgassing from carpeting, plastics and various cleaning
compounds. Fresh air is also brought in from outside, warmed
as it passes through the solar walls and roofs. These are capable
of warming the air even on cloudy days.
Flush toilets and sinks drain into odor-free aerobic composting
chambers. Here the solids decompose into superior compost, while
the liquid, about 4,000 gallons per day for a 700-student school,
drains through the compost chambers and into a pump chamber.
Float valve-controlled pumps periodically pulse 200 gallons
to a series of Brownfilters, housed in a small building. From
there the odor-free effluent is pumped to perforated pipes laid
in landscape-enhancing Greenfilter beds. This wastewater system
costs 25 to 50 percent less than conventional septic systems,
causes 90 percent less nitrogen pollution, and produces holly,
Christmas trees, cedar posts, bamboo stakes, wood chips for
heating, and valuable compost.
The food wastes and lowest-grade paper wastes turn into compost
for the greenhouses and landscaping. The high-grade waste paper
is recycled, as are bottles, cans and all plastics. All toxic
wastes are kept separated and less than 10 percent of the solid
wastes remain as trash, which can be safely landfilled on-island.
If a community such as the Vineyard, with a year-round population
of about 14,000, had schools like this, taxpayers could save
not only $200,000 in energy bills, but also many thousands on
food that can be grown instead of bought, and many thousands
on sewage and solid waste management, while at the same time
improve health and education - and safeguard our future. This
is not just a pie-in-the-sky dream, as many would think. This
is practical and cost-effective today. It is of course best
to build the solar-dynamic, bio-benign design right to start
with, but it is also possible to retrofit almost any existing
building, no matter how inefficiently designed and built.
PROPOSAL No. 3:
An E-COMMUNITY RECREATION
This is a proposal for an Ecommunity Center for
Martha's Vineyard, to be built adjacent to the high school,
easily accessible by the entire community. The project is to
be a model, to be followed by other cities and communities around
the nation and the world. Heating, cooling, electricity, pool
sanitation, and wastewater management will be of optimum solar-dynamic,
bio-benign design, and both construction and maintenance will
be at record-low cost. This Ecommunity Center will demonstrate
the feasability of constructing buildings that cause 90 percent
less depletion of energy resources, cause 90 percent less pollution
of air and water, and improve public health, the economy, and
The plan is to complete construction within 90 days of groundbreaking,
at 40 percent less cost than normal. The major reason for the
speedy construction and the reduction in cost is that the military
will provide the key work crew. It seems reasonable to request
that a small part of military training time be spent building
for peace instead of preparing for war, helping to create municipal
infrastructure, in community after community, that reduces the
nation's dependence on foreign oil and other resources, thereby
improving national security and the economy. Since the crew's
time and support is already paid for by tax dollars, the cost
to the communities would be minimal.
In addition, local builders and tradespeople will be employed,
at 10 percent less than normal rates, and materials will be
bought through local dealers at a 10 percent discount. Free
family memberships will be given as compensation for these discounts.
Construction will be further augmented with regular and frequent
Amish-style barnraising events, culminating in fun-and-fund-raising
A budget of $3 million is set for the cost of turnkey completion
of the project and first year operating costs. Funds for the
project will be generated from federal, state and municipal
sources, local and national charitable organizations, and prepaid
The entire community is invited to participate in the planning
process, including school children. A location is chosen where
the planning process can evolve continuously over a period of
two months. A basic plan is first presented, with models, architectural
drawings and floor plans. Soon ideas from anyone wishing to
contribute fill the walls. Classes from elementary schools and
the high school, as well as various civic groups, come in to
learn about the design concepts and add their own ideas. The
pros and cons of all the various ideas are discussed, and those
ideas that improve upon the basic plans are adapted and incorporated
into the rapidly developing designs.
A proposal and petition is prepared by a group consisting of
influential members of the community, outlining the plan and
stating the many advantages of such a project. This is signed
by most people in the community and endorsed by city, county
and state politicians, as well as business, health and education
professionals. This proposal is sent to the President, the Senate,
the Congress, the Secretaries of State, Armed Forces, Health
and Human Services, Environment, and Energy, requesting funding
and participation by the military. Before the start of construction
all materials for the entire project are assembled, catalogued
and organized in the order they will be needed. On day one,
June 21, a platoon of military personnel arrive and set up,
on one of the large playing fields adjacent to the building
site, their tents and other support structures, including a
very large tent with tables and chairs for community dinners.
On that same day a team of bulldozers and backhoes from several
local construction companies dig the hole for the foundation
and swimming pools. At 6 p.m. a couple of thousand people gather,
at $10 a head, for the groundbreaking celebration and dinner,
food provided at discount prices by the local markets, restaurants,
and farms, prepared by the students and culinary arts department
of the high school.
Over the next 30 days the military platoon work shoulder to
shoulder with local builders and tradespeople with unprecedented
efficiency, augmented by a steady stream of volunteers of all
ages. A crew of well-coordinated supervisors keep everyone continually
occupied. There is work even for children and people lacking
construction skills, picking up and organizing nails, screws
and wood scraps. Three nights a week there are community dinners,
with celebration and progress reports, which raise both funds
In one month the building and all its components have been completed,
including the photovoltaic panels and paving-block parking lot.
The progress has been recorded by video crews from near and
far. CNN and other major networks have aired it around the nation
and the world, along with requests for donations to a fund to
help other communities start similar projects. Now, they are
again on hand for the celebration of the completion of the first
stage of construction and the emotional farewell to the military
During the next 60 days the final details are completed, including
the interior rainforest landscaping and the salad garden, and
local artists and children cover some of the walls with murals.
On September 21, 90 days after groundbreaking, the Ecommunity
Center is open for business, on schedule and within budget,
ready to greatly enhance the joy, health and education of everyone.
I now invite you to visit this center, visualizing it with me.
Driving up to the parking lot, we see first of all that it looks
more like a park, with shade trees between the rows of cars.
Instead of asphalt it is paved with hollow blocks filled with
topsoil, mosses and low grasses which absorb and digest the
various pollutants that leak from parked cars, thereby protecting
the groundwater. Along the south side of the parking lot is
a bank of photovoltaic panels which produce as much electricity
as the center consumes. Excess power is sent backward into the
electric company grid when the sun is shining, and the center
receives power from the electric company when there is no sun.
The building is attractive, like an immense barn. Every square
foot of south-facing wall and roof is receptive to the power
of the sun. Most of the south wall is super-insulated glass
through which we see the beautiful indoor gardens. The south-facing
roof looks much like the standard metal roofs of Idaho or Vermont.
But here the dark brown metal roofing is topped with long-lasting,
super-transparent plastic glazing, which transforms it into
a comprehensive solar roof that not only heats and cools the
building, but also heats the water for the pools and showers.
We enter through the east doors into the spacious entry hall,
welcomed by the fragrant warmth and beauty of the sun streaming
through a flowering rainforest landscape. Water trickles down
pebble-filled troughs and moss-covered ledges, into a stream
and a shallow pond surrounded by ferns and water plants. Children
are draped over the railing of the wide bridge, watching fish
dart among the rocks. Similar landscapes are integrated throughout
the whole building, and all are part of the wastewater purification
In the cafe located in the southeast corner of the building
you can choose a table in the sun or the shade. The menu, all
organic, offers delicious meals (including hamburgers and hot
dogs made with local organic beef and chicken), snacks, desserts,
and fresh fruit and vegetable juices, as well as salads grown
in the greenhouse that stretches along the south wall of the
building. You can also buy food to take out.
Sign-in is by the office that opens to the entry hall, and in
here are several monitors on which the entire building, including
the pool areas, are displayed. This minimizes the number of
lifeguards that are required. Close to the office is a well-equipped,
supervised playroom for children whose parents are swimming
In the northeast corner of the building are the dressing rooms.
These contain the usual showers and lockers, but the antiseptic
look of the tile walls is softened by more rainforest landscaping
along the windows. The path to the pool area leads through a
fern-lined corridor with motion-activated warm showers. Thus
everyone is cleansed before entering the pool area.
The pool room is huge, warm and sunny. Speakers carry sounds
that vary from wind, waves and songbirds, to Mozart or rock
and roll. Three different pool areas are separated by walls
of rainforest plants that not only provide beauty and air purification
but also tone down the happy but loud voices of the swimmers.
In the foreground of the
pool, 3 women are using pulleys that generate electricity.
At the far end of the pool 6 people are soaking in hot water.
In the background several people are using various electricity-generating
exercise machines, while along the south wall people are
tending the abundant garden.
The two smaller pools, 20 by 30 feet, are located
along the south side greenhouse. One of these pools slopes like
a beach into shallow water. Here toddlers, all wearing float
vests, cavort in the nice warm water, dangle and plop down from
grab bars, slither down little slides, giggle under fountains,
and tumble on a variety of soft plastic play equipment on the
deck around the pool. Some of the parents are in the water with
their children, while others keep a close watch from lounge
chairs around the pool. The floor, here as in the whole building,
is laid wall-to-wall with firm foam mats to prevent injuries.
Because this pool gets more contaminated due to diapers, the
water has its own Biocarbon purification system to avoid burdening
the main system.
The second pool, also warm, slopes to a depth of 5 feet and
offers wheelchair access. Here older people, and others whowould
rather not be among the rambunctious crowds in the large pool,
are floating or swimming laps in peace and quiet. Handicapped
people are enjoying the freedom and exercise afforded by floating
in water. People are basking in
the sun in lounge chairs, surrounded by banks of flowering plants.
The third pool is Olympic size, with a movable partition to
enable multiple uses. On this day the largest part of the pool
is occupied by teenagers training for a swim competition. In
the smaller section of the big pool another team is perfecting
their water ballet. Yet another team is practicing dives from
three different levels of boards. The tallest board is up on
the mezzanine that surrounds the large pool. At the other end
of the mezzanine is a long winding slide that leads into the
Main access to the mezzanine is via a ramp that winds along
the interior walls of the building. This ramp continues up to
the smaller third floor and provides wheelchair access to the
entire building. The ramp also doubles as a running track. People
can clock in miles by running up, around and down this track.
The mezzanine floor is open over the large pool, and the sides
are angled to create seating for spectators. Also on the mezzanine
floor are two spacious rooms. One is filled with a great variety
of gym equipment, most of which is connected to generators.
Thus people are producing electricity while they pump away on
weight or rowing machines, Stairmasters or bicycles. Users insert
their membership cards into each machine, which records the
amounts of watts generated and earns credits toward facility
fees. On an average day this room can generate 100 kilowatt-hours,
over 36,000 kwh per year (36 megawatts per year!).
Another room is for gymnastics, aerobics, dance, yoga, tai chi
and other fitness classes.
The ramp continues to a smaller third floor which has Jacuzzis
and saunas, as well as several small rooms for different forms
of therapeutic massage and treatment.
Maintenance equipment is located on the first floor along the
north wall. Here pumps drive the wastewater from toilets and
showers through Biocarbon filters which render the wastewater
clean and odor-free. The pool water is filtered and then purified
by ultraviolet radiation and ozonation, rather than toxic chemicals.
The purified pool water is heated in pipes laid within the solar
roof when the sun is shining and at other times through pipes
within the furnace. This is a clean?burning furnace, fueled
by chipped wood and wastepaper fed by thermostatically controlled
augers, which provides the backup heat for the whole center.
This Ecommunity Center offers true recreation for the whole
community year-round. Families, children, teenagers, elderly,
single people and married come here to socialize and have fun,
to relax and get fit, and to eat good food. Because its warmth
and cleanliness are maintained without burning the many thousands
of gallons of oil normally required, without using chlorine
or other toxic chemicals, and without causing water pollution,
it is also a place of great inspiration where everyone can learn
how to live in wonderful ways that save money and protect Earth's
environment and resources.
A SOLVIVA RESTAURANT
and BUSINESS CENTER
This is a proposal for a business center that
offers delicious and wholesome food at reasonable prices, as
well as entertainment, education and culture, for all ages,
in a delightful atmosphere and beautiful setting, good food
for body, mind and spirit.
A solar-dynamic bio-benign
I invite you to come along on a guided tour of
this Solviva Restaurant and Sanctuary, yet another dream of
what is possible to achieve. It occupies an area 200 by 130
feet, less than two thirds of an acre, which includes a restaurant,
gallery, store, farm, offices, and parking for 40 cars, two
delivery trucks, plus bicycles.
Imagine a very cold, sunny day. We approach along the south
fence, topped with photovoltaic panels which generate as much
electricity as is required by the whole complex. We turn right
along the west fence, and as we enter the gate, a rooster crows.
The landscape of gardens, trees, benches and paths is now under
a blanket of snow. The main building is at the north end of
the property, toward the left, but we firstfollow the path to
the right, toward the sound of the rooster. We cross a little
bridge over a pond and brook.
Fish swim in the water, which is kept from freezing because
it is agitated by a small windmill and warmed by solar panels.
Here at the south end of the property is a mini-farm, with a
couple of happy ewes and their newborn lambs, a burro, and a
flock of hens and the rooster, all munching grain, hay and fresh
greens. On the west side of this mini-farm is a small energy-self-sufficient
greenhouse/barn. A waterwall separates the animals from the
plant section, where a continuous supply of fresh sprouts for
the animals, as well as salad greens and herbs for the restaurant
are produced. The farm is supervised, so while parents linger
in the restaurant, children can play with the animals or on
the adjacent jungle gym.
We head back past the snow-covered gardens, then across a wide
deck covered with a clear roof and an arbor draped with bare
As we step into the main building through the double airlock
entryway, we are embraced by the comforting solar warmth and
the enchanting fragrance of fresh baked bread, flowers, and
living earth. To our left the sun is streaming in along the
whole south wall through the vibrant greens and herbs that fill
the raised beds and hanging growtubes. A profusion of flowers
and vines cascades from ledges.
Overlooking the indoor garden is the dining room with 24 tables.
Here oiled wood and yellow and warm earthtones provide a comfortable
and cozy atmosphere. The walls provide space for art exhibits.
Near the entryway is a massive heating stove built into the
brick wall. On days when there is no sun to keep the place warm,
this stove does the job by heating up the brick wall and the
whole building. The fuel is wastepaper briquettes and wood.
Right in front of the entryway is a reception desk and checkout
counter. To the right of this is the store. The first wall of
the store, right by the entryway, is dedicated to the display
of information about solar-dynamic, bio-benign design, technology
and methods. It explains how this Solviva building works, the
heating, cooling, solar electricity, wastewater purification,
nontoxic pest management. It shows designs of homes before and
after Solviva retrofitting, and Solviva solargreen home designs
of different sizes, as well as community centers, schools, and
businesses. There is information about how much they cost to
build, how much money and resources they save, and how much
less pollution they cause compared with standard buildings.
Here people can begin to dream and plan how they can lower their
cost of living and improve their quality of life, and how they
can learn to live in ways that have a positive instead of negative
impact on Earth and the future.
The store offers a select choice of clean/green light/right
products, such as energy-efficient light bulbs, recycled paper
products, clothes and dry goods made from organically grown
fibers, nontoxic body care and household products. Catalogues
offer the best energy-efficient refrigerators and other appliances,
as well as solar electric panels and equipment. There are books
and magazines, cards and calendars on related subjects. This
store also offers handcrafted goods by local artisans. In one
corner is a loom, and a woman is weaving a shawl of soft angora
wool yarn. Beautiful hand-dyed skeins of the same yarn, as well
as sweaters, hats, blankets and shawls fill shelves close by.
A nearby counter opens to the kitchen, which offers takeout
food: dinners, soups, quiche, breads, sandwiches, salads, herbs,
fresh fruit and vegetable juices, jams, jellies, sauces, dressings
and condiments, and luscious desserts. All foods are grown and
made from ingredients that are free of any pesticides or other
harmful substances. Good food, good for you. Some of the food
is grown on the premises, and most of the rest, including meat,
comes from organic farms near by: bioregionalism in action.
In one corner of the dining room is a raised stage area and
a piano. Several evenings each week there are various cultural
events, such as a string quartet, a jazz combo, a singer and
guitar, poetry or story telling, a play, a movie, or a slide
presentation. Sometimes the center tables are cleared away to
make room for dancing. On weekend afternoons there may be a
puppet show or play for children. And every couple of weeks
there is an opening event for the art gallery.
In summer the gardens are bursting with a profusion of flowers,
fruits, herbs and vegetables. Private seating areas are tucked
away here and there among the shrubbery and flower beds. The
large deck along the south wall of the building holds another
24 tables and a juice and salad bar. It is cool under a canopy
of flowering and fruiting vines and protected from rain by a
clear roof. The second floor of the building contains the offices
of several health professionals. On the third floor are apartments
for the caretakers of the farm and the indoor and outdoor gardens.
All wastewater, including toilets, drains into Biocarbon wastewater
purification filters. The cleaned water circulates through the
canals and pond in the garden and is used for irrigating the
ornamental landscaping. The parking area causes no groundwater
pollution because it is paved with hollow blocks, topsoil and
All solid wastes are recycled. Some of the food wastes are fed
to the animals, the rest are composted and fed to the ornamental
landscaping. The paper wastes are shredded and briquetted and
used as fuel in the massive heating stove, with comprehensive
smoke filtration to prevent harmful emissions. The glass is
crushed and stored. The corrugated paper, metals and plastics
are separated, compacted, baled and stored. Periodically they
are trucked off to the highest bidder.
The entire Solviva Sanctuary complex causes no discharge of
toxins or nutrients. It serves as a model to demonstrate how
any existing building or new construction could be equally nonpolluting.
PROPOSAL No. 5:
SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT
That RESULTS in 90% RECYCLING
Municipal solid wastes (MSW) consist of some 20 different categories:
food wastes, leaf/yard wastes, clear glass, colored glass, five
to six different categories of plastics, tin cans, aluminum,
newspaper, magazines, cardboard and corrugated paper, plus large
and small household items, appliances, construction wastes.
At least 90 percent of these wastes are either compostables,
recyclable or reusable, less than 10 percent is neither.
This ........ or ........ This
We have a choice
Most recycling systems are excessively complicated,
requiring households and other waste generators to separate
their recyclables into too many different categories, but in
this system only five categories are required:
1. "RECYCLABLES and SMALL REUSABLES" (about
50 percent of the waste stream): all clean paper, plastics (every
molecule of plastic is recyclable again and again), glass and
metal, plus books, clothes, toys, small household items and
tools and so forth, all commingled in one container. Cans and
jars need to be washed, but need not be crushed as this gets
done at the separation center. There is no need to remove paper
from every single tin can because it is not required by the
tin reclaiming company.
2. "COMPOSTABLES" (about 40 percent of the
waste stream): compostable wastes, such as all food wastes (including
bones and fat), dirty paper (including paper napkins, plates
and cups), diapers, and leaf and yard wastes, small compostable
construction wastes (including wood and Sheetrock) all in one
3. "TRASH" (5 to 10 percent of the waste stream):
whatever is truly unrecyclable, uncompostable or unreusable.
This would include items such as the container of rotten food
from the back of the fridge that you don't want todeal with,
the mixed-material containers consisting of unseparable plastic,
metal and paper (these will eventually be outlawed), dirty plastic,
4. "HAZARDOUS" (less than 1 percent of the
waste stream): batteries,pesticides, paints, thinners, smoke
detectors, flea collars and so forth. It would be against the
law, enforced by stiff fines, to put any toxic wastes into any
of the other waste categories.
5. "LARGE REUSABLES" (not normally included
as a percentage of the household waste stream): furniture, appliances,
bath tubs, mattresses, rugs, construction materials, electronics,
and so forth.
Bags or cans of categories 1, 2, 3 and 4 are
put out at the curb and are picked up in a compartmented truck.
The contents are checked and weighed on a computerized scale,
and each household or business is billed accordingly. A small
fee is charged for categories 1, 2 and 4, a much larger fee
is charged for No.3. A reminder note is left in case of inaccurate
separation. There are various attractive and fun economic incentives
for good separation, fines only for serious infractions. Such
a collection system can be put in place even in urban high-rise
Those who do not have pickup service take their wastes to one
of several drop-off centers, or to the main Waste Management
Center, where a similar procedure of checking, weighing and
charging is in place.
At the main Waste Management Center are several large buildings,
warm in winter and cool in summer because of the solar-dynamic
design. One is for the separation, processing and storing of
the No.1 category ... the RECYCLABLES and SMALL REUSABLES.
At one end of this building all these clean commingled recyclable
wastes and reusables are unloaded: the newspapers, magazines
and junk mail, the plastic and cardboard milk containers, the
cereal and pasta boxes, all categories of glass, plastic and
metal, cans, bottles, jars, boxes, bags, foil and film, books,
toys, tools, clothes, small appliances. It all goes together
up a conveyor belt to the second-floor level.
Up on the second floor it is pleasant and clean. Sun pours in
through the south window wall, flanked with boxes of flowering
plants. The air is fresh and dust-free because it recirculates
through Biocarbon filters.
A manager oversees and instructs a crew of people, more in summer,
fewer in winter, who work here at good wages. Some work full-time,
while others are part-time. Thus mothers and high school students,
artists and writers, elderly and handicapped can sign up to
fit their own schedules and abilities, gaining an opportunity
to earn money and work constructively and collaboratively with
They work at different stations along the branching conveyor
belts that advance as needed (some of the stations are wheelchair-accessible),
and each person is responsible for pulling out one of 15 to
20 different categories. The separated wastes fall off the ends
of their respective branches of conveyor belts and into chutes
that send them down below to waiting compactors, shredders,
crushers or carts. From there they go, in bales and hoppers,
by conveyors or handtrucks, to protected storage to await shipping
to various industries that buy the materials and remake them
into new products. The re-usables go straight to the Community
A second building is for the category No.2 ... COMPOSTABLES.
Here a small well-trained crew converts the compostable solid
wastes, plus septic tank pump-outs, into valuable compost.
Trucks and Dumpsters holding the food and dirty paper, diapers,
leaves and yard wastes, plus trucks loaded with the lowest grade
construction wastes such as woodscraps and bits of Sheetrock
(nails are okay), enter the building and dump down onto a paved
floor. The loads are bulldozed into mixed piles and are covered
with compost, which immediately eliminates any odors.
The bulldozer pushes a well-balanced recipe of the mixed compostables
toward a conveyor belt which shunts the mix into a big tub grinder.
The mix comes out the lower end in pieces no bigger than two
inches, and is then conveyed up into one of several composting
drums. Standard 10-cubic-yard cement mixer drums (used ones
with a few holes are fine) would be ideal and economical, mounted
in series for simultaneous power turning. About 8 cubic yards
of the ground-up compostables goes into the composting drum,
which already contains about 1 cubic yard of live active compost,
like yeast, left in the drum from the previous batch.
Incoming septic tank pump-out trucks empty their loads into
closed tanks equipped with Biocarbon filter odor control, and,
as needed, this septage, including the sludge, is pumped into
the composting drum with the ground-up solid wastes, to add
beneficial nutrients and moisture, which speed up decomposition.
I know from experience that about 70 percent moisture is ideal
for earthworms and other aerobic composting organisms. The whole
batch spends four to five days in the chamber, and with frequent
turning the temperature rapidly rises. It can easily reach 170
degrees F, but is kept below 110 degrees, ideal for rapid decomposition,
but not so hot that it kills earthworms and other decomposers.
Then this coarse compost, free of unpleasant odors, is poured
out of the drums and laid out in long windrows about 4 feet
high and 6 feet wide. The first five rows are laid within the
building, which is equipped with Biocarbon odor-control air
filters to guarantee odor-free operation. Each row within the
building, as well as the many rows outside, are turned over
weekly. All the rows are thus advancing about 6 feet weekly,
toward the final processing point. Over a period of two to three
months, with the help of resident earthworms and beneficial
microorganisms, this becomes a soft, fine-textured compost,
with the fragrance of rich soil.
The compost is then triple-screened and tested for nutrients,
toxins and pathogens. Compost that is to be used for vegetable
production is placed on a conveyor belt that goes through a
solar-heated tunnel which reaches pasteurizing temperatures.
Thus any remaining harmful pathogens are destroyed. The compost
is sold in bags or by the truckload, all tested and certified
for nutrients, pathogens and toxins.
The coarse material that does not go through the screening process
is brought back to the beginning of the cycle, rich in composting
organisms, and is used as cover material to eliminate odors
of incoming wastes, and thus goes around the cycle again for
further breakdown. There will be a certain amount of noncompostable
materials, such as plastic from diapers. The plastics will have
been shredded in the grinder, but do not decompose. They will
be screened out and recycled as lowest-grade plastic, ground
up and melted, and made into all kinds of consumer goods, including
The community of Martha's Vineyard, with a year-round population
of about 14,000, swelling to 90,000 in summer, could produce
around 8,000 tons of compost per year, which would be highly
beneficial for Vineyard gardens and landscapes. Sold at or below
current market value of good compost, it could have a market
value of about $1 million. This, together with dumping fees,
would more than cover the cost of capitalization and operation.
This money would recirculate within our community instead of
being bled off-island to pay for incineration, septage and sludge
treatment, and for imported humus and compost. The income from
the sale of compost and the fees for dumping the organic wastes
and the septage (which could both be lower than current rates)
could make such an operation a profitable business.
There are Dumpsters or trailers for dumping category
No.3 ... the TRASH. This remainder will amount to less than
10 percent of the waste stream, and because it will contain
no toxic materials, it can be safely landfilled on the island,
thus eliminating the need for trucking off-island.
Category No.4 ... HAZARDOUS WASTES, goes
into a secure, fireproof concrete and steel building with leakproof
floor. The building contains rows of steel shelves, bins and
drums for storing the sorted and indexed toxic wastes. Here
leftover paints, screened and mixed into pleasing colors, screened
thinners, and anything else useful, can be picked up at low
cost. All toxic materials are closely monitored and safely stored.
Some gets shipped off, but only if a dependable, safe, nonpolluting
processing facility can be found.
Category No.5 ... REUSABLES, are kept
well organized in yet another area for community exchange. Here
is another large building with shelves, tables and bins for
sorting and organizing clothes, blankets, curtains, furniture,
books, appliances, electronics, tools and gadgets, sewing and
hobby stuff. Children's books, toys, furniture and clothes are
in an enclosed area in one corner of the building, which also
opens onto an enclosed outdoor area. Here children can safely
play while parents browse.
An area adjacent to this building is available for weekend flea
markets. Unsold items can be left at the Reuse Center.
Also adjacent is an expansive outdoor area, some of it under
roof, for all kinds of reusable construction materials, well
organized. Unseparated loads are weighed and charged fees sufficient
to cover the salaries of the staff required to do the separation
and organizing. No charge is levied on properly separated and
placed stuff. Categories include: reusable lumber, kindling
wood, particle board and plywood, Sheetrock, insulation, doors
and windows, stoves, refrigerators, bathtubs and sinks, and
so forth. There is no more requirement for time-consuming and
wasteful breakup of lumber into pieces less than 4 feet long,
no more need to pay $100 per ton or more to ship and tip at
the off-island incinerator, no more wasting thousands of dollars'
worth of reusable building materials, no more expensive trucking
of reusable appliances, bathtubs and sinks off-island for disposal.
This same system of collection and processing can be set up
in cities and communities across the nation and would result
in about 90 percent recycling, preventing needless pollution
of air and water, destruction and depletion of trees, oil, aluminum,
tin, and so forth. It would also create many jobs and improve
the economy. And it would even make life more convenient and
PROPOSAL No. 6:
When I was a child growing up in Sweden I could
get anywhere I wanted to go via buses, trams, trolleys or trains.
They were frequent, well coordinated and on-time, and because
they were mostly electric, they were clean and quiet. Public
transportation was much used because very few people had cars.
In Curitiba, Brazil, the city's dynamic mayor, Jamie Lerner,
decided something had to be done about the miserable congestion
and pollution caused by thousands of cars and buses. With skillful
planning and amazingly fast implementation, he created what
is probably the most efficient urban transportation system in
the world. One of the most important keys to its success is
the loading system. People pay at automatic stiles as they enter
loading shelters at every bus stop, much like subways. Thus,
the buses progress very rapidly. The system is affordable and
much used, and has drastically reduced traffic congestion and
pollution. This system is described in detail in Bill McKibben's
excellent book, HOPE, Human and Wild.
The following is a proposal for a public transportation system
for Martha's Vineyard, adaptable to any other community. This
system has been developed through many years of research, as
well as contemplating what kind of public transportation system
would make me choose not to use my car.
The system consists of three main components:
1. Electric vans to run every 5 to 20 minutes, or as
frequently as demand dictates, in several connecting loops that
cover most of the island. Battery recharge terminals, powered
primarily by banks of photovoltaic panels, to be located at
the various island landfill sites, which also happen to emit
methane gas that can be burned to supplement the solar power
(this would also help prevent global warming).
2. Turnoff-pickup spots to be located approximately every
quarter to half mile, each with a small shelter with maps and
a change machine. The charge is $1, less for the young, the
old and those with special needs.
3. As an auxiliary to the vehicles that are dedicated
specifically for public transportation, there will be a system
whereby anyone can apply to become a permitted pickup vehicle.
Thus, Jane Doe can have her vehicle approved, registered and
clearly marked as being available to pick up riders. You might
call it a licensed hitchhiking system. Jane Doe sees a person
signaling at a turnoff, and, if she wants to, swings in to pick
up. She gets a dollar per ride, more if she is willing to go
out of her way.
If such a transporation system were in place, I would often
choose not to use my own car, but would instead prefer to walk
down the neighborhood driveway and then to the nearest pickup-turnoff.
This system also calls for narrow walking paths meandering through
the woods and fields along the roadside. Sometimes I would even
prefer to walk a mile or more before stopping for pickup.
I believe that such a public transportation system would be
cost-effective for users. It would be convenient because there
would be many pickup locations and frequent pickups. It would
significantly reduce downtown traffic congestion, and I wouldn't
be surprised if closer scrutiny would reveal that it could also
be a break-even, or better, regional municipal service, perhaps
even a profitable private business.
Let us never
We Have a Choice.
Let us never
In Our Every Deliberation,
We Must Consider the Impact of Our Decisions on the Next Seven