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Archive for the ‘Factoid’ Category

When a group of high school juniors signed up for a shop class, they didn’t realize they’d be building real buildings that their community desperately needs.

How Bertie County Teens Built A Farmers Market Pavilion

The Windsor Super Market ©Studio H

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What if you could grow and sell food in the same place? What would that look like? That is the radical idea behind Ben Greene’s innovative sustainable agriculture project, called The Farmery.

Considering how far our food has to travel to get from the field where it is grown in, to a retail shelf for purchase, and the amount of energy used in this process, this is one of those things that can leave you wondering what we’ve lost. Mainly our connection to the actual way food is grown and processed.

Current attempts to meet the demand for locally grown organic food within the national food distribution network have largely failed. There is not enough locally gown organic food to meet the demand because it is very difficult for grocery stores to manage the inconsistent supply of locally grown food and it is difficult for new growers to find the stepping stones to financial success.  Grocery store marketing of locally grown food remains mundane with nothing more than simple signage, resulting in an identical shopping experience to conventional food, where it is left to compete on price. This retailing system makes it difficult for local growers to differentiate their product from produce sourced nationally from large, industrial farms.

– The Farmery

Greene and his investors envision a new way of buying food in their concept of greenhouse/grocery. It uses a collection of stacked shipping containers, vertical planters and a modular greenhouse structures. In his prototypes, Greene is already growing a significant amount of food as he tests his concept.

As we live more and more in cities, the idea of urban farms is appealing, and maybe more practical if variations on the Farmery are implemented in cities around the country. Find out more about this concept at their website: The Farmery

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Are Driverless Cars Legal?

One potential for a totally autonomous vehicle are auto-share systems, where you use an app on your phone, the nearest available car pulls up, and drives you to your destination. Weight sensors would let the car know that you have a package or a bag of groceries on a seat and remind you to take it with you. Basically, you wouldn’t have to own a car, but you’d still be able to use one when needed.

The cars would be in constant use, and if they are electric, reducing pollution. The cost of ownership is substantially reduced and there would be fewer cars on the road.

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Where Cars Do Not Roam… In America

Cycling about on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island, Michigan is a carfree tourist destination in the Straits of Mackinac, between Lakes Michigan and Huron. I remember when I was a child, spending a week on Mackinac Island. We rode bikes, horses, and spend a lot of time eating fudge. Of course, riding bikes is a good way to burn off that fudge.

But seriously, Mackinac Island is a prime example of how one can live without cars and still have a comfortable standard of living.

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Geoff Dyer has written a blog post “Walkable streets: Considering common issues

One-way couplets

One-way couplets around parks can present lane width challenges. (Mike Holmes’ Wind Walk in Southern Alberta.)

In it, he emphasizes that one should design for lower, not higher, speeds. Even though it’s by no means carfree, if his design approach is widely implemented, traffic speeds will fall and pedestrian fatalities will decline significantly. It’s not the solution, but it’s a step along the way.

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Ever wonder how really affordable your house or apartment is? So have I and the Housing and Transit Affordability Index will show you the numbers. Based solely on rent cost, my apartment is fairly affordable, at 17% of my income. However, if you add in transportation costs, it more than doubles, to 40% of my income.

H+T Affordability Index: Seattle–Bellevue–Everett, WA: Comparing Housing Costs, % Income for Renters to Housing + Transportation Costs, % Income for Renters

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is an innovative tool that measures the true affordability of housing based on its location.
© Copyright 2003-10 Center for Neighborhood Technology
2125 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 · Tel: (773) 278-4800 · Fax: (773) 278-3840

If I compare the annual cost of driving to work versus the annual cost of transit, I find that I’m saving a ton by working from home and taking the bus whenever I can. The difference is amazing: $51 for transit a year, versus $2,048 for a car per year. The cost of transit is spread out across all riders, while the cost of operating your car is solely in your hands and your pocketbook. It costs more to own a car than to take the bus.

H+T Affordability Index: Seattle–Bellevue–Everett, WA: Comparing Annual VMT Cost ($) to Annual Transit Cost ($)

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is an innovative tool that measures the true affordability of housing based on its location.
© Copyright 2003-10 Center for Neighborhood Technology
2125 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 · Tel: (773) 278-4800 · Fax: (773) 278-3840

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On Thursday, May 21st, the EPA is holding the second of two hearings on the “Proposed endangerment and cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act”. Primarily they will be determining the following:

The Administrator signed a proposal with two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:

  • The Administrator is proposing to find that the current and projected concentrations of the mix of six key greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations. This is referred to as the endangerment finding.
  • The Administrator is further proposing to find that the combined emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, and HFCs from new motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines contribute to the atmospheric concentrations of these key greenhouse gases and hence to the threat of climate change. This is referred to as the cause or contribute finding.

This proposed action, as well as any final action in the future, would not itself impose any requirements on industry or other entities. An endangerment finding under one provision of the Clean Air Act would not by itself automatically trigger regulation under the entire Act.

What does this mean in English? 

  1. Do various gases emitted by autos and industry form a threat to us and our descendants in the form of global warming and other types of harm?
  2. Do cars contribute to global warming because of their emissions?
  3. And even if they do, the EPA won’t do squat about regulating them at this time.

You can register to speak on this subject at the EPA site. You can also attend a rally being planned at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center by several groups. For those of us in the North King County area, I suggest RSVPing at Northeast Seattle Neighbors’ Sustainability Network. Or you can register at 1Sky to attend the rally.

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