Recently in Sustainable Living Category

September 1, 2010

Money Soup! Part 1 of 3 of Janelle's legal guide to barter and gift economies

Read it on How to Barter Give and Get Stuff: Attorney Janelle Orsi Explains the Legal Nuts and Bolts of a Sharing Economy 


November 23, 2009

A Big List of Sharing Ideas from Green Fest

Here's yet another list of sharing ideas!  We collected these ideas on post-it notes from visitors to our booth at the San Francisco Green Festival. We asked people to tell us their ideas for sharing and ways to create more sharing communities. We aren't totally clear on what all the ideas mean, but we figure that no ideas should be left behind. Here's they are:
  • Book swaps
  • Goat sharing for lawn mowing and clearing of brush
  • Sewing collectivestuff.jpg
  • Share a vegetable box
  • Art days
  • Share farm equipment, wood chippers, and snow blowers
  • Sing more
  • Work lunch co-op
  • Have "Soup Night" - a weekly event: invite friends, share poetry and music, and eat soup!
  • Wellness attention
  • Massage cooking
  • Neighborhood home improvement groups
  • Share ideas and eco-ideas
  • Energy raising (neighbors doing energy-saving retrofits for each other)
  • Water raising (neighbors building rain catchment barrels and grey water systems together)
  • Garden raising
  • Frequent potlucks on our street
  • Dance together healthy! (Barefoot Boogie Dance Jam, Berkeley)
  • Gather to can tomatoes
  • Saying "hi!"
  • Chicken feed co-ops
  • Turn loneliness into community; turn consumerism into tool-sharing; turn foreclosure into shared housing
  • Start a neighborhood compost rotation
  • Sing together (you can't have harmony unless you share the song)
  • Share boundaries (land)
  • Share clothes
  • A shared metal workshop (there's on in Mountain View, CA)
  • Corner grocery store
  • Love
  • Neighborhood garden
  • Create/enforce, morals, values & traditions in our youth
  • Be a friendcars.jpg
  • Share artwork
  • Share garden produce
  • Clothes party suare
  • DIY classes
  • Share a household and all of its contents
  • Gather to make butter or soap
  • Shower together to save water
  • Poop together (your guess is as good as ours...maybe something to do with doing a community composting toilet project?)
  • Chicken sharing
  • Acceptance of others: supportive love ("I love you and there ain't a thing you can do about it.")
  • Automatic sharing
  • Of course, LOVE
  • Block parties
  • Jam sessions (make fruit preserves and music together)
  • "Sharing bags" - fill a bag with gifts, give it to someone, and then ask the person to fill it with other things and pass it on.
  • Meal sharing
  • Share a wood workshop (put everyone's tools in one place, use the space for your projects and/or gather to work on projects together). Check out the Sawdust Shop for an example of a community wood working space.
  • Stay soft and open
  • Cohousing
  • Coworking
  • Ecovillages
  • Eliminate zoning. It has done more harm than good.
  • Carpool
  • Not apart from, but a part of...
  • The power of conversation. See World Cafe.
  • Share a dog (I don't want one full-time)
  • Grow and share food locally
  • On Halloween: hand out info and/or non-boxed candy
  • Share office space
November 19, 2009

"Bioneering" Ideas for Sharing, Part 4: The Slow Homes Movement

On Tuesday, posted my article about "Slow Homes," and we've already received interesting comments and additional ideas.  Here are more ideas that may or may not have made it into the article.  All of these were collected at this year's Bioneers Conference, where we asked attendees to brainstorm answers to the question of "What is a Slow Homes Movement?"  Here's what they wrote down:

  • No more houses that are giant storage units for too much STUFF
  • Simple mobile structures
  • Eliminate divide between indoors/outdoors. Build outdoor kitchens, living spaces, and gathering spaces.
  • State where we are; work with what we have. Transform pre-existing structures, remove asphalt, and retrofit our urban spaces to build ecovillages.
  • Creating jobs for green builders artisans, and people who really care about the craft of building
  • Access to land is a basic human right
  • Building in place with on-site materials and appropriate technology
  • Designing homes that get us outside and doing permaculture
  • Homes that can adapt over time (Moveable walls, etc)  ""
  • Reading the fine print, understanding the meaning and consequences of the loan and purchase documents we sign.  Making informed choices. SLOW choices.
  • Creating our homes, not just buying mass-produced cookie-cutter homes.
  • Building with local materials, non-toxic, renewable, recycled, and recyclable materials
  • No more "Buy and Flip!"
  • Homes are not stock markets. No more "flippin' it," and investing in bigger and bigger homes. Slow down. Put down roots.
  • Lots of campgrounds for longer-term living in mobile structures
  • Design of communities to facilitate open space preservation
  • Investing in lifestyle, not just houses
  • No more billboards (especially lighted)
  • Take your time for LUNCH!
  • Removing land and homes from the market, preserving them for the commons; ensuring long-term affordability; limited equity housing
  • Finance that does not come from big evil lenders. (Citibank = Boooo!)
  • Tasting our homes, savoring our homes, experiencing our homes, breathing our homes, loving our homes, sharing our homes.
  • Creating a space for solitude, sanctuary, stillness - an uninterrupted place to dream
  • Bau-biologie
  • Combining residential and commercial spaces to facilitate walkable communities, and allow people to work near home.  Fosters local economy.
  • Designing homes that foster interaction, sharing, community, and connection among residents
  • Homes that inspire creativity, beauty, and joyful activities. Aesthetically pleasing, brings pleasure to the senses.
  • Barn raising!
  • Slow water!
  • Homes that encourage slow food, slow water, slow everything!
  • Home as a conduit for relationship. Home as a place that connects us to Earth and people.
  • Housing integrated with smart transportation, bus routes, bike sharing, car sharing, and no more laws requiring 2.3 parking spots per household.
  • More hostels and networks of simple housing for people who travel
  • Home ownership and stewardship based in permaculture and whole systems ethics and principles

November 17, 2009

Launching the Slow Homes Movement just published my two-part "Slow Homes Manifesto," which is really meant to be the starter for a much broader conversation. In the piece, I start to paint a picture of what a slow homes movement might look like, beginning with the concepts that are already being applied in Slow Food and Slow Money.  I invite everyone to read it, post comments, and build on the ideas!fast homes.jpg
November 7, 2009

"Bioneering" Ideas for Sharing, Part 2

We asked attendees of the Bioneers conference to write down an answer to "What Do You Share?"  Here is what they said:

  • Tools
  • Plants
  • Produce
  • A dog
  • Music parties!
  • Yerba mate
  • My/our kitchen
  • Homeschooling
  • Myself in the service of the planet
  • Garden
  • Humor
  • Yoga and dance studio space
  • Orchard
  • Water
  • Food
  • Child care
  • Time
  • Money
  • Energy
  • Crying
  • Intuition
  • Love
November 3, 2009

"Bioneering" Ideas for Sharing, Part 1

The weekend before last, I shared a "Cooperative Living and Sharing Brainstorm Booth" with Regenerative Real Estate at the incredible Bioneers Conference.  Our booth featured a coffee table and chairs in a circle, and we invited passers by to come in, have a cup of tea, and brainstorm with us on huge poster boards.  It's safe to say that was the most idea-stimulating three days of my life!  Bioneers brings together some amazing thinkers and activists, and they shared a lot of thoughts.
bioneers booth 1.jpg

In my next few blog posts, I'll list some of the ideas that we brought home on post-it notes attached to out brainstorm boards.  First, here are some of the ideas we collected in answer to the question: "How do we create STRONG COMMUNITY in our neighborhoods?"

  • Remodel the suburbs
  • Reclaim your suburban neighborhood!
  • Set up a barter system, produce share, and clothing swap
  • Neighborhood kiosks and bulletin boards
  • See what City Repair did
  • Draft ethics and agreements that the whole group creates and supports, creating a sense of ownership/accountability to the community
  • Front yard and safe active common space
  • Connect food and home. Agriculture where we live.
  • Collaboration between landlords and tenants.
  • Create unity among tenants of rental housing.
  • Get out from under the hypnosis of consumerist society and realize a new world is possible.
  • Foster multigenerational communities: children and elders together!
  • Map the skill base of your neighobrs (find out who are the painters, builders, doctors, lawyers, gardeners, massage therapists, etc.)
  • Regular annual food-based house parties
  • It's all about architecture
  • Foster compassion toward yourself and extend it to others.
  • Imagine you're an ecosystem nurtured by "THANKS!!!!" from the future. (We thank Paul Horan of Young Ecosystem Scholars Support Services for sharing that piece of wisdom.)
  • Bring together a community and ask: What are we going to do that is EXTRAORDINARY?
  • Feast together!
bioneers booth 3.jpg

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 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:


September 30, 2009

Social Sustainability Blog Reviews The Sharing Solution

Really nice shout-out for The Sharing Solution yesterday on "Social Sustainability: Musings on the Social Side of Sustainability." Thanks Jennifer! And look for a more to come on this blog about Living Green: Communities that Sustain, by Jennifer Fosket and Laura Mamo. 
May 25, 2009

Coming Together at the Seams (or "A Stitch in Time Saves Nine or More People from Having to Buy Sewing Machines")

sewing.jpgA friend of mine who is a landscaper recently told me about his plans to spend an afternoon at a local sewing center, patching up his denim work pants and mending various articles of clothing. His line of work subjects his clothes to a lot of wear and tear, but without his own sewing machine, he has a hard time giving them the durable repairs they need. He was on his way to Waterside Workshops, a nonprofit in Berkeley, CA, that has a Sewing Program open to the public. During their drop-in hours, anyone can come and use an array of sewing machines or other equipment, get sewing advice, and chat with others about sewing for $5 per hour.

It would be wonderful for every community to have a public sewing workshop. It would encourage people to repair damaged clothing rather than throw it away. It would also help us all develop our skills, give us a space to socialize with others, and save many resources -- both personally and for the planet.

Along the same lines, it would also be great if every community had:
  • A public woodworking shop
  • A welding center where anyone can go to repair broken metal items
  • A bike repair station where we can use specialized tools to repair our own bikes, like the Missing Link in Berkeley, where I once replaced my brakes
  • A place where we can go learn about and change our own car oil, transmission fluid, and so on
  • A tool lending library
  • Large commercial-scale kitchens that people could use for the day if they are helping to cater a one-time event or do a fundraising bake sale. Shared kitchens, such as Kitchen Chicago are also great for small-scale food enterprises.
There are probably plenty of other great ideas along these same lines. If you have any ideas or would like to tell us about a cool community program of this sort, please email us at sharing (at) janelleorsi (dot) com. Thanks!