Strengthening the Movement by Shrinking It

An interview with the innovators behind

We’ve all heard that eating locally is one way to reduce your environmental impact. But what about donating locally? In the urban wilds of New York City, a new non-profit is betting that locally based, small-scale giving can have a big eco-impact. Ioby, whose name stands for “in our back yards,” connects people working on neighborhood-level projects with community members who can physically and financially support them. At, launched this month by co-founders Erin Barnes, Cassie Flynn, and Brandon Whitney, individuals or groups post project descriptions and budgets, and interested donors contribute to the project of their choice. Here’s …

Radiant Cities: Levittown, India-style

The folks behind the Nano take their vision to suburbia

On paper, the biggest U.S. export is capital goods–aircrafts, semiconductors, medical equipment, and such. But we’ve been exporting something else in force to developing countries: the suburban lifestyle. From American Village in the Kurdish area of Iraq to “Napa Valley,” a development outside Beijing, the McMansion and its watered lawns are making their way around the world. Meanwhile, back home, suburbia is falling out of favor and small houses are becoming more popular — at least to gawk at and be inspired by, if not yet to inhabit. So perhaps the next big thing in international architecture will be on …

Talkin' Bout Cogeneration

Two homeowners, one monster, and a cutting-edge power source

There’s a monster in our basement. It eats fistfuls of dollar bills, guzzles No. 2 heating oil, and belches filthy clouds of soot and CO2. We have to kill it before it kills us. Only problem is, we and our tenants are dependent on it — this being New England, we need something down there to keep us from freezing our butts off when winter rolls around again. Nothing to fear but furnace itself.Ever since my partner Edith and I bought our 100-year-old Boston triple-decker two years ago, we’ve been plotting the demise of its beastly old, big-as-a-refrigerator, criminally inefficient, …

Pedal Pushers

Iowa City needs bike sharing

CPSC.govKnow what’s awesome? Bike sharing. Know what’s not awesome? Bike sharing programs that get wrecked by theft and general disregard. As many of them seem to do. But let’s hear it for optimism: Check out this editorial in the daily paper of the University of Iowa. It lays out plans for a bike-sharing program based on those that have gained speed in cities from Paris to Portland — but says the smaller size of Iowa City would mean less velo-vandalism: Iowa City’s population hovers around 80,000, a good portion (say, half?) of whom are students, faculty, and staff at the …

Wheels on fire

Put the book down and get on your bike

Manifesto: (n) a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives or views of its issuer. See the Communist Manifesto, avoid The Cyclist’s Manifesto. Courtesy Falcon PressOf all the cycling books to read in honor of National Bike Month, The Cyclist’s Manifesto is better left on the bike rack. Though the author believes he is making a powerful case for the bicycle as a tool for serious transportation, the manifesto ultimately disappoints, offering a rambling, poorly organized tour through cycling history and current transportation politics. The book begins with promise. Hurst slams David Brooks’ cutting aside about bicycling (a zinger tucked …

Bike to work, bike from work

Today is Bike-To-Work day. If you don’t have a job and are feeling left out, you have other options. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to wait out the recession than to take a bike tour. It’s cheap, especially if you camp. It’s the right speed to see a country. It’s carbon-free, natch. And people receive you much differently if you show up under your own power, versus hopping off a bus or train with a horde of other backpackers. For a taste of the possibilities, I recommend Ray Kreisel’s self-published e-book, A Different Kind of Freedom, chronicling …

When the rubber hits the road

Gear up for Bike to Work Week

It’s Bike to Work Week, which means it’s the perfect time for you to dust off that two-wheeler and start pedaling (or feel a bit smug-er about already being a committed cyclist). For tips on converting to a cycle-based commute, check out our handy how-to or the entertaining Umbra video at the bottom of the post. And for those of you with a more adventurous spirit, check out the Urban Assault Ride. Sponsored by New Belgium Brewery (makers of Fat Tire ale, natch), this bike-based scavenger hunt will send you all over the city in a race to complete a …

Radiant Cities: Getting (Retro)Fit

In some cities, the greenest buildings are already built

It’s a cliché of life in New York: on even the chilliest winter days, windows are flung open to let free the over-cranked, inefficient steam heat. “We literally blow money out the window,” says Nancy Biberman, founder of the Bronx-based WHEDCo, a family and affordable housing non-profit. About a third of New York’s building supply was built before 1939 — long before sustainability and greenhouse gases were on anyone’s radar screen — and very little of it can be classified as green. That’s true of the newer housing stock too, for that matter; a recent study showed that New York …

So Long, Saturn

I sold my car, and I couldn’t be happier … I think

It’s all yours.iStockI recently committed a subversive act: I sold my car, and I’m not buying a new one. I’d thought that I’d feel virtuous and free — and I do — but it’s turned out to be a bit more complicated than that. Never too attached to my particular car, I considered it transportation, not a reflection of who I am. My job as an environmental reporter has taught me about the hazards of car ownership, from pollution and materials waste to sprawling, disconnected communities to oil politics — even obesity. Yet in spite of living for 14 years …

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