It’s an undeniable fact: the way we’re currently dealing with our waste (both human and animal) is not sustainable in the long term. Consider the following:
Each of the U.S.’s estimated 100 million cattle produce an average of 27 pounds of manure per day = 2.7 billion pounds of manure PER DAY = over 985 billion pounds of manure per year.
Each pig produces an average of 8 pounds of manure per day. With an estimated 70 million pigs, American farmers deal with over half a billion pounds of pig manure per year.
The nation’s 68 million pet dogs and 73 million pet cats produce an average of 100 pounds and 50 pounds of waste per animal, per year, respectively.
Americans flush away an average of 60 billion gallons of toilet waste per year.
That’s a whole lot of waste, and it’s not even counting waste from other animals such as goats, sheep, horses, or chickens. The way we are handling it: overwhelming our sewage systems, sequestering animal wastes in “manure lagoons,” and throwing cat and dog waste in the garbage none of it is sustainable. The odor and methane from improperly handled livestock waste is harmful to those who have to live nearby, and to the environment as a whole. Our landfills are full of plastic bags of dog and cat waste, producing yet more methane. And all of that flushing takes an obvious toll on our fresh water ecosystems as well.
There has to be a better way. Farmer, author, and manure advocate Gene Logsdon wants us to recognize that we need to change the way we deal with waste. His book, Holy Sh*t: Managing Manure to Save Mankind (Chelsea Green, 2010) is nothing more, and nothing less, than a crash course in all things manure. And I’m surprised (and pleased) to tell you that it is fascinating. Maybe not something you want to read at the breakfast table, but definitely an interesting read. Any eco-minded person who produces waste (that would pretty much cover the audience here at Planet Green, right?) would do well to read this book.
Logsdon suggests that it’s time to do away with the chemical fertilizer industry, which is, (as we’ve seen over and over and over again) doing more harm than good, and start using all of our waste (yes, all of it livestock, pet, and human manure) to enrich our soil instead. If we put all of that waste to use, we’d effectively kill two birds with one stone: rid the country’s farmland of synthetic chemical crap and put the waste that is currently harming our environment to good use. This means no more manure lagoons to stink up rural areas, no more endless bags of cat poo being trucked to the landfill. Gardeners and farmers alike would compost their manures to enrich the soil they grow on. He calls for the end of factory farming, because in all ways (including waste management), these operations are not sustainable.
Logsdon does it all in this book: he instructs us in how, exactly, manures should be handled for proper composting, tells us how that composted manure can be best used, and (perhaps most importantly) opens up an important discussion about our aversion to something as natural as waste. If we confront this aversion, really start to talk about it, and think non-emotionally about how we can handle all of the manure we produce, then and only then can we start to change how we deal with it.
This was a great read entertaining and informative, and full of actionable advice that any gardener or small farmer can put in place right now.