March 22, 2010 | General

Editorial: Puzzle Pieces

BioCycle March 2010, Vol. 51, No. 3, p. 4
Nora Goldstein

The nature of magazine publishing and conference organizing is much like working on a puzzle. You start with many individual – but somehow related – pieces and then gradually link them together until you have the complete picture. Each piece has its own story. And the finished puzzle ties those stories together.
March 2010 BioCycle – our 25th Annual West Coast Conference Preview issue – is a case in point, as is the Conference itself. The Preview section of the issue includes seven articles based on presentations to be given at next month’s conference. Each article is a piece of the composting, organics recycling and renewable energy puzzle: Groundbreaking analysis of compost emissions; anaerobic digestion of onion processing waste to power fuel cells; threat to use of certified organic green waste compost; viability of dairy biogas plants; zero waste schools; enterprising city composting operation; and tribal composting and recycling.
Talk about diversity! And those articles represent only a sampling of the more than 80 presentations to be given on April 13 and April 14 at the Conference. Each presenter will tell his or her story, and each story is somehow connected to the others, if only by the relationship of the raw materials (resources not wastes) and the potential they have to contribute to the sustainability of communities – not just environmental sustainability, but economic and social.
As I’m writing this, I keep thinking of the nursery rhyme, “The House That Jack Built.” According to a Wikipedia site, the rhyme “is a cumulative tale that doesn’t tell the story of Jack, who builds a house, but instead shows how the house is indirectly linked to numerous things and people.” And so it is in our universe. The student taught to source separate compostables from lunch, put them in a composter, use the compost in the school garden, and then harvest the food and eat it for lunch is related to the onion processor who recycles its waste stream into energy and uses the processed residuals as soil amendment to grow more onions. And the researchers from the University of California, who are figuring out exactly which VOCs contribute to ozone during composting, are making it possible to minimize environmental impacts so that more compost can be made and used to grow the food, that feeds the kids, that…
Each month (and twice a year via our conferences), we attempt to fit the puzzle together, each piece of which is directly or indirectly linked – like the House That Jack Built – to “numerous things and people.” This process relies on the knowledge and experience of people on the front lines – project operators, researchers, technology providers, public agencies, consultants and many others – who are willing to share their stories to help put the sustainability roadmap together.

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