I love touring people through the bioshelter! Every Thursday this summer folks come out and I get to tell them about how we live lightly on the planet. This last Thursday a gentleman toured and at the end, even though his eyes were glassing over with so much input, he summarized, "So really it's all about design." He nailed it on the head.
To live permanently on the planet humans need to design systems that work with nature so that we aren't harming the planet. In our bioshelter home that means that we use the rain water for all of our needs and then return the surplus back to the environment as clean or cleaner than when we captured it. That means we feed worms all of our waste products (anything that's not plastic), so that we can return that surplus back to the environment. That means we used all biodegradable materials (except for the roof) to build our greenhouse. The walls are made of clay we dug from the ground, straw we got from Palmer, and sand we got from Alaska Sand and Gravel with windows destined for the dump from Craig's list. For insulation, we packed the clay covered straw in between two walls 12 inches apart and plastered the outsides of the walls with natural clay plaster . We also built a rocket stove with some firebricks, which is covered with an Alaska clay and sand plaster to warm the greenhouse.
Designing for sustainability is easy to talk about, but actually doing it is much more difficult. Stores that sell building materials shipped up here from thousands of miles away, make building much easier. The immense amount of carbon that is spent to get those building materials here is also a huge concern. The materials being shipped are highly toxic and many will never disintegrate, even though the homes they are placed in will only last 50 years. The immense amount of carbon that is spent to get those building materials here is also a huge concern. It is not sustainable.
It's time to change the way we live. We need to design and plan for a future that stops harming our fragile ecosystem.
So the question is: how can you design this change? An easy way to begin is to start growing your own food or buying from local farmers, and then composting the excess waste. Growing your own food means you are not spending carbon for your food to be sent to you from the Lower 48! Usually food is flown over 1,500 miles to get to your plate. Some people are growing food, but are still importing fertilizer made from chemicals to fertilize their food. Without going into the health concerns of adding chemicals to our food system, we can design a system that utilizes a natural fertilizer source: animal manure. And it's local! Designing a local food system that includes animals, especially when they have other benefits like meat and eggs, is extremely environmentally friendly.
This is only the beginning of the design process. Designing systems for fodder or for watering those animals and plants, or for gathering produce from the wild, or for feeding the microorganisms in your soil, or for better ways to share food with each other, or share the work load....these are all things that you learn in a permaculture design course.
It seems to me that more and more people are feeling the need to become more and more self-sufficient, localized, and healthy. It's time. You can get a kick start by taking a permaculture design course this winter. It's all about designing your sustainable future and our planet's future simultaneously.