Monthly Archives:May 2013

The Seed Of Sustainability

This morning I had the outright privileged to teach a class of 20 some 8th graders about the strategy of sustainability and how biochar plays a very important role in it! I love teaching young minds and I love helping open their eyes to a world bigger than their school, or community, or state. From these classes, I find that time and time again these children are rarely challenged to question the conduct of our society – not enough people are asking them to think about the direly important question of “WHY.” If we were to accept all norms as truths, we would paralyze ourselves from any real progression. Asking why  something is the way it is spurs creativity, critical thought and constructive analysis.

Of course when we’re banging on cans to make small TLUDs and setting things on fire at school, it isn’t hard to keep them focused, but I find that when I start asking the students to think about what happens to the fertilizer that washes into a bay, or to think about what happens when we source non-renewable energy, or challenge them to think about life in a third world country where indoor cooking is a certain health hazard, they are captured. It brings me to wonder how many people have asked them to think that way. Or maybe not even ask, but presenting them with the opportunity to think that way.

I love to tell them my story; about how I was where they are right now and was troubled by the way the world worked. About how I searched for solutions, found permaculture, and identified where my natural talent fit in to that solution. It is so wonderful to see their gears start turning, thinking about what they themselves have to offer. People generally want to be part of a solution more than part of a problem, yet the majority of them don’t even know that they are part of a problem at all! Sometimes you just have to ask them, to challenge them, to give them a chance to think about it. Inspiring the next generation of thinkers and problem-solvers gets me so driven to better myself and better the world. It’s like watering a seed– you know that something is great is just below the surface. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, you just have to encourage it in the right way so that one day it will eventually germinate.

We all contribute to the problem, there is no doubt about that. The real question is, what we are willing to contribute to the solution?

Be cool the planet!

Biochar Bob

How Cows Use Biochar To Make More With Less!

Though I spend a lot of time thinking about how biochar interacts with soils, I was thrilled to read this awesome publication about how biochar increase the efficiency in which cows turn food into mass.

The science is young on this front, but the results that have been reported are extremely encouraging and pose huge implications! One study by Leng et. al at Souphanouvong University found that by feeding cattle a diet with 0.6% biochar, the cows grew 25% bigger on the same amount of food—that’s a huge difference! In the stomachs of cows reside trillions of bacteria that assist in digestion (that’s why they can eat grass and we can’t… er, we shouldn’t) yet at the same time, they produce methane too, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. When this research group looked at how these bacteria in the cow’s stomach responded to biochar, they found that its massive surface area and many pores were such a good place for them to set up shop, they could work more efficiently and thereby produced less net methane. You wouldn’t think it, but cows are the number one global producer of methane. These biochar-fed cows produced an astounding 29% less methane.

So let’s take a step back for a moment and think about how this aligns with our sustainability paradigm: We feed a cow grass with 0.6% biochar by weight; the cow turns that food into more meat than it would have without biochar; the cow produces less greenhouse gas; as the cow produces its waste, the biochar that was originally in its stomach is now in its waste, holding the nutrients in place that can then be used as a sustainable long-term soil amendment.

The more I dig, the more amazing things I find about what biochar can do. In the words of Jeff Wallin, “You use it for one reason, but you end up with many benefits.”

Be cool to the planet!

Biochar Bob