Being Green – Finding Inspiration

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.   Before I get started, if you happen to be in Victoria, BC this weekend, the Cascadia GBC Vancouver Island Branch Emerging Professionals and Jawl Properties are hosting an art exhibition with eight artists on the theme of sustainability.  The exhibit is being shown in the lobby of ‘The Atrium‘, one of Victoria’s newest  buildings, targeting LEED Gold certification.

Okay, the title of this post is ‘Finding Inspiration’.  I was originally going to name it ‘Seeking Inspiration’, but since it’s possible to look for something and not find it, the latter choice of title seemed more appropriate.  In one of his blog posts last month, Seth Godin wrote about ‘Heroes and Mentors‘.   In a nutshell, mentors are great when they’re available, but if they’re not, heroes can fill the gap and provide inspiration for all of us.  Every week I collect links, stories, news articles and information from a number of ‘sustainability’ fields, and I find a lot of inspiration in what I read too.  I thought I’d share a couple of those stories with you this week.

First, the Fall 2010 issue of ‘Trim Tab‘ is available in digital format.  Made available by the Cascadia Green Building Council, Trim Tab is one of my favourite ‘green’ magazines.  On page 18 of this issue is an article about Majora Carter, a woman who grew up in the South Bronx area of New York and who watched her neighbourhood deteriorate as she grew up.  Ill content to do nothing, Ms. Carter founded the ‘Sustainable South Bronx‘, which “works with the South Bronx and other underserved urban communities as they transform themselves into great sustainable places to live. We do this by providing a collaborative model that addresses environmental, economic and social concerns through policy change, green job training, environmental education, and community greening programs.“  Definitely a woman of inspiration.

TED Fellow Angelo Vermeulen combined several ideas – art, technology, interpersonal collaboration and an interest in the environment to create ‘Biomodd: A Living Computer‘ (YouTube video).  There’s also a follow-up video on the second iteration of this machine, ‘Biomodd LBA2‘.  You can read more about the system on the  Biomodd website, but in essence what they’ve built is a computer system whereby several over-clocked computer processors are liquid cooled.  Meanwhile, the cooling liquid grows a healthy crop of algae, and the algae sustains a population of fish.  The Biomodd system also generates enough heat to help grow tropical plants.  What inspired me most in the first video is that Mr. Vermeulen has been approached by the European Space Agency as they’re looking at creating a synthesis of ecological zones for longer space missions.  That certainly makes sense, but I saw another application, which was inspired in part by a TED talk from Kamal Meattle titled, ‘How to Grow Fresh Air‘.  In his talk Mr. Meattle described how common house plants are being used to improve the air in an office building in Mumbai, India .  Medical tests have shown that one’s blood oxygen level actually increases after spending a day in this office.  That got me thinking about buildings that use intensive computer systems, and I remembered that in 2006 Sun Microsystems released the first commercial ‘Modular Datacenter‘.  Essentially the size and shape of a shipping container, such data centers are now being used by Google, Microsoft, HP, IBM and others.  All of these data centers share two traits.  They all use intensive amounts of energy to generate incredible computing power, and they’re all liquid cooled.  It got me wondering about using a Biomodd system, combined with Kamal Meattle’s idea for house plants in offices, scaled up to take advantage of the tremendous heat output created by these data centers.  At scale one could expand this to also create algae for biofuel and/or fish for aquaculture.  On a smaller scale, more and more homes are becoming ‘wired’, with servers linking all of the major components of the house including lighting, security, entertainment and more.  Could a Biomodd system work in such an environment as well?  Could your aquarium cool your house’s computer?  Perhaps.

Another inspirational story I discovered this week comes from Veronika Scott of Detroit, MI.  Wanting to do something to help the homeless, she has developed an easy-to-make winter coat that can double as a sleeping bag.  With a little training such a coat can be made from readily available materials in 4-6 hours, sewn using only straight lines.  While definitely not a cure for homelessness, it may help some to survive a cold winter’s night and has caught the attention of Detroit-based clothing manufacturer Carhartt.

And finally, for now, the November 2010 issue of Ethical Traveler contains an article on China’s plan to fight deforestation/ desertification and climate change by planting a ‘Great Green Wall’.  From the site: “By 2050, more than 42 percent of China will be green – that is, if China’s plan to build a 400-million hectare (988-million acre) “Great Green Wall” to block expanding deserts and fight climate change takes root as planned. Launched in 1978 and officially known as the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program, the network of artificial forests is slated to stretch 2,800 miles (4,506 kilometers) across 13 provinces in northern China within the next 40 years.“  It reminds me of the similar work being done by The Green Belt Movement in Africa, and the Nature Conservancy’s ‘Plant a Billion Trees‘ program.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Okay, the links for this week are:

That’s it for now.  Have a great week!

P.S.  On the left side of this page we have a link to’ Global Giving’.  I came across a similar site this week called razoo: Raise Money for Nonprofits and Charities Online.  Figured they were worth a mention!

One Reply to “Being Green – Finding Inspiration”

  1. Gary Antosh


    Gary here from

    I'm emailing you today because we just published an article on the best indoor plants.

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    The article includes over 35 plants for the home and office, along with the best plant qualities, preferred conditions and toxicity info.

    Do you have a favorite indoor plant? Mine is the Rhapis palm – #14 on the list.

    Review the article at:

    Might make a great addition and resource to your page?

    All The Best,



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