Posts Tagged ‘new york’

After a long day in the salt mines, it is a great relief to return to a warm, comfortable, and beautiful living space. To keep your eyes happy, body relaxed, and eyes excited, take a look at New York-based designer Meredith Goodwin’s amazing bamboo furniture! The KURV coffee table (pictured above) is a modernist appointment that is incredibly held together by tension alone. The body is composed of bamboo plywood that is certified under the 6.0 Section of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Materials and Resource Point System. Designed with only a few connections, the KURV is available to be ordered and shipped flat, and can be easily assembled at home.

Equally beautiful is Goodwin’s HALO LED-lit dining room table. Also constructed using bamboo, the entire piece is lit by small, energy-efficient bulbs to create a little bit of modernist mood lighting for your living room. Like the KURV, all pieces arrive flat-packed, ready to be assembled for a much more environmentally friendly piece than you could find at particle-board loving IKEA.

Across the US, hydraulic fracturing has been the source of a raging debate over domestic energy policy. While some tout “fracking” as a way to generate local power and provide jobs and money in a time of economic hardship, the act of  shattering shale to extract gas and petroleum have many worried. From exploding wells and flammable tap water to toxic chemicals contaminating aquifers and earthquakes, fracking has major consequences for the environment. California stands as the 4th largest gas and oil producing state, and even though new existing wells are already being exploited by fracking technology, the process is almost completely unregulated.

In response to the exploitation of land and natural resources, the Global Exchange has organized California Communities Rising Against Fracking, a speaking tour of the Golden State that exposes the realities of the extraction technology. The tour will largely target those areas that would most strongly impacted and stops include Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Culver City, and Los Angeles. Each stop will host a day of action preceded by a local media plan and outreach groups. Former Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania councilman Dough Shields will be scheduled to speak as one of the first to enact a “rights-based” ban on fracking in the nation.

The Global Exchange launched the Community Rights Program challenging corporate power five years ago to confront the unjust laws that value big business over the rights of citizens. The have partnered with organizations such as 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Clean Water Action, EarthWorks, and Transition Towns to fight for the health and well-being of Americans through grassroots efforts. Currently, they are working towards banning fracking in San Luis Obispo county, following the examples of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Mexico who have outlawed the process.

For more information on the tour, contact Shannon Biggs, Community Rights Program Director for the Global Exchange at (415) 575-5540 and shannon@globalexhange.org.

Bamboo DNA

Through their sustainable, high-performance bamboo structures, Bamboo DNA supports arts and culture around the world. Founded by New York artist and designer Gerard Minakawa, the company specializes in building sets and stages for a network of performers, as well as sculptural installations for museums and galleries. Minakawa holds BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and has had previous experience teaching classes and studying under indigenous craftsmen in Bolivia. Bamboo DNA has created installations and sculptures for such big events as the Coachella Music Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, Burning Man, and LACMA Muse.

When choosing the right bamboo for a project, Minakawa carefully selects each pole and panel, paying attention to the slightest variations and personality of the material. Taken together in a cohesive whole, the bamboo takes on certain performance characteristics that exemplify strength, organic shape, and versatility. While intuitive for him, he finds the greatest challenge is teaching others how to identify these traits. The initial stages involve plenty of team collaboration, sketches, and 3D computer models.

Once the bamboo is selected, it is time to build on site. While some installations are custom-made, several are “kits” that can be re-used for multiple festivals. From mandalas to gigantic spiders, each endeavor takes a new set of skills and requirements. Regardless of size or scale, Bamboo DNA  is committed to showcasing the dynamism of one of the earth’s most amazing plants.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  So it goes for antiques, and now so too for human waste.  Why let a good source of energy go literally down the toilet?  Aside from recycling possible sources of electricity, new  technology saves sewage from contaminating waterways and breeding illness and helps conserve water. With 860 billion gallons of of sewage and contaminated rainwater making its way into our waterways every year, the innovations from these forward-thinking engineers, green-builders, and scientists, are becoming more and more valuable contributions to issues of global health and infrastructure.

Poop and Paddle-  Adam Katzman, a former New Jersey suburban dweller, now calls a houseboat home.  The off-the-grid floating residence sails down the Gowanus Canal in New York.  Located in Brooklyn, the canal is known one of the most polluted waterways in the United States.  Thankfully, Katzman can sail true knowing that his waste processing system makes sure that he is not sullying his watery neighborhood.  By creating a “constructed wetlands” aboard a separate structure, his floating toilet uses bioremediation to clean the water that runs through the contraption.  It uses rainwater catchments to flush,a holding tank that utilizes anaerobic digestion , wetland plants and gravel to filter urine and fecal matter.  Water eventually irrigates a group of planter boxes and is evaporated back into the clouds as clean H20, ready to fall again onto the roof of the “Poo and Paddle” as precipitation.  Each flush makes its way through the whole setup every 30 days.

Reinvent the Toilet- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has long been interested in making a positive difference in the developing world.  Among major concern is the lack of access for adequate sanitation that nearly 2.6 billion of the world’s population cannot afford to install.  In an effort to encourage collaboration, the Foundation awarded eight universities with grants to design toilets that use minimal amounts of water, use waste as a form of potential energy, and could be distributed within the next 2-4 years.  The top prize of $100,000 was awarded to a team from Caltech for their solar-powered apparatus.  Electrical power is produced from solar cells atop an outdoor stall and from the hydrogen gas produced by decomposing waste collected in an electrochemical reactor.  Hydrogen can be stored in fuel cells and saved for low light conditions.  Recovered water is treated through the operation of the toilet, and is used to flush.

Do you own a composting toilet?  How do you let your poo work for you?

 

Everything breaks.  It is a law of the Universe.  At some point in its life span, an object will begin to wear, degrade, and eventually come undone.  However, some of our tools, pieces of clothing, appliances, and furniture last longer than others.  For the past 80 or so years, planned obsolescence — the intentional design and manufacturing practice meant to ensure the failure of a product — has been a major contributing factor to landfill crowding, waste, and woefully poor construction.  As seen in Annie Leonard’s animation, The Story of Stuff, precious natural resources and good, hard-earned cash are being squandered in the pursuit of acquiring junk and replacing it with new, poorly-made models.

The clear answer to ensuring the longevity of your stuff is simple: fix it.  Yet, where do you go nowadays to make simple repairs that will not break the bank?  Head on down to your local repair cafe, a concept that is beginning to draw proponents of conservation, tinkerers, caffeine hounds, and community advocates.  Beginning in the Netherlands two and a half years ago by a former journalist, the world’s first Repair Cafe occurs in an Amsterdam community center every couple of months.  The gatherings are open to whoever needs assistance or to those willing to help others tune up their miscellaneous odds and ends.  Branching out from its initial humble incarnation in the foyer of a theater, the Cafe is now supported by an official foundation, small donations, and grants from the Dutch government.  There now exist over forty similar start-ups throughout the country, and even a Repair Cafe bus.  The Foundation is working on translating DIY material and tutorials for use in the  United States.

A little closer to home, repair collectives are sprouting up in community centers, coffee shops, and auditoriums.  The West Seattle Fixers Collective holds meetings twice a month at the West Seattle Tool Library, featuring events such as re-sewing umbrellas, repairing espresso makers, laptops, appliances, and mending antiques.  In New York, the Fixers Collective, which has been running since 2008, began as part of an art exhibit in Brooklyn, and continues as a project in residence at Protues Gowanus, and interdisciplinary gallery and reading room.  Fixing sessions include “Master Fixers” who have a range of knowledge and experience, apprentices, and drop-in visitors looking to putter and socialize.

Here in San Luis Obispo, you can cruise on over to the SLO Bicycle Coalition’s Bike Kitchen (860 Pacific St., Suite 105).  The space comes equipped with tools, gear, parts, and experts who can help guide you in your mission to tune up your ride.  The Coalition offers seminars on traffic safety and bicycle maintenance with hands-on demonstrations.  The Kitchen is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4-7pm, and Sunday from 12-4pm.  Day use is $5 (plus any parts purchased), and Coalition members receive 4 free visits.

Give your possessions a little TLC instead of the old heave-ho.  Ask a friend, attend a repair cafe meeting, or search for a video on YouTube.  Your wallet and Mother Nature will thank you!

 

Generally speaking, I am not subject to fits of anger.  I tend to keep a level head in most situations, practicing meditative compassion during rush hour traffic and while standing in long grocery store lines.  Walking along gently flowing creeks and a hike in the woods is my idea of a wild time out, and I’ll raise my voice only to get someone’s attention in a crowd or accentuate the punchline of a terrible pun.

However, while watching Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland, I nearly had to pause the film on several occasions in order to march out into the street in a frothing rage to go and hit someone in the face.  Why the almost Hulk-like transformation from pacifist to puncher?  Hydraulic fracturing.

On the surface, harvesting natural gas from deep underground seems like a a good idea.  The United States contains a great deal of fuel-producing shale formations that trap potential sources of energy.  Proponents of natural gas extraction argue that we could wean ourselves off foreign oil by taking advantages of this home-grown alternative fossil fuel.  New York alone has enough natural gas to rival two Saudi Arabias, and extraction sites occur across the most of the south, midwest and parts of the west.

The infrastructure needed to drill, remove and process the gas has the potential to create new jobs and revitalize the communities whose land is leased to drill the fracturing wells.  Industry advocates assure the pubic that the harvesting process is safe, unobtrusive, and an overall benefit to the landowners participating in extraction. As Fox discovers after being sent a request to drill on his creekside Pennyslvania property, “fracking” holds some very hazardous secrets that affect the well-being and health of human lives, watershed ecosystems, and political transparency.

During Fox’s investigation of fracking, there are almost too many violations of decent human conduct to name.  Despite claims of fracking’s minimal impact on the environment, the process of drilling requires over 500 chemicals and millions of gallons of water to break shale deposits, keep the drill well open, and extract the gas.  Many of the compounds are known neurotoxins and carcinogens, and along with the gas they help remove, highly flammable.  Most of these chemicals are not biodegradable and sit in slurry pits, affecting the health of nearby residents, livestock and habitats.

Reports of cancer, brain lesions, fatigue, hair loss, infertility, and a veritable medial text book of other maladies skyrocket next to fracking wells.  Once clean wells become unit for consumption and water must be replaced with expensive alternative sources trucked in from miles away.  Promises to compensate landowners are either met with legal teams and empty guarantees or outright denials of the well’s detrimental effects.  Animals lose their hair or die outright, human beings suffer from permanent and irreversible illnesses, and the value of once productive agricultural land plummets.

As if corporate greed were not enough to stoke the flames of fury, the backdoor deals and creation of big business loopholes will set you ablaze.  Sidestepping the Clean Water Act,  legislation in 2005 known as the “Halliburton Loophole”  allowed the Bush-Cheney White House to let fracking industry forgo environmental impact reports and keep the identity and composition of their “proprietary” chemicals from public review.  The Act was also instrumental in the largest transfer of public BLM land to private interests in the country’s history.

Pieces of national heritage were opened to exploitation and almost irreversible damage without the majority of Americans being aware of the laws affecting their health and the appropriation of their tax dollars.  It may have been at this point in the film that I nearly had an aneurism.  (On second thought , it might have actually happened while watching people lighting their drinking water on fire.  WATER. ON FIRE.)

Now, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s consideration of lifting the fracking ban in New York state, it is time for the nation as a whole to take a closer look at the hydraulic fracturing industry.  How do we as a society want to power our infrastructure?  Where do we draw the line between consumption and safety, and what are we willing to sacrifice or change to be able to live in a healthy industrialized nation?

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