Category Archives: Biodiversity

The Future of Food – Vertical Farming

vert-farmWith 85% of the human population living in urban settings by 2050 – there is not doubt that a new way of raising our food, must be underway.  Lucky for us, a genius by the name of Dickson Despommier, has already created the solution for us – vertical farming.

Despommier  is a professor of Environmental Health at Columbia University, and coined the term, Vertical Farming.  It offers the idea of using hydroponic greenhouse methods to grow upward, rather than out.

As our needs continue  to grow over the next several decades, we are going to need to solve this issues, before they become problems.  The idea of a controlled environment, may be counter intuitive to us, naturalists, but the reality is that the use of Agri Business, has not been able to solve our food issues.

The method of vertical farming, forgoes the use of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, mono cropping and a variety of other common used practices in conventional farming.

I had the honor of speaking with Despommier, at a TED conference after party.  It was one of the most fascinating conversations I have had.  He is, without a doubt, a pioneer in the movement of alternative food production.  I was able to inquire on a variety of issues, that only propelled his thinking, and was not able to give me a response.  Only affirming that we are in the mere inception of these ground breaking ideas, and innovation is abound, and an open field!

We need to continue to develop individuals’ relationship with food – where it comes from, the energy trail associated with it, and of course, whether it is organic or not.  Understand the intended principals of food, and how energy is put into food – and how it translates to nutrition and taste.

Mankind has lost its spiritual place within the natural world, and awareness of one’s humanity – issues that have transmitted to other areas of our life.  Clearly, our mainstream society is missing the dynamic balance between people, place and community.  Perhaps, this is also a problem that has created a dissonance with all aspects of our life – in turn the natural world.

With an increase in consciousness and awareness, this discord will begin to heal, and harmony amongst people will return.  Individually, we must step up and begin with ourselves, and that will transcend out.   Supporting our local farmer’s market through direct purchase or through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in addition to, growing our own food, we can begin to grow our food within our region, and in accordance to the seasons.

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Salmon Protection in Sonoma County

Watershed

The WATER Institute web video, Your Salmon Creek, is available with some amazing underwater footage of habitat restoration and rehabilitation.

This is a, below-the-scenes, look at the historic reintroduction of the endangered Coho Salmon to the Salmon Creek Watershed in Sonoma County, CA.  Experts reveal, why Coho are disappearing, and why you should care…

Watch to see how protecting your home, your land and your family can improve your environment and the endangered species in your area.

Know and protect your watershed today!

What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that catches rainfall and other precipitation and funnels it into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater. There is a direct link between what we do on the land and the health of our watersheds and the quality of the water in our waterways. Those watersheds that are forested offer a wide array of benefits. Healthy urban and rural forested watersheds absorb rainfall and snow melt, slow storm runoff, recharge aquifers, sustain stream flows, filter pollutants from the air and runoff before they enter the waterways; and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. In addition, forested watersheds provide abundant recreational opportunities, help support local economies, provide an inexpensive source of drinking water, and improve the quality of our lives.

Through the use of forests and forestry practices applied on a watershed basis, we can provide cumulative water quality benefits and offer low cost, long term solutions to many of the nation’s nonpoint source pollution problems.

Calender of Events in The World Of Green – Winter 2009

January 15 Green Building Workshop (Brooklyn, NY)

Time: 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Location: LC 400, Dibner Library Building   5 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn, NY
A workshop that brings industry researchers and developers of green buildings technologies, entrepreneurs, investors, representatives from green buildings and sustainability initiatives, regulators, architects and building designers.

I will be speaking on ‘Integrating Green Building in the Urban Environment’

at 9:55 a.m. – 10:20 a.m.

January 24  – Green Living Workshop  – Part 1  (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street   Santa Monica, CA 90405
This workshop on Green Living, will help lay the foundation to create your green abode – whether you own or not.  Learn the simple ways to make your home energy and water efficient while eliminating toxins and drastically improving indoor air quality!

The workshop will cover a DIY cleaning product demo, lecture, and interaction with the audience.

I will provide all attendees with an E-Book on all material covered as well as local resources!

January 25 –   Go Green Expo –  (Los Angeles, CA)

Time –  10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location: The Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 South Figueroa Street   Los Angeles, CA 90015

Go Green Expo is a showcase for earth-friendly products and services – a trade show that wholly focused on green living.

I will be on the panel for Green Building and Design on the tradeshow floor on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

January 31  – Green Decor Workshop  – Part 2 (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street   Santa Monica, CA 90405

Few people are aware, that just as in our homes as our workplace, there is an opportunity to choose objects and products that do not pollute our homes and are harmful to us and the environment.

Learn how to decorate your home in a way that improves your indoor air quality, and your overall state of being, by pairing down on clutter and waste, eliminating toxins, and breathing in a new breathe of fresh air into your home!

I will provide a basis of information that will help guide you in a direction of knowing what questions to ask from your suppliers and manufacturers to insure that the materials and finishes you choose for your home are environmentally sound.

There will be samples and materials incorporated, to provide a better understanding for greening your decor!

February 07 – Green Landscaping Workshop  – Part 3  (Santa Monica, CA)

Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Santa Monica Public Library (Ocean Park Branch)

2601 Main Street Santa Monica, CA 90405

A basic introduction, offering everything you wanted to know about greening your garden and landscaping!

This workshop will provide an introduction to Permaculture and good gardening practices, that you can begin implementing in your green space today!  Learn simple tools that will help you save time, money, water and energy in your garden!

Information will be provided on local programs, through Santa Monica, on sustainable gardening and landscaping.

Lawns

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In recent decades, there has been an anti-lawn movement; stemming from the desire to wake up Americans to the reality that keeping up with the Jones’s, truly isn’t a satisfactory way of living.

So, what is wrong with lawns, anyway?  Aside, from being water and energy intensive, lawns are usually sprayed with a cocktail of herbicides and pesticides, in order to, maintain that rolling carpet appeal – year round.  Ironically, most grass grown in the United States is not native to our country, resulting in habitat destruction nationwide.

Lawns in front of American homes are a ubiquitous element.  For over a century, it has represented a lot more than domesticated turf; symbolizing wealth, conformity and class.  Annually Americans spend approximately 40 billion dollars on their lawns, on an area which spans about fifty thousand square miles; estimated to be about the size of New York State.

As most lawns are laden with these toxins, they are not simply effecting the lawn in which it is defused in, but in reality, an entire eco system – an effect so large it is virtually impossible to quantify the ramifications.

Herbicides and pesticides are petroleum based products, making them naturally toxic produce, apply and discard.  In addition, the wide array of chemicals in these products have been known to cause cancer, effect the central nervous system, cause deformities in fetuses, harm pets, children and adults, as well as cause death.

One of the most common popular herbicides sold today is 2,4-dichlorephenoxyacetic or 2,4-D, as it is more commonly known, is one of the key ingredients in Agent Orange.  After having seen the ongoing destruction that it has caused human life and the eco system in Vietnam, how is such a product still on the shelves, and worst, on our lawns where our children and our pets play.

These products are designed to enforce plants to artificially bloom out of season that results in the plant building a natural protection from these chemicals, eventually creating a resistance, therefore requiring more potent chemicals.

These chemicals, in turn, are a detriment to all plant, insect and animal life in its perimeter; killing what is beneficial to local regions, through nitrogen fixing, maintaining biodiversity or pollinating.

When herbicides and/or pesticides are released into the environment they seep into the ground, immediately effecting our ground water and our aquifers – directly effecting our drinking water.  New York City residents do not have lawns, yet drink chemical laden water.  In 2002 thirty-seven pesticides were traced in waterways leading to the Croton River Watershed – a clear indication of serious contamination.

After irrigating or after a rain, all these chemicals are washed into the storm drains and straight into our oceans.  For cities whose drains end up at treatment plant, these chemicals are not broken down and still end up in our oceans, rivers and streams.

These excess nutrient based products cause areas in our aquatic systems that result in algae blooms, which deprive our bodies of water of oxygen, creating dead zones – areas where no life can thrive.  Dead zones have become a recurring problem in the Gulf Coast, off the coast of Texas, where all plant and aquatic life in that region ceases to exist.  This is a serious problem that is drastically effecting our fishing industries, and in turn our food supply.

On a more philosophical level, lawns represent constraint, enforced conformity and repression.  Lawns represent monocultures – the antitheses of what our country embodies – diversity.  Mowing a lawn physically prevents the opportunity of sexual reproduction in the plant kingdom.

So, if not lawns, then what?  There are several alternatives to the old American lawn, some options may require more work than others, ultimately, it depends on your desire and aesthetic.  One probable and logical solution is eliminating the lawn completely and designing a food forest.  It is estimated that a standard yard can yield several hundred pounds of fruits and vegetables per year.  Don’t have an inclination to be self sufficient and grow your own food?  Consider creating a natural habitat with local flora and fauna that does not require the usual copious amounts of pesticides, herbicides, water and energy.

Another option is the idea of a Freedom Lawn.  It is a concept that emerged in the early ’90’s, that allows nature to take her course, naturally.  It consists of seed grass and a variety of other grass-like elements that occur only in their natural state.  It is more water and energy tolerant and may require less mowing since it probably looks best with a cushion.  When mowed, it is preferred to be done with a push-mower.

Just imagine the elimination of all those gas guzzling, noise polluting nature repressing tools – how lovely life would be!

Its all in the Soil

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Did you know that soil was alive?   Many people do not realize this……

Soil is a critical and dependent element to our survival.  Healthy soil goes hand in hand with a healthy environment.

“The nation that destroys its soil – destroys itself” (Roosevelt 1937)

The first and most important step in improving soil health is to recognize that soil is a living organism, and all parts of our ecosystem depend on it –   it is vital to our survival!

There are billions of microorganisms that make up a whole network below ground.  In one spoonful there are 600 million bacteria!    Imagine that – there is an entire network of life below the ground.  A network that works together to sustain life above ground for us.

Something that on the surface may look look dead, but upon closer inspection is bustling with life!  Many people have misconceived notions about compost.  The reality is that it is a free resource of nutrients for our plants.

It doesn’t smell, but mainly, it reduces the amount of waste going to a landfill, all are creating the fertile ground for a microcosm universe to exist and for soil sustainability to flourish!

Remember we are all organisms working within one larger organism – called Planet Earth.  Seeing on the micro and macro level.  The actions of humans, all over the world, effect every single one of us.

Biodiversity is the product of nearly 3.5 billion years of evolution  –  An element to be taken into consideration when people want to replant entire eco systems such as the rainforest, and it is a natural process that has taken many a millennia to happen.

Soil, for example, is the measure of the health of biological systems – In other words, soil is the metaphor of our environment – If we have healthy soil we have a healthy environment.

Annually, we are losing 1 percent of our topsoil per year, due to industrial  agriculture, the process of mono cropping, heavy chemical use, and erosions of our soils.  Just to put things into perspective –  it takes thousands of years to form one inch of topsoil.

Life in the soil provides the structure for more life, and the formation of more soil.  Soil is equated to food and food is equated to life.  The fertility and the quality of soil will determine the health and stability of all life that is relying on it  – just as the health of each human being will determine fertility and the quality of their life.

Nancy Astrid Lindo Interviewed By: Angela Orrechio of Good Life

What is green building and what is your role in it?
Who are your customers?

Green Building is a movement that has stemmed out of the need for man to return to our state of balance with the natural world. We began civilizations, building green, using natural and local materials. It has been through time and technology that we began to exploit natural resources, create synthetic materials and import and export – elements that all began to take us away from our origins.

Today, Green Building represents a wide umbrella of disciplines that encompass everything in a building from the orientation, the design, materials, sourcing, indoor air quality and the performance of the building in reference to energy and water efficiency.

As an Eco Interior Designer, with a wide background that includes interior design, green building and permaculture, I feel that I have a broad and encompassing breadth of what role I play in this field. I take into account beyond what a typical green designer may. Beginning with the core of the individual, and moving my way out through the design of a space all the way to the landscape of the land.

My clients range from citizens interested in moving towards a more regenerative way of life – be it through their personal life or in their home. I also work with businesses in applying ways of implementing sustainable practices in addition to making their office space more energy and water efficient – all while improving indoor air quality and employee performance.

Transitioning from conventional building to sustainable building and remodeling can be a difficult concept to grasp. How do you assist your clients with the transition toward a greener mindset?

Going green must begin with an intention to be more aware of the life you live. I believe once people are given the information, such as the fact that our water travels over 500 miles to get to our faucets or how electricity is created and transported – people may be more apt to raise their level of awareness.

Education is critical in helping people understand the importance in raising their consciousness. I walk my clients through the entire process – the facts, the cost differential, the justification in health and livelihood and most importantly, helping them see the bigger picture.

Having them see the holistic view, that every action truly matters.

What is the concept of green washing?

Green washing stemmed from the concept of whitewashing – it is taking advantage of a wide growing market and few knowledgeable individuals that know what questions to ask or what they should be looking for. Using key words such as ‘green, eco or natural’ have been widely abused without any regard to integrity. Sadly, there are people who believe this type of target marketing, and are deceived.

It is virtually impossible to validate or invalidate any of these claims in this country, when many of our industries are not regulated or monitored – leaving it an open opportunity for
anyone to take advantage of this exploding market. As consumers, people need to become educated and read labels and understand what to look for.

Having lived in Spain, Italy, New York City, Miami and San Francisco what are some of the trends you have noticed in green building in other cities?

Europe has been on the forefront of this movement. They have always kept things in accordance to human scale, be it their cars or their homes. They have outlawed GMO’s, and several countries to not allow American imported produce for that very reason. They are ahead, in the use of alternative fuels, building biology (Bau Biologie), alternative transportation and the use of local and natural materials.

In the United States, San Francisco and New York City are ahead of the game including a couple other cities. Taking advantage of their size – public and alternative transportation thrive in both cities. Federally both have passed laws that all new government buildings must meet LEED standards. San Francisco, in comparison, to NYC is ahead of the curve in educating its citizens, offering city wide compost collection, in addition to having more LEED certified buildings.

What are some of the current projects you working on?
(Currently working on a reference guide for the Interior Design industry and publishing articles on green living, and speaking about the importance of sustainable living) elaborate.

In addition to writing and speaking in public, of the projects I have on the boards, I am working in various industries in helping them be more sustainable – hospitality, commercial, corporate and residential. I also have a remodel in San Francisco and a new construction low rise residential building in Miami.

The reference guide for the interior design industry will be a guide for anyone in the field -from a seasoned designer to an amateur. It will hold a wide scope of information tailoring the various industries that we work closely with that maintain their own standards and vocabulary.

What are five things someone can do right now to green their home?
And what are the environmental and financial benefits to each one?

1. Eat

(a.) organic, (b.) seasonal (c.) local

Environmental Benefits:

a. No fertilizers, herbicides, sewage sludge or GMO’s – does not damage the land or water quality, promotes biodiversity & crop rotation
b. More nutrient content (not picked before harvest, allowing for produce to naturally mature)
c. Lower energy costs (less transportation)

Financial Benefits:

a. Supports a movement – vote with your dollar! If you shop at the farmers market, and you support small scale farming
b. You save on energy costs by not importing fruit from other countries when they are out of season here
c. Support the community (more money stays in the community on a fiscal level – versus shopping at a big box grocer where most of your money will end up at a corporate office outside your city )

2. Save water – we are in a drought and live in a desert! Purchase aerators for your kitchen and bath faucet and a low flow shower head. Educate yourself on the garbage patch in the North Pacific Gyre, and the dead zones in our oceans – spread the word!

Environmental Benefits:

Water is a precious and finite resource that is dependent on snow pack from the Sierras and the Rockies, in addition to the Colorado to sustain our demand – very little comes from our groundwater, most of it is contaminated

Financial Benefits:

Save on your water bill. Even, if you do not pay for your water, you will decrease the city wide demand for it

3. Use alternative transportation – walking, biking, bus, carpool

Environmental Benefits:

Less traffic, toxins, demand for foreign oil

Financial Benefits:

A lot less expensive than driving

4. Save energy – use power strips, use CFL’s, turn the lights off in unoccupied rooms

Environmental Benefits:

Less demand on the grid (nuclear or coal powered plants are extremely taxing on the environment)

Financial Benefits:

Lower energy bill

5. Avoid disposable items at all cost

Environmental Benefits:

Our landfills are reaching capacity and in 5 years, our garbage will have to be taken out to the desert – every bit counts, eliminate anything that is cheap and meant for a short life. Spending a little more on something that is going to last is well worth it.

Financial Benefits:

The need to constantly buy poorly made products. Buying built to last products assures that they are made for duration, versus so many products that are intended for one life cycle. People need to separate themselves from this disposable society mentality, and take responsibility for what they use and consume.  Think Cradle to Cradle.

Viva Permaculture!

img_3598So what is Permaculture?

Permaculture, stems from the two words:  Permanent Culture

I like to define it, is the design of human settlements in accordance to the laws of nature.

So what does that mean?

It uses the wisdom of learning from the self perfecting system of nature to build and provide in ways, that are regenerative to people and communities.

Permaculture, provides a philosophy, that establishes systems of highly productive and sustainable environments that provide water, food, energy, and shelter, in addition to, a reforming old systems, bioremediation, mycology, and nature awareness.

It stems from the natural theory, that nature is abundant – as is life!

There is an innate respect, for all things living within our eco system.  It is a way of thinking, based on cardinal indigenous cultures and ways of living, while integrating modern technology.

It uses these principals to mimic patterns in nature, while using energy sources at their peak potential to provide a balanced system.  This will allow for less work, zero waste, observation, and biodiversity, amongst just a few, of the many principals.

In essence, this is a practice that embodies such a vast amount of science,
technique and theory, all while being such a simple and logical way of living.

Permaculture is a process …. as life is.

Beyond green living and building buildings that work effectively and efficiently, it embodies an intention for life; it is a slow awakening of the subtleties in life that are around us all the time.

It is a philosophy, that has the ability, to be applied to every facet of our life.

Permaculture works on building relationships, with yourself, your neighbors, your community and of course with the natural world; remember it is a part if human NATURE!