Hello, Chris here. I want to share with you some of the things that we are doing at Bertrand Farm as we continue to make progress in adopting the FSSD framework, provided by The Natural Step. As we move forward in sustainability, one of our guiding objectives is to reduce and eliminate our contribution of things that persist in nature, like garbage and greenhouse gases. One of our goals is to stop creating garbage that will eventually go the landfill. Another goal is to eliminate the greenhouse cases that our farming creates. While these goals of ours are going to be challenging, I think with a strategic approach, we can make a lot of progress in reducing and eliminating our contribution of things that persist in nature.
One of our strategies is to repurpose things, rather than throw them away. This strategy is perhaps the most important because it requires us to keep in mind how an item can be used for its entire life, before we buy it. A lot of items are made to be used once and then thrown away or recycled. While recycling is a better option than throwing stuff away, it isn’t a good solution for trash accumulation. The problem is that recycled items are most often made into items that are not recyclable. Our strategy is to rethink how items can be reused, even if they are recyclable. We have lots of examples of this at the farm. Plastic is probably the easiest material to repurpose because it does not erode, it cuts easily and it is flexible, while remaining strong and durable. We reuse plastic PVC pipe for hoops in our garden beds. Since the pipes bend easy, it is ideal for our new use. We also reuse planting containers because they work well for our reuse as seed starting trays. The plastic cover for our hoop greenhouse is going to need to be replaced within a few years. We hope that it is going to last a few more years but the useful life for the plastic was 5 years when it was bought. As it ages, parts of it can tear easy because the plastic becomes less flexible and it loses its elasticity. Instead of recycling all of the plastic, we plan to reuse it by making a couple of smaller greenhouses.
Another strategy to reducing and eliminating things that persist in nature is to replace things that do not break down naturally with things that do break down naturally. This is a very important concept for our organic farm. In many ways we already are reducing our contribution of greenhouse gasses by using organic farming methods. While there are several greenhouse gases, our focus is to reduce as many as we can. There are two greenhouse gases in particular that
we can reduce greatly through organic farming, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Did you know that nitrous oxide persists in nature for 120 years and carbon dioxide persists for 50-200 years according to the EPA? Organic farming methods use organic material that is tilled underground to build up nitrogen in the soil. Conventional farming methods add nitrogen to the soil by spraying ammonia onto the soil itself. Between the two methods, the organic method contributes much less nitrous oxide to the atmosphere because the organic material decomposes underground, thus capturing the nitrous oxide.
Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel is another greenhouse gas that we are reducing with the intent of eliminating. We create carbon dioxide by using fossil fuels for energy. One of our future goals is to have solar panels that sustain our energy needs. We also create carbon dioxide when we use gasoline or natural gas for fuel. Some of the ways that we are reducing our need for gasoline is by buying local resources, like animal feed. As you can see from this EPA chart, most of our atmospheric carbon dioxide comes from our burning fossil fuels in machines like our cars or our tractor. Also, a large part the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere comes from electricity use, because fossil fuel is burnt to make electricity. Currently, we are reducing our electrical dependence by being good stewards and forming good habits, like shutting off the lights when we don’t need them on. By having good habits like these, we can reduce our need for electricity. This is also an important step in becoming solar dependant, with solar panels. Solar panels do not create unlimited electricity, and having a lifestyle that uses good stewarding habits is important for us in making the transition to becoming more sustainable.
For more information on greenhouse gasses, their longevity in the atmosphere and the sources that they come from, please see the EPA website.