A sign of the times – but one that may be welcome from the digitally connected among us – is this smart terrarium concept by designer Samuel Wilkinson.
Called the “Biome”, the beautiful flora terrarium is controlled exclusively (climate, water level and nutrients) via your iPad or other smartphone device. Wilkinson told MocoLogo that the idea “promotes ‘digital downtime’ by finding an alternative use for smartphones and encouraging their owners to consider a slower life. The control and nurturing of a real mini eco-system takes patience and care, contrasting with the immediacy of messaging or tweeting that is so characteristic of the smartphone generation.”
Biome was developed for a recent exhibition titled “Slow Tech – Designs for Digital Downtime”. There’s no word yet on if the Biome or its companion app will ever see the light of day as a real product
Depending on which figures you choose to use, unemployment in America is approaching 20%, a figure that is quite remarkable. Fully 1/5 of the people in America who could be working are not currently working. I think urban farming could be this generation’s way to handle unemployment, sort of like a 2011 version of the CCC.
When you are willing to trade your labor for less space and less machinery you can create an amazing income from a small land base. SPIN farming is a method developed by a farming couple in Canada when they realized that they could make more money by growing intensively on less land if they grew the right crops at the right times.
They have a farm income calculator on their site that suggests that a farmer with 1/2 an acre can generate $24,000 in gross sales on the low end up to $72,000 on the high end. I think this is doable as well, but it does require a bit more marketing and growing of high value crops. We use a CSA model for our urban farm and I don’t think that will get us to those dollar figures because a CSA model is similar to a bulk food model vs. a model where you would grow exclusively high value crops like exotic green, radishes or beets for restaurants.
Students from SUNY-ESF will be taking over Groovy Green next week. Get the perspective of the future environmental leaders of America (and places beyond).
Come back and see us next week, starting Thursday 11/18/10 and see what they have to say.
I’ve had the humbling experience of undergoing ankle surgery about 2 months ago. As a father of a near-two year old, and a husband, it has been extremely difficult to shift from the role of a provider and equal member of the household to a person initially very dependent on others.
My family and friends have been very supportive, and where we still needed some help, we were able to find babysitters, someone to help clean, and someone to do the annual fall clean-up.
I’ve progressed over the last month from a doped-up, leg-elevated, impression in my couch to a semi-functioning member of my family and society. I’m back to work, and trying to catch up on my PhD studies. Still, its a big challenge to hop from place to place, and occasionally catch a ride in a wheelchair during longer outings. Let’s just say that I’ve had plenty of time to think.
What follows is something I posted in September of 2008. The US presidential campaign was building up steam and I was sick and tired of hearing ‘Drill Baby Drill.’ It made me ill because of the stupidity of the entire argument. I wrote,
The Book of Rubbish Ideas is anything but rubbish. It is FULL of excellent tips to help eco-newbies and hard-core Greens see rubbish as a resource, cut down on waste, and save time, money and resources as a result.
Don’t be put off by the quirky cover; author, Tracey Smith, a contented downshifter, aims to take the freaky out of eco, and her book is accessible, practical and positive. There’s no holier-than-thou attitude to reusable nappies, washable sanpro and chicken-keeping; we are encouraged to ditch the guilt for what we are not doing and start feeling good about what we are doing.
Tracey takes you on a tour through the average family home, from bedroom and bathroom through to the kitchen and out into the garden, including the Usually Male Domain of shed and garage, which so often get missed out where decluttering’s concerned.
[ed note:] This post was sent to us by Tammy Roberts, from West Yorkshire, UK:
I’M GIVING UP MY CAR
I didn’t learn to drive until I was 30. Up until that point, I hadn’t seen the point of having a car or even having the ability to drive, as public transport was convenient enough. However, 2 months before my 30th birthday, I moved to Plymouth for a new job and for the first time, I discovered how difficult it was to do my outreach work without a driving license – my job covered the whole of Devon and Cornwall. Within 6 months, I passed my driving test and around 4 months later, I bought my first car – my beloved Fiat Tipo. Yes, it was cheap and a bit of a banger and had all the quirks and faults that are found on most Italian cars (it’s a standing joke on Top Gear), but I loved it nonetheless! And, my goodness, did I love the freedom that being a car owner gave me! I was off to the beach at weekends and I drove back home to Yorkshire once a month to visit family and friends. No more sharing my personal space on a 7 hour train journey, and trying to carry my own weight in luggage. It was fantastic! I even moved back to Yorkshire with my car full of my belongings, with a friend following behind, his car equally laden with my stuff. I could not believe that I hadn’t learned to drive sooner and found that I needed my car for work more and more as I moved from job to job When I had my son, 4 years ago, having a car was a bonus. I remember a childhood of long bus journeys to shopping destinations with my mum, gran and my sister and it was so nice to be able to jump in the car with William in his baby seat and set off on day trips or to visit friends.
My graduate school advisor, Charles Hall, is a very intelligent man, though he frequently defers to his doctoral advisor’s talent and knowledge. Howard Odum explained the first and second laws of thermodynamics concisely and in a manner easy to understand:
The quantity of energy within a system is maintained (first law). However, the quality of that energy degrades over time (second law).
Entropy is defined as
a function of thermodynamic variables, as temperature, pressure, or composition, that is a measure of the energy that is not available for work during a thermodynamic process. A closed system evolves toward a state of maximum entropy.
Lutz was asked if that means he would favor higher gasoline taxes, as in Europe where taxes drive fuel to more than $5 a gallon. He said he couldn’t speak for GM, but he said he saw a lot of value in a steady tax rise to much higher levels.
“You either continue with inexpensive motor fuels and have to find other ways to incent the customer to buy hybrids and electric vehicles, such as the government credits,” he said. “Or the other alternative is a gradual increase in the federal fuel tax of 25 cents a year, which in my estimation would have the benefit of giving automobile companies a planning base, and giving families that own vehicles a planning base.”
Lutz continued, noting that if families knew that the price of gasoline were going to steadily increase over the next few years, they would change their buying habits and lean towards more fuel efficient vehicles.
If you’ve ever lived in or visited Ithaca, NY your probably familiar with the phrase “Ithaca is gorges”. It’s a funny little saying that gives a good indication of the region’s topography — hills, hills, and steeper hills. In fact, the inclines we have around here would make even Lance Armstrong break a sweat. So, it was with great expectation that I took advantage of an opportunity to review the IZIP Trekking Enlightened hybrid-electric bicycle from Currie Technologies. Could it be possible to bike to work and not immediately have to take another shower?
I’m still figuring that out — and will have a full review shortly — but so far, I have to say that I’m very impressed with the technology being utilized in this bike. First off, this isn’t one of those bikes that you hit a switch and kick back while the electric motors putts you along. The IZIP instead is an electric-assist — giving you some extra torque to help you up some tough inclines. To that end, you still have to pedal. The beauty of this system is that you can choose to have it on or off — or at different levels of assist. About to hit a hill and want some support? Simply press the “+” button on the left handlebar and watch the LCD indicator light a few bars higher. Want to back off? Hit the “-” button. It’s as simple as that — and believe me, you still get a workout.
Back in June of last year, we dropped the story that harvesting rain water in Colorado was actually an illegal activity. We commented on just how dumb this law was — and over 100 comments later, many of you agreed. Almost a year later, the Colorado legislature has revised the draconian law to give some homeowners rights the water that falls from their roofs. But not everyone will be happy. From the article,
If you live in the city, don’t install a barrel under your gutter spout just yet. The legislation lets residents on wells collect rain and establishes 10 pilot projects for new developments. Residents on municipal water still can’t legally collect rain, and water suppliers are leery of legislation that would let them. “All the water was spoken for here in the Arkansas Basin 100 years ago or more,” said Kevin Lusk, water supply engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities. “If the water falls as rain, that’s water that was going to get to the stream system, and somebody already has dibs on it, and if somebody intercepts that, it’s the same as stealing.”
I have a healthy appreciation for Worm Bins after managing to get through a winter with a DIY version in my basement. Those little red wigglers made fast work of my food scraps and were a nice alternative to trudging to the compost pile in the cold. Plus, the “instant compost” went right into the soil mix for my seedlings and proved a nice boost for spring planting. However, I know my system rather sucks — not enough aeration, poor drainage, and no easy way to access the all-valued “worm tea”. There are plenty of excellent instructions for making your own worm bin online (I took over my current bin from a friend) — but I thought it would worth it highlighting some of the brands out there for those that want to get started right away.
Can-O-Worms | Price: $129.00 (can probably find it cheaper)
Last year, Americans used over 100 billion plastic bags. Fortunately, thousands of enlightened shoppers are changing the way they shop (for good), by pledging to get off the plastic. Join the movement and get the ball rolling. Together we can keep 1 billion plastic bags off our street this year.
I’m a big fan of watching nature re-claim buildings — and this is a perfect example of that. Best I can tell, this is a church in Toronto. Now, I’m not sure whether the building is abandoned or if someone has been neglecting the ivy. Either way, there’s certainly not much sunlight entering through that window anymore!
This is a guest post by Ed Bruske. He writes at The Slow Cook. Ed lives in the District of Columbia. A reporter for the Washington Post in a previous life, he now tends his “urban farm” about a mile from the White House in the District of Columbia. Ed believes in self-reliance, growing food close to home and political freedom for the residents of the District of Columbia.
Warning: The following may contain dangerously subversive thoughts. Young children should probably leave the room….
Although I believe in food gardening, I am also convinced that we will only get so far trying to persuade Americans that there is a healthier way to eat, and that growing your own is a big part of the answer. But I also know there’s something else Americans care very much about: money. That’s why I am proposing right here and right now a big fat tax break on kitchen gardens that will not only spur our fellow citizens to start digging up their lawns like crazy, but will fit right in with President Obama’s economic stimulus efforts by getting everyone busy buying seeds and garden tools.
Using “trash” (construction and other refuse) to build homes. Quote “in a town this size would otherwise be discarding usable building materials that could build a small scale house a week… That’s crazy! when we have families that would do anything to own a house.” Great ideas, funky original homes.
I am an avid reader of DIY projects. Before I begin a project of my own I will most likely spend hours researching and looking at similar projects done by others. One of my favorite sites for finding the real creative and well documented projects is instructables.com.
They recently held a contest to see what their readers could do with used plastic bottles. The entries ranged from an algae bioreactor to fenders on a bike. Currently they are running a contest entitled the Stay Warm Contest: “We want to know what ways you’re staying warm this winter without using of lots of fuel or energy in the process.” Grand Prize is a sleeping bag and an Instructables Robot t-shirt, patch, and stickers. So GG readers head on over and submit your Stay Warm projects. (Contest ends Feb. 8th)
UPDATE: One last day to enter! Send me your pics today for a chance to win! (see contest rules below)
Time for a great giveaway at Groovy Green. Home Depot is showcasing its energy saving products, and now is your chance to upgrade your old thermostat. This Ritetemp 7-day programmable thermostat mounts flush to your wall, is mercury free, and can save you up to $150 per year on your heating and cooling costs.
Here’s the contest rules:
Cliff Hunt on the Huffington Post recently mentioned that it was time for the music business to get more green. Hell, he makes a convincing argument for ways they can both save money, and save the planet.
In a process that hasn’t changed much in decades, record labels send out CDs packaged with printed promotional materials to what are hoped to be the right influencers at radio stations. Radio station personnel, bombarded by these packages, end up not having the time to go through them all and many end up in the trash. Not only are those CDs extremely difficult to recycle, but it has been estimated that getting them to the stations consumes about 0.7 pounds of fossil fuel per CD, from production to shipping.
Ebillplace.com released a video recently discussing some of the environmental impact of replacing your paper bills with electronic bills. I was surprised by the impact and just had to share.
· Eliminating the mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.
· Every year, producing and transporting paper checks has the same environmental impact as burning 674 million gallons of fuel. That’s 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of gas, oil and diesel fuel.
· If every American turned off just one paper bill, it would save enough paper to stack as tall as 1,000 Empire State buildings.
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.
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,
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.
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!
[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.
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”.
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”.
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.”
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!
Both presidential candidates have stumped for a new “green” economy. To me this smells of the supposed transformation to the “information economy” touted only a decade ago. Fortune had this to say on June 30th:
What senators McCain and Obama believe about U.S. energy policy matters – hugely. To fight global warming, the next President will oversee the transition to a new, green economy , which will result in one of the biggest business transformations of the 21st century and potentially one of the largest transfers of wealth since the creation of the income tax.