October 2009 Archives

October 5, 2009

This Sustainability Movement is Brought to You by the Letter C

As writers, we are taught to "always avoid all awkward alliteration" and I find myself constantly worried that the letter "C" appears conspicuously, consecutively, and continuously in my sentences - community, cooperation, connection, common, (c what I mean?)

But the other day, I had tea with writer Jennifer Fosket who has co-opted the C phenomenon and created "The Ten Cs of Social Sustainability." In her book, Living Green: Communities that Sustain, she and co-author Laura Mamo, both sociologists, look in depth at ecovillages, cohousing, affordable housing communities, and even single-family housing neighborhoods around the country and explore how those communities have made sustainability a way of life.
livinggreen.jpgThe questions they ask go far deeper than questions about how to recycle, use green energy, etc. They ask: What motivates people to change their lifestyles? What factors affect the choices people make in their homes?  How does the built environment affect the way people live? In what ways do people connect with each other and how does this contribute to the strength of the community? What helps communities to endure through time?

In many ways, these are the most crucial, yet most challenging questions to explore in building a more sustainable world. The Ten Cs of Sustainability came out of Fosket's and Mamo's observations in the communities they visited, and begin to answer the question of what makes a sustainable community successful.  The Ten Cs are practices and considerations that could apply in any development or community.  They include:
  • Culture
  • Context
  • Citizenship
  • Commitment
  • Collaboration
  • Connectedness
  • Care
  • Contact
  • Commons
  • Continuity
Anyone who is currently working to build community around living sustainably could benefit from reading Fosket's and Mamo's book. The communities described in each chapter provide inspiring examples, and the Ten C's are a great framework around which to structure discussions about what it means to build community, connect with one another, collaborate in designing the community, and commit to long-term sustainably.
October 2, 2009

Shareable Has Launched! Please Spread the News!

This is a huge boost for the sharing revolution: Shareable.net has launched!  Shareable is a new online magazine, a breeding ground for sharing ideas, and a space to develop our visions for an innovative, sharing, and sustainable world.  Please visit, spread the word, follow Shareable on Facebook, and let Shareable know your feedback!
I wrote a piece for Shareable entitled The Four Degrees of Sharing, which I see as a sharing manifesto of sorts.  I give examples of the ways people are taking sharing to new levels, creating new organizations around sharing, establishing community-wide sharing programs, and cooperating in new and amazing ways.  Emily Doskow and I will regularly contribute articles and a Q&A column. If you have any sharing questions, please send them to us!

Shareable is sponsored by non-profit Tides Center.  The publisher, Neal Gorenflo, and editor, Jeremy Adam Smith, are social entrepreneurs and visionaries. They have created an amazing space to grow the sharing revolution!

October 1, 2009

Shared Housing is also for the Mechanically Inclined

Today, there was yet another article about sharing in the New York Times - "The Modern Answer to the Commune," profiling the urban optimists who are forming shared housing around common values, sustainability, and, as usual, chickens.  (This past summer, the Times also covered cohousing and fruit sharing - mainstream media is really starting to notice the sharing revolution.)

Today's Times article focused primarily on younger adults coming together to share rental housing. It might appear from the article that shared housing appeals mainly to twenty-somethings.  But during many of my recent public speaking events, I met a LOT of graying-haired people interested in shared housing, and many of them are just as idealistic as the youth described in the Times. They are looking to live more sustainably, build a supportive community around them, and find new kinds of personal rewards in their housing arrangement.  The difference might be that the 40- to 60-somethings are more often in the market to buy, rather than rent, and they are thinking about a longer term living arrangement.

I was a little baffled by the part of the article that cited Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, who thought the "idealized, small-scale communities they described reminded her of the hunting and gathering bands of pre-history."  She profiled the home-sharers as compassionate, emotive, verbal, and/or creative types. As a result, "she worried that other personality types, the sort who know how to fix the toaster or program the VCR, weren't being invited into these houses."

Somehow, I don't think this is going to be a problem.  These particular young folks are part of Generation DIY - they are the ultimate practitioners of do-it-yourself, fix your own bike, grow your own food, make things from recycled junk, build solar ovens, and rig the plumbing to recycle grey water. They do things like lead soldering workshops at the Brooklyn Skillshare.

And the fact that they are verbal and compassionate means they have the skills to express themselves, understand each other's needs, and navigate interpersonal conflict - all of which is far more crucial to their survival than the ability to fix a toaster.  They are resourceful and they will thrive.

Besides, if they really can't fix the toaster, I'm sure they'll find some other good use for it:


October 1, 2009

Plant Sharing - Good For Us, Good For Our Plants

Every year, my mom, an avid gardener, puts out the word to her friends and colleagues that she is having a massive plant give-away. Her garden seems to get more vibrant every year, but I found out that part of the work of maintaining it is digging up a good portion of the plants annually. A lot of perennial plants tend to grow outward from the center, forming ever-widening clumps, while dying back in the center. This explains why my mint plants all grow to be shaped like donuts, and eventually just look pathetic. What I should do is take the mint out of the pot, divide the soil into four clumps, keep one clump, and give the other three as gifts.

By dividing literally hundreds of plants and giving them away to good homes, my mom gives her garden really good karma. I mean, look at at it:


I also read a heart-warming story about a woman in North Carolina who grew 2000 vegetable starts to give away, after learning that many local families were struggling to put food on the table as a result of the recession. First, she put out the word on the Internet and got a ton of seeds donated. She started them in small pots, then had an event to hand them out. She gave them to anyone, on the condition that they also share the harvest. Great way to spread the sharing spirit! She literally planted the seeds of sharing in the community - I love it!

By the way, if you want to do something for Climate Action Day, giving out tons of seedlings is an idea!