Lessons from nature


Multiple benefits

What is the purpose of a tree? Perhaps most of us have never even asked the question, but it is a good one to ponder. Take a walk outside and spend some time just watching a tree...what happens? You may get a sense of oneness with nature, that you and the tree are not so different. After all we all come from the flow of nature and we all return into it.

If you are an ecologist perhaps you'll say the purpose if to reproduce the next generation. After all each year the tree produces lots of seed in the hope that one or two will become that next generation. But what of the rest of the tree....is that it? Look carefully and you will see that the very same tree is a home for insects, provides food for birds, a place for squirrels to play and evens gives its branches for firewood. That's not all, the blossom and leaves which fall each year provides food for bacteria and worms in the soil, which in turn feed the tree for another year. This can be summed up as multiple benefits...a tree to exist in an ecosystem successfully provides multiple benefits.

Now, as I write this I am drinking my favourite cup of coffee. Think for a few minutes and we'll see that my cup of coffee has very few benefits. Sure, it is a nice drink for me but what about all the waste produced in processing the coffee? In fact only 0.2% of the coffee tree reaches my cup. Scandalously inefficient I hear you say. Surely we can do better, yes we can.

The 99.8% that is traditionally seen as waste can be used. The coffee pulp can be used as a low grade fertilzer or used as a substrate to grow mushrooms. It can even be fed to animals which themselves produce very high grade fertilizer. You can even add the coffee plant cuttings into a bio-digester to produce bio-gas. So, what looks like a single use product can be a multiple benefit for the farmer. The next time coffee prices fall, the farmer has several sources of alternative income and can provide all his/her cooking gas for free. Great economic model.

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de kafo. Français : Photo d'une tasse de caffé Español: Taza de café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author: Richard Date: 10.07.2013