Friday, 17 September 2010

Happy to be Poor

Whenever I delve into the media, I cannot help noticing an ongoing debate as to whether or not consumerism can ever bring about a state of lasting well-being! Their fixation with the question takes up endless column inches and provokes heated discussion in the comments sections

The ‘happiness question,’ is becoming a neurotic fixation with many journalists

Personally, I know what the answer to this conundrum is – Real happiness and therefore contentment, can only ever be found within oneself, and not through anything external – Owning property, wealth, cars, or a wardrobe full of clothes, is of little importance - what causes continued unhappiness is attachment to craving and desire. The continuous quest for more and more, and the fear of losing what we already have, whether you are a millionaire or a pauper is beside the point, what is important is how attached you are to ‘stuff!’

The Buddhist points directly at the cause of our constant frustrations, and informs us that suffering is caused by desire, only by understanding desire and how it holds us in its tight grip, can we ever hope to free ourselves from its tentacles and achieve real peace of mind.

There is an old Buddhist saying worth taking note of: ‘we need warm clothes, a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, the rest is just desire!’ Unfortunately though, many of us are seduced into the whole consumerist merry go round! We are constantly drip-fed a media diet of desire, whenever we turn on the TV, internet or open a paper, we are beguiled and seduced by slick marketing, constantly trying to seduce us into buying products, we could quite easily live without. The power of advertising lies in its ability to make us believe that we need such and such a product, that we can only be successful and complete if we own Brand X. It’s just sheer stupidity really!

We even have a term for this kind of disorder; we call those who can’t stop consuming, shopaholics! What’s depressing here though is that anyone with this condition is seen as ‘one of us,’ as if those who are unable to stop spending, are normal! Perhaps they are! Never mind that most of the goods bought, only end up in landfill within a year!

So much of society is geared to the creation and accumulation of wealth; wealth is said to be what keeps the whole economy turning! No politician would dare to discuss any economic scenario, which precluded constant growth! We live a mass deception, unable to see any other way forward, never understanding that it is just this continued drive for growth that is the root cause of many of personal and environmental problems we see all around us. It isn’t a coincidence either, that religious enlightenment is usually accomplished by those who live a simple life. A reading of the biographies of the Buddha’s, Saints, Sadhu's and Holly men and women, of all paths will reveal that they achieved liberation when letting go of desire and attachment to wealth and materialism.

But enough is enough;
A clearer understanding of the term ‘poverty,’ would be helpful here. What I class as poverty may well be very different from someone else’s definition. My understanding of the term implies a state of destitution, an inability to be able to afford even the basic necessities for a healthy life. A state of being very difficult to emulate in this country, where state benefits are a universal right for everyone unable to work

Poverty is a relative term! Yes, there is a basic level, where poverty means real, grinding hardship, where, due to whatever circumstance, a person found themselves in, it would be very difficult to escape from. Yet, even here, informed choices to be made, where some of the misery can be alleviated at least!

There is no need to become sanctimonious, to develop an ‘holier than thou,’ attitude to poverty either. To many spiritual seekers, being poor is seen as a necessary aid on the road to god. Indeed many religious orders actively encourage a life of poverty, in the pursuit of holiness. What I think is missing here, though, to realise that money per say is not the problem. Whether you are a millionaire or a pauper is beside the point, it is how attached you are to 'stuff.'

I want to be clear though; I’m not suggesting that everyone who finds themselves in destitution should meekly accept their situation. A mark of any civilised society is surely when all of its members alike, receive an adequate income, to feed, clothe and house themselves and their families! Far too many people face a daily existence of misery, through sometimes, insurmountable, financial problems. I do not want to belittle anyone who lives in this sort of gruelling hardship. There are still far too many who find it almost impossible to lead any kind of normal life, due to the debt trap.

It is entirely possible, if one is careful and expedient, to live a life of contentment, and well being, whilst being relatively poor. If you are able to extricate yourself, from the trap of materialism! It means first of all you have to re-evaluate your priorities, and to wake up to the fact, that a wardrobe stuffed full of clothes, the latest technological gadgets, or eating junk foods, does nothing to further ones situation, and can be happily left behind! Do we really need to live on a diet of factory made packaged foods, when we can find cheaper and healthier wholesome alternatives?

More ways towards a better world

A little while ago, I wrote a blog where I talked about three exciting innovations that promised to provide positive answers to some of the problems we face as a population living in a world with very finite natural resources vastly over used its finite resources. The three technologies I reported on seem to me to be examples of what is needed if we are to stand any hope of surviving on this planet in sustainable manner, which no longer does damage to the earths eco systems

The three examples excited me tremendously, I reported on a treatment plant that is turning sewage water into fresh drinkable water, a company who are talking waste of all sorts and recycling it into items such as garden compost and timber substitutes. And a company who are making a thin plastic film which turns sunlight into electricity that will heat a home or power electrical equipment.

With this blog, my intention is to explore many of the possibilities open to us, once we have let go of our blinkered and conditioned ways of seeing. Once we have let go of the nonsense that is fostered onto us from all sides, in society, and once, we have truly liberated our minds from the clutter and junk that normally resides in it, we are open to the many wonderful ways opportunities that are there waiting to be tapped into. The blogs title Beyond Materialism, reflects that my way is as much about the inner religious process as it is about the outer way. Of course, in reality there is no distinction between inside and outside, these two dualities being artificially created by our minds in the first place.

I’ve now come across more individuals who are working to transform the way we live. People who are no driven by the profit motive and who care enough about the environment to want to make a positive difference to the way it is nourished

These people by their foresight and vision are offering us opportunities to move away from the usual conditions that govern our lives.

Michael Reynolds: Architect extraordinaire!
If you were to think of a house built entirely out of waste products, the chances are that you would visualise a rickety, contraption help together with bits of rusting metal. However, the homes that Michael Reynolds constructs couldn’t be further from that nightmare scenario. His homes which he calles Earthships, look like and are, state of the art places anyone would be delighted to live in. These houses are fully integrated sustainable structures that look fantastic and are aesthetically pleasing on the eye

What is amazing is that Reynolds builds houses out of what other people call junk; tyres, cans and plastic bottles and clay are all features. And each house only uses renewable energy. Water is collected from the roof and used four times. Electricity is produced with by a photovoltaic / wind power system. This energy is stored in batteries and supplied to your electrical outlets. And the houses reuse all household sewage in indoor and outdoor treatment cells resulting in food production and landscaping with no pollution of aquifers. Toilets flush with greywater that does not smell.

Michael Reynolds is a self-described "guy who's trying to do some sustainable housing for the future." He is a passionate advocate for sustainable living. He believes our consumerist society is destroying our natural resources and eco-systems and that the only "logical" thing to do is to use the discards of our currently unsustainable lifestyle to create sustainable housing. When asked about the common misconceptions of his work, he replied, "When we started, some people just thought we were building out of recycled materials. Then others began to see we were building sustainable buildings out of recycled materials." It is this "logical" paradigm for building that Reynolds has been advocating for more than thirty years. "We need to live in an entirely different way and that is what we are hoping to find and present to people.

He created the alternative word Biotecture to describe "the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. A combination of biology and architecture." Michael Reynolds builds Earthships and teaches anyone who wants to learn how to build them, too. He describes an Earthship as "a fully sustainable building made with biproducts of our society. It is a building that will take care of you in every way: food (year round green house), heating, water, air and sewage disposal. "Earthships are the living model of the future that goes far beyond house and architecture."
His earth ships can be built anywhere in the world and won’t cost a lot to make either. The homes use totally sustainable methods to generate energy.

Tyres are the foundations stones
“Everything we are doing is a response to the mess we find ourselves in. We know that we were running out of fuel and water. I was inspired to create a way of life that responds to those problems. There are mountains of tyres around the world, and no one knows what to do with them. Hawaii actually ships its used tires to California." Michael's Earthship designs use discarded tyres to create incredibly strong foundations. After filling the tires with earth and stacking them like bricks, the resulting walls are so thick, they aid in temperature retention. Coupling this feature with year-round greenhouses allows each earthship to maintain a temperature of 72 degrees, regardless of where it's located. "Once I added the concept of thermal mass by beating dirt into a tyre I created a low-tech, readily available and easy-to-learn method of building. I couldn't have conceived of a better material than tires to build with."

Cradle to Cradle

I watched a fascinating documentary film recently called Waste = Food, which dealt with our insane throwaway culture. Humans are the only creatures that produce landfills. Natural resources are being depleted on a rapid scale while production and consumption are rising in nations like China and India. The waste production world wide is enormous and if we do not do anything we will soon have turned all our resources into one big messy landfill. But there is hope. The film showed how two men with a shared vision came together, to create one of the most exciting and promising ways we may find to produce and reuse the endless items that fill our lives, items which up to now, have mostly ended up laying in landfill after use. The German chemist, Michael Braungart, and the American designer-architect William McDonough are fundamentally changing the way we produce and build. If waste would become food for the biosphere or the technosphere (all the technical products we make), production and consumption could become beneficial for the planet.

A design and production concept that they call Cradle to Cradle. A concept that is seen as the next industrial revolution. Design every product in such a way that at the end of its lifecycle the component materials become a new resource. Design buildings in such a way that they produce energy and become a friend to the environment.

Large companies like Ford and Nike are working with McDonough and Braungart to change their production facilities and their products. They realise that economically seen, waste is destruction of capital. You make something with no value. Based on their ideas the Chinese government is working towards a circular economy where Waste = Food. An amazing story that will definitely change your way of thinking about production and consumption.

In the Cradle to Cradle model, all materials used in industrial or commercial processes—such as metals, fibers, dyes--are seen to fall into one of two categories: "technical" or "biological" nutrients. Technical nutrients are strictly limited to non-toxic, non-harmful synthetic materials that have no negative effects on the natural environment; they can be used in continuous cycles as the same product without losing their integrity or quality. In this manner these materials can be used over and over again instead of being "downcycled" into lesser products, ultimately becoming waste. Biological Nutrients are organic materials that, once used, can be disposed of in any natural environment and decompose into the soil, providing food for small life forms without affecting the natural environment. This is dependent on the ecology of the region; for example, organic material from one country or landmass may be harmful to the ecology of another country or landmass.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Dzogchen Practice in Everyday Life

Dzogchen is the natural, primordial state or natural condition of the mind, and a body of teachings and meditation practices aimed at realizing that condition. Dzogchen, or "Great Perfection", is a central teaching of the Nyingma school but can be practiced by any one of any other Buddhist school, or indeed any other way or religion. For Dzogchen is simply a natural state of mind, where all worries and distractions are left behind.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was born in the Denhok Valley at Kham Derge, Eastern Tibet in 1910 to a family directly descended from the ninth century King Trisong Detsen. He is regarded as having been a great teacher of teachers, a realised being, who was also remarked upon as being a genuinely good human being. His entire life was devoted to the preservation and dissemination of the Buddha Dharma and he is still regarded with awe and amazement throughout the Tibetan diaspora, and western centers of Tibetan Buddhism. This was an article written by Rinpoche.

Dzogchen is the highest and most definitive path to enlightenment

The everyday practice of Dzogchen is simply to develop a complete carefree acceptance, an openness to all situations without limit. We should realise openness as the playground of our emotions and relate to people without artificiality, manipulation or strategy.

We should experience everything totally, never withdrawing into ourselves as a marmot hides in its hole. This practice releases tremendous energy, which is usually constricted by the process of maintaining fixed reference points. Referentially is the process by which we retreat from the direct experience of everyday life.

Being present in the moment may initially trigger fear. But by welcoming the sensation of fear with complete openness, we cut through the barriers created by habitual emotional patterns.

When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we should develop the feeling of opening ourselves out completely to the entire universe. We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the mask of self-protection.

We shouldn't make a division in our meditation between perception and field of perception. We shouldn't become like a cat watching a mouse. We should realise that the purpose of meditation is not to go "deeply into ourselves" or withdraw from the world. Practice should be free and non-conceptual, unconstrained by introspection and concentration.

Vast unoriginated self-luminous wisdom space is the ground of being - the beginning and the end of confusion. The presence of awareness in the primordial state has no bias toward enlightenment or non-enlightenment. This ground of being which is known as pure or original mind is the source from which all phenomena arise. It is known as the great mother, as the womb of potentiality in which all things arise and dissolve in natural self-perfectedness and absolute spontaneity.

All aspects of phenomena are completely clear and lucid. The whole universe is open and unobstructed - everything is mutually interpenetrating.

Seeing all things as naked, clear and free from obscurations, there is nothing to attain or realise. The nature of phenomena appears naturally and is naturally present in time-transcending awareness. Everything is naturally perfect just as it is. All phenomena appear in their uniqueness as part of the continually changing pattern. These patterns are vibrant with meaning and significance at every moment; yet there is no significance to attach to such meanings beyond the moment in which they present themselves.

This is the dance of the five elements in which matter is a symbol of energy and energy a symbol of emptiness. We are a symbol of our own enlightenment. With no effort or practice whatsoever, liberation or enlightenment is already here.

The everyday practice of dzogchen is just everyday life itself. Since the undeveloped state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any special way or attempt to attain anything above and beyond what you actually are. There should be no feeling of striving to reach some "amazing goal" or "advanced state."

To strive for such a state is a neurosis, which only conditions us and serves to obstruct the free flow of Mind. We should also avoid thinking of ourselves as worthless persons - we are naturally free and unconditioned. We are intrinsically enlightened and lack nothing. When engaging in meditation practice, we should feel it to be as natural as eating, breathing and defecating. It should not become a specialised or formal event, bloated with seriousness and solemnity. We should realise that meditation transcends effort, practice, aims, goals and the duality of liberation and non-liberation. Meditation is always ideal; there is no need to correct anything. Since everything that arises is simply the play of mind as such, there is no unsatisfactory meditation and no need to judge thoughts as good or bad.

Therefore we should simply sit. Simply stay in your own place, in your own condition just as it is. Forgetting self-conscious feelings, we do not have to think, "I am meditating." Our practice should be without effort, without strain, without attempts to control or force and without trying to become "peaceful."

If we find that we are disturbing ourselves in any of these ways, we stop meditating and simply rest or relax for a while. Then we resume

our meditation. If we have "interesting experiences" either during or after meditation, we should avoid making anything special of them. To spend time thinking about experiences is simply a distraction and an attempt to become unnatural. These experiences are simply signs of practice and should be regarded as transient events. We should not attempt to re-experience them because to do so only serves to distort the natural spontaneity of mind.

All phenomena are completely new and fresh, absolutely unique and entirely free from all concepts of past, present and future. They are

experienced in timelessness.

The continual stream of new discovery, revelation and inspiration which arises at every moment is the manifestation of our clarity. We should learn to see everyday life as mandala - the luminous fringes of experience which radiate spontaneously from the empty nature of our being. The aspects of our mandala are the day-to-day objects of our life experience moving in the dance or play of the universe. By this symbolism, the inner teacher reveals the profound and ultimate significance of being. Therefore we should be natural and spontaneous, accepting and learning from everything. This enables us to see the ironic and amusing side of events that usually irritate us.

In meditation we can see through the illusion of past, present and future - our experience becomes the continuity of nowness. The past is only an unreliable memory held in the present. The future is only a projection of our present conceptions. The present itself vanishes as

soon as we try to grasp it. So why bother with attempting to establish an illusion of solid ground?

We should free ourselves from our past memories and preconceptions of meditation. Each moment of meditation is completely unique and full of potentiality. In such moments, we will be incapable of judging our meditation in terms of past experience, dry theory or hollow rhetoric.

Simply plunging directly into meditation in the moment now, with our whole being, free from hesitation, boredom or excitement, is enlightenment.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Sustainable farming

We live in South Lincolnshire, an area famous for producing many of the vegetables found in every green grocers shop throughout the land. Our cottage is also surrounded by farmland, where the farmers grow a mix of wheat, barley and rape on a three yearly rotation basis. Like the vast majority of farmers all across the world, the farms around here grow crops by monoculture, that is they grow a single crop at a time, with no variation. This year has been the turn of wheat. And whilst the sight of a full wheat field, glittering in the sun, or bundles of hey, waiting to be collected at harvest time, is a glorious sight for all country dwellers, the effect that monoculture has on the soil in these fields is worth thinking about.

Farming practices entail ploughing, furrowing and tilling of the soil, before the farmer can plant his seed. The soil is thus constantly exposed, allowing minerals and nutrients to leach, whilst worms and insects are gobbled up by the birds and gulls who follow the tractor. All of which ensures a sterile soil which has to be constantly upgraded by the application of fertiliser to the field, if the farmers wants to produce healthy crops. In time, as a result of constant ploughing, and monoculture practices, the soil becomes degraded, and the farmer is caught in a vicious circle of having to apply more fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides to the fields. All of which have oil as a base in their production. Oil is also needed to propel the tractor and feed the lorries that deliver the chemicals to the farm. Given that, sooner or later oil is going to become much more expensive, as supplies dwindle, a crisis is waiting to happen on our farms.

Ploughing also floods the soil with excessive oxygen, which burns up the humus and puts it back into the atmosphere as CO2.The longer the soil is left undisturbed, the more humus builds up in it and the more CO2 is kept out of the atmosphere.

Farms for a future
It doesn’t have to be this way though, just because certain practices have been carried out for hundreds of years, it doesn’t mean they cannot be changed, with new ways found to produce crops that are both sustainable and healthy. Fortunately such a way of growing food has been developed over the past 30 years, this method is called Permaculture, which is an amalgamation of Permanent and Agriculture. The essence of permaculture is that it takes natural ecosystems as the model for our own farms and gardens. Where different crops are planted side by side. This system ensures maximum benefits to the crops.

There's no need for chemical fertilisers, as the crops become part of the whole eco system and are self-sustaining. And different crops are grown together, thus ensuring all of the plants mutually benefit each other. Some repel predators, whilst others attract insects and wildlife that are of benefit. There is never any monoculrure in the permacultre system

An example of how effective this way of farming is, can be seen at the farm of one of the pioneers of this way of working, Sepp Holzer, an Austrian farmer who has gained international recognition for his work. His expanded farm covers over 45 hectares of forest gardens, including 70 ponds and tens of thousands of fruit trees, shrubs, vines and highly productive vegetables and herbs at an altitude of 1500 meters. He has created a self-sustaining landscape in which he produces many varieties of the best quality fish, fruits, nuts, vegetables, mushrooms, pork, poultry and even citrus and kiwi without irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides or weeding. His farm is said to be the most consistent example of permaculture worldwide.

He is the author of several books, nationally recognised as a permaculture-activist in the established agricultural industry, and works internationally as an adviser for ecological agriculture. He is often asked by desperate governments to rescue big areas of land. One of his biggest and most relevant methods is to work with nature instead of confronting it and working against it.

There are many other issues in which modern, intensive farming could be challenged, for instance, where is the logic in continuing to set aside land for the rearing of animals to produce meat? Very roughly, it takes ten times as much land to produce a kilo of meat than it does to produce a kilo of grain, pulse or other vegetable food. I am not advocating the complete rejection of meat from our diets, (We eat it once a week), but the only way we can continue to eat it daily is by industrialised agriculture, which means feeding vast amounts of grain to animals. The best way to purchase your meat is from local small farmers. One of Britain's leading forest farmers, Martin Crawford calculated that twice as food could be grown by Permaculture methods than by conventional farming methods.

We are now changing our garden into a forest garden, which is an out growth of permaculture. Everything we grow will be either edible or wildlife friendly. The birds will provide us with phosphates, which are found in the seeds they eat and which they expel. We’ll get our nitrogen from composting and by growing beans and potash will be supplied by comfy and ferns. We’ll grow beneficial plants which deter pests and encourage growth in the crops. No irrigation will be needed for the larger trees and mulching will provide the moisture, and no weeding or digging will be done, thus ensuring the soil is always kept in an healthy state. Ok, We are talking about a small plot of land in our case, but as Sepp Holzer and countess others demonstrate, this way of production has to be the way forward, if we are to survive for many years to come.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Just in Time: Solutions for a tired planet

I wrote in an earlier blog, how pessimistic I feel about the impending environmental crisis, due to a twin pincer movement of over population and capitalism that is squashing the life out of the earth. Over fishing and pollution will mean our oceans become massive garbage tips, the countryside will be cemented over to create houses, offices, roads and factories. Species will disappear and people will be displaced, until the planet becomes one giant industrial zone.

The only way I see this disaster being averted is by incentivising people to actually change their habits. The recent failure to convince people that global warming would be a catastrophe for nature has shown that appealing to people’s consciences doesn’t always bring the required results; therefore, a more direct approach is needed, to secure a planet that is both healthy and sustainable.

I have become excited of late by some very interesting technologies that are starting to appear, and which offer some solutions to the disaster waiting to happen. Here are just three of them. All of which I see as playing major roles within the immediate future.

The product: Power Plastic
The manufacturer: Konarka Technologies
State of development: Being produced now

Imagine each and every surface under the sun covered with a film that captures light and transforms it into electricity; an office window that directly powers your computer, or a parasol that runs a laptop, allowing you to email from the beach. What about a sun roof that keeps your electronics ticking over while you drive, a canvas cover that recharges your electric car or a tent that turns a reading light on and warms up your sleeping bag after the sun goes down?

Rick Hess, who runs innovative solar company, Konarka, is justifiably proud of his company's latest creation, because it will do all of these things. Invented by the firm's co-founder and Nobel Prize winner, Dr Alan Heeger, 'Power Plastic' is a light, thin, flexible, energy-generating sheet. It converts both indoor and out-door light into direct electrical current - a solar panel that rolls up like camera film. "Soon, you might not even need batteries," Rick Hess says. "We can put this stuff anywhere!"

Power Plastic is made up of several thin components: a photo-reactive film, a transparent electrode layer, a plastic substrate and a protective skin, yet it is only five millimetres thick. The sheets can be 60 inches wide and any length, just like when a newspaper is printed on a continuous roll of paper. Its bendiness means that everyday items, even clothes, could be turned into power sources.

Unlike other photovoltaic technology, Power Plastic sheets are organic, free of toxic materials and therefore 'green'. Their easy application means they create complete energy independence wherever they go. Power will no longer be limited to rigid, outdoor, large-scale panels, nor will the consumer have to wait years to see a return on their solar investment.

Konarka, aptly named after the Hindu Sun God, recently teamed up with Arch Aluminium & Glass, to integrate Power Plastic into the development of light-harvesting windows. The idea is destined to become popular among homeowners who do not want to spoil the look of their roofs or who live in listed properties.

The product also comes in a range of colours to give architects free scope to design it into any type of glass surface, even laminated, security or sound proof. Of course, the process of installing new windows is much less intimidating for a homeowner than the idea of fitting an expensive solar rig on the roof. In fact, accessible power generation could soon be rolled out to an unlimited audience, especially remote or grid-less regions of the developing world. It could even, one day, turn every resident into a supplier of excess power to their national grid - an abundant renewable source of global energy, eradicating the demand for fossil fuel alternatives altogether.

"The burning question for all DIYers and eco-conscious geeks alike, is can we expect to see rolls of Power Plastic on the shelves of home improvement stores anytime soon?" Popular Mechanics asked Rick Hess. "Not exactly," he replied, "but check back in two years and we'll give you an update."

The product: Water from sewage
The manufacturer: Orange County Water Authority, California, USA.
State of development: In use now

The Orange County Water District is purifying waste water into drinking water at a $481 million recycling plant. The plant uses microfiltration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet light, and hydrogen peroxide disinfection. 70 million gallons of sewer water is treated a day in Orange County, meeting the drinking needs of over 500,000 people, including visitors to Disneyland.
Some call the process “toilet to tap”, but officials prefer the term “Groundwater Replenishment System”. Thousands of microfilters, hollow fibres covered in holes one-three-hundredth the width of a human hair, strain out suspended solids, bacteria and other materials.

The water then passes to a reverse osmosis system, where it is forced through semi-permeable membranes that filter out smaller contaminants, including salts, viruses and pesticides. Reverse osmosis also is the main process used in desalination.
Finally, the water is disinfected with a mix of ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide.
The resulting product exceeds all U.S. drinking standards but gets additional filtration when it is allowed to percolate back into the ground to replenish the aquifer.

"These types of projects you will see springing up all over the place where there are severe water shortages,” said Michael R. Markus, the general manager of the Orange County district, whose plant, has been visited by water managers from across the globe.

The finished product, which managers say exceeds drinking water standards, does not flow directly into kitchen and bathroom taps; state regulations forbid that.
Instead it is injected underground, with half of it helping to form a barrier against seawater intruding on groundwater sources and the other half gradually filtering into aquifers that supply 2.3 million people, about three-quarters of the county. The recycling project will produce much more potable water and at a higher quality than did the mid-1970s-era plant it replaces.

The result, Mr. Markus said, “is as pure as distilled water” and about the same cost as buying water from wholesalers.

Recycled water, also called reclaimed or grey water, has been used for decades in agriculture, landscaping and by industrial plants.

And for years, treated sewage, known as effluent, has been discharged into oceans and rivers, including the Mississippi and the Colorado, which supply drinking water for millions.
But only about a dozen water agencies in the United States, and several more abroad, recycle treated sewage to replenish drinking water supplies, though none steer the water directly into household taps. They typically spray or inject the water into the ground and allow it to percolate down to aquifers.

Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, among the most arid places in Africa, is believed to be the only place in the world that practices “direct potable reuse” on a large-scale, with recycled water going directly into the tap water distribution system, said James Crook, a water industry consultant who has studied the issue.

The product: Compost and timber production from plastic waste
The manufacturer: WastAway, Tennessee, USA
State of development: Fully implemented now

WastAway, based in Tennessee, have a fascinating technique that takes unsorted household waste and converts it into a product called Fluff, which can then be used in a variety of other ways. Fluff is similar in consistency to wood pulp, and can be processed for use as a growing medium for plants and turf, can be gasified to generate steam, can be converted to synthetic fuels such as ethanol, diesel, and gasoline, or can be compressed and extruded to make products such as construction materials. Their aim is to have zero landfill waste. The idea of using compost

That is made from plastic, on my vegetables, doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm, but it is one of the more ingenious methods of dealing with plastic I’ve come across, and I feel this process is one of the more exciting schemes I've come across so far, for dealing with such a toxic product.
WastAway takes something the world doesn’t want and converts it into something the world can use. Apart from compost, the company are also converting garbage into electricity, synthetic fuels, steam and building materials. WastAway takes ordinary household garbage (also referred to as Municipal Solid Waste) and creates a product that can be converted into any one of these items, and more. We convert garbage into a useful commodity - and while we do it, we keep from filling our landfills! That’s the WastAway goal: Zero Landfill Growth.

One major problem with usual recycling programs is to do with the separation process. However WastAway’s process doesn’t require the user to pre sort recyclables from their ordinary trash. Instead councils can simply use their existing waste collection pick-up system (bins, bags, or boxes) and can collect waste with a single truck, which saves money and reduces emissions. The waste is taken to a WastAway facility where recyclables are separated automatically and the remaining refuse is processed into Fluff in about 20 minutes. This can eliminate the use of expensive and often subsidized recycling efforts, yet yield 100% recycling participation in your community. The company are at present also testing fluff to turn it into Synthetic liquid fuels such as ethanol, gasoline, and diesel. Wonderful!