Published Aug 5 2008 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Aug 5 2008

Solutions & Sustainability - August 5

by staff

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Bring on the Staycation / Relocalizing fun

Relocalize Newsletter #22: July 2008, Post Carbon Institute
Now that summer has officially started, people are rethinking their summer vacation plans in light of high gas prices and looking to adjacent areas for opportunities to break away from their normal routine.

With more people are staying home, here are some fun summer activities groups are doing to help their communities relocalize, and ways that you can get your summer groove on. ...

1. Bring on the Staycation
So, what do you do when you’re going nowhere? Millions of would-be vacationers are asking themselves this very question as the steep rise in gasoline prices and household staples is forcing them to forgo travel vacations.

And now there’s even a term the media has come up with to capture this phenomenon… one they can prattle on endlessly about: the staycation. But behind the cutesy play on language is the beginning of a very real shift--one that promises to have some serious implications for both the economy and how Americans will (or won’t) spend their leisure time.

What People Are Doing

Across the country, news and television media stories tell the tale of three trends: people staying home for their family vacations, families cutting back on other vacation expenses in order to afford the travel costs or, often because of other financial pressures, families forgoing their vacations altogether. ...

2. On Relocalizing Fun
With more people staying closer to home this summer, high gas prices are actually helping to revitalize the local economy in some towns. In a recent TIME magazine article, Amanda Ripley discusses 10 Things You Can Like About $4 Gas, including the return of previously globalized jobs, less traffic, and less pollution.

Raleigh Street Painting FestivalGroups around the world are putting their creative minds together and organizing events that are safe, free, and fun for all ages, that foster collaboration, community spirit, and sense of place. This summer, take some time to think about the kind of community that you would like to live, work, and play in. Roads represent a huge amount of public space within a city or town. More and more, people are turning to the streets as more than just transportation arteries. Here are a few examples: ...
(28 July 2008)

She’s ready: Just add water

Steven Kurutz, New York Times
ONE Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, as cable news channels carried bulletins that two government-sponsored mortgage lenders might go bankrupt, Kathy Harrison stood in the kitchen of her two-story, 19th-century farmhouse here, about 20 miles northwest of Northampton, laying out herbs from the garden.

With commentators throwing around phrases like “mortgage meltdown” and “peak oil,” the American economy seemed, at least to some, at the edge of an abyss, but all was calm in the Harrison household. Two loaves of bread, baked fresh that morning, sat on the counter. Mrs. Harrison’s daughters, Karen, 14, and Phoebe, 5, were laughing and playing dress-up, while her husband, Bruce, 62, stood at his wife’s side.

Plenty of Americans, to be sure, have kept their cool in the face of the recent crises, believing that troubles bubbling up around them will not, in the end, be all that severe; or will not touch their own lives in a significant way; or, if they are and if they do - well, that’s a bridge to cross later. The obvious peace of mind in the Harrison household is of a different order, and has something to do with the provisions Mrs. Harrison has stockpiled throughout the house, which include cans of powdered milk; several hundred pounds of wheat berry, oats, flour and rice; water purification tablets; shelves of toothpaste and toilet paper; a solar oven; packs of hermetically sealed seeds; and other items to sustain the family in an emergency.

Mrs. Harrison believes in home preparedness, and after readying her own home for a worst-case scenario - be it a flood or a nuclear or bioterrorist attack - she has written a book, Just in Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens (Storey Publishing, $16.95), to help others do the same.
(30 July 2008)

12 Tips for the sustainability shift

Matthew Stein, Huffington Post
... There is no single "right way" to implement Plan B [the sustainable alternative to Business As Usual], but the following list (an excerpt from Edition II of When Technology Fails) would go a long way towards insuring that we and our children will have a world worth living in:

1. Change the tax structure. Plan B will only succeed if we shift the tax structure to provide significant support for those materials, processes, industries and investments that contribute towards building a sustainable economy, while penalizing those industries and structures that stick to the "old way" of doing things, continuing to consume our dwindling resources and ecosystems in non-sustainable ways. Funds gained from fees and penalties can be used to pay for rebates and tax incentives that promote the rapid industrial retooling and changeover to energy and resource conserving processes, machines, automobiles, and so on. During World War II, in a matter of just 6 months, the entire US production of consumer automobiles was shut down and converted to production in support of the war effort. If we could do that, We Can Do This!

2. Rebuild our cities. Over one half the human population now lives in cities, and they consume more than one half of our energy and materials. By restructuring our cities for mass transportation, moving away from their current focus centered on the individual automobile, and retrofitting our buildings for energy efficiency and integrated distributed renewable energy power generation (our buildings could generate most or all the power they need using current technologies), we could reduce our cities' fossil fuel consumption by a factor of 10:1 within the next decade or two.

3. Rebuild our railways, waterways, and mass transit systems: A world running short on oil must focus on efficiency rather than simple convenience. If we don't act now, while our economy is still working reasonably well, how will most of us get around, or ship our goods, if gas goes to $10 or $20 dollars a gallon and we have not developed better alternatives to diesel trucks for long distance hauling and private gasoline powered automobiles for local transportation?

4. Rebuild our homes, office buildings and factories. Today's showpiece energy efficient buildings often consume one-tenth the energy of the average building, and some buildings are net energy producers that actually generate more power than they consume. The current crash in the building market could be turned around with zero-interest loans and tax incentives to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency, providing badly needed jobs while cutting green house gas emissions and reducing oil imports and trade deficits. From a resource, energy, and materials point of view, it is far "greener" to retrofit existing buildings than to tear them down and start over. ...

Matthew Stein is the author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency from Chelsea Green.
(30 July 2008)

This week on Worldchanging Seattle

Team, WorldChanging
The new Seattle blog [WorldChanging Seattle] is coming along great, with some wonderful new local contributors on board. This week's headlines ranged from public health to shopping bags. Check out what's new:

A Tool for Building Healthier Public Projects and Policies
In this week's feature story, Dr. Lori Williams talks about the benefits of Health Impact Assessments and unpacks two HIAs that are influencing local development plans.

Car-Free Sundays: A Business Plan
Local business owners can use lessons from abroad as they prepare for the upcoming holidays from auto traffic.

Say Goodbye to Free Shopping Bags
The City Council's newly approved fee on disposable shopping bags will take effect in January. Should we take time to celebrate, or get back to work?

... Whether or not you're a resident of the Emerald City, we hope you'll check back often for great ideas Seattle can broadcast to the world.
(1 August 2008)