Tag Archives: composting

Waterpod and Floating Villages

Awhile back I posted an article on the Freedom Ship, basically a floating condominium that would tour the world. Ritzy, high end, super expensive and still a pipe dream ten years after the first idea hit the blueprints. 

And interestingly enough I finished writing a story this year that took fifteen years to finish. It takes place around New York, where people live on and farm barges in a very near future where pollution and toxic waste have poisoned a lot of the land. Impossible? Maybe but the idea came to me because of the prison barge that is docked on one of Manhattan’s shores, as well as the stories in the past of the boat people, immigrants not allowed to dock anywhere and having to live on the boats in which they escaped their native countries.

The movie Waterworld was pretty much a dystopian, road warrior style movie where people lived on ships because there was so little land. These ships seemed to be filled with crazy people and pirates and when we get down to it in a world where resources are limited, will only our bestial natures surface?

So is my idea and the Freedom Ship too farfetched to be true? Maybe. But I certainly don’t want my vision to be true. However, there are other visionaries today who are looking at old barges and ships and rethinking their uses. These people are looking to a future 50 to 100 years from now.

The Waterpod, is a barge that’s been refitted and made as a floating artists’ colony. This barge is waterpod2being towed from spot to spot on the Hudson and to each of New York’s boroughs. But it’s not just a bunch of artists floating on the river. It’s been made to be sustainable, to recycle and to provide a living space. Water is purified from the Hudson River, as well as utilizing grey water recycling. Hydroponics are set up to grown edible plants. A composting toilet is being used but must be able to compost waste from six people. Waterpod relies on its own power sources such as a vertical wind turbine, solar PV panels, bicycle power, and a picohydro system. The hybrid solar/wind system will be their main source of power, along with some marine batteries.

The floating habitat has chickens for eggs (and maybe protein but I’m not sure if they’re butchering). A “rocket” wood-burning stove will be used for cooking. It’s supposed to be super efficient but I’m unclear as to where they would get the wood if self-sustainable. This pod was only launched in June so some of these issues will be worked out as the barge continues its journey.

As well the Waterpod will have lectures, discussions, workshops, performances, shows, and other exhibitions. It is meant to entertain, educate and provoke discussions on sustainable living as the world becomes more overpopulated and renewable resources become limited. Science fiction or science in spite of fiction? The pod people, those involved in making this idea a workable and interactive system are many. Mary Mattingly a visual artist and photographer first conceived of the Waterpod in 2007. Her photographs are ethereal, beautiful and intriguing. http://www.marymattingly.com/ But to realize this idea took many people.

The website for the Waterpod project is extensive, with pages of information, a blog, a calendar of events and shows (and links to the artist websites), a progress report and schedule and the vision waterpod1of this project. My story was a what-if, that also took place around New York. Freedom Ship is a what-if that may never work. The Waterpod is a reality. It floats, there are people living on it, raising chickens and plants, purifying their water and composting, and holding interactive shows and performances on something made of recycled materials. Even the barge was an old piece of junk that was refitted.

 If nothing else the pod people of Waterpod are looking at various ways to work with and adapt to our changing environment. They have a lot of supporters and donors right now and the pod was only launched in June. In the future we could see more of these pods as people look for affordable living spaces.

http://www.thewaterpod.org/about.html  (Images are borrowed from Waterpod’s site.)

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Go Green

I have already mentioned how I wouldn’t litter even as a teenager, and what I think of Sam Sullivan’s “eco-density” movement (another word for cramming people into smaller spaces). Along the way of my own greening I started to look at what I could do to lessen my impact. Like most people there is even more I can do.

At one point I was a book rep and had many book samples as well as reams of catalogues and order forms. Blue boxes had not quite made it into every household. Instead of loading up the garbage cans with all the paper, I would take loads to the Kent St. station, the only place in Vancouver that would take material for recycling. They had bins for paper, glass, plastic, tin and electronic equipment such as toasters or fridges. Unless you were bringing large containers or items it was free to dump and the Kent St. depot is still there.

I started cleaning my sinks and tub with baking soda as it was less harmful than using chemical cleansers. I look for biodegradable detergents for laundry and I try to buy make-up that’s not tested on animals. Though the nasty stuff in the makeup that isn’t good for humans is something I still need to research.

I also try not to buy anything that’s overpackaged. However, that’s difficult because small items are often packaged in a box that’s packaged in a molded, plastic blister pack. I understand the reasoning for this, which includes marketing–making the piece more visible on the shelf, and as an anti-theft deterrent–make it big and bulky. But buying something like a box with 24 snack-size bags of chips, crackers, cheese, whatever wrapped in plastic is a sign of convenience, or laziness, and not environmentally sound. Consider that you can always buy a bulk bag or box of the same product and portion the sizes out into reusable containers.

When I have a party I keep extra plastic cups but I have bags set up for people to put their bottles and used cups into. I recycle and wash the plastic glasses until they crack. I haven’t had to buy plastic cups in years. I don’t use paper napkins but have cloth napkins. I don’t use plastic utensils but wash my metal ones, and the same for plates. I don’t use paper towels but have rags for spills. I do however, use toilet paper. 🙂

I’m not so good at composting. Lee Valley has these nice stainless steel composting buckets and I’ll need to get one of those. Anyone who has kept any sort of vegetable scraps in a bucket knows they stain, but the smell of decomposing organic matter smells just like an outhouse, so the container needs to be sealed. I keep all my used batteries in a plastic bag and when there are enough of them I take them to Ikea. I hear London Drugs also has battery recycling as well as other depots.

I’ve just finished painting my bedroom and will have several empty paint tins. I wasn’t sure where to take them, a paint depot or to the garbage? Although empty there is still paint residue. They’re no longer allowed to be in the blue boxes and the hardware/paint stores don’t necessarily take them back. Likewise, painting has caused me to purge other items. I have a working fax/printer and a scanner that I refuse to throw into the landfill. Besides, one can now be fined for putting these things in the garbage. So I clicked on the Recycling Council of BC’s website. They have a host of information on where to take all sorts of items, as wells as ways to lessen our environmental footprint. http://www.rcbc.bc.ca/index.htm

Many cities may have something similar for recycling and information on programs. If they don’t, public encouragement can get them there. The RCBC’s website also has the Waste-o-Meter. Like places I’ve seen that show the number of species going extinct by the day, this shows how much we’re tossing in the landfill and it’s frightening.

A year ago the greater Vancouver area suffered a strike, which included garbage collectors. Between my landlords and me, we managed to keep the garbage down to the large plastic bin for over a month. My garbage amounted to one small bag every two-three weeks. Hopefully I can still improve on that. I encourage everyone else to try a little harder. I’ve always said, If necessity was the mother of invention, then laziness was the father. I’ve had too many people tell me they didn’t recycle because they couldn’t be bothered. It’s too bad we treat our world with such disregard.

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