Two articles on the benefits of cover crops to soil health crossed my desk this month. The simultaneity of these articles piqued my curiosity. One article, “A Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past,” was in the New York Times and the other, “Healthy Ground, Healthy Atmosphere,” was in Environmental Health Perspectives’, a National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences online publication. The crux of these cover crop articles is that by maintaining plant cover in fields intended for cash crops, farmers are able to rejuvenate the soil, prevent erosion, reduce fertilizer use, decrease the fuel consumption (by not having to till or fertilize), retain moisture, increase yields while also sequestering carbon, recharge the aquifer, and protect the watershed. Whew! The economic benefit is substantial. Mr. Rulon, a farmer in Indiana estimates net annual economic benefit from using cover crops is more than $69 per acre. Read more
THIS IS THE YEAR OF THE RED FIRE MONKEY! We all know that the monkey is a clever and playful animal who can be an effective problem solver but also a trickster. As we celebrate 2016’s Year of the Red Fire Monkey, there should be exuberance, entertainment and time for devoted entrepreneurs to carry on their innovative ways. However, those looking for quick and easy solutions could get duped as some monkey spirits will be on the ball, and quick to have their fun and games.
Doo Consulting wishes all of its colleagues, clients and friends the very best in 2016. Though it is the year of the Fire Monkey, according to Chinese Five Elements Horoscopes, Monkey also contains Metal and Water. Metal is connected to gold. Water is connected to wisdom and danger. Therefore, we will deal with more financial events in the year of the Monkey. Metal is also connected to the Wind. That implies the status of events could change very quickly. Think twice before you leap when making changes for your finance, career, business or personal relationships in 2016. Your individual prospects for the year can be found here.
We want to thank everyone who is a part of our ever expanding network. Our portfolio grew in geographic and economic breadth. We returned to our consulting roots with the opportunity to work on the development of sustainability plans for the City of Bowie, Maryland, and the Broadmead Retirement Community. A new accreditation in the WELL Building Standard
WELL Buildings are suddenly the rage among designers! Once upon a time, you could barely get LEED from their lips. So this is good news in some ways; and a little odd in other ways. Are you part of the movement to incorporate health and well being in your design and development decisions? Are you getting questions from your clients and tenants and potential partners about wellness initiatives? Engagement in personal health issues is popular with the millennial and the “Z” generations, and the boomers are interested in fitness, nutrition, food quality, and transparency (show me).
This is a nation of amazing contradictions, paradoxes and ironies. In the United States, there is an extreme hyper consciousness about allergies to foods and food groups that did not exist 40 years ago – for example, Read more
Talk of establishing an EcoDistrict in Baltimore has gained traction over the past year, with proponents suggesting the locations of Harbor Point, Lexington Market and the State Center project. The articles so far have focused on the potential for energy savings and storm water management at the district level. These benefits are obviously positive for the developments at first glance, but what are the broader implications for the city and people of Baltimore? By establishing an EcoDistict in Baltimore, the city has the potential not just to save energy and costs, but to improve the lives of the people living there, and to catalyze sustainable development throughout the city.
What Is An EcoDistrict?
Simply put, an EcoDistrict is a neighborhood or district within a city committed to sustainability through programs including community-scale energy generation, recycling, and low-carbon transportation options. On a larger scale, the EcoDistrict approach, developed by the EcoDistrict Initiative out of Portland, OR, is a framework to develop sustainable and ecologically diverse cities from the neighborhood up. Cities and communities around the country have established EcoDistricts, including one in DC’s Southwest Waterfront. All have sustainability at their core, but the projects range from downtown business districts to affordable housing communities.
Economic and Social Benefits
The up front benefits of an EcoDistrict from an economic standpoint are clear. Operational efficiencies for multiple systems create cost savings for energy and water almost immediately. Ecodistrics either create or tap into existing district energy distribution systems which save on energy costs by using a central plant to heat and cool buildings in the district. Buildings achieve water use savings with central wastewater plants and district storm water management. Over the life of the project, communities will see savings in public health costs, waste management, and operations costs.
The long term benefits ultimately go to the users of the project and residents of the neighborhood. When cities provide infrastructure and opportunity, people are able to conserve energy use, reduce and manage water, and reduce outputs of waste. Providing urban agriculture and gardens allows residents to produce at least some of their own food. Overall, Baltimore can improve the ecology and social economy of neighborhoods by incorporating natural systems and ways for residents to manage their ecological and financial costs.
While the benefits go to the users, this can be an economic boost for the city of Baltimore as people and businesses choose to locate in the district to take advantage of the cost savings and culture of sustainable living. Increased attraction to the neighborhood from businesses and people create long-term economic health for the city.
Making Baltimore More Livable for Current and Future Generations
These benefits may keep Baltimore City desirable for the next quarter century and beyond. As more and more people from several generations (the millennial generation most notably, but baby boomers too) move back into cities and push demand for housing and resources, the shortcomings of cities are coming back into focus.
The problems that have always existed in cities, like overcrowding, unhealthy conditions, and lack of natural and green space are being rediscovered by a generation raised in the suburbs. Many people are choosing to live in the city now, in part because of the access to cultural and lifestyle amenities and a short multi-modal commute.
The way we develop downtown today may determine whether urbanites choose to remain for the next decade – whether the pros of living downtown will continue to outweigh the cons. By shaping new development to fit within an EcoDistrict framework, we have the opportunity to make the city more desirable by giving residents a chance to manage their own resources and create livable communities. With stakeholder buy-in to the EcoDistrict concept, Baltimore could gradually transform into a hub of urban agriculture, economic activity, and social equity.
In addition to thinking about how to get people to make Baltimore their home, it is time to start thinking about how to keep them here and improve conditions for everyone.
Planet earth is home to 7.2 Billion people with no signs of a slow down in growth. On any given day, we celebrate more than 35,000 births and see rituals for 15,000 deaths. The staggering numbers however did not appear until after the industrial revolution: The world’s population did not reach one billion until the year 1800 – thousands and thousands and thousands of years after the birth of the earth. The second billion-population milestone was hit 130 years later, in 1930; the third billion occurred in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987). It’s rather mind boggling to watch our numbers grow every second – but you can do it, real time, around the globe, on the website WorldoMeters. The numbers of births, deaths, population growth today and year to date, as well as the top largest countries are available, along with a variety of other statistics to dramatize the state of the world population.
Watching numbers can be fun, if you are a statistician, but the increase in world population, and the move towards urban centers, highlights the critical importance of ensuring that the cities are designed to support a low carbon footprint–and to teach individuals to adopt sustainable living as a simple matter of fact, as early in life as possible. Fortunately, many cities are transforming themselves to reduce their carbon footprint. A critical part of that transformation includes behavior changes through engagement of the population.
Greening of cities has become a prominent priority for planners, and both innovative and familiar strategies have been implemented to improve energy efficiency – targeting both systems and sources. Transportation has also been addressed so that access to useful public modes of transport, and safer bike and pedestrian options reduce reliance on individual cars. While infrastructure and technology are the foundation for greening our cities, the other key element is citizen behavior. And not only changes in behavior to support the implemented strategies, but changes that will create additional improvements.
The National Earth Day Campaign works throughout the year to help cities and citizens accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier and more economically viable future through improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology, and regulation reform. On April 21-22, 2014, The New York Times hosted its second annual conference on “Cities for Tomorrow,” bringing together public policy makers and C-suite executives in energy, technology, building and transportation, along with filmmakers, craftspeople and innovators, to discuss strategies for creating an urban environment that meets the needs of its citizens and runs cleanly and efficiently – in the world of tomorrow.
We have to be optimistic – as Pete Seeger said – “There is hardly anything bad in the world that doesn’t have something good connected to it.” So here are some interesting things to think about for Energy, Green Buildings and Transportation…
Energy: Within the United States and in other countries, there is continued reliance on outdated electric generation structures. To become more sustainable, the current systems must be redesigned and transitioned to renewable energy sources. Solutions for the 21st century must be embraced and implemented.
Looking towards the future, imagine communities sharing solar grids, or solar sidewalks such as the one recently installed at George Washington University, or micro grids and smart grids that integrate and function seamlessly. The projects underway at CASE (Center for Architecture Science and Ecology) are a sampling of the potential in this area.
Green Buildings: Buildings account for nearly one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. As efficiency and design improve performance as a base standard, emissions will decrease dramatically. But this must occur across the construction industry, across the globe, and particularly in highly built up regions. Cities must update ordinances, switch to performance based building codes, and improve financing options.
In the future, we can expect that homes and other buildings will operate as living organisms. They will monitor performance and adapt to our needs in real time, saving us energy and money. Food will be available from the walls of our homes or foraged from the landscapes around any building.
Transportation: Transportation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. More than 75% of these emissions come from road vehicles. To reduce emissions and smog, local governments must develop stricter standards for emissions, while providing more options for public transportation and greater investments for alternative transportation, walkability and bikeability.
Imagine a future not just with smart cars, but with smart electric bicycles. The “Smart Wheel,” was created by start-up in New York City. It is a motorized bicycle wheel that fits onto almost any bike and contains a battery-powered motor in its wheel hub. The “smartwheel” connects to a smartphone through Bluetooth and monitors speed, distance, location and route. Over time, with enough data, the company will be able to learn where to build bike lanes and how to improve bike-friendliness in cities. According to the makers, “We want to make cities more livable, and make them more people—not car—friendly
The Earth Day 2014 website offers a host of toolkits and resource materials to support those interested in developing Green Cities campaigns. To find out more, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maryland has made a priority of greening its cities and communities for many years. Governor O’Malley kicked off the State’s Smart, Green and Growing initiative in 2009 to “provide a place for citizens, businesses, organizations and governments to strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and improve the quality of life – components of a more sustainable future.” Doo Consulting provides information from a cross section of the State in this blog. If we’ve missed a city, county or municipality, please let us know by sending an email to email@example.com, with the subject line, “Another Maryland Sustainability Plan.” Everything will be posted on our site in a Municipal sustainability strategies section, along with resources we can offer for the municipalities to help with their planning, implementation and metrics tracking or reporting.
Maryland’s Success Stories in Sustainability: Greening across the State.
Baltimore City’s Office of Sustainability: In 2014, the BoS used a public process to develop a comprehensive Disaster Preparedness and Planning document (DP3). That document and process is now being vetted with hundreds of citizens through a comprehensive outreach program.
The City of Bel Air: To encourage the purchase and use of sustainable products and local merchants, rebates are offered for the purchase of green products.Baltimore County: In an effort to promote more efficient transportation choices, the county is providing Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in the county garages; four more have been added this year
.Howard County: In addition to its many Sustainability initiatives for transportation, green buildings and energy incentives, Howard County encourages communities to adopt a green neighborhood program. They provide a “how to” document which is a guide to how to meet each requirement.
Frederick County: There are a variety of initiatives in Frederick County, from the Refrigerator Exchange program to Solarize Frederick. The Green Homes Challenge was featured this year, and the winners were just recently announced.
Maryland’s Sustainable Communities Program: Now there are more than 33 communities across Maryland named under this program that recognizes communities that have met certain requirements for sustainability, including more transportation choices, equitable, affordable housing, economic competitiveness, healthy, safe and walk able neighborhoods, and mixed use development. Read about them at the Department of Housing and Community Development, and perhaps find your own community there – or a reason to get started on the application!
Finally, if you are looking for more information on what to do on Earth Day, or other times during the year, check out this website.