Last spring break I went and worked at Plenitud, which is a non profit farm located in Las Marias, Puerto Rico. Their main goal as a farm is to educate the locals and anyone who visits them on how to incorporate sustainability into their life. While staying on the farm I was able to see how they don’t let a single thing go to waste; they made barrels that were as tall as the ceiling to collect rainwater from the roofs, recycled old objects they found by changing the purpose of them and food was never thrown away. Plenitud also focuses on involving the local community with as many workshops as possible in order to spread the knowledge of sustainability to the families in the surrounding areas.
Water waste is a big problem in the US, sinks are left running and for some, showers last close to an hour. Plenitud uses the rainwater collected in the barrels for everything that is able to use grey water. Systems in homes that use grey water includes showers, sinks, and toilets, the farm also used that water collected to water all of the plants growing in their greenhouse. The farm is also able to help diminish their water waste by doing all of their dishes by hand. They have very big bins that are filled with either completely clean water, clean but with a little soap water, slightly soapy water, and completely soapy water. With these bins as a group someone dips the dish into the soapy water and scrubs it clean with a sponge, then it is passed down a line where each time it gets to a new bin of water, it is dunked into it. At the end of the cleaning process the bins all get moved down in the line and the bin that was completely soapy gets poured out into the nearby soil and plants and gets filled up to become the new completely clean water bin. This system of washing dishes eliminates the facet continuously running while someone is doing the dishes.
At the end of each meal if you or someone had scraps on their plates they would be placed in a compost bin, the workers at the farm consistently urged you to only take what you need which allowed for only a little food each night to be put into the bin. After the compost bin was filled it would be put into a bigger compost area which was filled with dead leaves and branches, so the two wet and dry components could equal themselves out and create the new fertile soil. In the morning when the coffee had already been brewed and poured for everyone, we would take the grounds to the worm farm they had up the hill, I soon found out the coffee grounds were perfect for worms and enhanced the nutrients in the soil. Very little and close to no food scraps were ever thrown out at the farm.
Community was a big part in the formation and building of the farm but also in allowing the farm to continue to grow. Involving the local communities in activities and workshops based around sustainability and permaculture helps to start a difference in your own area. The involvement doesn’t have to be big just as long as the people who were involved, leave with a better understanding of what sustainability is and how they can incorporate small changes into their lives.
I really enjoyed your article because you put a personal touch to it by showing your experience. Many people do not realize how important water and food are and we take many things for granite. This made me realize to truly not let anything go to waste. I think it is cool how they put their food in a compost bin so the environment can be enhanced. This article taught me a lot about what sustainability really is. Thanks for sharing!
That sounds like an incredible experience. The most remarkable thing that stands out to me about Plenitud is how closed cycle it is- the main focus is about eliminating waste and reusing everything that can possibly be reused. That model is definitely something that is hard to attain, and must require incredible amounts of planning to account for every step of the farming process, but it is so crucial to our future.
Agricultural and land management are incredibly important, as our population continues to grow and the environment continues to decline. I think that waste is something that is ingrained in American culture, and it makes sense, because we are a land of prosperity and luxury- a people who can afford to waste because there will always be more to replace what is lost. This mentality will soon come to a screeching halt, and that is when places like Plenitud and experiences like yours will be the most valuable instruments of teaching that we can find.
What a cool experience, and a beautifully-written post! Perhaps you can take some of the skills you`ve picked up and use them out at Dixie?