A Window to Our Future

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Earlier this month, I participated in the Leadership Summit for Sustainable Design, hosted by the Design Futures Council, as a member of the Delegation of 100.  The Summit was an amazing gathering of leaders in the sustainable design movement, who share a belief in our ability to shift the relationship between humans and the environment, and to create systems that are truly sustainable.

My involvement with the Design Futures Council is one of several commitments I have in place to work toward a more sustainable earth. It encompasses both my “green” design work and my dedication to educating my clients and readers, as well as a personal passion for protecting the environment.

Trudy in Minneapolis 2DFC Trudy and Jim Cramer

Held this year in Minneapolis (guess whose statue this is!), the participants and speakers inspired me to believe in a future for our children and grandchildren that can support both the growing numbers of humans on the planet as well as the fragile environment we live in.

I’ve heard the term “a conga line of geniuses and scientists” applied to the Ted Conferences before; it certainly applied to the Summit as well.  It was hard to choose what is most important to share from such a list of exemplary individuals, all who exhibit such “intellectual rigor” (one of the bywords of the conference!).  I finally chose architect and author Ed Mazria, for his work with his organization Architecture 2030.  It’s so important for all of us to understand what’s at stake in the world, and what we can do to help!

I am greatly concerned, along with leading environmental scientists, about climate change and global warming.  The risk to us all, and to future generations, is in doing business as usual.  We need to make changes to bring the world’s temperatures back to where they were in the pre-industrial era; at the very least we must keep our global warming to under a 2 degree increase.

Ed Mazria

 Ed Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030: architect, author, educator

The architecture and design community must take the lead in transforming the way we live, work, and utilize the eco-system.  Our built environments must reflect a genuine concern for the next generations, and a willingness to engage with government, business leaders and public policy to find the right balance.

Mr. Mazria has reshaped the international dialogue on energy and climate change to incorporate building design through his organization Architecture 2030.

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Architecture 2030 recognizes that buildings are the major source of global demand for energy and materials that produce by-product greenhouse gases.  Mr. Mazria’s impassioned support for innovative sustainable design strategies is leading a new generation of concerned industry leaders to embrace his vision for the future.

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Specifically, Mr. Mazria has emphasized the need to keep the global temperature increase below the two degree centigrade threshold.  Entire species disappear when the temperature changes only a fraction of a degree.  The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPCC) Fifth Assessment Report concludes that to keep the increase below two degrees, global greenhouse emissions must peak by 2020, and then begin a rapid decline.

Mr. Mazria has focused on China, currently urbanizing at a rate unmatched in human history, as an opportunity to create healthy, resilient and integrated regional infrastructures, cities, towns and buildings that are models of economic and urban sustainability.  Projections indicate that within 20 years, China’s urban population will grow by 350 million people, creating 221 cities with more than one million inhabitants.  In order to take advantage of the opportunity to plan and design sustainable, carbon neutral built environments that protect and enhance natural resources, Mr. Mazria and Architecture 2030 are working toward a carbon neutral China Accord.

Old Chinese Village

The China Accord urges that cities, towns, urban developments, new buildings and major renovations in China be designed to be carbon neutral, meaning they use no more energy over the course of a year than they produce or import from renewable energy sources.  If reaching carbon neutral is not practical, then they urge developments to be designed to be highly efficient with the capability to use renewable energy sources in the future.

Architecture 2030 is organizing signatures from all those who have offices in China, or current or future plans for projects in China, to add their signatures and pledges to the Accord, to influence urban development in China and throughout the world.  More information is available at architecture2030.org.

Architecture 2030 isn’t just concerned with China, however.  Mr. Mazria’s 2030 Challenge is about reducing the carbon footprint of architecture everywhere, first by eliminating the use of fossil fuels in new construction, and then by cutting the use of fossil fuels in existing buildings by 50% by 2030.  He plans to hit those targets through a new initiative called the 2030 PALETTE:  an online design tool to help produce low impact, people friendly projects.

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For instance, this “green” school utilizes daylighting from multiple sides to cut energy consumption.  It provides more even lighting, and reduces glare, often created when light comes primarily from one side. The online tool gives advice on how to properly daylight a building, from providing windows on opposite walls, to incorporating high ceilings and walls with light shelves to direct sunlight deeper into a space.

The online tool provides information ranging from the micro–daylighting in buildings–to the macro–defining growth boundaries to limit urban sprawl.  The work of Architecture 2030 is critical to our future, and will help to determine whether climate change is manageable or catastrophic.

Important work is being done by other concerned groups as well.  In late September, I attended the annual conference of The Nantucket Project, an organization that hosts a gathering of some of the world’s leading thinkers and visionaries to help shape the dialogue on the most important issues we face. I was gratified to attend this year along with Senator John McCain, Chris Matthews, Greg LeMond, Michael Pollan, Louis Schwartzberg, and many others for presentations, discussions and education from experts in a variety of fields.

Nantucket Project John McCain

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Here I am with John McCain at The Nantucket Project

I learned so much at both of The Nantucket Project and the Leadership Summit; there’s so much more I wish I could share with you.  Here are three more inspirations:

Check out Jim Harris, the author of A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste.  The book presents hundred of case studies showing how environmental leadership can drive profitability and improve the bottom line.

And available through Netflix, there is a must-see documentary film called Chasing Ice.  It’s environmental photographer James Balog’s record of the world’s changing glaciers, captured through time-lapse photography. He compresses years into seconds to show how these ice mountains are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Last, please watch the film Nature’s Beauty Inspires Gratitude, a short film by award-winning cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg shown at a TEDx talk.  His time lapse photography captures breathtaking images through, as he says, “beauty and seduction–nature’s tools for survival.”   I was so moved by his film treatise on water, “One Drop.”  I hope it becomes widely available for viewing soon.

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Our world is vast and fragile, and climate change is real and deadly.  I”ll continue to share my thoughts on how we can take action together.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

Something in the Air

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We often think about fragrance as something light, a delight, an aroma that is carried on the breeze.  We love the lavender-laden air of Provence, the balm of herbs growing in our gardens, the honeysuckle clambering over a trellis to reach our bedroom window. There’s the smell of rain after a thunderstorm, the richness of soft soil and fallen leaves in autumn, and the heaven of a pot of soup simmering on the stove.  In our chemical-dependent world, however, fragrance is not so much a pleasant breeze as it is a heavy storm cloud, making it hard to breathe.

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A report by the women’s health advocacy group Women’s Voices for the Earth found that sensitivity to fragrance is more widespread than thought.  Apparently tens of millions of people in the U.S. are sensitive to common fragrance ingredients in household and personal care products.  What makes it almost impossible to identify and avoid fragrance allergens, however, is the fact that companies are not required to disclose the tens to hundreds of ingredients that make up a scent.

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Some companies do voluntarily disclose this information.  Seventh Generation, one of the leaders in the green products industry, has been disclosing all fragrance ingredients, including allergens, since 1998. They go as far as listing every essential oil that is added to their products.

Symptoms from fragrance exposure and sensitivity can include respiratory effects, immune system impacts, headaches and allergic reactions. The addition of chemical fragrances is common in cleaning products in particular; the European Union has identified 26 chemicals that are likely to cause reactions in sensitized individuals, including Amyl  cinnamal, Benzyl alcohol, and Hydroxy-citronellal.  See a complete list here. 

You can search for fragrance free products, but it’s not an easy task.  Fragrance is found in 96 percent of shampoos, 91 percent of antiperspirants, and 95 percent of shaving products.  And it goes beyond the addition of chemical fragrances.  The Environmental Working Group has been actively campaigning for safer cosmetics, evaluating nearly 80,000 personal care products.  Their findings are alarming: there are an average of 13 chemicals found in the bodies of teenage girls, for instance, including dangerous products such as phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks, all endocrine disruptors.

Although it may require a search, you can find organic, fragrance free products to support your health, and make you feel beautiful.  Some of my favorites are: Nature’s Gate lotion (fragrance and paraben free), Seventh GenerationNurture My Body (not all fragrance free),  Jason (means “healer” in Greek), Kiss My Face (olive oil and aloe vera), and Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Nourishing Lotion (99% natural and fragrance free but not necessarily organic). .

Evan Healy (philosophy:  The Skin Breathes) is a skin care line that can be found at Whole Foods.  You can also check out Juice Beauty and Jurlique!

If you’d like to learn more about what major cosmetics companies are using in their products, make a visit to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep:  a cosmetics product database.  You may be surprised to learn that the products you trust contain chemicals that are linked to endocrine disruption, among other concerns.

A book and website you may also find of interest is No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics.  The authors, Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt, leave no bottle unturned in their expose on the most dangerous ingredients in widely used brands and the best clean make up, hair care and skin care products.

And finally, while you’re treating your body well, check out Julie Morris’s cookbooks:  Superfood Kitchen and Superfood Smoothies.  Superfoods are the most nutrient desnse foods on earth, with a remarkable ability to heal, energize and promote radiant good health.

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Kale is one of my favorites.  Here’s a quick and easy way to add it to your dinner table:

Organic Braised Kale

Place 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven, heat, and add minced garlic and onion to taste.  Sautee until slightly browned.  Add kale and braise until kale is wilted and not tough.  Approximately 15 minutes, or longer if you prefer.  Sprinkle on some freshly ground black pepper and grated parmesan cheese.  Health and good taste in a serving!

My personal philosophy is A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury.  A healthy body is the ultimate necessity for a good life.  Take good care of yours!

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Embracing the Autumnal Earth

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Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf’s a flower.–Albert Camus

 

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God gave all men all earth to love, but since our hearts are small, ordained for each, one spot should prove beloved overall.–Rudyard Kipling

 

 

 

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For how many people do you think might yet stand on this planet before the sun grows cold?  That’s the responsibility we hold in our hands.–David R. Brower

 

 

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We need the tonic of wilderness; to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe.–Henry David Thoreau

 

 

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How many hearts with warm red blood in them are beating under cover of the woods, and how many teeth and eyes are shining!  A multitude of animal people, intimately related to us, but of whose lives we know almost nothing, are as busy about their own affairs as we are about ours.–John Muir

 

 

Orange Kayak

 

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.–Michael Nolan

 

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Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. –Neil Postman

 

The photo above is of my husband Frank’s grandson, Vidal, and the light of my life.  We try to spend as much time as we can with Vidal outdoors, as I am a believer in the Children and Nature Movement, chaired by Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods. Sometimes called Leave No Child Inside, you can learn how to start your own movement here. 

If there are children in your life, I urge you to read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.  I promise you that you will be inspired to make more room for nature in your every day life, and in the lives of the children you love.

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