The Rhizome Collective is now on Facebook!

 In order to raise awareness of The Rhizome Collective's resurgance, we've created a facebook page!  Check it out for the latest updates about what we're up to, including upcomming benefits, community events, and volunteer opportunities.

New Center for Community Organizing Being Planned

Hello Internet Friends,

The Rhizome Collective is regrouping and we are seeking not-for-profit groups who would be interested in being part of a space for community organizing. We aim to house these organizations and their operations in a new space in order to foster cross-pollination of ideas and the involvement of people doing good things. The Rhizome Collective operated such a space at 300 Allen St. for 9 years until spring 2009. We recently sold the grove field to Ecology Action to raise money for a new space and are seeking groups who would be interested in joining us.

So on May 9th at 7pm there will be a meeting of groups interested reforming the Rhizome Collective!  This will be an informational session led by the current members of the Rhizome Collective where participants will learn a brief history of the Rhizome, what we have been up to lately, and how/why this might involve you.  After this short presentation, we will introduce ourselves, the organizations we are part of, and open a discussion.  There will be snacks!

This is the provisional mission statement and points that should unite all organizations interested in working together in this space. Please RSVP by Wednesday, May 4 and don't hesitate to email back with any questions!

Mission Statement: To horizontally operate a nurturing, open and diverse space for groups working for fundamental change.

Points of Unity

1.  Sustainability - Balancing the needs of society, the environment, and the economy by taking care of the needs of today without compromising the needs of tomorrow.

2.  Solidarity - Working towards a relationship of mutual aid that implies giving & receiving, acknowledging that everyone has something to give. In our case, there is special emphasis toward creating solidarity with long term historical residents of the neighborhood.

3.  Accountability - Having the focus, flexibility, and commitment necessary to accomplish measurable goals transparently.

4.  Anti-oppression - We are against the use of power, both from ourselves or from others, to coerce someone to do something.

5.  Power sharing - Members participate in meaningful ways in decisions that affect them

If you or your group is interested in getting involved, please contact us at

Thank you!

The Rhizome Collective


A message from the Rhizome Collective

Dear Friends of the Rhizome Collective,

We've been quiet for a while as we go through a process of re-organization to prepare for a new period of growth.  But the time has come for us to share a little of what we've been working on, so this is a brief update that we wanted to share with you.

The Rhizome Collective is in the process of selling the Grove Field to Ecology Action, who are implementing our shared vision of a composting operation and sustainability park, which they have already begun establishing.  

We will use the proceeds from the sale to buy property for a new community center for organizing after we have found interested groups that share our values and find a suitable location.

At this time, as we have no space to operate in, we are not accepting any interns or volunteers.  We appreciate the interest and look forward to the near future when we will once again be able to offer these types of opportunities.  In particular this fall we intend to launch a fundraising campaign to establish the new community center, and we will need lots of help with that project.

 Thank you,




Update on Grove Field Call for Proposals
New deadline: March 31*

Decisions will be made by May 1
Please be prepared to answer follow up questions regarding your proposal during the month of April.

*If you received the call for proposals late and need extra time to complete an application, please do not let this stop you from submitting a proposal. If you need an extension, we ask that you submit your letter of intent by the deadline and let us know when you will be able to submit a completed application package.

Thank you for your interest and we look forward to reviewing your proposal!

Announcing the Rhizome Collective's Call for Grove Field Proposals

We are working to build the world we want to live in. In our worldview, the dominant values of competition, greed and exploitation would be replaced with cooperation, autonomy and egalitarianism. We believe that all struggles against oppression and for self-determination are connected, and that it is important to construct viable alternatives while simultaneously fighting for social justice.  

Greetings from the Rhizome Collective, For the last 11 years the Rhizome Collective has been an important part of the radical community in Austin and beyond. It has been a collection of people and groups involved in creating local alternatives and solutions to global problems. For 10 years it was based out of a warehouse in East Austin that served as a home to wide variety of social justice organizations, a demonstration center for urban sustainability, and community art projects, events, and parties.  

Tragically, in March of 2009, we lost our warehouse, and with it, the ability to continue our work as we had known it. Though we continue to own the Grove Field, a ten acre piece of land in East Austin, the activities that had thrived in our warehouse and that were at the heart of our collective, were unable to be transplanted to such a different landscape. Fortunately, much of the work that had taken place in the warehouse continues in other locations around town. As collective members focus on continuing these important projects in different locations, the Rhizome Collective has become fragmented and the Grove Field has been left unused.  

Though the Rhizome Collective in its current form is unable to make use of this land, we recognize its amazing potential and feel heartbroken to see it unused while we are focusing on our other projects. Therefore, we have decided to offer the land and collective’s other assets to community groups and individuals committed to utilizing them to achieve the ideals the Rhizome Collective was founded on.  To that end we are accepting proposals for projects that we hope will bring in ideas from committed, energetic, creative people who are excited to take advantage of this valuable resource in the name of social justice.  

This is a very broad call and is very open to whatever ideas people have. It is important to us to see this land and these assets put to use, without accelerating the gentrification process that the Montopolis neighborhood area is being assaulted with.  This land wants to be a tool for its neighborhood and community's struggles without being a charity.  It is important to us that this land be utilized without paving it over and running off the deer.  This is an opportunity to show the city that development should benefit the people of an area, not the developer.  The Rhizome Collective invites you and your group to help build the future of Grove Field.  

Please review the attachments and application materials before submitting your proposal.  Please only submit complete applications.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us.  And please feel free to spread this call far and wide.   We look forward to hearing from you!   In Solidarity,

The Rhizome Collective 

For complete details, see the full Call for Grove Field Porposals text here.


Composting Toilet Finished! - 6/19/09 

The Rhizome Collective is happy to announce that we have finished the composting toilet on the Grove Brownfield!  It has been inspected by the City of Austin and is now fully operational!  For more information, see a video about it here:

From the Austin American Statesman:

Green toilet wins city approval

Composting commode is first to gain official stamp.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It took more than four years of negotiations and construction, but this month an Austin Water Utility inspector gave final clearance to a glorified outhouse that is on the vanguard of down-and-dirty environmentalism.

Known as a composting toilet, the East Austin commode relies on the alchemy wrought by bacteria to transform human waste into a rich trove of soil. Specialists in so-called humanure have hailed the approval of the toilet as a watershed moment for common-sense environmentalism.

Users flush not with water but with a scoop of sawdust from a nearby bucket, saving the drinking-water-quality water used by conventional toilets, not to mention the energy and money required to pump and clean the wastewater.

"It's the ecologically sound thing to do," said David Bailey, 32, an itinerant carpenter and puppeteer who spearheaded the project. "Rather than using purified drinking water for a waste stream, we're using naturally occurring, ambient bacteria to create soil, one of Earth's least renewable resources. You have more water to drink and bathe in, and you end up with topsoil that's every gardener's dream."

The technology, simple as it is, is unlikely to become widespread. City code bars any property within 100 feet of a sewer line from having a composting toilet. There's also the "ick" factor. And despite issuing its first such permit, the city does not sound especially keen on composting commodes.

Austin Water Utility spokesman Kevin Buchman said the composting toilet is "not something we're endorsing or even recommend. It's an option for people building homes and trying to do what they believe to be environmentally sound."

The state delegates regulatory power for on-site sewage facilities, which include composting toilets, to local authorities, said Terry Clawson, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The permitted outhouse sits about 4 feet off the ground on a 9.8-acre former landfill in the Montopolis neighborhood that belongs to the Rhizome Collective, a group that puts in practice off-the-grid sustainability, or living in ways that require little in the way of nonrenewable sources of energy.

There is no water hookup to the screened-in, cottage-like outhouse, which cost about $3,000 to build and has a small porch in front and a stall with two commodes inside. Only one functions at a time, for about a year; once the vault beneath it, which is matted with straw, is full, the vault and commode will be sealed for a year. Then the contents are usable as compost, Bailey said.

While one commode is sealed, the other will be used.

Mismanaged sewage and bad sanitation have been blamed for outbreaks of a variety of diseases, among them cholera. But heat created by bacteria in the vault destroys pathogens and coliforms, Bailey says, making the soil "totally benign, environmentally speaking."

The airy outhouse sports views of a pasture of cacti and smells mostly of sawdust. A small fan, powered by a solar panel affixed to the outhouse, keeps fumes moving through a PVC exhaust chimney. A hand-sanitizer dispenser sits beside the screen door. In keeping with the sympathies and orientation of the Rhizome Collective, the toilet-side books include "Malcom X Speaks," the Marxist sociological text "Society of the Spectacle" and the prison novel "Iron City."

The permitting and final approval for the outhouse took four years, but "it's a testament to the openness of the city to allow us to build it," said Bailey, who says he has built more than a dozen composting toilets in Texas, the Northeast and overseas.

At least a handful of composting toilets exist in Austin covertly, but Bailey said the Rhizome Collective wanted to win city recognition for the project to persuade officials to broaden the ways residents can cut their water use. On average, toilets use as much as 3 gallons per flush, Buchman said.

As part of the permit application, members of the Rhizome Collective included material from two of the seminal toilet-construction texts, "Lifting the Lid" and the "Humanure Handbook."

"I know of no other cities that officially recognize humanure toilets," said Joseph Jenkins, author of the "Humanure Handbook." "It is little understood by regulatory personnel, and it falls into a gray area — somewhere between what people typically consider 'sanitation' or 'waste treatment' and 'composting.' "

Benefits include the production of a valuable fertilizer, savings in water use, and the prevention of treated effluent, possibly laden with chemicals, from being discharged into waterways, said Lauren Ross, a civil engineer who worked on the project.

"In our current culture, it's not a technology for most people," she said. "But there is a significant part of Austin's community ready to take some radical steps for environmental protection. Composting toilets are no crazier than a lifestyle based on living somewhere in suburbia and commuting 15 miles for a downtown job. That's also not for everyone, but it gets planned for and is accepted as a normal, ordinary way of life."

Flush toilets also contribute to the enormous amounts of energy required to pull water out of the Colorado River, treat it to a drinkable standard, flush it through the sewage system, and treat it again before it can be discharged back into the river. Austin Water Utility uses as much electricity as all other city departments combined, not including Austin Energy, said David Greene, energy and resources engineer with the water utility.

"It's a major energy issue," Greene said.; 445-3643

New press statement from the Rhizome Collective - 3/31/09

 Friends and comrades,

On Tuesday, March 17, 2009, the Rhizome Collective, including both the individuals and organizations that have called 300 Allen St. home, was barred from the building due to the City of Austin Code Enforcement declairing the building unsafe. This is a tragic loss and has been traumatic for the people who have invested so much in the space, from long nights of hard work repairing bikes and mailing off books to days of tending the garden to evenings of laughter in the kitchen. Despite the current unfortunate situation, the Rhizome Collective is not dead.  The Rhizome Collective in actuality is not the space from which it has operated for the last 9 years. It is a collective that will continue to exist even through the hardest of times.  The Rhizome Collective also has 501-(c3) status that is not affected by the loss of use of the space at 300 Allen st.
The Rhizome Collective takes its name from the root system that makes even seemingly insignificant plants notoriously difficult to destroy. Kill one plant, and one or two or hundreds more can blossom from the same root. The Rhizome Collective intends to do everything in its power to make certain that the Rhizome Collective lives up to its name, that it will flourish once again, whether in its old home or a new one.
Right now, we are calling on the larger community—in Austin, the U.S., and around the world—to come to the aid of those organizations that are losing their workspace. In addition to the Rhizome Collective itself, groups like Inside Books, Bikes Across Borders, and Food Not Bombs will be losing their headquarters. We invite people to go to their websites to see what can be done to aid these important organizations in this time of crisis:
In addition to addressing the immediate concerns, the Collective is also looking to the future. In 2003, a private individual granted 9.8 acres of land to the Rhizome Collective. Unlike our previous space on Allen st, which the owners had to sell quickly because of severity of the fines threatened by the City of Austin, this is not another individual's privately owned land; this is a property owned by the Rhizome Collective available for sustainable use.  The Rhizome Collective can not pursue the acquisition of the 300 Allen St. space for financial reasons.  But whether we pursue another space or use the land in another way be determined by the collective once the immediate crisis of being evicted has been overcome.
Since 2000, the Rhizome Collective has been a center for social justice and community organizing as well as a model for urban sustainability. The building may remain closed, but we hope and trust that the spirit that has made the Rhizome Collective such a unique entity will continue to thrive like the unstoppable root structure from which it takes its name.

This is an official communication arrived at by consensus of the Collective.

For more information, please contact


Code Violations May Force Eviction

Austin, Texas – March 11, 2009 - The Rhizome Collective is a consensus-run 501c3 nonprofit organization that has operated a center for community organizing and urban sustainability in an East Austin warehouse since 2000. This warehouse was inspected on March 3rd by officials from the Building and Standards Commission of the City of Austin. On Thursday, March 5th The Code Enforcement Division of The City of Austin delivered a letter outlining a list of code violations to the Collective. The City mandated that the residents and organizations based in the warehouse must vacate before March 16th. The Collective is looking into all options, but is preparing to vacate the warehouse by the deadline. Before this inspection, the Collective was in negotiations to buy the warehouse from its current owner.

The Rhizome Collective is making every effort to work with the City on this matter. Contractors are currently completing an estimate of the cost required to bring the building into compliance with city building codes. Based on conversations with contractors, the Collective does not believe it will be possible to get an estimate, obtain permits and complete the work by the City’s deadline. Collective members attended the City Council meeting to ask for assistance on March 12.

The Rhizome Collective including Inside Books, Bikes Across Borders and Food Not Bombs is making an international call to supporters. The Collective is seeking monetary donations, in-kind donations, funding sources and statements of solidarity. Donate through the link below.

The Collective is an internationally recognized model for intentional communities that comprise a massive movement focused on justice and autonomous sustainability.

Susannah Cummins of the Inside Books Project explains that, "Rhizome has been the central organizing point for so many different organizations over the years. It's really a unique place in Austin because you might go there to volunteer at the community bike shop and, in the process, learn about why people are sending books to prisoners.  There's a kind of cross-pollination that happens at Rhizome that I think helps people make connections between different struggles and see things within a larger context." 

In 2004, the City of Austin donated a 9.8 acre brownfield in the Montopolis neighborhood to the Rhizome Collective. The property served as a legally operated municipal landfill from 1967 to 1970, and was illegally dumped on for approximately fifteen years following the closure of the landfill. In the same year, the EPA awarded the Rhizome Collective with a $200,000 Cleanup Grant as part of their Brownfields Program. From January 2005 to July 2006, 680 tires, 10.1 tons of trash, and 31.6 tons of recyclable metal were removed from the brownfield. This property is not being affected by the code violations on the warehouse.

In the nine years of its existence, the collective has collaborated with many local, national and international organizations by providing free or low cost space and through direct participation in their initiatives. The Collective has provided space to people working with the organizations mentioned above and, to name a few others: The University of Texas, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Acción Zapatista, Rosa Clemente and Monkey Wrench Books. Members of the Collective have supported initiatives including projects of Indymedia, PODER, El Comite Obrero Fronterizo, Pastors for Peace, The American Friends Service Committee, The Student Farmworker Alliance and communities in both Mexico and Cuba. Inside Books sent over 18,000 books to Texas prisoners last year. Bikes Across Borders has organized more than fourteen bike delivery caravans since 2001, sending over 700 bicycles to Cuba, Mexico, and Central America. Projects directly benefiting the community have been prioritized at the Collective such as the creation of educational systems for sustainable living in urban areas, workshops on puppetry and street theatre, after-school programs focusing on bicycles, gardening and the arts.

The people affected include those who work at the warehouse in order to: furnish books to Texas prisoners, feed the homeless, teach neighbors how to fix their bicycles, run independent media projects and organize workshops on urban sustainability. The work performed here over the past nine years is a point of pride for the Collective, the greater Austin community and communities worldwide.

This is an official communication arrived at by consensus of the Collective.

For more information, please contact Laura Merner.



Rhizome: An expanding underground root system, sending up above ground shoots to form a vast network. Difficult to uproot.

The Rhizome Collective is a non-profit organization based out of a former brownfield on the East Side of Austin, Texas. We are a consensus-run organization.

We are working to build the world we want to live in. In our worldview, the dominant values of competition, greed and exploitation would be replaced with cooperation, autonomy and egalitarianism. We believe that all struggles against oppression and for self-determination are connected, and that it is important to construct viable alternatives while simultaneously fighting for social justice.

Community participation is necessary and central to this challenge. We invite your involvement!