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Weird but true

Another blog that's recently become required reading for me: Mode Shift, a blog on urban sustainability from Keith Schneider, founder of the Michigan Land Use Institute. Yesterday brought a somewhat surprising post on big plans afoot to make Knoxville, Tenn. (among other places) a model of sustainable, healthy living. Y'all may or may not know that I was born in Knoxville, and went to college close to there, and I'm here to tell you that it's the last place I would ever think would get on the sustainable bandwagon. Goes to show how much things have changed, I guess ...

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Trains are the forgotten mode of transport, at least in the U.S.

"Because if your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down their throats." Take electrified rail, for instance. Here's a sad report from Dean Baker of The American Prospect, one of the best reporters going today: I was shocked to discover in a conversation with a congressional staffer that rebuilding the country's train system is a topic that is strictly verboten on Capitol Hill. I was reminded of this when I read that a French train had set a new speed record of 357 miles per hour. Trains are far more fuel efficient than planes. Even at much …

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X Marks the Pot

X Prize Foundation offers $10 million prize for creator of eco-friendly car Wanna win a cool $10 million? Read on. The X Prize Foundation is launching a contest to see who can design the best mass-producible, low-emissions vehicle, cheap enough to sell 10,000 units a year, with a fuel economy of at least 100 miles per gallon -- about five times the U.S. average. "The [automotive] industry is stuck, and we think a prize is perfect to disrupt that dynamic," says Mark Goodstein, executive director of the Automotive X Prize. In 2004, the foundation awarded $10 million to a team …

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Green building and architecture, all in one place

In one of his vintage ginormo-posts, Big Gav at Peak Energy rounds up seemingly every cool story on green building and green architecture published on the web in the last few months -- along with other bits and piece of interest on micro-wind turbines, optimistic green books, efficient air conditioners, and more. You could spend two hours just browsing this one post, I'm telling you. Beware.

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We’re inside it

We all know buildings are part of the global warming problem, but many people don't recognize how central they are to the solution. A recent UNEP report -- "Buildings and Climate Change: Status, Challenges and Opportunities" -- shines light on how relevant and accessible building-related climate change solutions are. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: By some conservative estimates, the building sector world-wide could deliver emission reductions of 1.8 billion tonnes of C02. A more aggressive energy efficiency policy might deliver over two billion tonnes or close to three times the amount scheduled to be reduced …

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Ten things

I doubt we have many sprawl-lovers in the audience, but just in case you need the comprehensive case against sprawl in one convenient location, check out "Ten Things Wrong with Sprawl" by James M. McElfish, Jr., director of the Sustainable Use of Land Program at the Environmental Law Institute. Here are the ten things, in highly condensed form: Sprawl development contributes to a loss of support for public facilities and public amenities. Sprawl undermines effective maintenance of existing infrastructure. Sprawl increases societal costs for transportation. Sprawl consumes more resources than other development patterns. Sprawl separates urban poor people from jobs. …

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Americans spend 95 percent of their lives indoors

I was recently working in the front yard on one of those warm days that sporadically appear in March and April. Patricia came by, walking her bike up the hill and still wearing her bike helmet. She has watched my daughters grow up and always asks about them. Patricia is a thinking person and I always enjoy chatting with her. The topics included status seeking (my favorite), electric bikes, her present job, an article in The New York Times about global warming, and her ninety-something year-old multimillionaire mom. Patricia signed off when the neighborhood drunk bellied up. What village or …

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Tips for reliving your childhood

I recently removed the play structure I'd built 16 years ago in our backyard. I remember wondering as I built it, "What will it feel like when I tear it down?" Well, it was kind of sad. Memories washed over me as I worked. Time perception isn't linear. I also tore down the tree house I'd built for my kids. Not only have they outgrown it, but it also wasn't in our tree. Our neighbors had graciously given us permission to use their tree because we didn't have one of our own. Luckily, Seattle's building department has standing orders to …

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Green urban development, in just 12 years!

If you can ignore the egregious lede -- did green building really come from hippies? -- there's much to celebrate in this article on Sonoma Mountain Village, "a community of about 2,000 homes and businesses, centered around a town square, using the latest principles of sustainability, green technology and new urbanism." It'll be about 175 acres, done in about 12 years, and muy verde: To make the plan work, Codding [Enterprises] spent $7.5 million to create the largest privately owned solar power installation in Northern California -- 90,000 square feet of solar panels capable of generating 1.14 megawatts to power …

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See me in Seattle

I'm giving a presentation Wed., Mar 28 to the Green Builders Guild on Solutions to climate chaos for Green builders, homeowners, and citizens. Location below the fold. Wed. Mar 28. 7:00 P.M. Phinney Neighborhood Association 6532 Phinney Ave. N. Seattle, WA 98103

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