Skip to content

Green Center News

The First EcoDrum on Cape Cod!

Our neighbors at the Coonamessett Farm Foundation are having an open house party to introduce you to their awesome new composter!    

EcoDrum image

On June 6, 2019 from 5 -7 PM, visit them at 277 Hatchville Road in East Falmouth to find out why composting is not only good for the soil, it’s good for the community and the planet. Complimentary beer, wine and light appetizers will be served. RSVP here!    

After the party’s over, CFF will continue to research how rotational composting of small farm waste can close the food-nutrient cycle, and improve soil health and help mitigate climate change.    

The Green Center began investigating the EcoDrum in 2007 when it was first developed in Vancouver, Canada. Since then, we have been promoting it publicly to planning officials as an ideal method of recovering and recycling waste nutrients on Cape Cod. Read more about the EcoDrum here.

A brief history of the EcoDrum’s journey to Falmouth…

2010  first proposed to Falmouth as partial alternative to $600 million of sewers being planned.

2011   Falmouth ‘Eco-Toilet Summit’ –  EcoDrum proposed to Falmouth to safely recover and recycle waste human nutrients from eco-toilets, to eliminate need for sewers. 

2012   Green Center proposed the EcoDrum as a tool for nutrient recovery/recycling to the Cape Cod Commission as it developed a county-wide Wastewater Management Plan. We introduced the idea to officials from the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection, the EPA regional office, and all town governments on Cape Cod.

2013  Green Center established Cape Cod  Eco-toilet Center public information center.

2014  Developed proposal for Regional-Scale  Nutrient Recovery and Recycling  for Cape Cod as long-term solution to nutrient loading of groundwater, including a proposal for an “EcoDrum Composting Treatment Works” to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

2019   First Ecodrum on Cape Cod, at the Coonamessett Farm Foundation,  East Falmouth

2019  Washington State passes a law permitting EcoDrums  to be used for composting deceased humans as an ecological alternative to burial or cremation.

 

Green Classroom Curriculum

Green Classroom cover

Due to renewed interest in science-based learning for children, we’re making available a gardening curriculum published by the New Alchemy Institute in 1988. The Green Classroom is a tested, convenient way for teachers to provide garden-focused knowledge to today’s students, with practical benefits in a climate-challenged world.

Developed by Judith Salisbury, the lessons are organized by months from September – June, including classroom study, science experiments, and establishing an outdoor garden. Each month topics were investigated, including vegetables, seeds, plant biology, seasons, insects, soil life, composting, soil, pesticides, fertilizer, trees, geology, and more. The curriculum was used by every 4th grade class in Falmouth, and all the participating elementary schools had a garden at the school for hands-on experience, and experiments.

Download a PDF version of A Teacher’s Manual for the Green Classroom – A Garden-Based Science Curriculum

The Falmouth Wind Project Appeal

In June 2017, Judge Cornelius Moriary of the Barnstable Superior Court shut down Falmouth’s two 1.65 MW wind turbines. Since then, The Green Center —working with a small group of Falmouth residents— attempted to restore the turbines to operation by appealing the decision. The Town of Falmouth would in the normal course be the appellant but, anticipating continued opposition by the local Zoning Board of Appeals, the Board chose not to appeal, despite our requests. With the advice of two experienced lawyers, we entered the case and sought a “reconsideration” by the judge, who promptly denied it.

The denial was appealed to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, which held a hearing in Boston in early October 2018. Meanwhile, we urged the Town join in the appeal, confident that the Court would restore the turbine operation, with possible accommodation to those who could show harm from the turbines. The Town refused to join, having decided to move or dismantle the turbines (despite a town-wide vote in 2013 confirming a 2:1 interest in preserving them).

This decision on the part of the Board of Selectmen put them, strangely, in defense of the narrow, personal interests of less than ten citizens. The Green Center was then defending the public interest, defined by the 2013 plebiscite. The opportunity open to the Town’s Selectmen was clear. We urged them repeatedly to join. They refused.

The Appeals Court rejected the appeal on the grounds that we, The Green Center, did not have a sufficient personal financial interest vis-a-vis the $10-20 million turbines to have “standing” to enter the court. They did make it clear that the failure of the Town to join in the appeal was a further reason for rejection.

While we have not succeeded in restoring the turbines to operation, we did make it clear (1) that the turbines are not operating now because of the decision of the Select Board of the Town not to participate in the appeal, and (2) our research suggests that the Legislative Act of 2007, requested by the Town, which authorized the construction and operation of these turbines at the present location, obviates the objections of the Zoning Board of Appeals. If this Select Board were willing to rise to the challenge, accept its duty in defending the public interest, the Act authorizes the full operation of both turbines. Now.

Renewable energy is indeed needed now to prevent climate catastrophe. The turbines should not be dismantled. The intrusion they make on lives of the closest neighbors is of the level of other intrusions usually found acceptable. These are common appliances such as air conditioners, oil burners and refrigerators, and external intrusions such as vehicles on highways, wind in trees, aircraft and lawnmowers. The intrusions from climatic changes, however, are unacceptable to life as we know it and devastating to all.

We urge The Town of Falmouth to take the advice of the recent U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment Report and join in the surge of electrification with renewables that must occur rapidly as we end the fossil fueled age. We should be leaders in a wealthy town with five scientific laboratories that have dealt with details of the energy crisis for decades. Time to significantly reduce our carbon emissions and avoid life altering disasters is rapidly running out.

Our activities under the aegis of The Green Center were financed by generous donations from participants and friends who joined along the away. Expenses were court costs and the resources of two law offices, Richard Ayres of Washington, DC and George Boerger of Duxbury, MA, both of whom worked extensively and at minimal costs on research and preparation of court documents. We extend our appreciation to both lawyers and their associates for steadfast attention, availability and advice. We extend thanks as well to both The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for their interest and support.

A Climate of Facts & Opinions

[The following was submitted as a letter-to-the-editor to The Falmouth Enterprise in October 2018, but was not accepted for publication. We believe this information should be made available to the voters of Falmouth.]

After reading recent articles and letters to the editor regarding the turbines, we have become concerned that facts are being replaced by opinions and opinions accepted as facts. Researching the matter, here are some facts we found regarding the turbine issue.

  • Property values near the turbines did not decline.
  • The 2005 feasibility study by KEMA (a Dutch based international company that gives electro-technical advice, inspection and certification) recommended turbines for Falmouth between 1.5 and 2.5 MW. Falmouth installed 1.65 MW turbines.
  • Legislative Act (2007)-Chapter 200 authorizes the town of Falmouth to install, finance and operate wind energy facilities at the wastewater treatment facility, notwithstanding any general or special law in the contrary. So, no special permit was required.
  • Turbines were installed on largest parcel of public-use zoned property owned by the town, the 300+ acre wastewater facility.
  • The location of the turbines conformed to the State (DOER) model bylaw for setbacks from residences.
  • Numerous notices and two surveys were sent to the abutting residents and numerous public meetings held, including 7 town meetings over 9 years.
  • Two bus trips were organized to the town of Hull, in 2004 to see Hull Wind 1 (660KW) next to the Hull high school and in 2007 to see Hull Wind 2 (1.8 MW), situated as close as 600 feet from residences. Mr. Andersen’s house is 1,300ft (1/4 mile) from Falmouth Wind 1 (1.65 MW). Mr. Andersen and other neighbors participated in these trips, so the size and proximity of the Falmouth Wind 1 when it went up could not have been a surprise. Both of Hull’s turbines spin 24/7 without controversy.  In Gardner MA, two Vestas turbines, identical to Falmouth’s, operate 24/7.  Gardner District Court is within 590 feet of both turbines.
  • In DEP testing in early 2012 there was a slight exceedance (within margins of error) at one house. DEP’s published data showed the loudest sounds occurred when both turbines were OFF. The noise exceedance was eliminated (at huge costs to the taxpayers) in early 2012, by turning turbines off at night. In seven years of operation, the “noise problem” was never recorded.
  • Infrasound: The January 2012 report from MA DEP/DPH Independent Expert Science Panel concluded that there is no association between noise, including infrasound, from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems. Anecdotes of health effects are met with skepticism by physicians and public health officials. Five local physicians co-signed a letter supporting turbine operation, and the Falmouth Board of Health wrote a letter (10/19/15) citing a massive study which found “no association” between health impacts and proximity to huge wind farms.

Let’s stick to the facts.

Let’s stick to the Falmouth 2013 citizens vote, when all nine precincts, including West Falmouth, voted against funding the removal of the turbines.

Let’s operate the turbines again, reduce Falmouth’s carbon footprint, and save $10-14 million tax payers money at the same time.

Selectmen should join The Green Center’s ongoing appeal.

Climate Change

In her book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein suggests that a survivable endgame for our society depends on “a realizable, if distant, vision” of a better and more sustainable future.

“This means laying out a vision of the world that competes directly with today’s vision, one that resonates with the majority of people on the planet because it is true: that we are not apart from nature but of it… This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond ‘mitigating’ and ‘adapting’ to it… It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere that seems, frankly, better than where we are right now.”

-Naomi Klein

To stabilize the climate by sharing survivable greenhouse gas emissions equally among all people, Americans will have to reduce their CO² output by about 90%. Most of the systems and services now powered by fossil fuel will have to be abandoned, or changed to operate on renewable energy. The energy of choice—renewable solar and wind energy— is decentralized. To minimize the transport of food, recovered nutrients, energy and people, our societies and systems of life support must also be decentralized. It is most efficient to grow food near to where it is consumed and to power homes directly and simply with local solar resources.

The most promising way to produce basic human needs of food, water and shelter sustainably is to combine Chinese permaculture, bioshelters, and nutrient recycling. For more information, please read Moving On – Better Homes and Habitats by Earle Barnhart, excerpted below.

Traditional Chinese agriculture

IMG_0182Agriculture in China evolved over 6,000 years from the collective experience of several hundred generations of farmers. Their methods produced the highest possible agricultural yields on an area of land, higher by area than modern industrial agriculture, while using no fossil fuels. Their fundamental practices include growing food crops in polyculture year round on all available soil, controlling and using rainfall and water efficiently, recycling all organic waste nutrients back into agriculture and employing human-powered transport. Today we call this method “permaculture.”

Agricultural bioshelters

ark lemonsBioshelters are food-producing greenhouses heated primarily with passive solar energy and containing diverse plants, ponds, insects and soil life. They are essentially an agricultural ecosystem contained within a greenhouse. In temperate climates with sunny winters, agricultural bioshelters can produce food year-round food without fossil fuel. Aquaculture ponds inside produce edible fish while also storing solar heat for greenhouse heating. When bioshelters are linked with outdoor agriculture (such as by producing spring seedlings), the yields of both can be improved and fresh food can be provided year-round.

Residential bioshelters

Loek in Ark with OmaResidential bioshelters are designed to provide both food production and housing, powered primarily by solar energy. A residential bioshelter can produce sustainable services of housing, food, and water supply, while greatly reducing the use of energy for agriculture and transport. Ideally, residential bioshelters would be modular, mass-produced for rapid implementation, and engineered to be combined into networks and ecological neighborhoods.

 

Local nutrient recycling

Recovery & Recycling food-ET-compost-food cycleThe last frontier of sustainability for humans is the recovering and recycling of waste nutrients, an ecological link missing in our society and agriculture. We currently consume, waste and pollute, instead of recover and recycle.

Recycling of nutrients makes permanently sustainable food production possible. The technology of safe recycling is simple, low-tech and energy-efficient. Safe recycling back to agricultural and natural ecosystems on the home and community scale is necessary and crucial for the survival of a future population of 10 billion people.

Chinese Permaculture

There are large regions in China where farmers have grown food on the same land for more than 6,000 years. Over that time, several hundred generations of farmers developed a highly efficient, highly productive, sustainable agricultural methods, passed on by common custom and recorded using written language.

Although traditional Chinese agriculture is perhaps the most sophisticated form of permaculture ever developed, the details of traditional Chinese permaculture aren’t studied, discussed or practiced in the West. They are virtually absent in the literature used by Western permaculture practitioners.

Can we do even better?  Today we have access to some information and technology that might allow a new better version of Chinese permaculture. We have plastic for waterproofing and better storage and sanitation. We have pipes for water transport that would make manual irrigation less labor-intensive.  We have scientific knowledge that that is new. Traditional Chinese permaculture, aided by modern materials, transport, and scientific knowledge, could create permaculture that is more sustainable and more humane than any that has come before.

Read Chinese Permaculture: 6,000 Years of Lessons Learned by Earle Barnhart for more information.