Archive for the Local Category

Rethinking Big Box

Big Box Stores are often given a bad wrap, though they seem to firmly fill a need in our lives.  This bad wrap is often justified for many good reasons.  But what if we were to rethink about their function, their form, their purpose, their method?  The Reburbia contest got me thinking about this interesting spin on Big Box stores.

Take for example Ikea.  If you have ever been in one of these they are huge!  I’m not talking about Sam’s club huge or Costco huge, no no, Ikea makes these stores look like mini-me.  The average Sam’s or Costco 190,000 square feet, Ikea 300,000 and up!bb1

That is allot of space, what if we could repurpose that space or repurpose the space of an empty warehouse, closed walmart etcetera to become a giant living grocery store.  When I say living grocery store, this is what I mean.

The interior of the structure will be converted to a giant greenhouse, where the aisles of shelves are now long raised bed rows of plants that the customers walk down and pick their food.  The guy that used to stock the shelves of produce section will now show you how to harvest it all, offer up recipes and dietary advice.  All the vegetables and fruit will be grown on site.  Chicken and beef will also be done free range in the area surrounding the store and some of the massive parking lot will be converted back to green space.  The store’s power could even come from wind mills on the property.  Imagine how much better your buying experience would be when its filled with shades of greens instead of harsh lights, neutral color tiles and obnoxious advertisements.

If you have ever been to an EarthFare grocery store, you could have a similar dining area, with daily selections of hot food (they make them daily, all organic and from scratch). Where I used to live, Asheville, NC, the grocery store also had a community center that anyone could rent and yoga, meditation, art classes were held.  This store could have something similar teaching classes on gardening, farming, and sustainability etcetera.bb3

Many of us know about the Urban Homestead, path to freedom.  They grow 10,000 pounds of produce on a 1/10 of an acre 20 minutes from downtown LA with only four people.  If you scale that to the size of Ikea, you are looking at 650,000 pounds of produce! Ikea’s are often built on 40 acre lots, so figure 15 for the building and parking.  I have read you can raise chickens under free range conditions at 400 an acre.  If you were to bring in feed, you could support a decent number of cows per acre.

Imagine how your relationship with food would change?  You would be forced to by local, to by seasonal, to know exactly what went into your food.  How would this impact the cost when you eliminate transportation, gasoline, repackaging, and merchandising.  Would this work, what are your thoughts on this?

Mad Houser

A little while back I talked to someone who was a reader of this website; the topic was about how tiny houses might be able to address a need for homelessness. hut1 This is of great interest to me as I work for a non-profit in order to reduce poverty and homelessness.  My job is a bit different from most who work in this field as I am essentially a staffing agency for volunteers.  I seek out non-profits who need volunteers and then get volunteers, train both sides and facilitate them to fight poverty.  All of this is done for free, except for when large companies want a “work day” or “community service day” for their employees, we charge them a consulting fee.

Homelessness is a big issue right here at home, with the economy in a funk, I personally know many people who by all measures financially were responsible, saved 3-6 months of expenses in a rainy day savings account, but were still forced out of their home.  If you have ever worked with homeless folks, we find that really aren’t that different than us.  I was struck by irony one day when I served food to a group of gentlemen who were dressed better than I was.  I was struck when 4 nurses who were still employed sat down to eat because they had a job, but couldn’t afford to eat because of pay cuts and they were giving their portions to their kids.

This Atlanta group called the “mad housers”  is a really interesting idea of making cheap houses and dropping them off at homeless camps and tent cities.  They construct these for around $400 and have a sleeping loft, a wood stove and a place to secure their belongings and sleep safely.

If you live in a city, you may no know, but every city has several tent cities.  Homeless people don’t always just sleep on the streets, they construct in prompt tu shelters in groups for security, community and many other reasons.  These things are huge too!  I have seen some covering an entire acre.

They say this about their mission:

MAD HOUSERS Inc. is an Atlanta-based non-profit corporation engaged in charitable work, research and education. Our charter outlines our goals and purposes:

  • To provide shelter for homeless individuals and families regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender, religion, or age.
  • To develop low income housing for people in need of housing.
  • To help people develop the skills and knowledge for constructing and rehabilitating housing and shelter.
  • To increase the quantity and to improve the quality of housing in the world.
  • To act, if necessary as an advocate for the homeless, to ensure that their moral and civil rights are protected.

The Mad Housers believe that if a person has a secure space from which to operate, they are much more capable of finding the resources to help themselves.

Check them out here

The Man Who Doesn’t Use Money

What if you stopped using money, I mean all money?  No credit cards, no debt cards, checks, nothing! How would you eat?nomoney How would you get new shoes when yours wore out?  When I really think about it, I can’t imagine if I couldn’t not buy anything.  Not because I am addicted to consumption and materialistic things, but there are arguably things you absolutely need.  Soap for instance, I don’t need fancy soap, but a bar of ivory, sure.  To wash my hands, to shower, to clean cuts when I get injured, to wash the counter after cutting raw chicken.  Shoes, in our urban waste….I mean urban wonderland there are too many things that can injure you and places you can’t enter without them.

Reprinted: Style Christopher Ketcham

Daniel Suelo lives in a cave. Unlike the average American—wallowing in credit-card debt, clinging to a mortgage, terrified of the next downsizing at the office—he isn’t worried about the economic crisis. That’s because he figured out that the best way to stay solvent is to never be solvent in the first place. Nine years ago, in the autumn of 2000, Suelo decided to stop using money. He just quit it, like a bad drug habit.

His dwelling, hidden high in a canyon lined with waterfalls, is an hour by foot from the desert town of Moab, Utah, where people who know him are of two minds: He’s either a latter-day prophet or an irredeemable hobo. Suelo’s blog, which he maintains free at the Moab Public Library, suggests that he’s both. “When I lived with money, I was always lacking,” he writes. “Money represents lack. Money represents things in the past (debt) and things in the future (credit), but money never represents what is present.”
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Life Inc.

I was sitting eating smores today and watching the Colbert Report, he had a really interesting guest today who was promoting his new book Life Inc.  Basically it is talking about how corporatisim extends to every aspect of our lives, how it drives consumerism and how our value is derived by the amount we consume.  This have obvious ties to the story of stuff (click here) and many other discussions I have had on this website.

Turnbull Interview

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Here is a great interview with Elizabeth Turnbull, the Yale student who decided that dorms and rent weren’t for her financially and environmentally.  She built this house with the help of lots of folks in a workspace that she was rented to for free. That in combination with builder donations she was able to build this tiny house using renewable resources, non toxic materials and other eco friendly products.  Check out here story here