Wednesday, January 27, 2010

DWELL: A little bit of interior design sass.

Some unusually witty banter from DWELL, courtesy of Dan Maginn of El Dorado Inc. in Kansis City. Read it here to learn about Maginn's fascination with contractors and find some links to other helpful articles on how to find and befriend your builder.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Urban Gardening: Barrio Horseshoe

San Jose, California's Barrio Horseshoe neighborhood, a predominantly low-income Latino area, is the focus of Raul Lozano's efforts to promote urban backyard gardening. Lozano's organization, La Mesa Verde (The Green Table), helps to facilitate organic vegetable gardens in the neighborhood, thematic of a larger national movement toward both self-sufficiency and a healthier diet, both frequently lacking in low-income areas. The project is emblematic of the broad quality of life improvements that can stem from spending time in the garden. See the slideshow at The New York Times.

Friday, January 22, 2010

For all you stair fiends out there...

A few choice stairways that just wont quit, courtesy of Remodelista. What better way to access your firewood cellar?

Walmart's Sustainability Index: An Update

About a year ago, the announcement was made of Walmart's intention to evaluate the entire scope its product offerings through the prism of ecological impact. More recently they have announced they will begin with electronics by developing a green label system that identifies, according to FastCompany, attributes ranging "labor conditions to end-of-life disposal." This seems like an appropriate place to start considering the growing issue of e-waste and their own role in propagating it. Time will tell whether Walmart will be successful in using their leverage over their vendors toward quantifiably sustainable ends. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Op-ed: Missing the big picture of overfishing

On the eve of the 17th Annual European Seafood Exposition, the Guardian recently published an article thats asks whether environmental policy should be managed by scientists, rather than politicians. According to data provided by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), 88% of European community fish stocks are overfished. Who's to blame? Perhaps the European policy-makers, who have consistently exceeded limits suggested by scientists (find the WWF data here). Perhaps the fishing industry or it's consumers. In any case, the European Commission recently proposed "radical reform" to the Common Fisheries Policy, a top-down approach that has proven to be the only real means of efficient change in environmental policy.

Personally, and forgive the Op-ed outburst, overfishing represents an inability to understand and address problems far more fundamental than global warming. Within the global warming debate, there are people who simply do not believe it is happening, or believe humans have a part in it, and thereby justify their action or inaction. However, within the overfishing debate, there is far less room for dispute. The issue is directly tied to economies, and is therefore much more quantifiable. There are much much fewer fish than there should be. There are many more unemployed people because of it. So when I look at the Annual Seafood Exposition's website and see banners proclaiming "Thailand: Kitchen of the World," I cant help but think about how the 86% decline in catch between 1961-1991 in Southeast Asia. I am extremely privileged resident of a rich country, and the plight of those in some developing countries is worse than I could imagine. But when a city like Brussels stands up to celebrate what will surely be the collapse of not only a global marketplace, but a global ecosystem, I find myself entirely unsympathetic.

See the full Guardian article here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A note on what really matters

Recently, I have been trying to pare down what exactly defines a brand as sustainable -- culturally, financially, and ecologically. Somehow, it always seems to digress or dilute into something trite or ambiguous. But, this morning, as I came across a post at desire to inspire, I was reminded of the halting simplicity that seems to underwrite the timeless spaces we all strive for.

"It's simple really. Simplicity is beautiful. Form and function, not trends and fashion. Quality and materials, durability and sustainability, light and space. 'A single room where the sunlight plays over a rich surface of stone, beautiful hardwoods or structural fabrics can be decorative in itself.' "

See what they're talking about at desire to inspire

Monday, January 11, 2010

K-12: The next generation of sustainability

The New York times recently published an article on the growing popularity of Environmental Charter schools, especially in New York City. The article makes note of a growing group of young people that are fundamentally imbued with an understanding of the importance of sustainability. The curriculums vary between environmental science, in preparation for the onslaught of Green job opportunities, to more civic-minded programs, with an emphasis on community involvement. The youth of the Green charter schools means that there are few, if any, graduates to evaluate the program's success, however the article suggests an unusually content student body. The program's success definitely asks the question of whether this type of curriculum would flourish if applied to the public school system.

see the full article at The New York Times

Friday, January 8, 2010

Smog Reduction: But what about LA sunsets?

The EPA is taking the current ground level ozone limitations to task. On Thursday, they announced their intention to reduce the standard from .075PPM to between .060 and.070PPM in the next twenty years. Though the price-tag is estimated at $90 billion annually, the projected healthcare savings of $13-$90 billion should soften the impact. While the more toxic of US counties, namely Los Angeles, Houston, and a handful in the northeast, are allotted more time to comply with the revised standard, the American Petroleum Institute has raised objections. Go figure. Definitely a encouraging prospect. Now make it so.