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Karen Washington, Urban Farmer

With February coming to a close, it is important to look back on Black History Month and forward to women’s history month and recognize some contributors to sustainable principles.

Karen Washington is an urban farmer from the Bronx. An urban farmer is someone who grows farms in an urban setting, often in small vacant lots, leftover spaces between buildings, or even rooftops. To deal with the difficult terrain, urban farmers often use raised planters or containers. The main goal is to not only grow food in urban areas, but also to increase access to healthy food to their communities. This is particularly difficult in low socio-economic communities, where there may be a lack of grocery stores, or a lack of affordable, healthy foods. These urban farms fill many needs, such as providing fresh food, as well as creating beautiful green spaces. Many of these urban food movements strive to bring community members together towards the goals of making their neighborhoods safer, more beautiful, and healthier.


2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All

Two thousand twelve has been declared as “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All,” by the United Nations. The United Nations see this declaration as a opportunity to raise awareness of global energy issues and to provide a platform for existing and planned initiatives, “energy is an opportunity. It transforms economies. And our planet” (United Nations Foundation, 2011). As part of this initiative the UN has launched what they are calling an ‘Energy Access Practitioner Network.’ The aim of this network is to “bring together practitioners from the private sector and civil society working on the delivery of energy services and solutions,” (United Nations Foundation, 2011). The hope is that by bringing together these practitioners and providing a global network that this International Year will truly include a global audience who are focused in meeting the three goals that were put forth as part of the International Year declaration.

The United Nations hopes to have succeeded in meeting the following three goals by 2030:
- Ensure universal access to modern energy services
- Reduce global energy intensity by 40%
- Increase renewable energy use globally by 30%
(Ki-moon, 2011)


Rachel Carson

March is Women's History Month, which aims to pay tribute to the role women have played in shaping the world as we know it. In honor of Women's History Month this week's post will feature one of the most significant environmental authors of the 20th century, Rachel Carson and her capstone piece Silent Spring.


Walk, Bike, Drive, Ride Transportation Planning For All Uses

Transportation is an important part of living sustainably. The media often promotes electric cars and alternative fuel sources as a solution to transportation problems. However cars are not the only way that people and goods get around. Complete Streets legislation helps to address the lack of focus on other transportation methods.

(Image: Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition)


The Fracking Debate

This week the topic of inquiry for the institutional sustainability blog is energy. In the past few weeks I have examined some recent innovations in energy transformation. This week I will be examine a very destructive up and coming method of energy collection. The purpose of my post this week is to shed light on a highly controversial practice of energy collection - the process of "fracking" in order to show some of the potential implications of over consumption of energy and the lengths companies go to meet consumer demand. 


The Future of Air Travel

The theme of the institutional sustainability blog this week is transportation. In this post I will examine air travel and the progress the industry has made in becoming more sustainable.


The Phenomenon of Waste

This week the topic of the Institutional Sustainability blog is waste. Although there are many contexts in which waste can occur, the concept of waste alludes to an unnecessary loss of potential. In this post, I will examine the implications of consumer waste and some of the artistic visions that have arisen through different mediums which address the phenomenon of gratuitous consumer waste.


Wave Powered Energy

As the world continues its search for alternative sources of energy, scientists have begun to look to the oceans. Although somewhat of a novel concept to the modern energy industry, harnessing oceanic waves for power actually began in the late 18th century. “The first wave-power patent was for a 1799 proposal by a Parisian named Monsieur Girard and his son to use direct mechanical action to drive pumps, saws, mills, or other heavy machinery (Ocean Energy Council).” In United Kingdom, one company is focusing its efforts on a technology called the Searaser. This unique system harnesses the rise and fall of oceanic currents, which generates energy off shore.Inventor Alvin Smith explains that it is imperative to split the process and have the transformation of energy off shore because of the hostile nature of the ocean environment and the cohesiveness of sea water (Carrington 2012).  


Going Paperless?

In our own project, we've been struggling with the use of paper.  Our full technical report, which is about 500+ pages, has been electronically distributed to almost anyone it might impact.  We also have a summary document that is a scant 20 pages, double-sided, which does get printed out quite a few times for distribution.  While energy savings already seems to come naturally to many people, saving paper can be a huge cultural change.  I, myself, prefer to read large documents from a hard-copy print-out, rather than on a bright computer screen.  E-ink technology does help the comfort level of digital reading, but there are still other barriers.  The concept of going paper-less has come up many times, and if we reduce the question to only the environmental impact of electricity use from digital devices versus reduced paper consumption, it becomes a little simpler than the question of cultural change.  However, this is still a tricky question in that the scope and assumptions of usage will greatly change the conclusions.   (Read more...)


The Evolving Relationship between Historic Preservation and Green Building

A popular mantra among historic preservationists is “The greenest building is the one that is already built.” (source 1) But to what degree is this true? On one hand, existing buildings contain embodied energy, generate less construction and demolition waste, and support smart growth. On the other hand, older buildings not properly maintained over time may have inefficient mechanical systems, leaky windows, and degraded materials, like roofing and insulation; these are all causes of high energy consumption. Historic preservation and sustainable building practices have not always worked together, but this relationship is evolving. This brief blog highlights a few of these changes.

 

Image source: http://www.nps.gov/tps/sustainability.htm