All Posts Tagged With: "Baltimore"

A city of green roofs: the bird’s-eye view

We have long espoused the power of visuals to convey a new idea. Truly, a picture is worth 1000 words. But, it goes deeper than that. Art speaks the language of our heart and enlists our emotions in imagining a different reality. In that spirit, the very talented Gordon Griffin, a sometimes contributor to GOforChange, created this wonderful video called, “What would it look like?” Enjoy! And let us know what you think in the comment section.


Green Gas. Greenroof. Greenwash.

 cartoon by: Wilcox

Gasoline production is never actually going to be "green" but to show they really care, British Petroleum has been going the extra mile for the environment in other areas. A Los Angeles BP , Helios House, is the nation’s first station to operate with high "green" standards which includes low-flow toilets, solar panels, a rain-catchment system and floors made from recycled glass, everything green (except its product.) The station also hands out tips on being green and seeds you can plant in your home garden.

Here in Baltimore we have our very own "growing" equivalent. The BP station across from the Museum of Industry off Key Highway has a greenroof on both the convenience store and the car wash. This roof was was planted in spring, 2007 by me, your GOforChange contributor, while working for Furbish Co . The easiest — and probably the only — way to see it is if you have any friends with roof-top decks in South Baltimore. Although most of us can’t see it, it is helping improve air, lowering the urban heat-island effect, and slowing storm water run-off.

Is BP acting "Beyond Petroleum" or is it closer to greenwashing? Listen to NPR news story.

Greenwash is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” View a list of America’s 10 worst offenders from The Green LIfe.

We have two new programs starting up, including the Green Website Adventure Tour, which begins the week of July 13. Join me on a F*R*E*E phonecall to find out more: Friday, July 3 at 11:00 a.m. EST.

What’s Wrong With a Good, Juicy, Audacious Goal?

photo of LEAFHouse on the National Mall by Amy Gardner

I’ve been wondering lately — why do some people shy away from embracing ambitious goals? What’s the hesitation? I don’t think it comes from a lack of vision, because I’ve worked with some visionary people who still balk at publicly declaring an audacious goal. Is it fear? Lack of trust? Worry about falling short?

I have a wonderful client who shyly asked me to dial back on an energy model that was showing some pretty impressive projected energy savings from relatively straightforward measures. The numbers just looked too good to be true; the savings were "unbelievable." While I do understand the potential gulf between computer analysis and real-life performance, what we were proposing wasn’t rocket science. It should be very achievable, given good attention to construction details and sound building science.

In another instance, Baltimore’s Sustainability Plan process last summer went through rigorous community involvement, the working groups were loaded with rock stars in their respective fields, and the recommendations were so exciting I kept having to pinch myself at the meetings. In the end, what emerged is a comprehensive, workable plan — without a bold vision. I know it’s easy for me to second-guess, but I kept wishing we could have something as cool as Portland ‘s: Everyone can see Mt. Hood and every child can walk to a library. It’s so memorable, vivid, and dense with possibility.

Was it the fear of being held accountable by some stickler member of the general public? What if Baltimore set an ambitious goal and didn’t make it? Would it turn into a political firestorm? Was it not wanting to disappoint people, if the city somehow fell short of a big goal? I always see a bit of red flag when people start talking about getting "realistic." That word feels VERY limiting.

The other day I joined my colleagues for a radio interview about our experiences creating and competing LEAFHouse in the 2007 Solar Decathlon. It was wonderful to relive all the best stories about those two years, especially to be reminded of the importance of setting audacious goals. Very early on, we had a big team meeting with engineering and architecture students, mentors from several disciplines, the three faculty advisors, and alumni from the 2005 solar house team. One of our big touchstones was Kennedy’s speech on September 12, 1962 at Rice University, where he announced that we would be landing a man on the moon within the next decade. Continued

City Sprouts Green Efforts

photo courtesy of: Parks and People
In honor of Green Week Baltimore I wanted to highlight a few important efforts that I’ve come across in the past couple of months. The MTA of Maryland has implemented a Green Facts page on their website. This interactive page provides information on all the energy alternatives which are taking place within our Mass Transit system. We currently have 10 hybrid diesel-electric buses and coming soon are some 100% biodiesel conversions and much more. Parks and People Foundation of Baltimore has created the Community Greening Resource Network (CGREN) , a membership program supporting Baltimore City community gardeners with materials like seeds, plants, tools, and educational hand-outs and downloadable PDFs. There are a list of upcoming events and workshops on their calender and ours that include information on composting, rainbarrel systems, etc. This year I’ve signed up to be a member of the Village Green Community Garden in Remington and will be making visits around to as many other community gardens as I can. Check back soon to hear more about the exciting momentum stirring around urban farming city-wide! In addition to active green spaces, the city has also set a goal of increasing its tree canopy from 20 percent to 40 percent. The Growing Home program is an innovative public-private partnership between Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Harford County, 50 local retail nurseries and garden centers, and homeowners to increase the tree canopy in the region by offering homeowners comprehensive education about planting trees and a cash incentive, the $10 Growing Home Tree Coupon redeemable toward the purchase of a qualifying tree with a retail value of at least $25.

I leave you with this quote from critic and urban activist Jane Jacobs, "No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at..suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities. You’ve got to get out and walk." Be the green you wish to see in the world. There are hundreds of ways to get involved. Check our calender for more Green Week Events.

Other urban farming/gardening resources:

Intervale Center

Growing Power

Rhizome Collective

Fresh Start Farm

Urban Revitalization: What Would You Do With Free Land?

photo courtesy of: Baltimore Infill Survey

Living almost anywhere you’re probably familiar with at least one or two abandoned buildings, left unattended for years and years. Here in Baltimore you can scan whole blocks of vacancies. These sore-spots have become the inspiration for small and large efforts to revitalize some of the staggering 40,000 vacant homes and abandoned lots through innovation, idea building and conversation. One such project called Baltimore Infill Survey has just sent me a notification by email this morning. Their idea is, if you had it your way, what would you do with an abandoned lot or vacant space? This project originally came out of an idea which was presented at the 2008 Bioneers Conference this past November. Organized as a breakout session called Urban Economic Development and Visionary Green Design and Development, the project brought together architects, developers and urban critics. They came up with a pre-fab building concept called The Plant which would serve energy needs of the surrounding residents, within a mile radius. Read more about what I wrote in November here or here at Urban Palimpsest.

Make your claim and join the project . Really, what would you do!??

Share Your Successes with postCarbon

photo: still from Planit video

GOforChange invites you to participate in a fun new project.

What is the best thing you are doing to lower your carbon footprint or have a lighter impact on the planet? — OR — What would you do if you could do anything?

Drop us a postcard that illustrates your answer. Include a brief note (if you wish) on the reverse, and mail your postcard to:

2002 Clipper Park Rd
4th floor
Baltimore, MD 21211

We will post these on the website, starting in March.

We are planning a gallery show for April, so watch this space for details as they develop.

And, please help us get the word out about this project. Share with your networks!

Recycled Glass is Limitless

photo: unknown
According to one source, the late 1960’s was the first time glass manufacturers established collection centers where people could return empty bottles, jars, and other types of glass containers. These were recycled by breaking up the glass and then melting it down with silica sand, limestone, and soda ash to make new containers. Recycling glass is 100% sustainable because it will not deteriorate with age or "down cycle", like with paper and plastic recycling. The Glass Packaging Institute , an excellent source for this topic states that, "recycling one glass bottle can save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for four hours or a computer for 30 minutes."

WhollyTerra , located in Baltimore uses recycled glass to create visually engaging works with a play on light. Steve, the owner of WhollyTerra, isn’t limited to a window transom or picture frames but makes bowls, candle-holders and other outdoor ornaments, including bird houses. I recently found a happy customer and Baltimore resident here.

A sampling of sources for reclaimed, repurposed, and recycled glass items:

Maryland Mosaic is a full service supply company offering everything for mosaic tile work to the beginner and the experienced artist. They offer the Organiks line, which is a 100% recycled glass mosaic tile. This is great news for the East Coast! Until recently, the only source for this was out of  California.

The Green Glass Company is based in Weston, Wisconsin. They are the largest producer of reclaimed glassware in the world. Known best for their patented winebottle-to-glass, they also make vases, candle holders, and a clever coatrack. Their products are available in a number of Baltimore-area stores; check their store locator for up-to-date information.

You can even build a Buddhist Temple with glass bottles. The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple, about 600 km (370 miles) northeast of Bangkok, is better known as "Wat Lan Kuad" or "Temple of Million Bottles."

Find other Bmore crafts at the Baltimore By Hand blog.

Comment and tell us your recycled glass ideas!
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