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.

Green Living for the Hill Country presents an Eco-Mixer, Monday November 9 in Fredericksburg

John Watson, founder of "Green Living for the Hill Country" is putting together a Green Drinks like event in Fredericksburg, Monday November 9 from 6:00 to 7: 30 pm at Kelly's Café,  505 W. Main, Fredericksburg 78624.

John describes the Eco-Mixer as an opportunity to discuss ecological concerns with friends and environmental leaders over appetizers and drinks.  Each Eco-Mixer will focus on a specific issue of interest to the Hill Country and will showcase local organizations, businesses, and innovators seeking to bring positive solutions.  Time will be allowed for mixing and brief presentations.  November's topic will be greener products and services.

Renowned clay plaster artist, author and natural builder Carole Crews in Austin Thursday November 5, 2009 for free presentation

From Design Build Live in Austin:
Earthen Plaster Slide Show and Book Signing
A Design~Build~Live Special Event

Thursday, November 5, 2009, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Earthen Plaster Presentation and Book Signing by Carole Crews of Taos, New Mexico

Carole Crews, is an artist, author, natural builder, and plaster guru who has worked with mud and finishes for earthen buildings professionally for 25 years. She specializes in aliz (clay slip finish), historic restoration and making art from simple materials. Copies of Carole’s much-anticipated book will be available for sale and signing. Visit Carole’s website for more info on the author/artist/artisan and photos of her work.CaroleCrewsDome

Hosted by: Stanley Architects and Artisans (Watch for a future DBL site visit to Lauren and Lars Stanley’s permaculture homestead featuring a green roof and rainwater harvesting)

Location: 1901 E.M. Franklin Ave., Austin, Texas  78723

Note: The venue is on the northeast corner of MLK and E.M. Franklin. Please park on E.M. Franklin and enter the site via the gate near MLK. We will meet in the studio that fronts on MLK. Seating may be limited, so please bring a folding chair if you can.

This event is free and open to the public, but modest donations to DBL are always appreciated.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Novella Carpenter: The Education of an Urban Farmer

Novella Carpenter, author of  Farm City: the Education of an Urban Farmer was in Austin on October 31 for a workshop entitled "The Complete Turkey".

I hope you heard about it.  I just ran across it and her a few minutes ago.  Here's her description of the workshop:
For meat eaters, raising turkeys is a dare, a stunt, a Herculean effort. The turkey is the most American of birds—native to North America, eaten by Indians, Aztecs, and pilgrims. Most people, come November, eat a Thanksgiving turkey without really knowing what a turkey looks or acts like, much less all the work that goes into raising one of these birds for the table.  In this class, we will show best practices for raising your own Thanksgiving turkey, including feeding, coop construction, breeding, and day to day care.

Following these basics, we will “harvest” a heritage breed turkey. Novella will demonstrate a humane, fool-proof method of dispatching a turkey, including plucking and cleaning. Seeing this process firsthand will make your upcoming Thanksgiving more meaningful than ever.

Her blog, Ghost Town Farm details her adventures farming in an Oakland ghetto neighborhood and her travels elsewhere.

The video below comes from  To see the whole presentation click on the appropriate place on the screen.  In this presentation she reads from her book. has a fantastic video of Novella's urban farm entitled "Obsessives: Urban Farming" which is really, really worth the time to watch.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Mexico Tres Amigas project intended to efficiently connect the three USA electric grids and allow for more widespread distribution of renewable generated electricity

Among the criticisms leveled against some forms of renewable energy is that the resources for generating such power are not evenly distributed and that the areas most suitable for wind and large scale solar power generation are far from population centers. 

Electricity can be sent from place to place however currently within the USA there are three distinct power grids with little or no inter-connectivity between them.

The Tres Amigas project in New Mexico is intended to connect the three grids to allow power generated within the territory of one grid to be efficiently transmitted to another grid.

From TresAmigas LLC:
Tres Amigas, LLC is uniting the electric grid.  Utilizing the latest advances in power grid technology, Tres Amigas is focused on providing the first common interconnection of America’s three power grids to help the country achieve its renewable energy goals and facilitate the smooth, reliable and efficient transfer of green power from region to region.  Tres Amigas, LLC is a merchant transmission entity composed of electric utility industry operational, technology and thought leaders.  More information is available at

The Tres Amigas SuperStation will act as a power market hub, enabling the buying and selling of electricity between the nation’s three Interconnections, which is not possible today.  Wind, solar, hydro and geothermal renewable energy sources that do not currently have access to transmission lines and/or customers will be able to tap into multiple markets through the Tres Amigas SuperStation.  For example, regions rich in solar energy will be able to buy electricity at night, when the sun is not shining, from regions rich in wind energy.  As a merchant transmission system, Tres Amigas will charge a fee for usage of the power hub.

The Tres Amigas renewable energy market hub will be constructed in Clovis, New Mexico, a location that has easy access to all three of the nation’s power grids.   New Mexico’s State Land Office already has granted Tres Amigas, LLC the right to lease 14,400 acres (22.5 square miles) of land in Clovis for this system.  Tres Amigas, LLC is now in the process of filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a declaratory order that transmission lines that connect to Tres Amigas from ERCOT will not come under the jurisdiction of FERC and that Tres Amigas can be operated as a merchant transmission entity.

Thanks to Cindy Weehler of Energia Mia for passing along information about this project.