Posts Tagged 'Environment'

Ever Heard of Ecoprinting?

…because I hadn’t, until about twenty seconds ago when I stumbled across this blog post. It looks like THE BEST THING EVER.

This image is from that same post linked above from Green Art Scene

Apparently you steam-pressure real leaves onto paper so that their pigment is transferred onto the paper. Here’s Cassandra’s explanation:

OK — here’s how you steam under pressure. Big turkey roaster with a vegetable steamer placed on the bottom, and about an inch of water under that. I wrap the paper in a bundle with the leaves and cinch it tight with string. Place it on top of the vegetable steamer, weight it with three bricks, and let it steam for about two hours. You need good contact between the leaves and the paper.

It may be too late for pretty colored leaves here, but next Autumn this is top priority.

Advertisements

Rurality Online

Rural Recommendations

Browse: Farmgirl Fare blog has friggin’ cute baby donkeys, seriously delicious recipes, and beautiful quilts. To put it simply, this blog is good therapy after a long day of work.

Read: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, is a rare example of a novel that confronts politics, money, and the environment without being, um, badly written. Which is quite a feat, given that environmental novelists like Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver (as much as I enjoy them) quite often become preachy and one-sided. Refreshingly, Franzen has created some of the most complex and engaging characters I’ve read in a long time. (And the book still manages to be a damn good exploration of the complicated political side to environmentalism)

In other news…

My alma mater, Kenyon College, just received a grant for a three-year project called Rural by Design, which focuses on a cutting-edge holistic approach rural sustainability. Over the past century, urban design has become accepted as a legitimate profession or pursuit, but this grant hopes to put rural design on the same page.

Speaking of rural design, check out these creepy aerial images of disconnected sprawl.

Grist posted this super-interesting article about the “war” between cities and suburbs— which might as well be titled “a real-life enactment of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom”. Unfortunately, this so-called war between cities and suburbs is not about the benefits and drawbacks to each structure of living and communing, but rather about structural sustainability versus the infringement on personal liberty. You might notice that there’s a third party missing from this debate: rural populations.

Obama talks rural communities and energy challenges. I don’t have nearly the leisure time to blog about the question of energy in the United States (aside from the occasional rant about the coal industry), but extraction of natural resources should always be in mind when thinking about rural areas.

…speaking of which, the coal industry is setting its sights on Illinois now that Appalachia is nearly used up and fucked over. Is anyone else reminded of that sleazy guy in college who was clearly dealing with his own insecurities by sleeping with one girl after another?

On the plus side, there’s finally going to be a study released about the links between mining and cancer! Except–oh, wait– we’ll only see it after it’s been reviewed by a mining industry group. Biased much?

Meanwhile, a new study looks at the different lifestyles that young urban people want— and while cushy, it also sounds pretty sustainable…

Hooray, my mountains! The Blue Ridge Mountains preserve 58,000 acres

Farming

Natasha Bowens offers a solid critique of the white majority in sustainable agriculture.

In Ireland, recession is returning the economy back to its rural roots. More evidence to support my quiet hypothesis that underneath the fluctuations of money, rural living is the natural state of communities.

A Kentucky county finds that the Farm-to-School movement isn’t as simple as it should be. Having worked with local food programs at my own college, I know that these projects are so exciting in those early idealistic stages, but are less easy to actually execute.

Native American Indian farmers have settled with the Obama administration after years of discrimination from the USDA.

Digital v. Analog

USA Today discusses the role that e-books have played in renewing people’s love of reading

…while the New York Times interviews college students about the same debate between e-books and hard copies.

A Spoonful of Skepticism

…helps keep the toxins away? I’m having a grand time working in the organic foods sector– Our firm is involved in Michelle Obama’s [healthy] school lunch program, my boss is pretty tight with Kim Severson, and we get free samples. Constantly. (Yum.) But being immersed in the environmental news world is also sometimes overwhelming, especially when every single day I find out that yet another common product has been linked with brain damage, cancer, sterility, etc.

Some people dismiss these reports– partly because they are overwhelming –but slowly, people are beginning to confront the facts. The President’s Cancer Panel just released a Big Important Report (like, really important). The short summary? 41% of Americans are diagnosed with cancer within their lifetime, and 21% die of it. The cause? No, it’s not all hereditary. These rates are directly connected to all the chemicals we put into our air, food, and water.

It’s scary, and yet I think it confirms an instinct that many Americans have already: that when our cleaning products give us a headache, or a certain medication gives us a severe side effect… they’re not okay. And this too makes sense: most of these products or substances haven’t been around for more than 50 years. We haven’t had time to know their long-term effects.

All the scientific innovation during World War II, combined with leftover “materials” (read: chemicals) after the War’s end led to an industry boom during the 50’s and 60’s.  Only now are we discovering that… yikes, maybe we rushed a little too confidently into our own marketing skills.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the specific links that have turned up recently:

My conclusion?

It’s sensible to be skeptical. Which means that I raise an eyebrow at something like, oh, say, a digital food printer, instead of embracing its sexy techno-seduction without questioning. Not to mention any product that gives you a headache, or smells funny, or has been on the market for less than a generation (I’m looking at you, ADHD drugs).

But I’m not against innovation: urban farming, for example, is new, innovative, and also fucking badass. But it utilizes traditional, tried-and-true methods in order to create healthier communities in the present. No skepticism about that.

UPDATE: You know what’s ironic? When I search for “cancer health” in a stock image search engine, 99% of the images are of cigarettes (one was of a virus?). Funny how we don’t want to acknowledge that the pesticides in our food might be just as dangerous.

The Best Things In Life Are Used

"New" cabinet/bench, about to be painted.

Anyone who enjoys fountain pens, typewriters, vintage furniture, visiting Rome, or other antique-y type hobbies knows all the touchy-feely reasons why used is better. Used things are worn in. They’re individual, not mass-produced. We feel that they’re simpler, and yet more romantic, and more valuable. Things that are used contain histories and stories (which are often the same thing).

Of course, “used” is often an ebay catchword for “mistreated” or even “unusable.” But even the “unusables” have a story behind their current state– some child who spilled on it, some backpacking trip where it fell between the rocks… still, the best used items are the ones that are still usable.

And the biggest heartbreak for an environmentally-minded artist (or any vintage scavenger-type) is how many usable used items go into the landfill, where they pretty much lose all chance of ever being used again. And one of the biggest sources of waste in our society is commercial buildings, and their construction.

Especially in the construction. There are some serious problems with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. The sustainable checklist for new buildings rewards only the sexy side of sustainability: the shiny new technologies and innovative designs. And architects will design a building specifically to get LEED points, instead of aiming for a design that is actually most sustainable and suited to the environment.

(So, for example– LEED gives you points for installing solar panels. But if you’re designing a building in Seattle, otherwise known as the “rainy city,” installing solar panels is a huge waste of money and resources. But hey, if you’re an architect, and you were hired to design a gold-standard LEED building, you go ahead and put those panels on the blueprint.)

But back to my subject. If your city has a place to buy salvaged/rescued construction materials, GO. Just, go. It’s a DIY-ers dream. Back in Charlottesville, we had a Habitat for Humanity Store, and here in Boulder, we have Resource 2000, a huge yard and warehouse, where I got this:

Art Shelves!

I’ve always had terribly awkward storage for art supplies, especially with my papers and sketchbooks. So these roll-out drawers were the perfect find.

Top Shelf. Plants and Pencils.

The first shelf (under the top) is stationary, so I keep my laptop and little pads of watercolor paper in there. Oh, and a deck of SET cards, of course.

Drawer 1. Ink Samples in a Cigar Box, and Paper Pads.

Drawer 2. Ink! And a salvaged wooden box that I fill with little office supplies.

Drawer 3. Miscellaneous papers, and a box of pastels that got dumped on the airplane 😦

And my new dream (after browsing Resource 2000) is to have a sink-garden, where I plant vegetables in salvaged porcelain pieces. I have visions of painted toilets and tubs, sprouting with tulips…

ECO Buttons for Earth Day

I’m head of the environmental organization on my campus, and we’ve been selling buttons and giving them away as prizes for Week of Sustainability. In past years we’ve had pre-designed buttons, but this year I decided to do some artwork for them. Here are the results.

Springtime Posters

Springtime at my college is always chaotically busy, in the way that makes you sort of black out, so that when you look back on this time in the fall you won’t remember an entire two months of your year.

One event we have coming up for ECO (our campus environmental organization) is Earthfest, a music festival on Earth Day. I worked on the poster the other day, then processed it digitally. Now off to the print shop!

in the sketchbook

after processing

I’m Having an English Major Weekend

My thesis is due Monday (eep!) and I’ve basically set aside my social life for the past two weeks to really hone this piece. It’s particularly hard doing a creative thesis– it takes a lot of discipline to keep working on something even when I’m not feeling particularly inspired.

But on the subject of books and literature… I wanted to link to this excellent article from The Non-Consumer Advocate about the Amazon Kindle versus old-fashioned books. I’ve tried to be pragmatic about technology (getting an iphone was an angst-inducing decision for me) but I think I must side with the article on this one. Books aren’t environmentally perfect, but they’re a much better alternative than the Kindle, which has a massive carbon footprint and a short life span.

I was particularly impressed by the article’s observation about how the kindle will be “upgraded” in the future:

What’s going to happen to all these Kindles in two years when Amazon comes out with a newer, shinier, improved version? (Titanium for him, pink for her.)

This has certainly been the case with the ipod– or, well, with almost any product, really. This is a great example of the way that corporations exploit gender in order to maximize their profit. And, of course, causing massive environmental waste in the process.

As for me, I’ll stick with my old-fashioned, “recyclable and virtually indestructible” book. In fact, there’s a stack of them right here waiting for me to get back to my thesis…


Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

Flickr Photos

Recent Tweets