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Don't waste the waste! UPDATE Feb 9

Communities can make themselves independent by using their daily waste to produce energy. [UPDATE_FEB1ST] In Germany there is a community of 180 people nearby Berlin which are completely autarc from national power-plants. Read their story below! [UPDATE_FEB9TH] Thanks to the great help of Emily from IDEO, who got inspired by the idea, we now have a beautiful visual to help understand the simplicity of the small homemade anaerobic digester (micro-biogas-plant) >> Check it out :-)

Photo of Simon Heereman
23 11

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Communities can make themselves independent by using their daily waste to produce energy.
Take a look at a German example - which could also work like that in many other countries (description is in English)

Or here: the Austrian village of 4.500 people, which is producing more than 70% percent of their whole energy consumption by burning the waste of wood-manufacturers in the region
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the place to take a look. Of course, it says in many articles reffering to that modell, you have to check the possibilities of reduction first. Then, secondly, a community has to make a plan of how energy is used right now and where they want to go in the future.
But with the massive production of waste in mind, which is produced by our lifestock alone, it would be probably possible to create heat and energy out of dung almost anywhere.
So, let's check the possibilities of your community to potentially use all possible waste-materials to produce gas for heat and energy!
Let's start with a workshop of building your own little bio-gas plant out of a bottle, a hose and some foul water (
This will get community members interested, 'cause it's playful and fun to do.
Get connected with initiators and facilitators of flagship projects in your country.
With their advice create a council in charge of doing the research and writing the concept for your specific area
Get back with your concepts to the experts (a university, a renewable energy specialist or such) and look at the realisation possibilities - depending on the size of your project local funding might be enough, maybe kickstarter would be feasible or even asking for state funding ...
Do it. And document the process
Making your story available to the public - work closely together with designers and scientists on the journey so you have it well documented and can make use of the process afterwards - might lead to a easier-to-follow adoption of your project so more people/communities can follow the example.

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This idea can benefit any kind of community that produces waste. The size of the bio-gas plant is dependent on the kind of waste, which can be used. for example, for a whole village you would need one, which can make use of a mixture of gases from plants as well as from lifestock or humans. The whole benefit is, that the community would have a closed circle of ecology and would be autarc/mostly autarc from capital-driven national organisations. It is also sometimes the only alternative for very rural areas in development countries to get energy and heat (see the video attached)

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

It creates a stronger sense of community by itself already, because everyone shares the communities energy and benefits directly. People will have the experience that they are not dependent on unknown corporations anymore, but have it at their own hands. You will be much more energy conscious, because you will be able to relate much better, if the plant itself is around the corner.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

People can build a mini bio-gas plant by themselves (see picture attached). We could organise building workshops, so that the people can see changes instantly. [UPDATE_FEB9TH] WORKSHOP_ As it was of short notice - and we already took part in another workshop together with Otto Scharmer from Presencing institute MIT (which was great) in Berlin last Friday - we will have the workshop around the end of february. I will keep everybody involved updated on that - we will do it no matter how the idea proceeds now :-) It is amazing to see how many people are excited about this. FOR EXAMPLE_ I talked to a dear friend of mine during the Otto Scharmer workshop and we came up with an idea of combining the anaerobic digester and a filtersystem for water. He (the friend) has been in Bhutan, where pure water is a scarcity in some regions, due to lack of good canalization etc. So we are looking into possibilities of building a combination of both systems. The digester would be able to fuel the pumping-system and help the water to circulate more thoroughly. I am excited :-) [END OF UPDATE]

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Fueled by some great people here at openIDEO I am planning to pre-pone (?) the workshop on building gas-lamps out of plastic-bottles and do it in Munich or Berlin the following two weeks! Sounds fun? Get connected :-) I am certain, that many of you have been working voluntarily in one or another developmental surrounding in Vietnam, Pakistan, India or the African continent. There - in the rural area - this is quite a common form of producing energy for cooking and heating. So you have the knowledge or connections and could get these little DIY workshops started! Then, I believe, at some places the coin would drop and communities would look into that possibility of being autarc.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • Biofuels

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual
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Team (2)

Simon's profile
Natalie's profile
Natalie Lake

Role added on team:

"Hi Nathalie, I am returning to OpenIDEO after nearly 2 years of abstinence - putting hcd into practice in between. You are already in many teams, room for another? Greetings, Simon"


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Photo of Joanna Spoth

Hi Simon – I just thought I'd check in and see if you've had the chance to execute any workshops yet. Hope you're doing well!

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