Cradle to Cradle Sustainabilty – When Waste is an Asset

For the last few days I’ve been enjoying the great weather here in Colorado.  My wife and I went on a two hour long bike ride to celebrate the comfortable temperatures.  On the way back to our house we rode past a small horse ranch located right in the middle of suburbia.  The place looks like it was boarding horses well before any of the numerous cul-de-sacs were built around it.  But the thing that really caught my eye was a sign stating “Organic Compost – $10 pickup truck.”

When we finally arrived home we were thinking about the yard work we needed to do, and many items on that to-do list would have greatly benefited from compost.  So I got in my truck and headed over to the horse ranch.  To my pleasant surprise I indeed read the sign correctly, and the nice lady directed me to the back of their ranch where my eyes laid upon a very large (and somewhat smelly) mountain of organic compost consisting of horse manure and a plethora of other things.

As I was shoveling the compost into the truck I was thinking how this rancher’s unwanted commodity was something I was willing to pay good money for – one person’s shit is another person’s gold.  I have often thought about all of the cardboard that my wife and I throw into the recycling bins, and even though a big gas-guzzling truck comes by once every two weeks to pick it up and it eventually gets turned into more cardboard, I honestly wish that the cardboard could be thrown into my yard and have it molecularly break down into compost.  That way there’s no truck and no recycling bins – just my green grass.

I think of houses and other buildings the same way.  For each building there’s a lot of things coming into it (i.e. power, food for the occupants, materialistic things that make us happy, home improvement items) and likewise there are a lot of things coming out of it (waste from all that food, trash from the things that make us happy).  And just like that recycling truck there are other conveyances that are hauling away our waste (i.e. trash truck, pipes) and being processed.

Cradle to cradle is the idea that nothing is trash.  In a true sustainable environment there is nothing wasted.  An item can be used and reused numerous times, and if that item has reached the end of its usefulness then it simply degrades and becomes one with the earth.  I don’t mean to sound overly spiritual, but it just means that when someone no longer has a use for something then that something should have a value to someone else.  There should be someone out there who is willing to pay for your waste – that’s what sustainability is really about.  There’s no reason why the grass can’t be greener on your side.

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