Being Green – Sustainable Prisons

Hi Folks:

I usually start these with, “Friday once again and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.”

This post started out the same way… I had one idea for a topic, then completely changed my mind and went off in a different direction, started doing research on that, wrote two other blog posts, celebrated (with Marcia) our 195th Monthaversary of being a couple, followed by our 18th Anniversary (216th Monthaversary) of the day we met, and it’s now Monday and I’m back to my original topic!  This coming Saturday is our 100th Monthaversary of being married, but I should have this week’s ‘Being Green’ post done before then!  😉

Before I get to that, however, last week’s post was on solar power and I wanted to take a second to add in this link: Concentrated Solar Power Tower In Seville, Spain: The Future Of Electricity? I also wanted to point you toward a brilliant TED talk by Michael Pawlyn on biomimicry, titled “Using nature’s genius in architecture“.  Well worth your time.

Okay, this week’s post is on ‘Sustainable Prisons’.  I have friend who has a Master’s degree in Criminology and as such she’s entitled to use fancy words like ‘recividism‘, and qualified to talk about the penal system in Canada and the US vs. the penal system in Sweden for example.  I also had a friend (now deceased) who was a psychologist at a prison for the criminally insane.  I have no such qualifications, but I have read Edward O. Wilson’s book called ‘Biophilia‘, and was touched by the movies ‘Greenfingers‘ and ‘The Bird Man of Alcatraz‘.  Essentially ‘biophilia’ translates as ‘love of the earth’, and that’s something that affects all of us.  There’s an interesting article called, ‘Biophilia, Selling the Love of Nature‘ that speaks to this, and I did a previous ‘Being Green‘ post on a similar same topic. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Biomimicry

Hi Folks:

It’s Friday evening as I write this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  I had the opportunity this past week to watch a webinar on Biomimicry presented by Marie Zanowick, Certified Biomimicry Professional at the US EPA.  The talk was called, “Biomimicry in Action: Using Nature-Based Principals to Promote Sustainable Solutions (.wmv file).  You can also download the Powerpoint presentation (with notes).  This talk was well done, but it wasn’t my first introduction to the idea of biomimicry; that came from two TED talks given by Janine Benyus: “Janine Benyus shares nature’s designs” and “Biomimicry in action“.

Essentially, the idea behind biomimicry is to look at the rest of the planet and see how nature deals with specific challenges, then to adapt those ideas for human use.  The results may lead to better ways to capture and store water in dry regions, better ways to manage waste, less toxic alternatives to chemicals currently in use, and much more.  People involved with biomimicry start with a question such as, “How would Nature move through the air?” and then come up with different strategies on how this is done.  Ms. Zanowick’s talk covered the essentials of biomimicry very well, but I believe she also touched on something important when she asked the ‘opposite’ question – namely, “If nothing else in Nature is doing _____, should we?”  It reminded me of the slogan on the ‘3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’, and someone suggested adding a fourth – ‘Reject’.  If a product is over packaged for example, don’t buy it.  If a chemical or process brings harm to living creatures, why use it?  Is there a better way to achieve the same result?

When it comes to ‘being green’, understanding and utilizing biomimicry principles is one tool in the toolbox, but it has vast potential to improve the way we interact with the world.  Some of the species with which we share this little blue marble have been in existence for millions of years, adapting perfectly to their environments.  It would be the height of folly to ignore them.

There are three ‘branches’ to the Biomimicry Group.  The Biomimicry Institute is the not-for-profit organization.  The Biomimicry Guild is the innovative consultancy that seeks to develop solutions to challenges.  One of their projects is ‘Ask Nature – the Biomimicry Design Portal‘.  And next spring the Biomimicry Group will be offering an 8-month biomimicry training program called the ‘Regional Specialist Program (BSpecialty-Biomimicry Specialty Program)‘.  If you’re not familiar with biomimicry and what answers it may have for the challenges your company is facing, I highly recommend checking them out.

Okay, the links for this week include:

That’s it for now. Have a great week!


P.S.  The 2011 Random Acts of Kindness Week will be coming up in a couple of months (Feb. 14-20, 2011), and I thought these might give you some ideas to consider:

  1. The Giving Effect – matches donors with organizations
  2. Man bikes 25,000 miles promoting kindness
  3. William Ury: The walk from “no” to “yes” (TED video)- one way to promote peace in the world

Being Green – Questions?

Hi Folks:  Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  I was originally going to call this post ‘Being Green – Tradeoffs’, but decided to change it.  Let me explain.

A couple of decades ago I was hired to do environmental work for a gas pipeline construction contract taking place across several Canadian provinces.  The pipeline company was ‘looping’ – adding extra lengths of pipe that would eventually be joined to make another line.  Basically this involved widening the existing right of way and digging a trench some 15′ deep and wide enough for a 4′ diameter pipe.  As the environmental inspector on the job my function varied depending on where I was working.  On the prairies the largest consideration was topsoil preservation, whereas in northern Ontario it was timber removal and water crossings.  There was a manual that outlined the job in some detail, and there were of course existing provincial and federal laws; part of my work was acting as liaison with local agencies with regard to environmental concerns.  The bottom line was that the pipe was going in the ground, and my challenge was to work with the gas company and the contractor to do it in a way that caused the least environmental impact without overly inflating the construction costs.  In practical terms, every day was about trade-offs.  I’m sure just about everyone reading this has experienced this in their own way.

Earlier this week I listened to a webinar with  “Interior Designer and Green Building Insider” Patricia Gaylor, called “Living Eco-logically: Sustainability with Style”.  In her talk Ms. Gaylor mentioned doing a kitchen remodel where the clients insisted on having granite countertops.  As granite is a mined resource and not renewable, it’s not exactly a ‘green’ option.  Ms. Gaylor’s suggestion to her clients was that to offset using granite for the countertops they might agree to using “Energy Star“-rated appliances… a trade-off. Continue Reading →