Don’t look now, but we are at war!
No, I’m not talking about the War in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other politically driven war. I am talking about the war within ourselves. The war to cling and hang onto what is unsustainable. Seriously, did we really think we could Burger King and McDonald’s our way into the future?
It’s just not healthy, folks. The way we have been living, that is.
So, we are certainly headed for a lot of boo-hooing as reality renegotiates our lives for us. But hey, living is awesome! It sure beats dying. And our former behaviors have to die a quick death so we can reinvent America again. The great news is that it is a whole lot of fun!
There are plenty of leaders in this country that can teach people how to sustainably grow, prepare, and preserve local foods. No matter if you haven’t ever picked up a shovel… even lazy TV zombies can help in our transformation as we turn open land into productive soil.
If you haven’t seen the episodes of the Lawns To Gardens videos I have posted, let me assure you as a card carrying Nintendo geek – YOU CAN GROW FOOD! As things get more and more expensive and more people are laid off from the information economy, we will need to do physical work. And that’s okay, we need the exercise anyway.
There are plenty of gardening How-To sites on the internet, so I suppose Lawns to Gardens is meant to be more of a motivator. The cheerleader and “We Can Do It!” website meant to help people get over themselves. Especially since it looks like with so many people on planet earth, we had better sign peace terms with our own souls first.
Only then will we be ready as a society to high-five one another and put together local coordinated teams for gardening, exercise, community activities, and other sustainable behaviors. I very much look forward to our rebirth.
March 19, 2008 at 10:44 am
Peak Oil means that we will be refocusing our social efforts on creating ways for people to become better socially connected in MeetingSpaces. Already social networks are jockeying to become the Neighborhood tools of choice that allow people to survive locally.
After all, life is about to become much harder, so we will need ways to use less energy while creating social tools to make living with less travel ability more worthwhile. And with stale beer, bands, and ideas not getting people into the door anymore due to a decrease in consumer spending – venue owners are now willing to take more risks.
I see advanced, localized MeetingSpace trends popping up all over the place, now that technology has become cheap enough to get really creative with it in venues. Check out this video to get an example, and just imagine the possibilities if they installed a floor that generated electricity by people dancing on it.
Or imagine using a device like this new touchscreen technology as a learning application in MeetSpaces, teaching people how to do urban farming while giving them something beyond present learning technologies.
Take also, for instance, the hot new trend in Portland. At Mt Tabor on Hawthorne, Portlander’s are attending “Middle Thursdays”, a night dedicated to YouTube Karaoke and movie-screen sized Guitar hero.
Instead of requesting songs, attendees submit their favorite YouTube videos and have access to their own private theater and bar. There are frequent breaks to have “Guitar Offs” between the party goers as well.
To ensure there is seriousness among all the fun, at least one video containing a peak-oil communications message is shown. Attendees can coordinate carpools, get creative with night bike riding, pay carbon offsets for the evening’s electricity usage, and make sure to recycle all of the waste. Even food scraps are collected to add to compost.
It seems as we make the transition to a less oil-dependent way of living, we can try to have the best time possible. With enough creativity, positive attitudes, and proper consumer behavior, we can slow down our waste and also use fun opportunities to teach people how to make peace with the earth, each other, and their pitiful attempts at mastering Guitar Hero.
February 4, 2008 at 1:22 am
Sweet victory! Lawns to Gardens has long been making the case that David Blume’s work “Alcohol Can Be A Gas” is a definitive “How To” plan for helping ween America off of oil, fix our food system, and slow down global warming. Now there is proof to back it up.
Newly released research suggests certain ethanol blends provide better fuel economy than gasoline, despite biofuel’s lower energy content. The research findings released show that mid-range ethanol blends – fuel mixtures with more ethanol than E10 but less than E85 – can in some cases provide better fuel economy than regular unleaded gasoline, even in standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles and despite the biofuel’s lower energy content. The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR) conducted the tests, results of which are published in the report titled Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation.
Previous assumptions held that ethanol’s lower energy content – around 30% lower than gasoline – directly correlates with lower fuel economy for drivers. Those assumptions were found to be incorrect. Instead, the new research suggests that there is an ‘optimal blend level’ of ethanol and gasoline – most likely E20 or E30 – at which cars will get better mileage than predicted based strictly on the fuel’s per-gallon Btu content. The new study, cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), also found that mid-range ethanol blends reduce harmful tailpipe emissions.
“This is a compelling argument for more research on the promise of higher ethanol blends in gasoline. There is strong evidence that the optimal ethanol-gasoline blend for standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles is greater than E10 and instead may be E20 or E30. We encourage the federal government to move swiftly to research the use of higher ethanol blends and make necessary approvals so that American motorists can have the cost-effective ethanol choices they deserve at the pump.”
– Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol
The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR) conducted the research using four 2007 model vehicles: a Toyota Camry, a Ford Fusion, and two Chevrolet Impalas, one flex-fuel and one non-flex-fuel. Researchers used the Environmental Protection Agency’s Highway Fuel Economy Test (HWFET) to examine a range of ethanol-gasoline blends from straight Tier 2 gasoline up to 85 percent ethanol. All of the vehicles got better mileage with ethanol blends than the ethanol’s energy content would predict, and three out of four traveled farther on a mid-level ethanol blend than on unleaded gasoline.
In addition to the favorable fuel economy findings, the research provides strong evidence that standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles can operate on ethanol blends beyond 10 percent. The three non-flex-fuel vehicles tested operated on levels as high as E65 before any engine fault codes were displayed.
Emissions results for the ethanol blends were also favorable for nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and non-methane organic gases, showing an especially significant reduction in CO2 emissions for each vehicle’s “optimal” ethanol blend.
University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR), Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation, December 2007.
American Coalition for Ethanol: Groundbreaking study finds that certain ethanol blends can provide better fuel economy than gasoline – December 5, 2007.
December 11, 2007 at 10:37 am
My wife suggested that we buy a living Christmas tree in a pot this year and plant it after the holiday. “Woo hoo!” I thought – what a great topic to write about on Lawns to Gardens.
So I Googled “Green Christmas” and it seems Newsweek beat me to the punch while also adding many more ideas. So, I encourage you to read their Eco-Christmas article instead.
PS - Instead of tinsel, buying silver coins not only doubles as a great gift, but they could go up in value as the US Economy plummets.
December 4, 2007 at 3:12 pm
Co-authors: Randy White & Cedric Justice
November 27, 2007
Financial choirs around the world are finally singing that the US is in a recession. If you operate a business, you didn’t need to wait to hear that, you already know it. It arrives every month in the form of rising bills and smaller profits. As your operational expenses keep rising, you find yourself wondering how many more payrolls you can tolerate in these financial conditions.
Here’s the good news: You can quickly trim some fat right now without cutting or gutting your employees. Here are five fast ways to save your business thousands of dollars a month during the recession:
1) SOURCE LOCALLY
Sourcing local products and services improves implicit costs, such as delays in business, transportation costs, and depending on the industry, freshness. The sustainability benefit is three-fold: economically it potentially saves your organization money; socially, it improves dollar velocity, improving the local economy. This improves the potential work pool your organization can draw from as well as the local infrastructure and ability for local customers to afford your product or service. Environmentally, it shortens supply chains, which uses less fossil fuels in transportation of goods.
TIP: Small businesses can barter with one another. Big Box stores do not have as much luxury in that department.
2) DITCH THE WASTERS
Here are three common wasters you can cut immediately:
Water coolers refrigerate your water and also heat up the water. It is a redundant system that is an expensive luxury that is unnecessary. In areas like Portland, OR, the tap water is some of the best in the country. At worst, one can buy a Brita filter and have a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator. Hot water can be obtained through the microwave or the coffeemaker. Additionally, office water heaters are available for purchase or subscription, whereby the service of hot/cold filtered water is sold to you, and the cost of the water is usually absorbed by the building. One client was spending $130/mo on bottled water and now spends $35 for the service of the water heater/cooler (Buying one of these units is about $600 with $35 for filters that need to be changed every 9-24 months depending on the model). It has saved them time, money, resources, and real estate. Environmentally, producing plastic and shipping water in trucks makes little sense, especially when our society has plumbing as a fundamental infrastructure. Water purchased in bottles is in the dollars per gallon order of magnitude, water that runs through plumbing is in the cents (less than $0.10) per gallon cost. Additionally, it takes out the element of employee passive-agressivism prevalent in offices where employees get upset because someone didn’t change the water bottle out.
Turn off the electricity when you leave and turn down the thermostat:
“Are you trying to heat the neighborhood?” “Didn’t anyone tell you to turn the lights out when you leave the room?” These are utterances from a grandfather (that and “I walked to school uphill in the snow both ways”), but they came from a time of scarcity. Heating a room that isn’t being used, leaving on computers when no one is using them, and lighting a building with no one in it simply doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I’ve worked in a building where there was a small break room with the light on and it was locked from the outside. What’s the point of that? If you use less energy, chances are, the lease terms you have next period aren’t going to have an energy premium set on them. In fact, why not work with building management to give you a share of the savings you implement? Set policies that encourage and enable people, don’t be an authoritarian or make people feel guilty, it doesn’t work.
Get a double-side printer and use recycled paper:
Many companies have a double-sided printer, but it isn’t set to default. Have your IT staff set the printer to default to double-side printing and you can save up to half of your paper costs. If you don’t have a double-sided printer, you can also set up a second tray of leftover paper to print to the back side of drafts you’ve already used. The idea here is to default to what is least resource intensive, and have the super-white virgin paper be a premium, not a default. Recycled paper is currently more expensive than virgin paper, but that’s due to the market and to externalities. If you demand recycled paper, it will become cheaper as more demand it… economies of scale. Plus, if you’re using leftover paper scraps, you’ve cut your budget for paper by nearly 50%, so you can afford a 20-30% surcharge. Paper creation is an energy intensive process that pollutes the environment with nasty chemicals (plus, paper mills stink!). Using recycled paper cuts the emissions for these chemicals as well as energy.
3) PROMOTE ALTERNATIVE COMMUTING OPTIONS
Telecommuting may not work for everyone, but it may work for some. A lot of productivity is lost when people have to leave early to get their kids from school and it could be a cost center for them to have their kids in daycare. Besides the child angle, people who don’t commute in grinding traffic for 1-2 hours today will be much more amiable and rested when coming to work. Paying for a parking spot is about the worst thing you can do for productivity, for the environment, for reducing taxes, and for your bottom line. Instead, give your employees options: some companies are starting to give employees a transit budget. To qualify, they have to take an alternative form of transportation. The incentive pays for public transit, and if the employee bikes to work, they keep the allowance. It is a taxable expense to the company (check with your accountant before going through with it, as laws are different everywhere) in optimal situations. This reduces your carbon footprint (which, if you could track, you could sell the carbon credits), increases employee health (less stress, more exercise), and increases productivity. Additionally, goodwill is extended to your labor, which pays off in innumerable ways: employee retention, corporate knowledge, productivity gains, decreased utility costs and real estate pressures (if you only have 200 employees in the office instead of 1000, you’re probably going to need fewer desks, square footage, and heating/lighting). You may even be able to pay less because your employees won’t be saddled with the costs of commuting in time, energy, and fuel costs, they can accept a bit less. Bicycles are much cheaper than cars to maintain, and usually the cost of one car payment to buy; daycare is the cost of most one-bedroom apartments. Making your employees aware of this can create some huge gains, both for you and for them.
4) WHEN BUILDING, GO LEED (OR BEYOND)
Green buildings have been shown to increase employee productivity, reduce energy inputs, cost less to maintain, and benefit society as a whole. Mark Edlen, clearly the most progressive LEED builder in the world, says “It is up to the new generation of Portland’s business leaders to take social and environmental responsibility to the next level, and in times of uncertainty, people must show bold leadership and not be afraid to take risks that seemed easier when times were flush and there was more room for failure.”
Holistic systems tend to work when they’re thought of together, and the added costs, if any, will definitely deliver a fantastic return on investment through your decrease in risk exposure to spikes in energy prices, fuel costs, political strife in faraway lands, etc. Your employees are the most expensive part of the building per square foot. Ask your employees what you can do together to spruce up the work place while making the space greener. And make sure you measure it. Metrics are everything. If you know how much energy your cell phone charger uses by being plugged in or how much your computer uses by not being on standby, then you can make the conscious decision to unplug or turn off. But you need the data first. Consulting firms and electronic gadgets can help you with this, measuring everything from waste outputs to energy consumption to carbon emissions. Most people care, but without having any numbers, they can’t make informed decisions. Get your bean counters involved; but remember productivity is by far the most bang for your buck.
5) TAP INTO YOUR INNER LEADER
Companies who employ the golden rule and who create inspired teams or tribes have a real advantage over hierarchical, authoritarian, ‘draining’ workplaces. One of the simplest things you can do to save money is treat others well. Re-read Dale Carnegie’s “The Leader in You”. If your employees hate working for you, they’ll do everything in their power to exploit the benefits you give them. If they love their job, it will show in the work that they do, and it will show in your organization’s bottom line. People who love their job don’t call in sick as often, which means that you can depend on your teammates and that meeting you call will be fully staffed with the expert you need to make the sale. Inverting your management structure is instrumental to doing this. Managers are support staff for production people. Once that mentality is implemented, there’s a grassroots shift in how the company operates. Drama, strife, and other interpersonal relations are smoothed. Asking your employees what they want/need will help you to better meet your clients’ needs, as anyone ‘under’ you is closer to the front lines than you are.
With the arrival of Peak Oil and a fast warming climate, we are entering a hard period of time. As the dollar continues to decline in value and consumers struggle to pay their debts, it is imperative your business be stunning. Now is your time to shine, and if you adopt these five practices, you will see improvements in your bottom line, employee attitudes, and general business health.
Randy White is the founder and CEO of Bright Neighbor.
Bright Neighbor was founded on the idea of the hyper-local. What are you doing that is affecting your neighborhood or street? We measure and report on the success of community adaptation to rapid planetary changes.
Bright Neighbor is:
* A free public tool that encourages sustainability, food system security, and thriving community practices for neighborhoods by encouraging green behavior through participation, evaluation and sharing.
* A Private Layer for collecting information on green behaviors by companies, as well as a tool to communicate special initiatives, private resources and information to a
group. Like how the Portland Trail Blazers want to use it for ride sharing.
* A advertising platform that supports large businesses to participate in the same way owners of Private Layers do, but who just want to have their name attached to “something green” without all of the work.
* A platform that can, in time, collect and report information relevant to emergency services and governments.
For our customers like the City of Portland, Portland General Electric, and Gerding Edlen Development, even people who join Bright Neighbor through private layers, are Bright Neighbor users first, participating in their neighborhood, and Private Layer members second. This is done to allow the continued participation of users in their own neighborhoods as the continue to improve their hyper-local community so we can track the results. This allows Private Layer customers to take credit for “sponsoring” the good works of their members while allowing them to track the results of their organization-centric efforts.
By focusing on a specific region per Bright Neighbor, we track activity or actions and their involvement in making their hyper-local community better. Though we do the work of a non-profit, we are a for-profit eco-fixing market development company. Local businesses are served through their participation in Bright Neighbor, and they shouldn’t necessarily need to pay for it. Bright Neighbor understands the collapsing economy and how to navigate it, working within the existing financial and political system until they realize money is not going to solve their problems.
Our paying customer markets include:
* Major sports franchises and arena-owners. Interested in keeping eco-costs low and lessening their carbon footprint through ride sharing and a way of communicating large-scale green initiatives to their sporting audience, employees and guest of their facilities.
* Corporations with a green agenda (PGE). Same as above, but with the ability to get more relevant reporting to encourage shifts in corporate culture.
* Municipalities interested in uniting their city-wide neighborhood outreach.
If you are interested in sponsoring Bright Neighbor’s October 2009 launch across North America, please contact us through http://www.brightneighbor.com
November 27, 2007 at 9:13 am
Hooray for KPTV in Portland!
They decided to help people see what all the cool kids are doing these days, which is to convert your lawn into a food garden! The show “Good Day Oregon Home & Garden” paid us a visit at the “Lawns to Gardens” HQ, and put us in their show.
Sorry, there is no YouTube feed, you’ll have to see Lawns to Gardens on TV through their website.
Thanks very much to KPTV’s great reporters, they have all been stellar.
Now that oil company executives are admitting they are greedy idiots, we know for a fact peak oil is here. This isn’t a joke, folks. Planting food and learning vital survival skills are of utmost importance right now.
I highly encourage you to get active in your communities and get to know your neighbors right now. You can all help one another work over one another’s yards.
One more note (for political junkies): This TV video made me realize in order to be taken seriously, I needed a haircut and more professional clothing. Snip snip snip and now I’m clean cut. Grandma’s across the city will be proud.
November 10, 2007 at 1:23 pm
Ok folks… here it is, the ultimate truth. There are people coming out right now saying that biofuels can’t offset the dangers of Peak Oil and I call BS. Lies Lies Lies to keep oil going as long as possible, and we don’t have time to mess around anymore – there is a real danger to America without smart solutions getting implemented right now. Take a look at this video of David Blume educating local news man Wayne Garcia.
Quite the brave newscaster to allow the truth to come out in the mainstream media! Expect the nay-sayers to try and convince you that we can’t overcome our challenges. See for yourself how we can do it and get Alcohol Can Be A Gas!
If you want to stop whining about rising gas prices, pick up your copy of “Alcohol Can Be A Gas” by clicking here.
October 5, 2007 at 10:15 pm