The Treetalker

News about and views from the trees.  This week:

A repost from Voices and Visions: PAVUPATTU: SPIRITS AMONG THE TREES, the work of C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC) to restore the ancient sacred groves of India.

GIANT CEDAR DRAWS LOOKS, AND EFFORTS TO PROTECT IT, a 152-foot Western red cedar discovered in Oregon, and the work to save it from the chainsaw.



photo: Sierra Club

A message from Pawpaw.

My weekly blog:

Not just garbage anymore – it’s an investment!!
I watched a video clip from The Weather Channel this morning of NASA’s climate forecast for the rest of the century. They show 2 possibilities: one if we use more fossil fuels, and one if we use less. It’s a bit scary, as even the positive scenario shows warming and drying trends. http://www.weather.com/video/forecast-for-the-rest-of-century-38123?

Also, in my search for news articles about trees, I came across this one about turning forestry “waste,” meaning the parts of trees they can’t use for lumber, into energy:

Jul. 17, 2013Allan Gerlat | Waste Age
Dominion Virginia Power has converted its Altavista, Va., power station to biomass waste-to-energy production. The conversion from coal fuel is the first of three that the Richmond, Va.-based utility plans by the end of this year, Dominion said in a news release. The company expects to spend $165 million for the conversions in Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton County. The facilities will use as fuel primarily tree tops and branches that remain unused from timbering operations.
After conversion Dominion expects the three 51-megawatt power stations to operate continuously and provide enough electricity for 12,500 households. The biomass conversions will help Dominion meet Virginia’s voluntary renewable energy goal of 15 percent by 2025.

And they’re not the only ones. I found similar activity in several states and foreign countries. Without doing intensive research, my initial reaction is that this is positive. Of course, anything that’s about money, investment and profit is probably going to eventually go south in the ethics department, but you never know, so I’ll wait and see. It’s just that not many of us pay much attention to the waste we produce, so the direction these things take isn’t exactly front page news.
I found that this “waste to energy” concept is very big news in the Waste Management Industry, and is supported not only by the federal government, but several U.S. states and overseas governments.

The report, available through Albany, N.Y.-based Transparency Market Research, states that the market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.5 percent to $29.98 billion in 2015. The growth will come from an increasing world demand for energy, depletion of conventional energy sources and growing concerns about environmental pollution from those sources, the firm said in a news release.
Governments and social organizations also are offering financial programs to encourage energy generation from agricultural and industrial waste.

Now, doesn’t that sound positive?

Another of my current beefs is the amount of food waste in this country. If you think about how much food is thrown out by restaurants alone, it would be enough to feed millions. Then, if you throw in what is not given to food banks by grocery stores … well, just think about it. It’s a phenomenal amount of food … just thrown out.
I’m happy to say I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about this, and here’s another article about projects that (let’s hope) could be an indication that we’re not total idiots as a species:

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is proposing a ban that would require any operation that disposes of at least one ton of organic waste per week to donate or re-purpose the useable food, according to a news release. The ban calls for any remaining food waste to be shipped to an anaerobic digestion facility, a composting operation or an animal-feed business.
Residential food waste is not included in the ban, which would take effect July 1, 2014. Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick has made $3 million in low-interest loans available to private companies building AD facilities to encourage the capturing of organic waste energy. The Mass. Department of Energy Resources (DOER) also is making $1 million available in grants for anaerobic digestion to public entities through the DEP’s Sustainable Materials Recovery Grant Program.
DEP and DOER awarded the first AD grant of $100,000 to the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency (MWRA) for its wastewater treatment plant. The MWRA currently digests sludge in 12 large chambers to help run the facility. A pilot project will introduce food waste into one of the chambers to determine the effects of co-digestion on operations and biogas production.
“Banning commercial food waste and supporting the development of AD facilities across the commonwealth is critical to achieving our aggressive waste disposal reduction goals,” said Rick Sullivan, secretary of the Boston-based Energy and Environmental Affairs, which oversees the state environmental and energy agencies.

The Mayor of New York City is extending this to residential food waste, and

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the help of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), both Washington based, launched the program that calls for various stakeholders in the food chain – including producer groups, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities, and other government agencies − to join the effort to reduce, recover and recycle food waste. Private-sector partners in the program include Rio Farms, Unilever, General Mills, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, Rock and Wrap It Up! and Feeding America, according to a news release.
The goal of the challenge is to achieve a fundamental shift in the approach to managing food and food waste in the United States. The program’s goal is to have 400 partner organizations by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020.
The USDA is initiating a range of efforts including activities to reduce waste in the school meals program, educating consumers about food waste and food storage, and developing new technologies to reduce food waste.

This includes a process called “anaerobic digestion.” According to my favorite source, Wikipedia, this is defined as, “a collection of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The process is used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or to produce fuels.” Nothing arcane – we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. My dad used to make silage (fermented grain) for the cattle by piling chopped up corn and milo in a trench the size of a football field, then leaving it for a year or so, while he used the product from the second silo that was on the other side of the road. (Sorry, don’t have pics of it.) Here’s the link to an article by the same guy who wrote the above news articles (Alan Gerlat) about the process as it’s used today: http://waste360.com/food-waste/lot-digest-state-anaerobic-digestion
He seems to write for a Waste Management news organization called Waste360.Image

So, this is a long one today, I hope you were able to get all the way to the end, and found it thought-provoking. LM


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