I've been obsessed with simple ways to transform used waste and aluminum cans into useful things for nearly a decade now, ever since a trip to Mt. Everest Base camp working on sustainability issues with Dr. Alton Byers, the incredible director of Science and Research at The Mountain Institute, when Alton took a picture of me standing knee deep in a garbage pit filled with discarded aluminum high in the Himalayas that nobody felt worth hauling down to Khatmandu for recycling, despite the value of and ease of aluminum transformation.
Alton explains the problem of trash on the trails leading up to Everest in this great article (with great pictures of him too standing in a sea of unnecessarily discarded aluminum cans)
We were on an National Geographic expedition to look at conservation strategies for the delicate alpine ecosystem and saw many examples of great renewable energy practices:
|Composting toilets in Nepal are so hot that they are used to heat dwellings and occasionally we would stop and stick our hands in the composted poop and rhododendron leaf piles to warm them up!|
During my visits I was able to install solar hot water systems and photovoltaic systems and wind systems that we brought with us, and I gave workshops on biogas and compost toilets and ways to derive energy from aluminum cans, but until this day the penetration of these ideas has been lamentably slow for what I can only determine are deep seated cultural issues, both among westerners and easterners. For those of us who are circular economy zero waste practitioners who have eliminated most of our "garbage" it really is disturbing, because none of this is rocket science.
My quest to eliminate all waste at the home and community scale began to get attention and support a decade ago from the National Geographic Society:
Throughout the decade I've been blessed with the opportunity to share many of my adventures in zero waste living. One thing I was able to demonstrate in Nepal during my second National Geographic Expedition to the Everest region was how to make a flashlight powered by aluminum can waste using a joule thief circuit:
The video we took in Nepal using the flashlight (the Culhane aluminum "tab torch" ) is here:
To get to a zero waste future all we really need is to get the word out of how easy it is (which we thank National Geographic and Coors for helping us do on their website) and then get students all over the world to simply do it so a new generation graduates with the LIFE TESTED knowledge that, "YES WE CAN"... particularly when it comes to aluminum cans!
To do just that, at the Rosebud Continuum Sustainability Education Center, we have recently been turning our LDPE and Polystyrene "waste" into oil with our BLEST Plastic-to-oil machine, and melting our aluminum cans and turning them into ingots and objects and, most recently, using our new student and teacher assembled X-Carve Robotic CNC Router, recycled aluminum and HDPE plastic signs for our exhibits.
Why waste it?