A Whole System Approach is key to a Sustainable Urban Village

We can lower our consumption, create a more efficient, affordable lifestyle, and enhance our Quality of Life with a pedestrian centered lifestyle and a whole systems approach to neighborhood planning and redevelopment.

Beddington Zero Energy Development-Bed ZED!

In sharp contrast to sprawl, a whole systems approach “stacks” uses in close proximity to each other. In mixed use neighborhoods, convenient pedestrian access to multiple services and daily life, drastically reduces the necessity for car ownership, creates safer streets with “eyes on the street” security,  a healthier walkable lifestyle, at the same time frees up income for other uses, like buying local food.

By adding “mixed income” to the community, another level of quality of aliveness is added via greater diversity in ages and cultures.

Conveniently located lifelong learning, supports the entrepreneur in all of us, and creates a climate of possibilities, a community going for its dreams and aspirations.

Add Open Space to the mix, and now woods and urban forest, fields and ponds are bringing the richness of the seasons and nature to our door steps.

Nature has evolved mastery in stacking uses, creating vast mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationships in healthy environments. There is no waste to throw away.  There is no “away”.

Designing a Sustainable Urban Village is the first step. Once all the future residents, parties and players are satisfied on paper, a demonstration showcase site can be created.  Having lunch and experiencing a walkable lifestyle becomes a powerful incentive in ushering  in the emerging sustainable economy; a future built in real, lasting value.

Image courtesy of Floornature

A Sustainable Way of Life Becomes the Curriculum! Part 5

Imagine. An elementary school and the surrounding neighborhoods joining  together to become  a sustainable community with the school at its heart.

Living machine

Biologies on the roots, detoxify water!

Science Rules! Tapping into the Power of Biologies; Community Composting and Recycling Water – Part 5

Throughout the neighborhood, attached greenhouses provide essential composting, soil studies and crop production opportunities. The solar recharged neighborhood electric cart collection service gives teens an opportunity to make money by driving household food scraps to the community composting bins.

“Living Machines,” water recycling tanks, demonstrate how bacteria and microorganisms purify water.

Living Machines, invented by Dr. John Todd, use plants and microbes to clean water instead of chemicals. They can handle household waste, and easily tackle industrial wastes, turning 600 to 750,000 gallons of waste per day into hyacinths and snails… Dr. Todd (a student of Bucky Fuller BTW), has been working with Living Machines for decades has found that there are certain plants or small animals that love certain kinds of waste. What he does is let the water run through a series of cisterns with different plants in each. What one plant likes to eat, it turns into other forms of waste, so in the next cistern he has the plant that considers that waste food. By the time the water comes out, it’s 5 times cleaner than traditional waste water treatment….

Part 1  Part 2   Part 3 Part 4  Part 5   
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A Sustainable Way of Life Becomes the Curriculum! Part 3

Imagine. An elementary school and the surrounding neighborhoods joining  together to become  a sustainable community with the school at its heart. Part 3

Working Together to Get to a Zero Carbon Emissions Lifestylegone green

The “Gone Green” Neighborhood Renovation program continues to transform energy inefficient homes into zero emission homes.

The “Whole Home Audit” documents the existing water and energy consumption of each home as well as the homeowner’s financial status and comes up with a comprehensive plan that works for the owners as well as the surrounding neighbors. Two man teams of students conduct home surveys and get amazing hands on experience of the challenges residents face. Working with an architect mentor, the homeowners and  the student teams, they come up with three different options,  which eventually get turned into the “Gone Green Action Plan”.

Single-story homes often have been granted zoning variances to allow the neighborhood to go mixed use. Commercial and residential additions and resulting revenue streams are tailored to fit, ensuring a retirement plan that gives great comfort to each household. The local residents not only get to retire in familiar surroundings, but in many cases, their home’s equity is converted into their retirement funds and the neighborhood gets a mixed-use community. The resulting walkable pedestrian-friendly streets are alive and safe with neighbors out and about. Kids bicycle everywhere and families enjoy the affordability of viable one-car families. Mass transit, the train and car-share services are affordably available to all, and based on usage, are highly successful.

The “Gone Green” program has also evolved into a local bank… READ MORE >>

5th of 29 Ways to Make Money on Your Well-Designed Home-Lower Heating and Cooling Bills

I’ve started a list of good ideas that come about if we rethink the functions and interplay of our home and its neighborhood.  So far I’ve got 29 killer (If I do say so myself)  ideas.  The first 7 are home oriented, the last 22 are more neighborhood oriented. Add your ideas to the list via the comment area!

5. Lower Heating and Cooling Bills 

cellulose insulation

A dollar saved is a dollar earned! Increase the R-value (insulation) in the walls and ceiling, so there is little need for heat. Waste heat from the refrigerator, lights, computers, solar panel on roof, or wood burning stove, can heat the home if your insulation is high, and there are few air leaks.

A tight house requires fresh air heat recovery exchange venting. These are clever devices exhaust stale air, but, in the winter time, transfer the heat to the fresh air coming in. In the summer, the cool of the inside air is transferred to the fresh hotter air as it comes into the house.

By taking these step you’ll be future proofing your cash flow from post peak oil production spikes.  There are different strategies, with different pay back periods….Share them here!… READ MORE >>

Best Popcorn in the World and Other Benefits of Living in a Sustainable Neighborhood!

Imagine a room full of people, all gathered in a circle and sharing  their ideas on what makes a sustainable neighborhood. “I would like a swimming hole, like at my grandpa’s farm”, a 12 year boy shares. “It has a rope swing and turtles and the fishing is pretty good”. swimming hole

“I love prisoner of war escape movies and sci-fi movies. I’d like to curate a series of Saturday afternoon showings.  I just got a huge big screen TV, and my living room holds about 30 people!” Herb, a retiree, offers.

A young mother speaks next, “I’d like to contribute part of our front yard to community gardening. With the new baby, I would like to be growing more food, but we need help getting the soil ready. My husband agrees; he’d rather pull weeds. He’s tired of mowing the lawn.”

Around the circle the sharing continues.  ”Well”, Jack, a waste water engineer offers, ” I’d like to set up a water recycling facility… my idea is to go to the low point of the sewer system, and set up a series of living machines. Living Machines are greenhouses filled with translucent tanks full of water plants. The biologies on the roots of the water plants will purify the water, and we can then do a final UV treatment so the water is better than drinking quality. And that will fit into your ideas: One, the water would fill up the swimming hole and be a place of beauty and fun, and two,  the water from the pond could be fed to orchards and community gardens. Another benefit would be in case of a fire, the fire department could use the stored water for fighting the fire.”

My hand goes up.”Hey, I make the best popcorn in the world.  No brag, just fact! I’ll give lessons and man the popcorn machine on one Saturday matinee out of the month!” (See recipe below!)… READ MORE >>

Peak Oil Production…OMG

peak oil graph

Because they only made so many old, raggedy dinosaurs

 

From the chart on the right, you can see the predicted world peak oil production... looks like 2012-13 to me. Notice how the line heads south in rapid order; Down 25% by 2020… that is incredible!!!

I can understand why oil companies want to drill everywhere; Artic Circle, way off shore, Tar Sands of Alberta. Lord Have Mercy! we are gonna be short on supply!

In a paper he presented to the American Petroleum Institute in 1956,  American geophysicist M. King Hubbert predicted that production of oil from conventional sources would peak in the continental US around 1965-1970. America’s oil production peaked in 1972, as I recall. READ MORE >>

Drought Happens: US and China

Drought is the Impending Bummer of the Southwest.  We pay attention to La Nina and El Nino, the ocean currents whose temperature determines how much rain and snow we get in Santa Fe.  I think it was the summer of 2003 when we had a serious drought, pinon trees died, and the city went into water rationing. You got a ticket if you watered on the wrong days, or in the middle of the day!  There are still dead, barren pinon trees standing across the landscape, reminding us that drought happens.

A few weeks ago I was buying a replacement part for a storm door from the manufacturer in South Dakota and got to talking to customer service about the weather.  She was saying they had a wet fall which saturated the ground, and then a lot of snow fell this winter.  If the snow should melt rapidly, 1/2 of the upper US will be having serious flooding this spring.

Drought in China

Drought in China has parched 16+ million acres of farmland, threatening the livelihood of 50 million farmers. 20 million people without drinking water.

I shared with her we’ve had a really dry winter and spring.  In southern New Mexico, there have already been fires, and the fire danger remains high.

Today I came across this news report that China is having a similar occurrence; really wet in the north and severe drought in the South.

In 2007, NASA released a report that 17 out of 18 computer models predicted permanent, catastropic drought in the Southwest US and the Mediterranean by 2050.

My take on all this, is we had better get good at recycling water!

I’ll be talking about water recycling in future posts, but for now, here is some of the article about China’s Drought… READ MORE >>

Cattle + Predators=Soil Carbon Sequestration… How Burgers Can Save Us From the Ravages of Global Warming

The Professor is in the House…

Cattle + Predators= Soil Carbon Sequestration. How’s that for a Math equation??!!

You have sharp hooves (no sneakers allowed), You poop, you roam…You restore the planet’s balance.  Duh!!

Any questions??    Yes, you with the red blouse. More Specifics?? OK, here’s how the Savory Theorem works…

In a natural context, constantly moving, healthy herds of large herbivores, interacting with their associated predators, create the disturbance (grazing and animal impact) necessary to maintain healthy ecosystem processes. Their presence ensures the continuation of the carbon cycle (with the all-important step of “decay” accelerated by the microbes in their digestive tracts), high levels of plant diversity, and a covered soil surface. Because the animals are constantly moving to new grazing, plants (between episodes of heavy grazing) have the chance to fully recover their above-ground leaf area and restore carbohydrate reserves in their crowns, roots, and stem bases. Holistic Management’s expertise is in re-creating/imitating these natural grazing patterns with domestic livestock, and regenerating the land in the process.

Any more questions?  Yeah, you in the back. Yes, that’s right, if you eat Predator Managed Open Range Certified burgers you will be sequestering carbon back into the earth, and helping reverse Global Warming.

Yes, of course. The distance from the ranch to the slaughter house to your plate adds to the carbon footprint. That’s why ranchers and meat packing plants are switching to algae biodiesel… READ MORE >>

350 ppm-A number we can live with

350 is a pretty dang  good batting average. It’s also the amount of carbon in parts per million that scientists have agreed upon that makes for a sustainable planet. In other words, if we want to avoid a lot of the impending bummers that come with Global Warming, we need to figure out how to get the amount of carbon in the atmosphere back to 350 ppm (carbon sequestration). And we need to then stablize the amount of carbon we release each year to 350 ppm.

I think we are currently at 387 ppm.  not so good for ocean levels rising from melting ice…etc.

I’ve listed 350 ppm as an Indicator.  We need good indicators so we can tell how we’re doing. As we redesign our neighborhoods sustainable, we need a “killer” modeling tool (s) to give us feedback.  ”Are we there yet??”

Every decision comes with a bunch of consequences…If we can keep our carbon spew down to 350, we have a good idea we are getting close to one aspect of ecological sustainability.  I’m so amazed at how complicated our lives have become.

It seemed so easy to just crank out suburbia, go to work, manufacture stuff, go shopping, retire and play golf into the Golden Years.  Alas, those days are gone. With great modeling tools and sound indicators, we can figure out how to live on the planet with billons of our fellow citizens.

We can do this, we can make sustainable real!… READ MORE >>

BioChar-Carbon Sequestration and Soil Fertility

Black Soil, biochar, a special kind of charcoal, has been discovered in the Amazon jungles, as well as in Japan.  Tierra Preta,  as it is also called in Brazil, has amazing properties.  In the midst of large amounts of rainfall, where large quantities of biochar have been introduced into the soil, the soil’s fertility has lasted for centuries. This special kind of charcoal retains nutrients for plants and creates a most hospitable environment for microorganisms and has provided fertile soils for large populations in the Brazilian jungles for several thousand years.

As the “charcoal” withstands being broken down for long periods of time, modern soil scientists and farmers have realized Biochar could be the most effective way to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere, while adding to a soil’s fertility.  Most any material that contains carbon can be “cooked” to not only create a charcoal like product, but also the gases released during cooking process, pyrolysis, can be used as a substitute for fossil fuel. These two together have raised the specter that creating biochar out of waste carbonaceous material (agricultural wastes, etc) could be a major part of a long term solution to global warming, while adding to a soil’s fertility… READ MORE >>

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