Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sustainability project

We’ve completed the early phase of another thing that’s part of what I’m half-jokingly calling our “Sustainability Project” (photo above). It’s joking because there’s a lot in life that I don’t take totally seriously, and this is one of those things. However, we really are trying to live more sustainably and this is another example of that.

Quite some time ago, when we were still at the old house, we bought an EnsoPet Pet Waste Composting Kit (link goes to the Australian manufacturer), but never quite found the time/place to bury it. This week we finally found both.

As I said in the Instagram caption, it’s basically a composting toilet for pets which safely deals with the waste and diverts it from landfills or wastewater systems. The end result is enriched soil, which is also good. However, even though the system is designed to deal with pathogens that may be present in animal waste, it doesn’t necessarily entirely eliminate them, so the finished compost shouldn’t be used where food will be grown.

We had the EnsoPet long before we bought the Bokashi bin (which I’ll talk about again in more detail when the first “batch” is fully composted), but also long before we took most other waste minimisation steps. Even so, we were already doing some conventional things.

Awhile back, Auckland Council increased the size of the recycling wheelie bins to 250 litres, and they accept a wide range of materials. The bin is so large that it can take two months for us to fill it.

Meanwhile, a pilot project slowly being rolled out around the country collects plastic shopping bags and other “soft packaging” at various drop off points. Such things couldn’t go in the normal recycling bin, and finding a place that took them was difficult. However, since the project began, I’d guesstimate I’ve probably diverted the equivalent of 5 60-litre rubbish bags (probably more) from landfill.

With all that stuff being recycled, and us now using the Bokashi bin for kitchen composting, our 35 litre kitchen rubbish bin that used to fill up every week to ten days can now take the better part of a month to fill, and it never smells (because it’s mainly unrecyclable packaging, like polystyrene trays, for example, and contaminated paper, like from the fish and chips shop).

The EnsoPet will mean pet waste will be diverted to composting, too, where before we used to flush it down the loo. It’s frankly a little more work for us, but the rewards are pretty good—for us, and also for the environment.

We’re also growing some vegetables this year—not many, and it’s not a first for us, but it’s been a fair while. Mainly, this is sort of a warm up for next year.

And there are a few other things we’ve been up to, too—topics for future posts, mainly because there’s more information to gather. And I wouldn’t want to post about something without complete information.

And more information is something I gathered today. A friend asked me about putting cat poo in the EnsoPet, since it would have kitty litter stuck to it if the cat uses a litter box. This is an issue for us, too, because while Bella always used to go outside, as she got older she became more reluctant to go do that, and, with her kidney condition, that last thing we want is for her to “hold it”. So, we got her a dirt box.

The problem is, what do you do with the gifts from a cat?! The litter we use clumps when wet, and a daily emptying of the gifts in the box is quite heavy. Most people place that in their household rubbish—sending it to a landfill, and also leaving very little room for actual rubbish since there’s a weight limit on the bags we use.

So, I asked the EnsoPet people about cat litter stuck to cat poo, and they said that should be alright, but to avoid the large clumps of clay, people should use biodegradable litter. I haven’t put any cat stuff in the EnsoPet yet, mainly because I clean out both kinds at once. I’ve buried some of that so less has to go to landfill, and with the EnsoPet now installed, maybe I can find a way to deal better with the cat gifts, too. Here’s hoping.

The larger point here is that we’re trying to reduce our impact on the planet, and to do so in a way that ultimately saves us money. We have saved a little, mostly from being able to buy fewer rubbish bags, and ultimately other savings will creep upward. The investment in various bins will take a long time to be paid off from the savings, but that was never our main goal, reducing our impact on the planet was and is. So, long term we may save some money from doing this, or we may not, but we’re sending less to landfill and to sewage treatment plants, so all that alone is a good result.

It would be nice if someone could develop easier and much cheaper ways to do all these things so that more people could and would take part. But we live in an age when a great many people don’t know how to grow vegetables, so asking them to actively reduce their waste is too much. We can, so we do. If more people in our situation did the same thing, it could make a huge difference.

You gotta start some place.

A video about the EnsoPet from the people who supplied our Bokashi, and who also helped develop the EnsoPet:

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