Posts filed under ‘Sustainability’

Ten Ways To Twitter Our Way To Hyper-Local Sustainability

Twitter bird

Recently, we have had amazing breakthroughs in human communications. We have broken the four-minute mile, and the real-time web of living in the moment has arrived. You can now be instantly witnessed around the world by anyone with a modern communications device. There are useful applications for this technology that can be immediately applied to community-building.

By Randy White
@randywhitepdx and @brightneighbor

The authors of a recent PEW Internet Project report write that
” …developments in social networking and internet applications have begun providing internet users with more opportunities for sharing short updates about themselves, their lives, and their whereabouts online. Users may post messages about their status, their moods, their location and other tidbits on social networks and blogging sites “

The rapid spread of Twitter and Facebook adoption these days is mind-blowing. Twenty percent of online adults 18-34 are on Twitter, and even grandmothers are getting onto Facebook. That is a hefty chunk of the population. While tech-savvy money sharks are figuring out how to carve up profits to be made from selling deep-search stats to Tostitos or whoever, I am thinking about how we can use technology at local levels to deal with economic and ecological collapse. The cool part is that we are starting to quickly track our progress and observe how one’s social influence in a community can help to shape other people’s sustainability actions. Imagine when we will track how neighborly people are:


As exciting as these new technology achievements are, we still have real problems to work out. Families are suffering as relationships are becoming more and more strained by financial pressures. Throughout government, business, and communities – our high standards of living have been supported by cheap, easily available energy. President Obama hasn’t told you the super-bad news about our immediate future. In materialistic terms, we have arrived in the gates of hell and now we get to Tweet each other about it. With a second energy shock and major spike in oil prices on the way, communities need to get prepared. Now.

The problem is that even though so many Americans have cell-phones and blinking blue Borg-like communication contraptions glued to their heads, there are still large swaths of communities across America not taking action to build resiliency at hyper-local levels. And if any new political group was able to actually overthrow the existing Democratic / Republican system – who would pave our roads? How does a society run without money? What is money, really?

It seems we are still in shock and awe that things are so messed up, yet so cool at the same time.

As Americans, we subscribe to a social contract that states to be ‘normal’ we must spend time trying to earn this stuff called money. Since we have to constantly chase the stuff to live comfortable lives, it is literally impossible to get to deeply-know all of our neighbors because there is not enough time or desire to do so. On this planet we are physically limited to caring for small tribes of core humans in our lives. We can’t possibly get to know everyone or have them know us back. But, with technology, we have cobbled together ways to build community relationships while tracking local leadership and involvement in communities at the same time.

The significance of this insight is that we can actually report on local neighborhood influence, carbon emissions saved, energy not used, and many other earth-preserving behaviors. For instance, in the following screenshot, you can see I’m communicating with a local neighborhood organizer, a popular radio DJ, a concerned citizen, and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Twitter Bright Neighbor

Marketers pay millions of dollars to achieve the kind of free PR, influence, and tracking now easily achieved for free on the Internet. Money aside – If you can get others to pay attention to you, you can improve your sphere of influence at a hyper local level to achieve sustainability. The idea is to be a local leader and use your results to help others at the national level through showcasing your success. Other influential leaders can easily amplify your message, creating near instant consciousness of thousands of individuals.

In order to focus these breakthroughs, I have been experimenting with ways to use Twitter to track items lent out to neighbors and friends, and many upcoming Bright Neighbor 2.0 features will continue to innovate in these areas. In the meantime, here is a 10-step action plan on how Twitter can help people that live in close proximity to one another get to know one another better:

1) Go to your local neighborhood meetings
This may seem so simple that it’s stupid. Get involved! There is a local neighborhood organization that you can join and if you can’t find one, you can start one. This way you can place faces with people you will be connecting with.

2) Create A group and go back to old-school promotions

Being in a rock band helped me learn this one. If you are ready to be a local leader, then go old-school and hit the streets. Putting flyers up at local shops and into people’s hands still works. The constant real-time flow of communications data goes away in seconds, and if someone has calendared one event and learn via Twitter or whatever where other cool people have gathered – they will alter their plans to go where the people are that can help them advance their social status. Offline flyers help build your online reputation to achieve this by putting your group’s Twitter name or hashtag on the flyer and asking neighbors to join your group.

3) Ride sharing
“Can anyone give me a lift downtown? I’m at the corner of SE 39th and Stark.” If you get a big enough group of followers in your neighborhood, that message could score you a lift if your friends are too lazy or broke to come pick you up.

4) Resource locator
“Does anyone have a ladder I can borrow”? The more you know your neighbors, the more people that will follow you and that will see your plea for help when your bushes go wild and need a trimming. With the ability to add pictures and video to Twitter, soon people will be able to discover a person in close proximity who has what they need and communicate in real time to strike a deal.

5) Saving money
“Does anyone have a coupon they can forward for the India Grill?”
Offering people coupons used to be a paper-only option, and times have made it such that there are multiple online methods to save big money on stuff like:

* Activities
* Bars
* Clubs
* Coffee
* Fitness
* Food
* Shopping
* Health & Beauty
* Hotels
* Automotive
* Events
* Dessert
* Tickets

Because that’s the kind of stuff we humans value right now. And in order to keep getting it, we are looking for ways to save money on it. One way is to call out to our social networks to see if anyone can forward access or knowledge of a money-savings deal without everyone becoming annoyed by cheap people looking for deals.

6) Work with your local government
In Portland, the Office of Emergency Management has set up a Twitter feed. If each neighborhood leader subscribed to the emergency feed and vice-versa, top-down communications could mingle with grassroots reporting to keep communications clear in an emergency.

7) Tap into your neighbor knowledge base
My raspberries developed a bunch of ugly yellow spots on them, and with a click of the camera in my phone, I sent out messages to neighbors and friends asking if they knew what the disease was. While I didn’t get a solid answer back on that try, I found out the solution to the by walking next door and asking my 93-year old neighbor instead. Take care of our old-time gardeners!

8) Give help, get help
As technology allows us to define our roles in society, it also helps define each of us because people are judgmental. The more projects you get involved with, and the more people Tweet about them, the better your Karma Card looks. Your actions and activities are now transparent in real-time and the historical record, and people will be able to see how much you give back in addition to asking for help.

9) Showcase your breakthroughs
Don’t just send out a picture of that new rainwater catchment system you built out of spare parts, invite people over to learn from it! We have so much waste in our system, we can repurpose woods and plastics to help retrofit our homes to prepare for climate change. If it’s too expensive to go buy new stuff like solar arrays or hybrid-cars, then we can help each other by teaching useful, sustainable behaviors that we know how to do. Online video has not yet replaced human-to-human team learning.

10) Make people laugh
Because laughing is a part of healing.


May 19, 2009 at 11:23 am 4 comments

The Internet As A Form of Martial Arts


How often do you deal with incoming and outgoing messages these days?

Whether it’s e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of these, we are all getting bombarded with a constant stream of information that we are expected to receive, process, understand, and act on.

It seems that we can’t escape the buzz-buzz-buss of messages, images, experiences, and realities to process with so much technology happening at once. But if your phone isn’t ringing, or your e-mail is idle, then you aren’t happening. We aren’t allowed to have peace and serenity in our lives anymore, because we have to keep up in the social networks which never allow us to escape into our own caves. There is a human addiction to machines, and some people don’t know how to turn them off for their own good.

The Internet is a living and breathing organism now. Like a baby, it is churning in the womb, growing every day and discovering itself. It pees and poops in it’s own sac of development, mixing all of life together as we are doing globally. It is the connection of human minds from around the planet, as we craft new ways to communicate for free, face-to-face with people on our computers and mobile devices.

There is so much information in this living data stream of our lives, we can have a video chat with mom while keeping up with friends and knowing exactly what the weather forecast is. Or whatever we want. If you want vintage German nun porn, you can have that. Free. If you want free communications tools, they are at your beck and call. Free. And if you know how to use the Internet right – you can also get food – free.

The collective living organism has achieved a critical mass of knowledge amongst itself and has learned how to multi-task between searching the past and living in the present.

How people use the Internet is equivalent the level of martial arts they know, meaning constant practice and exploration. It’s tough to keep up and in shape, and the rate of innovation is going so fast that recently-launched technologies are being rendered obsolete instantly by better mousetraps or innovations elsewhere the next week.

And so the great apps will continue to rise to the top and merge. Over time, people will harness their use in everyday lives as humans are doing with Facebook on such a massive scale across the planet.

So yes, three cheers to Facebook, it wins the “Platform Of The Times” award. For now. It could get tossed to the side like a one-night groupie if something better comes along that gives us what we need and desire.

And that means Facebook will need to evolve in a way that allows humanity to achieve singularity – something that is truly possible. Perhaps then, we wouldn’t need to know real martial arts as we all get along and relocalize our consumption. This means fixing local supply chains for food, water, and transportation.

I’m sure Facebook and the Internet will continue to do a great job as we learn how to dance with living datastreams and rebuild economies in a fair and balanced manner.

So no matter how you use the Internet, your martial arts skills need to continuously sharpen to keep up. You never know when technology will throw a new zinger at you.

BONUS: Here’s a great example of the power of the Internet combined with human efforts to get a job done.

May 15, 2009 at 5:18 pm Leave a comment

Leaked Footage of Randy White / Lawns to Gardens editor


Leaked footage of a street interview with me.

May 7, 2009 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

Lessons In Social Media Etiquette & Graces

speaker check in

Imagine this. You have created a hot new social network that promises to give Facebook a run for their money, or at least serve as a model for them to steal ideas from. You get invited to speak to an awesome group of cool movers and shakers in Portland – and when you show up, assuming you still lug around thousands of pounds of steel you when you transport yourself from A to B, you find an open parking spot right next to venue. “SWEET!” you say, as you head inside to tear it up and yack about your new technology thingamajig.

And when you enter the room, there are already panelists deep in conversation about Twitter and Facebook, and you think “awesome, I can’t wait to rock that conversation!”, only to find out that you were supposed to arrive an hour ago to speak on that VERY panel.

Welcome to my day today.

Since Bright Neighbor launched in November, I get to speak on a number of panels. At Portland’s awesome SHOP Symposium 09, I was coming prepared to talk about social media influence on real communities, and had several points to make about how Facebook is the presently king, how Twitter is irritating but necessary, and how Bright Neighbor is applied sustainability for growing local economies. I was prepared to tell five secrets of social:

1) You are what you publish online, and what you do offline

2) People like to keep in touch with the person who is always throwing cool events

3) Be fun, informed, and natural

4) Be open to making new friends

5) Help other people. That means helping the environment while doing good business.

Now, after somehow putting on my calendar that the panel I was supposed to be on started at 4pm when on the itinerary it CLEARLY states 3:15, I completely blew it and I owe Ericka Dickey an apology. And so of course like any lecturer who seizes an opportunity, I will use a variety of social media platforms to project project an experience that has revealed lessons to be learned from screwing up a talk about using a variety of social media platforms.

LESSON 1: No Matter What Your Reason For Your Screw Up, You Still Look Stupid
Everyone screws up, but what about when it’s you who flubbed things up? You can have a nice, shiny excuse, but when your malfunction affects other people, reality reigns, and you don’t do yourself any favors by not being the best you can be.

LESSON 2: For Every Screw Up, Multiply it by the Number of People You Know You Missed
Today, I could have made a connection with a business reporter, a hot blogger, a small business owner, a community organizer, and other event promoters. The room was full of potential contacts and people to make great things happen. So when you place your head in the hood of the car and start banging it into your head, make sure to do it enough until you learn to verify your calendar

LESSON 3: Make Sure You Make Up For It By Working Harder At Social Media and Real World Events
We could all be depressed about the economy and how any screw up can bring us closer to financial ruin. Everyone needs money to survive in the manner that we are used to. Grocery stores, unlimited gasoline, comfortable temperate home climates, and whiz-bang appliances and consumer electronics. Which is why when you blow it, you had better say you are sorry and get back to work doing what you do, and that means working your network and making things happen that need to happen.

LESSON 4: Triple Check Your Calendar
It’s only four words, but oh-so necessary to heed.

BONUS: Twitter joke

April 6, 2009 at 5:26 pm Leave a comment

A Comparison of Online Garden Planners


The online micro-farm management race is on!

As more and more people are beginning to use their land as micro-farms, we believe the best of the best in gardening technology is yet to come. From using flash cards to learn companion planting, to the amazing drag-and-drop gardening technology now online, America’s micro-farming revolution is under way!
Grow Veg
GrowVeg was the first comprehensive garden planning tool I found online. It’s fun drag-and-drop capabilities make garden planning as easy as it gets, with built-in teaching mechanisms for helping people learn as they garden and farm. With a free 30-day trial, it’s a super safe choice and a great tool for getting the job done.
Plangarden is a powerful contender on the scene with drag-and-drop toolbars, seed-centric pull-down menus, and a “shared garden” mapping system. Plangarden helps micro-farmers and gardeners think through their decisions and track their progress. This garden planner offers a free 45-day trial.

As more people get tired of “content-only” websites, they are looking beyond gardening advice for actual tools to accomplish their farming goals. Over time, we will see more online planners like this merge with social media sites through affiliate marketing. Community organizers and cooperative gardening efforts will continue to use commerce sites to create fractured economies based on food and seeds as a staple in their exchanges.

This is already happening with Bright Neighbor. Our network of lawn farmers is growing as we coordinate projects and help people learn how to be micro-farmers as they trade/sell their produce through Bright Neighbor. I’m sure we will see many more exciting developments as the tech crowd focuses on utilities that help us deal with food source complexities and fix local supply chains.begin

March 22, 2009 at 4:30 pm 6 comments

Companion Planting Flash Cards

Knowing which plants like or dislike each other can make or break your micro-farm! These are hand-made companion planting flash cards. This set of eighteen flash cards will help any wanna-be farmer learn the facts of companion planting to achieve better garden results. Each deck is hand made right in Portland by yours truly.

Companion Planting Flash Cards

Pick up your own deck for just $8!

March 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm 1 comment

Everything You Need To Know To Be A Farmer In A City


As a micro-farmer, I know how hard it is for the average home owner to get started with converting property to be a productive, home-based ecosystem. As an urban farmer and technology executive, I came to the realization that we have enough communications programs and it really comes down to working with available city land to grow food. Our home was a typical “1950’s Beaver Cleaver” type home, and now it is a productive food oasis, with water systems and beautiful, living soil. With just $10 in seeds, you can create $650 worth of produce!

Since we don’t believe in chemical-based farming, our recommendations are all organic methods. There is no substitute for hands-on learning, however this is a fantastic list of ways you can quickly get started and learn how to be a farmer:

Organic Food Gardening Beginners Manual
87 Page Step-by-step Gardening Manual For Beginners To Learn How To Grow Their Own Healthy, Organic Food – Saving Money And Eating Chemical Free! Revised Edition Just Released.

Profiting From Home-Based Farming
R.h.s. Medal Winning Plantsman Reveals His Amazing Ways. Promote His Easy, Simple Ways Among Plant Lovers & Gardening Enthusiasts & Help Them Earn A Part Time Income Of $500-$1000/week.

Your Very Own Tree Farm
The Complete Guide To Starting Your Own Profitable Tree Farm.

The Container Garden Expert
Finally Have The Benefit Of Years Of Specialist Container Gardening Experience At Your Fingertips And All In The Comfort Of Your Own Home, With Minimum Stress, And Without You Wasting Your Hard Earned Cash On Methods And Products That Just Do Not Work.

Organic Vegetable Gardening
Organic Vegetable Gardening Ebook. Even A Novice Can Start An Organic Garden With This Simple Guide. Complete Step By Step Gardening Guide.

DIY Worm Farms
How To Build And Manage A Worm Farm To Suit The Average Family. Recycle Household Organic Waste Into Fertiliser For Your Garden And Help The Environment Too.

High-density Gardening
How To Design, Build, Set Up, Grow With And Maintain A High Density Garden To Provide You And Your Family With Fresh, Wholesome And Tasty Vegetables.

Home and Garden – Country and Rural Life
Gardening And Birds, Raising Chickens And Goats, Baking Bread… more

Cinder Block Gardening
Learn how to make a super productive garden using cinder blocks and other methods.

March 15, 2009 at 11:41 am 2 comments

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