Living simply means making do with less -- less space, less stuff, less money. Oh wait! Make that MORE money. In fact, make that $995,000, because that’s how much you’ll need to shell out for Treehugger founder Graham Hill’s 420-square-foot apartment in Soho. (That may sound like a lot, but it’s only $5,000 a month!)
This isn’t just ANY tiny apartment, though. Hill held a global design competition to come up with the layout for the gutted space. A sliding wall, murphy bed, and fold-down bunkbeds maximize the space, and a hidden, snap-together dinner table can seat 12. The place is also pimped out with everything from solar panels and fancy appliances to a built-in sound system, projector, and pull-down screen for movies (Netflix, of course -- DVDs are so passé). Check it out:
Ryan Mitchell lives and breathes tiny houses. He has been running the popular website The Tiny Life for the past five years; is currently planning a tiny house conference for approximately 120 people in Charlotte, N.C., where he lives; and has written a book on tiny living that’s due to be published in July. To top it off, he recently finished construction on a tiny house of his very own. Mitchell’s dream, however, is a community of tiny houses. When asked what that would look like, he describes a grouping of mini-cottages around a large communal structure, which would include …
The urbanist fixation with new car services such as Uber and Lyft can seem paradoxical. Why is it good for the environment and for cities to increase the number of cars for hire on our roads? The same could be asked about regular old taxis, and car-sharing services like Zipcar. Aren’t cars bad for the environment?
For the rare person who already lives car-free in a city such as San Francisco, a cab ride or car rental might actually increase their carbon footprint. But the vast majority of American households do own cars. For any city as a whole, more car-sharing and cab apps will actually mean less driving and lower carbon emissions.
To understand why, you have to consider the role that these alternatives play in a region’s transportation network. Eric Jaffe of Atlantic Cities did a great post on this in 2012, drawing on the work of Columbia University professor David King. King mapped New York City taxi rides on a typical weekday and put together a time-lapse video showing where they began and ended. Here is what he found, via Jaffe:
The whole better-greener-more-awesome-cities movement has a problem: We haven’t found a good name for it. Sustainable cities! The term brings to mind such mundanity as energy audits and transit routes. Resilient cities! The notion requires us to consider, first, what horrible shit is coming down the pike. Carbon-neutral cities! Ugh. Don't get me started on that one.
Enter University of Virginia urban and environmental planning professor Tim Beatley with the solution, FINALLY. Here he comes, with the delivery. Wait for it...
Wait, come back! It’s better than it sounds! Biophilic cities are places where animals and plants and other wild things weave through our everyday lives. The name comes from “biophilia,” E.O. Wilson’s theory that humans have an innate connection to other living things, because we evolved alongside them. It’s futurism with a paleo twist: An effort to create human habitat that can also host a menagerie of wild creatures — and not just for their sake, but for ours.
The idea seems to be catching. In October, Beatley helped launch the Biophilic Cities Network, which includes eight cities worldwide, and there are more to come. “Reducing your emissions, hitting people over the head about turning the lights off -- we need to do those things,” Beatley says. “But to motivate people I think we need that vision of where we want to go, not just how much less we want to consume of something.”
Beatley stopped by Grist HQ on a recent swing through Seattle promoting his new book, Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning. Here are a few snippets from our conversation, which covered aerial urban trails, our odd relationship with the natural world, and cities that are far greener than the this here emerald one.
Q.How is a biophilic city different than a “sustainable” city or a “green” city?
A. There’s lot of overlap, to be sure. A biophilic city must be resilient and sustainable and all of those things. But it ought to be a dense, rich, urban life in close contact with nature. The idea grows from the theory that we have coevolved with the natural world, that we’re carrying our ancient brains, and we have an innate need to connect with nature.
Bart Simpson doesn't just ride around on a skateboard because he was invented in the '80s. Until recently, if you weren't old enough to drive a Canyonero, there just weren't that many ways to traverse the famous fictional town of Springfield. It's not surprising that the town would be a little gun-shy after the monorail flop, but look at the sad state of this old public transit system:
As of this past Sunday's episode, though, Springfield's rail system is looking spiffed-up, with eight color-coded lines serving areas like Ethnictown, Albino Heights, and the Varmint District, and easy access to tourist attractions like the Duff Brewery and the Giant Magnifying Glass.
Nikolai Wolfert wasn’t the only one who was bummed after the Berlin Green Party’s loss in 2011, but he channeled his disappointment in a pretty unique way: opening a lending library for everything. The 31-year-old launched his donation-supported shop, Leila, in June 2012 as a way of making local political change.
And to call it a success would be an understatement. More than 400 Berliners have joined Leila, donating and borrowing everything from electric drills to board games, unicycles, and wine glasses. Leila’s spawned a slew of good-natured copycats too, according to the Guardian:
Borrowing shops are under development in several Berlin districts, with similar projects being set up in Kiel and Vienna. Würzburg has its own Leihbar, or "borrowing bar," and a cafe in Berlin-Wedding has set up a Dingeschrank, or "cupboard for things." Other collaborative projects with an emphasis on sharing resources are popping up all over the German capital.
Car-sharing is flourishing in the country as well -- the Guardian reports 760,000 Germans are registered with companies like Car2Go, DriveNow, and Tamyca. And they're going green in other ways too:
Not every cyclist has monster thighs or an electric bike (or access to switchbacks, for that matter). Trondheim, Norway, has a solution for those of us with Gumby legs: the Trampe CycloCable.
The city built “the world's first bicycle lift intended for urban areas” in 1993, and over the next 15 years it ferried some 200,000 cyclists up the 426-foot Brubakken hill. The way it works is that you stand on your bike with your left foot and rest your right on a foot plate that looks like a track-and-field starting block; the plate runs on a recessed cable that winches you up the hill.
Last year, Trondheim made safety upgrades, and now the CycloCable is functional again:
James McCarthy, one of the report’s authors, said in a statement that we need this report because, “Even among members of the broader public who already know about the evidence for climate change and what is causing it, some do not know the degree to which many climate scientists are concerned about the risks of possibly rapid and abrupt climate change.”
Reading it, though, I have to admit that I didn’t find much different than any other report on climate destabilization from at least the last five years. I’m sorry. That’s not meant to dis the scientists who I’m sure worked hard to create this document. They are experts on this crisis and they should be taken seriously. That said, I’m lost on how this will win them new followers.
Many Americans believe, no doubt, that climate change is a thing, and that it’s happening in one way or another. But what is that thing? And is it fucking with us yet? Because believing that climate change exists doesn’t do anything to motivate change unless we’re experiencing its fuckery ourselves.
Here's something to literally brighten your day: The Castro, a district of San Francisco that is historically gayer than Liza Minnelli riding a unicorn, has voted to perk up its streets by installing rainbow crosswalks.
There were other proposed designs, including one inspired by Muni cars and another that echoed the tiles on the Castro Theater, but proud residents opted for the straight-up (no pun intended) rainbow option. The city is paying $37,400 to install the bright new pedestrian crossings at the 18th and Castro intersection, and they've promised to have them finished by the time the Pride march rolls around in June.
If that's not sweet enough, other upcoming municipal improvements include recognition for San Francisco's history of LGBT activism:
As I write this, I am coming off of a week-long bout of flu, and since none of my friends will admit to more than a mild cold I can only assume I caught it the way most New Yorkers catch the flu: by riding in one of those underground germ-boxes we call a subway. So I am very, very intrigued by Cyclean, a (hypothetical) self-disinfecting handle for buses and trains. (No, I really am very intrigued! I just don't have the energy to lift my head up all the way.)
Cyclean, which won a 2014 Red Dot Design award, was conceived as an alternative to the bars and straps we normally put our grubby mitts all over in the subway, which -- sorry -- are so encrusted with invisible grime that it doesn't bear thinking about.