Weighing in on Sustainable Energy, or, What is that cold draft on the back of my neck?

I just returned from Princeton Public Library, where a four-person panel from We Are BOOST (We are building open opportunity structures together) held forth for two hours on new approaches to community building and creating an environmental economy. They fielded questions from an excited and involved audience of about three dozen.

Pictured, from the left, are Jason Kliwinski of Spiezle Architectural Group, Elizabeth Slate of the Alchemical Nursery Project, Anastasia Harrison, an architect with WESKetch, and Tim Razzaq, the founder of Trenton-based BOOST. Razzaq was an excellent moderator and is the subject of a U.S. 1 Newspaper article to be published January 14, but I want to set down a couple of points before I forget them.

Slate, a young mother from Syracuse, New York, is working long-term on an “eco village” that will be self sufficient, but in the short term she tells about a warehouse to showcase all kinds of sustainable ventures, notably a store, run by Habitat for Humanity, that stocks donated building supplies from torn-down houses. What a great idea and why don’t we have it here? It reminds me of Geri La Placa’s recycling of durable medical goods through the Ewing-based organization called Your ReSource. (It has a good web page for all kinds of places to donate stuff, including oddities like unmatched shoes).

Harrison, who worked for a decade in Europe, told of a way to use trees that must be cut down in order to build an addition to your home. She knows of an entrepreneur who drives a wagon of Clydesdales (yes, like the beer ads) to the site, fells the trees, hauls the trees to Pennsylvania, mills them, and returns them to be used on your floors or in cabinets and furniture. She recommends, as a starter book, “Green Building and Remodeling for Dummies.”

Kliwinski, who is working on a “green” addition to the Nassau Inn, among other projects, told how New Jersey (despite protests from builders) has adopted a state-wide energy master plan calling for new construction to be 30% more energy efficient than the current energy code and through Executive Order 54 established a phased plan for reducing its carbon footprint significantly, as much as 80 percent reduction. Homeowners can look for ways to “build green” at the wholebuilding design guide (www.wbdg.org) and be carbon neutral at (www.architecture2030.org or http://www.earthlab.com) websites that aim to achieve a zero carbon footprint by 2030.

All kinds of job opportunities, including “sustainability consultants” are opening up. Contractors who want to better understand how to build “green projects” can take a course and pass a certification at Green Advantage.

The panel discussed solar energy solutions but warned, before you put in solar, do the basic stuff to seal your home. “Stop the bleeding first,” says Kliwinski. That’s what I decided when I talked to architect Bill Wolfe about how he rehabbed his old house to make it energy efficient. Before I tear my own house apart to install geothermal and solar panels, I need to replace the windows. It’s snowing right now, and with my back to those windows, I feel a very cold draft.

Here’s my idea to save greenhouse gas: organize neighborhood “hazmat carpools” to take advantage of the county’s drop off days.Mercer County collects old electronics and chemicals just three or four times a year, usually on a Saturday when I am out of town, and often the line of cars is so long that you wonder whether waiting in line will do more harm than good.

The next collection is March 28. If I’m in town, and if I get organized, I could offer take all my block’s recyclables this time, and maybe somebody else will help me out next time. (Cedar Lane folks, let’s do this!)

We should have a handier alternative, but until the county wises up, neighbors cooperating could save the day — and a few carbon credits.

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4 thoughts on “Weighing in on Sustainable Energy, or, What is that cold draft on the back of my neck?

  1. BOOST to Form Youth Task Force, Invites Citizen Leaders to Join – Rebuilding Communities from the Inside Out Theme of Saturday ForumTRENTON, NJ – This Saturday, January 17, We Are BOOST (We Are Building Open Opportunity Structures Together) will convene a panel of diverse leaders for “Inventing the Future: Designing Our Tomorrow, Today”, the second of a series of community-building and networking forums designed to motivate and mobilize Trenton-Mercer citizenry to provide young people a broader range of options in jobs, careers, and education. “Rebuilding Communities for the Inside Out” will be held from 11am until 3pm at Planet Havana located at 439 South Broad Street in Trenton’s arena district. Admission is free to the general public and businesses and nonprofits are welcome to inquire about setting up exhibitor space by calling (206) 202-2883 or emailing info@weareboost.org. Vendor registration forms can be found at the group’s web site http://www.weareboost.org. “With budget cuts in the City and throughout the State of New Jersey coupled with increases in homelessness, decreases in youth services, and rising tides of despair and hopelessness, this is not the time to wait on financial capital coming in from D.C. We have to identify, mobilize, and organize other assets and resources, such as human, natural, manufactured, and social capital and create and maintain new relationships between these capital centers to compliment what little money we have” Says Tim Razzaq, BOOST’s founder lead organizer of Saturday’s event. “We offer a ‘five capitals’ approach and an asset-based community development model to get good work done at an affordable cost. The current and widely adhered-to deficiencies-based model has created more problems than it can effectively solve. We have to reinvent our future to overcome the challenges of our past, then move forward together.” The Trenton Society of Friends and YWCA’s Racial Justice Institute will award prizes five winners of their 2008 Trenton Week without Violence Youth Poetry Contest and more than a dozen speakers, including Sababu, Sa Mut Angela Scott of the firm Magical Mother Coaching and Empowerment, and Dr. Renee Walker, Coordinator for Project Inside, an prison outreach and education group based out of Mercer County Community College.Topics include:• Challenges and Opportunities of Urban Agriculture by Amy Iseneker• Chromium 6 and Urban Environmental Racism by RJ Harper• Clean Water: an Urban and Global Crisis by Lydia Chambers• Building Strong Communities One Daughter at a Time by Yvonne Haughton• Turning Waste into New Products through Innovation & Policy Change by Priscilla Hayes • Urban Revitalization & Redevelopment Opportunities and Outcomes by Roland Pott “BOOST’s Inventing the Future is a perfect umbrella under which many like-minded individuals and organizations, such as PBIC, can collaborate and pool resources and ideas to develop a shared vision for our future,.” says Amini K. Sababu, Positive Black Images CONNECT founder and convener of the recent Kwanzaa celebration in Trenton which attracted upwards of 300 people looking for personal and family inspiration. Positive Black Images CONNECT, or PBIC, is “here to facilitate a process wherein people of African descent, or other ethnic groups with dark skin, make a positive psychological, or emotional association between people, things or events in order to foster a more optimistic, constructive, and encouraging view of themselves and the future” Sababu explained. The brainchild of Mr. Tim Razzaq, BOOST plans, promotes, and coordinates public awareness forums and community-building activities throughout the State of New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, and City of Philadelphia. It is the natural outgrowth of Razzaq’s 20 years community organizing efforts and experience. In 2008, BOOST sponsored and hosted dozens of workshops, focus sessions, panel discussions, redevelopment site tours, and youth enrichment activities. In 2009, the group has concrete plans for mini-conferences, extended courses of instruction, and a summer sustainability program for middle school aged children, and to launch an innovative sustainable business venture, WAB (We Are BOOST) Waste-Stream Eco-Solutions. For more information, call (206) 202-2883, email info@wereaboost.org or visit their web site http://www.weareboost.org.

  2. A special thanks from We Are BOOST goes out to Susan Conlon, the Film Fest’s coordinator and someone whom I have known for approximately three years. We met at a smart growth forum and connected on the issue of Community Benefits Agreements (CBA’s), which are legally enforceable contracts between local community stakeholders and developers of usually large-scale real estate redevelopment projects. These contract outline the ‘benefits’ and/or impact mitigators (impact softeners) that the developing agrees to provide the local community in exchange for support of the proposed project through the various public approval processes.We Are BOOST grew out of our efforts to ensure local community inclusion in the redevelopment planning and decision-making process in New Jersey capital’s Old Trenton Neighborhood (OTN). At least two of the many proposed projects have “green” or “sustainability” elements in both the buildings, garages, open and public spaces, and streetscape design plans. This prompted me to begin to research and identify possible opportunities that can be generated for local residents and business owners if we prepared or equipped ourselves with a working knowledge of green building, sustainable community design, smart growth, and environmental economics.Thusly, We Are BOOST has been one of the leading group raising public awareness and building local community capacity to be engaged in community benefits negotiation as well as use these leading-edge principles in everyday living.We Are Building Open Opportunity Structures Together (We Are BOOST/WAB) is a creative community solutions network of people dedicated to empowering everyday citizens to better understand how they can use green technology, sustainable design, and smart growth principles to improve their quality of life.WAB plans, promotes, and coordinates public awareness forums and community-building activities throughout the State of New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, and City of Philadelphia. It is the natural outgrowth of my 20 years (+) community organizing efforts and experience.In 2008, WAB sponsored and hosted dozens of workshops, focus sessions, panel discussions, redevelopment site tours, and youth enrichment activities. 2009? WAB has concrete plans for mini-conferences, extended courses of instruction, and a summer sustainability program for middle school aged children, and to launch an innovative sustainable business venture (WAB Waste-Stream Eco-Solutions.)We look forward to working with like-minded groups and individuals to grow this effort, initiate local programs, projects, and policy work to that manifest community benefits, as well as continue to extend and expand our services to a broader range of stakeholders cutting across generational, geographic, ethnic, and social status.Susan, thank you! We have never lost our connection and our mission(s) remain the same.Best of success for you and all who are involved in this movement.Tim Razzaq, CEO and FounderWe Are BOOSTwww.weareboost.org

  3. A note from Alexandra Harrison reveals that, early in her career, she was employed in Europe for several years (not 10 years), and that is where she was exposed to sustainable practices. Europe is way ahead of us, she says. She has been working for a decade in the Green Building industry and includes sustainable principles with all of her projects. The man who drives the wagon of Clydesdales is named Stubby, and his company is called Citilog. And the book “Green Building and Remodeling for Dummies” is just one of the many recommended resources. BFF

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