archive --> Sustainability
» How can I fly in a more environmentally responsible way? Choose airlines with newer fleets, fly airlines that are usually on time, and fly non-stop whenever possible. [ 10/02/07 ]
» Reusable Water Bottles You'll Actually Want To Use. Laura Moser's testers gave the highest marks to my two favorites: the Sigg and the Platypus. [ 09/17/07 ]
» The Product Space and the Wealth of Nations is a new report by two economists and two physicists who broke down nation's export data and then mapped the results to come up with product networks [pdf]. The picture shows that the products some countries produce are deeply connected with the economy as a whole, while others—for example, oil-producing countries—may be outliers. Individual country maps are available here.
Slate has an interesting explanation of the clues this type of analysis might contain for policy-makers hoping to create more robust—diversified, interconnected, and sustainable—economies in developing nations. [ 08/20/07 ]
Twenty years ago, the typical consumer in the organic market was generally labeled some sort of health nut or possibly an aging hippy. Ten years ago, the stereotype claimed the young, affluent upper-middle class.[...]
According to Barbara Haumann, press secretary for the Organic Trade Association, Hispanics and Asian-Americans are buying more organics than the typical white population. Meanwhile, the report, "Organic 2006: Consumer Attitudes & Behavior, Five Years Later & Into the Future" by the Hartman Group, reveals that African-Americans are 24 percent more likely to be core organic consumers than members of the general population. The Hartman Group also has found that many pregnant women are lured to the organic market as they begin to become more concerned with what they're eating.
(via OOB) [ 06/13/07 ]
- Permaculture is one of the most holistic, integrated systems analysis and design methodologies found in the world.
- Permaculture can be applied to create productive ecosystems from the human- use standpoint or to help degraded ecosystems recover health and wildness. Permaculture can be applied in any ecosystem, no matter how degraded. [...]
- Permaculture aims to maximize symbiotic and synergistic relationships between site components.
- Permaculture is urban planning as well as rural land design.
- Permaculture design is site specific, client specific, and culture specific.
/ (2) Comments / [ 05/21/07 ]
The herb spiral is a permaculture gardening method that uses nature to its full potential. Gravity allows the water to seep through the levels meaning that the plants at the top get full drainage while the ones at the bottom may reside in a simple bog. It also gives your herbs shady spots with varying degrees. The herbs that need full-sun can be grown in those positions while more shade loving plants can be located on the opposite side.
» Cultivating your home: Permaculture zones for getting things done. An Australian permaculture expert applies the "zone" principle to work and life. "Zone 1 can only be as big as your reach and attention. [...] When there is some task you want to remember to do, or get motivation to start, just put it in zone 1 – places your hands and eyes naturally reach – and tasks will seem to just ‘complete themselves’ for you. [...] Zone one is precious; so don’t waste it on storage." / (2) Comments / [ 05/10/07 ]
» I'm still tweaking the website, but I'd like to introduce my latest project:
The (Organic) Thrifty Food Plan Challenge Eating Organic on a Food Stamp Budget. (I've been persuaded that the second one is a snappier name.)
We eat well. Maybe a little too well, judging from our waistlines. And we eat pretty inexpensively, too. So the recent spate of publicity about Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski's committment to eat food totalling only $21 for one week (the amount an average Oregon food stamp recipient receives) caught my attention.
Now, the Governor's stunt is a little misleading:
no one expects The government doesn't expect food stamp recipients to eat on only $21 a week (though I'm sure some people try). The USDA's Thrifty Food Plan [pdf] (from which food stamp allotments are derived) is spartan enough, but the most recent figures provide an adult male between the ages of 20 and 50 years of age with $35.40 a week for food—part of which will be provided by food stamps, and part by the individual, depending on their income. Regardless, the Governor's point is well taken. It's not a lot of money to spend on a week's worth of food.
I pride myself on my thrifty shopping habits. I've also been fortunate in these last few years to be able to afford to buy organic and locally grown fresh food most of the time. So I've decided to take the Governor's challenge a step further. I'd like to see if I can feed the two of us for one month on a "Thrifty Food Plan" budget using organic food. My budget: 74.00/week or 320.80/month, the USDA "Thrifty" standard for a family of 2 adults, aged 20-50 years.
I just completed my first week. I spent more than I thought I would, but in general, I think it's going pretty well. You can read today's entry, how I'm accounting for individual items, my Sunday's week-end summary, or just start at the beginning and read from there. / (3) Comments / [ 05/08/07 ]
A Magicbike hotspot operates like standard hotspots, able to serve up to 250 users in a radius of 30 meters indoors and 100 meters outdoors.... A group of bikes can repeat and/or bridge the signal down a chain of wireless bikes. Meaning, a bicycle gang can snake into subways stations or across hilltops to provide Internet connectivity to (fringe but) vital communities and spaces ignored by the traditional telecommunications industry. A grassroots bottom-up wireless infrastructure can be formed and pedaled to any place accessible by bicycle. (emphasis mine)
» Ramit points to a contest for Socially Conscious student entrepreneurs. Conscious Lifestyle is offering grants of up to $1000 to 10 students with a socially innovative ideas. Deadline is May 11. [ 04/23/07 ]
» I have a predictable cycle with my blog reading. Every so often, I severely cull my list of reads in an attempt to regain some control of my time and brainspace. Then my list starts to slowly enlarge as I find and add terrific new blogs, or forgotten old favorites. After a while it's unmanageable again, and I remove half or a third and the cycle begins again.
And, thanks to Waterboro Public Library Blog, I discovered a new one: Blogging for a Good Book, a blog by the Williamsburg Regional Library that features a book review a day. You can browse past entries by the categories listed in the sidebar and—how smart is this?—at the end of each book review, there is a link to the WRL catalog entry for that book. I've already added Edna Lewis's The Taste of Country Cooking to my Amazon wishlist.
Dear Everyone: Please stop creating compelling content. Much appreciated, thanks! / (3) Comments / [ 04/09/07 ]
» It's that time. Fork & Bottle's list of Organic, Biodynamic, Heritage & Heirloom Seed Sources [ 03/13/07 ]
» A 78-year-old Melbourne woman may be Australia's best water-saver, using less than a tenth of the water an average consumer in her area consumes. Her tricks include a roofwater converter that she invented, but is willing to share with the world.
Even her trips to the toilet are eco-friendly, although she declined to spell out the specifics. "I have a system, but I won't go into details," she said. "People aren't ready for that yet."
/ (4) Comments / [ 01/19/07 ]
» CSM: Residential 'micro-combined-heat-and-power' units are efficient furnaces that create electricity. "It's like printing money." Bernard Malin, the first person in Massachusetts to own a residential "micro combined-heat-and-power" system, also known as micro-CHP. (via dm) [ 11/15/06 ]
» Taxing the oil companies to fund alternative energy research? That's what California's Proposition 87 would do, and the oil companies are threatening higher gas prices if it passes—even though the initiative stipulates that the tax can't be passed on to consumers. / (3) Comments / [ 10/26/06 ]
» "Eat seasonally" is a mantra of sustainable living, but in the middle of a crowded produce department, that can be impossible to determine—everything is seasonal somewhere. Here's a list of what's in season where, arranged by state. / (2) Comments / [ 10/18/06 ]
[Thomas] Jacobus, like others at area utilities, said there was no evidence that tap water taken from the Potomac was unsafe to drink. They said humans should be far less susceptible to the river's pollution than fish, because people are not exposed constantly to the water, our hormone systems work differently, and our larger bodies should require higher doses of any pollutant to cause problems.
/ (2) Comments / [ 09/07/06 ]
» The world's largest new Green Machine: Wal-Mart. They have started a sustainability initiative that is bound to influence the behavior of their massive customer base, and they've almost instantly become the world's biggest seller of organic milk and the biggest buyer of organic cotton. They're pulling ideas (and consultants) from everywhere, from NGOs to Amory Lovin's Rocky Mountain Institute. What's next? "I can honestly say I never expected to be at Wal-Mart's headquarters watching people do the Wal-Mart cheer." John Hocevar, a Greenpeace campaigner. [ 09/01/06 ]
» The Kitchen Sisters profile Carl's Corner, Texas, a truckstop that became a town so the owner (now mayor) could sell liquor. It's now the location of Willie Nelson's annual Fourth of July picnic, and a biodiesel fueling station called "BioWillie's". The Kitchen Sisters, by the way, have produced a book called Hidden Kitchens, based on their popular NPR series. [ 08/29/06 ]
» "Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced [last week] that U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with a genetically engineered variety not approved for human consumption." Is anyone surprised by this? / (3) Comments / [ 08/25/06 ]
» Cuba's USSR-supported economy exchanged "tropical exports" for 63 per cent of its food and 90 per cent of its gasoline. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cubans found themselves subsisting on half the food they had previously (and without the petroleum needed to manufacture fertilizer and to transport food from farms to consumers). Castro rejected the classic neo-liberal approach of "exporting what you're good at and importing what you need". Instead, Cuba got good at food, and focused on building small farms where the people are. Havana's local gardens now supply its citizens with more than 90 per cent of their fruit and vegetables. (via rw)
Unfortunately, the story has just gone behind a firewall. I'm looking for a copy somewhere on the Web, but so far have not found one. Sorry. Found! Thanks, Melissa! / (4) Comments / [ 08/11/06 ]
» Garret points to a great story about a tintype artist living off the grid in NY State. "You’d be surprised at how delicate some of these re-enactors are." John A. Coffer, tintype photographer, on the Civil War re-enactors who regularly drive gasoline powered vehicles to re-enactments, instead of travelling for days in a horse and buggy, as he did. / (1) Comments / [ 08/07/06 ]
» A University of Washington study shows that switching to organic food directly affected the level of pesticides found in children's urine.
Children eating non-organic foods were switched for five days to an organic diet and pesticide levels were measured in their urine before and after the change. The study -- published this past fall -- found that some pesticides disappeared from the children's urine after going organic.
(via dm) [ 08/02/06 ]
» Whole Foods has responded to criticism that they are part of the industrial organic complex by creating a new initiative that will provide grants to small farmers, and require stores to feature produce from at least 4 local farmers. [ 08/01/06 ]
The hot, wet Amazon, he explained, normally evaporates vast amounts of water, which rise high into the air as if in an invisible chimney, drawing in wet northeast trade winds, which have picked up moisture from the Atlantic. This, in turn, controls the temperature of the ocean - as the trade winds pick up the moisture, the warm water left gets saltier and sinks.
Deforestation disrupts the cycle by weakening the Amazonian evaporation which drives the whole process. One result is that the hot water in the Atlantic stays on the surface and fuels the hurricanes. Another is that less moisture arrives on the trade winds, intensifying the forest drought.
[ 07/27/06 ]
» And now, the Whole Foods Effect. Residents in several neighborhoods have organized letter-writing campaigns to persuade Whole Foods to move into their area, partly for their own convenience, and partly to raise their property values. "A lot of the blacks are having to move because they can't afford to stay here. These are people who have owned their own homes but have had to leave because the taxes are going up. The affluent is coming in, and the have-nots are moving out, and it's not right." Fran Robertson, Columbia Heights resident who is watching her neighborhood gentrify. / (1) Comments / [ 07/24/06 ]
» How to Recycle Almost Anything includes a long list of organizations that will take your most unlikely cast-offs. "Without recycling, given current virgin raw material supplies, we could not print the daily newspaper, build a car, or ship a product in a cardboard box. Recycling is not some feel-good activity; it is one of the backbones of global economic development." Jerry Powell, editor of Resource Recycling magazine. / (1) Comments / [ 07/21/06 ]
» The Tesla is one hot electric car. Range: 250 miles. Fuel efficiency: 1 to 2 cents per mile. Top speed: more than 130 mph. Power: 0 to 60 in about four seconds. It runs on 6,831 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the same ones that power your laptop and the 4-door sedan could be available as early as 2008. (via fc) / (2) Comments / [ 07/21/06 ]
I would like to see the "Funnel Refrigerator" tried in desert climates, especially where freezing temperatures are rarely reached. It should be possible in this way to cheaply make ice for Hutus in Rwanda and for aborigines in Australia, without using any electricity or other modern "tricks." We are in effect bringing some of the cold of space to a little corner on earth. Please let me know how this works for you.
/ (4) Comments / [ 07/20/06 ]
Does placing contaminated water into clear plastic bottles and exposing the water to the sun (not inside a solar cooker) actually make it safe to drink? There is a technology called SODIS being promoted around the world for this purpose. There is some doubt about whether this really makes the water safe to drink. A good science project would be to test this by using toilet water and measuring using the Colilert System.
If you do the research, they will post your results. [ 07/20/06 ]
» Today's update to the recent article about the US automotive fleet and air pollution. Will does the math and comes up with a very different scenario. The ranking, by Will's calculation, is completely different from Kaurinui's. [ 07/13/06 ]
» Update: Kaurinui does an interesting bit of arithmetic using the numbers provided in yesterday's article about US cars and air pollution and finds that the manufacturers that seem to be the most polluting, pollute the least. I'm not much of a mathematician, but this reasoning makes sense to me (if GM manufactures 36.97% of all US cars and produces 31% of the carbon, that's actually better than Nissan, which produces 2.87% of the cars, but produces 5.00% of the carbon.) Would those of you who are good at math care to take a look and comment on these results? [ 07/12/06 ]
Update: Kaurinui does an interesting bit of arithmetic using the numbers provided here, and finds that the manufacturers that seem to be the most polluting, pollute the least. I'm not much of a mathematician, but this reasoning makes sense to me (if GM manufactures 36.97% of all US cars and produces 31% of the carbon, that's actually better than Nissan, which produces 2.87% of the cars, but produces 5.00% of the carbon.) Would those of you who are good at math care to take a look and comment on these results?
Another update: Will does the math and comes up with a very different scenario. The ranking, by Will's calculation, is completely different from Kaurinui's. / (4) Comments / [ 07/11/06 ]
» A summer reading list of environmental fiction. Plus two solar cooking cookbooks. It is my dream to someday have a solar cooker and a solar food dehrydrator. We environmentalists sure know how to have fun, don't we? / (3) Comments / [ 06/28/06 ]
» Ethan Zuckerman on finding frugal carbon-neutral strategies for cost-conscious jet-setters. This is way cheaper than I thought it would be, even going through the spendy outlets. I intend to work this into my travel budgets. (via rw) [ 06/23/06 ]
» Did omega-3 fatty acid lead to the "great cognitive leap" in the Palaeolithic era—and is omega-3 deficiency responsible for contemporary brain dysfunctions like dyslexia, ADHD, and depression? (via robotwisdom) [ 06/22/06 ]
» Wow, I love this idea: Europeans can adopt an olive tree in Le Marche, Italia and receive all of its produce for one year. They receive two shipments: one of extra virgin olive oil, and one of lemon infused olive oil and olive oil soap. I wish a grower here in California would take up this model. (And send me some olives, too!) (via afb) [ 06/21/06 ]
» An open letter from Whole Foods in response to The Omnivore's Dilemma. I highly recommend the book, and I found this letter to be exceptionally interesting. I'm still going to do the bulk of my shopping at my local co-op, but after reading this letter I will feel better about shopping at Whole Foods, if I ever need to. (via rc3oi) [ 06/16/06 ]
» After analyzing the data, Brandon U. Hansen concluded that moving his commute schedule by a half-hour would save about 7.5 minutes of commute time per day, a total savings of over 30 hours a year, practically an extra week of vacation. Clive Thompson wants this data provided automatically by onboard car computers. (via htstw) [ 06/13/06 ]
» I want one: The China Himin Solar Energy Group is manufacturing an innovative, relatively low-tech heat-capture device that uses a tube-inside-a-tube to collect heat from the sun to power a new generation of low-cost solar water heaters that work even in the coldest weather. [ 06/05/06 ]
» Ideal Homes has built a zero-energy house, which produces as much energy in a year as it consumes, for less than $200,000. The house incorporates solar panels, a geothermal heating system, low-e vinyl windows, and a tankless hot water system. Specs are available from the US Department of Energy. "Every time they do a demonstration site...they build this one-off amazing house that...costs a million dollars. Everybody looks at that and says, 'That's interesting. With enough money, you can do anything.' We wanted to show that you can take any house out of a builder's product line and make it a zero energy house." / (1) Comments / [ 05/16/06 ]
» In a letter-writing campaign, 6th graders protest proposed tree cutting. "What is the deal with cutting down the Croatan National Forest? How would you like it if we cut down some trees around your house?" Haley Wester, a 6th grader, in a letter to Undersecretary Mark Rey, expressing concern about his proposal to sell 309,000 acres of National Forest. [ 05/11/06 ]
» A Co-Founder of Greenpeace makes the case for nuclear energy. (thanks, Mark!)
It's thoughtful and plausible, though I'm sure an anti-nuclear activist could make a counter-argument that sounds just as plausible to me, since I know almost nothing real about the subject. I do think there's a bit of technophobia entwined with people's objections (as with their objections to GM crops and cloning). A death by radiation sounds horrible.
I honestly wish the government would spend the equivalent money on super-insulating people's houses and maybe subsidizing alternate energy sources before spending the money on nukes, though. / (4) Comments / [ 04/27/06 ]
» This week's Green Room responds to the objections raised by Matt Prescott's call to ban the inefficient incandescent lightbulb. [ 04/27/06 ]
» The How To Save The World Reading List (July 2004) is Dave Pollard's list of 56 books and articles that "forever changed my worldview, and my purpose for living." Update: April 14, 2006. Here's an updated list containing 80 books and articles. / (1) Comments / [ 03/15/06 ]
» Farmadeliphication (fahr'muh'deli'fi'kay'shun), n. 1. The process of turning all of Philadelphia's vacant and abandoned lots into urban farms: The 'Farmadeliphication' of once decrepit buildings into farm structures advances fresh ways of seeing old structures as well as allowing for an organic transformation of history that contributes to the present day fabric. I've been thinking how awesome it would be to turn office building roofs into gardens. (via usfp) [ 03/14/06 ]
» Here's my old blogging buddy Matt Prescott making an impassioned (and sensible) argument for banning the incandescent lightbulb. One of the commenters mentions something I'd never heard before, that the strobe effect of a fluorescent light makes power tools appear stationary, necessitating a need for incandescents in those circumstances, apparently / (5) Comments / [ 03/09/06 ]
» Bookins is a free, automated swap-by-mail book exchange. "Q: Does Bookins profit from this service? A: The goal of our service is first to provide a worry-free way for booklovers to swap books, and second to eventually make a profit. We make money on the shipping fee ($3.99 to receive a book using prepaid postage provided as noted on the homepage). About $1 per book is profit, after we pay for the postage itself, delivery confirmation, credit card fees, and fee for printing prepaid postage." (via swiss miss) [ 02/28/06 ]
» General Motors wants their Hummer vehicle to be hip, but in spite of their best efforts, most indie bands won't sell them their music. "My standard line is you guys will play a hundred million gigs before you see this amount of money. Usually they come back with, 'We'll do anything BUT Hummer.'" Lyle Hysen, head of Bank Robber Music, a licensing group that pitches songs to film, television and advertisement companies. (via rw) [ 02/27/06 ]
Update: The water filter comparison chart may be fake! And when I look around, I find that same chart repeated on many a site, including the Aquasana site itself. At the very least, read the comments in this thread, read this article and consider this rundown of water filter reviews from different sources. [ 02/24/06 ]
» Cameron Sinclair is an architect whose unorthodox organization, Architecture for Humanity, shuns television coverage, refuses to put AFH or donor names on the buildings he builds, and makes his building designs available to anyone who asks, for free. "People don't realize that the largest humanitarian group in the world is the US military. They do more help around the world than most people realize. Where's the PR for that?" Cameron Sinclair, architect and founder of Architecture for Humanity.
This year, TED is granting him $100,000 and the chance to present one wish to conference attendees: To build community that actively embraces open source design to create innovative and sustainable design to improve living standards for all. [ 02/24/06 ]
» San Francisco is about to start collecting dog waste — which makes up an astonishing 4 percent of residential waste — and converting it into methane, which can generate electricity and power gas appliances. [ 02/23/06 ]
» The Battery Hen Welfare Trust is a British rescue mission that rescues "spent" hens from factory farms and places them with adoptive families.
Used to drinking from drip-feeders, they didn't recognise a dish of water until dabbled under their beaks, and their unfamiliarity with solid ground led to some unsteady wobbling.
But once former battery hens find their feet, they pick up very quickly. After just a few days, their egg yolks went from pale yellow to a deep orange that looked and tasted delicious. Once into their stride, they started laying eggs faster than we could give them away, to the delight of our neighbours, who at once began contributing kitchen scraps: veg peelings, apple cores, lettuce leaves, stale bread. [...]
Last year the Battery Hen Welfare Trust rehoused 11,457 hens; all now lead happy and productive lives. Hens live for up to eight or nine years, but a farming cycle clears out the tired birds at just a year old, even though they still have plenty of eggs left in them.
Perhaps the most shocking figure from the Trust's site is this one: On average a battery hen lays a mere 15 more eggs a year than a hen that has been kept in barn or free range conditions.
» Britain is working to produce wheat-based bioethanol, hoping it will provide 5 percent of all fuel used annually by British motorists by 2010 — and bolster the lot of the wheat farmer. "In a pleasing symmetry, the amount of wheat required would be around 3 million tons, roughly equal to the excess produced each year that is unwanted by the domestic market." [ 02/14/06 ]
» Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative. "As Christians, our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to love our neighbors and to be stewards of God's creation. The good news is that with God's help, we can stop global warming, for our kids, our world and for the Lord." The Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of a megachurch in Longwood, Fla., in a television spot that links images of drought, starvation and Hurricane Katrina to global warming. (via jc) [ 02/13/06 ]
» 2005 Social Responsibility Rankings for Gas Stations. Sunoco gets an A and Exxon-Mobil gets an F. (via rw) [ 02/07/06 ]
» Glyvyns Chinkhuntha is a self-taught Malawian farmer who has used limited resources to create a home-grown irrigation system that feeds a lush farm in the midst of Africa's drought. His prescriptions for African farming: education, independence from Western aid, freedom from debt, and stewardship of resources. "His irrigation system is a four-tiered network of berms that gets its water from the river. Each channel is the width of a hoe. By simply moving a clod of dirt here and there, Chinkhuntha directs water to thirsty plants." [ 02/01/06 ]
» A Little Weekend Reading: In a 1999 Wired article, Look Who's Talking, Howard Rheingold examines the Amish relationship with technology and the modern world. "The price of good farmland and the number of Amish families are both increasing so rapidly that in recent decades they have adopted nonagricultural enterprises for livelihood — woodworking, construction, light factory work. This, in turn, has forced the Amish to adopt technologies that can enhance their productivity. [...] Far from knee-jerk technophobes, these are very adaptive techno-selectives who devise remarkable technologies that fit within their self-imposed limits." [ 01/20/06 ]
» Norway is planning to create a "doomsday vault", hewn from the inside of a mountain a thousand kilometers from the North Pole, to house seeds representing all known varieties of the world's crops. [ 01/18/06 ]
» The Manhattan Users Guide has put together a Guide to Recycling and Donating purt-near everything, if you live in NYC. Put together a list like this for your own locale, and I'll link it here. [ 01/18/06 ]
» Isaac Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is creating algae farms to clean power-plant exhaust and create clean-burning fuels. "The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40 percent less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and... 86 percent less nitrous oxide. [...] Berzin calculates that just one 1,000 megawatt power plant using his system could produce more than 40 million gallons of biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol a year. That would require a 2,000-acre 'farm' of algae-filled tubes near the power plant. There are nearly 1,000 power plants nationwide with enough space nearby for a few hundred to a few thousand acres to grow algae and make a good profit, he says." [ 01/17/06 ]
» Seashore Paspalum Turf Grass for Salt Water Irrigated Golf Courses. [UCDavis: Seashore paspalum — Paspalum vaginatum] (via rw) [ 01/12/06 ]