Archive for May, 2010

Regenerative Design & Intentional Sustainability

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 31st, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

From “Living Future 2010: Bill Reed on Regenerative Design” by Julia Levitt:

Thought leader, designer and consultant Bill Reed led a lecture and discussion on regenerative design on the first morning of the 2010 Living Future unConference.  He opened by offering two big questions to the audience: if sustainability is about sustaining life, then what is life about? What will our design practices and organizations look like if we are intentional about sustainability?

As one of his main points, he discussed that the words we use are powerful tools for both inspiring and deluding ourselves, so it’s important to be honest about what we mean. “Sustainable” and “regenerative” are words which, when spoken conscientiously, evoke a much more comprehensive and long-term vision than “green,” “recycled,” or even “energy efficient.” Even “carbon neutral,” he argued, isn’t really his idea of sustainability. If the ultimate goal is to replicate nature and to create systems for sheltering and feeding ourselves that are truly regenerative, it’s important to recognize that sustainability is not the same as zero.

As an example of what this philosophy looks like in a business venture, he described his interaction with a cooperative grocery store in Brattleboro, Vermont. The client originally wanted to create a LEED-certified building to house its store, a goal to which Reed (a founding board member of the US Green Building Council and original LEED faculty) responded with a question he said he asks often: “‘do you want to do LEED, or do you want sustainability?'” During what he referred to as the “Double Train Wreck Meeting,” he proposed a set of recommendations for systemic change. His clients, not ready to move beyond their idea of a simple green grocery store, politely asked him to leave, and didn’t call back for a year.

When they did call back, however, he said they apologized and told him that the ideas he’d left them with were “the best thing that ever happened to them.” They have since worked with Reed’s firm to change the co-op’s relationship to the community, to food suppliers, to the local forest service and more, transforming from a grocery store into what he called “a fooding process,” a place where people could come to shop for food, but also to engage with community, learn to grow and prepare food, and move the community toward self-sufficiency and food security.

Read the full article by Julia Levitt.

Compost Cab: Food Scraps Pick-Up Service

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 28th, 2010

Source: Springwise

…For every 50 pounds of organics the company collects, customers can receive five pounds of fresh compost and one pound of worm castings in exchange.

Read it on Springwise:

The average American family produces more than 500 pounds of leftover organic material every year; composting not only keeps that waste out of methane-generating landfills, it also produces nutrient-rich, fertile, natural soil.  Composting may be the right thing to do for the environment, but it can be hard to get around the smell and the mess—particularly for urbanites without expansive yards.  Compost Cab is a new service about to launch in Washington, DC, that can be called upon to handle all the dirty details.

DC-area consumers begin by signing up online. Once it launches, Compost Cab will then provide them with a standardized bin equipped with a sturdy, compostable bag liner. Each day clients will fill the bin with their organic material, and once a week—on a reliable, fuel-efficient schedule—Compost Cab will pick up the bag, leaving behind only a clean bin with a new liner. The cost is simply USD 8 per week per bin; no long-term commitments are required. Compost Cab’s primary composting partner is Engaged Community Offshoots (ECO), a seed-stage urban farm in College Park, Md., that uses finished compost to grow natural, nutritious food for local kids.

At least as interesting is that clients who have been with Compost Cab for nine months or longer can claim some finished soil in return. Specifically, for every 50 pounds of organics the company collects from them, they can receive five pounds of fresh compost and one pound of worm castings in exchange. Those who choose not to claim their share, meanwhile, can ask Compost Cab to donate it on their behalf to ECO. Compost Cab is a production of Agricity LLC, a Washington, DC-based company focused on sustainability.

Urban Revitalisation: Empty Shops Network

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 27th, 2010


From “Dan Thompson’s innovation: the Empty Shop Network” by Lucy Siegle

Dan Thompson describes his main skill as “charming keys out of people”. Ever since he was gifted a former bakery in Worthing which he made into an impromptu art gallery, he has been reviving disused shops with creative ventures and quirky commercial schemes. “It’s very easy,” he assures me. “It’s a question of speaking to property developers and landlords, and explaining what you want the space for. In most cases you’ll find they just want un-let properties to be looked after. Neighbours also like to see footfall and traffic. Breathing life into old shops brings town centres back to life.”

This is not about squatting. Each of Thompson’s Empty Shops Network (ESN) projects abides by a “licence to occupy”. Acquiring short, very cheap leases for pop-up shops and arts ventures is simple at the moment: experts predict one in five of the shops currently lying empty will never again see service as a commercial enterprise, as a nation of shopkeepers realises it has too many shops.

But the ESN believes that for ventures as diverse as seed swapping to recycled jeans, the right outlet is out there somewhere. Today Thompson is particularly excited by Coventry: “We’ve got one arcade where we’ve opened a gallery, a digital arts centre and a theatre. We want people to hang out in town centres, be inspired!”

Although he’s steered clear of old Woolworths (too big), he did install bumper cars in a former Allied Carpets showroom in Shoreham. And he allowed himself a wry smile when he visited the Gucci pop-up shop in central London recently. “It was amazing to see a luxury brand do what we’ve been doing for 10 years,” Thompson says. The informal shop economy appears to be booming.

Article by Lucy Siegle

Shared Cogeneration Project: Queensland

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 26th, 2010

Source: Green Building Council Australia (GBCA)

From “Co-gen in Queensland: green tick from gas supplier a positive sign for precincts” by Lynne Blundell

There could be light at the end of the tunnel for cogeneration projects seeking co-operation from energy agencies. In a victory for precinct-style power generation, a proposed shared cogeneration project between The University of Queensland and the Royal Brisbane Hospital has received support from gas suppliers.  It was very much an industry-driven victory. After an initial knock-back by gas suppliers to support the project, sustainability consultants from Cundall, armed themselves with extensive technical data to back their case. But it took some political nous as well – this time they bypassed the technical people and went straight to the top.

Cundall’s Brisbane head, Rob Lord, told The Fifth Estate the decision by the gas authority to fund the necessary infrastructure to supply gas to the shared power plant was a sign of a shift in attitudes.  “It is a kind of awakening for these authorities. They are bureaucracies and are very focused on risk. What we want is for them to be not only conscious of the risk but also the opportunities of cogeneration and shared energy schemes,” says Lord.  “When the gas company was first approached they said it couldn’t be done. But when we got back to the upper echelons of the company with all the mechanical, hydraulic and sustainability information they were very positive about the opportunities and they told their technical people they wanted it to happen.”

With cogeneration, and trigeneration, buildings can generate their own power from gas-fired generators, reduce their reliance on the electricity grid and use waste heat to help cool and heat a building. But resistance from energy agencies to these plants putting energy back into the grid or to providing the necessary infrastructure for projects has been a major disincentive for developers and building owners considering the technology.

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Community Action, Campaign Success

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 25th, 2010

Source: via Greenleap

Image: planestupid via flickr CC

“Direct action played an absolutely critical role in the campaign. Its edginess both dramatised the issues and plied new pressure on the authorities. It was when the Climate Camp came to Heathrow that the campaign literally went global.” John Stewart, local residents group leader.

From “The crucial role of activism in scrapping Heathrow’s third runway” by Joss Garman

It was more than four years ago when George Monbiot wrote […] “At last the battlelines have been drawn, and the first major fight over climate change is about to begin. All over the country, a coalition of homeowners and anarchists, Nimbys and internationalists is mustering to fight the greatest future cause of global warming: the growth of aviation.”

Now the frontline in that battle, the third runway at Heathrow, has been officially cancelled, and so too have the new runways that Labour planned for Stansted and Gatwick. What began with a strong campaign by local people in west London whose communities were under threat from demolition and staggering levels of noise and air pollution, turned into a climate movement opposing airport expansion, and ultimately led to victory – and with it an example of Labour getting on the wrong side of the political argument.

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Grow Your Own: iPhone App

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 24th, 2010

The free Grow Your Own iPhone application (app) from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is designed to help you choose and grow fruit and vegetables – however much space or time you have. Currently, the content covers the 20 most popular varieties of fruit and veg, but low cost bundles of content covering additional fruit and veg will be available to buy soon.  This app is initially intended for less experienced or less confident gardeners but will be a valuable resource for all because it gives you the chance to access horticultural advice from the UK’s leading gardening organisation while you are out and about in your garden with your iPhone.

Current features

  • Choose vegetables and fruit for your garden based on your level of expertise, and your available space and time
  • Access expert RHS advice about your chosen fruit/veg, what to do and when, view varieties that we recommend and learn about common problems you might encounter such as diseases and pests and what to do about them
  • Link to the RHS plants site to buy quality plants
  • Access the RHS Grow Your Own forum, to ask questions, advice and chat to fellow gardeners

The next release of this application will allow you to unlock more content and functionality for a small charge. It will include:

  • An additional 15 fruit and veg (bringing the total to 35)
  • Calendar and To-Do list functionality to keep track of your plants’ progress so you know what to do and when
  • Location aware weather alerts

Bundles of new content will become available as they are released, again, for a small fee.

Urban Planning in Developing Countries: Innovative Design

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on May 19th, 2010

“…a flexible building design that would allow residents to expand their homes upwards by up to three floors – as and when their families grow – and create socially and economically successful communities that are as dense as, or even denser, than buildings that are up to six floors high.”

From “Innovative design could transform urban planning in developing countries“:

A new vision of urban planning that will positively transform the way cities grow across the developing world in the 21st Century was presented in a study issued today {18/03/2010}.  The vision involves a flexible building design that would allow residents to expand their homes upwards by up to three floors – as and when their families grow – and create socially and economically successful communities that are as dense as, or even denser, than buildings that are up to six floors high.  The new design, which promises a brighter future for millions of the world’s poorest urban citizens, is detailed in a study and multimedia collection funded by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Its launch today coincides with the opening of the United Nations Fifth World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, where thousands of delegates from governments, academia and nongovernmental organisations will discuss solutions to the challenges of urbanization.

Among those challenges is the question of how best to increase urban population densities as populations grow and land prices rise, especially when large informal settlements of the urban poor occupy prime centrally located land. In many cities in Asia and elsewhere, governments are keen to force these poor communities into high-rise apartments so that the land they currently occupy can be developed into condominiums and iconic buildings to attract foreign investment.  “In promoting such a vision of a modern world-class city, international financial institutions and city planners are failing the poorest communities and ensuring that those who are meant to gain the most are instead the biggest losers,” says architect Arif Hasan, a visiting fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development and lead author of the new study.

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Regenerating Existing Development: Living City Block

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 18th, 2010

© Living City Block

“By the summer of 2012, Living City Block Lo Do Denver will have reduced its aggregate energy use by 50%. By the summer of 2014, LCB will become a Net Zero energy bloc, and by 2016 it will be creating more resources than it consumes. But concurrently, LCB will be working to develop a thriving urban community, one in which people of all ages and types choose to live, work and play.”

By the year 2050, eighty percent of the world’s population will live in cities. In addition, the Urban Land Institute predicts that eighty percent of current building stock will still be in use in the year 2050. As America and the world work to build a new, sustainable foundation for the 21st century, we need new models of what our urban spaces and places can become. Living City Block will be just such a model.

Starting with a block and a half of Denver’s historic Lower Downtown (LoDo) district, Living City Block will create a demonstration of a regenerative urban center. LCB will draw on selected partners from around Denver, the U.S. and the world to develop and implement a working model of how one block within an existing city can be transformed into a paradigm for the new urban landscape.

This pilot project is taking the area of 15th to 16th, Wynkoop to Wazee and east across Wazee and transforming it into a sustainable community. First, Living City Block will work to significantly reduce the energy consumption and environmental impact on these blocks. By the summer of 2012, Living City Block Lo Do Denver will have reduced its aggregate energy use by 50%. By the summer of 2014, LCB will become a Net Zero energy bloc, and by 2016 it will be creating more resources than it consumes. But concurrently, LCB will be working to develop a thriving urban community, one in which people of all ages and types choose to live, work and play. Right retail will evolve, better and more sustainable jobs will be created and kept, and the block will take its place as a part of the economic engine that drives the city and the region.

The LoDo project is a model that will be replicated across the Western Hemisphere though our Sister Cites and Sister Neighborhood programs. The LCB Team is pursuing relationships with other neighborhoods within Denver, other cities within the US and the Western Hemisphere to establish their own Living City Blocks. The LCB Team will begin by creating “virtual” city blocks with these partners that will over time become their own actual Living City Blocks. The lessons learned and the methodologies created through our initial LoDo Denver LCB will become the model for developing many other LCB’s, and for doing so at scale and in the near future.

Read more on Living City Block.


Shared Earth: connecting gardeners with gardens

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 17th, 2010

Source: Treehugger

“I’ll provide the land, water and materials if you’ll provide the work. We can share the produce 50-50.”

“It’s an obvious problem in urban and suburban jungles around the country: many people are eager to garden but have nowhere to indulge their green thumbs. And plenty of homeowners have gardens in need of tending.  Enter Taking the Craigslist model to gardening, it helps match up prospective gardeners to those with gardens, for free. Think of it as sharecropping 2.0 — or a kind of dating site for garden lovers.  The idea has already inspired a trend (and a TV show) in the UK. The implications for the U.S. could be huge.

Consider less wasted land, lower greenhouse gases, more local, homegrown food, stronger community bonds, and perhaps the chance to make some extra cash. It’s the kind of thing that Malcolm Gladwell can dig, apparently. And while it’s just getting started, the site’s already shared almost 26 million square feet of land.  Just before the site launched on Earth Day, I spoke to the founder, internet entrepreneur Adam Dell (Michael’s brother) about the site and where it grows from here.

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Effective Use of Substandard Local Vegetables

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 14th, 2010

Source: Japan for Sustainability

Copyright Kumamoto Prefecture

The government of Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan has launched a project that introduces substandard agricultural products produced in the prefecture to box-lunch shops in business districts in Osaka Prefecture in western Japan. Kumamoto Prefecture’s Osaka office has led this project, called the “Mottainai Project” (‘mottainai’ literally means ‘not wasting what is valuable’), and started it in earnest in 2010.

The prefectural government began this project on a trial basis in 2008 in cooperation with a shop that sells box lunches and set meals in the same building as its Osaka office. In this shop, vegetables and fruits that used to be discarded, mainly due to scars on them or irregularities in their size, were experimentally sold at display counters that had been clear after lunchtime. These agricultural products were better received than expected, because of their low cost, tastiness, and novelty. As for tomatoes in particular, as much as five tons were sold in less than a four-month period, with sales of about one million yen (U.S.$10,870).

In this project, farmers can distribute substandard vegetables and fruits to shops in small amounts, while shops can make effective use of vacant counters, and also can use vegetables and fruits for box lunches and other meals if they are left unsold. The project is well-received, as it involves little risk for the farmers and shops and brings additional profits to both. So far, 15 local food stores and farmers have distributed such farm products to Osaka, and 38 farmers have showed an interest in doing so.

The prefectural government’s Osaka office also plans to hold a food exhibition for box-lunch shop owners to allow them to see and taste-test substandard vegetables, with the aim of enhancing the network with Kumamoto Prefecture and acquiring new vendors in the Osaka metropolitan area.

Read the full article on japanfs.