Great News About Energy and Environmental Restoration

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From an environmental standpoint, there’s plenty to be concerned about. But there’s also great news about energy and environmental restoration. Filmmaker John Liu’s “Green Gold” shows the remarkable restoration of degraded areas in China and Ethiopia. The speed with which degraded landscapes can be stabilized then improved is surprising.


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Amory Lovins’ article from August 15 debunks critical accounts of Germany’s success in using renewable energy. Germany produced nearly 25% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2012. Great to learn what works.

The Suburbs and Permaculture

farming in the suburbs

The suburbs offer an outstanding—and obvious—opportunity for for food production and permaculture.

Here’s a good overview of the potential marriage of the suburbs and permaculture for growing food, similar to this post. With abundant lawn area in many suburban developments, people can easily grow much of their own food. Or they can share space, rent space, or trade space with people who want to grow food. Water is available through wells or city water. And the land area that could be used is huge.

A NASA researcher estimated that lawns in the U.S. are the most-irrigated “crop” in the nation. “Even conservatively,” Milesi says, “I estimate there are three times more acres of lawns in the U.S. than irrigated corn.” Read the article here.

Here’s what we could have:

veg garden - peas growing like crazy


CSA delivery by bike

CSA delivery by bike in Seattle.

Some areas may even be close enough for bicycle delivery of the veggies!


In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars

alley, laneway, infill

In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars.

San Francisco’s Living Alley Project. In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars. Great idea for making useful space for people, rather than cars. Looks like a low-cost strategy for a pleasant space. Street party?

About the Commons

the commons, Kaid Benfield

Kaid Benfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote this though-provoking post about “the commons,” why they’re important, and what works. Interesting to tie together the commons and sustainability.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

Achieving Sustainability Through Multiple Systems

Braås small-scale heat plant in Växjö

A small wood-fueled heating plant in Växjö.

Creating a sustainable city depends on optimizing multiple systems. It doesn’t happen with tackling just one issue.

Here’s a BuildingGreen post from Alex at about “Europe’s greenest city.” Växjö, pop. 61,000, set a goal to be independent of fossil fuels by 2030. The city has addressed energy needs and pollution with several approaches.

A biomass combined heat and power plant burns wood chips sourced locally. The plant serves 6,500 customers with heat delivered via insulated hot-water pipes, and provides electricity to 29,000 customers. The city’s population is roughly 61,000 people. More in the Wikipedia entry.

This all reminds me of what  CCLEP is doing on Minnesota’s north shore. With projects devoted to wind, solar, district heating, transportation, and energy efficiency, CCLEP is figuring out what works. It often takes a hefty investment in infrastructure up front, but the effort should pay off over time, and pollution should be more easily minimized.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably with

  • green building
  • permaculture
  • green cities

Small Iowa Town Cuts Energy Use By 8% In One Year

Fairfield, Iowa cut energy use.

Fairfield, Iowa, cut energy use by 8.5%.

According to Midwest Energy News, the town of Fairfield, Iowa, has cut its energy use by about 8% in the last nine months. How did they do it? Primarily through simple conservation measures such as switching to compact fluorescent bulbs and air sealing. The low-hanging fruit is easy and is pretty much free money.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

Becoming A Very Green City

Convergence. Synergy. Whatever you call it, many different organizations in my city (the La Crosse, Wisconsin area) are coming together to learn, teach, and practice sustainable living principles. And it appears that momentum is building. La Crosse is becoming a very green city.

So many different projects are interwoven that it can be challenging to remember them all. Some are well under way, such as Gundersen Lutheran’s projects, and some are still in the planning stages. In no particular order…

Creating a community food system

Hillview Urban Agriculture Center is building a community food system. This nonprofit group is working with Western Technical College, Mayo Health System, Organic Valley, the YMCA, and others to grow and distribute food for local people to eat, addressing food insecurity, food deserts, and healthy eating.

Western Technical College will build a new greenhouse system on campus that will provide space for Hillview, as well as for the college’s Landscape Horticulture Program. The college will build three Passive Houses on the former Hillview Greenhouse site. WTC students will help build one home per year, gaining invaluable hands-on experience, integrating the different elements of the Building Innovations program, and adding to knowledge of best practices for sustainable housing. The houses will be sold, adding to the tax base of the city.

This photo shows the old Hillview site, where three Passive Houses will be built by professional contractors and WTC students.


Western Sustainability Institute will be a regional resource

WTC is also building the Western Sustainability Institute, which is to be a central resource for the regional sustainability efforts of business, government, nonprofits, and education. The Sustainability Institute will be advised by the Mississippi River Region Sustainable Communities Consortium (MRRSCC), which includes members from regional government, planning, education, and nonprofit entities. The MRRSCC is being developed with funding from a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Gundersen Lutheran is nearly energy independent

Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center is a national leader in sustainability efforts through their Envision program, and will be energy independent in 2014. They’ve invested in conservation, tapped the county landfill for methane, invested in wind farms, installed a biomass boiler, and more.

And the City of La Crosse and La Crosse County have adopted The Natural Step, which provides a framework for ensuring that human activities are done sustainably. And many more projects are under way.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture