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Community solutions - May 10

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Many hands make light work of saving energy

Sarah Schweitzer, Boston Globe
Neighbors gather to install solar power
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SANDWICH, N.H. - Last weekend, some 30 men and women arrived at a neighbor's home in this mountainside community, prepared for a day of hard labor. Their pay would be a pot of coffee, slabs of cornbread, and a spread of roast turkey sandwiches.

In days past, the end result might have been a barn. But in a twist on the traditional mutual aid event of a barn raising, the neighbors put up a solar-heated water system.

As the price of oil rises and the pressure to go green mounts, neighbors in this and other New England communities are coming together for daylong "energy raisers," installing solar collectors that can reduce a home's hot water bill by as much as 80 percent.
(8 May 2008)


Community Gardens Grow Communities

Peak Moment via Global Public Media
Patrick Marcus and other motivated citizens sprouted a community garden on city land slated to be a park in Ashland, Oregon. When the garden was threatened by plans to develop the park, they got active. Their research and advocacy led to official policy supporting community gardens in city parks.

As the volunteer garden manager, Patrick affirms gardening isn't just for leisure -- it helps build community. It creates bonds among people from diverse social spheres -- through shared work, classes, potlucks and, most of all, shared passion. (www.communitygarden.org).
(1 May 2008)


Biodegradable Home Product Lines, Ready to Rot

Penelope Green, New York Times
... “At first the whole idea was to have as little impact on the environment as possible,” said Tim Zyto, chief executive of Montauk. “And then I started to think, wouldn’t it be great to have no impact? Then it was, hey, what if the sofa just disappears when you’re done with it?”

As much as this scenario sounds like it was lifted from a Philip K. Dick novel - vanishing furniture! - Mr. Zyto has attempted to make his imaginings a reality, at least in principle (if you disregard those pesky nails), joining a number of other home goods manufacturers and designers who are marketing their products as biodegradable. Not just “green,” or “sustainable,” but fully compostable, like lawn clippings or kitchen scraps. In theory, their products, under the right conditions, would break down, eventually.

For many of these manufacturers and designers, the word “biodegradable” is a signal that they are trying to adhere to the closed-loop manufacturing model put forth by William McDonough, the green design guru and architect whose 2002 book, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,” written with Michael Braungart, a chemist, proposed a new paradigm for the design and production of household goods. One of its tenets is that our stuff, once we’re done with it, can be “nourishment” for something new, either by being recycled (or “upcycled”) into a product of equal or better value, or by literally devolving into a “bio-nutrient,” like compost.

But can you compost a sofa and its throw pillows? Should you?

“It’s an admirable idea,” said Warren Shoulberg, editor of Home Furnishing News, a trade publication. “But it doesn’t seem particularly practical,” he said. “Maybe biodegradable means it goes in your backyard, which could signal a whole new meaning for the Appalachian porch look.”
(8 May 2008)


Building an Ecologically Sensible Home
(audio, video)
Peak Moment via Global Public Media
Wanting to live a "reasonable, comfortable life" in tune with nature, Ann and Gord Baird are building a "net zero energy" home on rural Vancouver Island.

Their plans: a thick-walled cob house with passive solar heating. Wind and solar panels to provide electricity. Solar thermal hot water for domestic use and radiant heating. Composting toilets to enrich the earth for orchard, gardens and chickens. Rainwater catchment and a well for domestic and irrigation water. Episode 103.

Follow their progress at www.eco-sense.ca.
(29 March 2008)

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