In New Zealand, in the small town of Whangarei (“Farn-ga-ray”) fabric rescuers are taking on the waste headed for landfill from second-hand stores.
The local Salvation Army Op-shop* receives roughly 3 wool bales of donated clothing a day. Even with a good crew of volunteers it’s impossible for them to process and sell everything, so the staff are selective with what will go to the shop floor.
Any item that needs to be ironed, washed or mended generally does not make the grade and is assigned to landfill. This means that good quality fabric is being dumped because it is too time consuming to work with. This store alone currently sends a skip to the landfill every few days – most of it textiles. This one store spends tens of thousands a year in dumping fees!
Intercept to the rescue! ‘Intercept’ volunteers literally intercept the skips heading to landfill and rescues fabric and clothing that is good quality, but needs attention.
With a small band of sorters, and seamstresses these items are reworked into spectacular garments or made into ‘t-shirt yarn’ for XL-crochet which will be sold within the Salvation Army store. Other clothing with life still in them are gifted out into the community, .
Cooperation between the store and Intercept is going well. The store has given a work room within the building and space and shelving on the dock for rescues and sorting to happen.
“Anything that I can do to help reduce our spending on landfill is good for everyone,” says store manager, Nick Garforth.
“We want your fingers!” says Jenny Hill, at the first official Intercept meeting. 17 volunteers are there. Jenny is a founder of Intercept and is referring to the ability of knowing quality fabric by touch. This is a skill I personally have, passed on through the mothers of my maternal line (my great-great-grandmother worked the cotton mills in the Manchester area at the end of the 18th Century). Until now, I didn’t appreciate this knowledge is not common. I’m proud to be a sorter for Intercept!
Watch: video sharing work of Intercept
In the weekend I joined a fellow Intercepter at the local “Children’s Day”. We set up a stall to give intercepted clothes away. We took 18 banana boxes and by pack up time, three hours later, all but one were empty. All of these clothes would have gone to landfill, but instead have been recirculated in the community.
We definitely encourage you to think about starting something similar in your town, to slow fast fashion and become more regenerative in our clothing choices. Also, it’s really smart to check in with charity shops what they accept (generally clothing that can go straight on to a hanger to sell), as sending them items which contribute to landfill costs is doing the opposite of helping people.
This wiki article lists regenerative methods people are using to reduce the severity of climate-related disasters. It also links to specific projects that can be replicated or referenced in local actions.
These resources are compiled through Bloom’s recurring community call on the topic. To read a detailed recap of each call or watch the video recording, visit:
February 2020: (featuring Kyle Leach from Sierra Streams Institute in California, Sister Pat Bergen from the Mirabeau Water Garden in New Orleans, and participants from Burners Without Borders and Emerald Ecovillage)
Traditional Ecological Knowledge – First Nations’ ecological practices include knowledge of how to manage wildfire cycles and craft abundant ecosystems for life and healthy water.
Mirabeau Water Garden in New Orleans – a replicable urban wetland to absorb storm surges and prevent flooding. – Press Article – Project PDF
In New Zealand, it is compulsory for all new builds to have flood retention built into them. For the past 20 years, all infrastructure has been built to withstand climate change, upon scientific recommendation. For example, all new storm water pipes have also been built to withstand floods
Elemental Ecosystems – water retention landscapes – Podcast Episode on the Investing in Regenerative Agriculture podcast: “Climate change is a symptom of water cycle disturbance and we can fix it
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. This book reexamines colonial accounts of Aboriginal people in Australia, and cites evidence of pre-colonial agriculture, engineering and building construction by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
A message from David Holmgren following Australian bush fires:
A strategic focus on the urban/bushland interface and rural residential areas where bushfires create the greatest economic and social havoc demands a much broader suit of land management practices than increasing already problematic fuel reduction burning:
A return to indigenous cultural burning practices where canopy and soil organic matter are left intact
Greater use of grazing animals combined with farming systems that use native pasture species, fire-retardant shelterbelts and silvopasture systems to build soil water- and nutrient-holding capacity
Managing fuels with chippers, slashers and groomers as well as livestock trampling.
A greater focus on fuel reduction through decomposition; research is needed on the role of microbes in speeding decomposition, and the effects of lost soil calcium.
Rehydration of landscapes, using Natural Sequence Farming and Keyline techniques, especially along water courses receiving urban storm water.
Protecting and managing dense areas of fire-retardant ‘novel ecosystems’ near towns and urban fringes, including non-native species such as willow.
The ecologically sensitive thinning of forests utilising the resultant biomass can also reduce our fossil fuel dependence through: – Carbon neutral Combined Heat and Power systems to generate dispatchable power at multiple scales, especially local scale. – As biochar – a soil amendment providing long term carbon sequestration and improving soil water- and nutrient-holding capacity and microbial activity.
Most of these strategies are more labour-intensive than industrial-scale clearing or fuel-reduction burning so are less appealing to government decision makers but have potential to reform and reenergise community-based activity with government support.
Soil carbon sequestration – industrial agriculture has released carbon into the atmosphere not just from fossil fuels, but from depleting topsoil and deep root systems. Healthy soil systems have the ability to draw down and capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and are a recommended way to reverse global warming.
Kiss the Ground – helping farmers transition to regenerative agriculture to build soil health to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and increase food nutrition quality
Fungi play a large role in soil carbon sequestration
Mangrove restoration – Mangroves are a type of tree. Their ecosystems help buffer coastal areas from storms, and they are an efficient carbon sink for pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. They also present sustainable economic opportunities for local communities who might otherwise adopt more extractive forms of agriculture and trade.
Focusing on climate-related disaster mitigation and adaptation, our Feb 2020 Community Call featured Kyle Leach from Sierra Streams Institute (old mining shafts clean-ups and watershed restoration) and Sister Pat Bergen from Sisters of St. Joseph’s with the amazing Mirabeau Water Garden Project in New Orleans.
KYLE LEACH – Sierra Streams Institute
Kyle talked through how Sierra Streams works with abandoned mines with a risk-based clean up plan, that aims to neutralise and nourish the soil back to health. The worst waste is usually dug up and placed in hazardous waste landfills. The rest of the contamination is minimised by ‘activating and consolidating’, followed by being buried onsite. Stabilising and restoring the mine tailings is important so that poisoned sediment eroding into waterways is minimised. Sierra Streams then restore the surface area, to make it erosion-proof, and revegetate it.
Through this work Kyle has been expanding to restoring whole watersheds, where all climate disaster mitigation factors are considered (wildfires, landslides, floods). The low bio-matter status of the mining land means that restoring the soil health is essential to improving wildlife habitats. Bio-solids, a by-product of wastewater treatment plants, are added which increase carbon uptake, improves soil stability and reduces the bioavailability of the metals. Sierra Streams have also started to use ‘biochar’, a by-product of wood-powered plants. Biochar is a higher carbon sink and binds metals like mercury into the matrix of the biochar. The soil is inoculated with soil microbes to increase the biological activity, and the soil is hydro-seeded to stabilise it initially.
If you live in the California area, Sierra Streams welcomes volunteers. It is a nonprofit that uses Citizen/Community-based science approaches. There are volunteer days, like clean-ups, invasive plant removal and plantings. They highly value their volunteer team and keep people informed with what their data is contributing to, so they know the work they are doing is making a real difference. To find out more: https://sierrastreamsinstitute.org
SISTER PAT BERGEN – Mirabeau Water Garden Project
Our second guest was Sister Pat Bergen on our Bloom Community Call, and she talked about the Sisters of St. Joseph’s amazing project in New Orleans. Sister Pat is part of a sisterhood of nuns in the USA who had a convent in New Orleans which was badly damaged in the floods after Hurricane Katrina. They needed to decide what to do with the land. They didn’t want to build houses on the 25 acre piece of land because in the next big flood people would lose their houses… so they held the land, and prayed for years. What could the land do that would serve the New Orleans community in the same way the Sisters had served for so many years?
An architect named David Wagner eventually approached them, with an idea. To turn the land into a giant wetland, a ‘Water Garden’ he called it, which would play a major role in stopping the surrounding area from flooding. This was an answer to prayer!
How it works…
The New Orleans levies are only designed to take 2 inches of rain an hour. Any more than that overwhelms the system, the levies fail, and the city gets flooded. So the intention of the Mirabeau Water Garden design is to take the local flood waters into the garden and slow the water down, so the flood waters don’t overwhelm the city system. The water is filtered and released back into the city system when it can handle it.
The Water Garden will keep a surrounding 3780 acres from flooding completely. It will ‘minimise’ the flooding for 6000 acres from flooding, and 9000 acres will experience a ‘diminishment’ of flooding.
This project has not broken ground yet (tenders are out for construction now), but already it has won a Federal government competition for Water Resiliency in Urban Areas. In 2016 Sister Pat was able to present a check of $143 million to the City of New Orleans, and $93 million to the State of Louisiana, for works in those areas. The $10 million needed to create the Mirabeau Water Garden (without the education centre) is additionally allocated from a grant by FEMA.
A good discussion followed, with amazing offers of help being matched. Kyle will work with Nick from EVO on grants to do watershed restoration on their property. Christopher from Burners Without Borders offered to connect Sister Pat with the BWB volunteer base in New Orleans. Bloom offered to use our networks to help share the designs and story of the Mirabeau Water Garden, as it is now known that if NYC and Houston had these water gardens, much less damage would have been endured from hurricane events. These designs could be built in cities across the world if the message is spread far and wide.
The call ended with Sister Pat answering our key question…
If you want to geek out and see the full details of the call –
For the past ten years I’ve been researching the things that people can do to restabilize our climate, soil, and water cycles. Lately I keep smiling at realizing a pattern among many of them – they’re sexy! Let me tell you about the awesome things you can do or support that are great for you, great for love, and great for the planet and all life here:
Oysters. They’re sexy, delicious, and nutritious, yum! Oysters are a profitable farming crop and they create beneficial ecosystems for all life. Humans have destroyed 85% of oyster stands in the world, and resuscitating them will help everyone. Oysters clean water by filtering nitrogen and phosphorus – both problematic byproducts of industrial agriculture that end up in our waterways – and by making water more clear which allows more sunlight through, nurturing plant life. Their shells absorb carbon dioxide, and they provide habitats to many other marine creatures, as well as sheltering them from climate change effects. Oysters also can provide seawalls – sheltering cities from sea level rise and storm surges by reducing erosion and growing natural barriers – more economically positive than building concrete barriers. Talk about stacking functions (a Permaculture term that refers to making gardens or other systems so each element in them provides multiple interconnected benefits)! Zooming out a bit, I recommend reading about vertical ocean farming. Greenwave is one organization that makes open source business/technical models for this that entrepreneurs can adopt. And they call it polyculture vertical farming – that’s sexy :).
Sidenote wonderous thing – oysters can change sexes back and forth! (similar but different to nudibranchs, my favorite sea creature).
Caveats – climate change is also making it riskier to eat oysters. If harvested in brackish waters over 68 degrees, they can contain the deadly bacteria Vibrio vulnificus. Changing ocean temperature and acidification can also degrade the nutritional benefits of oysters, and harm the creatures themselves. Scientists are researching specific species of oysters that are hardy to these changes, to advocate farmers to grow them. (Incidentally, scientists are similarly researching resilient coral species to plant, to stave off the estimated 99% die off of all coral we’re likely to experience.) Lastly, oysters can accumulate copper, some species moreso than others. So…….. if you like oysters, there are some incentives for you to reduce your carbon emissions, contribute to carbon drawdown projects, and go zero waste so you don’t contribute to metals ending up in waterways.
Hemp and cannabis. As more places in the world legalize or decriminalize this plant, more research is being done into its health benefits. From relaxation to introspective insights that help your life, and much more, cannabis can be a friend when used in moderation. I’ve known cancer patients who aggressively used it to beat back their diseases. You can grow it in your backyard again now in many places. Its stalks provide fiber for clothing, paper, and building materials. I’m stoked that in my hometown in Montana, which is mostly an industrial agriculture community, there is going to be a hempcrete processing plant! Check out this gorgeous hempcrete roundhouse the folks at Starseed Creative built – it’s a good building material for people who have chemical sensitivities and allergies. There are cannabis lubes to get your lady bits high, cannabis food helps with chronic pain, and many people find their creativity enhanced through the plant. Yums all around. (Sidenote, concrete building is incredibly carbon intensive.)
My friend Will Kleidon, CEO of Ojai Energetics and former local Bloom organizer, was telling me about his research into the coevolution of humans and hemp. He described that humans tended to eat more cannabis during periods of stress, helping us weather the moment, physically and psychologically. I’m convinced that oppression of plants with psychoactive and healing properties is one of the roots of climate change in a strange way. The social inequalities and disconnection from nature that that form of cultural control / colonization has asserted, traps people in cycles of poverty and disease where they have to work in extractive systems designed for inequality. This is one of my motivations for working on Bloom Network, and supporting decriminalization of all entheogenic plants and fungi.
A side benefit with cannabis legalization that is sexy, is the creative product packaging, and the cultural changes that will come about with its more widespread and open usage. (Also, cannabis packaging is ripe for an ecological overhaul, as so much about it is wasteful. I will blog about this in the future.) I used to live in Grass Valley, CA (haha, I know), one of the capitals of cannabis growing in the U.S. It was really incredible to see what a local cannabis culture engendered in the community there – prior to legalization and the expensive permitting, families had time to explore other arts, healing traditions, and making music. People were more likely to buy clothing that used natural fibers and dyes, participate in local economies, and inspiring approaches to education – there are many public charter schools and options for homeschooling. My neighbor’s daughter was studying ecology and politics in her last two years of high school, including studying abroad. Another neighbor kid was in a wilderness skills afterschool class – he showed me that you can eat blackberry leaves (they grow in delicious abundance all over there) – he was so cute showing me to be careful to check the underside because some of the leaves have spikes. For a time there was a whole store there dedicated to what used to be called witchcraft – herbalism for people to make their own remedies for common problems such as colds, pain, and the transition of menopause.
Similar to what I said about oysters and copper, heads up that hemp is also a bioaccumulator of toxins, absorbing heavy metals and toxic chemicals from soil. If you’re eating CBD for health, it’s wise to check your source’s soil health.
I’m going to toss being gay in here as a sexy thing that’s good for the planet. We (mostly) don’t add babies, and as a broad generalization we make more love around us, if only because we know how much it hurts to not be loved by society for who we are, so we often tend to be gentler and empathic to those around us. And more diverse ways to express sexuality = more love to go around :).
So there you have it, just a few of the sexy things that are good for humans and good for the planet. I sometimes view climate change as an invitation to come into deeper relationship with nature again. While nature can be ferocious, I’ve mostly found that connecting with her brings infinite joy, learning, relaxation to my body, awe, and respect for all the interconnected forms of life that exist here. I hope this article encourages you to walk toward that and connect with nature in the sexy and good feeling ways that you want to.
List in progress! Is there a movement you’d like to see listed here? Contact us here.
Our intention with Bloom Network is not to circumscribe people into one movement or into our “brand”, but to help people find regenerative spectrum activities and groups they can participate in and contribute to, and to boost the visibility of initiatives that are doing wonderful work for all of our well-being on this planet <3.