Organic residues provide a vital link to solving the climate crisis

What do yard trimmings, food waste, woody materials, biosolids, manure, municipal solid waste and other organic residues have to do with cooling our overheating climate? 

A whole lot, as you will find when you read my new article in BioCycle, “New Models for Biocarbon Storage,” or come out to see my presentation at the 26th Annual BioCycle West Coast Conference at the Red Lion Hotel on the River in Portland April 16-19.  I‘m going to talk in the session on Biocarbon Management, Nutrient and Carbon Credits April 18 from 10:15am-noon. 

The BioCycle conference represents a don’t-miss-it convergence of our region’s best practitioners in the field of organics recycling.  It is staged by BioCycle, the magazine for cutting-edge alchemists who are figuring out affordable strategies to transmute green “wastes” into valuable products.  My article and talk center on the Northwest Biocarbon Initiative, a new effort focused on improving land use practices and “waste” management to absorb atmospheric CO2.

I’ll give a bit of a preview. We have crossed the danger line for carbon accumulations in the atmosphere. We crossed it at latest in the late 1980s when carbon dioxide concentrations went over 350 parts per million in the atmosphere.  Not only must we dramatically reduce fossil fuel carbon emissions – we must also take steps to actively soak CO2  out of the air. To do that we must mobilize the power of plants to grab CO2  through photosynthesis and absorb it in plants and soil organic matter.

Organic residues provide a vital link. They are carbon-rich materials that will release their carbon into the air if not properly managed. On the other hand, if they are used to make soil amendments such as composts and biochars, the carbon goes back to the soil, along the way enhancing plant growth. Organic residues can also replace fossil fuels for energy and materials, thus stemming the increase of fossil carbon in the atmosphere. 

Ultimately, the concept of “organic wastes” must be rendered obsolete. Organic residues are too valuable not to re-use, and the climate crisis makes it imperative we make the most out of organic carbon streams. The conference will present the state of the art in organics recycling. It will be well worth your time to attend. 

Author Bio

A founding member of the Climate Solutions team, Patrick developed the knowledge base for much of Climate Solutions’ advocacy work and helped shape the sustainability and clean tech agenda of key policymakers, researchers and business leaders around the Northwest. Patrick served as Research Director until the end of 2013, and has now moved on to work through his independent global sustainability consultancy, MROC, and serves as 350 Seattle Sustainable Solutions Working Group co-facilitator and member of its governing Hub.

His series of papers on clean-energy technology and Northwest economic opportunity from 1998-2002 helped catalyze the past decade’s wave of policy activity and investment in the clean economy sector.

Patrick also co-authored Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (New Society, 2001) with Guy Dauncey.

Patrick likes to spend his free time walking, reading history, and playing music. He lives in Seattle and ventures south regularly to sing in a Portland rock band. 

Patrick's email is cascadia2012 (at)

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