Sustainability Gone Down the Drain

While the end goal of this iteration of Crop Stop sits squarely within Greenville County, the vision of Studio V spans the area of the continental United States: Studio V spent this week investigating the viability of the Crop Stop concept through six lenses of customization across the various regions of the US. Having been divided into six groups, the gaze of my partner Alyx and I, had been narrowed to the humid wetlands of the American southeast. Accordingly, we researched not only the vernacular aesthetic tastes of the region–specifically that of New Orleans–but also explored the means with which to take the Crop Stop project “off the grid.” Alyx, having been one of the principal players in Clemson’s recent foray into the nationwide Solar Decathlon competition, brought a wealth of expertise on the subject into the design phase–instigating a particular synergy into the concept which allowed us to develop and refine exciting solutions to be injected into this project.

In a certain way, the notion of “off the grid,” and to a lesser extent “sustainability,” has become something of a commoditized loanword–in that it’s a fantastic concept, but not something entirely applicable, outside of ours the academic sphere. This, however, is a mystified fallacy: such a concept needs not some futuristic mechanical panacea, but rather can be achieved through such simple, DIY methods as to be facilitated through your local hardware store.

Addressing one of our most basic survival pillars–that of the need for clean, drinking water–one can emancipate themselves from the grasp of the utility grid by means of an onsite wellspring; yet, that does nothing to address the removal of our end waste product. Should it not be removed and disposed of, it contaminates that of our surrounding foundations. Or does it?

Gray water, the byproduct of potable water used to cook, clean, and prepare food stuffs for packaging and mass distribution, need not become another pollutant into our ecosystem, but rather a restorative part of it.

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Utilizing a wood chip biofilter–in which gray water is routed into an open-top box filled with higher surface area wood chips and mulch, on top of an irrigation draining system–the otherwise contaminated water is repurposed back into the natural growth cycle, facilitating the growth of of plant life, both ornamental and nutritional. In its design, the biofilter collects pustules of grease, waste, and food matter (which are then devoured by insects and vermin native to its location) while the water filters through, pouring into an irrigation system that nurtures the development of plant life. While the method allows for an easily maintainable menagerie of decorative ivy at its onset, diligent maintenance makes for an expansion plan for the cultivation of flowers, fruits, and vegetables–while simultaneously creating valuable compost material with which can be used to fertilize and develop the very crops that our Crop Stop seeks to preserve. All of this accomplished through nothing more than mulch, tubing, and a three-way valve for diverting the drainage from the sink.

In much the same way that we ourselves are the stewards of the Earth, so too can we act in such a capacity to provide sustainable nutrition in the form of our Crop Stop–on the grid, or off.

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