Archive: sustainability

August 2nd, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy | 1 Comment

Living Buildings: The Bullitt Center


Last week we had the pleasure of visiting The Bullitt Center in Seattle.  It’s a net-zero energy building, complete with compost toilet, rooftop solar panels, and a rainwater capture garden.

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Each desk is monitored so they don’t go over a certain amount of energy consumption. The building houses several independent contractors and small business groups, making it a lovely collaborative workspace. Most groups working in the building are interested in sustainability.  Sustainable Seattle is one such group, and they were kind enough to give us a tour.  Sustainable Seattle’s mission is to bring together individuals, organizations, and businesses in the greater Seattle area to build a sustainable future through innovation, education and on-the-ground projects.

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One of the most ambitious aspects of the Bullitt Center will be achieving the goals of the  Living Building Challenge  (version 2.0), as described by the International Living Building Institute. Before they can complete the Living Building Challenge, they must fulfill a few more requirements, such as filling the space with more occupants, and ensuring that most of the inhabitants are using sustainable or shared transportation methods. Find out more about the Living Building Challenge and why they are important.

 

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January 25th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch. 10-2

This is the final chapter of our forthcoming book, Millennial City, with the conclusion to follow in this initial serial blog version of the book. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 2 of Chapter 10. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Ten – Part 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

You’re living on the edge of a paradigm shift. Yes, you are even if you haven’t seen it that way but it’s already shaping your values and how you know yourself. In a way, it’s not a new phenomenon. Every generation has had to define themselves but your quest for meaning is alive and well. Your sense of responsibility is impressive. You’re volunteering through the Youth Volunteer Corps and making a big difference at the food bank one day and at the homeless shelter the next. And you do that because you believe deeply in the power of individuals and collective action.

Look out your window. What do you see? If you don’t see a new day dawning, you should because it is happening. The future needs you. This is important. Don’t miss this. Crisis means opportunity. Conflicts, disasters and culture shocks are all showing us what needs to be done differently in order to achieve a better future. Cities must focus not only on what went wrong in the past but also on what needs to be happen in the future. We must undergo a revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society and you’re going to make that happen.

Of all of the people on our planet, it’s farmers who have always understood the importance of sustainability. You are the hope for our future and farming is something to believe in. The future is bright for American farmers. The thought of America becoming a land of many farmers once again is quite realistic and could bring back reverence for the land. Agriculture and gardening is back in the public consciousness.

Look again at what is happening in Detroit, where agriculture is considered to be a part of the future. That’s right farming right in the middle of the city that was once the industrial mecca of the age. Don’t think of farming with tractors. That’s old school. Think hydroponics; growing vegetables in water not soil), aeroponics air only growing systems and raising plants and fish in integrated systems. These new growing technologies compress space. They can grow very dense crops in much less space than it takes for tillage farming. No tractors and heavy, carbon producing gas guzzlers. How cool is that?

Think about it. It cost $30 Million to build 300-acre pods, a large scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise contained within city limits. This project could bring profits and jobs back to a city that was once on a slippery slope to a near death experience.

Farming might not be for you. But with the average farmer getting close to retirement, depleted resources, hunger and economic failure make the next generation of farming vital. It makes what’s happening in Detroit look pretty good: Locally available, affordable, healthy food.

What’s more, city farms could eventually occupy many of the 40 square miles of empty Detroit land laid bare through the aggressive and arguably necessary demolition of abandoned and dangerous buildings. You’re living on the edge of a paradigm shift. Detroit is embracing an alternative future. It’s supply and demand capitalism all over again. Even the American Institute of Architects studied the city’s options only to state, not that the city needs more high rises and highways but that Detroit is particularly well suited to become a pioneer in urban agriculture at a commercial scale.

The way we have lived and done development is considered to be unsustainable. This crisis is an opportunity. Local farming may or may not be an option for you but for sustainability it beats industrial agriculture, powered by oil, phosphorus, nitrogen and water. New farming maximizes the productivity of limited acreage with far less fertilizers and fuel. The new generation of farmers is leading the way to a healthier, stronger and more prosperous global food system. These farmers are leaders for a sustainable future. The choice is up to you.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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January 24th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

Millennial City – How a new generation can save the future, Ch 10-1

This is the final chapter of our forthcoming book, Millennial City, with the conclusion to follow in this initial serial blog version of the book. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 1 of Chapter 10. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Ten – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

For cities at a crossroads, it’s time to step into the future. Cities are in competition with one another. And no matter what anyone says, none of us has all the answers. Taking responsibility is a good place to start. Cities have a responsibility to change the world and time is running out. There’s just too much at risk. Most of us don’t understand the nature and magnitude of the situation. Our way of life is unsustainable and largely unjust. The rate of consumption is generating alarming global problems.

This book doesn’t have all the answers. There aren’t enough words and you don’t have enough time anyway. In this chapter we will take on the question, “Where are we going with this?” Or more importantly, “Where is all of this going to take you?” That’s the mystery. Change happens on the unconscious level, and often happens without you even noticing. A day starts out like any other day when suddenly an idea pops into your head. You might dismiss it. But it keeps coming back.

It doesn’t matter what the idea was, eventually it captures your imagination. Days go by. You keep dreaming about the possibilities. Then, one day you make the decision to go for it. You’re on your way. Of course, everybody’s view of the world is different. If you think life is wonderful you will notice the wonderful things in your life, but of course the opposite is true as well. Change your thoughts and you can begin to change the world you’re living in. That can be a long process. Take time to think about your preferred future. Take time every day to think about where you want to be in life. Something will happen. The same is true for cities. Managing both the opportunities and challenges of cities is vital. So, if we agree that cities are in trouble and have the potential to lead change, what is the route we should take?

Will the solution be a technological fix? That’s an interesting question as well, and we have little doubt that technology will play a key role in saving the future. But at the same time that tech fixes are pursued, America is likely to return to its agrarian roots. We’re predicting a “Back to the Future” way of life for many Americans. There’s a growing demand for natural, healthy locally grown food. Small farmers and ranchers are about to experience a Renaissance. The family farm will enjoy a resurgence, enough to make American farm families a good living. If you’re up for it, you can actually farm right in the middle of a city. There may be very little choice.

Ever since China entered the World Trade Organization America has lost millions of manufacturing jobs. Strangely, China lost even more manufacturing jobs at the same time. Where did the jobs go? Well, they went to the service sector. America is long past the stage of putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on assembly lines doing repetitive jobs. That’s in the past. Manufacturing is going to come back, but it will never employ people in those kinds of numbers again. America needs to look to the future. Yes we said that urban farming is part of the future, but that is a niche, not a full economic development strategy. A bigger strategy for cities is more likely to be attracting smart people and business investment.

If urban policy does not include the development, attraction, and retention of talent, it doesn’t have a prayer of making a real difference for cities. Without concentrated talent you can’t create high prosperity. You, the smart, young, ambitious person are the prize.

The Downtown Denver Partnership is one enterprise that understands this. Mountains and oceans are really nice if they are available, but they have become secondary to downtown amenities. Young talent has priorities. And the Mile High City has made itself an attractive place for young workers. Denver has created a vibrant center complete with high density, mixed use and walkable neighborhoods.

Another city that gets it and is reaping the rewards is Pittsburgh. A decade ago, young people were leaving. The 20-something, professional and educated workers they needed to move their economy forward could see no future in Pittsburgh. The message: either get younger and better educated, or get poorer. Today, Pittsburgh has much to offer young people, from jobs to high quality of life and affordability and they’re coming out on top. Quite simply, in a flattening world, the places with the greatest concentrations of talent win!
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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October 20th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

The city, the future, and you – beyond greed

This is Part 3 of Chapter 5 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle How Cities and Millennials will Shape the Future is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER FIVE – Part 3
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Great cities anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back in the face of turbulent change. If that’s true of cities, its true of businesses as well.

It’s time to get real. There is only so much water in the world; only so much topsoil; only one atmosphere; and only so much CO2 that can be stuffed into that atmosphere. The carbon challenge is real and deep change is inevitable. The world is not going to end any time soon. But, to do too little or nothing now is unthinkable. We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren. So stop looking for an exit strategy. Sustainability of natural resources is everybody’s problem. But of course you already know that. The question is, where do we go from here?

The real problem is not the lack of alternatives, but a lack of understanding of the problem itself. Understanding is a far more valuable skill than problem solving. Asking the right question is only half the answer. If possible solutions present unattractive alternatives the problem has not been explored deeply enough. We like to solve problems quickly don’t we? That’s part of our multitasking mentality. Slowing the decision making process down can actually accelerate the possibility of finding an effective and lasting solution. It might even produce a solution that solves more than one issue.

The consequences of a decision can last a long time. Unless you explore the question and project the impact of your solution through multiple scenarios, you cannot make a responsible decision. When it comes to cities, ideas are bargaining chips for the future. They reveal options. Without them, cities are handcuffed by the past and vulnerable to the possibilities defined by their competitors.

Asking the right question is only half the answer. We have yet to admit the dangers and destructive effects of mental pollutants that continue to degrade the quality of our mental fitness and undermine the progress of our culture. It’s time to recognize the damage caused by our toxic culture. Some say advertising is a kind of pollution; that the commercial media are to the mental environment what factories are to the physical environment. We’re suffering from over half a century of unrestrained greed, a daily diet of advertising and rampant over-consumption.

Talk about change, the iPhone, iPod or iPad you buy today will be obsolete next year. Marketers sell style, status and the confidence of knowing that we are not missing out on anything. Should manufacturers slow down the stream of new technologies coming out? That’s unlikely. The market demands it.

Look at the auto market. Audi can’t get cars out the door fast enough. Their factories are running at full capacity to meet record demand for the A6 sedan and A3 hatchback. On the demand side, first-time buyers from Tier 3 and lower cities play a vital role in driving future market growth. As income levels rise, demand is shifting toward vehicles that offer more styling design, function and energy economy. On the supply side, automakers face a challenging business environment, hyper competition, a continued credit crunch and rising costs. They too are forced to ‘anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back in the face of turbulent change’.

Markets are changing. Less is more is a growing trend. Ecouterre, the eco-fashion magazine, predicts an emerging frugality trend “slow fashion”. Like fast food, we’ve been victims of fast fashion. A few years ago, sustainable super star Kate Fletcher was an advertising executive in an uninspired career. She invented a creative challenge for herself; wearing the same dress for an entire year. Seriously. The catch was, obviously, she had to look different every single day. She had to come up with unique outfits to accessorise around this dress without buying anything new. Raising the stakes, she turned her personal challenge into a fundraiser to send underprivileged kids to school.

Life is not always as black and white as this. The perfect solution is for everyone to live a green lifestyle. If more people were willing to do whatever it takes, we could look forward to a better world.

Smart companies and some smart cities have figured it out. The economy is going to have to get smaller in terms of physical impact. The problem is improved productivity means fewer people are needed in each factory to produce more stuff. If we want more jobs, we need more factories. We must take action that goes beyond commissioning studies to ensure economic revitalization and develop a new model for future growth. If we want a robust growing economy, we need a robust manufacturing sector. The critical focus must be on incentivizing innovation. And manufacturing innovation clusters are already in place. But more factories making more stuff means more global warming and more waste, unless we get serious about doing it differently, sustainably.

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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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October 8th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy | Comments Off

Building with the eco-brick

As population increases, more homes need to be built. As population and consumption increase, so will our piles of garbage. So, it’s safe to say that in the future we need to build more homes and efficiently dispose of more garbage. How can we build more homes while putting less garbage into landfills? If you skeptically answered “build homes with garbage?” you are correct. The eco-brick is Susanne Heisse’s brilliant answer to alternative trash management. As  founder of Pura Vida, Heisse designed the eco-brick out of a  plastic bottle stuffed with inorganic trash that, when sufficiently stuffed, can be used as a building block for homes and schools. As of today eco-bricks have been used to build more than 200 schools and several homes throughout Central America. Watch this video and learn more about the super simple, super effective eco-brick.

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