This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.

The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.

(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


16 October 2010

"In the process of nature there is no throwing away."

It was recommended to me by a composting veteran to read two books: Let it Rot by Stu Campbell and Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Applehof.  I'm most of the way through Let it Rot so far.  This is what I've found:

Each household in the US produces 230 pounds of yard waste and 100 pounds of food waste each year.  Obviously, there are many residents like myself that don't have a yard, so our primary waste is food waste.  This seems to be the ideal situation for indoor composting.  Not too much waste being produced, and worms to speed up the decomposition of food. 

Though the focus of Campbell's book is on creating compost for a garden, it is good information for indoor composters who simply wish to create less waste as well.  Campbell goes through a list of 'beneficial compostable materials' which I will summarize here:

_ASHES:  which coal ashes are toxic, wood ashes provide potassium and can be a pest deterrent.  Burning skins of some foods is also a good way to release this potassium. 
_GARBAGE :this is my main compost item in the form of food scraps
_NEWSPAPERS: black ink in newspapers is contains Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are toxic.  There is some debate about how these molecules break down and are neutralized by compost.  Colored ink, however is fine. 
_VEGETABLE PLANTS (once harvested)
_WEEDS: compost can 'thermal kill' weed seeds so that they are safe to spread on next years garden

In general, it is good to avoid:

_CLOTHES (all synthetic now)
_SLUDGE (human waste)

Another main point Campbell makes is that the ratio of carbon to nitrogen (two key ingredients for decomposition) should be around 30:1.   Nitrogen is plentiful in greens and leaves, whereas carbon is found in vegetable scraps. 

I have been composting for 62 days now and have not had to empty my bin.  In fact, it is only about half full ( I am beginning to believe my friend John who claims that worms allow the compost to not really accumulate.  We probably over feed our worms between the 3 of us in my house, as we all cook quite a bit.  Campbell says that after 2-3 months, compost is nearly 'finished'.  A way to harvest this compost to make compost tea (a natural fertilizer) or to spread on a garden or mix with soil is to move the compost to one side of the bin.  On the other side, place a new wet bedding of newspaper and some new food scraps.  The worms will eventually begin to migrate to the new food scraps on the other side. 

I opened the bin today to find sprouts in my compost!  Maybe it is starting to become finished compost.  There are dangers to using not-finished compost to grow plants because bacteria in the compost may get into the roots of plants, which is fine for the plant, but won't be good for you to eat it.  Campbell introduces a way of burying compost in rotating trenches in your garden each year to let it mature in the soil for a year before planting directly in it. 

sprouts in the compost!