Archive for October, 2011

Planting a Stormwater-Fed Food Forest in the City

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on October 24th, 2011


The site in May 2009.


Two years later.

From “Suburban Dryland Forest Garden” on Permacultureglobal:

I love the forest, but I live in the city. Since I don’t get to the wildlands nearly enough, my goal has been to create an edible forest throughout the city where I live.  To me, it only makes sense to grow food where people live, and since a gargantuan number of people live in cities, it’s due time to get urban food systems established. Having worked in large scale annual agriculture I’m much more inclined to grow food in the semblance of a perennial forest. […]

There were many challenges to contend with for this garden. First was a mature black walnut that succumbed to thousand canker disease.  The city required that the tree be taken down as soon as possible to stem the spread of the disease.[…]

We sheet mulched this area heavily, up to 18 inches in places, as adding organic matter is reportedly the best way to lock-up and break down allelopathic chemicals [from the black walnut]. We used cardboard from the local bike shop to smother the bluegrass lawn, cow manure from a local ranch for fertility, leaves the client had collected over the years, and cast-off strawbales. The soil is now a nicely assimilated, dark and crumbly consistency. We harvested the runoff from nearly half of the house roof surface to gravity feed through four infiltration basins as the sole irrigation source. While most landscapes in Boulder are over-irrigated with municipally treated water, this garden harvests almost 10,000 gallons of rainwater annually to passively infiltrate into the soil, requiring zero municipal water post establishment. […]

We mulched the basins heavily with woodchips from a local tree trimmer to absorb the rainwater, reduce evaporation, and to prevent creating mosquito breeding habitat. Previously the water ran down the driveway and into the street only to evaporate in summer or ice up in winter. After three months of hand irrigation for plant establishment this garden now thrives strictly on harvested rainwater. After first digging the water harvesting earthworks, then planting the trees and shrubs, and following with sheet mulch, we planted various other useful plant species for nitrogen fixation, nutrient accumulation, pest confusion, and beneficial insect attraction. Most of the species have edible or medicinal qualities as well. […]

The growth in this garden is fantastic, and even better the homeowner has become a sincere advocate for rainwater harvesting and forest gardening. It has been two years since the garden was installed and it is encouraging to see the abundant results of needing no irrigation, producing food, creating wildlife habitat, being a great place to bring students, and simply being beautiful. This garden is an awesome place to eat, observe, and be! The scale of the garden is only 750 sq. ft. and is therefore easily and affordably replicated. With extremely low maintenance and no continuous irrigation cost, this garden has attracted other city dwellers to extend the edible forest ecosystem to other yards and neighborhoods. Perhaps the greatest yield from this garden is the food forest revolution that it has inspired!

Read the full article (including plant details) on Permacultureglobal.com


Beehives on Airport Land

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on October 21st, 2011

Via Moreland Food Gardens Network


Photo by edible office via flickr CC

From “At O’Hare Airport, Unused Land Is Going to the Bees” by Zak Stone:

In May, the Chicago Department of Aviation partnered with a community group to start a 2,400 square foot apiary on-site. Now 23 beehives are up and running and are scheduled to yield 575 pounds of honey this year. The project offers a creative, sustainable, and productive way to use otherwise wasted open space at mega-airports like O’Hare. The bees’ new home on the east side of the airport campus had long stood vacant, so it was a natural spot for the bee program to begin. And if that’s not enough benefit, the beehives provide employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated adults (similar to other projects that teach prisoners beekeeping).

Sweet Beginnings, the offshoot of the local economic development agency that’s managing the project, trains felons in the art of beekeeping and the process of making honey, candles, and lotions, which are sold under the brand Beeline. O’Hare’s shops intend to start selling the hyper-local honey products soon. “It is the perfect example of a green business operating and growing in Chicago, while also providing opportunities to those who need a second chance,” said former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.

[…]

Read the full article by Zak Stone on GOOD.

 


Human Microphones: Mass Word of Mouth

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on October 19th, 2011

Via No Tech Magazine


Photo by Mat McDermott via flickr CC

From We Are All Human Microphones Now by Richard Kim:

Anyone who’s been down to Occupy Wall Street and stayed for a General Assembly will instantly recognize the call and response that begins, and frequently interrupts, each meeting.

“Mic check?” someone implores.

“MIC CHECK!” the crowd shouts back, more or less in unison.

The thing is—there’s no microphone. New York City requires a permit for “amplified sound” in public, something that the pointedly unpermitted Occupy Wall Street lacks. This means that microphones and speakers are banned from Liberty Plaza, and the NYPD has also been interpreting the law to include battery-powered bullhorns. Violators can be sentenced for up to thirty days in prison. Further complicating the matter is the fact that Liberty Plaza is not actually a public park. It’s privately owned by Brookfield Office Properties, landlords to Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, and in addition to amplified sound, they’ve also sought to ban sleeping bags, tents and other equipment from what they call “Zuccotti Park.”

So despite all the attention given to how Twitter, Facebook and livestream video have helped spread the word, the heart of the occupation is most definitely unplugged. But the protesters aren’t deterred one bit; they’ve adopted an ingeniously simple people-powered method of sound amplification.

After the mic check, the meeting proceeds:

with every few words?/?WITH EVERY FEW WORDS!

repeated and amplified out loud?/?REPEATED AND AMPLIFIED OUT LOUD!

by what has been dubbed?/?BY WHAT HAS BEEN DUBBED!

the human microphone?/?THE HUMAN MICROPHONE!!! (jazz hands here).

The overall effect can be hypnotic, comic or exhilarating—often all at once. As with every media technology, to some degree the medium is the message. It’s hard to be a downer over the human mic when your words are enthusiastically shouted back at you by hundreds of fellow occupiers, so speakers are usually pretty upbeat (or at least sound that way). Likewise, the human mic is not so good for getting across complex points about, say, how the Federal Reserve’s practice of quantitative easing is inadequate to address the current shortage of global aggregate demand (although Joe Stiglitz valiantly tried on Sunday), so speakers tend to express their ideas in straightforward narrative or moral language. […]

Read the full article by Richard Kim.  Check out Occupy Melbourne.


Affordable Solar- & Water-harvesting House, built by students

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 18th, 2011


Graphic by Leah Davies

WaterShed, the University of Maryland’s [winner of] the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2011, is a solar-powered home comprised of systems that interact with each other and the environment. A home that harvests, recycles, and reuses water, WaterShed not only conserves but produces resources with the water it captures. Inspired by the rich, complex ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the home displays harmony between modernity, tradition, and simple building strategies, balancing time-trusted best practices and cutting-edge technological solutions to achieve high efficiency performance in an affordable manner.  The home was built by a multi-disciplinary team of students over the course of two years.

About the Design:

WaterShed is a solar-powered home inspired and guided by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, interconnecting the house with its landscape, and leading its dwellers toward a more sustainable lifestyle. The house is formed by two rectangular modules capped by a split-butterfly roof that is well-suited to capturing and using sunlight and rainwater. The spacious and affordable house features:

  • constructed wetlands, filtering storm water and grey water for reuse
  • a green roof, retaining stormwater and minimizing the heat island effect
  • an optimally sized photovoltaic array, harvesting enough energy from the sun to power WaterShed year-round
  • edible landscapes, supporting community-based agriculture
  • a liquid desiccant waterfall, providing high-efficiency humidity control in the form of an indoor water feature
  • a solar thermal array, supplying enough energy to provide all domestic hot water, desiccant regeneration, and supplemental space heating
  • engineering systems, working in harmony and each acting to increase the effectiveness of the others
  • a time-tested structural system that is efficient, cost-effective, and durable.
About the Solar Decathlon:

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition challenging 20 student teams from universities around the world to design and build houses powered entirely by the sun. Over ten competition days, the teams compete in ten different events such as architecture, engineering, and affordability. The team with the highest overall score is the winner. Each day the winner of one of the ten contests is publicly announced, providing the opportunity for individual recognition among the decathlete teams. The winner of the 2011 competition will be the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. This year’s competition [was] on public display in the solar village at West Potomac Park, Washington, DC from September 23 – October 2. The house entries will be judged in subjective contests such as market appeal, communications, and home entertainment, and objective measured tests such as comfort zone, hot water, and energy balance. The houses are on public exhibition with the intent of educating visitors about environmental issues, emerging sustainable technologies, and energy-saving measures.

http://2011.solarteam.org/


Food Waste & Blaming the Individual: Research Article

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 13th, 2011

Source: Food Climate Research Network (FCRN)


Photo by abbyladybug via flickr CC

From “Attitudes to and behaviours around food waste“:

This paper is written by David Evans of the Sustainable Consumption Institute. It is based on observations of ‘ordinary’ people shopping for and preparing food (19 households in all). It argues that, contrary to the prevailing view, people do know how to cook and do care about throwing food away. However it argues that the pressure to ‘eat properly’, in part a consequence of the styles promoted by celebrity chefs, gives rise to food purchasing habits that are unrealistic and give rise to waste. It concludes by suggesting ways in which food waste can be reduced – by portion resizing and by moves to “normalise the provisioning of foodstuffs that are not susceptible to rapid decay” (ie. tins, dried foods, frozen foods etc).

Reference and abstract as follows:

Evans D (2011). Blaming the consumer – once again: the social and material contexts of everyday food waste practices in some English households, Critical Public Health, 1–12

DOI:10.1080/09581596.2011.608797

In public debates about the volume of food that is currently wasted by UK households, there exists a tendency to blame the consumer or individualise responsibilities for affecting change. Drawing on ethnographic examples, this article explores the dynamics of domestic food practices and considers their consequences in terms of waste. Discussions are structured around the following themes: (1) feeding the family; (2) eating ‘properly’; (3) the materiality of ‘proper’ food and its intersections with the socio-temporal demands of everyday life and (4) anxieties surrounding food safety and storage. Particular attention is paid to the role of public health interventions in shaping the contexts through which food is at risk of wastage. Taken together, I argue that household food waste cannot be conceptualised as a problem of individual consumer behaviour and suggest that policies and interventions might usefully be targeted at the social and material conditions in which food is provisioned.

Read the article and related links on FCRN.

Or read about it on the SCI website.

 


Community Power Conference: Australian communities taking charge of their energy use

Posted in Events, Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 12th, 2011

Are you looking for practical, achievable ways to reduce the impact of electricity price rises in your community? The Community Power Conference: Australian Communities Taking Charge, aims to showcase how regional Australian communities: are developing innovative energy projects, helping to reduce local economic shocks can take practical action to hedge against rising energy prices.


14 -15 November, The Capital – Bendigo Performing Arts Centre, View Street, Bendigo


The Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities, in its third biennial conference on renewable energy, is partnering with the Central Victoria Solar City project, part of the Australian Government’s Solar Cities program, and the City of Greater Bendigo, to deliver an exciting exploration of current energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies and actions being taken by Australian communities. This conference will show your community what it can do with regard to:

  • more efficient use of energy in homes and businesses
  • more effective demand management to smooth peak energy loads, and
  • developing local, renewable energy generators embedded within the national distribution network.

The conference will bring together leaders in the renewable energy industry including government, industry associations and communities which have adopted sustainable strategies built on innovative, renewable energy business models. Speakers will engage with community and municipality leaders:

  • Outlining and developing comprehensive strategies for local and regional energy sustainability (identifying appropriate business models, overcoming policy barriers, engaging your community, knowing your technology options);
  • Showcasing examples of regional communities that have already, or are in the process of putting such strategies in place; and,
  • Reviewing and developing communities’ local and regional energy sustainability policy and programs.

If your community is facing increased energy costs and you would like to learn how to address this issue at the local level then this conference can help you. Follow the link below for more information.

www.centralvictoriasolarcity.com.au/special-projects/communitypower


Australia Electric Vehicle Conference

Posted in Events by Kate Archdeacon on October 11th, 2011

Source: Alternative Technology Association(ATA)

The Australia Electric Vehicle Conference provides a unique opportunity to listen to renowned professionals and network across this fast growing industry. The program will focus on electric vehicles and their introduction on the Australian market, as well as a range of issues alongside their emergence.

Topics include the potential impact of EVs on the electricity grid, the provision of charging infrastructure, the development of appropriate policies, the economics of EVs and the role EVs will play in making a transition to cleaner and greener transport.  CEOs such as Energex’s Terry Effeney and Chargepoint’s James Brown will be presenting alongside senior representatives of state government EV programs from WA, VIC and QLD. And in its world-first appearance, a full electric super-car based on Australian technology will be released and displayed.

When: 26th October

Time: 8.30am to 5.30pm

Where: Sebel & Citigate Hotel, Brisbane

For more information or bookings go to www.evconference.com.au.

Early bird registration until Oct 19!

Public Rainwater Systems: Childrens’ Playground

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 10th, 2011


Photo © Aspect Studios

The new development by Aspect Studios at Darling Quarter in Sydney recently featured on the InDesignLive website.  At the heart of the site is a children’s playground with heaps of things for kids to play on, climb up or mess around with.  At ground level there are stepping stones of various heights, looking much like tidal pools along a beach, and there’s an enormous rope climbing frame.  Site-harvested rainwater irrigates the playground and the surrounding public parkland, and is also used in the industrial-looking water features from Germany.  Low-energy lighting is used for night lighting.

The harvesting systems and related quality controls for the use of rainwater on this public site must be quite highly resolved – does anyone know of other examples (especially in Australia) where rainwater is used for play as well as for irrigation?  KA

Read the article on the InDesignLive site.

 


Health & Housing Flexibility: Prefabricated ‘wet rooms’

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 6th, 2011

Source: Australian Design Review


Photo: Healthabitat

From Maitiú Ward’s “Interview: Healthabitat’s Paul Pholeros“:

Since 1999, Healthabitat has completed 184 projects in remote and impoverished communities, improving the condition of 7308 houses for over 42,000 people. Formally established in 1994, the organisation has a history that stretches back to 1985, when its three directors Dr Paul Torzillo, Stephan Rainow and Paul Pholeros first met in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, north-west South Australia, where they had been thrown together to work with a team of local Aboriginal people to help improve local health and housing conditions. Since that first meeting, the trio has gone on to orchestrate a slew of research programs, lauded not only for the wealth of hard data they have produced, but also for genuinely improving conditions.

[…]

For a number of years, Adrian Welke of Troppo Architects has been working with Healthabitat in the design and construction of health buildings in remote areas. It was with Welke that Healthabitat first starting exploring the potential of prefabrication as a means of delivering high quality buildings, efficiently.

Welke’s most recent project with Healthabitat is a prefabricated wet room unit, designed to be ‘clipped on’ to the back of existing residential buildings. Containing shower, laundry and toilet, the unit addresses the top three of the nine healthy living practices – ‘washing people’, ‘washing clothes’ and ‘waste removal’. As a prefabricated unit it is also a very efficient means of delivering what are traditionally the most expensive components of a residence (the laundry, toilet and bathing areas). In keeping with Healthabitat’s modus operandi, then, the project focuses resources in areas where they are likely to have the most impact, and after a successful prototyping stage, units are now rapidly being deployed to indigenous communities across Australia.

[…]

Read the full interview by Maitiú Ward.

Healthabitat’s Housing for Health program recently won the 2011 World Habitat Awards.  Read more here.


Sustainable Ethical Fashion: Discussion

Posted in Movements, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on October 6th, 2011

Source: guardian.co.uk


Photo by Bert van Dijk via flickr CC

From “Discussion round up: sustainability in the fashion business” by Jenny Purt:

What should the priorities be for the apparel business?

Labour conditions, water footprints, fibres and carbon.

An initial step would be for companies to make a concerted effort to adopt a few fabrics that are more sustainable but which may cost 5-10% more in base price. This would cause a chain reaction in the rest of industry. As big brands source more responsible textiles for their collections, there will be a bigger volume of orders which will lower the overall manufacturing cost (and therefore retail price), making the product more accessible to the mainstream market.[…]

How can companies increase sustainability throughout their supply chains?

In order to implement systemic change, there must first be a market for sustainable products, and currently that is quite small. Companies need to heighten customer awareness of where clothing comes from, how it is made and the social and environmental impact of its production. One panellist commented that there is a market for sustainability but currently consumers just don’t know enough. The first step is internal transparency.[…]

Can collaboration help?

Sharing best practices is a key element for change in the industry. Sharing knowledge is critical because the clothing industry is very complex and there is not just one answer. Only through collaboration at different stages of the supply chain we can find solutions.

How can brands bring ethical fashion into the mainstream?

While there are some super-premium ethical fashion brands, the market lacks stylish, affordable clothes from well-known high-street brands. One of the problems is that many ethical fashion companies do not get the exposure of the big, non-ethical brands because they cannot afford PR representation which is the engine house of the fashion industry. This means while there may be editors and stylists who would like some of the ethical fashion being produced, they are not exposed to it in the same way they are to big labels. The Mintel report in 2009 showed that some consumers would buy ethical fashion if prices were lower. However others said they would not trust cheap ethical fashion.[…]

What steps are being made across the apparel industry to encourage people to value quality and longevity over quantity and trends?

Mainstream retailers saw a “flight to quality” during the last recession. This means customers moving away from the cheaper, value products to more design-led and added-value pieces. This could be an interesting way of moving mainstream fashion to more sustainable sources if we can demonstrate real design value in ethical alternatives.[…]

Is organic cotton a sustainable solution?

There are a whole range of viewpoints on organic cotton with the most controversial being that farming cotton, organic or not, is not a sustainable option due to water availability. With many man-made fibres starting to mimic the touch, feel and handle of organic cotton, we will start to see cotton production levels falling and replacement fibres taking centre stage. The WWF recently produced a report on cotton highlighting the work done by the Better Cotton Initiative and the wider issues surrounding cotton production.[…]

Adopting more than one fibre type

Made-by has created an environmental benchmark for fibres which compares 23 fibres and ranks them on their sustainability impact. The organisation works with brands to develop a sustainable fibre strategy, swapping less sustainable fibres for those that are more sustainable.[…]

How can brands communicate sustainable approaches to consumers?

M&S [Marks & Spencer] is a leader in terms getting the message of its sustainability strategy out to the public but there are also other big brands doing some really interesting things. For example, Nike’s apparel eco index has now been released as open source. The company has also integrated its sustainability team into its business innovation lab with the ethos of “business as normal”. Puma are well known for its Clever Little Bag campaign, getting rid of shoe boxes and using a reusable bag instead. The sports company is also working on product development with eco scorecards and converting more of their range to sustainable materials, including cotton made in Africa. It is key for a brand to find an appropriate product and lexicon to communicate their approach to sustainability […]

How can companies change consumer behaviour?

One panellist said that some of the best examples have come from the laundry sector. Procter & Gamble’s Ariel Turn to 30 campaign has been successful in raising awareness around washing at lower temperatures to save money as has Persil’s Small and Mighty washing product which is designed to clean in 30 minutes. There have also been encouraging examples in the apparel industry with Patagonia developing closed loop recycling for their fleeces and Tesco’s collection and redistribution of used school uniforms through British Red Cross a few years ago.[…]

How can businesses work with suppliers to increase sustainability?

Panellists agreed that talking to suppliers is key to getting internal transparency. One panellist said that in her experience suppliers are quite knowledgeable and enthusiastic about traceability and sustainable materials. If a business has an existing supply chain, a life-cycle-wide assessment of the overall impact might help identify the weakest areas in the chain. An initiative such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s could help identify what issues to start chipping away at.[…]

What comes next for the fashion industry?

One of the major trends will be securing resources, raw materials, energy and water to run factories. Cotton prices have gone up over the last 12 months with factories in Bangladesh suffering four or five power cuts every day. With rising energy and water bills all over the world, even the big brands will struggle with these issues. Companies should see these challenges as an opportunity for more sustainable designs. The sector will face even tougher competition as suppliers from emerging countries establish their own brands and export to international markets in parallel with their work as contractors. New rules must be set and a common and clearer understanding about what is and is not sustainable is needed.

Key issues are:

  • Consumer behaviour change – especially in how we clean and dispose of clothes.
  • Making sustainable development desirable.
  • Climate change adaptation – as the planet’s temperature changes, consumers needs from clothes will change.
Read the full article by Jenny Purt on the Guardian.