The EcoQube

One of my favorite websites to visit when I need (“need”) to waste time is reddit.com…and recently I found out there’s a subreddit for permies, r/permaculture. While browsing some of the more popular posts on r/permaculture, I came across the website for a Kickstarter project called the EcoQube, which is a desktop ecosystem that grows flowers and herbs.

This picture of an EcoQube is taken directly off of the Kickstarter web page. It is NOT mine.

The idea for an EcoQube originated with two UC San Diego students, named Eric and Kevin, whose love for aquarium systems has spawned their own company, Aqua Design Innovations. As you can see, it’s a very beautiful, multifunctional home decoration that is, as most permaculture structures are, low-maintenance and self-sufficient. It is an object built for both fish and plants to survive, and taking advantage of the function-stacking principle to sustain the cube. In simple terms, the fish excrete waste, which is then purified by a filter which uses the plants, before finally being turned into fertilizer by a built-in aquaponics system. There is no need to change or replace the filters, the water remains clean as possible, and its immense efficiency is all compacted into one small, aesthetically pleasing cube.

Personally, I’m very impressed by the careful design and thought put into this structure, and the beauty of the end result. While permaculture structures are undoubtedly efficient, I don’t always find them visually appealing (hugelkulturs anyone?), but this EcoQube combines both physical attractiveness and functional efficiency.

Here’s the link to the Kickstarter project webpage:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kevinzl/ecoqube-desktop-ecosystem-that-grow-flowers-and-he


The People’s Food Co-op

Last week I visited the People’s Food Co-op! There are really diverse, expansive arrays of organic, local food products.

Such as this one:

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There was plenty of fresh produce in a section connecting the cafe and the store. The cafe was pretty packed.

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Also in the connector passage between the cafe and the shop is a salad/soup self-serve bar. Everything looked fresh and delicious – and it tasted great too! There were free samples; the one I tried was wild rice with autumn squash.

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The shelves of the store were stocked with items of all kinds: dry pasta noodles, packets of tea, fruit preserves, various types of flour, homemade peanut butter, and more. The store was filled with only natural, healthy products free of chemical alterations, pervading a sense of wholesome goodness throughout. They were having a special on holiday flavored tea – 2 for $5 – so naturally I spent the remaining $5 in my wallet:

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The People’s Food Co-op was a generally uplifting place to be; even if I didn’t buy anything, it was worth the walk to take a look around the store/cafe.

Edit: I can’t figure out how to make the text the same size. </3


Class Analysis

Every week I looked forward to going to class, not just because I was interested in the topic of sustainability, but because every class I learned new ways to make my life more sustainable and in accordance to permaculture principles.  Through this class I was able to greatly expand my knowledge on how much of a difference I can make by doing seemingly small things.  For example, through our walks through the Arb I learned the various ways to use local produce to its full extent, and also through our waste journal and the subsequent tours of the campus farm I learned how important it is to use everything to its potential.  At the campus farms I found it amazing how little space they were using to produce and cultivate so many different varieties of plants and herbs.  This really reinforced the principles of stacking functions and maximizing the potential of local plants that I found so interesting in Holmgren’s text and in the class.  I feel that in the other environmental classes I have taken they have been focussed too much on the ‘big picture’ and how large corporations are screwing up our ecosystem beyond repair, and something that I loved about this class is how it focused specifically on what we can do and what we still can change, and in that way it gave me such an optimistic view about all the small things that I have started to do that will truly make a difference.  So many of the principles that Madeline taught us are very applicable to daily life, and I felt that this class went beyond the classroom and taught us to discover the spaces and nature that exists around us at this University and the vast amount of resources that we have at our disposal.  Not only are permaculture principles relevant for our ecosystem but many principles like stacking functions and using our resources to the full extent were really great for me to hear because as a freshman at this university it can sometimes feel very overwhelming, and it is nice to have a direction as to how I can really start to take advantage of the great opportunities that being at Michigan gives me.   I really enjoyed going to the campus farms and visiting areas of campus that I would not have seen otherwise, so I definitely would have kept that the same, the one thing that I might have changed was I really would have enjoyed working more hands on with the campus farms, and it might have been cool to be able to do our own sustainability ‘project’ and be able to plant some vegetables or plants local to Michigan and see how they grow and change through the course, applying sustainability concepts to how we grow them along the way.

I also elected to search for an internship, and that process is going well so far. I had a meeting with the career center a couple weeks ago to get me started on that process and have identified the way that I want to go about looking for an internship, most likely through the career center and using the resources of the University.  I am really excited to highlight a specific field and pick a company to work with, but I am not yet decided on the specific field of work that I want to apply for this summer, most likely I will apply for a broad range of different areas and then see which one suits me best!  I had a great experience with this course and am excited for the rest of my experience as a student at the University of Michigan!


Waste Journal

For me, waste was anything I threw into the trash can or recycling bin.

Thursday, November 28th (Thanksgiving):

-a few noodles

-one apple core

-two small ribs

-two styrofoam plates

-one plastic cup

-three plastic forks

-one paper cup

-two napkins

-plastic wrapping on a tube of lipstick

-one bag of popcorn; empty

-one bag of popcorn; burnt popcorn still inside

-one plastic Ice Mountain water bottle, 16.9 oz

-one square of toilet paper (used to wipe off make-up)

Friday, November 29th:

-two styrofoam plates

-four styrofoam bowls

-five plastic forks

-one plastic spoon

-two napkins

-cake frosting

-a small, squished piece of pumpkin pie

-one can of Sierra Mist; empty

-one bag of popcorn; empty

-shavings from an eyeliner pencil

-one square of toilet paper

Saturday, November 30th:

-the box to a Marie Callender’s chocolate cream pie

-the box to a Michelina’s microwavable chicken fettucine alfredo meal

-two plastic cups

-two styrofoam plates

-two napkins

-three plastic forks

-Hershey’s cookies and cream chocolate bar wrapper

-half of a Chinese pastry

-two bags of popcorn; empty

These results were obtained over Thanksgiving break, during which I went to many people’s houses to dine and therefore used much more plastic ware than usual. (Additionally I had the luxury of hibernating pretty much the whole day during break so that resulted in less consumption and waste on my part.) Generally my plastic/food waste is low when I eat at the dining halls at Umich, and most of my waste comes from snack food wrappers, such as Fiber 1 bars or popcorn (I really should eat less popcorn), the tissues I use to wipe my fingers of the oily junk food, and the toilet paper I use to wipe off make-up. I can definitely cut down on the snacking – it would reduce waste and be sooo much better for my health.