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Archive for September, 2009

The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome:
Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream

John F. Wasik
Bloomberg, 2009

207 pages
US$24.95
ISBN 978-1576603208

John Wasik, a columnist for Bloomberg News and the Huffington Post, has written a book that examines the recent period in our history when homeownership actually made many people poorer. They have been forced to tap their home equity, go into debt to finance their unsustainable lifestyle, and contributed little to retirement investing because of the misguided assumption that home appreciation would fund their future years. Basically the period of time when homes stopped being a place to live and raise family, and became a temporary abode for a migrant family that changed residences every 5 to 7 years.

As John Wasik himself has said on his Cul-De-Sac Syndrome website:

After a lifetime of research and observation, an agonizing decline of the housing market, publication delays and collapse of the stock market, my Cul-de-Sac Syndrome has braved all odds to be published.

Why should you care about this book? It’s about our homes and communities and how we need to re-invent, re-envision and re-build the American Dream if we want to survive in this contentious century. Economics meets ecology in this radical new look at what we’ve taken for granted as a birthright.

The plight of the housing market writ large. The unsustainable “spurbs”, Wasik’s name for car-dependent sprawling urban areas, dot the land. I lived for a time in Colorado Springs and had friends who lived in one these spurbs. They had a twenty minute drive to get to the nearest grocery store, and the neighborhood was more a fenced-in plots of anonymous neighbors, than a community.

The City of Kenmore has a chance to make itself a more livable city, a more walkable city. It also needs to make itself more attractive to more manufacturing and office jobs, since retail and other service oriented businesses just isn’t enough.

Decide for yourself, you can pick up a copy of his book from my Sustainable Living Store.

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Did you know that pancakes don’t come from a mix that you buy in the store? Amazing isn’t it?

Pancakes made from scratch.

Pancakes made from scratch.

Sarcasm aside, making pancakes from scratch is easy and simple to do. This morning I made myself a batch of pancakes using a simple recipe. Not only is it better for you, you control what goes into to your pancakes and into your family. So here’s the recipe:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar (optional)
  1. Grease your griddle with a non-stick spray or vegetable oil.
  2. Preheat your griddle over medium-high heat.
  3. Beat the egg, milk, and vanilla together.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl, then add the salt and sugar.
  5. Whisk the egg and milk mixture into the flour until somewhat smooth, just slightly lumpy. Don’t over mix.
  6. Pour 1/4 cup dollops of batter on to the griddle keeping them about 2″ apart. Cook until the tops of the pancakes are bubbled.
  7. Turn each pancake over and cook until the bottom is browned.

Makes about 10 4″ pancakes. Unused batter may be stored in the refrigerator. If the batter gets too thick, thin with a little cold water.

If you want to add farm fresh blue berries or strawberries or other fruit, sprinkle them on top the pancakes after you pour them on the griddle. Don’t mix them in the batter.

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In my previous article on this topic, Solar Power Northwest: Remodeling your home, I looked at the numbers behind solar power in the Northwest prompted by two articles in James Lupori’s Kenmore Undressed blog. Now we’re going to take a look at an actual home in the Brier neighborhood, via James’ latest article: Solar Energy – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 3.

Eric’s setup uses 18 panels that provide most of his daytime power needs. The article doesn’t mention if Eric uses Energy Star appliances, which would benefit him by letting him sell power back to the utilities reducing his total utility bill. That’s the smart way to go.

[Edit: In response to the question about how much this installation cost Eric, I don’t have hard numbers, but I estimate it was between $28,000 and $30,000.]

The next step in energy conservation would be Smart Grid aware appliances, heating systems and water heaters.

The Smart Grid, in a nutshell, turns power transmission and production from a centralized system to a distributed system that is self-aware and responds to the demands for power from homes and businesses. This is supported by Smart Grid-aware appliances and heating and cooling systems in your home. As demand spikes, your fridge goes to a longer cooling cycle to reduce it’s load on the grid, your water heater doesn’t reheat the water immediately , etcetera. Ideally, your home will be wired to manage its energy usage. Instead of a water heater, you’d have an on-demand tankless water heater so there’s no need to heat or even store 30+ gallons of water.

However, creating the Smart Grid will take time. Puget Sound Energy is looking into implementing Smart Grid Technology, but like most nascent technologies, there are multiple standards coalescing into a single one. Just another step towards our energy independence!

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