Mariah and The Comet Camper

I met Mariah at a tiny house workshop and I loved her retro Comet Camper. She also has a vintage clothing business, Planet Queen. Mariah is a lovely, creative, young tiny house enthusiast!

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 12.41.46 PM

Being a sustainability tiny life advocate, I have belonged to several CSA’s and worked tirelessly over the years with all levels of governing bodies for cleaner/renewable energy, amending zoning ordinances, eco-education and public service. So I found her blog entry (below) particularly inspiring and I wish her luck with City Hall:

After reading Van Jones’ book The Green Collar Economy, I was inspired to come up with a “green collar” plan for the city I live in, Worcester Massachusetts. Jones frequently mentions Chicago in his book as an example of a city that is embracing the shift to an ecological economy. Worcester, like Chicago, has a manufacturing background, and could learn from the examples of successful green-collar programs in other cities. Based on the “Green Collar” ideas, I came up with a list of goals for Worcester, and suitable jobs that Worcester could support.

The idea here is that by embracing these ideas and creating the right conditions here in Worcester, young innovators will be attracted to locate their green businesses here in this dying city. We need to keep our dollars in the local economy as long as possible, and in order to do that people need local places to spend their money.

I hope to give a presentation at a City Council meeting about this topic, and see what the city thinks are feasible projects.

A CSA farm is a great idea for building local economies. More and more CSAs are popping up in urban areas.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.23.34 PM

Goals:

To build resilience in my city

To eliminate reliance on foreign fossil fuels

To include all groups in the regeneration of my city

To support communities and individuals with innovative ideas

To empower citizens

To eliminate waste

To provide meaningful jobs and fair work

To bring new people, businesses, and eco-industry to my city

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.23.45 PM

Eco-Building Bargains is a store in MA that sells salvaged materials, recycled building materials, and used appliances/furniture/just about everything.

Changes in Government:

Zoning and building codes must be changed to allow:

– Tiny Houses and homes under 400 square feet.

– Composting toilets

– Greywater systems

– Front Lawn Freedom (no restrictions on front-lawn gardening)

– Rainwater collection

– Livestock, animal husbandry, chickens, etc.

– Rooftop farms

– Food carts and mobile businesses

– Land Use Reform: Allocating abandoned land to non-profits to begin urban farm operations,      compost operations, and other programs.

We can provide empowerment via:

– Workshops

– Education

– Sharing of Resources (Libraries for tools, equipment, and information, Skillshares)

– Freedom of Choice (in relation to living simply)

– Organized “Consumers Anonymous” meetings  – a place where people can find support in simple living and participate in a “No New Things” challenge with the support of a committed community.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.23.56 PM

Waste Veggie Oil Fueling stations are the gas stations of the future – I would love to see one of these in my city.

Essential Projects for Regenerative Urban Economy:

1. Education and Learning Center for Sustainable Sciences, Practices, Building, Farming, and more

2. Simple Living and Tiny House showcase in unused lot

3. Eliminate Lawns Campaign (“Food not Lawns”)

4. Public Permaculture Park + Edible Forest

5. Green fueling station and garage (WVO and electric charging station)

6. Bike paths and lanes for increased pedestrian and pedal transport, including connections to surrounding areas (Providence, Boston, and rural towns).

7. Allocate land for ecological and Transition projects (Brownfields, unused lots, abandoned warehouses, etc).

Green Collar Jobs:

Organic Food Production/ CSA management

Waste recycling and compost

Fertilizer and soil production from compost

Energy audits and consulting

Deep energy retrofits/renovation/insulation

Photovoltaic installation

Permaculture design and installation services

Maintenance of public parks with Edible Elements

Public permaculture

Urban Garden design/installation services for residential buildings

Hydroponics operations in abandoned warehouses (fish, produce, fertilizer)

Green design/build/architecture firms

Salvage Mining

Eco-Demo – Ecological Demolition and Deconstruction Services

Salvage yards and recycled building materials sales

Water systems installation and maintenance

Rainwater installation

Wind power installation/maintenance

Compost toilet installation

Education/Teaching

Fiber production (sheep, alpaca, angora, etc) and Value-added items (yarn, clothing)

Sustainable clothing production and maintenance (emphasis on mending/repair services)

Radical Menstruation supplies production, marketing, and distribution

Milk and Dairy production

Egg production and distribution

Honey production and distribution

Herb production and distribution

Chicken breeding for sale and slaughter

Rabbit breeding for fur, food, and sale

Hybrid Mechanics

Grease-car conversion technicians and mechanics

Waste Veggie oil filtration and fueling station/ grease car garage

Farmer’s Market and Craft Fair coordinators

Organic, Healthy food trucks – low cost start-up

Local hops growing and brewing

Locally sourced restaurants

Kombucha brewing and distribution

Bicycle mechanics

Technology and digital design

Internet and information based jobs (blogs, news resources, how-to resources)

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.24.18 PM

A commercial kombucha operation is a great idea for building a resilient, sustainable economy. Photo from kombuchamama.com.

Barter for Abundance

I met Libby and Tristan at a tiny house workshop in 2011 and loved their creatively built gypsy wagon, Whittled Down. I was especially fond of their “observation deck” solution for their feline.

The recent article (below) that Libby penned is full of tips on how to engage your community and reap a natural abundance.  Here are some of Libby’s resourceful ideas.

ABUNDANCE: FOOD SWAPS AND POTLUCKS

This is the time of year that conscious consumers dust off their soapboxes to proclaim the virtues of “Buying Local” for the holidays. And indeed, if you are buying things, buying them from local artisans is they way to go. But the soapbox I’m standing on this December wasn’t hand crafted out of local sustainably harvested lumber by a master carpenter, it was pulled from the dumpster behind the Goodwill. That’s right, I’m talking about the Church of Stop Shopping right here.
Let’s face it–sometimes, Buying Local can be expensive, unsustainably so. We are focused on building a life that we can maintain without having to work a combined 80 hours a week. Truth be told, we’d like to work as little as possible. That means we need to spend as little money as possible as well. We like living this way–it inspires us to be creative, and to find abundance in all the little cracks and crevices of modern life.
Lately, we’ve been revelling in the particular kind of abundance that stems from cooperation, generosity, and community. The “stuff” that you get out of this kind of abundance is extra special–you know who made it, and you know that it was made to be shared. It just feels good.
So, without further ado, I present to you two ways to enjoy this most special form of abundance while spending zero dollars and making new friends:

The Food Swap

We participated in our first formal food swap this weekend, and it knocked our socks off. Our local incarnation is called Valley Food Swap; it uses the Food Swap Network format. Basically, you bring a bunch of food items (canned, frozen, fresh produce, baked goods, you name it) to swap with everyone else who attends. It runs a bit like a silent auction–every item has its own sheet of paper where you can make a swap offer. At the end, you review your swap sheets, decide which offers look most appealing, and make your trades. Here’s a before-and-after of what we brought to the swap, and what we brought home:

Check that out! We brought five items: spiced carrot jam, cranberry-ginger chutney, low bush blueberry jam, kimchi, and frozen pie crusts. We brought back…all this loot! The pile includes homemade caramels, an aloe plant, applesauce, hot sauce, three pints of tomatillos (who still has fresh tomatillos this time of year? wizards?), fresh eggs, and frozen pumpkin puree. We also brought back some of the stuff we brought to swap, which is great, because I wanted some of those pie crusts for my own freezer! In fact, we’ve got a chicken pot pie in the oven right now…

Some of this loot will stock our own pantry, and some of it I got to give as presents to friends and family. In addition to bringing home all this amazing food, we got to see some old friends, meet one of our new city councilors, and chat with some amazing gardeners and home preservers.The Potluck

potluck pies

Recently, we were invited to a potluck that has been held every Monday night, without exception, for over 400 consecutive Mondays. If no one will be home on a particular Monday, the hosts go so far as to leave food on the stove and a note on the door, welcoming anyone who drops by to let themselves in and feast. We had a great time at the potluck, and felt so welcome even though we only knew one or two of the over a dozen people in attendance. There was a birthday cake for a toddler. We played music by the wood stove. We discovered one is never more than one or two degrees of separation away from a common friend in this tight-knit community.

Inspired by this potluck, we decided to try holding a similar weekly event at our home a few towns over. We live in a community that can feel a little isolated from the more happening towns nearby, which makes those of us who live here form a very unique sense of camaraderie. But, it can be kind of sleepy round here. We need more places and excuses to get together.

We have had a few weekly potlucks now, and it’s been a wonderful experience. And talk about abundance! Guests have brought oysters, fancy chocolate, amazing wine, and homemade tiramisu to share. When each person brings one lovely dish, you have a first class feast on your hands.

At last week’s potluck, some guests who are a generation older than us were reminiscing about the potlucks they used to have in their neighborhood when their children were small; a rotating affair several nights a week that took the burden of cooking a big meal off of the entire neighborhood, freeing them all up to do other things.

We all decided that it’s high time for a revival of potluck culture.