Sunday, February 26, 2012

Local building - the 100 mile home

The locavore movement has encouraged people to eat food produced within a 100 miles from their home. Now, the momentum has shifted to sustainable architecture with the 100 mile home, building a house using materials found or recycled within 100 miles.

The concept of local building isn't new. Back in the day without airplanes and widespread transport, it was simply more practical and cheaper to use what resources were close by. But now it is commonplace to order marble from Italy and bamboo floors from China. Reframing the concept of building a house from local materials challenges architects to think about where each component of the house is made.

Like local eating, local building brings a lot of benefits, especially to the community. Naturalist and writer Briony Penn from British Columbia, with help from builder Michael Dragland, recently built a 100 mile house on Salt Spring Island. As she says,

"The 100-mile house is just fun. It provides a fun way to define how you're going to build a house, because you go out and you talk to all your neighbors, and it builds community and puts money back in the hands of everybody in your community."

Last week, the Architecture Foundation of British Columbia launched an international competition to design a 1,200-square-foot, four-person home that exclusively uses materials made or recycled within 100 miles of Vancouver. It'll be interesting to see what kind of designs come out of it!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Biofuel from Food

This is something cool that I just came across. The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Europe's largest applied research center, announced that it will begin turning old produce into bio-gas at a pilot site in Stuttgart, Germany. The facility will use microorganisms to transform food scraps into methane gas, which can power a car once compressed and emits less carbon dioxide during combustion than gasoline. Although the process only takes several days to convert food to fuel, the challenge lies in dealing with the inconsistency of the raw materials—the acidity of a mound of food scraps can vary wildly. For example, oranges and other citric foods are acidic, but leafy greens aren't, so the pH of the system must be adjusted for the microorganisms.

This is a great way to make our waste production (of food, at least) more closed. When the waste can be reused for various purposes (compost to return nutrients to soil or conversion to biofuel), the system becomes more self sustaining. And we're all about sustainability nowadays!

Friday, February 10, 2012

PIARN seminar and webinar: Adapting agriculture management to cope with high intensity rainfall

Upcoming seminar on climate change adaptation for agriculture at University of Melbourne! Check it out or attend virtually.

PIARN Webinar and seminar: Adapting agriculture management to cope with high intensity rainfall

Presented by

Jim Salinger, Stanford University and NCCARF

and Holger Meinke, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

on behalf PIARN and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).

Date: Thursday 15 March, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm, followed by refreshments

Venue: Theatre 1, 207 Bouverie St (building 379), Parkville, University of Melbourne, and available remotely via live online webinar

Cost: Free

RSVP: To attend either the webinar or seminar please register online by 9 March

Although Australia is among the driest continents, global warming will manifest in more variable rainfall and increased extreme events.

This is already having massive impacts on agriculture. Three days of extreme rainfall events in Tasmania in 2011 destroyed vegetable crops and wine grapes, and spread disease.

In this seminar, Professors Salinger and Meinke outline a new project to improve early warning systems and risk management of the increasing flood threat. This will enable farmers to adapt cropping systems, and produce methods that will have applications throughout Australia’s flood-prone farmland.

For more information and to register visit the PIARN website.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Permablitz and Sharehood videos

Here's another cool time lapse of a permablitz I did back in Nov 2011. Thanks to Tim Metherall for filming the timelapse. In the background you'll see a fox-proof chicken coup and "strawyard" being constructed, with lawn cleared and veggie beds prepared in the foreground.

The special thing about this permablitz was that the Sharehood, an Australian community organization about sharing appliances and helping people get to know their neighbors, donated the seedlings. Everyone who came got to take a free veggie seedling home, the only catch was you had to take two, and give one to a neighbour and tell them about The Sharehood. The Sharehood "aims to build joyful, sustainable and resilient communities by encouraging people to get to know their neighbours and share with them." There's an online tool and services trading network. Learn more at the Sharehood or watch the little video below with Michael Green, who gave a workshop at the blitz. It's a great model for community building.

Michael Green from Sharehood from Raphaela Lee on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Atlanta Entrepreneurs Think Outside the Boxcar with Healthy Corner Store

Reposting a Daily Good article on rebranding the food movement. Read more!

Atlanta Entrepreneurs Think Outside the Boxcar with Healthy Corner Store

As entrepreneurs and food activists attempt to bring fresh produce to more and more urban food deserts, they're setting their crosshairs on one target in particular: the corner store. Packed to the gills with cigarettes, lotto tickets, liquor, and processed foods, the shops do little to nourish the communities where they operate, and in many urban areas—particularly black, Latino, or low-income neighborhoods—these stores are the only places to buy any food at all.

According to Alphonzo and Alison Cross, founders of The Boxcar Grocer in Atlanta (and winners of GOOD's contest to redesign the supermarket), this needs to change. Their just-opened corner store alternative, where local and organic food options get prime shelf space, is an attempt to respect "the fact that every community desires fresh food, and locally made food is just about as fresh as you can get," says Alison.

The Castleberry Hill neighborhood, where Boxcar sits, is full of preserved railroad warehouses (hence the name), but doesn't have another decent grocery store within five miles, despite its proximity to City Hall and college campuses. "We chose to put the store here exactly for this reason," says Alison. "The demographics, to us, looked like a sure sign of success."

The brother-sister duo's mission is to broaden the appeal of the food movement to embrace more black eaters. The first step is the vintage train-themed brand. "Railroads are great connectors," according to Alison. "They are also what took African Americans out of the South, saving our lives in many instances, as well as brought them back to visit their families." While the typical branding on the nonprofits and businesses of the local food movement tends to idealize an agricultural lifestyle, that's "something the African American community does not really desire to go back to, even though we need to address lots of health issues directly related to the type of foods we're eating," Alison says.

The store has enjoyed the support of "the entire Atlanta community" since its launch in November, with residents of other neighborhoods already asking the Crosses to open outposts. "The only real challenge," Alison says, "is how to keep enough food on the shelves on a daily basis."

Find out more about Boxcar Grocer here!