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[GreenYes] ZERI Establishes Presence in U.S.
Dear GreenYesers,

As you know, Gary Liss has been posting notices of several opportunities to participate in workshops, seminars or training with Gunter Pauli, founder of ZERI. I attended a one-day session in February (where I saw Gary for the first time in years!), and followed that up by participating in the first ZERI Training. I submit this article to give you an idea of some of the concepts and principles which provide the foundation for ZERI projects and work. This article is the feature in the current issue of my free WormEzine which you are welcome to subscribe to by going to my website at:

ZERI Establishes Presence in United States by Mary Appelhof

ZERI is an approach, a methodology, a practice. ZERI stands for Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives, and the international non-governmental organization was founded by Gunter Pauli in 1994. Gunter Pauli is truly an international citizen. Author of several books, the most recent of which is Upsizing, he has worked in 120 countries, speaks seven languages, and has influenced millions of people through his creative and innovative approaches to solving problems of food, poverty, self-esteem, and resource depletion. On December 8, 2002, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Pauli awarded certificates to the first 24 ZERI practitioners in the United States. I was among them, having completed a 120 hour training program which took place over a six-month period. Assembling in Santa Fe for three four-day sessions, trainees came from New York, Paris, Colorado, Texas, California, and Michigan, in addition to local people from the Santa Fe region.


Based on a systems approach to evaluating problems and opportunities, ZERI projects look at people's needs, for example, for food, shelter, and self-esteem. The team then identifies assets often hidden from typical evaluation formats. Using the principles of nature that (1) no kingdom eats its own waste, and (2) that waste from one kingdom is food for another, ZERI projects incorporate the five kingdoms, bacteria, fungi, algae, plants, and animals, into their schemes: . An example, with successful pilots and an existing commercial venture, is a microbrewery which uses fermented grain (plant).The problem is that only 8% of the grain becomes beer, 92% is spent grain which is often landfilled. Or, perhaps fed to cows (animal). But the unbroken down fiber is not the best food source for them, so the bacteria in their stomachs produce more methane which gets expelled as a greenhouse gas.

However, by growing shitake mushrooms (fungi) on the spent grain, additional value is added with a new profit center. The mushroom enzymes break down the fiber bonds so that the spent mushroom substrate then provides better food value for the cows. Manure from the cows processed through a biodigester (bacteria) produces harvestable methane which can provide sufficient heat energy to sterilize the spent grain to use as mushroom substrate. The system can be carried further by processing water through oxidation ponds supporting algae growth which can provide food for fish. And the water--nutrient-rich, but purified from pathogenic bacteria--can be used to fertilize gardens and fields to obtain higher quality crops without the use of synthetic fertilizers. With the possibility of profit centers from algae (for vitamins) and fish, fully integrated ZERI systems provide more jobs, more income, more self-esteem, and zero wastes.


Does it surprise you that several ZERI projects utilize earthworms as a part of the integrated system? The spent mushroom substrate is protein-rich from the mycelium still present. This can be used to feed worms, yielding another high-protein nutrient which can be fed to fish or chickens. A unique use of earthworms in some ZERI projects is to produce enzymes that are being used for cleaning agents. A hope for one of the New Mexico projects is to use earthworms grown on slaughterhouse wastes to produce enzymes to separate lanolin from wool at lower temperatures than the current washing process requires. It's too early to share details yet, but can you imagine my NOT wanting to be involved?


Gunter Pauli wrote the article, "Earthworms, Mushrooms and Zero Waste in China" which appeared in BioCycle Feb. 1999. In it he says that the typical farmer in Wuxi, Hubei Province, has on average of 100 square meters reserved for earthworm farming. From this small area the farmer is able to produce some 500 kg per year (1100 lbs) which he sells to a local pharmaceutical company that uses the worms as a source of enzymes. Pauli reported that the Wuxi region produces 3000 tons of earthworms per month and may be one of the largest earthworm production centers in the world.

One of the papers presented at the Vermillennium was on the use of earthworms as pharmaceuticals in China, given by Dr. Sun Zhensun, professor of earthworm science in the College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing. He said that earthworms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 2300 years for numerous and diverse treatments of arthritis, itching, burns, carbuncles and inflammation. They have been used as anesthetics and to lower fevers. More recently, earthworm enzymes have been used to dissolve blood clots, and oral preparations are used to prevent cardiovascular disease in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and China. Dr. Zhensun is in the process of founding a new organization, the International Institute of Earthworms in China.

We Americans are often perceived as very Americentric. . . we come across as thinking we have all the answers. The reality is that the ultimate answers to solving our environmental problems, our societal problems will come from everyone from all nations and cultures pulling together, learning lessons from the past, moving forward in ways that make sense for everyone, not just a favored or powerful few.

As we learn about the Five Kingdoms, we begin better to understand the consequences of loss of our species diversity. When we learn about the replenishment of oxygen by plants and algae carrying out photosynthesis, we impart more meaning to the loss of the forests which regenerate the air that we breathe. When we learn that it's the bacteria that learned how to free up oxygen first, and they'll probably learn how to perform many more healing reactions first, we may not be quite so ready to disinfect everything before we touch it. Who would have thought that the mycelium of fungi could make wood fibers palatable and nutitional for cows? Or that some fungi can enhance our immune system?


My hope is that the work and vision of Gunter Pauli will draw people more fully into lives that have meaning because their basic needs are met in ways that harm neither the environment nor their fellow beings. Their spirits will be able to soar with joy as they develop and share their culture with others who also have their basic needs met. They will do this by working with nature in the way nature intended--any waste they produce will become food for another kingdom. Which is what happens when our food wastes become food for bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which themselves become food for worms, which produce nutrients for plants, and food for animals. . . the cycle is unending.

To read the archives for WormEzine on the web, visit the following url:


A. ZERI on the web at: To find the most detailed articles about various ZERI projects, select NEWS, then toggle through the NEWSLETTERS from 1998 and 1999.

B. BIOCYCLE article, "Earthworms, Mushrooms, and Zero Waste in China," by Gunter Pauli. Abstract available online free, article downloadable for a fee. http://www.jgpress Go to archives, search on earthworms, China

C. VERMILLENNIUM ABSTRACTS available from Flowerfield Enterprises.
The Vermillennium, a major international conference on vermiculture and vermicomposting, brought together over 125 scientists and worm industry leaders from 19 countries to report on their most recent work and projects. The 128 abstracts from 8 scientific sessions provide an overview of earthworm projects and relevant research in vermiculture species, methods, applications, microbiological relationships, greenhouse and field applications, and economics. Find out who is doing what and where they can be contacted. Dr. Sun Zhenjun has four abstracts, "A Novel Vermiculture Bed Design and its Corresponding Vermiculture Management in Batches," "Pharmaceutical Value and Use of Earthworms," "Nutritional Value of Earthworms and Cast in Feeding Trials for Broiler Chickens," and "Influence of Earthworms and Casts on the Heavy-Metal Content of Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)."


Mary Appelhof
PS We have a delightful children's color picture book, "Compost, By Gosh!" by Michelle Eva Portman. I've had a wonderful time reading it to elementary school children. . . and I know that middle school kids like it, too! Check our website for details. Available now.

Mary Appelhof, Author of "Worms Eat My Garbage"
Flowerfield Enterprises,10332 Shaver Road,Kalamazoo, MI 49024 USA
PLEASE NOTE NEW AREA CODE: PH:269-327-0108  FAX 269-327-7009

"Changing the way the world thinks about garbage"

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