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Increasingly areas of the world are becoming susceptible to flooding. A story I read recently in INHABITOTS is so inspiring. The community of Makoko of Lagos, Nigeria is prone to flooding and they have learned to take these periodic inundations in their stride. Over generations, they have adapted their lifestyle by building their houses on stilts. Transportation is by canoe! Nigerian-born architect, Kunle Adeyemi has sustainable living on his mind and he hopes to build a floating school, many more homes and a hospital for the communities living along the coast in Africa. The more you think about it, the more it makes sense since the tides are rising and instead of fighting against them, learn how to live with them.
It's Sustainable Spring and "Yes We Can" start a garden! If you don't have a garden but would like to get your hands in the dirt, there are many grassroots organizations across the USA and beyond who are inspiring and organizing communities to beautify their neighborhoods, targeting vacant lots and creating community gardens and other beautification projects. Fill empty lots with native wildflowers to attract butterflies, bees and birds. Takeover unoccupied lots and fill them with fruit and vegetables for the community to enjoy. Learn how to get involved in improving your community here.
You can plant a garden together with your neighbors and create a beautiful green space for your community that you can be proud of. Learn how here.
You can get free organic seeds at your local seed bank. Find one near you here, or start one yourself!
Inspiring things are happening in Rotterdam, where last July the Dutch energy company Eneco moved into their new energy-efficient 270,000-square-foot office building. It boasts a three story living green wall on the outside, 366 solar panels on the south-side wall and 288 on the roof, as well as a highly efficient heating and cooling system. It's wonderful that so much thought was put into creating a healthy and enjoyable work environment, from the natural light flooding the inside, so there is less of a need for artificial light and several luscious green walls were installed as a way to improve the air quality of the building. Click here to see more images and read more about it.
The company Whole Trees Architecture and Structures foundation is built on sustainable, organic and responsible principles for managing the forest and its precious trees. Started in 1991 by Raold Gundersen, in Wisconsin, Whole Trees carefully culls trees from their local forest. They walk through with a building design in mind and select individual trees to harvest. According to Raold Gundersen "The tree is chosen for its structural and design integrity and for the effect that its removal will have on the forest left standing around it. Often the selection will be based as much on thinning an overcrowded stand or managing an invasive species, so instead of clear-cutting they choose. When the tree has been chosen we peel the bark from it while it stands in the forest, allowing the waste products to go back to the forest floor." Everyone benefits in this story, even the insects, fungi and bacteria that are taking part in the breaking down of the organic matter provided by the discarded tree bark.
The look of using entire trees in your home is not everyone's style, however I do find the process of culling trees in a responsible way something that should be encouraged, as a way of preserving our precious forests for future generations.
It feels like Urban Agriculture is finally coming into its own and being recognized as an important and sustainable part of city life. Did you know…that New York City has more urban vegetable gardens than San Francisco and Seattle. I read in the Design Trust for Public Space study called Five Borough Farm: Seeding the future of urban agriculture in New York, that there are 700 food-producing urban farms and gardens citywide. New Yorkers have reclaimed land in every corner of the city for urban agriculture, and these farmers and gardeners efforts contribute to the health, social, economic, and ecological benefits of the city. I'm from New York and I'm so very very thrilled about this.
Two students at the Lund University in Sweden, designed an unconventional back-to-basics food storage system called Root. Kornelia Knutson and Gabriella Rubin considered every detail about how to keep food fresh longer, and so each of the four parts of Root has a specific function, each amazingly operating at a different temperature and humidity. The top zone is for the dry goods, including a linen bag for bread and a roof magnetized to hold cans. This section also boasts a hydroponic herb garden installed in the door. Brilliant! In the middle section is a glass fronted cabinet that holds terra cotta trays for the fruits and vegetables, and the section below, which is the only one that is refrigerated, has its own pull out drawer to store meat, fish and dairy. The lower level is dedicated to root vegetables stored in terra cotta trays. Root has the same dimensions as a conventional fridge and can be retro-fitted into an existing kitchen.
In.gredients is America's first zero-waste, package-free micro grocery selling local food and fresh ingredients in Austin, Texas. The people behind In.gredients feel that "America needs to rethink its eating habits, starting with ingredients that make up the food we eat." In.gredients represents how food used to be: sourced locally and offered seasonally. Every single item of food sold is from Austin or Central Texas, and for total transparency, each bin of food is labeled with the name of the producer and their contact info. I love that they are proud of the products they sell, including offering only one brand of Baking Soda because it's the best one. Being good stewards of the environment, "their priority is to reduce the amount of waste they produce and reuse what they have." They don't provide containers or any sort of shopping bags so must bring your own reusable containers.
Since I started writing my monthly almanac-newsletter three and half years ago, the Sustainable Design category has most often been about a sustainable building or innovative product or project but for the first time, I'm going to write about a very special and inspiring garden that is tucked away on a quiet street in Santa Barbara California called Lotusland, a magnificent public garden and a glorious example of sustainable living.
Over many years, a sustainable gardening program has been implemented "by incorporating various practices and ideas that encourage as much compatibility among diverse organisms as possible." They don't use or need pesticides because they have found natural ways to deal with common garden pests. They are part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a vital network for plant conservation, of which Lotusland is home to 950 species whose native populations are faced with habitat loss, and Lotusland provides suitable living conditions for beneficial insects and birds. Lotusland has incorporated many green garden strategies and all these practices have contributed to making Lotusland a most exceptional, thriving and magical garden. See my Lotusland Pinterest Board.
Clearly I need to go to Portland, Oregon soon and see this delicious vertical garden myself at the Portland Airport. The hanging plants are slowly growing in, providing natural shade and most probably helping to make the multi-level parking lot smell a lot cleaner and fresher. It's not just their vertical garden that is inspiring and sustainable but according to the story I read in Inhabitat.com.
"The terminal’s roadway is covered by a solar panel-clad glass canopy that currently produces about 12,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year despite the city’s rainy reputation. PDX is also a leader in airport recycling with a successful food waste diversion program that diverts several tons of food waste, napkins and food-soiled paper from landfills each month." I never thought I would ever feel this way but I really do look forward to going to PDX in the near future and marveling at this sensational airport! I wonder if they have plans to open a Yoga Room for passengers in transit who need to stretch and de-stress. Namaste.
A fantastic ocean environmental movement is happening, and non-profits like The Fish Reef Project the first of its type in California and based in Santa Barbara, is dedicated to rebuilding fish reefs along the coast by turning the empty sea floor into a thriving marine ecosystem. Reef balls work perfectly to help create new coral life by mimicking the natural sea floor structure. Reef balls rock! More than 500,000 of them have been deployed in over 70 countries, helping remove carbon from the air and acid from the sea by creating breeding and feeding grounds for marine mammals, sea birds, fish and invertebrates like the ever gorgeous and amazing starfish.
Did you know… Seventy-five percent of the earth is ocean and 99 percent of the bottom of the ocean are dead zones: mud with no sign of life.
If you are interested in learning more about how these dead zones happen, see more on NOAA's site.
If you are interested in learning about the 5 major ocean gyres that are swirling with our trash, read about it from Green Peace.