Archive for ◊ December, 2011 ◊

• Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Stick it to the Man. Live off the Grid. Break free from the Matrix. Free your Mind. Garden.

Source: TED


• Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Source: Mother Nature Network

By the middle of this century, there will be as many people living in cities worldwide as there are alive on the planet today. Sustainability, then, is first and foremost an urban project, and I’m always a little surprised to find that there’s a lingering divide between hardcore cleantechies and urban design geeks. You still meet renewable energy obsessives who obsess over the next generation of solar technology but have never given much thought to mixed-use development, and there remain complete-street fans and bike-lane zealots unaware that solar power’s now vering on cost-competitive with coal and nuclear. (And don’t get me started on the hardcore climate activists who don’t pay any attention to cities and how they work at all.)

Anyway, for all these reasons and more, I understood immediately why the good folks at TED decided to award their TED Prize to “The City 2.0” – the first time ever the $100,000 award has gone an innovative concept rather than an innovator. “The City 2.0,” the announcement explains, “is the city of the future . . . a future in which more than ten billion people on planet Earth must somehow live sustainably.”

• Monday, December 05th, 2011

The following article is highly recommended because it connects the Occupy Wall Street movement with the vital knowledge of sustainability.

As public resources of the world increasingly get privatised — crony land deals that give valuable public resources to private business — there eventually comes a time when there are fewer public resources to loot than resources that already been privatised. I call this  “Peak Privatisation”. At this peak, the number of displaced, redundant people outnumbers the capability of the Privateers to pacify them. I think we are seeing this today in the Occupy movement.

The controlling class does not know how to respond and the protesters don’t know what to demand or what to do with their time and energy as they “occupy” the privatised land. The long-term, non-violent solution to privatisation is sustainability, as this interview shows.

Whenever people are able to live sustainably from the land, they are independent and free.

Source: Truth Out

The people who created the crisis in the first place will not be the ones that come up with a solution.

That is why we must pay close attention to those with another imagination: an imagination outside of capitalism, as well as communism. We will soon have to admit that those people, like the millions of indigenous people fighting to prevent the takeover of their lands and the destruction of their environment – the people who still know the secrets of sustainable living – are not relics of the past, but the guides to our future.

• Sunday, December 04th, 2011

You’ve seen them in the supermarket. My son is asking for one: Over-packaged advent calendars with non-fair trade chocolate inside.

Is there a way to save this tradition from commercialism? Yes!

Source: QuietFish

Check out this matchbox advent calendar. Amazing huh? Alas, at the time I was planning this all out I was stuck at home with no way of obtaining the requisite number of matchboxes. I then tried making my own origami matchbox/slide box, but they wouldn’t have been nearly as stable as the version that used authentic matchboxes. And then there was the issue of the time it would take to fold my own… it would have taken me weeks.

Other ideas I was kicking around:

Ones with with felt pockets like the one shown here.

And then there’s this one … slightly different and v.v.cute.

You can make an advent calendar out of paper cones, and inverted cones.

There’s the cookie sheet advent calendar (cute, I guess, but I can’t get past the cookie sheet thing…) Oh, and speaking of magnets, there’s this one, that can be affixed to a magnet board. Gorgeous huh?

Anyway, there are a lot of great ideas out there. (If you start googling you will be sucked into a vortex you might not be able to get out of, so consider yourself warned.) But I was considering an idea posted on the now-defunct Kiddley. What could be simpler than paper envelopes? This was something I could manage.

Research Credit: Equiterre

Related link: Which are more sustainable – natural or artificial xmas trees?


• Saturday, December 03rd, 2011

Source: Post-Peak Living

After a tremendous amount of work, Harvey Ussery’s new book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers, is now available! Here is what people are saying about it:

“Harvey Ussery delivers all the practical information you need to grow your own eggs and meat birds, in a style and format that will keep you interested and amused. Plus, he raises the larger question: what kind of world do we want to live in? One that treats animals as units of production, or one that honors all life, especially that farmstead marvel, the domesticated chicken?”
— Sally Fallon Morell, President, The Weston A. Price Foundation

“Here’s the ultimate book for those who want to know everything there is to know about raising poultry. And every detail is backed up by the author’s own (and often entertaining) experiences. I could not find ”in this encyclopedic array of chicken knowhow” one detail that I would quibble with.”
— Gene Logsdon, author of Holy Shit and The Contrary Farmer

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is about establishing a free-range poultry flock fully integrated into a healthy homestead ecosystem. Based upon the author’s decades of hands-on experience with many breeds and species, it covers all the basics about raising poultry, and fills some important gaps not usually covered well enough elsewhere, including chicken behavior, poultry breeding, raising chicks with broody hens, managing free-ranging, dealing with predators, using electric net fencing, feeding poultry with home-grown feeds, and integrating the poultry with soil mineral balance, gardens, lawns and pastures, orchards, worm bins, and soldier fly (larvae) production. If you want to raise chickens and can afford just one book, I recommend this one.”
— Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener

Available at Indigo bookstores in Canada.

• Friday, December 02nd, 2011

While we all enjoy new technology such as solar panels and geothermal heat pumps, the easiest thing any homeowner can do to use less energy and be more sustainable is insulate. And then insulate some more!

Source: Mother Nature NetworkAbondance Apartments

I went to visit one of North America’s first “net zero” multi-unit residential dwellings – a three-story apartment building in the east end of Montreal that generates all the energy it needs over the course of a year. The development is called “Abondance,” and it’s the product of a young, ambitious architect named Christopher Sweetnam-Holmes…

…Sweetnam-Holmes’ Abondance development is an elegant example of how sustainability reorders priorities in ways that are hard to see from within the confines of our current paradigm. It’s not a conventional Montreal apartment block with solar panels on the roof; it’s a thorough rethinking of the conventions of the conventional apartment building top to bottom, often using the same materials and processes but in much different ways.

Sweetnam-Holmes gave me a tour of the project the other day – first the three-unit Phase 1 building, in which he lives, then the still-under-construction 17-unit apartment block next door. Abondance stands in a working-class neighborhood just south of downtown Montreal. I was following the beacon of the site’ s address on Google Maps on my iPhone, and the building was so inconspicuous I walked right by it. If I was further back from it, I might’ve spied the silhouette of the solar array on the roof, but otherwise it was a brick low-rise seamlessly integrated into the rest of the block.

The really radical thing about Abondance is not the solar PV and hot-water heaters, not the geothermal heat pumps in the basement that warm and cool it or the wireless master kill switch at the door of each unit that lets you turn off all the lights and everything sucking juice on “sleep” mode in one poke as you leave. No, what’s radical about Abondance is how little energy it needs – something like 23 percent of the Montreal average – and how it reduced its required load.

The main answer: insulation. Lots of it. More than double the norm, including exterior layers of spray-foam insulation to avoid heat loss at the wooden studs. Abondance isn’t an energy-generating marvel so much as an obsessive experiment in R-value and what they call “tightness” in the building trade. Abondance takes in heat very well, and it traps it zealously. It’s ridiculously well-insulated box masquerading as a cleantech showcase.

• Thursday, December 01st, 2011

suburban office parkIf there were no suburban office “parks” then there would be less incentive to live in the suburbs and less incentive to drive EVERYWHERE. There would be more incentive to live in urban, energy efficient communities where daily interaction with people and a sense of community was common.

Source: NY Times

IN an era of concern about climate change, residential suburbs are the focus of a new round of critiques, as low-density developments use more energy, water and other resources. But so far there’s been little discussion of that other archetype of sprawl, the suburban office.

Rethinking sprawl might begin much more effectively with these business enclaves. They cover vast areas and are occupied by a few powerful entities, corporations, which at some point will begin spending their ample reserves to upgrade, expand or replace their facilities…

suburban offices are even more unsustainably designed than residential suburbs. Sidewalks extend only between office buildings and parking lots, expanses of open space remain private and the spreading of offices over large zones precludes effective mass transit.

These workplaces embody a new form of segregation, where civic space connecting work to the shops, housing, recreation and transportation that cities used to provide is entirely absent. Corporations have cut themselves off from participation in a larger public realm.

Rethinking pastoral capitalism is integral to creating a connected, compact metropolitan landscape that tackles rather than sidesteps a post-peak-oil future. This requires three interrelated strategies. State and federal governments should stop paying for new highway extensions that essentially subsidize the conversion of agricultural land for development, including corporate offices. Existing infrastructure needs maintenance and renewal, not expansion.