Good on me!

Today i got a lovely call from Sam at Ecoresults to ask if i was happy for him to put my name forward for a new project – yes!  And while we were chatting, he mentioned that my website was down.

I thought it weird because I usually check my website about once a week, and when I took a quick look it all looked fine.  But when I looked a little closer, all of the sub links were broken.  I spent a bit of time with Dr Google and finally sorted out how to fix the problem (even if i still don’t understand how the problem happened).

Amusingly, because I took a look at the sub links I noticed how out of date many of them are.  So I’ve updated my list of projects, especially my Green Star projects.

Urine!

A few years ago, when I was still at WSP Built Ecology, I did a presentation at Green Cities.  It was called “Getting our shit together –  A history of human sanitation and how it might apply to building design in the future”  

It was fun, it tapped into my unhealthy obsession with composting toilets, and people remembered it at the dinner the following night.

The biggest message was that the most effective ways of dealing with human waste involve separating the solids from the liquid.  It makes dealing with both waste “streams” easier.  In fact, most of the waste water treatment that’s done is to deal with the salts associated with urine.

Recently, a friend posted a great link to a Smithsonian magazine article discussing the historic uses of urine.

Maybe we could be inspired to find some way to include urine diversion in our projects and set up some social enterprise to make good use of the urine?

 

Saving the planet with trains

goods-shedI took the Skybus  to the airport on Tuesday and we drove through the backblocks of the airport, past the new freight warehouses.  I saw the trucks backed up to the loading docks,  like I imagine they would have been at the Goods Shed  when the freight trains were loaded and unloaded from the centre of the shed.

 

Forklift loading AusPost truckThe airport infrastructure I saw is all new since the development of eBay and and includes a major change in the nearby roads and airport – there’s a dedicated freight terminal, many new warehouses and some lovely large roads for the trucks.  I think it’s a direct result of the stuff we’ve been buying off the internet.  Can we use a similar mechanism to influence the development of more sustainable transport options? [1]

As a child I remember going with my mother to pick up a parcel from the local suburban train station [2] and now I wonder what we would need to do to replace all of the trucks and vans delivering our internet purchases.

I want more freight to travel by train. I want the freight train system to make enough money to provide the infrastructure so I can catch a train to Adelaide on a service that operates more than twice a week and takes less than 10 hours. I want to be able to nominate a train based freight service when I buy my box of “vegan-friendly” toothbrushes. I wonder if some sort of sharing economy like service would drive the development of the infrastructure we need to make this a reality?

Train passengersWhat if we had parcel boxes at train stations? Could we start a social movement (no pun intended) carrying our neighbor’s parcels from the city train stations to the suburbs? Could people carry an extra suitcase of stuff when they take the train from Sydney to Melbourne? Would it catch on to the point where people are deliberately catching trains to deliver parcels? And then would big biz notice and start building train based freight infrastructure like the warehousing, terminal expansion and the extra (freight only) runway at the airport?

Whatever the future holds, we need to identify and promote the small things that will move the status quo to the world we want to have.

[1] I’ve assumed that  trains are more sustainable/use less resources than planes and trucks and certainly the fuel usage backs that up  –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_efficiency_in_transportation#US_Freight_transportation

[2]  It is likely that parcel went through the Goods Shed – the Goods Shed stopped operating in the 1990’s

 

Pedantic!

I am a pendant pedant and I saw this and laughed.  Putting it here so you can laugh with me.

illegible vs eligible

It’s the Greenhouse Gas Emissions credit in the new Design and As-Built tool.  I think they meant eligible…

Belated update

I’m busy and stressed, so I’ve re-arranged this website and now I’m updating here.

I’m planning to get the first round of Kathmandu’s volume certification submission off my to do list by Tuesday next week, in time for celebratory drinks.

Sigh, better get back to it I suppose.

PS. If you have clicked, check out my new resources and links page.  I’m going to keep adding stuff here, so suggestions would be welcome.

Weeding

A long time ago I set up a wiki for the company I was working for.  We used it to record our processes and included links to the documents we used every day.  It was really handy for Green Star references, but we also had a couple of fun pages including reviews of good lunch spots.

It was while working on the wiki that I learned to call the minor updates and tweaks to a website, “weeding”.  They’re really important to keep things organised, fresh and useful.

Today I finally got to some of the weeding that’s needed doing around here.  I’ve updated my NABERS page and the “free” NABERS assessments pages to include the revised NABERS Admin fees for Cityswitch signatories.  It’s a bit sad,  NABERS have decided to charge small tenants for their assessments and it won’t be as easy to persuade small tenants to let me give them a free energy assessment. Also, I quite like meeting new people and seeing the different ways people and their buildings work.  You have until 1 July 2014 to get it all organised at the old (free) rate for tenancies under 1000m2.

On the other hand, I’ve been pretty focused on Kathmandu and their Green Star Interiors PILOT rating for the last few months and I would prefer to be using my fabulous Green Star knowledge and experience on that and other great projects. 🙂

 

Save the environment! Clean ponds!

It started so well, “Helping the environment needs a realistic approach”.  That seems like a really sensible aim.

It went on to talk about the ACT government plans for renewable energy – 90% renewable energy by 2020 and 40% emissions reductions.  Again, I say woot! somebody is taking this energy thing seriously.

And then she said that the new solar farm is so woefully inadequate and building more farms such an unrealistic pathway that the only solution will be to have the electorate pay unreasonably high premiums to import green power from interstate.  Certainly, just relying on solar farms might not achieve the target – but the emissions target included in the plan will certainly help. [1]

But I started laughing when her suggestions of “better, more achievable and practical pathways” were ” planting trees or keeping local ponds clean and viable”.

Read it and laugh for yourself here.

[1] A number of years ago I was really tempted by the solar PV panel deals that were available.  Then I looked at my electricity bill and thought that 17kWh/day was pretty high for our then family of five and would make the panels just a drop in the ocean.  I did an energy audit and reduced our consumption to 10kWh/day.  7kWh/day is a very good output from solar panels, but I didn’t have to install them. We had the same impact on the environment as installing PV panels might have done, but it saved me the cost of both the panels and the electricity.

 

Transport privilege

I’m procrastinating about a fee proposal, so have a blog post instead;

I live in the inner city.  I walk or ride a tricycle (my own) to do the local market and supermarket shopping (truthfully, my husband mostly does it).  I also ride the Food Know How tricycle between local cafes and the Collingwood Children’s Farm.  My daughter walks the 100m to school.  I can ride my bicycle to get almost anywhere and, around here, people of every socio-economic group can be seen riding their bicycles because that’s one of the easiest ways to get around.  When I’m feeling lazy and don’t feel like cycling I take the tram or the train into the city.

I live in a place where public transport, walking and cycling is easy (just as well, I’ll be car free in two weeks), and I have a very different view of life from people who live in places where the cars go fast and the distances to supermarkets, libraries and sports facilities are longer.

In my head, gyms, swimming pools and basketball courts serve locals who can walk or cycle there.  Schools, libraries and child care centres similarly.  Aged Care facilities should be staffed by locals.  Obviously, you would keep disabled parking spaces but how do you provide for people who don’t have disabled parking permits, but still need to use a car as a motorised mobility device? People like me when I was 7 months pregnant, or when I tore my calf muscle playing netball. I’ll keep thinking about that…

Anyway, this is just a long way of saying that it’s probably wrong of me to look at every project I work on and ask, “do we really need to include car parking?” and “What would we have to do to make that happen?”  I still do it though and then remind myself of my transport privilege and prejudice.

I will say though, that the child care centre in the heart of the City of Yarra (highest proportion of people who cycle to work in Australia) is a possible exception. I found it difficult to believe that the centre needed parking for so many cars – imagine how much more play space they could have had?  I certainly argued for generous bike parking, to accommodate all the ways people are carry children on their bikes these days.  And now, every time I walk past the site, I imagine working with the enrolling families to make sure that they don’t drive to get there – one way to deal with long waiting lists :-).

bakfiets to carry childrenBicycle trailer

What prejudices do you bring to your sustainability problem solving?

 

Has it really been a year?

Ooops, long time no blog.

It hasn’t been a year, it’s been a year and a month or so.  It appears that I’m still paying the mortgage and eating, so it’s been moderately successful.

I’ve also found time to get gardening done and make stuff and start volunteering with Food Know How.

Each week i jump on a cargo trike, ride to two or three cafes, collect their food waste and empty the bins at the nearest composting hub. It takes about 2 hours and I get to ride a bike like this!

Food Know How cargo trikeIt’s great to get so personal with a sustainability measure I’ve spent so much time and effort advocating for.

In exchange for my time, each cafe I visit gives me a credit.  I currently have enough credit to take someone for coffee at Proud Mary.  Are you , or do you know an architect in that area of Collingwood? (there are lots!).  Cheers!

Power

Lately I’ve been noticing expressions of power, the way people interact and behave and how it manifests in getting stuff done and how easy or hard it might be.  Look, they might just be coincidences, but I guess I experience a bit of a double whammy when it comes to having to assert my power in situations – I’m both a woman and an ESD Consultant.

Here are a couple of power interactions I’ve had recently;

  • I went to a conference and ended up talking about babies or my holidays instead of the conference topic.
  • I sat on the edge of a meeting instead of at the centre (a common trait amongst women)
  • I offered to go last at a meeting and then missed out on discussing my report with the decision makers because they left to head to another meeting (that’s powerful, “we’re too important to stay to the end of this meeting”) – I’m not doing that again!
  • I handed out business cards, but some of the other attendees didn’t reciprocate.
  • I missed out on car-pooling with a decision maker when 2 cars were needed and I offered to keep the other driver company. ( I like to think that mostly means I’m not an arsehole)

I’m not complaining, I’m thinking about it so I can be more aware of the power stuff that might be going on – so I can choose a response that works best for me while maintaining my values.

I’m off on holiday tomorrow.  See you after Easter.