Dispatches from the Field & Project Summaries

The greenest tank of gas I ever bought.

August 29, 2011

We stopped in Eugene, OR at SeQuential Biofuels, a cute gas station right off of Interstate 5 that has made a commitment to environmental sustainability, and to the local economy. Rolling in to the station, we met Ian Hill, cofounder of the station, who talked to us about about the biodeisel pumped into our tank, from farm to fuel line.

Our biodeisel begins its story in a Canola Field where it grows into seeds which are pressed into oil. That oil is then taken to Burgerville, a small chain of fast food restaurants in the Portland, OR region that serves many seasonal foods grown in the region. The oil is used in their fryer, and when it’s time to change the oil, Burgerville sells the used cooking oil to Encore Oils, SeQuential’s oil collection service. It is then trucked down to their processing plant in Salem, OR where it is cooked into biodesil, and distributed to filling stations throughout the region, including their flagship station where we’ve just arrived. They also sell e85 for flex-fuel vehicles that is recycled from a food processor in Cornelius, OR. Once it’s in our tank, the biodiesel reduces the carbon dioxide emissions of the SolTrekker by 78%, reducing the health impacts of our travels on both our neighbors and our planet.

Even the presense of the station is a sustainability sucess story. The site it was built on was a gas station for 50 years, until neighbors started complaining of gasoline flavored well water. The operater of the station went bankrupt, and the land was listed as a brownfield “orphan site” theoretically managed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (The DEQ). The land became a toxic hot potato, changing ownership several times until Lane County took ownership in a tax forclosure. At this point, Ian, Tyson Keever, and Tomas Endicott found the site. They had met in college at the University of Oregon, and approached Lane County and the DEQ to begin soil remediation on the site. As a result of their work, the well is once again in use, and soil petrochemical contamination has been reduced to trace levels. The project won the 2007 EPA Phoenix Award for the Community Impact – UST category

Walking in to the convenience store, I’m struck by the contrast between the gas station vibe of the place and the products on the shelves. The first thing I saw were the doughnuts. Instead of the usual selection, they featured the local bakery Holy Doughnuts such delecacies as ginger pineapple, strawbery, apple strudel, and chocolate maple. Where I would expect a soda fountain they had four taps of draught kombucha from two different local companies. They sold produce from local farms, organic juices from local producer Genesis Juice, and a full sandwich deli that features local bacon and eggs, 100% hormone, antibiotic, and nitrite/nitrate free meats, and all organic produce. — it’s the first gas station I can imagine going out of my way to get lunch at.

The building itself is another sustainability story. They use 30% less energy than a typical convenience store of their size, with passive solar heating and cooling accounting for a significant reduction in heating and cooling costs. They have to turn their air conditioning on an average of 30 days per year, and last winter they didn’t have to turn on the heat once. The station also features a living roof and bioswales to help control pollution and run-off.

For all of these innovations, I think the most exciting piece of this story is that the company was started by three kids with a big idea and and the drive to make it work. Ian put it best when he told me “we need more people to go after the wacky ideas they have, to just give it a try.”

When we’re in the region,  we’ll be proud to fill our tank with Biodiesel from SeQuential.

About the Author: Davi Rios is passionate about living sustainably and encouraging others to do the same. Davi sees the mobile tour as an opportunity to share that passion with others, and is particularly excited about the school presentations. In Davi’s free time Davi enjoys partner dancing, and hopes to one day begin a career splitting time between writing and teaching dance.

Why Now Is The best time to be a Locavore

August 22, 2011

By now most people have heard of the popular trend of “buying local” goods and services as a great way to make a positive impact on your local economy and as a way to boost regional sustainability.  Well, now with the continuing economic volatility there are more reasons than ever to become full fledged “locavore”.

Here are 5 wonderful ways to make the leap to local:
1.) Open a bank account with a local credit union.
Credit unions have a practice of supporting small business and generally aren’t plagued by the high profile scandals affecting big finance.
2.) Plant a nice garden.
Most folks have way more sod than necessary why not sheet mulch your grass and plant permaculture designed food forest instead.
3.) Know your farmer.
The best place to meet a lot of farmers is of course at the farmer’s market.  If you build relationships with local farmers this leads to great local resiliency and possibly great deals for you down the road.
4.)  Educate yourself on local resource and skill sharing.
We all have something to share whether it’s tools, skills, or rooms or land and there lots of online platforms to help make this easier, take a look at shareable.net to find the latest sharing developments.
5.) Learn to frement, brew, and preserve food.
Bartering home-brew, kim-chi, or preserves is a great way to not only meet other domestic food enthusiast, but also for getting goods and services with in your local vicinity.  Punk domestics is a perfect place to start for ideas and recipes.

Go Box PDX

August 9, 2011

I love food carts!  The great thing about them is that they have a high stumble upon factor.  For instance, walking around downtown Portland OR you can’t throw a stone without hitting a food or bike car so your choices on food are excellent, but unfortunately your choices on to go containers are not.  Extra packaging with food cart food use to push my eco-guilt buttons, well no more, because now we have the Go Box service.  The Green Living Project mobile tour team interviewed Go Box’s founder Laura Wiesse while traveling through Portland.  Laura explained how Go Box partners with food carts to offer customers a reusable container service that is convenient, brilliant, and affordable.  Customers pay a one time fee for a subscription and get their food with a reusable container, and then return the containers to drop location to be washed they’re given a Go Box token for their next container.  It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it will stop all lot of unnecessary waste from ending up in landfills.   Go Box was recently featured on the Sustainable Business Oregon blog and is growing fast.  Finally, more food cart food, less food cart trash!