Archive for June, 2010

Urban Manufacturing: Small, Sustainable Business

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 30th, 2010

Source: MetropolisMag

From “Made in Brooklyn” by Karrie Jacobs:

The United States has lost over 42,000 factories since 2001, and some 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since the turn of the millennium. Officially, this is a death spiral. At the same time, a powerful desire to make things—tangible things, products even—has sprung to life in the border zones where high tech meets the green movement. And Brooklyn now sits squarely in this fertile territory. The borough is home to the wildly successful Web site Etsy, a marketplace of handiwork, which can be read as a Web 2.0 rebuke to the clean-out-your-storage-locker ethos of creaky old eBay. Local food production is booming; it seems as if every 28-year-old guy in the borough has a line of artisanal pickles.

And then there’s the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300-acre site on the East River, established by the U.S. Navy in 1801. Since 1966, when the Navy pulled out, it’s been a city-owned industrial zone. Sitting on what is now prime real estate, just across the river from Manhattan, the Navy Yard contains a fascinating mix of about 240 businesses, only a couple of which have anything to do with ships. There’s Crye American, a young company that managed to snag a defense contract to make Kevlar body armor; Steiner Studios, the largest soundstage on the East Coast; and Cumberland Packing, the company that invented Sweet & Low. There are also artisans—metal- and woodworkers, set builders, display makers—who straddle the boundary between art and industry. The Navy Yard, according to Andrew Kimball, its president, is energetically rebranding itself as a “sustainable industrial park,” home to America’s first “multistory, green industrial facility,” the newly completed, 89,000-square-foot, LEED-certified Perry Building.

Down in Building 275, one of the ramshackle old warehouses typical of the Navy Yard, I run into Jeff Kahn, a partner at Ferra Designs, a 10,000-square-foot metal shop specializing in architectural fabrication and miscellaneous small, intricate metal objects. Many of his 15 employees studied industrial design at nearby Pratt Institute. “This is a Pratt shop,” Kahn boasts, explaining that graduates are drawn to Ferra and other Navy Yard companies because they’re no longer content to just design things. “Most of them are under thirty,” he says. “They’re into craftsmanship; they want to know how to build things. It’s a renaissance.” The 40-year-old Kahn, who originally planned to be an artist and never made it to college, is the face of New York City’s industrial revival, representing an approach that is pre–industrial revolution in scale and post-industrial in strategy.
Read the rest of this entry »

Chemical Free Farming

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 29th, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From “Malawi reaps the reward of returning to age-old, chemical-free farming” by Molly Stevenson:

Mr Kanjanga is a farmer from Ntcheu District in Phambala, Malawi. In 1975, having seen the deteriorating effect that the application of chemical fertilisers was having on his crops, he decided to return to the composting techniques he had seen used by his father in the 1930s. His crops started to improve so significantly that he decided to set up the Lipangwe Organic Manure Demonstration Farm (LOMADEF) in 1980 so as to share his learning with fellow farmers. He decided that the most effective way to make sure that the learning reached as many people as possible would be to train community members to act as Agricultural Advisors in their communities. LOMADEF set about carefully selecting Agricultural Advisors on the basis of their innovative approach to farming, training them in sustainable farming techniques and in communication and facilitation skills so they can pass on their learning to fellow farmers.

Eveline Msngwa, an Agricultural Advisor from Bwese village, has been working with LOMADEF for ten years. The land that she and her husband Charles own is a textbook in sustainable farming practices. In one corner of the field are three heaps of harvested maize. The first heap was planted using only chemical fertilisers, the second using a basal compost top dressed with chemical fertiliser and the third using basal compost and liquid manure. ‘As you can see each heap is more or less the same size. Our fellow farmers can clearly see that there is little to gain in using chemical fertiliser. In fact when you use chemical fertiliser you effectively make a loss because you spend more money on the crop!’

There are also a variety of crops in their field. Eveline and Charles have planted nitrogen-fixing crops such as soya, groundnuts, pigeon peas and cowpeas that replenish lost nutrients in the soil. And, instead of simply growing maize as their staple crop they are now growing cassava and sweet potatoes. As a result they are less vulnerable to crop failure and have a variety of produce to sell at the market. ‘We have made 20,000 kwa (£185) from the sale of the cassava and the sweet potato crops. We are going to invest this profit in cultivating the additional land that we have. We have also already bought goats with some of the profits and have been using the manure in maize production. We were the first family in our village to do this.’

Just as Eveline and Charles’ successes serve as an example to their fellow farmers, so LOMADEF’s efforts have helped to pave the way towards a new approach to farming at a national level. After a number of years of promoting subsidised fertiliser and hybrid seeds as the best way to increase harvests, the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture, prompted by a rise in global fertiliser prices, decided that it was time to look into different ways forward. They therefore decided to hold a national composting launch at LOMADEF and a range of government officials, NGOs, businesses and farmers made their way out to the remote farm to watch demonstrations on a range of different composting techniques.

As a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture remarked in a speech at the launch, LOMADEF has demonstrated that ‘there is a need for an intensification of soil fertility management activities especially manure-making, conservation agriculture, and agro-forestry if we are going to have a hunger free nation.’

Read the full article by Molly Stevenson.

Better Decisions, Real Value: Business Toolkit

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 28th, 2010

Source: Forum for the Future

Forum for the Future is launching the Better Decisions, Real Value toolkit designed to help sustainability practitioners and finance professionals determine how sustainability can add financial value to their business. We believe that if companies are better equipped to assess this, they can make better decisions that create real value – for their investors and wider society.

The toolkit is the first output from over a year’s practical research with our Foundation Corporate Partners. We found that the complexity and uncertainty of sustainability created three barriers to determining the business case:

* the numbers are much ‘softer’ than decision-makers are used to;
* companies get stuck in a cycle of “no permission without a business case, no business case without permission”;
* financial tools are ill-equipped to deal with the ambiguities of how sustainability leads to value creation.

Our toolkit is designed so it can be used in any company or organisation to determine how sustainability can add financial value to the business. It includes a range of components.

* The Foundations tool helps you tackle the expectations gap by laying the foundations of the business case. It summarises the latest understanding of when there is (or is not) a business case, and why it is so hard to prove.
* The Entry Point guide offers a step-by-step guide to getting permission to explore your business case, helping you break out of the ‘no permission-no evidence’ cycle.
* The Pathways tool summarises the different ways sustainability can create financial value – from product differentiation, to staff motivation and risk reduction – with guidance on how you can collect evidence to make your business case.
* The Ready Reckoner tool helps you identify the pathways which are most important for your situation and calculate good-enough numbers to start the virtuous circle.

We are particularly keen to help our partners to use these tools, because we think it will help them create change and because we hope that by using the toolkit they can help us improve it.

Click here for more information about our Better Decisions, Real Value project. We will be making the tools available to the public on this page in July.

If you are interested in the Better Decisions, Real Value toolkit please email David Bent ( or call 020 7324 3662.

Exchange for Change: Ethical Sustainable Fashion

Posted in Events, Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 25th, 2010

Oxfam Australia and CarriageWorks presents Exchange for Change: The festival for a fashionable world without poverty

The latest kicks, those perfect fitting jeans, that jaw-dropping dress. We all have fashion cravings. But often our fashion sense has a flow-on effect that we don’t get to see. What are our clothes made of? Who makes them? Under what conditions? Could we be making better choices – more eco-friendly, people-friendly choices?  Oxfam Australia and CarriageWorks are delighted to join forces to present a series of events that examine the workings of the fashion industry. Exchange for Change celebrates the positive steps many have made to address the environmental impacts of clothing production, as well as fair wages and safe working conditions for the people who make our clothes.  Above all, the three day event will focus on what we can do in our everyday lives to make a difference.

Stitched together with a lineup of live local music, and wintry treats from the CarriageWorks café and bar, this is an event for anyone ready to evolve their fashion sense.   The 3-day event features discussions, a designer showcase, and one of Sydney’s biggest clothing swaps – all for free!

Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Change: A Brief Introduction

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 24th, 2010

Source: Food Climate Research Network

Rothamsted Research has put an really useful new document up on its website called: Climate Change- a brief introduction for scientists and engineers – or anyone else who has to do something about it.

The document has been written by David Jenkinson, a Rothamsted senior fellow. It provides a detailed but accessible walk-through of the hows and whats and whys and wheres of climate change. Its chapters cover the following:

  • Chapter 1 – the science of climate change (solar radiation, the greenhouse effect, radiative forcing etc, long term climate variations etc)
  • Chapter 2 – the greenhouse gases (water; sources and sinks of CO2 methane, nitrous oxide; halocarbons, ozone, aerosols)
  • Chapter 3 – how people use energy (fossil fuel combustion, reserves, per capita emissions)
  • Chapter 4 – using models to forecast future climate (models for temperature, precipitation, sea level, extreme weather etc)
  • Chapter 5 – reducing the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (transport, buildings, industry, electricity generation, carbon capture, agriculture, deforestation)
  • Chapter 6 – geoengineering as a way of counteracting climate change (biological and chemical sequestration, solar iradiation measures)
  • Chapter 7 – energy from biomass (current
  • Chapter 8 – sources of energy that do not depend on carbon (nuclcear fusion and fission, hydroelectricity, wind, wave, solar, tidal, geogrhermal and others)
  • Chapter 9 – adapting to climate change (population growth, sea level rise, water, food security)
  • Chapter 10 – economic incentives to reduce emissions (economic tools, the Kaya Identity)

To download the document go to:

Source: Tara Garnett,  Food Climate Research Network

Waste-chain innovation: Animal Dung Paper

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 23rd, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

From “From Muck to Riches: Waste-Chain Innovation in India” by Anna da Costa:

In recent years, elephant dung has grown in popularity as a niche substrate for paper that avoids the felling of trees. It is now used in a variety of countries, including Sri Lanka, Thailand, South Africa and India. Not only is it environmentally sound and based on a free material from Jaipur’s significantly sized elephant herd, but the paper can be sold at a premium.  The dung is collected from stables around Jaipur. It is then washed thoroughly in a tank of water. The waste water from this stage is rich with nutrients, and goes to local farmers for use as an effective natural fertiliser. Meanwhile, the remaining fibre is cooked with salt for four to five hours to soften and clean it further and then washed in hydrogen peroxide to ensure that no bacteria remain. The dung is then dried in the sun and any non-usable fibre removed by hand.

Today, it is not just elephant-dung paper that has made it onto the market. Mahima Mehra (Haathi Chaap) is experimenting with camel muck, while Scandinavians are making elk-dung paper and an Australian company is experimenting with kangaroo waste.  This story  is one of an increasing number around India inspiring hope in the potential for waste-chain innovation and the creation of green jobs, where waste and recycling are predicted to become two of the next economic-boom areas for India.

Read the full article by Anna da Costa.

Zero Carbon Britain 2030: Report

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 22nd, 2010

zerocarbonbritain2030 provides political and economic solutions to the urgent challenges raised by the climate science, outlining how we can transform the UK into an efficient, clean, prosperous zero-carbon society.  Covering energy, transport, land use, the built environment and industry, each chapter of the report has been written by bringing together the UK’s leading thinkers in their field including policy makers, scientists, academics, industry and NGOs.

zerocarbonbritain2030 is a fully integrated solution to climate change. It examines how we can meet our electricity and heating requirements through efficient service provision, while still decreasing carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other emissions.

The report starts by examining the current “Context” in the Climate Science and Energy Security chapters. It then moves on to how we can “PowerDown” heat and electricity demand largely through new technology, efficient design and behaviour change. The “Land Use & Agriculture” section considers the tremendous potential of the land not only to decrease emissions but also to sequester residual emissions. We then move on to how we can “PowerUp” through the use of renewable technology. Finally we examine the policy that can help bring this about and the job creation that will come with it, in the “Framework, policy and economics” section.

A full copy of the new report is available as a free pdf , or buy a printed copy from the Centre for Alternative Technology.

Real-Time Informatics for a “New Soft City”

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 21st, 2010

Source: The City Fix

Image from New Soft City – Keynote presentation by Dan Hill

From “Real-Time Informatics for a “New Soft City” ” by Erica Schlaikjer

What if cities could talk? Or transit systems could tell you how they’re feeling?  Sounds crazy, but it’s not that far-fetched. “Urban informatics” could change the way people understand and interact with cities, says Dan Hill, a designer, urbanist and senior consultant at Arup in Sydney. He explains the idea of projecting real-time data onto the physical environment of a city, such as a lamppost or observation tower, in order to enliven public space, improve the mass transit experience, and transform the way citizens relate to their urban surroundings. Data, which exist all around us, would be accessible to everyone, rather than contained on a mobile device, such as an iPhone or laptop.

Just imagine if you could use light projections, e-ink, or LEDs to display a “smart meter” of energy consumption on the outside of your home. What would change? Research shows that friendly neighborhood competition can actually breed energy-saving behavior.

Likewise, imagine if cities provided free wireless Internet connectivity outdoors and in other civic spaces, like atriums, libraries and shopping malls, to encourage people to spend time socializing outside of their personal bubble at work or at home. They would literally interact with the city. Public spaces could become friendlier, safer, cleaner and more attractive. It could improve people’s health and well-being. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ideas Compass: On-Line Corporate Social Innovation

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

Source: Core 77

Doing good business and doing good for the world need not be mutually exclusive. In fact more and more companies are making the world’s problems their business.  This website aims to help companies realise their potential.

The Ideas Compass is the place where small and medium-sized companies can find inspiration to innovate and evolve. The focus of the website is on CSR-driven innovation – an innovation process focusing on current social and environmental needs which gives companies an opportunity to develop sustainable products or services.  Tools are provided to set company strategies or goals, while a wide range of business case studies can be searched for relevant guidance.

CSI (Corporate Social Innovation) is also called sustainable innovation. CSI is about creating a good business by having sustainability as a focal point when the corporation develops a new product or service. This entails developing products or services which may relieve some of the world’s problems, such as disease, contaminated water, CO2 emission, hunger or the lack of education. CSI is also referred to as CSR innovation. CSI is useful for businesses which work with innovation and/or CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).

Visit the website for more information or to get involved.

Finding the Plot: Event Report

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 17th, 2010

Source: SustainWeb

Image: © RISC

In October 2009, Local Action on Food (LAF) and Women’s Environmental Network organized an event (Finding the Plot) aimed at community groups wanting to set up food growing projects in urban areas. The day looked at the challenges that groups face and provided an opportunity to share experience and skills.  The final report outlines the presentations made by the speakers, and includes links to available on-line copies.  The report is a valuable resource as it contains references to a wide range of case studies and projects in the UK, and discusses common issues encountered by community food groups at various stages of development.

Download Finding the Plot: access to land for food growing groups in urban areas – final report