Posts Tagged ‘consumption’
Source: Climate progress
photo from: Habitat for Humanity of washington DC
The house doesn’t look like a futuristic spaceship, but it is different from the other small pre-fab houses along the street. It is a two home duplex with a big wooden porch in front and, of course, solar panels on the roof.
Lakiya’s house started out two years ago as an entry in the Department of Energy’s biannual Solar Decathlon. Dubbed “Empowerhouse” for the competition, it was an ambitious concept brought to life by engineering and architecture students from Stevens Institute of Technology, Parsons The New School for Design and Milano School for International Affairs, management and Urban Policy, many of whom had never even wielded a hammer before attempting this elaborate construction project. The team’s dream was to build a solar-powered house that could not only compete with the most cutting-edge technologies out there, but was actually affordable and something ordinary people would want to live in.
According to Josh Layrea, one of the Stevens engineers, the winning entry from a German team two years before cost over two million dollars. “It was an impressive piece of engineering,” Laryea concedes. “But made for exhibit, not habitation. The entire outside of the house was covered in solar panels.” Laryea and his teammates had a different goal. In a way, they were in a competition of their own, in which they were competing against themselves to see if they could create something that Habitat for Humanity could use not only as a home for a low-income family in the Deanwood area of D.C. but also as an affordable housing prototype for Habitat going forward. The Stevens-Parson-Milano house won the top prize for cost-effectiveness at the Solar Decathlon.
Lakiya’s house was built based on passive house design principles. The basic concept of passive house is to lower energy consumption by being super-insulated and practically airtight. Empowerhouse has 12-inch thick walls and triple-glazed windows and, as a result, uses up to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than an ordinary house. Such low energy consumption enabled Empowerhouse to have one of the smallest solar panel arrays in the competition, which helps keep construction and maintenance costs down.
As anyone who worked on Empowerhouse hoped, Lakiya’s home is not the end of the dream. Habitat is gearing up to build six more passive houses in Ivy City, a short drive from Deanwood. They’ll look a bit different from Empowerhouse, more townhouses than duplex, but they’ll cost about the same and hopefully pass on the same savings.
“As much as we can afford, we would like to have the highest standard of energy efficiency available for our homeowners,” said Susanne Slater, President and CEO of D.C. Habitat for Humanity. “Our whole mission is to provide affordable housing to low income families, and if homeowners pay less in energy costs, that helps us reach that goal.”
“I really believe that with the mounting cost of electricity, passive houses with solar panels are going to take off,” said Slater. “And our homeowners are going to be out in front of the movement.”
>>> You can read the original article on Climate Progress
Source: The Guardian
From the article “Energy co-ops are cutting household bills alongside carbon emissions” by Simon Birch
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. […]
>>> Read the full article on The Guardian website.
>>> Find out more about Carbon Co-op and the Energy Saving Co-op on their websites
Source: Forum for the Future (UK)
Image: Forum for the Future / Which?
From Crowd House Mortgages: how our financial world might be different in 2030 by Simon Howard:
“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.”
Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on December 20th, 2012
From “How to make everything ourselves: Open modular hardware” by Kris de Decker:
Reverting to traditional handicrafts is one way to sabotage the throwaway society. In this article, we discuss another possibility: the design of modular consumer products, whose parts and components could be re-used for the design of other products.
Initiatives like OpenStructures, Grid Beam, and Contraptor combine the modularity of systems like LEGO, Meccano and Erector with the collaborative power of digital success stories like Wikipedia, Linux or WordPress. An economy based on the concept of re-use would not only bring important advantages in terms of sustainability, but would also save consumers money, speed up innovation, and take manufacturing out of the hands of multinationals. A modular system unites the advantages of standardisation (as parts can be produced cheaply in large amounts) with the advantages of customisation (since a large diversity of unique objects can be made with relatively few parts). Modularity can be found to a greater or lesser extent in many products (like bicycles and computers) and systems (like trains and logistics), but the best examples of modular systems are toys: LEGO, Meccano, and Erector (which is now the brand name of Meccano in the US).
In spite of the similarities, there is one fundamental difference between modular construction systems such as OpenStructures, Grid Beam and Contraptor, and modular toys such as LEGO, Meccano and Erector. The first group consists of “open” modular systems, where everyone is free to design and produce parts, while the second consists of “closed” modular systems, where all parts are designed and produced by one manufacturer. Closed modular systems produce uniform parts. For instance, all LEGO building blocks are made of plastic. LEGO does not produce building blocks made of wood, aluminium, glass or ceramics. There is a limited range of colours. And because LEGO is a closed system, nobody else is allowed to produce LEGO pieces.
An open modular system has many advantages over a closed modular system. Since anyone can design parts in an open system, it generates a much larger diversity of parts: they can be made in different colours and materials, and none of the producers can set a fixed price for all consumers. And because many designers constantly review, adapt and improve each others’ work, innovation is accelerated. All open software systems described above are arguably better than their closed counterparts, and some of them have become more successful. A closed modular system only has one advantage: the one who holds the copyright makes a lot of money.
Open modular construction does not mean that everyone should make their own consumer products. An object like a coffee maker or a workbench could be obtained in at least three ways. Firstly, the consumer can download the digital design and then assemble the object with parts that he or she buys, re-uses, or makes using a 3D-printer or laser cutter, whether at home or at a fab lab or tech shop. It can also happen in a more low-tech fashion, as is the case with Grid Beam: the consumer buys wood or metal beams, and drills the holes himself.
A second option is that a company buys the license of the design (if it is not free) and converts it into a building kit, comparable to a kit from LEGO, Meccano or Erector. In this case, the consumer would not have to search for the parts himself, but he still assembles the product himself, just like he would assemble a piece of furniture by IKEA. Similarly, a company could offer a more general building kit, which can be used to make whatever one would like, similar to a box of basic LEGO bricks. Bit Beam, Contraptor, Open Beam, Maker Beam and, recently, Grid Beam offer one or both of these options.
The third possibility is that a manufacturer places the object on the market as a finished, assembled product. The coffee maker or the workbench would then be sold and bought just as any other product today, but it can be disassembled after use, and its parts can be re-used for other objects.
Read the full article by Kris de Decker at Resilience or at Low-Tech – the grabs (above) from the article don’t do true justice to the original.
Source: Core 77
© Buckminster Fuller Institute via flickr
From “The Key to Sustainable Product Creation: The Marriage of Engineering and Design” by Dawn Danby:
These days I spend a lot of time with students and brand-new grads. They’re fired up to make an impact, and are impatient with solutions that don’t directly take on big issues like e-waste and energy scarcity. Many of them know what greenwashing is, even if they don’t know what it’s called. Young designers have been vaguely led to believe that designers hold the power. But when they set out to create green product solutions, they often fail—it’s just not work that can be done alone.
Many of the best sustainable design student projects I see come from interdisciplinary teams. A colleague and I recently coached a team of students who were designing a new refrigerator. Half of the team was made up of UC Berkeley engineers, the other half product designers from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. The engineers investigated technologies like thermal battery innovations, essential for creating a high-efficiency appliance. But they were developing a mass-market product, not simply a new technology. The designers focused on user behavior, cultural context, aesthetics and ease of use. To succeed in the Mexican market, any environmentally friendly technologies had to be affordable for everyone. The biggest waste in fridges, though, isn’t necessarily solved by new technologies: it’s in addressing the huge amount of cold air that pours out when the door is held open. The team’s final design incorporated an insulated window and quick access tray that allows users to ponder, and then to pull out the food they use most, without opening the full door. All of this keeps the fridge closed longer, which saves energy by preventing the cold air from escaping.
Technical solutions can be dreamed up by scientists and clean tech engineers, but the viable projects incorporate beauty, form and human factors. Consider the BioLite stove, which addresses the in-home air pollution problem faced by half the world’s population. In aggregate, this is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Their HomeStove reduces fuel consumption by half, cuts smoke emissions by more than 90 percent, and improves the health of the whole community by nearly eliminating black carbon soot.
Design researcher Dan Lockton has made an exhaustive study of how to understand and adjust behavior, with an emphasis on social and environmental benefit. Lockton’s free, downloadable Design with Intent Toolkit is full of provocations for rethinking a product’s interface, such as “How simply can you structure things, to make it easier for users to do what you’d like them to do?” This is where design can excel: make it easy to switch a computer into a low-power state; make it obvious how much water is being used to fill a bath; or eliminate the option of having a TV remain in standby, “vampire power” mode.
You can design for more complex behavior, too; designing for product lifetime can help slow waste streams and allow recyclers to recover valuable materials. By providing product teardowns and guides on how to fix most common electronics and mobile devices, iFixit’s entire mission is encouraging repairability and long life for electronics, all of which is determined by the way that they’re designed.
I signed up to study industrial design in 1997, in a fit of inspired frustration. I’d freaked myself out on tours of landfills and road trips through forest clear-cuts. Squinting into the future, the design community seemed like it secretly held the reins. I believed that ecological design could change the world—all we seemed to need was the will, and some better data. As a student, I worked on projects that hooked into ecology in obvious ways: salt marsh conservation, degradable food packaging. Looking around at the time, there wasn’t much to see. Bamboo furniture, and a meltscape of recycled plastics: sustainability seen only through the lens of picking greener materials. “You’ll never find work if you’re interested in the environment,” said one well-intentioned teacher. And that’s the main difference between then and now. Engineers develop the technology for green products, and design makes them sing. For this generation of designers and engineers, this is the work worth doing.
Read the full article by Dawn Danby on Core 77.
Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on July 9th, 2012
From “Collaborative Chats Recap: Stuff-Sharing: Where’s the Traction?” by Millicent Johnson on Shareable:
This month’s Collaborative Chats explored the world of peer to peer goods sharing services. While everyone loves the concept of sharing underutilized household items, these platforms have had a challenging time gaining traction. Throughout the evening we explored the challenges, lessons, and future of goods sharing. Joining the conversation were:
- Tim Hyer, Founder and CEO, Getable
- Micki Krimmel, Founder and CEO, NeighborGoods
- Kip Harkness, Assistant City Manager, City of San Jose
- Chris Smith, Co-Founder and CEO, NorCal Rental Group
Below are some reflections from the evening. Check back for the video next week!
What are the Biggest Challenges Facing Peer to Peer Goods Sharing Companies?
The conversation started by discussing the challenges of running a peer to peer goods sharing service. Micki said that when a lot of these services started a few years ago, people assumed that financial transactions were the only type of transaction that would draw people to share. Turns out people don‘t share household items for financial gain alone- it’s simply not the same return on investment as sharing your car or home. It’s a lot of work to post an item and take a picture, just to let someone use your power drill. She’s learned that the value for people who share their stuff is actually the social transaction and return. She reminded us that there are lots of ways that we transact with each other every day, like taking someone out to lunch in exchange for advice, that don’t involve a clear financial exchange but we still perceive them as valuable. She thinks that the challenge for the industry now is to figure out how to get people to pay for the value they receive through the social transaction of sharing.
Tim from Getable felt like the initial challenge for the industry is inventory of goods. When people are able to access a good they need immediately and seamlessly they’re more likely to rent or share in the future. That’s why Getable partnered with traditional sharing businesses like rental companies, to ensure a reliable transaction with guaranteed inventory of what people actually need to share. Micki challenged this assertion by pointing out that on NeighborGoods they have the opposite challenge – lots of inventory and people willing to share and not enough people wanting or looking to borrow, which was fascinating.
Check out the full post by Millicent Johnson on Shareable to read the responses to the other discussion points, below:
- Is There a Cultural Barrier to Renting Goods?
- New Ways of Thinking of Transactions
- New Forms of “Neighborhood”
- How Sharing can Help Governments
- The Future of Goods Sharing
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 7th, 2012
From “Software Helps EV Station Owners Become Entrepreneurs” by Keith Barry:
While [EV] drivers already have a myriad of services they can use to search for public plugs and see what prices they’ve put on electricity, WattStation Connect makes it easy for owners of charging stations to set hours and rates using a computer or smartphone. It’s an easy way for EV owners to make some cash off their home charging setup, or for businesses to install public charging stations in their parking lots.
Apps like PlugShare and Recargo already let anyone with a free electrical outlet publicize their charging station, and software like WattStation Connect can turn it into a business. Like a convenience store owner who puts an ATM next to the coffee maker and collects the transaction fees, a charging station may soon become yet another source of revenue for anyone with a parking space and an electrical connection.
Using the WattStation Connect software, owners can decide whether the station is public or private, then choose when it’s open and how much a charge should cost. Owners can charge for electricity by the hour, by the kilowatt hour or require a flat rate upfront. It’s also possible to set up dynamic pricing by time, or allow separate users to pay different rates. For instance, a business owner could let his or her own employees charge for free but ask the general public to chip in for electricity.
Read the full article by Keith Barry.
It doesn’t look like this app has actually been released yet, but the WattStation site, linked above, says that updates and announcements of the release will be posted there. KA
Source: NY Times
From “An Effort to Bury a Throwaway Culture One Repair at a Time” by Sally McGrane
AMSTERDAM — An unemployed man, a retired pharmacist and an upholsterer took their stations, behind tables covered in red gingham. Screwdrivers and sewing machines stood at the ready. Coffee, tea and cookies circulated. Hilij Held, a neighbor, wheeled in a zebra-striped suitcase and extracted a well-used iron. “It doesn’t work anymore,” she said. “No steam.” Ms. Held had come to the right place. At Amsterdam’s first Repair Cafe, an event originally held in a theater’s foyer, then in a rented room in a former hotel and now in a community center a couple of times a month, people can bring in whatever they want to have repaired, at no cost, by volunteers who just like to fix things.
Conceived of as a way to help people reduce waste, the Repair Cafe concept has taken off since its debut two and a half years ago. The Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus. Thirty groups have started Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, where neighbors pool their skills and labor for a few hours a month to mend holey clothing and revivify old coffee makers, broken lamps, vacuum cleaners and toasters, as well as at least one electric organ, a washing machine and an orange juice press.
“In Europe, we throw out so many things,” said Martine Postma, a former journalist who came up with the concept after the birth of her second child led her to think more about the environment. “It’s a shame, because the things we throw away are usually not that broken. There are more and more people in the world, and we can’t keep handling things the way we do. I had the feeling I wanted to do something, not just write about it,” she said. […] “I think it’s a great idea,” said Han van Kasteren, a professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology who works on waste issues. “The social effect alone is important. When you get people together to do something for the environment, you raise consciousness. And repairing a vacuum cleaner is a good feeling.” […]
Ms. Tellegen added that older people in particular find a niche at the Repair Cafe. “They have skills that have been lost,” she said. “We used to have a lot of people who worked with their hands, but our whole society has developed into something service-based.” Evelien H. Tonkens, a sociology professor at the University of Amsterdam, agreed. “It’s very much a sign of the times,” said Dr. Tonkens, who noted that the Repair Cafe’s anti-consumerist, anti-market, do-it-ourselves ethos is part of a more general movement in the Netherlands to improve everyday conditions through grass-roots social activism.
“It’s definitely not a business model,” Ms. Postma said. She added that because the Repair Cafe caters to people who find it too expensive to have their items fixed, it should not compete with existing repair shops. The Repair Cafe Foundation provides interested groups with information to help get them started, including lists of tools, tips for raising money and marketing materials. Ms. Postma has received inquiries from France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, South Africa and Australia. […]
Theo van den Akker, an accountant by day, had taken on the case of the nonsteaming iron. Wearing a T-shirt that read “Mr. Repair Café,” Mr. van den Akker removed the plastic casing, exposing a nest of multicolored wires. As he did, Ms. Held and Ms. van der Rhee discussed the traditional Surinamese head scarves that Ms. Held, who was born in Suriname, makes for a living. When Mr. van den Akker put the iron back together, two parts were left over — no matter, he said, they were probably not that important. He plugged the frayed cord into a socket. A green light went on. Rusty water poured out. Finally, it began to steam.
Read the full article by Sally McGrane.
From The Garage Sale Trail: Thousands of garage sales all over Australia on one huge day – Saturday 5th May 2012
The Garage Sale Trail is about sustainability, community & creativity. It’s a organisational framework that enables the peer-to-peer exchange of assets, resources and money on a hyper local level but with national scale. Garage Sale Trail is a platform for anyone who wants to make some money or raise money for a cause and for anyone who wants to connect with their community. That’s makers & creators, local business, households, cultural institutions, charities and community groups.
In brief, the Garage Sale Trail is about making sustainability both fun & social and using the Internet to get people off the Internet:
- The Garage Sale Trail is a program that enables the peer-to-peer exchange of assets, resources and money on a hyper local level but with national scale. It happens all over Australia on one day, Saturday May 5th 2012
- The Garage Sale Trail is about sustainability, creativity, community and micro-enterprise
- The Garage Sale Trail is a platform for anyone who wants to make some money or raise money for a cause and for anyone who wants to connect with their community.
- The Garage Sale Trail is for makers & creators, local business, households, cultural institutions, charities and community groups
- The Garage Sale Trail a perfect way to discover treasure, de-clutter, have fun, make money, make a positive contribution and make neighbourhood connections
- You can get involved by registering your sale online, shopping on the day – May 5th 2012 and/or donate to the Garage Sale Trail Foundation
- If you are a household the Garage Sale Trail is the perfect way to de-clutter & make a little pocket money
- If you are a maker or creator, use the Garage Sale Trail as an opportunity to market your wares to an audience who want to discover treasure
- If you are a local business it’s an opportunity to connect to your neighbourhood and make positive contribution to your community
- If you’re a community group or cultural institution the Garage Sale Trail is the perfect way to fundraise and / or connecting to your local community
- Garage Sale Trail is the perfect way to discover treasure
- Garage Sale Trail is the biggest community-based marketplace
- The Garage Sale Trail is the best way to find a bargain
Use your mobile on the day to find Garage Sales near you: www.truelocal.com.au
Register your garage sale or plan your trail by visiting garagesaletrail.com.au
Image from the More Than Money Literature Review
From “More than money“:
It’s increasingly clear that we live in collaborative times. Many of the most interesting innovations of recent years have at their heart ideas of sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, exchanging or swapping. These are age-old concepts being reinvented through network technologies and a cultural shift driven by the more civic minded millennial generation.
The [More Than Money] report, with the subtitle “Platforms for exchange and reciprocity in public services”, was commissioned by NESTA and nef in an attempt to learn the lessons from the past and to provide a framework for understanding the many different approaches to complementary currencies and other platforms for reciprocal exchange.
An associated literature review brings together the existing evidence of impact, outcomes and cost that exist across reciprocal exchange systems. Time banks, complementary currencies and peer-to-peer platforms for collaborative consumption are all examples of these reciprocal exchange systems, and to structure this review we have created a typology of different types of systems to organise the evidence.
Read this article on the Experientia blog.