Ecosystems Expert Folke Gunther on Home Efficiency, Part 1

From on February 05, 2008 in Green Remodeling

Folke GuntherCalFinder recently interviewed Systems Ecologist, Folke Gunther, a former expert for the universities of Stockholm and Lund. As Manager of Holon Ecosystem Consultants, Gunther adopts solutions to problems such as water pollution, misplaced nutrient accumulation and depletion, and global warming. Gunther believes that many solutions can be discovered by watching the way in which the natural world functions. “There are a multitude of actions that we humans do in a very complicated and inefficient way, when natural systems have solved the problems far more efficiently a long time (millions of years) ago.”

Gunther’s solutions are simple, straightforward, and energy efficient, but not always acceptable to the general way of thinking. “The real problem is to ‘open up’ our vision and adopt such solutions,” he says. Here’s more on what Gunther had to say about the greenhouse effect and small vs. large homes.

Your blog topics are about how to get rid of the greenhouse effect. What are some ways the average homeowner can contribute?

I maintain that if we have a problem with too high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is the main cause of global warming, you cannot solve that problem by emitting less each year, because after some years, you have still emitted too much. You have to take away a lot of the carbon dioxide. And plants are excellent to do that. However, after less (often much less) than 200 years, they die and will be converted to carbon dioxide again.

But the carbon can be conserved in the soil if you convert it to charcoal, a knowledge as old as the knowledge of making fire. Furthermore, the presence of char improves the soil by increasing the microlife (due to the large internal area of the char), decreasing nutrient leakage (due to an increase of nutrient bonding capacity), and increasing water holding capacity.

Charcoal for plantingThe simplest way the average homeowner could benefit from that knowledge is to put some charcoal in the plant beds. The char could be ordinary barbeque charcoal if he/she is unable to convert the garden waste into char. (You need a barrel for that). Besides, even if the homeowner lives in an apartment at level 22 in a skyscraper, it is still possible to buy some charcoal and put it into the plant pots. For more tips, go to Terra Preta.

Which is more energy efficient: a small home or a large home and why?

Because of the diversity of different homes, the question is impossible to answer. However, since the largest part of the ‘personal’ energy use of the people living in a house is probably not the energy requirements of the house, nor is it from personal transportation, but from the food eaten (http://www.holon.se/folke/worries/oildepl/energy.shtml), the largest increases in efficiency will be attained from the cooperation with a local farmer. If the food could be produced locally (instead of on the other side of the globe), huge efficiency increases could be attained. Besides, nutrients could be returned to the agricultural land where the food is produced, creating a recycling system .

Gunther also has a lot to say about living walls, sustainability, and solar energy. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview.