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Book Review: How to Build a Village

Malu Fink, WorldChanging
How to Build a Village, by New Zealand author Claude Lewenz, delivers on its promising title. This toolbox is packed with innovative, welcome, and simple solutions to some of the decade’s biggest questions.

How to Build a Village is a handbook, a toolbox, and an opener to a larger conversation about how better to be in the world. Have 50 years of suburbs delivered on their promise? The book offers solutions to the problems facing modern suburbs through the design and construction of a different type of living arrangement; a Village founded on improving quality of life.

The Village differs from the suburban model of sprawling neighborhoods that necessitate a car to get to work and other amenities to describe human-scaled development, scaled at a friendly size for a human. Streets, buildings and the village grid are tailored to give those who live, work and play in and around them a feeling of intimacy, naturalness and safety. People remain the focus of the Village: they are its main resource and have priority. Emphasis is given to the construction of numerous plazas where people are able to gather, patterned on those in old Europe with cafe tables and local shops.
(11 October 2007)

Seattle’s Recycling Success Is Being Measured in Scraps

J. Michael Kennedy, New York Times
…Seattle now recycles 44 percent of its trash, compared with the national average of around 30 percent, which makes it a major player in big-city waste recovery. Its goal, city waste management officials said, is to reach 60 percent by 2012 and 72 percent by 2025.

In many other parts of the country, recycling is in the doldrums – and in some cases backsliding – despite the sounding of environmental alarms about global warming and shrinking resources. And it is a far cry from recycling’s heyday, after the nation was jarred into action in 1987 by images of a barge carrying garbage from Long Island being towed up and down the East Coast in search of a place to unload. Six months later, its cargo was returned to New York and burned in a Brooklyn incinerator.

The wandering barge had a profound effect on the American psyche, and within three years most states had passed laws requiring some kind of recycling. But recycling victories are now gauged in much smaller increments. In Seattle’s case, the latest success is measured in scraps.

As the law now stands in Seattle, residents of single family houses are allowed to mix food scraps with yard waste, which is then shipped off to be composted. Recycling of food scraps will become mandatory in 2009.

The new law may add yet another container for curbside pickup, which already includes receptacles for nonrecyclable trash, yard waste, glass and other recyclables. In Seattle, many residents take pride that their weekly nonrecyclable output fits in a container no larger than the average countertop microwave.
(10 October 2007)

Portland gives bike rentals a spin

Lee van der Voo, Portland Tribune
A bicycle fleet that would make quick trips possible from kiosks throughout the city could hit Portland streets within a year, polishing the city’s image as one of the most bike-friendly places in the nation.

As it does, Portlanders also might be asked to choose between paying public subsidies for cheap, available bikes and allowing advertising in public spaces to pay for a bike-rental program.

Following the lead of European cities such as Paris, city Commissioner Sam Adams wants to establish a rental fleet of 500 bikes as the first phase of a bike-rental plan for Portland.
(12 October 2007)