For the past 10 years we have been re-using seed tray inserts, flats and black landscape plastic. Of coarse a few seed tray inserts ware out each year and end up at the dump then eventually into the landfill. (Our rule when taking our trash to the dump is that you can’t bring home more than what was taken. Our dump does have a “recycling” system going on in that stuff that is “considered” useful is set aside for folks to take home. The fellows who run our dump decide on what might be useful for others.)
With the media attention about global warming and us humans needing to do something about it quickly if we want us homo sapiens to continue living on the plant, here on the farm we continually evaluate our daily lives as to how “green” and “sustainable” each of our actions are, which then makes our buying and living decisions ever so much more complicated.
For example, because we re-use our seed tray inserts, we first wash and sanitize them, mainly to reduce the possibility of spreading diseases. The process we use is to pressure wash the inserts which uses water and gas fuel. Once they are pressured washed we dip them in a mild bleach solution. The bleach comes from chlorine, caustic soda, and water. Sodium chloride, common table salt in bleach, comes from either mines or underground wells. It also costs us labor, which because we are farmers is very minimal, and since we don’t earn much per hour we value our time at $3.00 per hour.
So then we question if it would be better to purchase new seed tray inserts each year rather than wash/sanitize existing seed trays? We have to believe the manufacturing process for making new trays is much more energy intensive than for us to wash/sanitize but we just don’t know. I have read of a rather large farm that uses soil blocks with a mechanical transplanter. That interests me and someday I think we need to investigate that. That could become a project after the greenhouses are done but I don’t want to quit using our transplanter until the world runs out of fuel!
I am not sure how manufacturers compute carbon emissions but Scotland has instituted a law requiring manufacturers to specify the carbon emissions required for products. The Carbon Footprint label shows the weight of carbon used to manufacture the product (in grams). The carbon generated is measured from the source of the product, through to its sale and disposal of waste. The label is designed to help shoppers choose products with the lowest carbon footprint. Take the snack Fritos for example – how does the manufacturer know the energy required for growing the corn and shipping it to their processing plant – and it is not just the corn but all the other ingredients? I just wonder if the energy use for production of the base ingredients is included in the label. I can see how PepsiCo would know how much energy was used to make the product once they purchased the ingredients. How about the packaging? My guess is that they don’t make the packaging materials and that it is supplied by another manufacturer.
Another crazy program was the “Cash for Cluncker” program our country created last year. You purchase a new vehicle that was at least 1 MPG more efficient than your current vehicle. The dealer was required to destroy the engine of your old car so it is hard to imagine that the MPG saved in efficiency used less carbon emissions that those required for recycling the engine. (I do understand that politically this program was to stimulate the economy with additional car sales and bank loans and not necessarily to be green.)
I should try to figure out my top 10 most unsustainable habits. I bet it is home energy consumption (electricity use), computers, driving, and not sure what would be next.