What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Monday, 25 October 2010

My Glasshouse on Re-Nest

The glasshouse I built for the global 350.org work party on 10/10/10 has shown up on Apartment Therapy's Re-Nest, one of my favorite sites for inspiration in my Reuse and Recycle endeavours. Check it out:

How To Build a Removable Mini Glass House To Extend Your Growing Season 




Saturday, 23 October 2010

Harvest the leaves!

This is indeed a time of harvest here at the Sustainable Living project. Peas, beans, tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet pepers, spicy lettuce, flat and curly parsley, oregano, mint, lemonbalm, stinging nettle, but most importantly leaves, leaves, leaves. It amazes me to see my neighbors bag up perfectly good, nutrient rich leaves and put them on the curb for "disposal". I'm collecting them as fast as I can. It must amaze my neighbors to see me drag their "waste" into my garden and pour them out around my trees, into my borders, and especially into leafmould piles, of which I now have 7. Each pile is approximately 4 or 5 ft in diameter and currently about 4 ft high. See picture.

I see the typical suburban lawn, surrounded by lovely trees, and see no leaves on the ground! Why do away with all those nutrients? They are natures way of recycling the nutrients that the tree has worked all year to dredge out of the ground. They then rely upon those nutrients that they drop beneath their boughs to break down, foster earth worms and fungi, and return the nutrients to themselves. Accordingly I have left the leaves my own trees, my colleagues, are dropping piled beneath them, adding to the piles in an attempt to reverse the decades of waste that has left the soil thin and hard, mostly clay. The leafmould I will reap from my piles will be added to the soil in the spring both as mulch and soil amendment. Think of it like a timed release vitamin, slowly releasing vital nutrients to the soil. It will also help the soil hold moisture. Additionally the earthworms that move into it over the winter will have enriched it with their castings, the fungi spreading throughout will help form a link between the nitroben fixing bacteria in the soil and the roots of the plants to enable them to take up the nitrogen.

What a wonderful soil amendment is leafmould. Pile em up, keep em damp, and in a matter of months you have leafmould, rich in mycorhizi, a good source of slow burn nutrients, and a particularly good way to add organic matter to your soil.

Here is a link to a document produced by GardenOrganic in the UK about making, using, and the benefits of leaf mould.
Make your own Leafmould

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The economic value of ecosystem services

Check out this podcast over on Greenplanet FM.

Dr Wayne Cartwright ~ A courageous statement for Strong Sustainability

It's a wonderful interview with the current Chair of Sustainable Aotearoa NZ.

To paraphrase one of his most salient points, the value of ecosystem services rendered to all of humankind greatly exceeds all the economic output generated by humankind.

So what is Strong Sustainability? here is the definition from the Phase2 website, a strong sustainability think tank.

"The concept of strong sustainability is based on the scientific fact that all human life and activity occurs within the limitations of planet Earth, or the 'biosphere' where humankind lives, including all societal functions, such as the economy.

It is a self-evident truth that without a functioning biosphere there can be no society or 'sociosphere', and without a sociosphere there can be no societal functions, including an economy or 'econosphere'.

Strong sustainability recognises that in order for human civilisation to continue, the true model for sustaining the planet on which we rely to survive should look like this:

Here is the abstract from-  The Ethics of a Sustainable Economy: Implications for Public Policy Dr Robert Howell and Dr Wayne Cartwright

"The currently dominant neoclassical economic model is not based on modern science or an ethic that adequately considers human­Earth relationships. This thinking and the activity based on it is leading to a dismal future for human life on Earth. It is based on the dominant ethics of utilitarianism and a version of the Lockean social contract. These, and the neoclassical model of economics, need to be replaced if sustainable human living is to be achieved. A steady state economics and an ethic based on the concepts of integrity, intrinsic value, reverence or respect, combined with equity, are required as the fundamental principles of public policy.    Some of the implications for this policy in economic measurement; strategies and plans for transition; laws, regulations and taxes; government departments; money supply and banking; investment; energy; rural land use; and immigration and population, are briefly described.    These changes are so profound and fundamental that many will find it difficult to move to new ways of thinking and behaving. Yet if a core function of government is to attend to the security of its citizens, these public policy directions are essential."

Also check out this post on the topic  of valuing ecosystem services over at Care2Causes,

Valuing Green in Greenbacks: Should We Put a Price on Services Rendered by Nature?



Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What was I thinking?! Grazing for dinner.

Tonight as I sat down to relax with a little snoot of Bermudian Black Seal rum and some organic cheese crackers, I perused my video collection in iTunes. Since my wife is still in the green and pleasant land I chose a BBC production from the Natural World series called "A Farm for the Future".

It chronicles the journey one woman takes from her traditional farming roots to Permaculture in order to future proof her family farm in Devon in the face of Peak Oil. It is an excellent program and I highly recommend it if for nothing else the beautiful scenes of British countryside and wildlife.

At one point our heroine, after talking with Patrick Whitefield about permaculture, is touring Martin Crawford's food forest, gobsmacked by the abundance growing naturally with very little maintenance, and it struck me, here I sit munching highly processed snack foods while sipping an imported rum while there are greens aplenty and tomatoes still to harvest from my own garden! Pausing the film I went outside and gathered two types of parsley, basil, two types of spicy lettuce, some tomatoes and my all time favorite, fresh stinging nettle!

Into a colander it went, a quick rinse, and now I'm finishing my repast of fresh greens and tomatoes, no dressing, no meat, no dairy, all grown right here within 100 feet of where I stuff my face. Bliss!

Video - Tim Jackson - Economic Collapse or Prosperity Without Growth

Tim Jackson recently spoke at TED , here he is speaking in Totnes. Thanks to Rob Hopkins over at Transition Culture for the heads up on this.
"An unparalleled opportunity to come to grips with what the current financial crisis means for you.

Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth and Ed Mayo Secretary General of Cooperatives UK will be joined by Naresh Giangrande of Transition Town Totnes in a 'trialogue'."

Sunday, 10 October 2010

10/10/10 work day, progress report

I managed to complete the Glasshouse, built from reused windows, and installed the first planting. We'll raise some greens throughout the winter, it is south facing, and will thus reduce our consumption of non local food. As you can see in the picture the lid is rigged to raise and lower to regulate heat. Also the windows on each end of the lid can be operated independently. As you can see in the second picture Annie took her duties as foredog very seriously. I also took some time to spend some birthday cash on some books I've been wanting, see the links below.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

350.org global work day for the climate, our project

Tomorrow at 10 am I will begin putting the finishing touches on a mini glass house, made from recycled windows, intended for growing greens this winter. I also hope to drag out the used solar panels I bought about 8 years ago from Solar Living Institute for their first output test. If anyone is in the neighborhood and would like to help or just see what it is all about, I'll probably do a quick tour of the Sustainable living project as well, please stop by between the hours of 10 and 4.