The first One Planet Living residents in the U.S. have moved in to the Grow Community near Seattle, endorsed as a One Planet Community by BioRegional only last year. A young couple and their two dogs are living in the first Net Zero Home, working closely with developer Asani to monitor their progress toward Zero Carbon living in the home. READ MORE >>
By John Talberth, Erin Gray, Logan Yonavjak, Todd Gartner
Cities around the country are starting to realize the economic—to say nothing of environmental—benefits of this shifting reality. A recent analysis by New York City found that green roofs and bioswales could help meet water-quality goals with savings of more than $1 billion compared to conventional infrastructure; the Chesapeake Bay could reduce nitrogen loading at less than half the price by using cover crops instead of upgraded wastewater plants. The City of Philadelphia found that the net present value of green infrastructure for storm-water control ranged from $1.94 to $4.45 billion, while gray infrastructure benefits ranged from only $0.06 to $0.14 billion over a 40-year period. And using a system of wetlands, North Carolina could minimize storm-water runoff for 47 cents per thousand gallons treated. Using conventional storm-water controls, this figure jumps to $3.24 per thousand gallons.3-5
An emerging hypothesis in environmental management settings is that investment in ecosystem-based green infrastructure solutions provides economically superior environmental quality outcomes when compared to investments in technology-based or “gray” infrastructure. READ MORE >>
Pioneers change over time, just as cities do. Not that long ago (when it opened in 1960), Lloyd Center was a pioneer: an open air, car-oriented shopping mall. Now it's the center of a new kind of pioneer, a fledgling EcoDistrict, poster child for the five Portland eco-districts leading the way into the green, energy-efficient, healthy and sustainable 21st century.
What is an eco-district? Good question. The recent EcoDistricts Summit held at Portland State University had the answers, and was itself a clear indication of how city planning – and mainstream real estate development – changes over time, to the benefit of us all. We live and learn, as individuals, societies, and cities, from our mistakes and from the knowledge we accumulate over time.
The Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI) knows what an eco-district is. They're a leading proponent of this new term for the latest and greatest way to build a city today, and are helping defining it. (Actually, "eco-district" is not exactly a brand new nomenclature, but has taken about a decade to get any traction.) PoSI was the lead sponsor of the EcoDistricts Summit. Their website tells us that "an eco-district is a neighborhood or district with a broad commitment to accelerate neighborhood-scale sustainability. EcoDistricts commit to achieving ambitious sustainability performance goals, guiding district investments and community action, and tracking the results over time." Got it? It's a logical step forward from the connection planners, politicos and citizens made in the 1970s and '80s to connect land use and transportation policies. Now, health – of the planet and its people – and resources are up front considerations as well. READ MORE >>
UniverCity on Burnaby Mountain aims to be home to the world’s first community designed as a Living Neighbourhood as part of the Living Building Challenge. This new phase of the community will eventually create as much energy and water as it consumes and be built using healthy, non-toxic materials. The plan will provide the platform to build, over time, a neighbourhood with a net zero energy, water and waste footprint– a global first.
Most people are aware that reducing carbon emissions could help the planet. But convincing a particular individual to change his or her behavior in ways that emit less carbon—not to mention the behavior of an entire city—can be a monumental challenge.
David Gershon, founder of the Empowerment Institute in Woodstock, N.Y., is taking on that challenge, with help from three urban managers who hope their cities can become models for the future.
Now Gershon has enlisted three municipalities in California, each with 50,000 to 75,000 residents, to try to scale up the cool communities approach citywide. He hopes that the cities will in turn inspire others to follow suit. Gershon is relying on one key manager in each California location to lead the charge: Mitch Sears, the sustainability programs manager for Davis; Debra van Duynhoven, the sustainability coordinator for Palo Alto; and Richard Dale, executive director at the Sonoma Ecology Center in Sonoma.
The plan is to get 25 to 75 percent of each city’s citizens to reduce their carbon footprint by 25 percent within three years. READ MORE >>
Cities today are looking for an edge to curb operational expenses. Where capital is available, investing in sustainable technologies is a win-win. The city of South Bend, with the help of BSA LifeStructures, is moving towards a more sustainable model; beginning with the development of Ignition Park on the brownfield site formerly occupied by the Studebaker Corporation. BSA LifeStructures' Urban Forest concept focuses on bringing sustainable technologies to the urban setting. Through our campus planning and business incubator planning strategies we are aiming to reduce storm water runoff, generate sustainable power, and lessen the development footprint of the park. While these technologies and concepts are adding to the initial development cost, the payback is such that the city couldn't afford not to move forward with these concepts. In fact, the city is looking to utilize these concepts outside of the park as they address sustainability regionally.
The goal when implementing a concept like the Urban Forest is to gain support from multiple entities and interests within the community. READ MORE >>
This northern Ohio college town is barely a blip on a map, far away from national centers of power. And yet people here are working on a plan that could make it a model for fundamentally reshaping the American economy and its society.
The architect of the plan is David W. Orr, a professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin College. More than a decade ago, he helped inspire a "green building" trend when he dreamed up the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, which remains one of the greenest college buildings in the country.
Now he wants to expand that vision to Oberlin and its surrounding area. The Oberlin Project, as it's called, joins town and gown to create a resilient community for a post-fossil-fuel era. When asked to describe the project, Mr. Orr conjures a picture of life in Oberlin—a city of 8,000 residents and students, 40 miles outside of Cleveland—many years into the future: The town and the college would be powered by renewable energy, with a smattering of new and renovated green buildings at the town's core—the first among them paid for by the college. A "greenbelt" of farms would pump food, wood, and fiber into the city, while a steady stream of money from the college and small businesses, like restaurants and furniture manufacturers, would flow back out to the farms. The college, the local community college, the local vocational school, and the city's elementary and secondary schools would rejigger their programs to prepare students to live in the future: a world short on oil, wracked by unstable weather, relying increasingly on sustainable design, regional industries, and local know-how. The town itself would be a laboratory for a new way of life. READ MORE >>
Neal Peirce of the Washington Post Writers Group is one of my favorite writers - and has long covered the dynamics of cities, the changing face of urbanism and sustainability trends.
By Neal Peirce
What if we got really serious about “greenscaping” our neighborhoods, towns and cities — bringing them closer, by plantings, building design, nurturing parks both great and small, to the natural world that preceded them?
It may be much more important than we think. Journalist-visionary Richard Louv argues that in an age of overwhelming technology, as we dive ever deeper “into a sea of circuitry,” we need more than ever to relate to the natural world. And that we embrace “The Nature Principle,” title of his latest book (subtitled “Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder,” published by Algonquin Books).
Louv’s earlier book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” sparked the creation of an international movement to reconnect children with the natural world.
Now he’s taking the case a step further — to suggest that all of us need deeper, daily contact with nature to “feel fully alive” — to shake free of our own “nature-deficit disorder,” to expand our senses, to reignite our sense of awe. In the process, he argues, we’ll not just be freer of the modern tangle of technology’s constant drumbeat. We’ll also tap nature’s power to calm and focus our minds, improve our physical and spiritual health, boost our mental acuity and do better both in interpersonal relationships and careers.
Cities themselves, Louv argues, need to pay more attention to the Nature Principle — “Vitamin N” — if they’re to be livable, sustaining, successful homes for growing majorities of mankind. READ MORE >>
The Oberlin Project, brainchild of the College’s Paul W. Sears Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, David Orr, has recently taken its first steps toward changing the way the members of the Oberlin community live, work, consume and study at Oberlin. The project, organized around five principle goals, is a concerted effort in what Orr refers to as “full-spectrum sustainability:” an all-encompassing joint venture by the town and College to create a thriving, sustainable and environmentally friendly community in Oberlin.
The principle goals of the Oberlin Project are constructing a downtown green arts district, achieving climate neutrality for both city and College, creating a green belt for agriculture and forestry and the realization of these aims as an educational alliance between the College and other local schools. Additionally, in an effort unrelated to the College, the project hopes to serve as a model that can be replicated in towns and cities across the United States.
Ten teams — consisting of educators, city politicians, community leaders and policymakers — are simultaneously working on specific aspects of these overarching goals under the leadership of Orr, College President Marvin Krislov, Managing Director Bryan Stubbs and Eric Norenberg, Oberlin’s city manager. The project is expected to take more than a decade to complete.
As Orr said, “Full-spectrum sustainability is not a simple conversation. … It’s a fancy way to describe a lot of conversations that occur between the boundaries by which we organized the industrial world.” READ MORE >>