Our book Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-It-Ourselves Guide (South End Press, 2008) covers a collection of skills, tools, and technologies that help city residents gain local access to and control over life’s essential resources. Through practical descriptions and illustrations, we describe how to build an infrastructure for sustainable urban living from affordable, simple designs and salvaged and recycled materials. In addition, the book promotes radical sustainability — a philosophy that emphasizes the interconnection between ecological and social justice struggles.
Useful ideas for interested city dwellers include:
Make a duckweed pond: Raise duckweed — a tiny, floating, protein-rich water plant — in a kiddie pool. Using only sunlight and nutrients, duckweed can double its mass every other day. It can be harvested and used as food for humans, chickens, or fish, or used as a “green manure” to build soil fertility.
Construct a small-scale biogas digester: Using a 5-gallon bucket, organic matter such as plants, chicken manure, and dead leaves can be turned into methane gas. The gas can then be stored and used for cooking and heating. Why pay money for natural gas when you can make it in your backyard?
Clean up contaminated soil with compost tea: Made with worm castings from a vermicompost box, compost tea can be used to help clean up toxic soils. The multitude of hungry microorganisms in the tea can help speed up the degradation of certain pollutants in city soils.
These systems and many others are described in Toolbox for Sustainable City Living ($16, plus shipping and handling).
You can find out more about the book in the Healthy People, Healthy Planet blog.
Scott and Stacy are co-founders of the Rhizome Collective in Austin, Texas, a nonprofit urban sustainability project. They’re also the organizers and teachers of R.U.S.T., Radical Urban Sustainability Training.