“You’ll be my arms, and I’ll be your eyes”

Hi Folks:

If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s well worth watching. We first read about it in an article in the Huffington Post. In China two specially-enabled men, lifelong friends, are changing their world – one tree at a time. When he was three Jia Wenqi lost his arms from a burn resulting from touching a power line. Jia Haixia was born with sight in only one eye, but he was blinded in an industrial accident in 2000. After losing his sight he became despondent. Both men were concerned by the environmental degradation in their area and so they teamed up to start planting trees. With no budget they used only hand tools and planted branches cut from existing trees. In their first year they planted 800 trees; 2 survived. They’ve now planted more than 10,000 trees and hope to cover a mountain.

They deserve our applause, and our support. How can you make your world a little better?

Hugs,
M&M

P.S. A classic tale, also well worth reading, is ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ by Jean Giono. Originally written in French, it’s also available in English.

P.S. II, the sequel. A story we first heard about in 2012 is a man in India who has planted a forest by himself: The Man Who Made a Forest

Being Green – ‘Green’ Fuel?

Hi Folks:

I came across both of the articles below on the same day, and both outline similar ideas.  If you’re interested in environmental topics you’re likely aware of the process for converting used fry oil into biodiesel, and the process of creating fuel oil using bacteria.  But this is something different.  Since fuel is basically hydrocarbons, the basic idea is to combine carbon from CO2 from the air with hydrogen from water to create fuel.  Technically it’s not ‘carbon neutral‘ because burning the fuel releases the CO2 back into the atmosphere (in addition to whatever energy was required to produce it) but it’s a really intriguing line of research and one that I trust will go forward.

Air Fuel Synthesis
Converting sea water to Navy jet fuel

Mike.

P.S. Speaking of fuel, I was at the office supply store yesterday to pick up a batch of paper for our printer and I noticed they were stocking a paper made from 80% wheat straw and 20% wood fibre.  It sounded good to me, and I almost bought a package of it to try until I turned it over and discovered that while the company is based in Canada, the actual paper is made in India.  How does the energy and trees saved in using a waste product to make paper balance out against the fuel used to ship it halfway around the world?  It reminded me of another article I’d read recently that spoke to the balance between building an energy-efficient house and having a long commute to work every day.  This isn’t intented to be critical of any particular company, but it does speak to the challenges we face as individuals, as communities and as inhabitants of a global biosphere in the choices we make to ‘live green’.

For me, I bought the Canadian-sourced, FSC and Rainforest Alliance-certified paper instead.

Being Green: Green Consumers

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  The title for this post was inspired by a couple of articles I read this week.  The first was, “It’s not easy being a green consumer“, and it begins with:

Green consumerism has the ring of being an oxymoron, but we all need to consume to live. One could go crazy trying to be totally consistent (even Gandhi realized that). Buying less and local are good starts. Combining that with some research and exercising common sense could go a long way, it seems, towards making us all more responsible consumers. (GW)

Continue Reading →

Being Green – ‘Biophilic Design’

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  The title for this week’s post came from a webinar I watched this week called, “What is Biophilia, and What Does It Have To Do with Sustainability and Illusions of Nature in Architecture?”  It was the title of that webinar that attracted me to it, because ‘biophilia’ translates as ‘love of life’.  It’s a term first coined by biologist E. O. Wilson and described in his book of the same name.  Basically, biophilia means that we have an innate and unbreakable connection to this little blue marble we call earth.  Nalini Nadkarni’s TED talk “Life science in prison” speaks well to this. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Accountability

Hi Folks:

Before I get started on this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post I wanted to mention two things. First, last week I mentioned that several members of Victoria’s Emerging Green Builders collaborated on an entry for the USGBC’s 2010 Natural Talent Design Competition. You can find more information on their entry here: ARK | Hurricane Resistant Flooding Solution. Second, if you’re in Kelowna, BC on June 15, 2010 you can “Explore the Future of Architecture at Okanagan College”

Okay… it’s taken me a little while to get started on this week’s post. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to say, but I wasn’t sure how to get started. In short, writer’s block! For all you non-writers out there, writer’s block is not when you’re sitting there staring at a blank screen or a blank page. Writer’s block is when you’re doing everything but sitting there staring at a blank screen/ page.

So, in desperation (that’s my belief and I’m sticking with it) I decamped to the local Starbucks for a tea and a cookie. Starbucks is about a 20 minute walk from where we live, but because I was already behind schedule I elected to take the bus down instead. As I stood there waiting for the bus I picked up about 10 or 15 pieces of litter and put them in the trash can located beside the bus shelter. I didn’t get to the many cigarette butts before the bus arrived. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Emerging Technologies

Hi Folks:

For this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post I wanted to offer a shout out to a few new (to me at least) emerging technologies.  All three of these have the ‘power’ (pun intended) to change our future.  I don’t often highlight specific companies in my blog posts, but have when I thought it was worth doing so and this is one of those times.  Continue Reading →

Being Green – Going Solar

Hi Folks:  Before I get into this week’s ‘Being Green’ post, last Friday I talked a bit about ‘Modeling and Monitoring‘.  I came across a link this week from the American Society of Landscape Architects on “Sustainability Toolkit: Environmental Models” that fits in with that post, so I wanted to mention it first.  Also, I’m a big advocate of LED lighting, but I came across an interesting article this week on LEDs and why ‘not all LED lights are created equal‘. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Connections

Hi Folks:

Happy Friday!  Happy Earth Day, +1!  Actually, as the saying goes, “Make Every Day Earth Day“.  I saw an ad for a T-shirt once that said, “Love Your Mother.  Good Planets Are Hard to Find.”  It looked something like this:

Continue Reading →

It’s not easy being green… is it?

Hi Folks:

Kermit the Frog sang:

“It’s not that easy bein’ green;

Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or
yellow or gold-
or something much more colorful like that.

It’s not easy bein’ green.
It seems you blend in with so many other
ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re
not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water-
or stars in the sky.

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
like a mountain, or tall like a tree.

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why?
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine,
it’s beautiful!
And I think it’s what I want to be.”

So in that sense, I’m with Kermit.  For me, being ‘green’ is something that’s interested me for nearly forty years now.  I’m not talking about skin colour, but my relationship with the Earth.  After all, we only have one planet, and while the earth may be some 40,000 km in circumference, I think astronaut Russel Schweikart summed it up best:

“And so a little later on, your friend, again those same neighbors, another astronaut, the person next to you goes out to the Moon. And now he looks back and he sees the Earth not as something big, where he can see the beautiful details, but he sees the Earth as a small thing out there. And now that contrast between that bright blue and white Christmas tree ornament and that black sky, that infinite universe, really comes through. The size of it, the significance of it – it becomes both things, it becomes so small and so fragile, and such a precious little spot in that universe, that you can block it out with your thumb, and you realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing is everything that means anything to you. All of history and music and poetry and art and war and death and birth and love, tears, joy, games, all of it is on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb.

And you realize that that perspective . . . that you’ve changed, that there’s something new there. That relationship is no longer what it was.”

So, after that (very) long introduction…

Being ‘green’ is a popular buzzword today, and perhaps no more so than in the construction of our cities and our buildings.  I don’t know if people realize it or not, but in the US for example, construction, maintainenance and demolition of buildings accounts for about 40% of the country’s total energy consumption, and is responsible for an enormous amount of greenhouse gases.  I don’t think things are much different in Canada.  I used to work in Maple, ON, near the top end of Toronto, starting in the late 1980s.   That was during the big housing boom, and every day I drove past new subdivisions being put up – thousands of new units over a few years.  For the most part, they were just slapped together – built to code, but no better.  Now, I’m not much into doom and gloom, especially when there are so many wonderful alternatives, and in the past few years this whole idea has really skyrocketed.  Terms like green building, LEED, R2000, etc. aren’t exactly house-hold words, but they’re coming more and more into the mainstream.  They’re being accompanied by terms like ‘greenwashing‘ – where a company tries to sell itself as being more ‘green’ than it is, but I’ll let someone else talk about that.

I remember watching a webinar presentation a few months back, and while I regret I can`t think of the name of the presenter right now, I do remember one of his key points.  People today are talking more about the `triple bottom line`- environmental sustainability, corporate sustainability (including fair and equitable treatment of employees), and monetary profit – and he described these three ideas as being like a three-legged stool.  He went on to say that the important thing to remember is not that if you remove one of the legs the stool will fall over.  What is important to remember is that it doesn`t matter which one of the legs you remove, the stool still falls over.

One of the amazing things about the internet is that there are thousands of pages of information available to both the homeowner and the professional, and much of it for free.  Now, my background is primarily in fish and wildlife biology and computers, and although I have done my share of carpentry, plumbing, wiring, painting, drywall, etc. over the years, I’m no expert on these things and don’t pretend to be.; I’m still very much a student. I am however very interested, and as such I receive a lot of information from various government and business organizations.  So I thought I’d take one day a week to share what’s been coming to me, with you.  I promise not to have a long preamble at the beginning of every ‘green’ post!

1) Greensburg, KS.  For those who are unaware, and those who’ve forgotten, in the spring of 2007 the town of Greensburg, Kansas was nearly obliterated from the map by a huge class 5 tornado.  Over 90% of the buildings were completely flattened and everyone was evacuated.  People weren’t allowed back into the town for several days afterward.  After the storms had settled, a town meeting was called to see what the residents wanted to do.  An idea was put forth, and it received great support from both the state and federal governments, to rebuild a ‘green’ town.  Construction is still ongoing, but several new buildings have been or are expected to be certified LEED Platinum, the old courthouse (one of two heritage buildings left standing) was completely renovated to LEED Gold, and even for those residents who couldn’t/can’t afford certification, green ideas and building techniques are still being implemented.  All of the electrical power for the town is coming from wind energy.  Anyway, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Program is hosting part 2 of a series on Greensburg, online on December 15, 2009, 12:00–1:30 PM EST.  The webinar is free, but registration is necessary.  For downloadable information on part 1 of the series and other webinars, vist the DOE’s website.

2) I receive several e-newsletters on environmental topics and on green building (most are interrelated) each week, and many of them are also available to view on the various company’s websites.  I’ll post the links here each week (in the order I receive them).

Environmental Design + Construction
Sundance Channel, Eco-mmunity
GreenBuildingAdvisor.com
Healthy Building Network
World Resources Institute: Digest
Sustainable Facility e-News
The Sustainable Sites Initiative

Okay, that`s it for now!  Have a site to share?  Leave a comment here!

Mike.