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Design Inspirations  Green Talk



Global Village

Global Village was the name of a presentation that Ray Andersen presented to thousands of people in both large and small groups.  It visually demonstrated realities of our world community, the amount of people who do not have potable water, the amount of people who have cell phones, who own cars, who die from starvation.  It was after experiencing this presentation, myself and hundreds of others were inspired to ‘do something’ to ‘make a change’ to help humanity.  We felt as ‘one’ with the others in the world.  If nothing else, it made us realize that we are the lucky ones, not because we are special or smart or hard working.  We were just born in the right place and time.  Our brothers and sisters across the world are no better or worse than us.  They were just born into less than preferable environments/communities. 

The 10th anniversary of 911 revived a sense of unity, a remembrance that there is more to life than the price of gas or political fighting.  We remembered to appreciate life.  To appreciate PEOPLE - people who help other people.  On September 11, 2001 the world community mourned with us and we felt as ‘one.’

August 8, 2011 Ray Andersen, founder of Interface Inc., passed away.  He was one of our beacons to follow, to aspire to.  At the age of sixty, he went back to Interface to steer it   “on a new course – one designed to reduce our environmental footprint while increasing our profits”…(he) “wanted Interface, a company so oil-intensive you could think of it as an extension of the petrochemical industry, to be the first enterprise in history to become truly sustainable.”

Ray made a difference in the world.  He made a difference in our environment.  He reminded us that we are all on this earth together.  He reminded us to appreciate life, to appreciate people, and to respect our environment.  May we continue this quest.


Water Conservation in the Wet Northwest

As my relatives in Minot North Dakota are being flooded out of their homes, I feel sadly blessed that we have been spared the wrath of natural disasters that have hit the world this year.   Who was it that said, 'take care of nature or nature will take care of you?' Actually, I think it was me.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a fanatic about water conservation.  I hit several brick walls in my efforts to implement conservation programs over a large population base, mainly because the cost of water to us is so low.  We do not have an economic incentive to conserve water.  We conserve water only when/because we want to do the 'right thing.'

Recently I received a couple publications from Seattle Public Utilities that gave me a glimmer of hope.  The first was the Drinking Water Quality Report which reported that our drinking water was very clean, that it costs us LESS than a Penny a Gallon to have water delivered to our taps, and that we have one of the best drinking water systems in the nation.  Quite impressive.  In the very last paragraph, however,  SPU noted that elevated levels of lead and copper are often found in our drinking water due to corroded plumbing systems.  ALERT!  SPU is working hard to get clean water to you, but if you actually want to drink or cook with clean water you need to confirm that you do not have corroded plumbing.  In a city that is mainly compromised of older homes, I would guess that there lots of households that have not replaced the plumbing in their homes.  Health Tip of the Day: When you remodel a kitchen or bath, due yourself a healthy favor and replace as much of the old plumbing that you can afford to.

The second flyer had a section on a new program that was MY IDEA (thank god someone is implementing it!)  Qualified customers in Seattle can get a FREE water-efficient toilet and have it installed by a licensed plumber for FREE if they meet income guidelines.  (My program did not offer the toilet nor the installation for free, so this is actually a better program) Household income for 2 people can be up to $3,273 a month to qualify. PLUS, the picture that is in the flyer is the stylish Kohler Persuade toilet.  I am hoping this is the toilet being given away, but even if not, it indicates that it is probably a Kohler toilet and that is a good thing.  American made, family owned company in Kohler, Wisconsin, Kohler has made an effort to meet and beat the WaterSense guidelines for water conservation and have a large array of HET's available.  HET is tech talk for High Efficiency Toilets.  Who said I wasn't a techy?  Ciao!


Upcycling - Design Trends Follow U.S. Psyche

UpCycling is a new trend that appeals to 'optimists' who reject waste, value craftsmanship and items with history.  There are actually four 'lifestyle' trends according to Fawn Chang of PPG Pittsburgh Paints.  Based on the compilation of extensive research, PPG analyzed the current U.S. psyche.  According to Chang, we are cautiously stepping out of the recession/depression that we have been experiencing and adding color back into our lives.  We are coming  from a 'recession prison grey' palette so we are retaining a lot of neutrals but with a pleasant addition of color.  

As a 'sustainable' designer I am familiar with the term UpCycling, but this is the first time I am aware of it coming into mainstream lifestyle images, colors and designs. I am intrigued that our acceptance and dedication to recycling (sending materials away to be recycled) is pushing the new trend of UpCycling.  UpCycling as a design concept is basically taking existing items and creating something new from them.  A stereotype of UpCycling that we may be familiar with is art that is made from bottle caps or plastic bags.  UpCycling is more than art, however, these are functional items  that are created from your existing collection of 'stuff.'  UpCycling as a lifestyle trend is all about living simply and wasting nothing. 'It embodies simple living, keeping only what is functional and personal.'

My friend and colleague Vidal Bitton created this wonderful outdoor seating for his new juice bar at Lakeview Yoga and Wellness Center.  Located on the Burke Gilman Trail in Kenmore, this juice bar and seating area is the perfect refuge on a hot sunny day.  

Bitton salvaged old plastic laminate tables, painted the plastic laminate (believe it or not, it looks great) and built wood benches that are permanently attached to the table.  Between the heavy table metal table base and the stained benches, these units are stable, weather resistant and UPCYCLED!   

As far as our renewed desire to include color in our surroundings, I defer to PPG's statement..."Our color choices are more and more about what makes us feel happy." 

And right now, I am very happy! Ciao!


The Future of Kitchens

We are always trying to predict the future, with questionable success.  However, some trends are evident (as explained by Kitchen Distributors reference to the National Association of Homebuilders study  on kitchen design.)  The trend will be towards smaller homes.   With smaller homes comes smaller kitchens.  With smaller kitchens there is a bigger premium put on EFFECTIVE storage solutions;  replacing the walk in pantry with 24" deep pull out pantries, using every corner, every inch of floor space.    Even using the space INSIDE of the wall (yes we can build shallow cabinets that fit between the studs) so that you can gain storage without infringing into precious floor space. 

Many kitchens  double as a passage way to other parts of the home similar to this galley kitchen.  With space at a premium, kitchen designers use built in finger pulls on cabinets doors to eliminate protruding handles.  Space issues will also promote the open concept (no walls) between the kitchen, living and dining areas.  With some kitchens that means eliminating a wall and replacing it with an island.  With other kitchens it means eliminating the island. 

With openness comes exposure.  All the MESS needs to be hidden...somewhere.  Everything that is on the counter will be seen by everyone.  (Do you really want to see the rice cooker from the living room sofa?)  New openness will force us to rethink our storage/cabinet needs as well as our cooking accessory purchases.  Remember that brief trend that had garage style doors that pulled down to hide the kitchen?  Well, that may be a little extreme.....

Contact me with your thoughts! Ciao!


Green Talk - Grid or No Grid

No matter what we say (in the US), we really appreciate our GRID.  GRID provides us with instant electricity, clean water for our homes and natural gas for heating.  It also provides us with telephone lines and cable tv.  GRID is like a parent that we have a love/hate relationship with.  When we dream about going 'off the grid' we are usually just wanting to conserve our use of energy and reduce our dependency on GRID.    GRID understands our desire for privacy from the 'invasive' reaches into our homes.  GRID likes to live in the big cities.  You don't have to go too far away to experience homes with wells, septic tanks, and generators and no GRID. Actually, if governments make no change to existing policies, 1.3 billion people, or 16% of the world's population, will still lack access to electricity in 2030.  (Did you ever experience Ray Anderson's Global Village presentation? If so, you remember the shock of how few people have clean drinking water in the world.)

GRID understands our struggle for independence.  GRID helps us break away by providing energy to factories that make solar panels, hydro pumps and cell phones.  Ironically, it is the power of new technology (powered by GRID) that allows developing nations leapfrog GRID.  In countries like Niger, where expensive infrastructures like telephone lines are lacking, cell phones are changing and improving lives.  In the past, farmers would travel from market to market to learn prices, wasting time.  Now, they call around on cell phones and obtain prevailing prices for their harvest.  In the case of emergencies, people can call for help from neighboring villages.  There is even a new form of commerce, called mobile money that allows rural people without access to banks to transfer money across long distances by phone.  The local cell phone provider began allowing people to transfer phone time that they had purchased to other customers.  This has become a de facto form of currency; people transfer phone time to pay their debts. 

So, GRID, I thank you for making our lives easier and safer, but I've been thinking that I would try to break a couple ties and try promoting housing with net zero energy use.  It's been nice, and believe me, it is me, not you.

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