Sunday, September 28, 2008

"An Evening with Morgan Spurlock"

"An Evening with Morgan Spurlock"
Monday, September 29th, 2008
7:00 pm McKnight Hall - Cone University Center
Free!  Seating is limited
Meet and Greet Reception to follow

Sudbury, Ontario

My family has actually been to Sudbury, Ontario (McLennan's hometown) a couple times. As soon as I read Sudbury in the Foreword, even before I read the fact about it being the nickel capital, I remembered this fact (probably aided by the memory of the nickel in the picture above). The interesting part of this to me though is that I was there when I was 6 or 7 years old and then again around 9. And as early as that may be, I have a vivid memory of the barrenness of the landscape. I talked to my brother (2 years younger than me) and he remembered the same, as well as the massively tall smokestacks. It amazes me that at such a young age we are still that aware of our surroundings. I also believe that even then, I knew that something wasn't right about the area, it just wasn't normal. It makes you wonder how if as children we can so easily tell right from wrong, how we get led so far astray as we grow older and supposedly more aware of our surroundings.


I don't know if you guys have seen the flyers around campus, but I thought I would post if anyone is interested. I do not know the topic of discussion for the lecture but it should be interesting. Spurlock is most famous for his documentary "SuperSize Me," which he filmed and documented the health issues related to fast food. He also directed another documentary called "What Would Jesus Buy?" This film looks at consumerism, over-consumption, and how it is a part of American Culture. Don't let the "J" word scare you, this film is not religious, but is just used a vehicle to discuss an important message. Here is a link to the trailer and film, if anyone is interested:

McLennan Mentions LEED?...

One thing I found contradictory in McLennan's discussion in his preface is the fact that he mentions LEED as helping the to transform the building marketplace... I would agree that, in some respects, LEED at least makes more designers and builders aware of more environmentally-friendly systems; however, in our LEED-certified buildings at work, we have been told that we don't have to worry about anything except what will affect the building's occupants. For example, I was concerned about the VOCs in the primer that we were using on the architectural exposed steel...and was told by the LEED consultant that I did not need to worry about primers because they were applied in the shop and not in the field. What?!? McLennan's whole premise is the holistic view of the entire system, including the entire life cycle of all materials and their impact; LEED, at least the version that gets passed around in the working community, doesn't emobdy that approach. You can't even get digital copies of the myriad of LEED pamphlets from their website -- you have to order paper copies...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

How it's made; Can of Cola

Carrie talks a little bit about the soda can and how much more costly it takes to make them than what its contain inside. From the reading of "System Thing Primer for Natural Capitalism", led me to look into the book which mention in the reading, Natural Capitalism (Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins, Little Brown, 1999), on chapter 3 page 49-50 talks about the pathways of a can of English Cola. Even though this not an American product but I am sure it's made the same way. here is the link:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ecotone Article

I found this article about a public design competition for Gateway National Park and the first prize was titled, 
"Mapping the Ecotone".

Related to Google's latest Solar Campus...

I found an article related to Dawn's post about Google's latest solar campus.

This article also mentions one of the factors for sustaining natural capital, as we talked about last week - "Shifting from sale of goods to provision of services". It mentions that although the installations of photovoltaic systems is a common stereotyped as expensive elements, companies like Google, are now beginning to look at it in terms of as beneficial investments through "returns on investment" and "internal rate of return". They mention that it does not need much maintenance (as the the inverters are the only major replacement necessities every 15 years or so), provided that is installed correctly and appropriately integrated into the building.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stop Titan

I thought this was an interesting site/video that responds to the building
of a huge concrete company on the North Carolina Coast.
Thought you all might want to look at some of the links containing this article.

Just a few but if you google "google solar powered parking lots" , (lol, google, google) you'll find a bunch of them.

Solar Trees

Google Announces 1.6 Megawatt Solar "Campus: Mountain View, California

Google's entire corporate campus in Mountain View, CA is going to become a 1.6 megawattphotovoltaic installation.


As one of the most recognizable brands on the Internet, Google is on a mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Like many of today's high-tech companies, Google requires an enormous amount of electricity to power the computers and servers it uses to run its business. The company wanted to find a way to reduce energy costs at its Mountain View "Googleplex," as well as make a statement in support of clean energy.

The Challenge:

Unlike the typical "big box" buildings found on most high-tech campuses, Google headquarters features structures with unique configurations, sharp angles, and other architecturally unusual design elements.

The Smart Solution:

Intelligent use of available mounting surfacesBecause of the nontraditional design of the Google buildings, the EI Solutions team had to take a nontraditional approach to engineering the company's solar power system. To maximize energy output, the team assessed every available surface on the Google campus for its viability to hold solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. Eventually, more than 197,000 square feet on top of existing buildings and new parking lot shade structures (designed especially for the project) were fitted with cells using customized mounting hardware. To help reduce the cost of such a large installation, plus simplify any future maintenance needs, EI Solutions used one type of PV module in all arrays.

To further optimize the Google system, EI Solutions also closely examined the company's electricity usage patterns, available financial incentives, and the amount of sun received at its Mountain View headquarters.

The Result:

By building the largest solar power system ever installed at a single corporate campus, Google will save more than $393,000 annually in energy costs — or close to $15 million over the 30-year lifespan of its solar system. At this rate, the system will pay for itself in approximately 7.5 years.

This installation will include almost 200,000 square feet of photovoltaic arrays on top of Google's buildings as well as parking lot shade structures (a greatdual-use that generates electricity as well as shading the cars parked in thesun all day so they need less air conditioning and thus use less fuel).

Hybrids will get a charge out of the Energy Innovations carport at a Vacaville, California, park-and-ride lot with plug-in chargers.

Whether this was prompted by the recent passage of pro-solar power legislation in California or not, it will be one of the largest corporate solarinstallations, and is expected to result in almost $400,000 in annual energy costs at today's rates and is expected to pay for itself within 7.5 years.

"Absolutely brilliant: Parking lots covered with solar panels, which generate electricity while providing shade for cars. Last year, I appropriated the term breathtaking inanity (the new irrational exuberance). This year, perhaps a more positive phrase is in order, “breathtaking ingenuity.” "

Just an interesting thought.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Most recycled product in the US?

I found this youtube clip of what the most recycled product is in the US.  Surprisingly, it turns out that 95% of cars are recycled, reused and remanufactured into new cars.  Check out the clip.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I think steel is the way to go for the best closed loop in construction materials. A majority of structural steel is from recycled scrap without compromising the strength of the material.
Concrete consumes so much material for its construction (cement, water, aggregate, steel, wood, formwork) and its reusage is low percentage from its original product. This does not really create a well closed loop.
the same goes for wood also, since reusage of the wood cannot create as well as steel in the original product. Glulam helps, but with wood, it seems all you can do is mitigate your consumption as well as being more efficient with milling. This does not really create a well closed loop.
Steel is not the perfect answer, with the demand of steel construction and building lifespan not correlating, it is the best of the three, I believe. Hopefully, in the future, more questions will be asked or answers be revealed to create a closed loop system either ameliorated conventional supplies, or new materials will be introduced.

The Sustainability of Steel...

And the value of Recycling.

This is a link to a document that focuses on the sustainability of steel in today's context.  It's interesting that they break down steel consumption and recycling into the construction, automotive, and packaging categories.  It has some interesting figures about the recyclability of steel and even talks about recycling steel as a closed loop system.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Looking for the answer

From the video of David Suzuki, he mentions the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report. According to their mandate on their website, they do not do research, observe or parameters to data. Rather, they are to assess the latest scientific, technical, and socio-economic literature worldwide in regards to climate change.
In an article by Nature
(, a scientific journal for the Nature Publishing Group (NPG),
it talks about how IPCC are quick to blame climate change is attributed by human activity and how the 2007 report specifically is a departure from earlier reports.
The report claims that the current change in global surface temperature due to CO2 is approximately 3ÂșC, which is the same as the US National Research Council panel said in 1979.
The article also talk about the reports using "uncertainty estimates" can lead to uncertainty global climate model calculations. The report has multiple runs of the climate models with modeled temperatures results that basically "gives a false sense of certainty that [is] achieved."
Alright I have written too much already.
What I basically want to say is that it is terrible that the scientific research has become more or less biased or even political. Depending on which media you go to, they have their own assumptions and "evidence" for it. It is sad when with research regarding global warming now, there's not one answer.

Is today's Oil Industry yesterday's Whaling Industry?

I read the following two Op-Ed pieces from the NY Times earlier this week. The first is an interesting reasoning as to why we should allow drilling in ANWR and restricted offshore sites. I don't know that I agree with the idea of destroying one ecosystem to save 5 others.

The second piece made me feel a bit more optimistic about our oil situation. If we find the right alternative, I agree with the author that oil will become as obsolete as whale blubber.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Video Clip: Ray Anderson at Interface carpet company

As Carrie talked about Interface carpet company in class yesterday, I came across this video article on NYTimes online, showing Ray Anderson describing his ideas & company.  This is the LINK...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Goats and Green Roofs

Should all green roofs now come with a goat?

Side note to class discussion on difficulties of convincing society about "green" movement

As a side note to one of last week's class discussions about the difficulties on convincing society about the "green" movement. I happened to come across an article in this week's TIME magazine about another facet of this issue. It is an interesting article that points out the many companies that are claiming "green"/"sustainable"/"energy-efficient" products and services are not really doing anything significant. The author, Bryan Walsh, terms this problem "greenwashing", where they mislead customers about the environmentally-friendly advantages through various marketing strategies. So there are websites such as and, which are posts by consumers about their research on various products, and which ones are actually producing benefits. According to the second website,, the "six sins" of greenwashing are "hidden trade-off", "no-proof", "vagueness", "irrelevance", "lesser of two evils", and "fibbing". One of the many examples is how a company can claim their paper towels are produced from "sustainably-harvested forests" but spends so much money and energy (CO2 emmissions) to ship and transport it. I just thought it was interesting how there are various factors involved in encouraging sustainability to the general society.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rice Farmer

Growing up in Thailand I remembered our family never having to buy rice, consider rice is the largest consumed calorie source in every meal. We would eat rice along with our meal at least two times a day, lunch and dinner. We were very lucky to have a grandfather that own and run rice farm. By supporting the local economies, the rice, after harvested were then sold at the town market throughout the year. As for the husk and the bran layers (which removed from the rice grain), some portion of the husk were use as food source for cows and water buffalos. The rest of the husk were treated as fertilizer or sold to the mushroom farm. As for the bran layers, were fed to the livestock such as pigs, chickens and ducks. This is consider as waste as resource. Since my grandfather past, all his properties were then divided to all of his children (eleven of them including my mother). Part of the rice field are now an alcohol brewing factory, thank to all of my uncles’ contribution to the social capital gain and so much with the cultural preservation. At some point when I go back to Thailand, I would have to buy rice to eat but I may not have to pay for the alcohol.

If anybody would like to read up on other culture preferably Thailand, I would suggest checking out Thai-blogs on website below. The blogs was written by a gentleman name Bill Grimson. Bill is an Australian man when to Thailand back in 1977 and fell in love with the people and the culture. The particular part of Thai he is talking about is called Issan which is northeast of Thailand, the same area I came from. In his blogs you will see where he talks about social equity, community, fundamental needs, cultural preservation and more…

Saturday, September 13, 2008


my suggestion for a name is Herbert.  What is everyone else coming up with?


From the ConservationEconomy website, I chose:
-Household Economies
-Cultural Diversity
Let's say there's a small rural town that has maintain its traditional culture, structures, business, etc., and has reached national attention as a tourist attraction its preservation. A need to preserve the cultural diversity because of their knowledge of the land, it's ability to self-sustained, but primarily respecting its right as a culture to survive in regards to equality. This in turn, is supported by ecotourism, which is the preservation of original culture and environment in regards to tourist revenues. This is an example of Positive Feedback Loop by maintaining a specific culture helps its economy. Let's also say that our favorite candy, Reese's, was building a factory near the town. This has brought a decrease in tourism due proximity to the town and the air quality in the region has decreased as well. People in the town are now working in the factory and leaving their traditional ways of living. In regards to household economics, If we know that the candy comes from that factory, and we buy it, it is a shift from our values (slowly diminishing the town's culture) of what we feel is right. Does this then show a negative negative feedback (the growth of the factory thrives, the less the town thrives)?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Can Goats eat Kudzu?

This is a funny story....
About two weeks ago my boss had a landscaping company come by and remove the kudzu from the back yard of our office. You see, on Monroe Rd there are a bunch of houses that have turned into offices. On each side of the property there is an enormous amount of Kudzu. Well, the yard looked really good once he had it removed but now its starting to grow back.  Today at work, a client who happens to be a good friend of my boss mentioned that Kudzu grows at a rate of 12 inches a day, yes, A DAY. He went on to mention that his Kudzu problem will be back in before he knows it. Then! He started telling us about the article in the paper we read on the goats and proposed a solution. Have Steve, my boss, buy a goat and have them graze around the kudzu in small areas and then move them each day.  He was amazed that we read the same article in class. It got me thinking, Can goats eat Kudzu? Just a thought...... 
On a side note from class... Does anyone have any non-chain local stores that they really enjoy? I realized that I don't know many, especially near the university.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Discussing renewable and nonrenewable resources in class brought to mind a series of articles written in the Charlotte Observer about the Catawba River.  The articles feature the river as one of the hardest working rivers in the country and as a river at risk.  This article showcases the amazing capacity humans have to change the world around them and stresses the importance of thinking of our impact on the Catawba as a big picture...or as a system.  Not being from this area I had no idea of the history or the current state of this river.  It is pretty amazing, and these articles really exemplify how we are being personally impacted by the need for systems thinking.  This also shows how intimately related the economy, the ecology, and the society of this region are when focusing on the Catawba.  These are definitely worth reading.

the AT in Goat

For those of you who do not know, the Appalachian Trail was the first National Scenic Footpath.  The trail runs from Georgia to Maine through the Appalachian mountain chain; crossing through a number of national, state and local parks as well as small towns along the way.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy maintains the trail and keeps it hike-able.  In the southern region of the Appalachian Mountains there are few places where one can actually get a decent view from the mountain top you just climbed up because of the density of foliage.  In the few places where there are balds (grassy tops), those stretches of trail become the most heavily travelled.  The 12 mile stretch from roan mountain, TN to US 19E is the longest stretch of balds on the east coast.  Just down the mountain is the city of Roan Mountain, TN.  The point I am trying to make is that perhaps the strategy of goat grazing is related to supporting struggling mountain towns that rely heavily on tourism to attract business.  In turn, if berry bushes are encroaching on the southern Appalachian balds then less people will visit the balds, and therefore local mountain businesses that rely on tourists money will struggle even more.  

Green Living Ideas

I recently stumbled upon this website while looking for something else. I've been checking it out and its full of information on green products ranging from interior design elements and paints to eye wear. Also throughout the site are podcasts on more green products and living more sustainably.  Its full of interesting ideas and projects. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ideas worth spreading

Here's a really cool website just started. great videos.

My footprint in Thailand

I was asked to do the footprint for my home in Thailand, and here are the results.

Earth consumptions : .79 earth
Carbon footprint: 6.3-----------------Country Avg. 14.6
Food FP: 6.8-----------------Country Avg. 15.3
Housing FP: 6.3-----------------Country Avg. 6.7
Good and Services FP : 11.4-----------------Country Avg. 14.7
Total: 30.83

Humans are part of the system, too...

Speaking of systems thinking, we have to consider our own bodies as part of the whole system, right? So sustainability -- being able to take care of the planet to further our species -- should include our own health as well as the well-being of the planet and other living things. To take that one step further, the germaphobic society that America has created is a lovely example of not thinking of the entire system -- a multitude of studies (check out have proven that Americans have more issues with allergies and asthma simply because we try to disinfect everything from our refrigerators to our scissors. And just as killing bug A leads to a rise in population of bug B, getting rid of germ A (a not-overly-harmful dust mite) leads to supergerm B (a deadly virus). So we've got silly things like kids in grade school getting alcohol poisoning because they're supposed to use hand sanitizer before they do anything...yet we don't see (a) the potential for a supervirus that could wipe us all out because we've erased our entire immune systems or (b) the value that these critters actually afford us in the whole grand scheme (the full system!) of things.

So true systems thinking actually takes all the disciplines (not just design or construction or engineering, but nutrition and medicine and education, too) and puts them together instead of analyzing each one independently...what a novel thought!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Devil’s Advocate Of Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking

This system focuses on how the think being studied interacts with the other constituents of the system. Insects damaging the crops seem to be the big issues to the crops agriculture. By spraying pesticide intended to solve the problem actually make it worse because the way its unintended side effects change the system end up exacerbating the problem. Pesticide might slow down the growth of insect type “A” but eventually lead to greater number of insect type “B” because insect type “A” is no longer controlling the numbers of insect “B” to the same extent. My solution is to spray pesticide intended for insect type “A” on the first crop season and then on the following season, we’ll spray pesticide intended for insect type “B”. In this case we will eliminate both types of insect. Then again, how would pesticide affect the water and soil and the environment.