Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Sustainable’ Category

Who Needs Cars? Smart Mobility Can Make Cities Sustainable.

We can either continue to build car-oriented cities that lock in these unsustainable patterns, or we can scale up existing models for creating more inclusive, accessible and connected cities. Pursuing smarter urban mobility options can help growing cities leapfrog car-centric development and adopt strategies that boost inclusive economic growth and improve quality of life.

Read Full Post »

Older cities were very walkable.On the Strong Town’s blog, they discuss how our current experiment with auto-centric development of cities and suburban areas is one we can’t afford to do anymore.

This, of course, changed with the advent of the automobile, a technology that became ubiquitous in America following World War II. Over the past two generations, we have reshaped an entire continent to accommodate this new technology, from interstates to connect our cities to the streets within them. We developed new building types, new ways of arranging things on the landscape and new standards for building and financing this new way of building, all from scratch, all within a very short period of time.

We’ve become slaves to this metal creature living in our driveways. Cars don’t set you free, they chain you down. You don’t walk as much, don’t mingle with people on the street as often, and it cocoons you from the outside world to the point were we have to make laws to remind you that there are other people outside your car.

Our auto-oriented development experiment, now in its third generation, has allowed the United States to experience decades of robust growth. Despite this success, our cities and states – big and small, led by liberals and conservatives alike – are now struggling to find the money to do basic functions. Simple things like maintain sidewalks, fix potholes and keep public safety departments adequately staffed. How can this be?

The answer is that, in this new and enticing model, we’ve sacrificed resiliency for growth. In the pursuit of jobs and economic development, American cities have spread themselves out beyond their abilities to financially sustain themselves. All those roads, all that sidewalk, all those pipes….they are really, really expensive. We’re starting to understand that building it all was the easy part. Maintaining it generation after generation is hard.

And now, as budgets everywhere are frayed, our leadership obsessively seeks – in true Ponzi scheme fashion – more and more growth using this same, experimental model.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

I was listening to my local Public Radio station, KUOW, and they had a story about the Waterpod. The Waterpod is a floating demonstration platform for self-sufficiency and resourcefulness and provide an alternative to current and future living spaces.

This sounds like a great idea. Of course I’d have to divest myself of most of my stuff and getting the permits is next to impossible. But I wondered… Instead of a floating home, how about a floating P-Patch?

Right now in Kenmore, Washington, we have a land shortage. Most of land is forested and there is a push to keep the remaining trees. Second, there is a need for land for youth sports: Baseball and Soccer. Basically, any piece of land that could be turned into a P-patch, can also be turned into a ball field or soccer field.

Second, that land, even in these economic times, is valuable. To get enough land to make a decent P-patch would cost a million dollars.

So what can we do?

The barge that's floating in Lake Washington in front of Kenmore WA.

The barge that is floating in Lake Washington

In Lake Washington, floating in front of Kenmore and Saint Edward Park is a large, 316′ x 60′ barge. It’s a fixture in Kenmore, you can see it from any view of Lake Washington. We use to light off fireworks during the 4th of July and on Kenmore’s anniversary.

There is enough room on the barge for about 170-180 10′ x 10′ P-patches. It gets plenty of sunlight, water is not an issue, and it puts to use something that’s an eyesore to many people.

There are problems with it.

It's a fair bit of distance to the barge from the marina.

It's a bit of a boat ride to get to it.

  • The barge can only be accessed by water. So a ferry would have to be set up for those P-patchers without a boat.
  • Which means you have to have classes for boat safety for all P-patchers.
  • Runoff from the barge would have to be monitored for pollution.
  • Getting the necessary permits from the State of Washington and King County for this project.
  • And the biggest one: Finding out who owns the barge.

But if we can overcome those obstacles, we have the potential for a P-patch that doesn’t use any land.

In the next installment: How to overcome those obstacles.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Realtor James Lupori of the Kenmore Undressed blog has written two articles about the viability of solar power in the Northwest. He looks at the topic from the point of view of a remodeling project.

Based on his numbers, it will cost him approximately $1,600 to install one 13 square foot solar panel that will produce 205kw of power while the sun shines. This cost includes the actual installation of the panels. And that’s on the cheap end of installation. Normally the cost of installation ranges between $7/watt to $9/watt, so James is getting a good deal on installation.

Is it worth it? Well, yes.

Currently, solar power installations will payback their investment in about 20 years. The downside is that the average lifespan of current solar panels is only 25 years. Hopefully, when it comes time to replace them, the cost will have dropped significantly.

And as more and more units are installed, costs will drop. As newer solar cell technology is developed, the amount of power produced by solar panels will go up. Our current solar cell technology is only 17% to 20% efficient for most commercial solar panels. The highest efficiencies are around 40%, but at a much higher cost per panel.

So, how many square feet solar panels do you need to power your home? Take out your energy bills for the last twelve months and add together kWh on them for your yearly total. Then, divide your yearly kWh usage by 1.5. The resulting number will tell you how many square feet of solar panels you would need to power your home.

The obvious problem with solar power is that you only get power while the sun shines. So, if you really want to get off the grid, you’ll need to go multi-modal with your power generation. I’m a firm believer in multi-modal transportation and that applies to power generation as well.

In the Northwest we have a lot of wind, so wind turbines are a possibility. However, I strongly suggest that you seek out expert advice before going out a buying one. Some neighborhoods may ban them for the noise that they make. Also, you may not have enough wind in your area to for a turbine to work at all. But, if you’re lucky to live in a place where the wind blows consistently, it’s a worthwhile investment.

The Kenmore Undressed articles:

SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 1

SOLAR ENERGY – The Perfect Remodeling Project of the Future, Part 2

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »