How to Grow $500,000 on One Acre,
and Peace on Earth

Learning the Art of Living, with Solar-Dynamic Bio-Benign Design

Revealing the Truth
about How We Can Provide Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Transportation, Food, Solid Waste and Wastewater Management
in Ways that Reduce Pollution and Depletion by 80% or more,
and also Reduce Cost of Living and Improve Quality of Life.

by Anna Edey

Trailblazer Press 1998, ISBN 0-9662349-0-1.  224 pages, 155 color photographs + other illustrations.
Price:$35. See below for quantity discounts.
RFD 1 Box 582, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568   Tel: (508) 693-3341, Fax: (508) 693-2228,


Solviva Home Page  |  Solviva Book  |  Reviews & Comments
Important Quotes  | 
Designs & Consulting
  Wastewater  | Greyburg or Greendale, and other Proposals
Book 2 - Choosing for Our Lives  |  Yarn & Sweaters
  Recommended Reading & Documentaries



Table of Contents  ||  Introduction  ||  Some current realities   ||  A visit to Solviva
How I got on the path of seeking better ways to live... ||  Wastewater Management
Greyburg or Greendale: where would you rather live?

(a chapter from the Solviva book)

It is a thrill to fly back home to Martha's Vineyard, especially when lucky enough to sit in the copilot seat in the tiny commuter plane. After passing Boston, the smog clears and the view becomes captivating as we bump and drone south along the coast of Massachusetts.
The landscape looks pristine from above, neat ribbons of highways with cars traveling like ants. Even the dumps look clean and tidy, and the wisps of smoke from the power plants and incinerators appear so innocent. Only the ponds, lagoons and inlets offer any visible indications that all is not well. Most of them look like festering sores, surfaces partially covered by brown and green algae infestations. These unhealthy conditions are caused by the influx of excess nutrients that for years was blamed on water birds and on runoff from agriculture and lawn fertilizers. However, it is now known that algae pollution is primarily caused by the nitrogen that seeps with the groundwater from conventional septic and sewage systems, whether nearby or distant from the body of water. In other words, the algae pollution is caused mostly by human body wastes.

Some 4 million people live in eastern Massachusetts, and their bodies release wastes that contain about 40 million pounds of nitrogen and 15 million pounds of phosphorus per year. Standard septic systems are incapable of reducing this nitrogen to any significant degree, and thus release some 35 to 55 ppm (parts per million) of nitrogen into the groundwater. Many central sewage treatment facilities release about 25 ppm. Thus 20 to 25 million pounds of nitrogen a year flow with the groundwater, unabated, at a rate of about 1 to 3 feet per day, to the nearest surface waters, whether they are 100 feet or 10 miles away.
Levels of nitrogen above 10 ppm in drinking water are dangerous to human health because they can reduce the blood's oxygen exchange capacity. (Methemoglobinemia is one of the causes of the dreaded sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.) However, levels of nitrogen even lower than 10 ppm are harmful to the environment because they cause massive algae growth, like a fungus infection, in ponds and lagoons, rivers and harbors. This leads to foul odors, stagnation and rapid eutrophication, and to pollution and death of shellfish beds and spawning grounds.

On this cold day in late November, these same 4 million people are burning roughly 15 million gallons of oil in power plants, furnaces and heaters in order to have warmth and electricity for their homes and places of learning, work and recreation. This fuel was extracted in faraway places such as the Persian Gulf region, Northern Atlantic, Nigeria, Alaska, Mexico and Venezuela, with disastrous ecological consequences, and transported across the oceans in giant oil tankers, resulting in annual spills that total many times more than the Exxon Valdez spill.

Burning one gallon of oil releases 5.5 pounds of carbon, even with the best catalytic converters or filters, and this carbon combines with oxygen in the air to form almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (co2). Thus the 15 million gallons of oil that just these 4 million human beings are burning on just this one day in November is resulting in roughly 300 million pounds of co2 which rises into our atmosphere.
In addition, on this day roughly 1 million cars, buses and trucks are consuming about 5 million gallons of gasoline, causing 100 million pounds of co2 pollution. Also, the vehicles emit dozens of other harmful substances which form the thick gray-brown haze that hangs heavy over greater Boston.

Worldwide, over 5 billion tons of carbon are released annually into our atmosphere through chimneys, smokestacks and tailpipes. This carbon combines with oxygen to form some 20 billion tons of co2 to add to our atmosphere. All this is above and beyond the co2 that is naturally emitted by life forms and volcanoes. Scientists still disagree on precisely what will result from all this man-made co2, which has already increased atmospheric co2 levels more than 25 percent above preindustrial levels. Predictions range from a new ice age to global warming and a 30-foot rise in sea levels. But there is general agreement that it will have, and indeed is already having, serious effects, as evidenced by the increasing frequency and violence of devastating hurricanes, floods, droughts, and fires.

These same 4 million people in Eastern Massachusetts are almost completely dependent on food that is trucked and flown in from far away. The average distance food is shipped from place of production to place of consumption is 1,200 miles. Most of these foods have been grown in ways that deplete vast quantities of oil, water and soil. In addition, the prevailing agricultural practices threaten the health of agricultural workers and consumers as well as of our environment. About 2 billion pounds of some 300 different varieties of pesticides are manufactured in the U.S. annually, about half of which are applied in the U.S., while the rest are exported. Many of the exported pesticides are now illegal in this country because of their high toxicity, but they are used to grow food in other countries and then, in spite of spot checking, return to us in the foods we import. Thus, much of the food that people consume contains remnants of harmful herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and other life-damaging substances, many of which become far more toxic when combined with others. Furthermore, most of this food has been grown with only a few man-made chemical nutrients, in "dead" soils lacking the full spectrum of life-promoting natural substances that can be had only with compost. We may well wonder how much these agricultural practices are contributing to increasing incidents of various health problems, such as allergies, asthma, cancer, hyperactivity and immune deficiencies.

These same 4 million people generate roughly 3 million tons of household solid wastes per year, as well as many more millions of tons of industrial wastes, consisting of various metals, plastics, papers, glass and food. At least 90 percent of these wastes are actually precious resources that are recyclable, but instead, most are buried in landfills or burned in incinerators, causing tragic expense, pollution and depletion.

The plane begins to descend as we approach the southern coast of Cape Cod, and suddenly my home community, the island of Martha's Vineyard, appears on the horizon. It lies in the Atlantic Ocean about seven miles off the coast of Massachusetts, consisting of 100 square miles of rolling hills of terminal moraine and flat stretches of outwash plain left by the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago.

This island is located just north of the 41st parallel, which means that on the shortest day of the year the sun rises no higher than 25 degrees above the horizon, and there are only nine hours between sunrise and sunset. Furthermore, winter is not only the time with the shortest days and the lowest light intensity, but it is also the cloudiest period. During the course of the year, the Vineyard receives 49 percent of possible sunshine (compared with over 90 percent for Arizona), but we sometimes have five to six weeks in a row between November and January with less than 20 percent of possible sunshine, maybe two half-days of sunshine per week.

Winter temperatures can dip below zero degrees F with a far lower windchill factor because of frequent high winds. Summers are hot and humid, sometimes exceeding 90 degrees, and at such times the winds are a blessing. Several times a year gales exceed 50 mph, and hurricane force winds registering 80 to 90 mph have occurred at least six times within the last 15 years.
Annual rainfall is about 45 inches, but droughts of several months are not uncommon in summer. The soil is sandy and relatively low in organic matter. It is naturally acid and increasingly more so due to acid rain.

The Vineyard has a "sole source aquifer", meaning we have only one source of drinking water. This aquifer is replenished only by rain and snow, which percolate down through layers of soil and sand to join the lens of fresh water that permeates gravel layers below. And yet, in spite of the fact that this is indeed the only source of drinking water, the year-round and seasonal residents on the Vineyard flush down their toilets some 300,000 pounds of nitrogen annually (equivalent to the amount of nitrogen contained in 150,000 standard 40-pound bags of 5-10-5 fertilizer) and 100,000 pounds of phosphorus. This, together with various household cleaning chemicals that go down the drain, enters thousands of septic systems and from there leaches into the aquifer, along with toxic chemicals from various other sources such as dumps and oil tanks.

As we swing in over the island, I catch a glimpse of my home, the Solviva Organic Farm. The gardens and fields lie dormant in muted winter colors, and the sun glints off the shining 100-foot-long crystal that lies in their midst. This is the Solviva Winter Garden solar greenhouse, and inside is a thriving garden capable of producing some 1,600 organic salad servings per week. Amazingly, even in the coldest conditions, this greenhouse stays warm enough to remain highly productive without any heating fuel, while other "normal" greenhouses require thousands of gallons of oil or gas, or many cords of firewood.
By the time I arrive home, it is dark and very cold outside, but inside it is still toasty warm from the day's sun. As I turn on the lights, I see that the plants in the indoor garden look happy, as always. During the two cold weeks that I have been away, this house has stayed warm enough to keep the plants healthy without any heating other than the sparse winter sun. I pick one of many sweet juicy tomatoes that ripened while I was away.

It gives me an extraordinary sense of freedom and satisfaction to be able to go away for an extended period of time without the preparations that must be done in a normal home, such as draining the plumbing and boarding the plants with friends, or leaving the heat on (with the inherent risks) and asking a friend to water. To some people, the fact that I can safely leave home without elaborate preparations is one of the most remarkable advantages of my home.


How to contact Anna Edey, Solviva, Trailblazer Press:
18 Solviva Road, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
Tel: (508) 693-3341- - Cell phone: (774) 563-0898 - - Fax: (508) 693-2228
e-mail:, website:

AND, as of January 2014, at Blog/Website: