BioCycle July 2017
“From composting and clean cook stoves to managed grazing and multistrata agroforestry, Drawdown makes a compelling case for radically changing the way we eat, farm, and tend to the land,” states Civil Eats in the lead to its interview with Paul Hawken, author of Drawdown, a new book that takes a practical look at climate solutions. Hawken spent several years working with a team of scientists and policy experts to “map and quantify a set of climate solutions he says have the power to draw down the carbon in the atmosphere and radically alter our climate future,” notes the Civil Eats article.
A total of 80 solutions that will “drawdown” greenhouse gas emissions — calculated by total atmospheric carbon dioxide equivalent (C02EQ) reduction in gigatons — are evaluated. A table available at drawndown.org ranks these solutions by total atmospheric C02EQ reduction. Number 3 on the list is Reduced Food Waste, coming in at 70.53 C02EQ gigatons. Other BioCycle-relevant solutions on the list (and the related gigaton reductions) are large-scale methane digesters (8.40), food waste composting (2.28), and small-scale methane digesters (1.90).
There are a number of other solutions where the outputs of composting and anaerobic digestion play a role. These include regenerative agriculture (23.15), conservation agriculture (17.35), coastal wetland (3.19), nutrient management (1.81), farmland irrigation (1.33), and green roofs (0.77). When all tallied, the tools and products of organics recycling make a significant contribution to C02EQ gigaton reductions.
In 2019, BioCycle will celebrate its 60th Anniversary. And since our founding in 1960, our message has been consistent — recycling organics is a reliable tool to keep soils healthy and water clean, and to produce renewable energy. Over the years, however, the relevance of that message has often fallen on deaf ears, ears that have preferred to listen to the “simplicity” of just throwing stuff away, of pumping “cheap” fossil-fuel derived fertilizers and pesticides onto plants and into soils to grow crops, and of not disrupting climate-destructive consumer and industrial practices and behaviors.
But what we have noticed recently, is that deaf ear syndrome, at least at the corporate and local government levels (and a handful of states), has been replaced by economic opportunities with climate benefits. When the Trump Administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Treaty, hundreds of cities committed to forging ahead with greenhouse gas reduction practices, including those in the BioCycle-relevant toolbox. Earlier this week, there was another encouraging sign. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released “New Energy Outlook 2017,” which reports that “as costs for renewable energy tumble, these sources are now expected to account for around 75 percent of the expected $10 trillion global investment into power generating technologies between now and 2040. … This year’s report suggests that the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable, thanks to rapidly falling costs for solar and wind power, and a growing role for batteries, including those in electric vehicles, in balancing supply and demand.”
We didn’t have time to read BNEF’s report before deadline, but there is a good chance it doesn’t include renewable energy from organics recycling. Our guess is that BNEF would be open to learning about the “power of organics.” Data in Drawdown reinforces the organics recycling industry’s relevance. The BNEF report highlights how the market is ready for solutions. And the BioCycle community, which has been “doing what we do best” consistently and persistently for almost 60 years, is ready to respond.