Call it Poverty, call it Voluntary Simplicity

I lived out on Taos Mesa in the tiniest trailer known to mankind.  There were no utilities, no running water. I’d haul water from Henry’s house, just down the road, and heat up a pot of water to take showers. Invigorating showers out in the wide open space, freezing night air.  A 5 gallon bucket was my toilet, which used sawdust to cover contributions. When the bucket got full, I’d bury the contents in the earth, feeding the earthworms.

The remarkable thing is I loved it.  I felt wild, and yet I was surviving creatively.  A boy from the burbs of Southern California. I felt freer, less rent to pay. Except for filling the propane tank for heating and cooking, I had no utility bills.  I’d clip a power cord to my truck’s battery and have a little light at night.

The one thing about the road out to my trailer on the Mesa, was the spring thaw…you had to leave early and get home late, cuz when the daily thaw happened, the muck was amazing.

Other than that, call it voluntary simplicity, call it poverty…I called it good. I was a new father, in the middle of a separation, learning to be a construction carpenter, and was looking to live inexpensively.

Even then, I was dreaming of sustainable villages; high density, vibrant alive, local food, local energy. Heck, Mike Reynolds was my nearest neighbor. His house/office under the windspinner was my nearest neighbor to the south. We’d argue about where to build sustainably; he was a “in the country” kind of guy, and I’d argue for urban settings… turns out we were both right.

I want to live in beauty, but I don’t want all the maintenance that goes with it.  I want thriving, vibrant, alive streets, with kids roaming and having fun. A sunny spot at a wind sheltered table for a morning coffee. Watching the sunlight bounce of the pond’s surface. I want to be a part of an abundant life, I’ll help maintain the pond, I’ll help establish frog habitat.

My wife is much more domesticated that I, and she has a strong sense of beauty.  She once visited the trailer on the Taos Mesa, there is no way she’d have anything to do with it.

This is one of the defining challenges we face…how do we live lightly on the planet, and yet have a high quality of life? How do we make sharing easy, convenient, so we aren’t owned by all our stuff?  I believe it takes a village to go sustainable. My spiritual practice reminds me I can’t find what I’m truly looking for in this world.

Share your ideas! How would you make sustainable real? Call it poverty, call it voluntary simplicity….I’m calling it good.
Images courtesy of Taos homes, Arttattler

Free Up Disposable Income, Ditch the Car

Mixed use neighborhood. Sounds simple. Saves money. Artur C. Nelson presented the info. Robert Steuteville wrote about it.  The question remains…where do you want to live?

“The average American family spends 32 percent of its income on housing and 19 percent on transportation, leaving 49 percent for all other expenditures. Those who live in auto-dependent suburbs spend 25 percent of their income on transportation, leaving only 43 percent for all other expenses. Those who live in transit-rich neighborhoods spend only 9 percent on transportation, leaving far more money for discretionary expenses.”

Another beautiful thing about living in a walkable mixed use community, is the attached part.  Just by the virtue of being attached, your house has less exterior wall exposed, thus a savings in heating and cooling,  and less maintenance. Polar Sam gives it two big thumbs up!… READ MORE >>

Empowering Boys, Winning the Future

Here’s another amazing TED presentation. “We have serious problems with boys, their culture isn’t working in schools”, Ali Carr-Chellman so states.  Her opening summation of the 100 Girls Project statistics are remarkable.

As you may know, I am petitioning the Gods to send us the tools to assist us in re-inventing our world sustainable. Ali speaks on the how boys and their gaming world is forbidden in school.

Imagine this…you get a knock on the door, and the 4th grader who lives down the street, greets you and says he is surveying the neighborhood, and wants your help.  “It’ll take 15 minutes, and if you participate, it’ll raise money for our school!”  You say yes, and what unfolds amazes you.  You find yourself encouraged and imaging a better tomorrow, a mixed use, deeply affordable lifestyle, where “you can join the car share program and make money, up to $6000 a year!

He opens his laptop to Google Earth, and up pops your neighborhood. ” Our family has been thinking about what to do with grandma, since grandad died last year, and she’s living alone in her big house. Here’s what my Dad suggested.  We want to add a second story to our house, and move upstairs. My Grandma will move in with us and live in the old master suite downstairs.  She loves to bake pies, so we want to open a pie shop!  The living room and kitchen will become Doris’ Pie Shoppe!”  He proceeds to show you a mock up, in Google Earth, with the help of  Sketchup, of the remodeled home, “Doris’s Pie Shoppe” proclaims the hand painted sign across the old front door.

“OK, so what would you like to do with your home?” he asks you, ready to mock it up on his screen.

This is the curriculum I’m talking about;  Hands on, relevant, involved in the winning the future. Making Sustainable Real!

Here’s Ali’s video.  Enjoy.


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 >>

4th of 29 Ways to Make Money on Your Well-Designed Home-Sell Part of Your Home

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!

Home Design

4. Sell Part of Your Hometenants in common

With all the household profiles that don’t fit into the Ward and June Clever, Wally and the Beaver, traditional suburban demographics (2.5 children, dog, and two parents under one roof), there is demand for something else.  The latest numbers I’ve heard is only 24% of US households fit the stereotypical household profile.

That means there are a bunch of people looking for a living arrangement that better suits their needs.  I’m suggesting you can sell off part of your house! You could sell 1/3 or 1/4….what a concept!  How could this be useful to you? Share your ideas below!! … READ MORE >>

Passive House Design Contest

Enter the DesignByMany Challenge and Design a Passive House for New Orleans | Design CompetitionsPassive Home Design Contest


This year HP is sponsoring an exciting new challenge open to designers, architects and creatives around the world! The DesignByMany challenge invites participants to create of a series of New Orleans-style eco-homes that meet the Passive House Standard – the world’s most rigorous building energy standard. Homes designed for the challenge are expected to be affordable to build and purchase, long-lasting, with minimal impact on the local environment, and affordable to heat and cool throughout the life of the building. The winner of this challenge will be announced on DesignReform on the first day of the 2011 AIA National Convention, taking place in New Orleans, May 12 – 14. The winner will also walk away with an HP Designjet T2300 eMFP, the first large-format, web-connected printer! All submissions are due by Sunday, May 1st, 2011.



The winner of this challenge will be announced on DesignReform on the first day of the 2011 AIA National Convention, and walk away with an HP Designjet T2300 eMFP – the first large-format, web-connected printer!


Judges for this challenge include Alejandra Lillo, partner of GRAFT, David Basulto, executive editor for, Corey Saft, assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, andTrey Trahan, president and principal-in-charge of Trahan Architects.

3rd of 29 Ways to Make Money on Your Home-Open a Commercial Shop

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!

Home Design 

Home Occupation

I like the idea, the signage could be improved!

3. Rent Out a Work Space

Live/work homes have a separate workspace with commercial potential. What if you reconfigured part of your house to be a workshop or a commercial space?  Of course the zoning may not allow it.  Here in Santa Fe, home occupation is an accepted usage, with conditions on how many parking spaces and the number of allowable employees. A big difference between home occupation and commercial in the eyes of Santa Fe regulations is the home occupation is for appointment only customers/

If your clientele would “follow you home” , opening up your business out of your house could be a large saving.

Maybe your house has a great location, and a neighbor is interested in opening up a yoga studio;  maybe you just don’t need such a big house, and could use the income. … READ MORE >>

Banking on Sustainability

My wife is a HGTV addict.  I get hysterical and start frothing at the mouth at the “flip this house” kind of mentality I see on shows…I’ve learned to not watch, and make her put on the headphones.

In the Post Flip this House Bubble era, I see an entire industry, from builders and realtors to investors and interior decorations wringing their hands and wondering if they will ever have an industry again.  I say to them, “Cheer up Bucko! you will if you all get innovative in every part of the industry and cater to the unmet demand!”

Post Bubble

Post Bubble Bummers

The Unmet Demand lies in the third of the Boomers who want a simpler walkable lifestyle, and their children, the Millenniels, of whom 88% want a more urban vibrant, alive lifestyle.

There is market. The question is, do you, the industry, have the chops to capture it?? Can you get creative, and do whatever it takes to innovate your piece of the industry into the emerging sustainable economy?

Here’s an amazing opportunity;  Publicly owned Banks funded with property taxes. … READ MORE >>

You can’t do it all-Neighborhoods as Extended Families.

“…we once lived in small enough communities where people could help each other. Families were together… Parents have always needed help—but our generation decided that women should somehow do everything.” Michelle Obama

“You can’t do it all, it’s impossible… we have to reengineer support

Michelle and Opray

It takes a Village to raise a Family!

I was in the market checkout line and was immediately drawn to Oprah and Michelle Obama on the cover; the 1st White House interview with Michelle Obama.

One of the conversation points that really caught my attention was this part about growing up in an extended family;

Oprah: What you mentioned earlier is key: We have to ask for help. You can’t do it all. It’s impossible.

Michelle Obama: That’s a conversation I’d love for us to have as a society. How do we set expectations that are attainable?… READ MORE >>

Polar Sam-On a mission to save his people, one ice cream at a time

A polar bear, sent by his people to save their way of life, finds himself driving an ice cream truck around suburbia, on a mission to reverse global warming, one ice cream at a time

The Real Life Adventures of Polar Sam

Episode #1-a Shootout at the Eco Corral.

Scene: A shootout on the streets of suburban Santa Fe, a couple of miles west of the Plaza.

Santa Fe: beautiful, expensive capitol of New Mexico with aspirations to become the sustainability and alternative energy capitol of the country. The City Housing/ Econ Development Department wants to maintain the quality of life and have affordable housing.  The Mayor dreams of having the river run year round.

Kid Suburbia: Long time resident recently retired, has lived for 30 years in Casa Solana, one of Santa Fe’s original suburban tract. Currently fighting the proposed Northwest Quadrant Affordable Housing Development.

NIMBY : “Not in My Back Yard” the cry of suburbia dwellers trying to stop poorly conceived, or any kind of growth.

Doc Plaza: in his 80’s, a fourth generation born and raised in Santa Fe,  Doc longs for a simpler, walkable, more affordable way of life. Santa Fe used to be a mixed use, mixed income, pedestrian friendly community with a plaza at its heart, where the whole community came to shop and hang out. Now the downtown is mostly empty of locals; it’s become the third largest art market in the US, a shadow of its former self; Still beautiful, but missing a realness, a vitality lost to a tourist economy, gentrication (expensive), and sprawl.

Polar Sam: A polar bear on a mission to save his people; selling ice cream, frozen fish and sustainability out of his ice cream truck….  READ MORE >>

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