Living beneath your means – for fun and profit

Living beneath your means – for fun and profit

By Barbara Weinstein and Eitan Fenson, Transition Palo Alto

How are you making ends meet during these tough economic times?

Local Transitioners shared their ideas at the March 9 Transition Palo Alto 100 Mile Potluck. Cecile Andrews kicked off the discussion by asking folks to consider what they’re doing in three different areas:

  1. Transportation, travel,  food, and leisure
  2. Housing, furniture, clothing, cleaning, maintenance
  3. Kids, education, health and work

We then split into smaller groups to discuss each area in term, mixing up the groups each time before returning to the full group to share ideas that came up in the small group discussions.

So many creative ideas! Here are some of them. Continue reading


Coming hot issue – anaerobic composting plant

A proposal that is sure to be hotly debated in Palo Alto is the anaerobic composting facility near the Baylands.

On the plus side, the plant would handle organic waste such as yard waste, sewage sludge and food scraps, turning them into compost suitable as a soil amendment. Electricity would also be generated. Proponents point to cost savings in waste disposal, as well as a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since waste would not have to be transported elsewhere.

Opponents object to the use of 8 acres of what was to have been parkland.

Visualization of the proposed anaerobic composting facility

Visualization of the proposed anaerobic composting facility

This proposal involves issues dear to the heart of the Transition Movement: recycling, green house gas emissions, energy self-reliance and composting. 

One positive role for Transition would be to encourage informed and respectful debate. Other communities are watching us, so we have an opportunity to set a good example

Explaining the technical aspects of the process is also important. For example, how many people know what anaerobic composting is? What are the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions of the proposal? Why might energy self-reliance be important in the coming years?

More information

UPDATE (Sept 27, 2010). Post Carbon Institute just posted a chapter on Waste from their Post Carbon Reader. The complete PDF and a short video are available online:
Climate Change, Peak Oil, and the End of Waste
by Bill Sheehan

UPDATE (Oct 5). Volunteers are now gathering signatures to put the proposal on the ballot.

Related news article from the BBC: Oxfordshire town sees human waste used to heat homes

Anaerobic digesters in Palo Alto?

Transition Palo Alto member David Coale writes:

I’d like to invite you to a presentation on the potential for anaerobic digestion to convert Palo Alto’s 60,000 tons/year of organic waste into green energy and high quality compost.

The presentation will be on Wednesday, March 24 at 7pm at World Centric, 2121 Staunton Court in Palo Alto.
World Centric is located behind JJ&F Market on the opposite corner.

Anaerobic digestion has the potential to save the City more than $1 million per year while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. It could generate $1.4 million worth of green energy, enough to power 1,400 homes. Retiring our sewage sludge incinerator would save $800,000 worth of energy and $200,000 in waste ash disposal. The compost would be worth $200,000 per year.

The only feasible location for an anaerobic digestion facility is at the entrance to the City landfill next to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, not far from where we currently compost. The challenge is that the landfill is scheduled to become part of the 126-acre Byxbee Park, and rezoning about eight acres (7%) for composting would require a vote of the people.

Come learn more about anaerobic digestion and how you can help make it a reality.

For more information, see the Anaerobic Digestion Factsheet (PDF) that David also sent.