August 27, 2012

Achieving Athletic and Environmental Excellence

So… who out there spent some amount of last month hunkered down in front of the TV watching really incredible men and women swim, bike, horseback ride, volley, and dive for coveted medals?  I know I did.  That’s right, folks, I’m talking about the 2012 Olympics, and while most of you probably know it took place in London this year, many of you may not know the big reason why the city was chosen to host.  London made a radical proposal to host the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as we’re heading into environmental crisis mode over CO2 emissions, it was the perfect bid to win them the gig.  Now I have always been a skeptic when it comes to these lofty declarations of green plans of action, but after checking out Kevin McCloud’s video which explains how the plans were realized, I’m warming up to our friends across the pond, even though they  only gave Canada one gold medal this year and it was for bouncing on a trampoline…

The name of this plan for sustainability is Towards a One Planet 2012, and it was developed in association with WWF and BioRegional to show the world how it is possible to live within its means.  It’s a set of green guidelines, if you will, to help demonstrate how essentially easy it would be to reduce our carbon footprint worldwide.  Together, these organizations focused on four areas of the Games that they believed would have the most impact on the participating community.  The first was, of course, the venues themselves.

The Olympic Park is the largest new urban parkland development in 150 years, and 60% of the materials used to build it were brought by rail or river, thus keeping its carbon footprint to a minimum.

The second focal area of community sustainability was London’s Active Travel Programme.  This basically consisted of a constant reminder from the Games to walk or bike around the Park whenever possible.  The site was structured to be easily accessible using such simple methods thus attempting to cut down traffic and of course, carbon emissions.

The third centers around food intake (and outtake) throughout the Games arenas.  The goal was to offer affordable, diverse food supplied by local food service companies thereby bolstering business in surrounding communities.  As far as waste goes, they declared they could achieve a zero-waste-to-landfill Games by offering hoards of various recycling bins that are different colors depending on the kind of waste they take (there are numbers on the bottom of all food/beverage-related products you can buy that designate the corresponding bin).  While it sounds fairly simple, a great deal is left up to the masses here – let’s hope they’re all environmentally conscious!

The final spoke of this plan has to do with people improving their local communities.  It’s called the Changing Places Programme, and it involves inspiring individuals to get out there and make a difference in and around the places they call home.  You can see here how volunteers of the Games jumpstarted this outreach program in and around the Park itself.

Sounds like a pretty sizable endeavor, doesn’t it?!  The reports on how close they came to reaching these goals aren’t yet complete, but the updates look very promising.  I just wish I had seen more commercials about these initiatives and fewer from BP!

February 8, 2012

It’s a bird, it’s a… green airplane?

I’m partial to ships, but that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to other forms of transportation.  When I was a little one, I went nuts for just about anything that moved people from one place to another:  trucks, trains, cars, ships, and planes.  For some reason the thrill of spotting everything but ships faded.  I guess ’cause they’re just so darn easy to see.  But I’d love to spot these things in the air:

‘The hell is this, you ask?  Why, let me explain:

Science Daily’s reporting on how the good folks at NASA challenged three aeronautics firms — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman — to come up with new designs that’ll help the aircrafts of the future burn 50% less fuel than those that started flying in 1998 (the study’s baseline), AND with 75% fewer harmful emissions, AND will shrink the areas affected by airport noise by 83%.  It’s all part of NASA’s .Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project.  (Who knew?  I guess you and me now.)  The three aircraft you see in the picture represent the three firms’ various efforts to meet the criteria.

“The real challenge is we want to accomplish all these things simultaneously,” “It’s never been done before. We looked at some very difficult metrics and tried to push all those metrics down at the same time… We’ll be digesting the three studies and we’ll be looking into what to do next.”

– Fay Collier, Project Manager

Dare I say this makes me feel rather excited?  It could just be a nice warm belly full of Swanson’s beef pot pie and Sanka talking, but this seems like a really good, absolutely not bad, potentially wonderful thing.  I might just do a jig!

If you wanna read more about the different designs, the whole article is a great read.

Back to the binocs.

January 20, 2012

Making It Work: Karen Stewart Brown and Sustainable Fashion

We’re back with another Skype Interview Video! This one features Karen Stewart Brown, who co-founded Stewart+Brown with her husband, Howard Brown. Stewart+Brown believes in optimizing their designs and lives to attain the highest standards of quality and functional style while extracting the bare minimum from Earth’s precious capital. Stewart+Brown practices and promotes a symbiotic and harmonious relationship between business, community, and nature. They aspire to apply the wisdom of sustainability to everything we do while inspiring others, just as we have been inspired, to do the same. For more information and to see the designs, please visit





Interview conducted by Alix Lambert. Alix Lambert is an artist, author and filmmaker. She is an Associate Artist of The Civilians and is conducting this ongoing series of interviews for The Great Immensity. Please click HERE for more of her interviews in this series!

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