Friday, October 30, 2009

Holy Pumpkin!

Look out Monsanto! We have a classic farmer that is taking on the World Record for the "heavy weight" pumpkin of the year. Steve Connolly, a New Englander, is a creator/grower of massive pumpkins, and the secret is in the seeds. His vegetative art has respectfully been called, "The Beast of the East". This year weighing in at 1,689 pounds. Last year, a tiny crack at the bottom on his glorious pumpkin cost him the prize (that one weighed 1,568 pounds).

He continues to keep the competitive spirit alive by morphing and transforming the old time 400 pound classics into a full time passionate hobby (ok, maybe an obsession) that is modifying seeds. So what happens in the end of it all? The winner takes home $10,000 and the gourd is artistically transformed into a jack-o-lantern, compost, and even boats for the neighborhood kids.

Source: National Geographic, 2009
Image: Boston News

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Zombie Naps


Coffin couches are an appropriate trend this season if you want to zone out zombie-style while watching all those scary, Halloween movies. This niche popped up in Southern California has local funeral homes were donating their steel cages which were recycled and transformed in beautiful couches. Although too small to see, the six cast iron heavy duty legs are embossed with the universal biohazard insignia (once a human body is placed in a coffin it is considered biohazard tissue). Even more is the expansion of mini coffins to hold wine bottles, serve as chairs, or hold prized possessions.

Source: Sierra Club and Coffin Couches

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paper transformed into furniture

A sustaino concept, presented by Qianqian Tao, shows us the "way" or the "path" to true recycling enlightenment. The whole point of even recycling our unused paper is to actually use it for something meaningful and purposeful. This creative receptacle takes the old paper and mixes it with cement. That's right, toilet paper, office paper, and magazines get compressed together to form a hard structured bin. The bin can be used as another trash can, a sitting or stepping stool (if turned upside down) or even a funky end table for your home or apartment. Find out more details here: Yanko Design or Unplgged

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Need Extra Pumpkins?

A friend and I were discussing the benefits of eating locally grown food. You know the usual perks of less toxins, supporting farmers and the community, no plastic bags, improved labeling and not having to pay an arm and a leg at the big retailers. And we started to share stories about food, especially extra food including co-op programs, and CSAs...wondering where does all the extra food go? Even non-profits have policies that do not allow them to accept food from farmers due to liability. Interesting, eh? I mean people are hungry nowadays especially between the downtown streets of Cleveland to the rural farms in Amish country. As this Halloween season kicks off, I challenge you to determine to find out what does WalMart, Giant Eagle, Whole Foods, Marcs, etc. do with their extra pumpkins? Once November 1st hits, isn't demand suddenly in the trenches for pumpkins? I don't see anyone lining up to add extra food to their compost bins. What do you think? Where does it all go? Does it impact even the Arctic polar bears?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Unplug that Vampire

Vampires love blood - always have and always will. It is like a jolt of electricity that gets them going. Even today, vampires still exist. Certain electronics such as laptops, televisions, and especially cell phone chargers continue to draw power even when you are not using them. It is called the "vampire suck" and you can kill them at the source by using handy devices that have on/off switches. There are also special surge protectors nowadays that perform the same task that basically save power by plugging your desktop, printer, and fax machine through a "smart" power strip. Smart strips can sense when electronics are idle and cut off the power flow to vampires. Devices like the WattStopper and the Smart Strip Power Strip can be ordered online.
Source: Treehugger News
Flicr Image: Trixie Deluxe

Friday, October 23, 2009

Scrubbing Pellets

My grandma use to scrub my dirty, muddy, soccer socks until they were pearly white. She would use toxic bleach, lots of elbow grease and tons of soap. Well, what if Grandma didn't have to work so hard and could clean with limited soap and water? I would go for it!

Xero's prototype machine is a look into how modern day laundry geeks will be washing bras, underwear, jeans and shirts. This machine uses nylon pellets, just like in our carpet, which has good properties that make it "easy to stain" as well serves as an excellent scrubbing mechanism. It works by polarizing the molecules that attract soil and in the humidity created by little water. Of course, we are not talking zero water, just 90 percent less water that eliminates energy intensive spins and dryer blasts. For each 45 pound load, the prototype uses 8 gallons of water compared to 80 gallons. I'd said this puts a whole new meaning on blasting dirt in a Sustaino-way.

Source: Popular Science, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lifesaver Bottle

Too much of the world lacks access to clean drinking water. Engineer Michael Pritchard did something about it by inventing the portable Lifesaver filter, which can make the most revolting water drinkable in seconds. See the video.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Take the Stairs

While technology is here to help us, there are some decisions we can make for ourselves. Imagine what fun we can have in our day by simply choosing...the stairs. See the inside creative look of how VW in Stockholm helped the locals take the stairs 66% of the time - just simply for fun!

Friday, October 16, 2009

PUMA

We have ULTra in England (Urban Light Transit), so why not PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility)? This is the new concept proposed by Segway to take the brand to a whole new transportation level. It addresses some of the joys of public transit, while weaving in an alternative, futuristic approach to our nation's transportation revolution.

It's like a rickshaw on steroids along with a modern day makeover and domed weatherproof roof. For the low carbon footprint, eco-travler, this commute will take you between 25 to 35 mph on a single battery charge. The Urban-lights can still opt for a bike ride or the city slugging option; however, this puts a new definition on whistling for inner city taxi cabs and your ride home after a blind date.

Source: Trend Central News, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Compact Urban Bike

Urban bikers and college professors are salivating as the trend in innovation shifts from bigger and better to smaller and more functional. The latest news from Treehugger highlights the "most compact urban bike" from designer, Victor Aleman. This beast has folding wheels with six modules, and an endless amount of room when it comes to packing light.

Critics are quick to point out that pedals are necessary instead of foot-bars, or the triangle frame may not properly support the weight of the biker. Whatever happened to not having the "status quo" and serving up something new that is still functional? How about setting aside your critiques and witness a zero-waste initiative unfold with appealing design! For starters, a brilliant individual was able to engineer something incredible out the of box, in which a corporation with tons of CAD software, intelligent engineers and superb marketers cannot even produce. With design blending more sex appeal with functional performance, the communities begin to be re-excited about reducing their carbon footprints and tackling our climate challenges in a whole, new, fun way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Design Boom Green Life Awards

The Incheon International Design Awards (2009) had a call for entries on "green life". There were 3,709 designers from 96 countries that focused on this year's philosophy of "harmony with humanity and nature." Sounds simple, right? Well, there were 3 focused categories of:

1) Green design for humans (products and household items)

2) Green design for cities (infrastructure, building layout, etc.)

3) Green design for communication (entertainment, movie clips, and promotional items)

[Drum roll....]

And the winners are:

1st prize
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' thermodynamic cooler and murakami chair' design by : rochus jacob from usa

2nd prize
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' the tree ring web ' design by : zhang jian + ma lian lian from china

and

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' save water brick ' design by : jin-young yoon + jeongwoong kwon from korea

3rd prize
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' green life style ' design by : chun sic park from korea

and
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' local plate ' design by : david veldkamp from usa

and
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' balloon ' design by : bart baccarne from belgium

Source: Designboom 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Food Where We Live

The locavores gathered this past Sunday at the Bela Dubby cafe in Lakewood for the film screening of PolyCultures. This documentary, produced by Less Productions, was highlighted at the Cleveland International Film Festival and takes an in-depth look into the diverse communities around Northeast Ohio who are grouping together to grow a more sustainable, local food system. So, what is polycultures? It is one principle of permacultures, using multiple crops in different techniques. These techniques include crop rotation, intercropping, companion planting and beneficial weeds. It is a system designed to incorporate human labor for the growth of nutritious, wholesome food that educates communities about how we can get off the sugar/fat hamster wheel, decrease our obesity epidemic and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

With such a community-based model, local citizens within Lakewood, Cleveland, Tremont and Cleveland Heights are approaching their city council teams to revitalize their cities. How? We are seeing vacant lots transform into community gardens, old building rooftops are platforms to produce local veges for urban communities and ultimately jolt the notion the urban agriculture (aka urban ag.) One big advocate for such a local model, is Tom Bullock (Lakewood Councilman-Ward 2). He is currently running for State Representative Ohio District-13 with the intent to bring new progressive leadership to Northeast Ohio. In these trying economic times, his recommended solutions are three simple approaches. 1) Green jobs - transforming our rust belt into a green belt, 2) Reform - helping us to have leaner, cleaner and smarter government, and 3) Service - answering President Obama's call to make an ongoing commitment to serve our communities.

The natural tie to local politics, community service and urban ag is the new trend of eco-nomics. It is advocates like Tom Bullock and the PolyCulture team that are assisting our local economy not only with jobs, money and stability, but also with spirit, pride and a sense of gratification. Join us in being a frugal hero and help to make a difference for our communities. For more information, see the PolyCultures trailer:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eco-nomics

They say that money doesn't grow on trees. Yet, money is made of paper from trees, right? So how do we balance the "push and pull" relationship that Americans find themselves in nowadays? We want healthy, nutritious food, but most can't afford it and resort to their $.99 Whoppers and Big Macs. We want clean water, but most can't afford a Brita. We want clean streets, yet again, most are not educated about recycling practices. Quite a conundrum for such a wealthy nation. And while our experts are devising new strategies and crafting new technologies, there are simple applications and habits that we can adopt TODAY. The notion of eco-nomics! When times are tough, you go into save and conserve mode.

And some of the simple acts of being a good student of the eco-nomic philosophy includes:
1) Being a frugal foodie (buy local, shop at Farmers Markets)
2) Invest in Green
3) Keep a thrifty home - one man's junk is another man's treasure
4) Drive more efficiently and carpool
5) Live a less is more lifestyle

Consume Less. Conserve More. GoSustaino!

Source: Planet Green 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Organic Lawns

Lawn expert Paul Tukey, from Safe Lawns and author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual, was interviewed on NPR – Science Friday. He explained how to have less weeds and more lush.

For starters, get a soil test. Make sure you know your current PH and Nitrogen mix which is important. Most often folks need more calcium – often found in gypsum and limestone. More importantly,
weeds are the messenger. Instead of using chemicals to kill the messenger, you need to treat the soil and improve the conditions. The weeds are not the problem. More interestingly, Ohio State University did a study that those extra clippings provide 50% extra nutrients. They heavy grass clippings should be removed, which prevent sunlight and water getting to the roots. However, mow higher to keep the weeds down.

The soil needs to be alive. It needs to drink, eat and excrete. Be a good student and make sure you do your homework when choosing the best seeds that allow you to use less water, less fertilizers, less weeds and such much more. When it comes to fertilizing, choose organic. It will take time – why? Organic is food for the soil; not the grass. Organic products take much longer to work, but are more sustainable. The chemical fertilizers such leach out, often run out in the water or rain showers and don’t absorb into the soil; it only treat the surface.

Source: NPR Science Friday

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Transparent Food

Corporate transparency doesn't start or stop just with food prices. It is more about the "system" and how our food is properly grown, processed, labeled, shipped and marketed. Actually, it is more about how the system is broken, and consumers (like you and I) that care, will find out the truth.

Let's start with chickens and corn. For a juicy, inside look into the hazardous, toxic environments, I recommend watching Food, Inc. It is a documentary that showcases the unflattering events that have led to America's corporate controlled food industry. We want breasts, right? Big, white, meaty breasts from chickens. The last time, I checked a chicken should not be so fat it can't walk, should not be sleeping or walking in it's own feces and definitely should not be treated like a "bug in a jar" without proper care, light, food or water. But if you'd like to eat an animal that mistakes it's own poop for food, then by all means you can surely eat that "type" of protein if you'd like.

And actually, I enjoy meat! Beef burgers, chicken tortillas, fish tacos, etc. However, the critical factor is that my life should not be a gamble when I eat food that is processed by unregulated laws. Why can't I determine if my chicken is from Ohio or from China or Brazil? Why can't I read on a simple label like my cereal that my chicken or beef was fed naturally and raised naturally knowing that I won't get E.Coli or die from virulent strain of O157:H7. In our nation, this contamination has led to the recall of beef in 3,000 grocers in 41 states due to numerous deaths of our simple staple. May I remind you we had this with spinach, tomatoes, jalapenos, and what is next? What can I eat safely?

Do your part to be educated, informed, buy local, choose local and push for reform that puts the power of eating safe foods back in the hands of consumers, and not at the table of greedy corporate board members and executives. From barn to bowl, or pasture to plate, we have a choice to eat healthy, reduce our obesity epidemic, get off the sugar/fat cycle and eat wholesome meat and potatoes just like before with a smile on our face. Not a frown from being poisoned...

Source: NY Times, E.Coli news
Image: Trendwatching, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sexy Solar Part Two

It was officially switched "on" in August 2009 and you can see the big smiles on the investors' faces. It is the first U.S. operational solar tower facility. The mirrors on the arrays reflect the sun's energy to a dedicated tower. This iconic tower boils water to steam that travels through long pipes to provide juice to a turbine. Viola! We have electricity! This plant, created by a Pasadena-based company, called ESolar, Inc., will provide power to 4,000 homes. See the video.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Windbelt Devices

Inventor Shawn Frayne, young entrepreneur under the age of 30, has created a new idea or way to capture wind energy. His company Humdinger Wind Energy, based in Hawaii, creates and builds windbelt devices that harness wind moving across a tense membrane or belt. Essentially, a game changer that will pull in energy from the wind.

Frayne believes his devices will deliver power (excluding the installation costs) for $0.05 cents per kilowatt hours, about 1/3 of what Californians pay for electricity. Humdinger is in negotiations to license the technology to other companies for uses such as powering mobile phone towers, wireless routers, and maybe even delivering power to our current grid.

Another Hero Sustaino making incredible strides for our economy!
Source: Inc.com

The Power of Turning Off

Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. He explains the often overlooked value of time off and shows the innovative projects inspired by his time in Bali.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Most Frugal Cities

Here is a little morning trivia for you. What cities in the U.S. do you think are the most frugal?
***
Hint: During a time of economic recession, most folks go into “save” mode. Some find it hard to change their ways. Yet, most Sustainos are already “natural savers” as they often consume less and conserve more through a variety of ways (e.g. growing your own veges vs. paying an arm and a leg at the grocery store).

Answers (top 5):
1. Brooklyn, NY
2. San Diego, CA
3. Portland, OR
4. Miami, FL
5. Indianapolis, IL

*Source: Mint Trends (FastCompany) - based on discretional spending (for 2008 vs. 2009) and specifically looking at clothing, books, electronics, hobbies and sporting goods.