Dispatches from the Field & Project Summaries
March 28, 2012
November 20, 2011
The Green Living Project mobile tour was excited to visit Umass Amerherst during their recent sustainability fair. Umass Amherst is a very large progressive university in the quaint little city of Amherst, MA, which is incidentally overwhelmingly populated by young college students. The youthful energy of the area and the fact that Umass Amherst is a nationwide leader in sustainability education has lead to some new transformations on the campus especially in regards to permaculture education. Permaculture is a ecological design system based on natural principals used to build sustainable human habitats. It has applications that range from agriculture, to building integrated systems in cities, to community organization, and it’s been catching on accross the country like wildfire. Umass had previously been blessed with an organic student run farm but thanks to the efforts of students and the facilitation by permaculture designer and sustainbility coordinator Ryan Harb they now have this amazing permaculture garden for the entire Amherst community to enjoy. The Franklin DC Permaculture Garden is located right next to the university dining commons and new efforts have been made to include a larger share of local and student farmed produce in meals served at the hall. The model that Umass has helped promote is now being replicated in other campuses. You can watch the video of their garden transformation below.
If your looking for a place to learn more about permaculture, natural building, and ecological design we recommend checking out the Lost Valley Education Center outside Eugene, OR
October 17, 2011
The Green Living Project Mobile tour had been exploring NYC this week and kicked off our green discoveries at the East Brooklyn Farmers Market. Recently, there has be a groundswell of interest in urban gardening and farming. Every month in Brooklyn there are new urban retrofits, rooftop farms, and community gardens in development and this energy is regenerating spaces across the city at a unprecedented speed. East Brooklyn is a great example of this community oriented dedication. The East Brooklyn Farmers market is a colorful bizarre of flavors, wares, and produce, from authentic Caribbean food, to heirloom organic vegetables grown in the neighborhood, this farmers market has something for everyone and the best part is that it’s located right next to a large and beautiful community garden. The mobile tour team talked with a growing youth composting cooperative and with the MacArther Genius award winner Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx who just happened to be visiting in the area. Later that week the team went to an amazing Permaculture fundraiser for the Imani Garden which featured a traditional New England lobster dinner and a excellent intro to Permaculture talk by Teddy Tamirat sponsored by the Green Phoenix permaculture group that is active all over NYC.
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.
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”.
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!
July 30, 2011
Hands on outdoor learning is a wonderful way to get young students to connect with their subject matter. Sauvie Island Center takes this direct connection seriously by having kids pick and prepare there own meals while learning about importance of sustainable land management and wholesome local food. Here elementary kids are eating their own homework even before their pets can!
Sauvie Island is a beautiful fifteen-mile-long, four-and-a-half-mile island just outside the Portland, OR city limits and the the Sauvie Island Center is located at Howell Territorial Park which includes an organic farm and orchard.
Allowing kids to come and connect with the land is a Sauvie Island Center tradition which they carry on through frequent events. Earlier this month the mobile tour was on hand while they held a summer cooking camp and farm tour event inviting children and their parents to learn about local food and gourmet cooking. Chef Paul Folkestad and members of Le Cordon Blue College taught the day long class. On the menu was farm picked salad, penne pasta with kale based pesto, greek yogurt with fresh rasberries, and lavender lemonade! The kids picked their own salad greens, learned about the importance of organic local foods, and even the meaning of the word emulsify! They all had a great time and so did the GLP Mobile Team as we caught all their excited smiles.
This is part of exciting trend to connect students with local organic farms that is sweeping the country. If your would like to learn more ways that you can be involved in getting local organic foods into schools in your please check out the Farm to School movement.
July 6, 2011
Summer in Portland!
Portland, OR is a paramount US city in terms of innovative sustainability thinking and so it’s fitting that its the launch city for the Green Living Project Mobile Tour. Davi and I on the mobile tour team have been keeping ourselves busy this week working on a best of Portland reel that will dive into some the most exciting green projects, people, and stories happening in the Portland region. So far in last couple of weeks we’ve explored the Lost Valley eco village and education center and got schooled in some neat permaculture and forest garden techniques by head instructor Rick Valley. If you’re looking into learning eco building or permaculture in the near future be sure to check out their excellent upcoming summer and fall courses. We recently celebrated amazing organic beers at the annual North American Organic Brewers Festival, there we watched some folks make delicious solar powered beer, pedal a mobile beer bike, as well as, pedal a mobile organic beer bike bar (now that’s a tasty mouthful). It’s great to see that the organic beer market is alive and thriving right now on both coasts. This last thursday we filmed at the Ecotrust Sundown Concert Series in downtown Portland which will be happening consecutive thursdays through July (you catch us filming tomorrow July 7th from 5:30-830pm). If you like good music, good causes, and good food then the Sundown is the place to be, the best part is that it’s free! You can check out our footage from the beer festival at and all our mobile exploits via our facebook and twitter pages.
April 7, 2011
In the words of William Ashworth, as “Children of a culture born in a water-rich environment, we have never learned how important water is to us.” While nearly one in eight people worldwide lack safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people don’t even have access to a toilet www.water.org, our water-spoiled society scoffs at the notion of drinking tap water or reducing our wasteful consumption.
Americans buy enough bottled water in just one week to circle the Earth more than 5 times! Such bottled water costs 2,000 times the amount of our nearly free and safe tap water and that doesn’t even include the environmental costs of its production and waste stream. The energy used to manufacture bottled water could fuel one million cars and sadly, only 20% of those bottles ever make it to a recycling bin. Check out “The Story of Bottled Water” by Annie Leonard www.storyofstuff.com to learn more. Make a difference today, get yourself a reusable water bottle and never leave home without it. Our hydroflask bottles www.hydroflask.com have toured the country with us every step of the way!
We recently had the pleasure of an intimate discussion with a group of Austin 9th graders about what we do to conserve resources on the road and water is always our hot topic. We first suggested reducing the amount of time spent in the shower, as even a 5 minute shower consumes more water than what individuals in developing countries are able to use in an entire day. However, when we suggested actually limiting the number of showers per week, faces started to cringe. While personal hygiene is important, do we really need to shower every day? What happened to the good old fashioned sponge bath? Sponge baths are just one of the many ways we are able to save water in the RV. Call us crazy if you wish, we like to call it sustainable. Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet (or should we say dry) and find your own unique ways to conserve water. Share your “crazy” stories with us!
March 27, 2011
The month of March heralds the return of the Mexican free-tailed bat, Tadarida brasiliensis, to the southwest. After overwintering in sites across Mexico, hundreds of thousands of these bats migrate north to gestate, give birth and raise their young. While we were a bit early in the migratory season to witness a massive colony emergence, we were fortunate enough to explore two famous roost sites, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico and the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, TX.
While 17 different species of bats call Carlsbad Caverns www.nps.gov/cave home, upwards of 400,000 Mexican free-tailed bats reside in this cave each year. They form colonies larger than all other bats and even larger than any other warm-blooded animal in the world! This particular species is also known as the “guano bat” for their extraordinary solid waste production. During the early exploration years of Carlsbad Caverns, from 1903 to 1923, an estimated 100,000 tons of guano was removed and sold as fertilizer to California fruit growers.
The densest congregations of Mexican free-tailed bats are found in central Texas, where an estimated 100 million bats return each year. As we are now in Austin, the “bat capital of America,” we had to go check out the Congress Avenue bridge, which houses the largest urban colony in North America. Joints under the bridge create a perfect roosting site for nearly 1.5 million bats during the peaksummer months. Hundreds of spectators converge upon this site to witness the expansive black cloud of bats emerge each night. In just one evening these bats can consume up to 30,000 pounds of insects! They play a crucial role in reducing the need for toxic agricultural pesticides. Austinites are truly helping to eliminate the negative connotations of bats and it was really great to see so many people gather in support of these amazing little flying mammals.
To learn more about bats around the world check out Bat Conservation International www.batcon.org. Better yet, build a bat house and provide a roost in your own backyard, it’s easy and fun!