I recently spent some time on the roof of a local sewage treatment plant.
Does that statement make you smile? It makes me smile. I picked up a job as a freelance news reporter for one of the local newspapers this month, and I’ve been running all over the area following stories. I never pictured myself climbing up the side of buildings for one.
Which is exactly what I did this week. Some of the recent hubbub around here is about the local wastewater treatment plant upgrading its systems and adding new representatives to their board of directors. Like a dutiful reporter, I headed over to the Mattabassett District facility to snag a few pictures and chat with the executive director of the District, Brian Armet.
While we were talking, Brian said some smart things — things you and I have heard already. “Your average citizen in this town has no idea if they’re connected to this facility. Some people don’t know if they have a septic system or not,” he said. “People don’t want to know where their wastewater goes.”
Out of sight, out of mind.
It’s the same way with garbage. No one wants to think about what happens to the things they flush or throw away. This lack of knowledge helps keep our society stuck in a rut of single-use disposables and careless consumption.
I wonder what would happen if we all had trash and compost heaps out back, or let our garbage pile up in the streets the way we used to. We would have to look at and smell our waste all day. Would we reduce more? I’d like to think yes, but our collective inability to take action probably makes that a no.
At the plant, Brian and I also talked about the future. We talked using the nitrogen from human waste as fertilizer on gardens and crops. It’s not readily practiced around here — and it’s controversial because of the pathogens in human waste, and all the other stuff that our bodies now excrete. We put too many chemicals on our skin, we take too much medicine, we eat meat treated with artificial hormones. What goes in must come out, and unfortunately, this stuff does not break down or go away. We keep passing it from place to place, food to body to environment. Now our sewage treatment places are dealing with an overload of artificial chemicals.
While we wait for technology to catch up enough to deal with this deluge, we stop putting so much garbage into our bodies and slow the chemical output: Eat hormone-free meat. Use natural cleaners like vinegar and use natural body care products from people you trust. Put your food in glass instead of plastic. Reconsider using hormonal birth control, and eat slow foods so that you don’t get sick as often. You’ve heard it all before.
I think one person can make a difference. I keep saying this because I keep thinking about it as I reconsider what the heck we’re doing here. And I keep coming back to the same conclusion: one person can make a difference. So gear up, adopt a new habit, and talk to your friends. That’s how these changes are made.
©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where it’s pretty hard to live some place as beautiful as that second photo and not have a deep respect for the planet. The photo in question is of the gardens at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT. They don’t use human fertilizer on their gardens (as far as I know), but I love that photo and I’d love to know more about their growing practices.