Archive for the ‘Glocal’ Category

West Coast Green is this week in San Francisco, and I am honored to be among the distinguished list of speakers at the event. I will be co-presenting a panel on Integrated Water Systems with Paul Kephart from Rana Creek and Andy Mannle this Friday, October 2, at 11am. The panel we did last year, “The Sexiest Large Scale Water Design Applications We Have Ever Seen”, was S.R.O. So they’re bringing us back for an update, which we’re calling (somewhat less racily) “The Whole Pitcher.”

Also at West Coast Green, Sherwood will be participating in the “Greening Fort Mason Design Slam.” The event was created to brainstorm design strategies and practical ideas for the continued evolution of Fort Mason Center as a leading environmentally sustainable destination. I will be facilitating this charette this Friday October 2 at 12:30pm along with a number of great minds from WRT, The Grove Consulting, Van Meter Williams Pollack, Solutions and PEC. You can read more about it here and register to attend the conference here.

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Green building professionals from across the nation will converge at Fort Mason Center on October 2nd during the West Coast Green Conference to brainstorm design strategies and practical ideas for the continued evolution of Fort Mason Center as a leading environmentally sustainable destination. As part of a planned rehabilitation of Pier 2, Fort Mason Center plans to adopt LEED Silver standards and install a large-scale solar array, which will provide for 80% of energy consumption. The Slam will provide a medium for development of a solar conversion plan by the leading solar engineers in the Bay Area.

This ‘meeting of the minds’ is an opportunity for Fort Mason Center to benefit from the design leaders assembled at West Coast Green and to harvest the intellectual capital of its visionary participants. The Slam is set to involve West Coast Green participants and advisors, including Eric Corey Freed, Gil Friend, David Johnston, Sim Van der Ryn, Bill Reed, The education director from PG&E, and several team members at Sherwood Design Engineers.

The collaboration with West Coast Green will strengthen Fort Mason Center’s role as a model of sustainability and help to generate additional synergy with other partners including Long Now Foundation, the National Park Service, San Francisco Conservation Corps, Zip Car, Eat Well, LMS Architects, and Presidio School of Management.

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As we mentioned previously, Sherwood’s John Leys was invited to speak in Ottawa last week on the topic of alternatives to the Lansdowne Live project. Here’s a nice writeup of the event in the Ottawa Citizen, including this mention of Sherwood:

John Leys, of Sherwood Engineering, an American firm with experience in developing brownfield sites said it wouldn’t take long to clean contaminated soil.

He pointed to the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal where it took 15 months to remove 700,000 tonnes of soil from a 43-acre site — three times as big as Bayview.

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  • California is considering a bill that would tax gas-guzzling vehicles and use that tax to provide rebates for those who drive clean cars.
  • Slate has a really great article about using treated wastewater for potable water, and why we should all be doing it. I’ve been making this argument for years!
  • Farmers in Southern California may actually start selling their water to LA rather than use it for irrigation, since they are likely to make more money that way.
  • Demand for meat has significantly increased around the world in recent years, primarily due to increased wealth and rising number of factory farms. Factory farms consume large amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, and contribute greenhouse gases. About two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption.
  • Conservation organizations are concerned that their efforts to preserve wildlife and their habitats are not sufficient when facing global warming.
  • Solar power is being perceived as a viable alternative energy source, primarily in California, where most of the companies developing photovoltaic cells in the United States are located.
  • The CIA is the latest organization to go green – their new facilities have buildings that have received LEED silver and gold ratings.
  • Bejing is trying desperately to clean its skies before the Olympics in August. They’ll need help from the whole region to achieve it though.
  • Ireland has done the impossible – persuaded the public to stop using plastic bags and use their own cloth bags instead. 5 years after the government imposed a tax on plastic bags, the use of plastic bags decreased by 94%. Can we do something similar in the US? Unlike Ireland, we have plastic bag manufacturers in the States to contend with.
  • How can we expect people to care about melting glaciers when people still litter like crazy on their trips to see the glaciers? Do they not realize the irony?

Photo of Antarctic glaciers from my brother Elan, recently returned from his own trip to Patagonia

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Week of September 8 – 14

  • Microsoft has launched a private bus service for their employees as a way to reduce the number of individual drivers – great move, shouldn’t Seattle anticipate the need rather than relying on private companies to do this?
  • Here’s a pretty extensive list of things you can recycle or reuse that you might not have known about (via Treehugger)
  • The Waldorf School has built their new school building out of the pieces of their old building, making it the first school in San Francisco to earn a LEED Gold rating
  • A man in Pennsylvania has released generated energy from salt water by exposing it to a homemade radio frequency generator that ended up releasing hydrogen from the molecules and “burning”
  • A farm grows in Brooklyn – read about one man’s journey to grow a working farm in his urban backyard
  • Google.org announces $10 million in grant money available for investment in plug-in hybrid and electric car research – think you have an idea?
  • New York City Deptual Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz discusses things NYC can do to reduce traffic, many applicable to cities all over the country
  • Urban Watersheds Perspectives has a great discussion of why a border control fence by the Rio Grande is not ideal from an economic or environmental perspective
  • The Carbon Footprint Consumer Products Summit was held this past week in Chicago, where business traded successes and frustrations about reducing their carbon footprint (via I’m Seeing Green)
  • DC will probably enact legislation next week that requires residential and commercial buildings over a certain size to provide bike parking – will your city be next? (via Streetsblog)

photo from Traveljournals.net

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From the latest AirAlert, provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management

Spare The Air Tomorrow, Thursday August 30!

To help prevent smog tomorrow, please:

– Take public transit, walk or bike, visit 511.org for transit info
– Carpool or vanpool with friends or co-workers
– Refuel on the way home in the evening and don’t top off
– Link necessary trips and postpone errands if possible
– Avoid polluting products like aerosol cleaners, paint and hair spray
– Use a hand-pushed or electric lawn mower

Tomorrow, Thursday, August 30, is a Spare the Air Day in the San Francisco Bay Area. Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy.

Your morning commute is free on BART, CalTrain, ACE Train and all Bay Area Ferries until 1:00 pm. Bay Area bus systems are offering free rides all day. This is the 2nd of four free commute days on non-holiday weekday Spare the Air days this summer. To find out more, and to view a list of participating transit agencies, see 511.org. To monitor current air quality conditions, visit http://www.sparetheair.org

This AirAlert is provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Thank you for doing your part to Spare the Air!

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I’m always thinking about how to get people out of their SUVs and onto the streets. Getting cars off of the streets could do so much for our society. Imagine a city free from the hum of engines, the dopplared displacement of the wind as cars rush by street facing windows. It would be pretty amazing to navigate a city free from cars, not to mention the landscape opportunities.

Why do people drive cars? They are cost effective. The opportunity cost of owning a car to move from point A to point B far outweighs the cost of not having one. In this world time is money and the amount of time saved and convenience earned by owning a car pays for the car itself. This is the rational that runs through people’s heads when they answer “NEVER” when posed with the question “would you ever give up driving?”, whether or not they realize it.

Lack of vehicle ownership has a myriad of implications, such as populations moving closer to their basis of livelihood, densification of city centers, vertical oriented architecture trends, and rapid development of edge cities within suburban growth centers, to name a few. So what could separate the population from its prime mode of transportation? Tip the cost/benefit scale. There has to be net value in not owning a car.

That currently doesn’t exist. Gas is still too cheap, freeways, though congested are still more efficient than taking a bus (from say Napa to San Francisco). Ultimately people have to feel the pain of their vehicle ownership. Vehicle owners in America pay for the various costs of owning their vehicle: insurance to pay for accident risk, gas to pay for locomotion, gas and property taxes to pay for the roads being actively destroyed by driving. The tax that is missing is the ecosystem service tax.

Nowadays, it’s hard to read the news without hearing about a natural feature that isn’t being in some way directly affected by emissions uptake. The world’s largest carbon sink, Antarctica’s Southern Ocean is reaching its saturation point. Lake Tahoe is slowly turning green due to atmospheric deposition of nitrogen, And the glaciers are melting at a rate faster than global climate models can account for.

How can drivers pay for these ecosystem services?

I’ll list a couple of ideas. Lets see how many we can come up with.

1) Direct Mileage Tax

Large industrial businesses in America are only allowed to produce a set amount of pollution a year. The amount of pollution allowance that is not used can then be sold to other companies on the open market. Businesses can then buy and sell pollution allowances, creating a market for unused pollution. Companies are fined if they go over their budget. This gives companies an incentive to reduce their pollution and improve efficiency, because they can sell the unused allowance and make a profit.

What if drivers were given a monthly driving allowance? The US government could set up checkpoints on major bridges tracking car mileage and taxing the owner’s use. A web based system could then be set up for mileage barter. If someone needs to drive across country, they would have purchase mileage ahead of time to make it past all the check points. It seems oppressive, but its not much different than paying a bridge toll.

2) Gas Tax

Of course this is a no-brainer; why not tax people on the gas they use? This taxes people on the amount of gas used and could be assessed as a direct carbon tax. It takes into account car size, fuel efficiency, amount driven, etc. The problem with this tax is that its hidden in the gas price. People don’t know that they are paying for ecosystem services, and ultimately blame the gas company for inflated prices. Its not very educational.

3) Employer Accountability Tax

This is perhaps a unique proposal. Under this taxation method, companies would be required as a part of their business license renewal to register their employees mileage to and from work, where their employee lives (why can’t a city favor a local workforce? The US does!), and the type of car they drive. The employer would then pay a tax at the end of the year for carbon emissions related to doing business, including employee commutes, and receive breaks if their employees use public transportation.

This method of taxation has a lot of benefits. Employers could reward employees for living close to work or using public transportation. Employers of lower income employees would have an incentive to hire locally and pay commensurate wages. Local governments would have incentives provide more high density and low income zoning, in order to keep businesses from leaving. Businesses would have incentives to place their businesses in urban centers to attract local employees. Businesses would have incentives to allow their employees to work from home to eliminate commutes. People would be walking more, lowering obesity rates. More money would be available to improve and research public transportation

This taxation method has a lot of flaws, of course. Higher taxes might push businesses to other cities/states/countries. How does the employer reward its employees? How does the government enforce this sort of taxation. What is the penalty for cheating.

Can you think of any other ways of tipping the cost/benefit driving scale? Comment away!

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