The women in the class - there were four of us - could not help but look around the room to catch one another in the eyes. Not a single one of us said anything - what could we have said?! - but our shared reaction was, I'm sure, equally palpable. What the heck?
Despite that particular peculiar discomfort, I managed to come up with what I thought were a couple of good ideas before I bowed out of that particular collective. The first was for an in-kitchen organic waste disposal system that would, after it ground up all the organic kitchen scraps in an in-the-sink disposal gadget, send all that ground-up waste directly out to the garden of the building the kitchen inhabited.
Efficient to the max, it is, to pulverize waste before composting. Grinding it all up ever so nicely accelerates decomposition of that waste into lovely compost really, really quickly. The idea raised a few eyebrows at the time but some years later, I heard that one of my classmates had picked up on it, incorporated it into an apartment building in Toronto that he'd a hand in designing. I've lost touch with most of those compadres so I have no way of ascertaining but it would be fun to know whether his version of the idea did what it was spozedta.
My own luck with implementing a prototype model for that idea has been so-so. I wanted to incorporate it into a house in Montreal for which I was the renovation contractor but my plumber informed me that there were city by-laws that forbade it, we'd have to catch all the gunk in a trap under the sink, hand-carry it down the back stairs, take out to the garden that way because it couldn't be shunted directly. No matter, I still like the idea and will like to see it nicely tested.
The second what-I-thought-was-a-very-fine idea came out of the architecture school's connection with an organization wanting architecture student input, help with a building it wanted to construct as housing for handicapped adults. My brainstorm was to design a new type of pissoir or bidet, a toilet expressly for urination. The design made use of a corner of whatever room would be the lavatory. In that corner space there would be a floor level container, just above a drain through which the liquid could flow straight out to the compost area of the garden. I figured would be easy to invent stuff that could capture the residue that urine leaves after the liquid evaporates because, you see, since urine is sterile and mostly protein, if you let the liquid drain through such a permeable membrane (at the time not-quite invented), straight out to the compost, it will compost decompose just about as fast as you can whistle. Earthworms love it. They don't just multiply faster, they grow to sizes thick around as my thumb.
That second good idea didn't just raise eyebrows, it inspired what I suppose was genuine shock, which at the time I thought had to be some kind of weird boy-anxiety. Like: What? Don't try to aim into a 5-gallon bowl of potable water that will get flushed away into some other water system? Why not? What's wrong with you?
And that, gentle readers, is how I came to decide to leave that school and take a job with a dynamic, intense young urban planner who worked with a firm in another city.
"Be the change you want to see" - right?