Archive for the ‘Implementing Sustainability’ Category

A student recently asked:

    How do we promote sustainable practices amongst people who don’t care about sustainability? Is it within our rights to force sustainable practices/actions on people who don’t care? Why do people who don’t care not care? Can they be changed? Should they be changed? (or is that infringe on their freedoms? Should we have that freedom?)

My response was that if we think of sustainability in terms of requiring democratic participation, forcing people to comply would run counter to this goal and be, therefore, unsustainable. However, has it ever been the case that 100% of the American population has gotten behind any initiative? The modern American democratic process regularly makes decisions that are supported by slim majorities of voters, and just five out of nine Supreme Court Justices can decide a case that will have repercussions for decades to come. Both of these outcomes take place within the American democratic process, but such majority decisions often results in a situation where quite a large number of people are put in a position of forced compliance with a policy or decision that they may not agree with. How does our working definition of sustainability account for this conundrum? Is it sufficient to our working definition to ensure that a process is in place that facilitates democratic participation, even if the outcome results in the dissatisfaction of a large minority of citizens (a minority that could potentially represent 49.9% of the population)?

Complexities abound as we probe these questions more deeply. If we attempt to specify these questions within a particular place, time, and situation, perhaps we might be able to discern some patterns about what causes people not to care about an issue someone else considers essential for sustainability. For example, do those who claim not to care have insufficient information about the topic? Are they being kept in the dark or being actively lied to? Do they have some kind of investment in or commitment to the status quo that they don’t want disturbed? Do they have an alternate definition of “sustainability” that isn’t being considered to their satisfaction?

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The proposed Oregon Sustainability Center (OSC) will be to the Living Building Challenge™ guidelines, “which would qualify it among the most sustainable buildings ever designed and constructed.” When it is built, it will be “home to Oregon’s leaders in sustainable business, government, and education. It will act as a laboratory for green technology regionally and globally, designed to be the greenest high-rise ever built—sourcing its materials locally, creating its own energy, and collecting and treating its water on-site” (Source).

The OSC will be built “on the eastern edge of Portland State University campus in downtown Portland, Oregon. It will form the nucleus of the Portland State University Ecodistrict, a neighborhood strategy to develop and integrate smart buildings, infrastructure, transportation, and community connectivity along sustainable lines” (Source).

Some people wonder if this project is worth the cost. (more…)

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On Feb. 9, 2011, the Cascadia Green Building Council will feature Kath Williams speaking on “Opportunities in Eco-communities: People, Planet, and Profits”

    Globally the title “Eco-city” is used as a descriptor for every municipal project that is even the lightest shade of “green.” From newly constructed communities in China and Middle East to sustainable infrastructure projects in developed and developing nations, it is easy to bestow upon oneself the title. The questions becomes what are the motivations and what are the criteria? From lessons learned while working around the world, Kath Williams proposes all measurement tools should be framed in terms of values and opportunities for people, profit, and the planet if the goal of sustainability is ever to be achieved.

Williams is Principal of Kath Williams & Associates. She was Past president of the World Green Building Council and Executive Vice President of the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL).

The event will be held on Wednesday, Feb 9, 2011, at the Turnbull Open Space, White Stag Building, University of Oregon, 70 NW Couch St., Portland. Doors open at 5:00PM, lecture begins at 5:30PM Cascadia Members and students are free (RSVP mandatory), general audiences pay $10.

See the event announcement for more details.

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There’s an intriguing documentary premier upcoming:

“The Greenest Building”

(A Wagging Tale Productions Documentary)

Monday, Jan. 31, 2011, 6:30 – 8:00 P.M.

The Gerding Theater at the Armory
128 NW Eleventh Ave., Portland

Movie description:

    Over the next 20 years, Americans will demolish one third of our existing building stock (over 82 billion square feet) in order to replace seemingly inefficient buildings with energy efficient “green” buildings.

    Is demolition in the name of sustainability really the best use of natural, social, and economic resources? Or, like the urban renewal programs of the 1960’s, will this well-intentioned planning result in devastating environmental and cultural consequences?


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Ellen Tarlin has recently started an online experiment at Slate.com to investigate some of the ways of thinking about food and nutrition at the individual and household level. She calls this project “Clean Plate: Outrageous Experiments in Sensible Eating.”

Tarlin’s experiment is quite accessible. She writes brief posts in a conversational style, and engages her readers in the comment threads. Among the pages on her blog are brief analyses of nutritional guidelines (i.e., the USDA food pyramid) and diet schemes, photos and prices of each item she’s eaten during the day, and questions to her readers about what she’s doing.

Tarlin’s project got me thinking about related initiatives, films, books, etc., on the topic of of food, food systems, and nutrition. Below the fold you’ll find a list of some of these other projects. The list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to recommend others in the comments.


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“The Original Green” is Steve and Wanda Mouzon’s book/website/blog/email list project conveying their “proposition of the Original Green,” which, in their terms, means that “before the Thermostat Age, the places we made and the buildings we built had no choice but to be green. The Original Green is holistic sustainability, and broader than Gizmo Green.” As they write:

    Many people now agree that achieving sustainability is a bigger challenge than just buying more efficient devices. Steve Mouzon coined the phrase “Original Green” several years ago to describe the sustainability that existed before the Thermostat Age. . . . Steve is the founder of the New Urban Guild in Miami . . . a group of architects, designers, and other New Urbanists dedicated to the study and the design of true traditional buildings and places native to and inspired by the regions in which they are built.

Steve Mouzon’s book The Original Green and the Mysteries of True Sustainability (Miami: The New Urban Guild Foundation, 2010). To support this project, the Mouzon’s also have created the following:

Recology Oregon Material Recovery and the City of Portland continue their pilot program to pick up food scraps from curbside bins and compost these materials at for Portland-area sites.[1]

The City of Seattle already has a Commercial Compost Collection service.

EnviroMom discussed this program when the pilot was announced in April 2010.

Other articles on the topic:

[1] Carrie Sturrock, “Curbside composting of kitchen scraps a success in Portland test neighborhoods,” Oregonian, Nov. 26 2010, pp. D2, D6.

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