Friday, February 27, 2009

A rose by any other name is still...Vetiver

Whether you call Vetiver grass Vetyver, Vetivert, Akar Wangi (Indonesia), or Khus Khus (India), it's the same plant, and a quite remarkable one at that! Dick Grimshaw crunches the numbers and summarizes the benefits of the Vetiver System:

As resource and infrastructure protection, Vetiver

Reduces soil loss by up to 90%, and rainfall runoff by up to 70%.
Improves soil moisture, reduces nutrient losses, and reduces the impact of drought--increasing crop yields up to 50%.
Improves the survival and growth of planted trees by as much as 80%.
Stabilizes inhospitable areas, creating a welcoming environment for re-establishment of indigenous plants. (Rick Barboza, this application has your name on it!)
Improves groundwater, stream and spring flow, and regeneration of wetlands.
Improves water quality and reduces pollution by containing and treating waste.
Protects farm canals, drains, roads, and buildings, and reduces maintenance costs.
Protects land and property from floods.

Vetiver helps farms and farm families by generating
Long-lasting mulch which holds soil moisture, organic matter and nutrients.
Forage, up to 70 tons of dry matter/ha (high-yield) if managed and cut regularly.
Durable thatch and rope that last much longer than other thatching material.
Fuel, since mature grass has a high energy value, and potential as a community energy source (direct burning as green fuel and as feedstock for biogas plants).
A pest-control system of push-pull maize/sorghum stem borer reduction.
Handicraft material. Vetiver leaves are long, slender and stiff; like lauhala, it's wonderfully suited to weaving.
More Vetiver plant material. Sales of plant material can be highly profitable.
Fragrant roots for use in cooking, medicine (internal and external), and aromatherapy.

What an extraordinary plant!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Vetiver Solution, or, why we do what we do

Sometimes people wonder at the passion we Vetiverites display when discussing Vetiver and its applications. Friday I found our zeal matched by that of Ray Anderson, Time Magazine's "green CEO" and featured luminary in the movie, The Corporation. I attended his address at the University of Hawaii and learned the reasons that, 14 years ago, he totally revised the business-as-usual focus of his successful carpet company.

Quietly compelling, Anderson, 74, speaks in a warm Georgia drawl with persuasive authority and unmistakable commitment. His personal epiphany occurred in 1994, when he considered how he would answer a journalist's question, "What is your company doing for the environment?" The query led him to Hawkins' Ecology of Commerce, specifically the chapter entitled "The Death of Birth." He resolved then to become part of the solution and to lead his company to sustainability, "one mind at a time." Since then, he's presided over a dramatic shift in the way carpet companies manufacture and reclaim their products, so-called "life after life," dispelling the arguments of contrarians along the way.

Anderson believes this culture shift is the second in American life. The first was the industrial revolution. He calls the second "Rachel Carson's revolution. Stakeholders have to decide their relationship to the Earth. The choice is to hurt it or help it." He's watched the green building movement develop momentum and tremendous clout in the marketplace. He witnessed attendance at the annual Green Building Conference grow from 134 in 1997 to more than 25,000 in 2008, and credits the rising levels of public awareness. "How many of you know an ex-environmentalist?" he queried. When no one raised a hand, he remarked that the response mirrors that of the approximately 150 audiences he addresses each year. He's convinced that, given the opportunity to change "global climate disruption" and improve our environment, the vast majority will change their lifestyles. The others will ultimately die.

So, why do we Vetiver pioneers buck the status quo? Because we believe that businesses and individuals, given the opportunity, will choose to use a proven, green technology to improve the environment.

My credo?

I believe that people, given a viable, economical solution, want to eliminate the runoff that creates a deadly brown lei around our coastline and chokes our reefs.
I believe that our municipal entities want to stabilize and green the slashes and gaping red holes in the hillsides that line our highways and roads.

I believe that the military wants to restore and heal the earth that it regularly ravages during its training exercises.

I believe that homeowners would rather establish small Vetiver leachfields than suffer inevitable blankets of sh*t created by overflowing cesspools and septic tanks following heavy rains.

I believe that homeowners, given the choice, would choose a vegetative barrier over conventional concrete and re-bar to stabilize the slopes on which their homes perch.

I believe that Vetiver is bioengineering for the 21st Century whose time is now.

Vetiver is a soft engineering solution that protects slopes, banks and cuttings that, in many cases, is environmentally, technically and economically superior to hard engineering solutions. It's green, economical, and permanent. And its formidable root system has a documented tensile strength of 75 mPA (one-sixth mild steel).

Infrastructure protection. Planted on slopes, banks and cuttings, Vetiver is a permanent, stabilizing solution.

Vetiver stops excessive soil erosion. (Tantalus? Kahekili Highway? Kailua Road? Pali? Waianae?)
Vetiver planted on unstable slopes reduces rockfalls and landslides. (Hawaii Kai? Nuuanu?)
Vetiver protects causeways and floodways. (Laie? Waialua? Haleiwa?)

Sewage/wastewater/sanitation treatment. Planted in constructed wetlands and leach fields, Vetiver filters wastewater.

Vetiver roots filter wastewater outfalls and landfill leachates. (Lake Wilson? Waimanalo Gulch?)
Vetiver dries soakage areas and improves percolation.

Land management. DLNR, Marine Corps, Navy, Army, OHA, KS/BE?

Vetiver contour hedges promote sustainable farming on slopes. (Coffee, tea, banana, grapes, basil...)
Vetiver stabilizes eroding river banks. More economical than gabions, Vetiver reduces sediment loads from run-off, improves water quality, and reduces nutrient loads and eutrophication risk.
Vetiver stabilizes and protects storm water and irrigation canals. Its leaves filter sediment and rubbish, and its roots filter soluble nutrients and chemicals.
Vetiver stabilizes aquaculture ponds and access paths.
Mature Vetiver and fencing wire effectively confine livestock.