Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Spinach with Beans, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Spinach with Beans, Raisins and Pine Nuts
Serves 4

(I know what you are thinking, this is weird. Just humor me, this is a good dish!)

2/3 cup haricot (navy) beans, soaked overnight, or 1 14-oz. can haricot beans, rinsed and drained.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 thick slice white (or wheat) bread
1 onion, chopped
3-4 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped (I left the skin on)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 lb. fresh spinach leaves
1 tsp. paprika
1 garlic clove, halved
generous 1/4 cup raisins
1/2 oz. pine nuts, toasted
salt & ground pepper to taste

1.) Cook the dried beans in a pan of boiling water for about an hour, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

2.) Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the bread until golden all over. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3.) Cook the onion in 2 tsp. of the oil over gentle heat, until soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes and cumin and continue cooking over gentle heat.

4.) Meanwhile, wash the spinach thoroughly, removing any tough stalks. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet, stir in paprika, then add the spinach and 3 Tbsp. of water. Cover and cook for a few minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

5.) Add the onion and tomato mixture to the spinach and stir in the haricot beans, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

6.) Place the garlic and fried bread in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Stir the bread mixture into the spinach and bean mixture, together with raisins. Add 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer very gently for 20-30 minutes, adding more water if necessary. (FYI: I cut the bread like croutons and skipped the blender/food processor part.)

7.) Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with dinner rolls or any fresh bread.

Per Serving: 11.4 grams prot.; 25.8 grams carbs.; 10.2 grams sugars; 9.8 grams fat (1.2 grams sat.); 0 mg chol.; 8.1 grams fiber; 209 mg sod.
Found in: Fat-Free Vegetarian

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fuel free flight promoted by Robert Hunt

The fuel free plane, aka the Gravity Plane, proposed by prolific inventor Robert Hunt would combine alternating helium lift and gravity powered propulsion.  Turbines rotated by air rushing past during the gliding phase of flight would compress air that would be used to power the process of compressing and decompressing the helium as well as controlling plane while in the helium lifting phase of its flight.

Among other inventions, Mr. Hunt is responsible for an engine that generates electricity from the excess pressure in natural gas, a closed cycle refrigeration and heat production system utilizing water and air and a thermo-electric generator which generates electricity from waste heat.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
Serves 6; Gluten Free; (Can be made Vegan)

Vegan: Omit the Parmesan cheese or use vegan Parmesan

Sweet Potato Topping

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (1/4 lb)
1/4 cup fat-free milk or plain soy milk
1 Tbs. non hydrogenated margarine or butter
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg


1 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 leek, white part thinly sliced (1 cup)
2 turnips,diced (1 cup)
1 carrot, diced (1 cup)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (2 tsp.)
1/4 cup white wine or water
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
3 Tbs. shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

1.) To make the Sweet Potato Topping: Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add sweet potato, cover and boil 10 minutes or until tender. Drain, and return to pot. Mash with milk, margarine, cinnamon, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside.

2.) To make filling: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and leek, and saute 5 to 6 minutes, or until leek is soft. Add turnips, carrots, thyme, and rosemary; cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until carrots begin to soften.

3.) Add wine, and cook 30 seconds to deglaze the pan. Stir in beans and broth. Cover, and simmer 10 minutes, or until carrots and turnips are soft. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

4.) Remove thyme sprigs from Filling, and discard. Pour Filling into 2-or3-qt. casserole dish. Spread Sweet Potato Topping over Filling. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using.

5.) Place casserole dish on baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling bubbles and cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

6.) Frozen Cooking Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cover casserole, and place on baking sheet. Bake 60 to 75 minutes, or until filling bubbles and top is golden. Remove foil during last 10 minutes of baking. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Per 1 cup serving: 129 cal.; 4 grams prot.; 3 grams total fat (1 gram sat. fat); 20 grams carbs.; 1 mg chol.; 176 mg sod.; 5 grams fiber; 5 grams sugar
Vegetarian Times: January 2010

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SA Alternative Housing Corp, City of San Antonio and San Antonio River Authority begin construction of 1 mile of Westside Creeks revitalization

At a recent public meeting on the Westside Creeks planning project, someone asked former Mayor Garza why we should bother with imagining how Apache, Alazan, Martinez and San Pedro creek could be transformed before money had been authorized to do so.   But the questioner didn't realize that vision must precede funding.

Lo and behold, funding has been found to start a small part of the project!

From Rod Radle, San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation:
San Antonio, Texas December 16, 2009 — The San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation (SAAHC) is sponsoring a ground breaking ceremony to announce the start of construction for the first linear park to be created on the Zarzamora and Apache Creeks. The mile long park will provide a picture of what future public development will hold in store for San Antonio residents on four major creeks located on the Westside and inner city.

The linear park is being developed on a bank of constant level creek just north of Elmendorf Lake. The area has been for years a mass of overgrown vegetation, with lush plants, tress, numerous birds and animals. The park will open up this natural jewel for the first time for citizens to appreciate and utilize for their own physical and mental health. It is anticipated that the area will become active with school children and adults as its natural riches are discovered.

Eleven years ago, SAAHC, with participation of numerous public taxing entities, formed one of the first developer sponsored Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZ) in San Antonio. The TIRZ was formed primarily in order to create sixty-five, affordable homes for families in the Rosedale Subdivision. This financing mechanism allowed lots to be developed and sold for 1/3 of their cost, thus allowing families to afford homeownership in one of San Antonio’s lowest economic neighborhoods. The TIRZ finance plan also envisioned the creation of a linear public park beginning at General McMullen and finishing at Commerce Street near Our Lady of the Lake University.

Needless to say, when the park was first thought of there was no major push for the development of the creeks on the city’s Westside. But the timing couldn’t have been better, with Roberto Rodriguez championing the cause with numerous citizens for strategies for creek development through the Westside Creeks Restoration Project. Committees are working on developing the Alazan, Apache, Martinez and San Pedro Creeks, working closely with the San Antonio River Authority, as well as the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. This linear park will provide a hands-on example of what will become a reality for public spaces on these creeks in the coming years.

The groundbreaking event will mark the start of construction on the park, which is being developed by SAAHC on land owned by the City of San Antonio (COSA). Once completed, the COSA will maintain the park, adding it as another linear park in its care. The park will be comprised of two paths, one concrete for bikes, skateboards and pedestrians, and a second cinder path for exercise. Lighting will be featured throughout the pathways. Benches, tables and exercise stations will also be strategically placed along the paths to take advantage of the views of the creek. The park is scheduled to be completed and opened to the public in spring of 2010. The $700,000 project will be fully funded through TIRZ proceeds, with interim financing provided by the San Antonio River Authority.

The San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation (SAAHC) is a nonprofit organization established in 1993. The mission of SAAHC is to provide decent rental and ownership housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income people in Texas; to provide housing education and ownership counseling through a community home ownership association; and to promote and create business development, job training, health and social services.
The start of the park will be at near the intersection of Matyear and Landa Street.

Meatless Monday Recipe-Artichoke-Potato Medley

Artichoke-Potato Medley
Serves 6; Gluten Free; 30 Minutes

For extra color, use a combination of potato varieties and serve on a bed of arugula or watercress.

1 lb. small red potatoes, quartered
2 10-oz. boxes frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.)
3 Tbs. chopped parsley
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
3/4 tsp. sweet or smoked paprika
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped, optional

1. Bring potatoes to a boil in a large pot of salted water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender. Drain.

2. Return potatoes to saucepan; heat over high heat with artichokes and oil. Cook 5 minutes, or until vegetables start to brown, stirring occasionally. Add olives, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cook 5 minutes more, or until fragrant and heated through. Serve garnished with chopped eggs, if using.

Per 1-cup serving: 171 cal.; 4 grams prot.; 7 g total fat; 1 grams sat. fat; 24 grams carb.; 0 mg. chol.; 231 mg. sod.; 7 grams fiber; 1 grams sugars
Found in Vegetarian Times-June/July 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tumbleweed Tiny House workshops in Austin, January 16 and 17, 2010

Jay Shafer is bring his Tumbleweed Tiny House Company workshops to Austin, January 16 and 17, 2010 at the Airport Hampton Inn, 7712 E. Riverside, Austin 78744.

Of the various tiny home builders, Jay's Tumbleweed Homes are among the most handsome.  The workshops are for serious inquirers.  Together they cost $475, but you can bring a friend for free if you purchase your tickets by 12/31/2009.

These are not hands on workshops.  Saturday's Tiny House Building Workshop will cover how to build a tiny house including special attention to how to deal with the condensation to which small spaces are prone.

Sunday, the Small Space Design Workshop will cover how to design a tiny home and include seven principles for good design. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Popular Mechanics: Why Texans see green gold in renewable resources

Why Texans See Green Gold in Renewable Resources
As America's petroleum heartland, Texas isn't known for being environmentally sensitive. But its oil-boom, energy savvy attitude could put the state in a surprising position—leading the charge to alternative energy in the U.S.

By Jennifer Bogo, Photographs by Jason Fullford, Published in the December 2009 issue.

Paul Stamets Fungi Perfecti "Tree Life Box" as described in Ted Talk delivered!

At TED in February 2008, mycologist Paul Stamets delivered his talk entitled "Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World."  In that talk he described the "Life Box",  a box in which seeds and mycorrhizal fungi which would protect and nurture them would be embedded in recycled paper cardboard.   Torn up and planted the box would yield gardens, grasslands and forests.  He imagined life boxes used for mailers, hot beverage sleeves, pizza boxes and shoe boxes.

Many people went to Stamets website, and found their way to only to find out that the boxes were not yet fully available to the public. But recently people who had written them received a special offer that allowed them to receive a tree life box if they ordered any non-food item from them.   Apparently the life box is not yet approved for the shipping of food products.

I received my Tree Life Box today.  I'm waiting to open it.  But here are some pictures of it which are also freely available on Flickr.

Paul's TED Talk is below:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Spaghetti with Vegetarian Sauce "Bolognese"

Spaghetti with Vegetarian Sauce "Bolognese"
Start to finish: 30 minutes; Serves 4

6 oz. dried spaghetti
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, snipped or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano crushed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 14 1/2 oz. can no salt added stewed tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup Grape nuts cereal (I know this sounds weird, but this for the texture of ground meat. The cereal will soften as the sauce stands, so for a chewier texture, serve immediately)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese (optional)
Fresh oregano (optional)

1.) Cook spaghetti according to the package directions; drain. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery, onion, garlic, dried oregano (if using), salt and pepper; cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

2.) Add the un-drained stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in cereal and fresh oregano (if using); return just to boiling. Remove from heat and serve. If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan or Romano cheese and garnish with additional fresh oregano.

Per Serving: 329 cal.; 5 grams total fat (1 gram sat. fat); 0 mg chol.; 677 mg sod.; 66 grams carbs.; 6 grams fiber; 10 grams prot.
Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Pub. Diabetic Recipes June 2003

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bountiful Sprout brings natural, organic and pesticide free beef, pork, chicken and more to Wimberly area

For folks in the Hill Country there's a viable alternative to grocery stores, Whole Foods and farmer's markets. The Bountiful Sprout LLC allows members to place a once a month order for natural, organic and pesticide free beef, chicken, pork, dairy and processed foods from a long list of Hill Country producers.

The community organized food buying co-op had its beginnings late in 2007. Members receive a list of available products every month. They place their order during a brief ordering window and pick up their purchases a few days later.

The December 2009 list of available products runs 44 pages and includes organic and natural beef, free range chicken lamb meat and pastured pork.

Prepard foods including pralines, sweet potato pies, bread pudding, banana nut bread, baked vegetable empanadas, meat loafs, cookies, pestos, brownies, yeast breads, bars, cakes and artisan bread are on the list. Kimchi and organic spelt and gmo free tortillas are sold too.  Locally grown vegetables and locally produced soaps, body care products, herbal remedies round out the list.

Membership in the co-op is $42.90 per year and 10% is added to each order to cover co-op expenses. There is no volunteer hour requirement and you can take a look at the ordering list before joining.

You can view the list of producers on their website as well.  The co-op welcomes new producers.

Houses of Straw: the rediscovery of Strawbale Building DVD

From Oliver Swan of comes a recommendation to watch, House of Straw: the rediscovery of Strawbale Building  a 2004 production of ÖKOFILM Heidi Snel, directed by Heidi Snel.

The clip below includes an interview with David Eisenberg,co-founder and Director of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology (DCAT) in Tucson, AZ, and legendary diplomat from the natural building community to the building code community.

Unfortunately the film is not available in NTSC format, so the clip below is all that is available to us in the USA. 

The film is available for $24.95 from though if you want to show your copy to your friends they want a lot more money.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Climate Change Article Online

As a good introduction to their magazine, Ode is offering a free download of a recent article on climate change, and specifically what are some suggestion action items we can all do. It doesn't matter whether you believe climate change is a natural cycle or if human activity is speeding things along a bit. What cannot be denied is that climate change is happening. It's also quite daunting to consider what would have to be done on such a large scale to either retard the process or change all the things all 7 billion of us are collectively doing to make matters worse. Just put all that aside for right now and read what Ode has to say about it. We might learn something. Thank you. To go to the free offer, click on the title or go to

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Think outside the box! Hilarious but thought provoking sustainable designs by Tom Geisler

Tom Geisler has a knack for parody and for patent style drawing.  On his site, Reduce, Reuse, Reinvent he presents outlandish but professionally illustrated means of baby humanure disposal, electrical power generation by sleepers and the reduction of smog by containing exhaust in plant filled trailer terrariums.  These are chindogu but with a sustainable outlook.

What if NIMBY isn't NIMBY at all?

"Not in my backyard!" or NIMBY has become a pejorative label for opposition to any project.  It is often characterized as an impediment to the public good because neighbors of a proposed housing development, power, sewage plant or factory oppose the location of the project near them, though they acknowledge the need for the project itself.

At the level of individual sustainable living opposition to unusual building designs, high density housing, artificial wetlands, composting, rainwater catchment tanks, front-yard gardening, humanure composting, solar panels, roof top water heaters and home wind turbines among others could be characterized as NIMBY.

Maggie Koerth-Baker suggest in her article Rethinking NIMBY: Why Wind Power Could Lead To New Ways of Defining (and Dealing With) Public Naysaying on that opposition labeled as NIMBY is often "... national activism drawn to a specific place.."

She points to incidents specifically related to large wind turbines in which accepting that opposition may be more honest and nationally applicable than simply local opposition has led to more productive ways of dealing with shortcomings of the technology.  Otherwise, "If you write off the NIMBYists, you have to shout them down."

Koerth-Baker points to UC-SB professor Eric Smith's research that indicates that opposition is often based upon knowledge that is gained by people who will be living near a particular project. This insight into opponents may lead to changes in design that properly address concerns.

In my experience typical opposition to wind power projects have led to improvements in turbine design and location.   Turbines have been redesigned to reduce irritating noise. They have been made more attractive. They have been located away from major bird migration routes. 

To live sustainably we need to learn to live with all our neighbors if NIMBY isn't simply NIMBY perhaps we can more easily manage to do that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Interview with Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage scientist Abraham van Luik

Build Blog has a profusely illustrated, magazine length piece, "One Million Years of Isolation: An Interview with Abraham Van Luik" by Geof Manaugh and Nicolla Twilley.  Luik, who works on the nuclear waste entombment site at Yucca Mountain, has the the task of finding a way to store the waste for 1 million years.

In the interview he goes into some of the history of the choosing of Yucca Mountain and the various approaches taken by other nations to disposal of their waste.  He notes that one of the other sites considered for the national depository was Texas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fredericksburg Eco-Mixer will feature Bountiful Sprout president, December 14, 2009

December's Eco-Mixer in Fredericksburg December 14, 2009 from 6 to 7:30 pm will feature appetizers, drinks and conversations as well as presentations by Heather Carter, president of Bountiful Sprout food purchasing co-op in Wimberley and Denise Holtz an advocate for biodegradable products. The theme is Greening the Holidays.

Green Living Hill Country hosts this month's mixer at Kelly's Cafe, 505 W. Main, Fredericksburg Tx  78264 (830) 997-8593.

Meatless Monday Recipe-Mixed Vegetable Masala

Mixed Vegetable Masala
Serves 4; Vegan; Gluten Free
Prep. Time 15 minutes; Cook Time 40 minutes

This Indian-style stew gets spicier as it sits, so if you prefer milder flavors, serve it immediately.

This will help keep you warm on a cold day (plus can help boost your immune system with the benefit of cayenne).

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbs. canola or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cubed (1 cup)
2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 cups cauliflower florets (3/4 lb.)
1/2 cup light coconut milk

1.) Pulse ginger and garlic in food processor until finely chopped. Add tomatoes with juice and cayenne pepper, and pulse until combined. Set aside.

2.) Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and saute for about 10 minutes or until softened. Stir in potatoes, carrots, garam masala, and chili powder. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.) Add cauliflower, tomato mixture and 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in coconut milk. Season with pepper.

Per serving: 200 cal.; 4 grams prot.; 10 grams total fat (2 grams sat.); 26 grams carbs.; 0 mg. chol.; 465 mg. sod.; 6 grams fiber; 10 grams sugar
Vegetarian Times: November/December 2008

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Engineered phase change materials (PCM's) an improvement and refinement of the priciples of Thermal Mass in construction

Over the past decades researchers and companies have been working on developing phase change materials (PCM's) that have the potential to regulate temperature within a home.

A phase change is when a material changes from a solid to liquid or from liquid to vapor.  We all are familiar with the cooling that results from sweat evaporating from our skin.  The phase change of evaporation requires energy.  It draws heat energy from your skin thus resulting in cooling.  John J. Morony has documented that a phase change of the moisture in compressed earth and adobe blocks results in significant cooling of rooms enclosed by adobe walls in the heat of the afternoon.

Many green and natural building techniques including cob, adobe, earthships, strawbale and SCIPS make use of thermal mass to stabilize temperatures within a building.  Typically thermal mass is warmed by the sun. The mass radiates heat when the room temperature is lower than the temperature of the thermal mass.  When the mass is cooler, heat flows from the room into the mass as nature tries to equalize the temperature of the two.

Natural thermal mass is very slowly warmed and it cools very slowly as well, so in climates such as south Texas where we have very hot nights during the summer and winter cold snaps mixed with warm days thermal mass can make for uncomfortable rooms as the mass heats rooms that are too hot already or absorbs heat when the room is too cold.

Engineered PCM's may be considered to be improved forms of thermal mass.  Phase changes add and remove much more energy than does the radiation from and into thermal masses such as stone which do not undergo a phase change.  What's more virtually the only natural phase change material is water.  The evaporation and condensation of water is limited to a narrow temperature range while artificial  PCM's can be designed to phase change at a variety of temperatures.

PCM's are frequently used inside cold boxes used for shipping medicines, food and live organs.  In India PCM Energy P. Ltd sells them for use as built in emergency backups to mitigate loss of power to telecommunication facilities that must be kept cool.  Their website "The University of PCM's" has many informative links.

BioPCM of North Carolina has products including mats which can be installed in walls and ceilings.  National Gypsum is working on a drywall substitute called Thermalcore which has BASF's Micronal PCM microcapsules embedded in it.  It was recently promoted at the Greenbuild 2009 conference though it is not yet on the market, so you will likely be hearing about it in the mainstream press.

The engineered PCM's have been tested through thousands of phase change cycles allowing the manufacturers to assure buyers that the materials will function for several decades.

The challenge for any PCM was outlined in a May 2001 brief, Phase Change Drywall from the Department of Energy.  In a heating dominated climate the transition temperature for the PCM must be near standard or suggested room temperatures (65°-72°F) while in a cooling dominated climate the transition must take place between 72°-79°F.  In climates where both heating and cooling is required getting the correct temperature for the transition will be difficult.  In addition manufactures will need to produce many variations of their product for various climates.

This same Department of Energy brief pointed out that residential PCM's could eliminate the need for air conditioning in a mild climate.

Robert Kennedy Jr tells Solar Energy Industry Association that green technology will overthrow and democratize the energy system in the USA

At the Solar Energy Industry Association, Solar Power 09 conference October 27,2009, Robert F. Kennedy Jr delivered the keynote in which he pointed out that he believes that green technology including solar power will overthrow the oil and coal industries and democratize the energy system in this country which has corrupted our system of government in many ways.

He says that we are now learning that we must protect nature not for the birds but because nature is the infrastructure of our communities. He connects pollution to bad government saying, ""Where ever you see the large scale destruction of the environment you will also see the subversion of American democracy."

RFK Jr's talk begins three minutes into the video below. His voice is affected by spasmodic dysphonia but it doesn't stop him from delivering a powerful and insightful fact filled speech that brings together environmentalism, history, political philosophy and economics.

Thanks to Time is Energy for pointing out this presentation.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Forget the "black Friday" hype and join in "Buy Nothing Day" for sustainability

Buy Nothing Day has been a holiday tradition for well over a decade.   It is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the USA and the Saturday afterward in Europe and the rest of the world.  It is described as a general strike against the consumer culture that tells us that we have to purchase something to make us happy and that if we reduce our consumption that the world will collapse.

Over 24,000 people on the Buy Nothing Day facebook page say they plan to participate.  In San Antonio it will likely be an event celebrated individually but you might find some solidarity by attending the San Antonio Environment Meetup Green Cleaning Meetup where attendees will be mixing less toxic versions of household cleaners. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Building with Awareness: the construction of a hybrid home

In south Texas, some potential owner/natural homebuilders have decided that neither a strawbale nor an adobe/compressed earth block house is right for our climate.  The solution is a hybrid home which appropriately combines strawbale and blocks for thermal mass.

In the DVD and accompanying book, Building with Awareness, Ted Owens documents the building of a hybrid home in New Mexico, (which of course imposes very different climate challenges than those encountered in south Texas.)  This hybrid home combines exterior strawbale construction with interior adobe for thermal mass. 

The video is available for purchase or Netflix customers may add it to their queue.

Below are the trailer and a six minute excerpt.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Stir Fry Tofu and Vegetables in Ginger Sauce

From: PETA Subject:

Stir-Fried Tofu and Vegetables in Ginger Sauce
Prepare your taste buds for this delicious yet simple Chinese dish.

3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
1 lb. extra-firm tofu
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup broccoli florets
3 carrots, cut into 2-inch strips
1 medium onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 cup snow peas
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 green (or spring) onions, chopped
2 cups cooked rice

Mix the soy sauce, lemon juice and ginger. Cut the tofu into 1-inch chunks and place in the marinade. Let marinate for 45 minutes. Drain the tofu, saving the marinade.
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onion, green pepper and tofu. Stir frequently, cooking evenly. Add the snow peas, mushrooms and green (spring) onions. Continue to stir frequently until the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy. Serve over rice, topped with the marinade.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

November 24th Monthly Presentation

This month, the San Antonio Sustainable Living Group welcomes David Lewis of Aquabank . A relative newcomer to the rainwater harvesting category of green building strategies, Aquabank brings a fresh and unique take on taking the best advantage of capturing, storing, and using rainwater. Please visit their site for more detail, but their Aquabank system features affordable below grade storage, surface water collection, combination with greywater and air conditioning condensate augmentation, and effective irrigation use. Yes, the Aquabank system is primarily for irrigation use, but the possibility for use in potable systems is alluring (in some cases). We hope to see you at our usual meeting place and time, in the classroom at Whole Foods Market at 7pm, Tuesday, November 24th. Remember, there will not be a meeting in December, but mark your calendar for the resumption of our meetings for January 26th.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mayor Castro and City Council informed of extraordinary number of accepted contentions against the licensing of the South Texas Nuclear Project expansion

As a group, San Antonio Sustainable Living does not take a position on the expansion of the South Texas Nuclear Project or any other issue.  The letter below was provided by Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition:

Dear Mayor Castro and San Antonio City Council Members,

I thought the following information regarding the status of interventions in the South Texas Project licensing process might be helpful to you as you make decisions regarding the future energy path for San Antonio.

Our legal case is strong. We already have five accepted contentions, and may have more coming. We don’t know of any other proposed reactor in the country that has more than two accepted contentions. The many serious health and safety issues must be resolved before an NRC construction and operating license (COL) can be issued.

The five contentions were accepted by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel, through the NRC. Hearings will be held after the NRC finalizes the Environmental Impact Statement, and are expected in 2011. The accepted contentions are listed below. They include the co-location impacts, such as how an accident at one unit would impact the others. The other four contentions are water related, involving radionuclides in the Main Cooling Reservoir, increasing groundwater tritium concentrations, seepage of the Main Cooling Reservoir and excess withdrawal of groundwater.

Additional contentions could still be accepted from among the 7 Fires and Explosions/ Aircraft impact contentions that were discussed on Nov. 13th in Rockville, Maryland.

If you would like to read the full original contentions they are posted at
Also attached are our original fires and explosions contention and the NEI guidance on aircraft impact. These are materials available to the public, and we hope that much of the information that was part of this hearing will also be made public, as whole documents have been classified as sensitive based on a single word or sentence. Small portions could be redacted, and this important safety information could be made publicly available. We have submitted a filing to address this already, and will continue to push for public disclosure of any non-sensitive information. We believe the public has a right to know.

Thank you for your attention to this important energy decision.

Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition

If you have questions, please feel free to contact our attorney, Robert V. Eye, at 757-234-4040.

Summary of Texas’ Nuclear Interventions

Texas is Ground Zero in the fight against a new generation of nuclear reactors. We’ve gained Intervenor status in the cases against Comanche Peak and South Texas Project reactors and all of the contentions we have been granted will set national precedent.

Oral arguments were held on Nov. 12-13 for Comanche Peak and South Texas Project on the admissibility of new contentions regarding new NRC fires and explosions rules.

South Texas Project Intervention
5 Admitted Contentions (Hearing to be held after NRC issues final EIS, expected in Spring 2011)
1. Impacts from severe radiological accident scenarios on the operation of other units at the STP site have not been considered in the Environmental Report.
2.The Environmental Report fails to analyze the environmental impacts associated with the increase in radionuclide concentration in the MCR due to operation of STP 3 & 4.
3.The Environmental Report fails to predict or evaluate the effects of increasing groundwater tritium concentrations.
4.The Environmental Report fails to analyze the environmental impacts of unregulated seepage from the MCR into the adjacent shallow groundwater.
5.The Environmental Report fails to consider adequately the environmental impact of the possible withdrawal of additional groundwater in excess of that authorized by the     current permits.
7 New Fires and Explosions Contentions Pending – Admissibility argued in Rockville, MD on Nov. 13

NRC recognizes in its new rules that nuclear plants are vulnerable to air attacks. On August 14th the Intervenors filed seven contentions regarding STP's failure to comply with the new NRC fire safety rule which says each licensee must “develop and implement guidance and strategies intended to maintain or restore core cooling, containment, and spent fuel pool cooling capabilities under the circumstances associated with loss of large areas of the plant due to explosions or fire,” including those that would occur from the impact of a large commercial airliner. However, the Intervenors’ contentions that STP has failed to meet the fire and explosion regulatory requirements, STP’s submittal, and related documents are considered “sensitive” by the NRC and are not available to the public.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Spaghetti Squash with Orange Gremolata

In light of fall being here, I found some great recipes for the varieties of squash... Here is one of them. For a show stopper, I use the squash as the serving dish....

Spaghetti Squash with Orange Gremolata
Serves 4; Vegan; 30 minutes or fewer; Gluten Free

Gremolata, an Italian condiment made from lemon zest, parsley, and garlic gets a sweet-and-sour makeover here with orange zest and balsamic vinegar.

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 large spaghetti squash (3 1/2 lb.)
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted pistachios, shelled and chopped

1.) Toss red onion and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.

2.) Pierce spaghetti squash in several places with a sharp knife. Microwave 7 minutes on high power. Turn, and microwave 7 to 9 minutes more, or until squash gives sightly when pressed. (Cooking time will vary according to your microwave's wattage.) Cool 10 minutes.

3.) Whisk parsley, olive oil, garlic, brown sugar, orange zest, and salt into balsamic vinegar mixture.

4.) Half squash lengthwise carefully (it will give off steam), and remove seeds. Scrape flesh with a fork into a large bowl. Combine with parsley mixture and chopped pistachios. Season with salt and pepper.

Per serving: 212 cal.; 4 grams of prot.; 12.5 grams total fat (1.5 grams sat. fat); 24 grams of carbs.; 0 mg chol.; 488 mg sod.; 5 grams of fiber; 11 grams of sugars.
Found in Vegetarian Times-November/December 2008

Friday, November 13, 2009

What are the websites of the Progressive Automotive X Prize teams? you ask.

The field of teams eligible for the Progressive Automotive X price was reduced from 97 to 43 on October 19, 2009 when the list of "Qualified Teams" was announced.  Teams had to receive a passing grade based upon safety and emissions, manufacturability and cost, the features of the entrant's automobiles, and the business plan of the company behind each entry in order to become a "Qualified Team".

While Aptera, Tata Motors and Tesla are the most famous of the remaining teams,  a number of the other contenders stand out.

Of interest to Texans is EVX Laboratories which is located in Dallas.  Their all electric vehicles include a proprietary electric engine and battery design.  They are currently offering conversions of Mercedes Benz models.  They have posted a video of a Smart fortwo  conversion that apparently is a work in progress.

The Spira features a gasoline motorcycle engine and six inches of soft foam covering for safety.

The Gomecsys entry comes from the Netherlands and features a 2 cylinder gasoline engine 720 degree engine cycle for increased efficiency.

The Persu Mobility, Inc. entry is a fully enclosed tilting three wheeler with a gasoline / electric hybrid engine.

Edison2 out of Virginia is committed to an engine that burns natural gas that will be able to travel 1000 miles between fill ups.  I couldn't find a website, but here's a link to a quite cinematic video in which they explain their philosophy.

The West Philly Hybrid X (EVX) team is the only team from a public high school. Western Washington University  and the Cornell 100+ MPG Team  round out the academic competitors.

The TW4XP team from Germany is competing with a human/electric hybrid with a top speed of 80 mph.

Team HydroPhi concentrates not on the battery but on a device that continually produces energy that is then stored in a battery.  The device called a hydropack has uses well beyond automobiles.  Its inventor, Rudy Simon, has been developing the device since 2001.

Here are links to the remaining competitors except for X-Tracer Team of Uster Switzerland which I could not find: American HyPower, AMP, APET-X,  BDCOTSRUS, BITW Technologies, Boulder Electric Vehicle ,Combined Technology Solutions (CTS)Delta Motorsport,   Eltra , EnerMotion , Enginer , Envera , FVT Racing , Global-E  , Illuminati Motor Works  , OptaMotive  , RaceAbout Association , SABA Motors  , SSI Racing , Tango (Commuter Cars)Team EVITeam FourSightTeam ULV-3TTW Italia, Urbee , VePerformance ,  , Wikispeed  , ZAP

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is Satan Green? Thomas D. Rowley's new letter from Screwtape provides an answer

Is Satan Green?

By Thomas D. Rowley

In the three years since PBS’ Bill Moyers asked “Is God Green?” the answer from American Christendom has become a resounding “yes!”  Proclaimed by everything from eco-friendly Palm Sunday fronds to the soy-based, Kermit-hued ink in the Green Bible, God’s color has been decided.

But what about Satan’s?

I know. I know. Talk of the devil these days is déclassé. Too fire-and-brimstone for our post-everything mindset. Plus, everyone knows he’s red with horns, tail and a pitchfork. Right? But what if C.S. Lewis were still uncovering missives from that diabolical Undersecretary of Temptation, Screwtape to his nephew and Junior Tempter, Wormwood?  What might that reveal about Hell’s slant on the environment? With apologies to Lewis, perhaps something like this…

My Dear Nephew:

I see a certain despondence in your last correspondence. The long-delayed awakening of Christians to the Enemy’s directive to steward the Earth has gotten you down. Particularly, the awakening of that pesky group called evangelical Christians--a label that writers of the New Testament might well have thought redundant! Do not let it. As with all surges of that army, this, too, can be redirected. Confusion is the order of the day, dear Wormwood. Confusion!

To begin with, keep striking the chords that have proven so successful for us already. Keep your patients focused on the politics of it all--feeding the notion that the Enemy simply could not mean them to side with those they growlingly call “tree-hugging liberals.”

At the same time, nag them with doubts about science; keep them asking, albeit subconsciously, how something associated with abortion and evolution (thanks to your good works, Nephew) could ever be trusted?

Play, too, the note that says “it will all burn anyway, and the sooner the better.” Ah, there’s nothing finer than bad theology mixed with hopelessness for turning them aside.

Finally, addle their puny brains with false dichotomies: Surely, they cannot evangelize and care for the poor, for example, while also stewarding nature! Needless to say, you must keep hidden from them the indisputable facts that nature sings so disgustingly of the Enemy who created it and that upon nature the poor of the world so heavily depend.

As always, keep them from thinking deeply on any of these matters. There lies our undoing! Instead, fill their minds with the busyness of life—the grocery list, the children’s piano lesson or the church committee meeting. Should you detect a serious thought forming, however, simply give a nudge that now is the perfect time to text message, email or turn on some enlightening talk radio. Oh, how I love that last one! What victories it has given us!

Should these attempts fail to keep them off balance and ignoring the Enemy’s directive, we, too, can become green—at least our own shade of it. Here, I, of course, mean money, that ancient yet infallible tempter. How they love their money! Forgetting as they so laughably do that it is not theirs and that the Enemy has warned them again and again about what He ridiculously refers to as idolatry. I’ve also learned of a new shade of green developed by our labs: that of the perfect green lawn. How delightful! The illusion of health and beauty fostered by poison, copious amounts of precious water, and the weekly toiling behind a deafening, fume-belching machine! Brilliant! Simply, brilliant!

Above all--and I really shouldn’t have to warn you of this--keep them from opening that dastardly book the Enemy gave them! Rare indeed is the patient who can be retrieved once he has devoted himself to study there.

Finally, make sure to keep our correspondence secret. Human ignorance of our plans is one of our very best weapons. Nevertheless, should this letter leak to the press, I am confident that misunderstanding and emotion (never forget the power of emotion) will cause such a disturbance that you and I will be dismissed as the depraved imaginings of some witless human writer.

As always, your affectionate (and green if need be) uncle


This commentary is intended to help A Rocha USA "mobilize Christians to steward the Earth.” The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not reflect the views of A Rocha.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two Permaculture herb spiral how to videos and a video tour of one that's full grown

San Antonio's resident certified permaculturist Doddi Evans has been talking about herb spirals recently. He's planning to have a workshop to build one soon. Until you make that event here are two youtube videos on two different herb spirals.

This video is by certified permaculturist Scott A. Meister of Japan's Potato House Permaculture Pension.

This video shows a different design by Dick Pierce which uses lots of straw as a growing medium , Dick is an Austin permaculture design consultant.

Finally, here is a video tour of a mature spiral by solealunaduir.  It will give you an idea of how lush an herb spiral can become.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TED talks are coming to San Antonio, not THE TED talks but a licensed San Antonio version

Some of the social networking professionals including Todd O'Neill who were behind Green Camp in San Antonio and other events have obtained a license from TED to put on TEDX in San Antonio.  These are some very web savvy, well organized and fun people behind this event.

TEDX events are independently organized though authorized by TED.  The TED talks bring together attendees with extra-ordinary vision to hear speakers of extra-ordinary vision. 

TEDX San Antonio already has 214 fans on Facebook .  A brainstorming meeting is planned for Wednesday November 11 at 6 pm at the ALoft Hotel at Blanco and Loop 410.

In addition to brainstorming they are collecting applications to attend.  Not just anyone can attend a TED talk, though in recent years the talks have been put on the web.  The application for TEDX San Antonio says: "The success of a TED event is heavily dependent on having a lively mix of attendees as well as speakers. We’re looking for people from various backgrounds – the arts, technology, government, business, non-profits etc. that are passionate, open-minded “do’ers”. "

The applications asks about your achievements and your passions.  It alsos  for a url to a site that says something about you or you passion.

Currently the plan is for  TEDX San Antonio to take place some time early in 2010.

UTSA’s Institute for Conventional, Alternative and Renewable Energy hires Les Shephard from Sandia National Laboratories

Here's the UTSA press release:
The University of Texas at San Antonio announced today the appointment of Les Shephard, a nationally recognized expert who often speaks before U.S. Congress on energy and water issues, to head its Institute for Conventional, Alternative and Renewable Energy (ICARE). Shephard will assume his role as director of the UTSA institute effective April 15, 2010.

Les Shephard is an expert in his field. He is knowledgeable, well-respected and highly sought-after by energy companies across the world,” said UTSA President Ricardo Romo. “We are thrilled that he will be coming here to UTSA, where he will work with our faculty and our collaborative partners to build a world-class energy institute right here in San Antonio.”

Shephard will reside in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in UTSA’s College of Engineering, where he will hold the USAA Robert F. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Engineering, an endowment which contributed greatly to his recruitment to UTSA.

“I am truly delighted to hear that Dr. Les Shephard is joining I-CARE after many years of very distinguished leadership at Sandia, including his position as vice president for energy and critical global infrastructure,” said David B. Prior, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at The University of Texas System. “I have known Les personally and professionally since his doctoral work at Texas A&M and know that he will undoubtedly contribute very substantially to new directions at ICARE and to the new strengths in energy-related research across the University of Texas System.”

Shephard’s hire comes at a crucial time for UTSA, which is competing with six other Texas universities to reach tier one status. To achieve that goal, UTSA must significantly increase its annual federal research expenditures. Energy research is one of five strategic areas it will focus on to do so.

Under Shephard’s direction, UTSA’s energy institute, ICARE, will bring together representatives from industry, government and academia to explore alternative energy sources. It will also look into new policies and best practices for the energy industry in the region, the state and internationally. The Institute’s research will involve every college at UTSA and the university’s existing Center for Water Research. ICARE will also support the Energy Research Alliance of San Antonio, developed earlier this year by UTSA, Southwest Research Institute, CPS Energy and San Antonio Water System. The Alliance, which is in its infancy, will conceptualize, develop and commercialize technologies to meet San Antonio’s current and future energy challenges.

Shephard joins UTSA from Sandia National Laboratories, which is managed by Lockheed Martin Corporation for the U.S. Department of Energy, where he served for more than 27 years. Most recently, Shephard was vice president of Sandia’s Energy, Security and Defense Technologies Division, a multi-program science-based engineering laboratory located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Historically, Shephard’s Sandia division has developed, deployed and commercialized technologies and capabilities that address many of our nation’s most pressing national security challenges in energy, water, infrastructure and strategic nuclear materials. The division has also pursued technology breakthroughs that will contribute to alternative transportation fuels, energy efficiency, responsible environmental stewardship and renewable energy options. Today, it works with more than 100 nations around the work, pursuing a principal mission of creating a peaceful and free world through technology.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Meatless Monday Recipe-Spinach & Pine Nut Pasta

Spinach & Pine Nut Pasta
Serves 4; Prep time: 20 min.; Cook time: 20 min.

Sorry, I don't have any the nutritional information. Use fresh spinach for best results. Sprinkle with nutmeg for extra flavor.

8 oz. pasta shapes or spaghetti
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, quartered and sliced
3 large flat mushrooms, sliced
8 oz. spinach
2 tablespoons pine nuts
6 tablespoons dry white wine
salt & pepper
Parmesan shavings, to garnish (optional)

1.) Cook the pasta in a saucepan of boiling water for 8-10 minutes, or until "al dente". Drain well.

2.) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the garlic and onion for 1 min.

3.) Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.) Add the spinach and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

5.) Stir in the pine nuts and wine, season well with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.

6.) Transfer the pasta to a warm serving bowl and toss the sauce into it, mixing well. Garnish with shavings of Parmesan cheese and serve at once.

Found in: What's Cooking Vegetarian by: Jenny Stacey

What could San Antonio and CPS do with 5.2 billion dollars (instead of putting it toward the cost of more nuclear plants)

Disclaimer: As  a group San Antonio Sustainable Living doesn't take policy positions.  Within our membership we have people who are in favor of nuclear expansion for various reasons and folks who oppose it for various reasons. 

Below is information from Energia Mia, a local coalition that opposes nuclear expansion.  A more complete version of this information is available here.

What Could You do with $5.2 billion?
About 2,500 MW of Total Capacity and 1,100 MW of Baseload Power for a lot less

San Antonio does not actually need 1080 MW – 40 percent of the two nuclear plants of nuclear power in 2020. In fact, CPS Energy is now talking about selling half of that power to other utilities. Still, if they did need 1080 MW of power by 2020, they could get it for less than $5.2 billion, In fact, an analysis found that utilizing cost estimates provided by the consultant hired by Austin Energy, CPS Energy could build the equivalent of over 2,500 MW of total energy capacity, and 1,100 MW of guaranteed electricity for less than $5.2 billion.
Among the measures that could more cheaply replace the need for any new nuclear power by 2020 include:
·   A more aggressive efficiency program than the 771 MW of energy efficiency they are estimating;
·   Incorporating the gains in energy efficiency they will obtain from the City’s advanced building codes;
·   Fulfilling the Mission Verde goals of a robust on-site solar program to lower energy demand and produce power locally;
·   Greater investments in wind energy, including wind with storage;
·   A significant investment in large-scale concentrated solar plants with energy storage;
·   Taking advantage of geothermal renewable energy in South Texas;
·   Investing in an additional efficient combined cycle natural gas plant;
·   Investing in industrial and institutional combined heat and power facilities;
·   Investing in a medium-scale biomass facility;
·   A more aggressive low-interest loan program for homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient and add solar water heaters and panels;
·   Improving energy efficiency services to those San Antonians least able to afford increased rates to make sure bill impacts stay low;
·   Utilizing the millions of dollars available in stimulus funds to promote energy efficiency and renewable power in San Antonio

What can you get for $5.2 Billion? Why not put our energy eggs into less risky baskets?
Extra 200 MW of Energy Efficiency                              Cost: $100 million
Install 500 MW of wind                                         Cost: $1 billion
Develop a 500 MW Solar on Rooftops Program           Cost: $210 million
Develop 500 MW of Utility-Scale Solar                    Cost: $1 billion
Install 200 MW of Wind Turbines plus Storage          Cost: $550 million
Install 100 MW of geothermal                                        Cost: $400 million
Build a 100 MW Biomass Plant                               Cost: $285 million

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Free Design-Build-Live Austin presentation: Sustainable Water Treatment and Reuse, November 16, 2009

From Design-Build-Live:
Sustainable Water Treatment & Reuse
A Design~Build~Live Special Presentation at City Hall
Monday, November 16, 2009, 2:30 – 4:30 pm

Sustainable development today is grappling with how to treat and reuse water in projects. LEED gives credits for water treatment and reuse, and the Living Building Challenge, at the forefront of green design, mandates it. Conventional treatment technology is centralized, expensive, energy intensive and difficult to translate onsite to buildings or developments. This presentation will discuss proven onsite water treatment solutions that offer the benefits of being attractive, inexpensive, flexible, robust, and low maintenance while using little-to-no energy.

Come learn about alternatives to centralized water treatment systems – alternatives that are sustainable and distributed, making treated water available for reuse locally where it’s needed. Both residential and commercial systems will be discussed. Also included will be a brief digression with pictures on European natural swimming pool technology which uses constructed wetlands instead of chlorine.

Presenters: Whole Water Systems principals are pioneers in sustainable onsite water treatment and have been designing biological treatment systems including constructed wetlands for more than twenty years.

Morgan Brown, LEED AP, NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer, BS electrical engineering. President, Whole Water Systems

David Venhuizen, P.E., MS civil engineering, BS biology. Principal Engineer, Whole Water Systems
Decentralize water treatment pioneer with 25 years design experience

Who should attend? City/regional water and stormwater regulators, civil engineers, landscape architects, architects, permaculturists, motivated general public.

Location: Austin City Hall, Council Chambers, 301 West 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701 (Map) Note: Parking in the City Hall parking garage beneath the building is free if you bring your parking ticket in for validation.

Admission: Free and open to the public

Thanks to Council Member Chris Riley for sponsoring this DBL water conservation event at the City Hall Council Chambers.

VIA presents 4 community meetings for public input and direction on public transit improvements including BRT, Light Rail or even buses that run at a decent frequency (We can dream can't we?)

From VIA Transit: 
SmartWaySA, VIA’s Long Range Comprehensive Transportation Plan, is continuing to provide the community an opportunity to submit input and direction by offering additional community meetings.   The purpose of the meetings is for citizens to tell us what they think about our future transportation vision before more work is done on the plan.  The series of community meetings will be offered in four quadrants of the City as follows:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009, El Progresso Hall  1306 Guadalupe Street, San Antonio 78207
5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 5, 2009 Harlandale Civic Center 115 W. Southcross San Antonio 78221
5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Monday, November 9, 2009 Claude W. Black Community Center 2805 E. Commerce, San Antonio 78202
5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 Barshop Jewish Community Center 12500 N.W. Military Hwy. San Antonio TX 78231
10:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

For more information call 362-2370 or go to

Taiwan based religious group promotes sustainable living and veganism to save the planet

Spiritual practices and beliefs motivate many people to live sustainably.  A Taiwanese based religion, the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association has placed sustainable living and veganism at the center of their image, outreach and proselytizing.  Their sophisticated, highly produced videos and other material promote their ideas about sustainability through slogans such as "Be Organic Vegetarian, Save the Planet", "JUSTBVEGAN" and "Be Veg, Go Green, Save the Planet".

In line with their promotion of veganism, they also have produced videos and publications on the value of pets, kindness to animals and dog clothing.

The religion promotes the philosophy of Mozi, founder Mohism , whose ideas were developed in the 4th century BCE and which were in contrast to those of Confucius.   Quan Yin a form of meditation seems to be the religion's primary spiritual practice.

The association's twenty four hour satellite television station is known as Supreme Master TV and is available on the web as well as by satellite.   It features an unusual design that allows each program to be subtitled in 25 languages or more.  An extensive library of videos are available including some concerning global warming that have the feel (and soundtrack) of a Hollywood disaster movie .

The religion owns and operates a chain of vegan restaurants called "Loving Hut" which has a locations in thirteen countries including one just down the road in  Houston.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Natural Swimming Pools and Constructed Wetlands, A Design Build Live Austin monthly presentation, Wednesday November 18, 2009

Austin's Design Build Live, our much more proactive and natural building oriented cousins have done it again.  Their November presentation covers two very interesting water related topics.  Artificial wetlands for wastewater treatment can solve a lot of problems.  Imagine being off the wastewater grid.  It is possible.

From DBL:
Natural Swimming Pools and Constructed Wetlands
      A Design~Build~Live Monthly Presentation: Water as a Cherished Resource

Wednesday, November 18, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Lance Armstrong Foundation, 2201 East 6th Street, Austin,TX 

Continuing with DBL’s water priority, our guest presenters will discuss two wonderful, sustainable alternatives to conventional water systems:

Beautiful, healthful swimming pools that rely on biological systems rather than toxic chlorine to treat the water.

Attractive, vegetated constructed wetlands that treat wastewater naturally, as an alternative to conventional septic tanks that simply dispose of it.

Guest Presenters:
Morgan Brown, LEED AP, NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer, electrical engineer and President, Whole Water Systems,

David Venhuizen, P.E. civil engineer, biologist. Decentralized water treatment pioneer with 25 years design experience

This presentation is free and open to the public. No reservation required. For more information contact Gayle at or 512-478-9033.

Waterpik 1.5 gallon per minute EcoFlow hand held shower head saves water and delivers a satisfying shower

A marketer for Waterpik sent me an EcoFlow 1.5 gallon per minute 5 mode hand held shower head to review.  After using it a few days I can report that their design delivers a very nice shower.  I think my wife and I are every bit as clean as we are when we use our 2.5 gallon per minute shower head.

The exterior of the shower head is largely chrome colored plastic rather than metal.  If it were metal  the head would weigh much more than the twelve ounces that it does.  In my experience such plastic stands up much better than chrome or stainless steel especially since bleach is commonly used to clean showers, and bleach does nasty things to stainless.  In addition the plastic doesn't transfer heat like metal would so the handle stays comfortable to the touch.

On this model a specially designed water restricting and pipe debris filtering pivot ball is installed between the shower arm and the shower hose.  Without it in place the unit won't work.   I think that means it is harder for contractors and plumbers to turn it from a water sipper to a water hog.

This unit comes with a "pause control" but it doesn't stop the flow of water. The pause control reduces water flow.  This prevents the changes in water temperature that happen in my house where we use a shower head that completely shuts of the water.  Many people wouldn't put up with the momentary temperature changes so the Waterpik design works better for them than a full stop pause control would.

The five foot hose which is included is short enough so that the shower head won't hit the floor if it is dropped.

The model I tested has  five water settings, ten if you count that water continues to flow when the pause control is used.  One of the settings concentrates water in a small area which allowed me to clean my multi-blade razor reasonably well.  There is also a setting that atomizes the water completely into a gentle cloud of water.  Of course, the kinetic settings where water goes on and off like the fountains at Bellagio in Las Vegas fascinate many people.  The designers were pretty clever in figuring out configurations for such a reduced flow of water.  

The unit can be hung from a hook and used as a stationary shower head, though my wife who is only 5 feet tall reminded me that she can't reach the shower arm from the floor of the shower.  To remove it from the hook she had to stand on the shower ledge.

I would feel much better about the EcoFlow if every component could be disassembled completely to allow removal of the pipe debris, but to my knowledge no hand held massaging shower head can be taken apart completely and reassembled.

Only time will tell if it is easily clogged and easy to clean.  I suspect that because the outlets on the head are tiny that they may lime up and that debris from the corroding 85 year old plumbing in our house will clog things up. If it does then the filtering, water restricting pivot ball will have to be removed and cleaned in addition to detaching the head from the hose.  Removing the pivot ball requires the use of a special plastic wrench which is included with the shower head. 

For more information you can view a pdf of the instruction manual online and be sure to look at their website at

Build San Antonio Green workshop: Mission Verde Residential Building Code Changes Workshop, November 16 at 10 am

Compiled from Build San Antonio Green announcements and their website: 
Mission Verde Residential Building Code Changes
Monday November 16,  10 AM to 2 PM
GSABA Auditorium, 3625 Paesanos Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78231

Many of you are probably interested in the upcoming changes to San Antonio's residential energy codes. To help answer questions you may have, Build San Antonio Green is hosting a comprehensive workshops that will cover a range of important issues related to this topic. These include how the new codes compare to those currently in place, rebates and incentives, and compliance methods.

This is one of the most important workshops we have ever held. In January 2010, the residential building codes in San Antonio will be changing. This workshop will present all the information builders need to know about the new codes, including how they compare to the old ones, and the best ways for builders to meet these new requirements. This information is critical, as anyone building a home in San Antonio must adhere to the new codes so this workshop is not to be missed.

This workshop will include speakers from the Greater San Antonio Builders Association, the City of San Antonio, CPS Energy, SAWS, and Build San Antonio Green. If you are interested in getting a detailed look at this important topic, please consider attending. It will be held on Monday, November 16th from 10 AM to 2 PM at the GSABA Auditorium. You may register online or call our office at 224-7278 for more information. We look forward to seeing you there.

The cost of this workshop is $75 and lunch is included.  This price is the same whether or not you are a member of Build San Antonio Green.  You can register for the event on the Build San Antonio Green website.