repurposed: agricultural waste in construction materials

posted June 13, 2018

As the interest in environmental sustainability continues to grow, many are curious as to how to reuse or re-imagine materials and substances that may be considered agricultural or construction waste. This interest may be partly fueled by pending shortages and rising input prices.

For example, insulation companies have developed alternative insulation materials from agricultural waste products. Additionally, researchers are looking for sustainable alternatives to concrete. A viable alternative to concrete derived from the root of mushrooms and fungi, along with other materials, may soon be worth considering. In fact, there are many ways in which agricultural and food waste can be remade and kept out of landfills.

Using sustainable alternatives often will potentially reduce the construction costs for materials. New home construction using agricultural waste materials is becoming more common. Sustainable materials are often appreciated by homeowners who may be looking to make their own homes environmentally friendly.

Using Agricultural Waste as Construction Material

Construction materials can be composed of many types of waste and be beneficial in resource management. There are predictions that use of organic waste materials can help reduce levels of waste. Building materials may be made up of waste from maize, potatoes and bananas.

The construction industry relies heavily on raw materials. Re-imagining the use of organic waste streams can offer lower-cost materials to the industry. There have been advances that can make it possible to create mushroom bricks and derive insulation from waste potatoes. Agricultural waste products that can be used within construction materials include:

  • Potato peels- This organic product can be used in the manufacturing of an acoustic absorbent insulating material that is water repellent, fire resistant and low-weight.
  • Banana leaves and fruit- The high strength fiber can be used in the making of rugged textiles.
  • Peanut shells- Shells can be a raw materials that may be incorporated into the production of materials such as low-cost partition boards that are both moisture resistant and flame retardant.

These waste products are often discarded. It has been reported that food waste amounting to 60 million tons goes into landfills and could be used in the manufacturing of building materials.

Advanced Research and Comparisons Continue

According to one study, traditional concrete has been compared to self-compacting concrete made in part with agro-waste. This agro-waste concrete was composed of materials including tobacco waste, husk ash, cork, oyster shell and groundnut shell. This concrete mixture performed better in terms of workability compared to their counterparts. Such materials can be used as a fine aggregate replacement to as much as 20 percent.

When it came to mortar, adding bagasse ash appeared to increase resistance to chloride penetration and including cork resulted in improved cyclic performance and better thermal resistance. It appears that more research on the use of agro-waste continues on many different fronts.

Planning for a Sustainable Future with Agro-waste Construction Materials

The construction industry may be able to successfully deal with shortages in resources and increased prices for materials by looking at the potential of agro-waste construction products. Such products may offer practical solutions when it comes to long-lasting construction materials that are gentle on the environment and in some cases, such as with concrete, help reduce global carbon dioxide emissions when used as an alternative.

Everyone, from construction companies, agricultural interests, investors and homeowners should all be aware of sustainable agricultural waste products. These products, when used in various ways, construction being one, can not only help the environment, but potentially also the pocketbook.

This is a guest post by Gred Geilman President and CEO of South Bay Residential, manhattan beach CA 90266. Find him online, on twitter, on linkedIn, Facebook and Yelp


grass roots farmers’ cooperative guide to overcoming the barriers for beginning farmers

posted January 24, 2018

credit: Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative

Howdy! Cody Hopkins, here. I’m thrilled to be guest blogging for the Greenhorns on behalf of Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative. We’re a group of pasture-based livestock farmers operating under a single set of animal husbandry standards and selling our meats under the same brand. Of the many exciting endeavors our cooperative has set out to accomplish, the one I want to focus on here is our efforts to breakdown the daunting barriers to entry for beginning farmers.

My wife Andrea and I are fortunate to have been farming for 11 years now. When we first founded Falling Sky Farm, we had a lot of support from friends and family. But not everyone is so lucky. And even though we had relatively easy access to leased land (a barrier that’s insurmountable to a lot of folks looking to get started in agriculture). Dealing with the lack of access to processing and cold storage services, combined with managing the complexity of operating a fast-growing small business, was extremely overwhelming.
(more…)


sight and insight in the californian desert

posted November 23, 2017

tmag-zittel-slide-8BJA-superJumbo.jpg
The scorched road leading up to A-Z West, on the border of Joshua Tree National Park. 
Credit: Stefan Ruiz and the NY Times 

Joshua Tree National Park.

“Zittel sees herself as part of the 20th-century tradition of American artists leaving cities for the open spaces of the Southwest, but she is aware of her deviations. O’Keeffe and Martin chose the desert as a form of retreat, but Zittel saw it as liberation. As for the parallels often drawn between her and the largely male artists who came to make their massive, macho marks on the desert, she gently notes that she is not interested in “grand interventions,” only in finding meaning in intimate, everyday gestures.”

(more…)


growing rice in maine!

posted November 8, 2017

20150403085824-Maine-Rice-Project-logo_full

Check out this awesome rice growing project in Maine by Wild Folk Farm. Their goal is to get as many farmers and folks eating and growing rice throughout Maine, the Maritimes, and the Northeast. They are developing an educational, research and commercialized rice operation as currently there are no commercial rice growers in the state, and only a sprinkling of homesteading rice practices. Most domestic rice farms in the United States are monocultures that rely heavily on fossil fuel-driven mechanized cultivation and harvesting processes, and chemical sprays and fertilizers. Their proposed systems on the other hand are ecologically beneficial and symbiotic, adaptable to otherwise inaccessible farmland (low-lying wet clay soils), void of chemical inputs, and after initial excavation of the paddy areas, non-reliant on fuel-driven tools and machines. Arsenic is not an issue in our rice. (more…)


read: with only 60 years of harvests left, how do we transform our food systems?

posted October 24, 2017

chagford-1-759x500
credit: Indie Farmer 
Elise Wach from the Indie Farmer wrote an article published last week that explores the necessary trajectory of the future of farming. At a time when industrial agricultural systems are depleting our soil and placing quantity of produce and profit before quality and ecological health, this discussion is crucial. She also addresses the myths and misunderstandings attached to the local and organic food and farming movement.
 “Ecological and local food movements – and the farmers supporting them – are not trying to be elitist. They are trying to survive. In our current socioeconomic system, which ‘externalises’ the social and ecological costs of production, farmers tend to have two main choices – quality or quantity. They either produce for luxury niche markets (e.g. organic salad leaves, fancy preserves and veg boxes) or produce as much as possible through increasing their farm size (a strategy largely influenced by land area-based subsidies) and using industrial practices that destroy the soil, wildlife and water.”
 It’s a fantastic article that gets to the core of the problems in the current global food system, saying:
“It is clear that the existing food and farming system is not serving the public interest. It is also clear that efforts to change our food system through existing socioeconomic models have not worked. The problem isn’t organic. It’s capitalism.”
To read the full article by Indie Farmer, click HERE

event: see winona la duke speak about language, the living world, and the commons

posted October 22, 2017

The theme of the upcoming 37th annual E.F. Schumacher Lectures, taking place on November 4th, is “Choosing the Path that is Green”,  a reference to the prophecy of the Anishinaabe peoples. Winona LaDuke, who is a member of the Anishinaabe is this years keynote speaker. La Duke is an activist, community economist and author and her work has always been in alignment with the work of the Schumacher Center and of Greenhorns. She has been a persistent advocate for community land stewardship, local food sovereignty and sustainable resource use. She has a unique ability to communicate the stories, ideas and wisdom of the Anishinaabe people in ways that are both timely and relevant.

(more…)


wright-locke farm’s speaker series july 19th 2017 – molly anderson

posted July 18, 2017

WLF_speaker_series_anderson_7-19_print (1).png

As part of their 2017 speaker series, Wright-Locke Farm are hosting their second monthly speaker, Molly Anderson, on July 19th. Molly is a professor of food studies at Middlebury College, a member of the Network Design Team of Food Solutions in New England and is co-author of  A New England Food Vision 2060: Healthy Food for All, Sustainable Farming and Fishing, Thriving Communities, which explores that potential futures of the food system in New England which can support a high quality of life for everybody by supplying food that can nourish a social, environmental and economic landscape that works for everybody.

Location: Wright – Locke Farm, 82 Ridge Street, Winchester, MA

Time: 7.30 PM

Other Details: Cost is free however the organisers request that you email them to reserve a seat on kkneeland@wlfarm.org

You can find the full paper A New England Food Vision 2060 HERE


growing true blue indigo dye in a closed loop system

posted July 12, 2017

2875444353_78beaff4c6_b.jpg

As part of their True Blue project, Fibershed, have recently released a report on the processes and practices involved in the making of blue indigo dye.  They explain the idea of a closed-loop ideal indigo dye production system which “moves from soil to dye to textiles and back to soil.” The basis for the report is multifaceted, including academic literature reviews, books on natural dyeing and personal interviews with skilled artisan dyers including  Rowland Ricketts, Jane Palmer, and Kori Hargreaves.

(more…)


sowing the seeds of food sovereignty.

posted June 28, 2017

10665106426_3f8914bc05_b

The mission of A Growing Culture is “supporting farmers to reshape the food system” to ensure that the future of agriculture is just, sustainable  and supportive of farmers. We are very excited about the wide range of resources they have to support farmers, not least their much anticipated Library for Food Sovereignty. The library, due for release in the late summer or early autumn of 2017, will include stories of farmer led innovations from around the world, local knowledge, grassroots farming movements and technical and environmental resources.

(more…)


woman power: home to cameroon’s sustainable farming movement

posted January 5, 2017

victor4.JPG

Check out Woman Power, an organization started by Cameroon locals Victor (above) and Betty Kubia.

NW Cameroon is a particularly hardworking agricultural region where 90% of the farmers are women and revolution is in the air.

In this region, a culture of chemical farming (imposed during the green revolution) has created a longstanding degenerative cycle for soil health and the nutritional quality of vegetables. As it stands, many women are obligated after so many years to purchase expensive, synthetic products to even get a yield. As one woman from the town of Bafut in NW Cameroon says: “the harvest I get is not enough to pay for the fertilizers and then feed my family of seven and also pay tuition and buy school materials for my children.”

The Kubia’s seek to build the Woman Power Training Center on their own land just outside of Bamenda City strategically close to the three villages of Bafut, Ndu, and Santa. Here nearly 600 women will have access to hands-on workshops on soil health, composting, crop rotation, cover cropping, fallow cultivation as well as many traditional methods. One such method is forming the crescent moon shaped beds that are ideal for handling some 400″ of rain per month during the rainy season.

If you are interested in being a supporting member of this project you have two options!

  1. You may email Andrew at wpcameroon@gmail.com to join their emailing campaign
  2. You may click HERE to learn more about Woman Power and then Donate at least $10 to support building a Woman Power Training Center for alternative agriculture.