Posted in Research, Sustainable Cities by Kes McCormick on June 12th, 2013
The Special Volume of the Journal of Cleaner Production on Advancing Sustainable Urban Transformation provides a global overview of activities and ambitions on urban sustainability. It is based on contributions of over 50 authors who have produced 20 articles based on 35 cases and 130 surveyed examples of urban initiatives on sustainability in many countries around the world.
Despite increased awareness of the urgency to respond to climate change and to promote sustainable development, there are few powerful initiatives that are decisively shifting urban development in a sustainable, resilient and low-carbon direction.
This Special Volume of the Journal of Cleaner Production explores sustainable urban transformation focusing on structural transformation processes – multi-dimensional and radical change – that can effectively direct urban development towards ambitious sustainability goals.
The 20 articles are based on 35 cases and over 130 surveyed examples of urban initiatives on sustainability in many countries. While cities in Europe dominate, there are also examples from North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
The combined articles in this Special Volume contribute to knowledge and understanding on sustainable urban transformation across a range of areas, including governance and planning, innovation and competitiveness, lifestyle and consumption, resource management and climate mitigation and adaptation, transport and accessibility, buildings, and the spatial environment and public space.
Overall, this Special Volume documents and analyses real-life action in cities and communities around the world to respond to sustainability challenges and it provides critical insights into how to catalyse, intensify and accelerate sustainable urban transformation globally.
A main finding of the articles is that governance and planning are the key leverage points for transformative change.
>> Click here to see the lead article for the Special Volume
>> Click here to see the entire Special Volume
Posted in Models, Movements, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on May 30th, 2013
Photo via FoodTank
“TED is a non-profit devoted to “ideas worth spreading”, and you can find literally thousands of free -inspiring and awesome- talks from experts and innovators around the world. We’ve decided to highlight 24 TED talks specifically around food issues that we found compelling and worth sharing. Please check out and watch as many of these as you can. And, most importantly, share this with 24 friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who might be open to watching a few of these insightful talks – and learning more about the food system.”
- Roger Thurow: The Hungry Farmer – My Moment of Great Disruption
- Mark Bittman: What’s Wrong with What We Eat
- Anna Lappe: Marketing Food to Children
- Ellen Gustafson: Obesity + Hunger = 1 Global Food Issue
- Tristram Stuart: The Global Food Waste Scandal
- Brian Halweil: From New York to Africa: Why Food Is Saving the World
- Fred Kaufman: The Measure of All Things
- LaDonna Redman: Food + Justice = Democracy
- Jose Andres: Creativity in Cooking Can Solve Our Biggest Challenges
- Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize Wish: Teach Every Child About Food
- Dan Barber: How I Fell in Love with a Fish
- Carolyn Steel: How Food Shapes Our Cities
- Ann Cooper: Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
- Ron Finley: A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central L.A.
- Tama Matsuoka Wong: How I Did Less and Ate Better, Thanks to Weeds
- Stephen Ritz: Green Bronx Machine: Growing Our Way Into a New Economy
- Angela Morelli: The Global Water Footprint of Humanity
- Birke Baehr: What’s Wrong With Our Food System
- Graham Hill: Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian
- Joel Salatin: Thinking About Soil
- Roger Doiron: A Subversive Plot
- Britta Riley: A Garden in My Apartment
- Arthur Potts Dawson: A Vision for Sustainable Restaurants
- Ken Cook: Turning the Farm Bill into the Food Bill
Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 23rd, 2013
From Hands into the Dough (in the latest Slow Food International newsletter):
Nothing is more satisfying than preparing your own bread at home, using your flour of choice, kneading the dough, waiting while it rises and then finally savoring its aroma fresh out of the oven. However, for amateur and professional bakers alike, real bread requires the use of the ancient sourdough technique – the cultivation and use of a starter dough that provides a diversity of natural yeasts and bacteria.
Each year the Pasta Madre (mother dough) food community (part of Slow Food’s Terra Madre network) organizes Pasta Madre Day – a day celebrated across Italy with events to promote traditional sourdough bread. Free pieces of mother dough are handed out with recipes and information is provided on where to source good flour.
Riccardo Astolfi, the community’s founder, says: “the easiest way to start is to ask somebody for a piece of the mother dough they are already using.” If you are in Italy, the groups’ website www.pastamadre.net lists more than 1,000 bakers who are willing to give away a piece of their dough to any interested home bakers. If not, you can follow the follow instructions to prepare your own sourdough starter.
>> Read the full article for more, including instructions on making sourdough
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 16th, 2013
Image from Made for Walking
“I just finished a very good – no, make that fantastic – book by Julie Campoli called Made for Walking, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. … Made for Walking isn’t so much about urban density as about the other things that we need in city neighborhoods – in addition to a level of density – to make city living attractive and sustainable. …
The heart of the book – comprising nearly a hundred pages – is a systematic review of twelve walkable neighborhoods in Denver, Columbus, Vancouver, Miami Beach, Toronto, Alexandria (Virginia), Albuquerque, Portland, Brooklyn, San Diego, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and Pasadena. …
For each, Campoli provides a context map, site maps illustrating neighborhood form and intersection density – the most statistically significant measure of how walkable a neighborhood is – multiple photos of the streetscape and neighborhood assets, measurements of neighborhood size, density and driving rates, and a discussion of what is going on in the neighborhood that adds to or limits its function for walking and sustainability. She likes them all, as do I.
For example, discussing Portland’s Pearl District, Campoli points out that the city has a goal of evolving a demographically mixed neighborhood, including families with children. This requires, she notes, investment in larger-unit, family-friendly homes; access to public amenities such as schools and nature; proximity to cultural resources such as libraries; and buffering from land uses that might be harmful to children. People in my environmental-group and smart-growth circles talk about this kind of thing, well, never. And yet it’s critical to a sustainable future, which is why I know about 50 people who need to read this book.”
Read the full article – there’s much more including sketches and photos – by Kaid Benfield on the Atlantic Cities site.
Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on May 2nd, 2013
Source: The Guardian
Photo from the Carbon Co-op
For customers, trust is key when it comes to getting advice on improving energy efficiency – and co-operatives have the edge.
Ruth Rosselson is an environmental pioneer. The freelance writer and community trainer is one of the first homeowners to sign up with the Manchester-based Carbon Co-op for a programme of energy-efficiency improvements that will transform her cold and draughty house into a warm and toasty low-energy home. “The main motivation for making my house more energy-efficient is that currently it’s so cold and damp,” says Rosselson, 42, speaking from her Manchester semi that she shares with her partner, Justin. “We also care deeply about the global environment and so we wanted to improve the carbon efficiency of the house.”
Carbon Co-op, which launched in 2011, is one of a new generation of co-ops that are now aiming to address the critical issue of climate change by making houses more energy-efficient, which in turn will slash carbon emissions and in the long-run save homeowners money. “The UK has a legally binding target for cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline,” says Carbon Co-op’s Jonathan Atkinson. “At the same time, escalating fuel bills are leading to more and more people experiencing fuel poverty. Consequently we’re aiming high and offering packages of retrofit improvements to householders that will cut both energy bills and carbon emissions.” [...]
“We take the whole house approach to retrofitting and recommend a package of complementary measures such as wall and loft insulation that will improve the energy performance of a house,” says Atkinson. “And because we have a strong ethical strand to our work, we aim to source materials from local businesses such as highly energy-efficient windows from the Green Building Store in West Yorkshire.”
So what’s the key benefit of operating as a co-op in this sector? “The big issue in the retrofitting industry is that of trust,” replies Atkinson. “The big energy companies dominate the energy-efficiency market because they are forced to by Ofgem, the energy regulator. However, very few people trust the big energy companies any more because of the recent mis-selling scandals.” He says people are increasingly suspicious of energy companies trying to sell them big-scale changes, thinking that all the companies want is for their bills to increase. “As a co-op, we’re community orientated and householder-owned with no external shareholders,” says Atkinson. [...]
The Birmingham-based Energy Saving Co-op, which like Carbon Co-op launched in 2011, has similar ambitions to be a national player in the energy-efficiency retrofit market. “We’ve already retrofitted 50 homes with a target of completing 600 homes by the end of the year, two thousand homes in 2014 and a plan to eventually operate nationally,” says the chief executive and co-founder Ewan Jones, who aims to fund this expansion programme through its current share offer.
Financing the retrofit ambitions of both Carbon Co-op and the Energy Saving Co-op is a major challenge though both co-ops and the wider co-op movement are set to benefit from the green deal, the government’s flagship programme to make millions of homes more energy-efficient, which was launched this year. Essentially a type of personal loan where you pay for the work over time through your energy bill, the green deal is set to kickstart the energy-efficiency market – and co-ops and social enterprises are lining up to take a slice of the action. The Energy Saving Co-op, for example, is now working with a number of co-ops which will act as green deal energy assessors including Energywise, a new Birmingham co-op and the Jericho Foundation, a social enterprise which will install the energy saving kit. [...]
Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on April 18th, 2013
Image from Arup
The BIQ [Bio Intelligence Quotient] house will become the world’s first pilot project to showcase a bioreactive façade [...] With 200m² of integrated photo-bioreactors, this passive-energy house generates biomass and heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the system integrates additional functionality such as dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise abatement, highlighting the full potential of this technology.
The microalgae used in the façades are cultivated in flat panel glass bioreactors measuring 2.5m x 0.7m. In total, 129 bioreactors have been installed on the south west and south east faces of the four-storey residential building. The heart of the system is the fully automated energy management centre where solar thermal heat and algae are harvested in a closed loop to be stored and used to generate hot water. [...]
“Using bio-chemical processes in the façade of a building to create shade and energy is a really innovative concept. It might well become a sustainable solution for energy production in urban areas, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario.” — Jan Wurm, Arup’s Europe Research Leader
The system will be officially presented to the media on 25 April 2013 when the biofaçade system goes into operation for the first time.
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 15th, 2013
Image: Union Kitchen’s Floor Plan
“The “equipment library” at Union Kitchen in Northeast Washington, D.C., contains some of the more mundane artifacts of the modern “sharing economy”: an oversized whisk, a set of spatulas, ladles, chopping knives, sheet pans and tongs. “Collaborative consumption,” as it’s also known, is more often associated with the big-ticket items that have given the concept such bemusing cachet. Suddenly, it seems, people are casually lending and borrowing cars, bikes, even brownstones. But this basic kitchenware, hanging in a 7,300 square-foot warehouse, reveals the reaches to which all this sharing could ultimately expand, as well as the reasons why it will have to.
Union Kitchen moved into the space in late November of 2012, taking over what had been the commissary for a chain of local kabob houses. Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist had been looking to expand the kitchen operations for a café they own in the city. But this two-story red brick warehouse situated on a cramped manufacturing block was more space than they needed. So they turned the warehouse – complete with a walk-in freezer, two fridges and prep space for two-dozen entrepreneurs – into a shared kitchen and food incubator. For $500 a month, member chefs get a share of their own prep table, access to communal equipment, pantry shelves, and ingredients at wholesale prices.
By early January, the kitchen already had nearly a dozen members, including a cupcake food truck company, a caterer specializing in mole sauces and chocolate cakes, and the city’s lone Kombucha brewer. It would be prohibitively expensive for any of them to open their own commercial kitchens. But – and this is a related problem – there also isn’t affordable space enough in this growing city to do so.
“The reality is that if D.C. swells from a place where there are 500,000 people in 2010 to a place where there are 850,000 in 2020, well what are we doing with those 350,000 extra people who are here?” Singer asks, sitting on a couch in the kitchen’s lounge. “We’re all living in slightly smaller spaces. Obviously the per-capita number of car owners has to go down. The amount of space like this is going to be much tighter. A lot of the sharing economy just has to do with the number of people living per square foot of land. It’s all about physical space.””
Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on April 10th, 2013
Sustainable Cities Net’s mothership, the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL) has become a Green Apes Jungle Guardian (!!!) and so we’re doing a shout-out to our networks to let you know that the Green Apes app is now available online.
What’s a Green Ape and why would you want the app?
From the website:
Build & share your green profile and kick some jungle butt!
- get points for everyday sustainable actions
- track your progress
- compete and collaborate with friends
- find answers, inspire and be inspired
Book your tree in the jungle! join the ultimate sustainable community
We (VEIL) are pretty interested in behaviour change tools that are appealing, fun, or just not mind-numbingly terrifying. A quick look at the YouTube video and the website indicates that this app might be quite fun to use, although it’s pretty new (version 1.1) and may have a few issues. It also requires a facebook log-in. What will be really interesting is what happens if/when it reaches a large audience of users and glitches get ironed out. Unexpected (and hopefully awesome) results should follow.
Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on April 4th, 2013
Photo by Asian Development Bank via flickr cc
[...] The development of Thailand’s energy efficiency sector is an interesting case study. It demonstrates how strong government leadership combined with strategic support from international climate finance can drive the transition toward an energy-efficient economy. In the early 1990s, Thailand’s economy was growing rapidly at 10 percent per year; the power sector was growing even faster. The government recognized that conserving energy would provide a low-cost way to meet its citizens’ rising demand for energy.
It responded by passing a law in 1992 that set energy efficiency standards for industry and established an Energy Conservation Promotion Fund, which raised funds for energy efficiency projects by taxing petroleum products. The government also introduced a demand-side management plan, using about $40 million in climate finance from the Global Environment Facility (an international climate fund) and the Australian and Japanese governments. This plan included public awareness campaigns, setting energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, and demand-side planning to better manage the timing of consumer energy use.
The state energy generation utility successfully implemented the demand-side management plan, with impressive results: The utility achieved 15,700 gigawatt hours of energy savings by 2012, exceeding its own energy-savings targets. Key to the plan’s success was the fact that it was designed in close coordination with the private sector, carefully tailored to the Thai context, and widely disseminated through public awareness campaigns, resulting in strong support from industry and the public. Furthermore, the utility underwent considerable staff expansion and training to build its capacity to effectively implement the plan.
Financing Low-Carbon Projects in Thailand: While the demand-side management plan yielded positive results, an important barrier remained: Thailand’s local banks had a limited understanding of energy efficiency projects, making it challenging for potential developers to access financing for such projects. The Thai government took action by establishing an Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund in 2002, offering credit lines—initially at no interest—to local banks so that they could provide loans for energy efficiency projects. The Revolving Fund made commercial banks more familiar with energy efficiency projects, and by 2010, it had financed projects worth a total investment of $453 million, resulting in energy cost savings in the region of $154 million each year. The financial incentives to banks, combined with the enhanced awareness of energy efficiency, were key to the success of the Revolving Fund. Another critical factor was that the government had a reliable source of funding from the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund to invest in the Revolving Fund, so it did not need to rely on international support.
What Can We Learn from Thailand? Thailand has been able to transition smoothly from readiness activities—such as capacity-building, awareness-raising, and demonstration—to large-scale investments. It is now embarking on a 20-year energy efficiency development plan funded through the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund, which aims to reduce the country’s overall energy consumption by 20 percent by 2030. Other countries can learn from Thailand’s experience of combining strong national leadership with strategic use of climate finance for carefully targeted readiness activities. [...]
>>> Read the full article, and learn more about the Thailand case study on the World Resources Institute’s website.
Posted in Research, Tools, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on March 12th, 2013
Image: Forum for the Future / Which?
“The financial world of 2030 as seen in the Consumers in 2030 report we produced with Which? magazine is radically different from that of today with the emphasis on shared endeavour and a disintermediation of large financial institutions. The Crowd House Mortgage idea couldn’t be more removed from the model of today. The capital lent is sourced from people who know the borrowers – possibly only in a virtual sense – and the lending decision is taken not by computer but by those lenders. “Computer can’t say no, co-worker can say yes.”
Could it happen? Quite possibly. The economic environment may not get better and banks may continue to be unpopular. That’s the “production” side of the current version under pressure. The demand side may be more subtle, coming down to what young people prefer out of the options outlined in the report: multi-generational living, expensive renting or buying with peers in a rolling re-run of student days. Put like that, seeing appreciable demand for co-own mortgages isn’t impossible is it?
The research makes it clear new ideas are needed and not just in housing. One we are looking at in the Forum is an alternative pension, the sustainable lifetime pension. The idea is simple: instead of investing in financial assets located quite possibly thousands of miles from your home, you invest locally in things that will secure a better quality of retirement: How can you help make old people feel more secure? Invest local pension contributions into the local economy so that people are employed closer to home and can feel more protective of the area where they work. How can you protect the elderly from rising energy prices? Allow them to direct pension savings into local renewable energy schemes whilst they are working in return for capped energy fees in retirement.
You can see the idea: local money into local assets with a return which isn’t entirely financial. That idea and the crowd source mortgage are some way away now. But both are valid ideas for focusing thinking debate as we look at an unclear future.”
Go to the Forum for the Future blog to read more by Simon Howard, read other posts in the ‘future artefacts’ series, or download the Consumers in 2030 report.