welcome to my deep-green blog!

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by.

This blog is dedicated to low-footprint living. I am out to promote a #GrassrootsGreenMobilization. Can you imagine what would happen if millions of people voluntarily reduced their carbon footprint? by 90%, 50%, or even just 10%? The impact would be similar to that of the household austerity measures imposed during World War II, except that this time we’d be doing it voluntarily. And instead of channeling our time, money, and energy toward a war effort, we’d be working toward a shared global aim of restoring the earth’s ecosystems to health, and preserving our life and wellbeing on this beautiful planet.

Does living at a fraction of the average U.S. footprint sound unrealistic or uncomfortable to you? The truth is, lots of us are already doing it, or are well on our way. And in the process of reducing our footprints, we’re putting money in our pockets, and freeing up our time and energy for the things that give life meaning (which of course differ from one person to the next).

And not only is it not uncomfortable (beyond a bit of manageable discomfort here and there), it’s fun!

At its root, a low-footprint lifestyle is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if planetary concerns were not a factor. In this blog I share a wealth of tips and resources to help you design your own version of a low-footprint lifestyle, or, if you’re already on this path, to go further than you’ve ever gone before.

Again, thank you for being here!

P.S. On this page (and on my Facebook page Deep Green Book by Jenny Nazak), I explore at leisurely length, and in no particular order, a variety of threads related to sustainable living. If you also want a handy, compact, ordered guide that contains in condensed form the basic principles for designing your own low-footprint lifestyle, get yourself a copy of my book Deep Green! It’s available on Amazon or direct through me.

Becoming a Local Investor – 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of posts, I offer some suggestions for investing your money locally. One of my suggestions was to start a business that allows you to earn a livelihood while also helping your local community become more vibrant and resilient. Looking around at my own community, I can list a number of businesses that (at least in my opinion) are desperately needed:

Bicycle repair shop*

Knife-sharpening shop (the only guy in town who was doing this died, and no one took over the business)

Grocery store* (ideally a co-op! or at least an independently owned store rather than a chain). Check out this brilliant vision that a friend just described to me: “Get every farmer withing a hundred miles a steady income. Hold classes in the store during open hours on organic backyard gardening to sell back to the store, keep two or three aisles open for 100 percent local produced, kombucha, honey, soaps, etc etc etc. On-site aquaponics, rooftop gardens and beehives, all the local fishermen bringing us their catch etc etc.” Now THAT would be a grocery store to aspire to!

Laundromat; laundry service

Landlords (LOCAL, and ideally living on the premises, not absentee) for small multifamily unit buildings (2-4 units) that are up for sale in the neighborhood

Welding shop

Composting business

Recycling business

Indie bookstore

Native-plant nursery

Tailor/alterations

A year-round pedicab company (the only one we have right now operates only seasonally, and mainly in the touristy area of town)

*(Asterisks indicate that such businesses exist in my general geographic region but not within walking distance of my neighborhood.)

This is just a very short list off the top of my head. Look around your area; what unmet needs do you see that you might turn into opportunities?

One of my favorite examples of a local business in my area that is earning its proprietor a livelihood while truly serving a need in the community (multiple needs, in fact) is Midtown Laundry of Daytona Beach. This laundry pickup and delivery service hires formerly incarcerated individuals who would otherwise have trouble finding work. The employees are very dedicated because they want to keep their jobs. It’s a major win-win.

Civics note: When it comes to assessing what businesses are needed in a neighborhood, and filling those needs, the residents themselves know best. By their nature, governments and the people we call “developers” are not the ones best equipped for that task. If we want to have a say in the commercial development of our communities, we have to step up and be proactive.

Further Reading:

Can’t find any local investment opportunities right now? No problem!

I’ve been meaning to share with you this outstanding article “How I Am Investing To Save the Planet” from one of my top go-to resources, Laura Oldanie (Triple Bottom Line Financial Independence). Like me, Laura is a staunch advocate of “moving one’s money from Wall Street to Main Street”! Although the investments she writes about in this post are not all local per se, they will allow you to have peace of mind, knowing that your money is benefiting people and the planet while earning you a decent return. (I was impressed with the 10% return on one of the investments!)

I also hear that Terracycle, the worldwide enterprise that accepts pretty much every category of manufactured waste for recycling, is offering investment opportunities, with a minimum investment of $700. I am seriously considering investing.

Instant Affordable Housing for All

A few years back, I stumbled on a book “Unlocking Home: 3 Keys to Affordable Communities” by Alan Durning. This book has really expanded my thinking about why so many cities struggle with reasonably priced housing. Basically, a lot of housing that used to be provided naturally by informal arrangements in the free market has been outlawed. 

The 3 keys Durning mentions in his book are 1) easing restrictions on number of roommates/housemates; 2) allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (garage apts, backyard cottages, etc) to be rented out by right; and 3) re-legalizing SRO’s/rooming houses.

In my city, Daytona Beach, we currently have a limit on the number of unrelated people who can live under one roof. Many cities have a limit of 4 people; our limit is just 2 people! Meanwhile, we have a housing crunch.

Even just doing 1) easing the occupancy limit, would go a long way to increase the supply of housing for students, senior citizens, and people who simply prefer to spend less money on rent and/or choose not to live alone.

If this idea makes sense to you as it does to me, here are some talking points that might help you enlist support from your local leaders, neighbors, NIMBY folks, etc.:

– Roommates/housemates offer many benefits besides the financial. They can alleviate social isolation (which has been dubbed the #1 public-health crisis); as well as allow sharing of tasks such as childcare.

– The Daytona Beach News-Journal has a front-page story in today’s paper, reporting an explosion of upscale apartments coming to the Daytona Beach area despite weak wage growth. Although construction of higher-end rental units has been found in many cities to free up lower-priced units for people who really need them, luxury housing cannot by itself ease the crunch on everyday-people housing. The article points out that, because of land costs, construction costs, impact fees, and regulations, it has become nearly impossible for developers to build new residential units for people of modest means. Easing the restriction on roommates/housemates is a free, instant way to help alleviate this crunch.

– The fact that we have groups of students renting houses in gated golf-course communities (yes!! we actually have that situation here!! Crazy huh?) is a sign that there are not enough appropriate housing options for students and other single people of modest means. Many of the traditional demographic of residents in these places are understandably upset about what they refer to as “dorm living,” and the noise and car-clutter it brings. But retaining excessively strict, citywide roommate limits is not the solution here. HOA’s have their own existing rules regarding car-clutter, noise, etc.; they should be able to use those rules to manage their communities. Another point: Gated golf-course communities and the like are not ideal places for students to live; it’s a bad fit for both the students and the traditional demographic of residents. The city could instead proactively market the apartments and other options that are available; maybe interface with the student-life office of each college to make students more aware of the more viable housing options for them. Maybe some of these students, were they to move to apartments located near major retail complexes as well as closer to their schools, would even be able to live car-free if they wanted.

– Families and their living arrangements are changing. Families are smaller, and more people are creating ad hoc adopted families, blended families etc. Biological family members don’t always live near each other, and many houses and apartments are too expensive for just one or two people to manage.

– It’s not just students and young people but also senior citizens who are seeking out group living arrangements. This is for social as well as economic reasons, and is a major national trend.

– Daytona Beach (like many other towns and cities across the USA) has lots of gorgeous old houses with 5, 6, or more bedrooms. It only makes sense to fully occupy them; the alternative is blight and decay, which then become the city’s expensive problem on many levels. 

– We need to try some tiny-house developments, such as the concept of 4 mini cottages on one lot, sharing one car. 

– Regarding students living in sheds and other inadequate shelter: We can’t just kick them out and shut down the landlords without offering them an alternative. If we want students to come to our excellent colleges, and ideally remain after they graduate, we have to provide a well-rounded housing menu including plenty of options that are friendly to students and other people of modest means. 

– We could work with landlords to help them turn unfinished sheds into proper cottages. It not only makes practical sense, but also is the compassionate thing to do.

– Also, artists and other creatives who are typically considered desirable to a city’s economy and social fabric depend on low-priced housing options. In fact, many creative types prefer slightly rustic, less fancy housing as a matter of taste. 

– We need to get to the real root of “roommate elitism” by pointing out that a lot of it is rooted in old restrictions targeting minorities, single women (who historically were suspected of prostitution), etc. 

– In my neighborhood, a family was able to find a house they could all share. There are 10 people including grandparents, daughter, grandkids, great-grandkids. They had previously been in 3 separate apartments paying a total of $3,000 in rent. Now they are all living in one beautiful old house they love, paying $1100 and there is always someone to watch the kids. They share 2 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms. This is a desirable situation and there is no reason why unrelated roommates should not be able to do the same. Excess cars are curbed by parking limitations, 2 parking passes per household.

– If we went through the city right now and rooted out every house or apartment with more than 2 unrelated people living in it, we would theoretically have to evict a large percentage of people; some folks might be surprised how pervasive the situation is! 

– On a personal note … For some years here in Daytona Beach, I was hanging by a thread economically. Roommates have been a key part of what has allowed me to stay here, be a contributing citizen, and, over time, piece together enough paying work to sustain the civic and environmental activism that is my main occupation.

– Expanding max number of occupants is possibly the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to ease the crunch on modest-priced housing. 

The Unlocking Home book is very helpful; I hope you get a chance to read it. Also check out another of my top resources on this topic of freeing up the affordable urban housing marketplace, StrongTowns.org — search for articles about “missing middle” housing, ADUs, duplexes/triplexes. 

I think that’s it. If I think of any more ideas I will write them out for you. I thank my city leaders for caring about this issue and setting out to formulate a workable rule! 

Dumb Growth

In yesterday’s post (and on my radio show linked in the post), I shared some thoughts about smart growth. Here are a few examples of dumb growth. Note, the point is not to chastise or shame. Rather, calling out dumb growth can help us avoid the same mistakes in future. It also can serve as a guide for introducing smart green retrofits into our existing built environments.

Examples of dumb growth:

– Building a retirement community in such a manner that the only viable mode of transport is the personal automobile.

– Building any housing development in such a manner that the only viable mode of transport is the personal automobile.

– Grading and draining wetlands, which provide natural stormwater mitigation, then spending millions to build and maintain retention ponds, which are inferior not only in terms of function and cost-effectiveness (it’s hard to beat Mother Nature’s free ecosystem services) but also in terms of beauty and biodiversity.

– Widening a road that goes through a residential area, past a school, etc. Even with crossing guards, kids should not have to attend school next to a four-lane “stroad.”

– Widening roads inside cities in general. Only widen a road if you want to speed traffic through a place. Save arterials for the edge of the city, to send through-traffic on its way. If you care about local business, quality of life, public safety, and social cohesion, avoid widening roads that run through town. (Some cities that have at one time widened a road that runs through town, are now turning those roads back into narrower, slower-speed streets.)

– Letting old usable buildings crumble and decay to the point where they have to be torn down, and then a whole new building has to be constructed, with all the expense and eco footprint, and loss of local history and character, that entails.

– Unduly restricting home-based businesses, which enable residents to earn a livelihood while serving their neighborhoods.

– Continuing to build sprawl developments while making it costly and time-consuming to get building permits within the historic city limits.

– Demolishing large swathes of woods and meadows, and removing the topsoil, to construct a residential development, then planting high-maintenance turf grass and non-native plants.

– Disregarding signals that the menu of housing options is inadequate for all segments of the population. For example, a bunch of students are renting a house in a gated golf-course community. The other residents are disturbed by their six or seven cars, coming and going at all hours, and their parties. Meanwhile it’s hard to imagine students, or any young single people, being happy in such a place. This situation (which is a real-life example) should be taken as a sign from the marketplace to add more student-friendly housing options.

– Removing housing that is considered “low-class” in the name of progress. Mobile-home parks, RV parks, Single Room Occupancy buildings all serve different demographics of residents, including many blue-collar workers, students, artists, single parents, and others who help make up a vibrant community. When we remove these dwelling options, we raise the barrier to accessible housing. The resulting drain of brains, elder wisdom, oldtimer perspective, creativity, and labor only serves to downgrade a community.

– Tearing down a building (or evicting everyone and then letting the building crumble) because of drugs or other illegal activity happening there. This is not progress; this is actually negative growth. And the drugs or whatever we were trying to solve, just move down the street.

– Removing benches, shade, and other amenities from parks to “solve” the problem of homeless people in the parks. Ditto cutting down shrubs and trees because homeless people camp there. This is not growth; this is backward movement because it downgrades public amenities for all of us.

– Only focusing on growing a limited slice of the economy such as tourism or office jobs. Not supporting local agriculture, for example. Failing to plan for a community’s local resiliency in general. Food supply, water supply, skills, social capital, entrepreneurial ecosystem.

– In the name of “progress,” imposing uniform standards for development (typically Anglo, middle-class, “bougie” standards) that end up squashing, tamping down, diluting, abolishing the distinct character and deep-rooted homegrown economic vitality of the various historic, ethnic, and cultural neighborhoods in a city. And reifying social norms that favor this tamping-down. Reifying meaning we act as if these social norms are REAL — inherent good sense or laws of physics, instead of simply social norms made up by a subset of humans. (This last bullet item merits more comment; will come back and add to this later, or maybe create a separate post for it.)

Can you think of any more examples of “dumb growth” to add to this list?

REAL Smart Growth: Blend ancient technologies with discerning use of modern tech

Every once in a while, I run across (or a friend shares with me – thank you Anne!) an article that is so drop-dead, spot-on, EXACTLY what I’ve been thinking, that I just have nothing to add, and I just have to share the link as-is, with just a short quote.

The case for making low-tech “dumb” cities instead of smart ones – by Amy Fleming, in The Guardian.

“There’s old, and then there’s old – and for urban landscapes increasingly vulnerable to floods, adverse weather, carbon overload, choking pollution and an unhealthy disconnect between humans and nature, there’s a strong case for looking beyond old technologies to ancient technologies.

“It is eminently possible to weave ancient knowledge of how to live symbiotically with nature into how we shape the cities of the future, before this wisdom is lost forever. We can rewild our urban landscapes, and apply low-tech ecological solutions to drainage, wastewater processing, flood survival, local agriculture and pollution that have worked for indigenous peoples for thousands of years, with no need for electronic sensors, computer servers or extra IT support.”

This to me is real smart growth! And speaking of smart growth, here’s a link to the Facebook Live recording of my “Green Daytona” radio show today. Topic is “Smart Growth: Can We Really Have It? If So, How?”

Household Water Conservation – Outdoor Water Use

On its website, the St. John’s River Water Management District has a nice page about household water conservation. With a simple uncluttered design, the site has various articles about how everyday people can radically cut their household water use.

I’m looking forward to following the link about “How Everyday People Save Water.” “Water conservation can be beautiful, just take a look at Deborah Weave’s private oasis.”

Though obviously intended for Florida residents, the information is relevant to people just about anywhere.

Later on I will be expanding this post to include more material I’ve recently found about household water conservation.

When To Stay, When To Go (Part 2)

The original post by this title, which I wrote back in September, offered tips for deciding when it’s time to leave a town or city and move somewhere else. Aside from things like “Do I expect this place to remain physically and economically inhabitable?”, most of it comes down to a balance between, “Am I able to make a difference in this place?” and “Do I mesh well enough with the prevailing culture to not burn myself out or end up isolated and lonely?”

Recently I’ve been facing the “When To Stay, When To Go” thing with some organizations I belong to, so I thought I would write a Part 2 post for that.

Some observations, in no particular order:

– Even an organization that takes a strong stance on something (for example, a church that has care of the environment as one of its tenets) can have members that either don’t really care about that thing, or else their way of caring looks very different from mine.

– A person who does more work for an organization generally has a better chance of exerting a strong influence. For example, the person willing to shop and cook for the neighborhood-watch dinner will likely get to have more of a say in the menu, and also in the setup and cleanup process, including (for example) whether the group uses single-use plastic or stainless utensils, than a person who does little or no work. So, if I’m dead-set against the use of disposable utensils and napkins, I’ll have a better chance of making a difference if I’m contributing labor or money (not just voicing my opinion).

– If I silently quit a position and/or an organization without talking to anyone about what’s bothering me, I might well be losing out on an opportunity to make things better. I might be abandoning a non-vocal faction of people within the organization who share my concerns and priorities. For example, maybe there are other people in my neighborhood group besides me who would love to spend less time looking to government to solve our problems (harping on code enforcement; griping about our city leaders; etc.), and more time coming up with grassroots actions such as setting up a land trust to buy vacant, absentee-owned homes and free them up for occupancy by local residents.

– Longevity counts for something. If an organization has been around for 30 years, and my stepping down would become the last straw, leading to its demise, I as a caring citizen would want to resist the temptation to resign in a huff.

– One person’s opinion can sometimes seem to color the whole tone of the organization. This can make it feel hopeless to try to make a difference. But the opinion of one person, no matter how strong or high-up he or she might be, is not the whole organization. I have often been pleasantly surprised when I took time to ask various people how they felt. The compost thing at my church is one example. I thought for sure everyone was dead-set against it, but it turned out many are in favor and we just need to tweak the system to appease the folks who are concerned about bugs and germs, and the ones who just think the compost barrel is ugly. (Maybe we can paint some flowers on the barrel or something.)

– Sometimes your goals and values change, and you’re no longer a fit for an organization even if it’s a fundamentally sound organization with a worthy mission.

– Organizations made up of people who genuinely like and respect each other, and convey this in their interactions with one another, are far more effective than the other kind. One, they operate more smoothly. Two, more people are likely to be attracted to join them.

– Breakups (be they with organizations or with people) often seem to happen unnecessarily, or at least prematurely. And the usual cause seems to be that someone chose to walk away rather than take the opportunity to try and work things out.

– That said, life is short. There are only so many hours in the day, and we have only so much energy and patience. If you find yourself woefully identifying with phrases like “tilting at windmills” and “spinning your wheels,” it might just be time to leave.

I’ll keep adding to this list as things occur to me. If you think of anything I should add, send it my way. And I hope you find Part 1 (linked above) useful.

And, I dug up some additional reading on this subject for us:

When you know it is the right time to leave an organization (medium.com)

How to Leave an Organization when You Are the Leader (chron.com)

Can This Dysfunctional Organization Be Saved? (AskAManager.org)

True Tales of Dysfunctional Boards (Joan Garry blog); and from the same blog, I Will Never Join Another Board. Never.

A Place for Everything …

“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” That old saying and rule of thumb makes great sense to me, and has always been my go-to approach for how I keep my stuff. I’m pretty ruthless about it.

Now, do I always implement this perfectly without fail? Noooo ….. Such as the sinking feeling I get when I’m walking to the little bucket in the garage where the scissors I use for trimming plants (“chopping and dropping” prolific vegetation, trimming back the prolific, fast-growing coastal dune grasses to use them as mulch to nourish my veggies and fruit trees – it struck me that I am a hay farmer! and love that these beautiful grasses grow back almost overnight) — anyway, when I’m walking to the garage to the designated spot to get those scissors and I start to get a sinking feeling because I know in the back of my mind that I’ve not followed my protocol of putting the scissors back in their spot, and they are now somewhere they don’t belong, and I know not where …

So no, I do not always implement my own preferred approach without fail. However, it works so well that I am pretty good about sticking to it.

This morning, I thought of a new twist on “a place for everything.” How about two places for my scissors. One in their main spot in the bucket in the garage, and one at the other end of the house, on the windowsill inside the front door. This little entryway room, which I call the “porch-ette,” is a place where I spend a lot of time. Being on the south side of the house, it’s where I gravitate in wintertime. And, a lot of the plants that I use scissors to trim are located right outside the front door. It’s sometimes handy to have the scissors in here rather than in the garage, so I can grab them at a moment’s notice and just walk out the front door and do some trimming.

Then I get the best of both worlds: I don’t have to walk to the other end of the house every time I need the scissors, yet the scissors can always be found in one of two predictable spots.

I just started this experiment this morning. We’ll see how it goes! “Two places for everything, and everything in one of two places.”

Note that I didn’t say “everything in two places.” That would be in the realm of science fiction or quantum physics or something, which is beyond the scope of this blog. 😉