Apparent Energy Crisis (or how We’re not Ready for The Future)

As we were cleaning up the house recently, we paused while looking at the three jugs of used up cooking oil sitting in the kitchen: what should we do with these? I bought Murray a deep fryer for Christmas last year: not the healthiest way to cook food, but if you use good oil and cook with it only occasionally, it’s basically irresistible. I don’t know what it is but the richer the food, the yummier it is. Like when in doubt, add some butter and it’ll taste better. Anyhow, Murray likes to cook and when the zucchini flowers were in bloom in the backyard, we did a lot of deep frying. As a result, we accumulated several 4L jugs of post-deep-fryer oil. They were a sludgy eyesore in the kitchen: we had to get rid of them.

The guilt attached to the idea of putting them on the curb was pretty incredible. We had just watched an episode of Mythbusters where they ran a diesel car on used cooking oil. And police cars in Malaysia are set to use discarded oil from McDonald’s restaurants to fuel their fleet. Apparently a regular diesel car with a minor and inexpensive modification can run just fine on cooking oil. And so while we teeter on the brink of an apparent energy crisis, the idea of throwing away what is essentially free fuel presented a real dilemma.

Well, at the end of the day we just put the jugs of oil on the curb. I didn’t even know where to begin researching a more environmentally responsible alternative. The idea was exhausting. I know where to take used batteries, old mobile phones and unwanted clothes. But free fuel, well, we just don’t know what to do with that yet.

Other interesting and unrelated things to read about how the future is moving forward faster than we are:
Google Wireless Plan Angers Audio-Equipment Makers
Register to Vote in the US via XBox Live

Dirt Blog

I went on a little adventure today. Flying solo, I went over to the Complexe environnemental de Saint-Michel for their annual distribution of free compost. I accidentally stumbled upon this when I was in an annoyed rage about a neighbour who is constantly dumping old furniture and garbage behind our garage in the alley. So while scouring the Ville de Montreal website for details on garbage, recycling, spring cleaning and complaining about it, I came upon this event and made a note of it on the calendar.

I never thought I was going go through with it: I assumed I would flake on it and nearly did. I plan to build a raised bed vegetable garden in the backyard and will obviously need a lot of dirt. So I drove over to this massive, landscaped industrial complex, and followed the spray-painted signs marked “COMPOST” into a dusty parking lot. After showing a proof of address I backed up to one of the several aisles of dirt, and started digging.

As I filled my two green recycling bins full of dirt, this wonderfully communal feeling came over me. Dozens of cars were similarly parked, with men and women of all ages filling bags, buckets, bins or whatever they wanted with this damp, dark compost. Where does it come from? How does the city make this stuff? Well, unlike many of Canada’s more progressive cities: “More than 47 per cent of waste produced by Montrealers is organic. At present, only 7 per cent of this waste is recovered and composted.” Which is precisely why I was so surprised that this huge, state-of-the-art recycling complex even existed in the first place.

Lots of homes in Montreal have their own ways of reducing organic waste “off the grid.” I’ve heard of people with trays of earthworms in their kitchens, pet rabbits or compost bins in their backyards. Then there’s us, who presently have a very prison-like backyard, so we reserve the still usable but not totally edible bits of vegetables (tops of leeks, bottoms of chard, flaccid celery, and “last legs” spinach stems) and pop them in the freezer until it’s time to cook up our monthly batch of vegetable stock.

So now the car is full of dirt. Just in the garage, full of bins of dirt and I wonder if that’s bad, as if we’ll go to the car in the morning and it’ll be full of potato bugs or something. Yuck. Hope not. Next weekend the city is giving away free flowers…I wonder if I should go for it?