Back in Summer 2007, I gushed over wireless hardware provider Meraki and their announcement of a solar-powered repeater. There are several scenarios — from college campuses to farms — where expanding wireless coverage is limited based on access to electrical outlets. Unfortunately, Meraki’s product wasn’t quite ready for prime time and I was left wondering if it would ever see the light of day.
Well, never underestimate a company partially backed by Google. Their new solar-powered repeaters are now for sale and look more robust and ready for Mother Nature than ever before. From the site,
“Each unit is completely self-contained and ready to mount on roofs, poles, or anywhere else the sun shines. The Solar is completely energy independent and runs on its own state-of-the-art solar-charged battery.”
EDAR (Everyone Deserves A Roof) is a 501(c)(3) charity that provides unique mobile shelters to those living on the streets all around us. Each EDAR is a four-wheeled mobile unit which carries belongings and facilitates recycling during the day and which unfolds into a special, framed tent-like sleeping enclosure with a bed at night.
With enough abandoned lots to fill the city of San Francisco, Motown is 138 square miles divided between expanses of decay and emptiness and tracts of still-functioning communities and commercial areas. Close to six barren acres of an estimated 17,000 have already been turned into 500 “mini- farms,” demonstrating the lengths to which planners will go to make land productive.
I have a question. How much bailout money will the gardeners and farmers of urban Detroit receive? As it turns out I have more than one question. When will this country recognize that we must make a fundamental shift in our way of life to continue as a society. When will we face facts and realize that throwing good money after bad is stupid? Consumers are turning back into citizens. It’s becoming harder to make them buy stuff they don’t really need. This is a good thing in the long run but in the short run it will derail our consumer-based growth economy. The big question we should be asking ourselves is how much longer are we going to continue wasting our wealth on a failed reality and when will we wake up? It’s time for real, fundamental change; whether we like it or not.
I had a chance to look through two books focused on Stevia, one about growing the plant and another about using the plant to replace sugar when you are cooking. I found them to be quite interesting. While I can’t follow along with everything in the books, I can follow along with the idea that we should grow and harvest our own sweeteners, if we can. Honey, molasses, sorghum would be three good options. Planting these is a great option.
Stevia can be added to the list of plants that can be grown in your backyard and used as a sweetener. These two books will show you how. If you live in the southern part of our country this plant is one that you should be able to leave outside. If you live in the northern part you could put in a planter or two and carry them back and forth. Either way, it wouldn’t be too hard to grow some of this for yourself and remove your dependence on cane sugar. You could even go so far as to add local honey and maple syrup and have all your sweeteners be local.
If this sounds interesting to you I would check out these two books. One will give you information on growing it and the other is full of recipes. Good stuff.
I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit, but I can’t say it has a whole lot of “green-ness” to it, other than the subject and author realizing he needed to change his life, making those changes, and following them up with actual cash investments. I have a business background, and I’ve read a lot of business books. Some good, some bad. This book from a business standpoint certainly has merit and has useful information and tips. I love reading about past successes and what made that person successful. Using these same traits would make you successful whatever you decide to do.
The website has a snippet which gives a great summation of this book, which is one that is hard to pin down to one subject.
Continental Airlines will test a Boeing 737-800 fueled partially by biofuel on Janurary 7th. This test flight will be powered with a mix of traditional jet fuel and a biofuel made from algae and jatropha plants. This will be the first biofuel-powered demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner.
Not sure what jatropha is? Check out Michael’s post on jatropha here.
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems in North Carolina is pleased to announce that it has been funded to reach out across the state and together with our partners ask: What will it take to build a sustainable local food economy in North Carolina?
From the mountains to the coast, various organizations are promoting and implementing exciting initiatives to support our state and communities through sustainable local agriculture. Examples include new farmer’s markets, local food policy councils, comprehensive county- or region-based food initiatives, farm incubator programs, farm and/or garden youth education programs, health and nutrition projects focused on local sustainable foods, procurement initiatives by large retail and institutional buyers and schools, and much more.
If each North Carolinian spent 25 cents/day on local food (just 2.5 percent of the $3600.00 that we spend on average on food consumption per year), it would mean $792 million for the state’s economy. That money circulates here in the state so has a multiplier effect, rather than going to a corporate headquarters in another state.
Vampire power is a big problem, even though you hit power off on that remote it doesn’t mean your television isn’t still sucking energy from the grid. Electronic appliances in standby mode can add up to 10% of your electric bill.
Good for You, Good for the Planet, a company based in Madrid, Spain, has developed a product to bring an end to the wasted electricity of standby mode. When the user desires to power the system up again it will power it up again without having to send the appliance through its start-up sequence again.
NH Hoteles SA of Spain has been testing a prototype of Mr. García’s gadget at some of the chain’s 350 hotels in 22 countries. It hopes to install the device in its 50,000 rooms as part of a drive to cut energy use by 20% by 2012.
“We’re very interested in this product and are seeing how we can implement it in the short or medium term,” says Luis Ortega, the chain’s director of environment and engineering. “That small saving, multiplied by 24 hours, 365 days a year, makes quite a big difference — especially when you’re talking about 50,000 television sets.”
Until technology like this becomes mainstream, you can kill vampire power in your home or office simply by unplugging or switching off your plug-strips.
I had a chance recently to review a DVD called Garbage Warrior (trailer above) which is about the gentleman who started the Earthship movement and some of the trials and tribulations he experienced while building his houses. It focuses too on his ideas and techniques for using trash materials (aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles) to create low cost energy efficient housing.
This is a guest post by Kevin Wilhelm. Kevin is the Chair of the Seattle Chamber’s Sustainability Committee, an Advisory Board Member to the Center for Sustainable Business, and is an adjunct faculty at Antioch University-Seattle where he teaches Sustainable Business Finance. He is a former advisor to both the Corporate Climate Protection Agreement and the Executive Service Corps of Washington. You can learn more at Sustainable Business Consulting.
In these uncertain economic times, companies often gravitate towards budget cuts and to scale back sustainability or “green” programs because of the notion that they take away from the bottom-line.
In reality, this thinking is the exact opposite of what business leaders need to do. Sustainability may actually be the best defense against market volatility during uncertain economic times.
There’s something to be said for the creative pursuit of modular home furniture. Nobody likes being “boxed” in when it comes to accessorizing — and surfing the web or burning fuel to find something that fits just right is more often than not a giant pain in the ass.
That’s why it was refreshing to come across Way Basic’s zBoards this morning. Not only are they made from 99% recycled materials (and recyclable) but they also require no tools to put together — just stick and build. From the website,
While I won’t portend to be quite as well spoken as Wendy from the previous article, I will attempt in this edition to display my chicken coop and enclosure as well as discuss some aspects of it for your information.
Homeowners Associations have got to be one of the more inane aspects of American society. A friend of mine moved into a neighborhood with one, completely unprepared for the mess she was getting into. Now, no toys can be left outside, all cars must be kept in the garage at all times, the grass must be a certain height and color, and every change to the home must first be approved by a “board”. It’s both a hilarious and sad way that some choose to live — all for the sake of homogeneity in aesthetics.
In March of 2007, we reported on an incident where the town of Scarsdale denied a family the opportunity to put up solar panels — on the basis that they were ugly and “not in keeping with the character of the community”. It was BS then — and it’s still BS. Now, another homeowners association in California is denying one man’s quest to reduce his electric bill by installing solar panels on his roof. Their reason? They do not believe the technology fits in with their rules and guidelines of a community with “restrained elegance.”
EcoSmart insect repellent has offered a free sample of their insect repellent to a randomly drawn Groovy Green reader. (Until I got this e-mail I didn’t even know that there was stuff like this)
If you are interested in being entered just leave a comment on this post and I’ll randomly select a winner.
One caveat: If you are the winner I may ask you to write a quick review for the site so we can have some first hand experience with the product. But I may not, so don’t let that keep you from entering!
I’ve always wanted a rain barrel. In fact, back in June,I wrote a post declaring as much and announcing my quest to pick something up that was both eye pleasing and practical. Living in Ithaca, NY, I don’t have many problems with drought — but watching all that water roll off my roof, I figured it was a waste to simply see it hit my lawn and disappear. Besides, why pay that much more for municipal water for my garden when I could capture that which fell from the sky?
I’ll admit that writing about water issues in the southwest U.S. and visiting friends in Arizona also made me curious why water conservation tactics (like rain barrels) weren’t used more. Was it because they’re still relatively unknown? Were they a pain to setup and use? I was curious and therefore wanted one. Thankfully, the folks at Garden Supermart heard my cry and hooked me up with one of their Cascata Rain Barrels. After playing around with it (I use that term loosely) for two weeks, I can sum up my reaction in one sentence: Everyone should have one.
The NY Times has an article up on their site recently discussing how a small town in Vermont is using local foods to save the local economy of their small town.
“Across the country a lot of people are doing it individually but it’s rare when you see the kind of collective they are pursuing,” said Mr. Fried, whose firm considers social and environmental issues when investing. “The bottom line is they are providing jobs and making it possible for others to have their own business.”
This is interesing to me because they are essentially building the entire local food infrastructure. They are moving past the idea of just supplying beef or vegetables to consumers at the farmer’s market. They are actually moving into producing local food products. They are preparing the town for the future where food will need to be more local. And even better, they are recirculating those food dollars in their town to be reused over and over.
Check out the article and let me know what you think.
Vote La Cense! That is the motto of the cattle ranchers of La Cense cattle ranchers. They are trying to educate the public in the benefits of grass-fed beef, and Angus La Cense is their (fictional?) candidate in the Grass-Fed Party…
Who is Angus La Cense?
Angus La Cense is a cow from the La Cense Ranch who is representing the Grass-fed Party in the upcoming election. He is an advocate of grass-fed practices that produce happier cows, healthier people, stronger rural communities, and healthy grasslands.
What is the Grass-fed Party?
The Grass-fed Party is an organization of people who support grass-fed foods and sustainable ranching and believe that America can hold higher standards to its cattle industry. The Grass-fed Party empowers citizens with the knowledge necessary to make the best choices, whether their role is the feed a family or help make new policies that work. The Grass-fed Party supports putting traditional ranching practices back in rural America to help the smaller communities thrive, to help preserve and enrich ranchlands, and to help cows eat according to their natural diets and have access to clean air and water.
With the worldwide economy in the trash — and people cutting back for the impending recession — we can’t help but glance sadly at the Ovetto Recycling Egg and wonder ‘what might have been?’. You see, sorting recycling can be something of a chore for people; though I’m not sure why. If I gave my parents this egg, it would probably increase their efforts to recycle beyond the guilt and shame I shower on them every time I find a bottle in the garbage.
Problem is, this little egg of wonder costs $250. I mean, it’s the garbage can of the future, but I think I’ll wait until prices drop a bit. Here’s the full description:
“Interior Architect and Designer Gianluca Soldi has designed Ovetto differenziato, or recycling egg, “an object that meets the needs of domestic waste separation in order to educate the population to correctly dispose of waste in order to be able to consequently recycle it. Ovetto fits easily in modern homes and offices and is a great gift for anyone who wants to show off their “green” engagement.” Of course, it is made of recycled polypropylene
What do you think — want one?
We live in the suburbs of Seattle and our neighborhood is full of regular hard working folk busy with life and not much time set aside for much else. Aside from our immediate neighbors regular communication with the rest of our neighbors is not a very common activity.
Tonight while on a walk with the kids we stopped at the home of one of our unfamiliar neighbors, previously we have only exchanged waves at a distance and usually through the windshield as he drove by our house. We stopped to see if he would let us pick some apples from the tree in his front yard. Heavy laden with some beautiful yellow apples it was just begging for us to stop!
Alan gladly gave us permission to pick some apples and invited us to come back in the spring to pick cherries from the tree in his backyard. It was apparent that these apples would most likely not all get picked and many would go to waste we were more than happy to make good use of them. In turn, I offered my services to prune this tree for him as well we would also bring him some applesauce. He was happy to share the excess of apples from his yard and the history of the tree. This Yellow Delicious apple was planted in 1987 when his second daughter was born. She has now moved out of the home but this tree remains and stands as a reminder of precious time in his family’s past.
OK, most of you are probably thinking I’m going to talk about a tool, but actually I wanted to mention Jerusalem Artichokes aka Sunchokes.
I planted some of these this year for the first time ever, and I’m impressed with them. They grew fantastic, made nice flowers on the top, provided a huge amount of food to the chickens and in the end, gave me the tubers you see below. This bowl is full from half of the section I planted. I created a bed on the south side of my compost pile that is between 3 and 4 ft long. I planted the Sunchokes in double rows within that bed. I didn’t amend the soil or anything. I just dug a trench, put in the tubers and filled it back.
I was given a sample of Clorox’s new dishwashing soap about 1 month ago. We’ve been using it to clean our pots and pans and as a liquid hand soap in our kitchen (why have two containers on the counter?). The results have been, well how can I say this, the same as our old non-environmentally friendly soap*. But isn’t that the point? Having the same dishwashing ability – without drying out our hands – and eliminating many of the chemicals that pollute our waste water. Good for clorox. Now if we could just get rid of the other 99% of the harmful chemicals that the company produces.
Siel from GreenLAGirl did a very thorough review of the benefits of this product. I was glad to see what was eliminated, and what natural ingredients they were able to replace them with.
Two dishpan-hands up for this Clorox Green Works Dishwashing Soap.
*for the record, we bought a huge industrial sized container of dish soap from BJ’s when we moved into our house. That was 4 1/2 years ago! This thing must be refilling itself as we use it. I swear.
About 45 minutes ago, we all piled into the garden after hearing that Ithaca, NY would be receiving its first “hard” frost of the season with a low of 29 degrees. Time to harvest the last remaining fruits of the garden! Gourds, lavendar, rosemary, green peppers, cayennes, eggplants, tomatoes — whatever we could find, we cut and dragged in. I even grabbed the Jatropha (more on that later!) and propped it up in the living room. Here is one of our tables of yumminess. Needless to say, we have a bunch of freezing, canning, and eating to do over the next week!
How did your garden turn out this year?
What will the next 10-20 years be like? With global climate change and peak oil what can we expect? David Holmgren co-originator of the permaculture concept has developed a new website investigating some possible outcomes.
Future Scenarios: Mapping the cultural implications and climate change.
The simultaneous onset of climate change and the peaking of global oil supply represent unprecedented challenges for human civilisation.
Global oil peak has the potential to shake if not destroy the foundations of global industrial economy and culture. Climate change has the potential to rearrange the biosphere more radically than the last ice age. Each limits the effective options for responses to the other.
I came across this video today of a group of like-minded people working together to improve their lives. They call themselves the Grow Food Party Crew, a part of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, their goal is to work together to build their local food shed and strengthen their community. They employ permaculture principles as their design approach to food production and land use. Projects include vegetable gardens, rainwater harvesting, as well as natural earthen structures. All the while having a great time doing it!
Why not start a Grow Food Party Crew in your neighborhood!
A new ship from Celebrity Cruises, currently about 80% complete, is being built with eco-friendly technology and design in ever phase of construction. Personally, I find cruises to be one of the most wasteful and benign ways to travel — but they’re not going away, and this development is welcome.
The company actually designed the hull of the ship first — a radical departure from conventional cruise ship construction where things are generally created “top down,” with passenger space configured first, then the hull constructed to fit that space. As a result, the hull is one of the most fuel-efficient possible and the rest of the ship was configured to work around it.
There will also be 80 solar panels on board to power small things such as elevators. The company acknowledges that solar is not currently a cost-effective addition, but add that as prices decrease, the infrastructure will be in place on board to carry more photovoltaics. The hope is that over time, the ship will utilize more clean energy in its consumption.
[ed note: I am putting this up without the bells and whistles (links, etc.), and with perhaps a few typos. I’d rather get it up in a timely fashion and return to it to correct any mistakes. Comments are welcome and appreciated by those that can clarify or rebut my recollection of the events.]
ASPO Day 1:
Our first day of ASPO started out with a tour of Old Sacramento, followed by a chance meeting with a board member of an upstart Extended Oil Recovery (EOR) firm called Titan Oil Recovery. He described their revolutionary technique to bring life to mature oil fields, involving the Titan process which causes microbes found in the well to multiply and break down the size of oil particles trapped in rock to a small enough size to allow them to flow, increasing total recoverable crude from the well, and causing a rapid increase in production. My opinion, keep an eye on this company. If they can really do what their data showed, it my be a game changer for production in mature fields.
This is a guest post by Wendy from Home Is… From reading her blog I knew she had chickens, and since she lives in Maine her knowledge of building a coop that will hold up to cold weather could be quite useful. She has written a series of articles on our site before related to her personal decision to stay in her home in the suburbs during the coming descent down Hubbert’s Peak.
Do your children think that food comes from the supermarket or maybe the shop at the gas station? We all have opportunities to open that door to the past and learn to rely on nature to provide for our dietary needs. If we give her a chance, it is amazing how willing Mother Nature is to sustain our needs. One green (and fun) opportunity to utilize nature is to tap your maple trees to collect the sap. Now that is really tapping into Mother Nature!
I started tapping maple trees in my yard several years ago and constantly get questions about how to do this. The reality is that with the right equipment and a little direction, it is quite simple. The trick is to be prepared when the sap starts to flow (sometime in February or March depending upon weather conditions).
UPDATE: Ecorazzi is now giving away a Neuton in celebration of their two year anniversary. One person will be chosen at random.]
Before I start this review, you should know that I have a love/hate relationship with lawns. Living in the Northeast, they’re a necessary evil when one has not yet shifted an entire backyard to something built on permaculture. On the other hand, a recently cut lawn does look beautiful and sharp — something drilled into my head from summers of mowing other lawns to make cash in High School.
When my lawn turns colors from a lack of rain, I do not get out the sprinkler. I consider it a vacation from the weekly chore of mowing. If weeds or other variants of grass make their presence known, I consider them compliments to the scenery. It amuses/depresses me to no end the amount of resources Americans spend on the upkeep of lawns across the US — especially in places where grass has no business growing in the first place.
Saw this first at After Gutenberg, but it came via itsgettinghotinhere from a Architecture 2030 e-news bulletin.
A picture (or in this case, a graph) tells a thousand words.
You know you’ve been sniffing a little too much embalming fluid when you argue that natural burials are bad for the planet. And yet, that’s just what a funeral director from New Zealand did while participating in a debate on the topic during a town council meeting earlier last month.
Francis Day, of Marsden House Funeral Services, told the Nelson City Council that putrefaction of a body that was not embalmed would lead to higher toxicity levels in the surrounding soil to levels “which in many places would breach World Health Organization standards.” He continued that diseases and bacteria do not die when a person die but go right on living and could put “future communities at risk”.
A Calvin & Hobbes strip from July 23, 1987 – over 20 years ago…
It’s a good thing that even a six-year-old imaginary character in the funny pages knew all about global warming way back then. I mean, just think – two whole decades of progress in mitigating… er… well…
Calvin… I’m sorry buddy.
Like Colorado, Utah has laws on the books that make it illegal to collect rainwater that falls on one’s property. A Utah car dealer installed a cistern and rainwater collection system to feed a on-site car wash that has water recycling technology. This was in an attempt to “go green”. He was thwarted by the state government, and eventually had to work out a deal. Local residents who collect rainwater will not be bothered at this point because “there are bigger fish to fry”.
It’s difficult to imagine a person not having heard the old axiom “Buy low, sell high”, and it is prudent advice when you are making financial decisions. It’s the second part of that adage that might warrant a look at our strategy for infrastructure improvement in this country. If you are looking to make the maximum amount of money by selling something you want to sell that something when it’s at its highest value. I wonder then, is it time for our government to sell its infrastructure? You know, since the effects of Peak Oil are beginning to make themselves felt, the value of the infrastructure developed to serve cars running on cheap oil will decline each year into the future; starting soon. Selling high might mean selling soon.
Now, I don’t think we should sell all of it, by any means. We should keep the ports and the train lines, but is now a good time to start selling our roads, highways and airports? There has been news recently of other governments selling their infrastructure, and considering the value of these items in an energy scarce future I would contend that their value will never be higher. In fact, there is already plenty of news about airlines facing massive losses. (And starting to charge for baggage, pillows and normal drinks) How valuable will an airport be if we don’t have airlines? Or what if the ones we do have are marginally profitable? I say it’s better to sell now while the full force of Peak Oil hasn’t quite made itself felt.
This spring I had the pleasure of talking with Bob Waldrop as part of a series of interviews done for the forthcoming book A Nation of Farmers. Bob is a native, 4th generation Oklahoman, who was born and raised in Tillman County in southwest Oklahoma. His great-grandparents came to Oklahoma Territory before statehood. He is the founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House (which delivers food to people in need who don’t have transportation), the president of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and works as director of music at Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church. He served on the founding board of directors of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, and previously served on the Migrants and Refugees Advisory Committee of Catholic Charities. He is the editor of Better Times: An Almanac of Useful Information, which is distributed free. The 5th edition may be viewed at www.bettertimesinfo.org/2004index.htm. He is a member of the Oklahoma Food Policy Council. Although not presently active in the program, he has served as an Oklahoma County Master Gardener.
A big thank you to Sarah Louise Hartman for transcribing this interview.
Aaron Newton: Bob, could you describe the Oscar Romera Catholic Worker House, and the operations that you’re a part of there in Oklahoma City?
I think that Joel Satalin can add another chapter to his book Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal after reading this story. I mean, really, a child’s veggie stand shut down for lack of permits? What’s next, no lemonade stands or car wash fundraisers?
ABC News via ABA Journal:
Call it a rite of passage: children by the roadside peddling their homemade goodies to adults who are more than eager to drop a few cents into a makeshift cashbox.
But Katie and Sabrina Lewis’ veggie stand, in the town of Clayton, Calif., where they sold homegrown watermelons for $1, has been shuttered by town officials who told the girls’ parents that their daughters’ venture violated local zoning ordinances.
“I think that they’re wrong,” dad Mike Lewis said of the town officials. “Kids should be able to be kids.”
In my city our local waste management group picks up big plastic containers (which I call a Yardy) of yard waste material. This can be branches, leaves, grass clippings, etc. (Unbeknownst to my neighbors, I also pick up yard materials from their yardies, but that’s a different story…) Participation in this program is great, and it keeps all this material out of the land fill. The city mixes all this material together and turns it into compost which they then sell in 40 lb bags, or give away for free for personal use, if you have a truck to load it in. Paper products and kitchen waste can be recycled in our yardies, although almost no one knows that and it never seems to be highlighted.
San Francisco does a similar thing, although this Time article just mentions kitchen waste so I’m not sure about yard waste. I’m sure there are plenty of other cities that also do similar things.
Back in April, I began an exercise in driving less and driving with fuel economy in mind. What I learned surprised me. Simple, obvious steps made the most difference. I drive a 98 Oldsmobile Alero and before I began, I was getting about 27 MPG, now I am up to 34 MPG. That’s a 7 MPG savings, using simple steps anyone can do.There are groceries, banks and just about everything I need within walking distance from work, so as a rule, I drive to work, then I drive home and that’s it. I occasionally drive to run some errands (there is only so much walking one can do on a lunch hour).
I began turning off the car at train crossings, or when stuck in a traffic jam, but the biggest jump occurred after slowing down to 60 MPH. I went from 29 MPG to 34 MPG. That’s huge.
Also, I rode my bicycle over 120 miles in June, and I’m well on my way to matching that for July. That’s trips to the hardware store, bank, goodwill, and beer runs (all within about 3 miles of my house). At 34 MPG, bicycling alone has saved 3 1/2 gallons of gas, or almost a 1/3 of a tank. That’s amazing!
Much praise has been heaped upon designer Ross Lovegrove since his solar trees first debuted in Vienna in October 2007. Essentially a solar-powered streetlamp — but also a work of art — the structure creates, as the designer puts it, “complex natural forms in a city that can benefit all of society.” They also save energy — and have managed to survive Vienna’s dark spells, with light still being generated even after four days without direct sun. From the article,
“When we were setting up the tree outside it was quite wonderful,” Lovegrove said. “Even when we had one stem, it was incredible, it seemed so insignificant but actually it really stood out and it proves this point that modern technology and design can really lift people’s spirits, it becomes an eye catcher because it’s sort of out of context. The Solar Tree is just a streetlamp but actually some of the small things which can have a big impact on our life are all open for reinterpretation.”
With the first-generation lamps firmly planted on some of Europe’s most famous streets, Lovegrove is now planning on the next-generation design. It will be called the “Adaptive Solar Tree” and, just like the real thing, will feature robotics that seek out sunlight or respond to changes in weather.