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Product Review: Earth-Rated Poop Bags

Some might say I take my recycling to a ridiculous extreme.  If you followed me around with a camera for a few days, you’d eventually catch me moving stuff my roommates threw away to the recycling bin or compost pile. Some may think that’s gross.  Well to them I say go suck eggs! Then compost the aforementioned eggs, because I hate to see them go to waste, you asshole.

For those of you looking to eliminate that last 5 or 6% of trash you still find yourself leaving for the garbage man, Earth Rated Poop Bags can help you get there.  They’re sturdy, environmentally friendly, and a great alternative to composting your actual dog.

The Material

Earth Rated Poop Bags are made from the same corn-based material that Coca-cola is using in their PlantBottles, but unlike PlantBottles Earth Rated Poop Bags are biodegradable and meet the ANSI standard for biodegradable plastics (ASTM D6400). The bags are thin but durable.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve put a regular plastic bag in my pocket, only to pull it back out torn up by my car keys. The Earth Rated Poop Bags feel thin but have an elasticity to them that a regular plastic bag doesn’t.

The Smell

Earth Rated Poop Bags come in scented or unscented varieties.  I bought the unscented bags because their website was unclear as to whether or not the lavender scented type are biodegradable. The unscented bags have a similar odor to regular plastic bags.  But what do you want?  If you’re carrying around a bag of pooh you’re not doing it hoping to find your soul mate.

The Price

Earth Rated Poop Bags are definitely a little more expensive.  Last I checked regular poop bags were about $0.02 cents per bag, and Earth Rated Poop Bags were about $0.04 cents per bag.  Do they cost more? Absolutely.  But unless your dingo is dropping a dozen dookies a day, the difference is hardly going to break the bank.

Do Earth-Rated Poop Bags Really Compost?

The short answer is yes. The manufacturer says they should break down in 40 days and in my experience (so long as your compost pile stays healthy) I’d say that’s very true.  In the accompanying video I dissect my compost heap, which contains several bags deposited over the last few months.  I found a piece of one bag but the rest seem to have broken down completely.

Is it safe to compost dog poop?  The Department of Agriculture says it depends, because a dog’s stomach (and thus a dog’s dookie) can contain bacteria that’s not so good for his owner. If you don’t use the compost to grow food it’s perfectly fine.  If you do plan to use the compost to grow your garden, either don’t include your dog poop in that compost or use a red worms composting method.

The One-Straw Revolution

It’s fair to say that I don’t know what Amazon was thinking when it recommended I read The One-Straw Revolution.  I bought a beginner’s book on gardening once and some biodegradable dog poop bags, and I can only assume that from those purchases the Almighty Amazon Marketing Algorithm labeled me a militant environmentalist Hell-bent on removing the influence of science from that greasy mess I shove down my gullet on a daily basis.  I am not.  But I’m glad it assumed I was.

That's what we call "breakfast" around these parts.

That’s what we call “breakfast” around these parts.

Background

The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka is a manifesto on farming, not a guide.  Fukuoka was educated as a biologist and worked as an agricultural customs inspector for several years.  During his brief government career he witnessed one of the tragic failings of man which Mark Twain described as thus:

Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.

Fukuoka -san watched as experts kept searching for scientific solutions to problems created by other scientists, the farming industry, and the whims of consumers.  But it wasn’t until he experienced a philosophical awakening after a bout with pneumonia that he returned to the orchards from whence he came.

I suppose in the 1940’s that pneumonia was a more serious deal than it is today, and this is where Fukuoka’s story gets a bit “emo.” His hospital stay left him in a depression and facing serious metaphysical questions.  He eventually concluded that

Humanity knows nothing at all. There is no intrinsic value in anything at all, and every action is a futile, meaningless effort.

Truly inspiring words from a man who went on to write a passionate book meant to spark a food revolution, right? (He actually jokes about it in the final chapter.) This realization led him to leave his career and return to the family orange grove where he began to experiment with what he would call “Do-Nothing Farming.”

Fukuoka's little-known Nihilism and marmut-farming stage.

Fukuoka’s little-known Nihilism and marmut-farming stage.

Do-Nothing Farming

Fukuoka began to experiment with “doing less” with his trees and vegetables and more with his awesome facial hair.  This process often led to failure but what he soon discovered was that his failures were caused by the damage done to the land by modern agriculture.

He soon realized that Mother Earth, much like Daryl Hanna,  was doing just fine before science came around and thought he could improve her. Once the soil is farmed using modern methods that include chemical fertilizers and herbicides, the land becomes dependent on them.  But once the soil returns to it’s natural state crops grow just fine with very little help from mankind.

Do-Nothing Farming isn’t about being lazy:  It’s about approaching agriculture in a way that works with nature instead of relentlessly trying to tame her. He used no fertilizer, no herbicides, very little compost, yet continually produced rice yields that compared with the rest of the farms in his area.

Fukuoka gives plenty of specific advice about his farming methods: plant summer and winter crops, utilize cover crops, cover the fields with the straw leftover from your crops to protect the seeds and replenish nutrients.  His instructions are pretty specific to Japanese agriculture but I’m excited to research and adapt them to my own gardening here in Pennsylvania.

100% FDA Approved, Organically-Grown Face Forest

100% FDA Approved, Organically-Grown Face Forest

Modern Agriculture: It’s the Consumer’s Fault

Much of this book is philosophical in nature, and considerable effort is spent discussing what good food actually is. (Depending on my mood it’s either food from my garden or a #13 from McDonalds)  Fukuoka’s definition is, loosely translated,  food you can enjoy eating which keeps you healthy without having to think too hard about it.  Basically he means local, in-season, organically grown food, and if you have to obsess over nutrition too much you’re probably doing it wrong.

The problem is that this isn’t what the consumer wants.  Like Hollywood has sold a false ideal of female beauty, so we’ve also been sold a false idea of what good food looks like.

The FDA tells us we need specific amounts of specific food groups ( these amounts often vary based on which agricultural lobby is throwing the most money around).  We think our foods have to be the perfect color, the perfect size, and the perfect texture. On top of all that, we want the perfect produce even when it’s not in-season. Consumers demand these qualities that don’t occur naturally, and if farmers want to sell their produce they’ll have to use unnatural methods to attain them.

Furthermore organically-grown produce is sold at a premium whether the growing process warrants it or not, pricing it right out of the hands of working men and women who need it the most.

consumer_whore

A Problem in Need of a Solution

I have one issue with Fukuoka’s philosophy of farming: in order for “Do-Nothing” farming to succeed on a global scale, society would have to change in a big way.  His ideas work in a world where the farmer grows for himself and sells to the local village.  On this scale the farmer can produce high yields in a natural way and still have leisure time leftover. However reality tells us that 9 out of 10 people world-wide depend on others to grow their food because they busy themselves with what Fukouka sees as meaningless human industry.  While I don’t necessarily disagree with him, those billions of people that would either starve to death or give up the convenience of modern living to pursue subsistence farming might.

Summary

What I loved most about The One-Straw Revolution is that it was philosophical in nature, but unlike so much philosophy it had energy, passion, and a goal driving every word. The author’s direct, common-sense approach to natural farming was refreshing in a world filled with the false hopes of science and technology making our lives simpler.

Bokashi Anaerobic Composting, Part 1

Earlier tonight I was perusing an issue of The New Pioneer and ran into an article about manure and the role it plays in composting.  This article led me to a movement (ha! a cleverly disguised pooh joke!) from Great Falls, Montana called Gardens from Garbage which uses anaerobic composting to turn food waste from local schools and restaurants into compost used to grow food and feed those in need.

Monsturd: Awful Straight-to-DVD Horror, or Composting Tutorial?

Monsturd: Awful Straight-to-DVD Horror, or Composting Tutorial?

The anaerobic compost process, called Bokashi, has existed for centuries but a Dr. Teruo Higa improved on the process in the mid-eighties .  Do not under any circumstances confuse Bokashi with a similar-sounding Japanese sex act.  One will turn your kitchen waste into plant food.  The other will have your wife turning you into plant food when she stumbles upon your Internet history. But I digress.

I’m new to this process, but from what I gather Bokashi composting involves creating a mixture full of helpful microorganisms and binders that you sprinkle on top of successive layers of organic waste you add to your composting container.  The process is well-suited to town-dwellers like me because you don’t need much space and, because your compost isn’t breaking down the same way it would in more tradition composting methods, it doesn’t offend the neighbor’s nose-holes.

You can find the Bokashi formula online.  It begins with something called EM, also known as  Effective Microorganisms. EM contains microbes that will help break down your waste.  Apparently this concoction is not in the public domain, but you can still find it on several websites, or you can make life easy and just buy it online. But we don’t do this stuff because we like easy, do we?

You create the Bokashi mixture by combining EM, water, molasses, and some sort of “carbon-based binder.”  Most videos and instructions are recommending wheat bran, but I’m also seeing reports of success using sawdust.

As you can see below I began making my EM and provided a few pictures of the first part of the process (I’ll post more as they come). I just purchased a bottle of the official product as well.  When it arrives and my mixture is complete I’m going to make identical batches of Bokashi and see which one prevails. I’ll post a video of the results.

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