Archive for January, 2011

The Economics of Happiness: Film

Posted in Models, Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on January 31st, 2011

Source: PostCarbon Institute

The Economics of Happiness is a project of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC).

“Going local” is a powerful strategy to help repair our fractured world—our ecosystems, our societies and our selves. A central paradox defines our time: although the economy is growing, we are working longer and longer hours and our new comforts and luxuries have not brought us happiness. While the ever-expanding global economy is creating immense wealth for the few, it is leaving the majority worse off. Climate change, unstable financial markets, growing inequality, senseless war, fundamentalism: people know something is fundamentally wrong. Across the world they are coming together in the spirit of resistance and renewal. A movement is growing to re-create more just and sustainable communities and re-invent economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of happiness.

The Economics of Happiness describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions: while government and Big Business push for a globalized economy based on high technology and increased trade, people all over the world are working from the grassroots to nurture smaller scale, ecological, local economies. We hear from a chorus of voices from six continents including Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of Tibet’s government in exile, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, David Korten and Zac Goldsmith. The Economics of Happiness restores our faith in humanity, and challenges us to believe that it is possible to build a better world.

Watch the trailer and visit the website for more details

Refining Technology: Bio-Digester for an Ice Cream Factory

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on January 28th, 2011

Source: FoodMag

Image courtesy of Paques

From Unilever to build bio-digester at Dutch ice cream factory:

Unilever and biotechnology company Paques have started the construction of a bio-digester at the food giant’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Hellendoorn, the Netherlands.  Paques’ BIOPAQ AFR bio-digester, which will convert waste products from the production of ice cream into clean energy, will cover 40 per cent of the ice cream factory’s green energy requirements.

According to Paques, this bio-digester has been built specifically for applications where the purification of fat-containing wastewater is required. Unlike conventional systems, the bio-digester treats wastewater containing fat and oil in a single compact reactor, together with degradable particles.  The installation of the bio-digester is a part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which aims at reducing the production of waste and the consumption of water and energy.  The bio-digester is expected to become operational mid year.

Source: FoodMag

Replacing Bottled Water on Campus

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on January 26th, 2011

Via Cleanfood, the Future Climate newsletter

Image: katerha via flickr CC

From the University of Canberra:

21 January 2011: The University of Canberra will discontinue the sale of bottled water on campus, the Vice-Chancellor announced today.

The University is the first in the country to go bottled water free and will immediately begin phasing out on-campus sales. Covering a campus population of almost 13,000 students and staff, the move is the largest of its kind in Australia. It was initiated by students and assisted by action group Do Something!, represented at the launch by founder Jon Dee.

New water bubblers and bottle refill stations, installed with funding from the ACT Chief Minister’s Department, will significantly increase the supply of fresh, healthy, free drinking water on campus.

Students and staff will also be offered a chilled water alternative to bottled water in the form of the Australia’s first WaterVend machines. WaterVend machines dispense filtered, ‘flash-chilled’ still, sparkling or flavoured tap water into the customer’s own refillable container. The WaterVend provides a cheaper alternative to bottled water in campus food outlets and provides those outlets with a commercial income to offset the income lost from bottled water sales.

Read the full press release.

Social Enterprise for Water Harvesting

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on January 24th, 2011

Source: Sustainable Innovations, via Springwise

Aakash Ganga, River from Sky, is a domestic rainwater harvesting system [in Rajasthan]. It channels rooftop rainwater from every house in a community, through gutters and pipes, to a network of multi-tier underground reservoirs as shown below.

Aakash Ganga’s strategy is to form public-private-community partnership or social enterprise to provide drinking water to the people. It rents roofs from home owners or acquires rights to harvest their rooftop rainwater. The local government or Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) leases, at no cost, about 10,000 M2 land next to the shared community reservoir. A social takes care of the post-implementation upkeep and holistic sustainability ? social, cultural, economic, institutional, political, operational, and ecological. One half of the harvested rooftop rainwater is stored in the reservoir attached to the house for the exclusive use of the home owner. The other half flows to the shared community reservoir. People who live under thatched roofs or who cannot afford to have their own reservoirs take water from the shared reservoir.

Read about the Social, Engineering and Place-making innovations associated with this project on the Sustainable Innovations website
Check out some great photos from the project on flickr: Life Post Aakash Ganga Implementation (all copyright or I’d put some up here).

Solar Access Sharing Startup in the US

Posted in Models, Sustainable Cities by Kate Archdeacon on January 19th, 2011

by Dayna Burtness via Springwise

Image by Davide Cassenti via flickr under this Creative Commons license.  See also

The new real estate is your roof (or even your front yard).  With new thinking, the right information, being connected and a little entrepreneurship, new models of sustainability and new economic value can be revealed.   Put all of this together and you get Seglet.

Solar power is not quite as straightforward in the United States as it is in many other countries, largely because there is no countrywide policy on solar encouragement. Nonetheless, rooftops and other sunny spaces remain a desirable asset for utility companies and independent power producers, and that’s where Seglet comes in. The California-based site aims to connect property owners with commercial and individual users interested in renting or profit-sharing rooftops and other property segments.

Property owners begin by listing their roof or open land for free; Seglet automatically adds solar radiation and other details. Energy companies, independent power producers, energy consultants, investors, urban agriculturalists and others in need of sunny, open space can then browse through Seglet when they need a location for a new project. Along with each listing, they can easily see the site’s solar radiation, wind speed and wind direction, and meteorological data.

Read the rest

This is cool – Passivhaus NYC

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on January 17th, 2011

by Lloyd Alter via Treehugger

Image by Loadingdock5

Sustainable design techniques and high tech photography merge to give us a great insight into advanced architectural practice through this piece on Treehugger.

“Really, one could go on for hours explaining the benefits of Passivhaus design, but it is all right here in this thermogram (thermograph?) of Loadingdock5’s 174 Grand Street in New York City. It’s neighbours just glow with red, representing lost heat; the building in the middle barely registers. In fact the high performance windows are even darker than the building itself.”

Read the rest to see a larger photo and visit Loadingdock5’s site to see detailed information about the project.

Tax Resources, Not Labour – New tax system enabling sustainability?

Posted in Models, Research by Rob Eales on January 14th, 2011

via No Tech Magazine

Image by suttonhoo via flickr under this Creative Commons licence

“In our society, high taxes on labor drive businesses to minimize the number of employees. Resources remain untaxed, so we use them unconstrained. This system causes both unemployment and scarcity of resources.”

This post from the No Tech Magazine links to the site Value Extracted Tax which discusses changes to the current taxation paradigm in order to enable sustainability to be build into the taxation regime.

Visit No Tech Magazine and Value Extracted Tax

A sign of the cities to come – 2 reports into Australian cities

Posted in Research, Sustainable Cities by Rob Eales on January 12th, 2011

Article by Sara Phillips via ABC Environment blog

Image by buiversonian via flickr under this Creative Commons license (the description of this image on flickr is great)

Two reports about Sustainable Cities in Australia (not so recent but still interesting). The interesting thing about these reports is the context in which they were researched and the organisations that commissioned them. One is through the Australian Conservation Foundation and the other was undertaken by KPMG on behalf of Built Environment Meets Parliament, the lobbying arm of a collection of planners and developers. The context of the reports was “…that if we want an understanding of how sustainable we are as a nation, we need to look to our cities.”

The article includes,

The ACF report measured publicly available information across 15 separate parameters. Predictably, for an organisation originally established to protect Australian flora and fauna, the ACF examined such measures as amount of land given over to parks, and ecological footprint – the theoretical amount of land required to create the goods and services used each day by a city’s citizens.

What is most interesting, however, is that the ACF also included measures of economic prosperity. They looked at debt levels for households and employment data. The inclusion of these measures, according to Matthew Trigg, report co-ordinator from the ACF, was because even the greenest city is not sustainable if its economy is not.

“Sustainability is not just about the environment. Economic issues become environmental issues and environmental issues are wrapped up in economic issues. The two are intertwined.”


Meanwhile, KMPG, which does not have a reputation for being a firm overrun with dreadlocked hippies, included many measures of environmental sustainability in its report. Taking its cues from COAG, KPMG reviewed cities’ plans for “social inclusion, productivity and global competitiveness, climate change mitigation and adaptation, health, liveability, community wellbeing, housing affordability and matters of national environmental significance.”

Read the rest

New York’s transportation chief is a latter-day Robin Hood

Posted in Models, Movements, Sustainable Cities by Rob Eales on January 10th, 2011

By Matt Seaton via The Guardian Bike Blog

Image by mrtruffle via flickr under this Creative Commons licence

Janette Sadik-Khan’s brilliant marketing of sustainable transport (dedicated bike lanes, cycle sharing, even pedestrianising Times Square) has transformed New York. Now for that congestion charge …

This is a great article about how the landscape for riding and walking in NYC has been transformed.  This has been done by presenting a business case argument but of course the benefits are manifold.  I liked the quote about how pedestrian’s are most economically valuable participants on the street and should be treated accordingly.

Read the rest

Simple Tools to Enable Decision-Making

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on January 7th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

Photo: IRRI

From “Simple, Low-cost Color Chart Promotes Fertilizer Efficiency for Asian Rice Farmers” by Matt Styslinger:

Access to nitrogen fertilizers can mean the difference between success and failure of an entire year’s investment for an Asian rice farmer. But overuse of fertilizer can degrade the long-term quality of the soil and water resources on which they depend—and can eat away at precious little profits. But researchers have discovered that rice leaves themselves can give clues about how much nitrogen is needed for optimal yield.

A new 4-panel leaf color chart (LCC) that corresponds to actual colors of rice leaves has been developed for rice cultivation in Asia—the chart was created by the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC) in collaboration with the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE). The LCC consists of plastic panels, each with distinctly different shades of green—ranging from yellowish green to dark green. LCCs can be used by farmers in the field to gauge how much nitrogen fertilizer is needed for efficient use, and to maximize rice yields.

The LCC is used at critical growth stages by simply holding a rice leaf against the panels. A farmer can tell whether the crop has received too much nitrogen or is nitrogen deficient, by comparing leaf color too LCC panels. This provides real-time guidance for when to apply, and when not to apply fertilizer. Any color outside the range of the four panels would signal extreme nitrogen deficiency or excess.


This effective, low-cost tool helps farmers improve their nitrogen fertilizer management, improving their prospects for success. “Smallholder farmers benefitted from the low cost [about US$1 a unit] and the learning that was associated with it,” says Witt. “It wasn’t just the chart, but also learning when the plant really needs the nitrogen and observing leaf color. Once farmers used the LCC for two or three seasons,{they} adjusted their nitrogen management, and they developed an eye for the optimal green leaf color.Managing soil fertility and having adequate tools to be able to communicate soil fertility to farmers is essential to sustainable agriculture and food security.”

Read the full article by Matt Styslinger for Worldwatch.