December 15, 2009 | General


BioCycle December 2009, Vol. 50, No. 12, p. 4
Empowering Sustainable Communities

WHAT a great year 2009 has been for getting inspired! It started early in the year, while developing the agenda for the BioCycle International Conference and making plans for our 50th Anniversary gala. Working on the April 2009 BioCycle 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition – especially reading the early writings that laid the groundwork for today’s composting, organics recycling, anaerobic digestion and biofuels industries – was amazingly inspiring. It became very evident that change, i.e., weaning societies off of disposal and moving toward real, permanent and sustainable resource recovery, is a long process but one that is totally achievable. And it is achievable because of the tools – knowledge, practice, technologies and research – that have been fine-tuned over the past five decades. And achievable because all of you do what you do.
Despite the struggles of national economies both here and abroad in 2009, composting, organics recycling and renewable energy have more than held their own and, in fact, expanded in some sectors. BioCycle’s just completed national survey of residential food waste collection and composting – see the report starting on page 35 – found an almost doubling of municipal programs in less than two years. Interest is growing rapidly in anaerobic digestion of municipal solid waste, and new farm digester projects are announced on a regular basis.
As BioCycle’s 50th Anniversary year progressed, another profound and very inspiring reality became evident. We are being heard outside of our “choir.” Newspaper articles, sessions on sustainability at non-waste industry conferences, chats with community food advocates and many others are recognizing the role that the processes and products coming out of our industry play in making theirs sustainable. A case in point is Bob Berkabile, a renowned green building architect and founding principal of Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell in Kansas City, who received a Heinz Family Foundation Award in September. The Award celebrates the ideal that individuals have the power and responsibility to change the world for the better. This year’s awards focused singularly on the environment.
The morning after he learned about the award, Berkabile was the keynote speaker at the annual American Public Works Association Conference. He talked about on-site wastewater treatment using living systems, improved soils for storm water management and a few other BioCycle-like tools and practices. These are part of his vision for sustainable communities. In an interview after his speech, I asked Berkabile what he believes it will ultimately take to achieve widespread adoption of sustainable practices. “We need to engage in dialogue where the outcome is bigger than the sum of the parts,” he said. “You need to remember in these conversations that you are one idea among many that create sustainable communities.”
As we move into the next decade of the 21st Century, we look forward to participating in the dialogue that empowers communities to move into a permanent state of sustainability. And thank you to all who have made 2009 such a wonderful year of celebration and inspiration. – Nora Goldstein

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