Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Green Light

I have just bought a wonderful new device called a Kitchen Composter. The idea is simple enough: instead of throwing food waste in the bin you put in in the composter, add a handful of a substance called Bokashi bran and two weeks later, the material is ready to bury in the garden or add to a compost heap. As an added bonus, a liquid is also produced which can be used to feed plants or clean drains.

This isn't my kitchen but rather depressingly it's completely identical to mine, apart from the window design and lack of clutter. I must be very unoriginal. As you can see, the bin doesn't take up too much room.

The Bokashi bran comes from Japan and contains a mixture of bacteria and fungi which manage to accelerate the decomposition process without producing any horrible smells. It sounds too good to be true. I shall know the truth in two weeks time, which is when the process is supposed to have finished. If it works, I'll not only have reduced the amount of waste I send to landfill sites, but also have some useful compost and plant food.

Two other really useful products I've discovered recently are eco-balls - not a term of abuse, but a really effective alternative to washing powder - and an LED light bulb that only uses 1.7 watts per hour.

I would like to say that I'm doing this for altruistic reasons, but the truth is that my main motive is to save money and become more self-sufficient. In an ideal world I'd live off the grid, but unfortunately that would require more money than I have to either build or convert a home to meet the necessary requirements.

I would also love to think that my actions helped to contribute to reducing global warming, but I am pessimistic and believe that politicians and corporations will only address the pressing environmental issues of our time when it is too late. I agree with James Lovelock. The crisis is coming and it's naive to believe that we can still stop it. The real challenge is to manage that crisis effectively and move towards a society that is sustainable in the long term. But will that happen?

Perhaps I've been reading too many John Christopher novels, but at the moment the outlook is getting increasingly grim. However, there is also a glimmer of hope in the shape of kitchen composters, hydrogen-powered cars, LED light bulbs and solar heating. New developments like these may not stop global warming, but they might make us less vulnerable to its effects.


John Self said...

I saw those LED light bulbs and snapped them up as an alternative to halogen bulbs for our kitchen - which were the only bulbs in our house that we hadn't been able to switch to low energy ones so far.

The standard halogen ones use 50W per light, so our four used 200W. The LED ones use 1.2W each, so about 5W for the four. A rather astonishing 40-fold reduction in energy use.

Having said that, they are not really comparable in terms of quality of light. The light they give off is probably best described as akin to bright moonlight. They're OK at the minute in the summer, but I doubt Mrs Self will wear their presence come autumn when the kitchen actually needs to be properly illuminated.

grain of sand said...

I am so pleased to see you mention James Lovelock ... I was very taken when reading his Enjoy Yourself While You Can recently in the Guardian - ... and I am not certain that it is us causing these things to happen ... human conceit. It is too late ...

Steerforth said...

Yes, the LED bulbs are a bit rubbish, but you could live completely off the grid with technology like that. I'm sure I'd get used to it (and they still beat candles or gaslight).

I don't want to agree with James Lovelock's gloomy prognosis, but there is a brutal logic to his arguments. I agree with him about nuclear power. We either drastically reduce our electricity consumption or accept nuclear power as a stopgap between fossil fuels and fusion power.