The World Goes Green: Eco-Friendly Construction Finally Comes of Age

A nice article below by Sam Marquit – more about him and his work at http://fmarquitv.tumblr.com/

“Green building materials and technologies has never shown more promise in terms of saving the environment and in terms of creating jobs and wealth. Indeed, this industry is set to increase in value from $116 billion in 2013 to more than $254 billion in 2020. If you work in the construction business, you almost can’t afford not to go green.”

“A number of facilities are embracing going green, especially in New York City. Ink48 is a Manhattan hotel owned and operated by the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group Inc. It serves organic foods and beverages — including fair-trade teas and coffees — to guests. It hosts sustainability conferences for members of its Earthcare program. And each of its rooms is full of environmentally friendly features such as recycling bins, ceramic mugs to discourage wasteful paper cup usage, low-flow faucets and showers, and low-flush toilets. Energy-efficient lighting fixtures and eco-friendly cleaning products are employed throughout the property as well. Ink48 recycles extensively. What’s more, many private homes are beginning to follow the lead of establishments like Ink48. For instance, drip irrigation systems are growing in popularity; they’re especially useful in drought-ridden areas. These underground systems hydrate lawns and gardens with recycled water from showers and washing machines. They significantly reduce homeowners’ water bills in the process.”

“Many businesses are also beginning to take advantage of solar power. Hotels across the United States are installing enormous skylights and heating swimming pools with energy from the sun. Outdoor rooms are becoming increasingly prevalent in a wide variety of commercial enterprises and private residences as well. Not long ago, outdoor rooms were limited to decks, patios, and terraces. However, an outdoor room today might be a screened-in porch or an elaborate courtyard. Many of these rooms contain designer furniture, electronic entertainment devices, and even fireplaces. As such, they can be enjoyed at any hour of the day and at any time of the year.”

“Just about anywhere you go these days, there’s an eco friendly building or retrofitting project going on somewhere nearby. In cities of all sizes, businesses are installing sustainable systems, this is especially evident with the green hotels in New York City. In the process, they’re saving money. They’re also making a personal contribution to the health of the environment, and every such contribution helps. ”

Shoutout to the new Sustainable Living Center at Maharishi University of Management and the Abundance Ecovillage in Fairfield, Iowa – 2 examples of what’s possible if we want to take this green building movement close to home!

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1000 Words on Purpose

I moved to MUM with an understanding that “purification leads to progress.” Yoga philosophy instructed yogis to give up all impurities, intoxicants, unhealthy food, and other bad lifestyle habits. When my experience in meditation improved after eliminating toxic substances I realized that we really are what we eat! Thus, I became much more interested in good food and learned about all the damaging byproducts of our modern industrial food system. Through food, I found a direct connection between spiritual growth and physical life on earth. I figured if I could learn how to grow the purest food and live a natural lifestyle, then I would be doing something really good! After all, it seemed obvious that humans would never find peace on earth if they were poisoning the earth through their agriculture.

My Sustainable Living degree program has been dynamic and inspiring. Key classes like permaculture design, systems thinking, applied soil ecology and deep ecology have taught me to see patterns in nature. I’ve learned about the strength of collaboration between organisms, which supports diversity and abundance. I’ve learned that we can fulfill our human needs by collaborating with nature and connecting with nature on a direct personal level. Going forward, I intend to participate in the sustainability revolution by working with people directly who want to strengthen their own personal connection with nature and realign their communities to collaborate with nature. This is applied permaculture design, with a heavy dose of forest fairy magic.

During my summer apprenticeship in New Mexico my life was forever changed. I learned first hand how to use the “heart-field” as an organ of perception and communicate directly with plants and learn about their medicine. We did exercises to practice using our intuition to read the character of people, places, and anything else under the sun. We did deep psycho-emotional shadow work during our course, revealing layers of subconscious programs, memories, and beliefs that suppress our uninhbited expression. I learned that we all need to heal by reconnecting with our inner child – this unlocks our extrasensory potential, as does opening the emotional heart and healing insecurities. Speaking of insecurities…I learned that sexual energy is life-giving energy and is as useful for spiritual evolution as its is for procreation.

I feel as good as this woman looks when I'm meditating...

I feel as good as this woman looks when I’m meditating…


The daily practice of transcendental meditation has been one of the most transformative influences of my MUM career. I had experimented with other meditation techniques and had good experiences, but this technique has been the most reliable one for getting a daily dose of inner peace. Closing the eyes each day and transcending connects me with the mysterious inner reality and satguru that guides my life. Doing meditation in the framework of the ideal daily routine at MUM has helped me learn that rest and activity are equally important steps of progress.

Cultivating relationships with people at MUM continues to be the most rewarding ongoing experience next to meditation. From day one at MUM I’ve grown in love and openness with people through deep connection and intimacy. I learned the value of honesty, openness and transparency; self-knowledge can be gained through interaction with others, especially when people are aware of the power of their interaction. At MUM, more people are aware of that power than anywhere else I’ve ever been. This shared intention to grow and support each other in becoming whole has made me realize “Vasudhaiva Katumbakum” – “The World is My Family.” I’ve been able to live in co-housing with other people studying sustainable living, and this has emphasized the importance of community. Living a collaborative lifestyle with other people has given me the opportunity to actually learn how to live together in harmony, which is priceless

GoodFriendsinNYC

Friends from all over the country here together in Union Square NYC. Bonds at MUM strong enough to bring us together wherever we are on the map!

So Who am I NOW? How have my experiences at MUM changed me? And What do I want to do next?

I’m much more balanced now. Rest and meditation are the foundation for my activities. I’m more sensitive and in-tune with my body and emotions. I’m much more responsive to my digestion day to day and have good control over what I eat. I’m less afraid than I used to be, and more willing to be my honest, open and unguarded self. Thus, I’m more compassionate and loving than I used to be. I’m a more sexual person now….Or should I say…I’m more comfortable expressing my innate sexuality, and I don’t feel as much pressure to be anyone other that who I am in the present moment. When I came to MUM I was inspired, and am still inspired, but now I’ve got a clear direction for the future, getting clearer everyday…except for the days when I haven’t had enough rest. I’m beginning to understand what it really means to be autonomous; I’m taking full responsibility for my life – an empowered, self-referral life. I rarely run away from intimacy because I’m not ashamed to be seen. Naked. I feel prepared to go off into society and offer my gifts to the world!

Its clear to me that my writing skills, public speaking skills, organizational and administrative capacity, and critical thinking ability are all valuable and marketable assets wherever I go. What I really want to do in the immediate future is play a major role in creating a small-scale example of sustainable community living here in Fairfield. The nature of the work I’m getting into is intensely entrepreneurial, and I may need to acquire some good business skills. However, the field of permaculture and sustainable community design is highly interdisciplinary, so I’ll rest on my tested ability to learn on the job and adapt as I go. I know that I don’t know everything, which is important. But I know enough to undertake the project at Prairie Song Farm, which will require computer and media skills, advanced plant and ecological knowledge, practical gardening and soil fertility knowledge, advanced social skills and emotional intelligence, tractor mechanics and machine work, basic and advanced carpentry, electrical engineering, etc.

Wow, clearly I need more than just me to accomplish my goals. I should’ve studied cloning. This illustrates a simple yet profound point: Community is formed by a group of people working together – it can’t be top-down. I see my role as a leader (initiator) who is also a catalyst and connecting agent. My gift is the ability to gather and articulate a shared vision. From that point, a design can be made, and it takes a community of people to bring the design to life. One thing is for sure: If a deeply spiritual, environmentally regenerative and economically thriving culture were to emerge anywhere in North America, it would be Fairfield, Iowa.

Senior Capstone Reflections

Create a list of three broad principles or themes from your field of study and three broad interdisciplinary principles or themes from Maharishi’s Science of Consciousness that help to inform your field and its connection to the whole of knowledge.

1&2) Sustainable Living Principle – Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste. This entails designing systems from the ground up and/or retrofitting old wasteful systems so that energy and resource outputs from one process feed into and support another process or function. This is a thoroughly intentional way of designing, so the consciousness of the designer is paramount.

Thus, we see a connection with Maharishi’s Science of Creative Intelligence in the principle: “Outer depends on inner.” This principle applies to the individual life by the way in which our interpretation of the reality that we experience moment to moment is largely contingent upon the state of one’s “inner” condition – the way the brain has been structured up to that point, and the paradigms from which each person’s worldview is constructed. On the collective level we see that the structure of society stems from the consciousness of the architects of that society. We now see the obvious shortcomings of current systems built out of ignorance of the need to conserve resources, recycle everything, and produce no waste.
3&4) Sustainable Living Principle – Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. In the field of Sustainable Living, diversity – whether referring to the variety of plants in a garden or field, sources of energy production in the region, or our social atmosphere and culture – are seen as assets that make a system more resilient. For example, an uncontrollable variation in a weather pattern like drought will not be as devastating to the farmer if he has a variety of crops with different levels of tolerance to drought.

Likewise, the SCI principle: ​”Harmony exists in diversity” supports this understanding in my field because it recognizes the underlying strength in diversity. Harmony is complementary, collaborative, and improves a given situation. The presence of harmony is a sign that things are working well, and in Sustainable Living we seek to design systems that harness the power of diversity to optimize function.

5&6) Sustainable Living Principle – Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. This is related to the principle of diversity, but it also points to a reality that all things are connected, and when we try to segregate and treat things as independent of each other our results inevitably fail and produce undesirable effects. When things are integrated we see that the relationships between them produce emergent properties and gain a greater status as something more highly developed than the parts themselves. Additionally by seeking integration in all areas of life we become more focused on the underlying unity of all things.

​”The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” ​ is an obvious principle connected to this idea. The reality of wholeness is different than the conglomeration of individuals. This can be seen in medicine, where the special healing properties of a medicinal plant are not fully present in the isolated chemical or chemical compound that is synthesized in the lab. The interaction of energy that happens when things are in relationship creates a special “extra” something that does not exist without the interaction or relationship.

To All Soil Professionals…

(Written by Jacob Krieger)

To all soil professionals,

That means the farmers first and foremost. The stewards of our soils.

There are plenty of silly facts about global warming that don’t change anyone’s mind. Especially in the mid-west. Whether CO2 changes the global temperature or not does not change the fact that we have raised the amount of it in the atmosphere. Two primary ways of raising the CO2 levels have been burning carbon based substances and removing or killing the natural “resources”, or the Earths biota.

We can see the cars and factories for ourselves. We can all see the lack of trees while perusing Google Earth. We can all see millions of acres of exposed soil through vast amounts of the year with a short drive. We pride ourselves at the coffee table on our tidy little barren soil beds being prepped and poisoned for next years synthetic crop. Yum, yum, down on the farm, home grown goodness, eh?

Here is a fact that soil professionals should know when preparing beds of soil.

Professor of Soil Science at Ohio State University Dr. Rattan Lal has calculated that 476 Gigatons (Gt) of carbon have been emitted from farmland soils due to inappropriate farming and grazing practices (Christine Jones, PhD, www.amazingcarbon.com). In contrast, 270 Gt have been emitted over the past 150 years of fossil fuel burning (Jones, www.amazingcarbon.com).

In their study, “Carbon Sequestration Potential Estimates with Changes in Land Use and Tillage Practices in Ohio, USA,” Zhengxi Tan and Rattan Lal explain that the conversion of natural ecosystems to those managed agriculturally can reduce the soil organic carbon pool by up to 50% in the top 20 cm of the soil and 25-30% in the top 100 cm depth after 30-50 years of cultivation (Tan, Lal, 2005).

It makes sense that more carbon comes out of the soil being tilled than the carbon released making and running the engine tilling it. For, fossil fuels are mostly buried and compressed landscapes of once living organisms. These fossil organisms are no different from the organisms in our soil still. Destroyed, they release the same kind of carbon that was put there by the same photosynthesis.

All exposed soil will lose this soil-organic-carbon. Inappropriate tillage expands the process exponentially. Today we have realized that inappropriate agriculture has successfully released the carbon of a 30 foot thick organism that once covered the entire Midwest, the topsoil and root system of the tall-grass prairies. Bare soil is potentially a more feasible culprit for global warming than even electricity.

What’s more disturbing is that we now farm fuel despite all the free sources of energy. (Yes, free energy. It’s here and being denied)
Farm soil and keep it covered. For better crops, better health, and a cooler planet. Soil is an organism that cannot be disconnected from the plants that it works with symbiotically. It is a single organism. Plants and soil both die when separated. Hence the need for chemical supplements that further the biological selection and destruction. Stop bare soil and start capturing CO2.

AGRICULTURE COULD BE USED TO BUILD SOIL at rates scientists once believed would take thousands of years.

It is being done in most 1st world countries and has been since the 1950’s. It is a shame we don’t take it seriously here. Carbon farming is a concept that pervades the planet aside from the American discussions. Proper grazing, rotation, soil conditioning, reestablishment of proper biology and biodiversity, and the end of monoculture could curb our global catastrophe in a growing season. No-till is a start, perennial poly-culture is a possible future, there are hundreds of solutions to start improving and expanding upon. Regenerating what we have destroyed is first on the to-do list avoiding the next dust bowl.

Row crops and CAFO’s are two ends of the same goat. Putting the cows back to pasture has fixed over 15,000 acres already by way of Darren Doherty Everyone should know this by now and realize it’s a scam. We are down to a few million farmers who bought out all their former cooperation by just playing the market by the rules. We are mostly farmed by contractors and satellites now. Monopoly is not about calories produced per acre. It is about control. It is extremely important for everyone to produce the same thing for the few to have power over the many.

Stop playing their game. Research regenerative agriculture and help improve it. Help revision. You be the scientist. You change the world. Any lawn or large acreage can be a part of the solution. And there are way more solutions than problems, but it starts with a mind change. Learn what science has discovered about soil in the last 25 years! Even in the last 3 years we have completely re-written the book on soil and how plants grow! Get on it SOIL PROFESSIONALS!

If farmers knew anything about the role they play today and what they can change tomorrow, the world would see a revolution by spring.

Change of Mind, Not Heart

Fairfield is a transformative place to be, especially when you’re already working on yourself. The inner work of Self-awareness and liberation from unconscious conditioning is the good work of becoming your True Self – free from guilt, shame, fear, suppressed emotions, hidden desires – and free to be happy, sad, mad, loud, quiet, tough, rough, soft, so long as it respects the free will of others and is non-violent to others. It’s this process of inner transformation that makes life most exciting for me daily, and being in a place like Fairfield allows me to connect with a ridiculously high number/per capita of other people consciously becoming their unique and liberated True Selves. Interestingly, not in Fairfield but New Mexico I experienced an enormous acceleration and integration of my personality; participating in the Earth Medicine Apprenticeship was a primary reason for this progression.

“Earth Medicine” is a way of healing; it involves sacred plant medicine and herbal medicine, deep ecology and environmental philosophy, ecopsychology and psychotheraputic experience, shadow work, inner child work, extra-sensory perception and tracker skills. I just threw out a bunch of labels to point to a process that is more than the sum of its parts. To practice Earth Medicine is to commune deeply and develop a compassionate healing relationship with our own inner nature, which is guided, inspired, informed and blessed by deep communion with Earth Mother – Gaia – Mother Nature. This process involves developing our innate intuitive and psychic skills and developing a deep capacity for sensing with the heart-field as an organ of perception; the experience of these practices challenge the boundary we perceive between “us” and everything else. This work in integrative in the way it connects individuals with a sense of wholeness and oneness with all things “inner” and “outer.”

As I was reflecting with my school advisor on my decision to do a permaculture design for my senior project it became obviously, undeniably, irresistibly apparent that what I want most deeply is to continue to go deeper with “Earth Medicine” now and on into the future after graduation; thus, it would be most appropriate to focus my senior project around this area of interest to go deeper and get to know what aspects of it I am drawn to most. This would include actual physical work in the garden where I live – planning and planting a perennial medicine garden, writing a 30-page integrative paper on the subject, and offering a series of workshops on “Earth Medicine” to the community.

There is, however, an important consideration and responsibility that I must uphold – Doing the Permaculture Design. Since my original project proposal was for a permaculture design at the site where I rent and live, I need to consider my landlord’s expectations, since we agreed that I would do the design for his land. I am free – I was born free and I will die free -and I’m not bound to anything. But keeping agreements is something that is important both on karmic and personal levels. Thus, I need to re-negotiate my agreement with my landlord because the timing of everything is going to change. While my intention and interest still lie in doing an ever-so-necessary design for the land, my highest passion and most precious attention will be going toward Earth Medicine for the 2 months of my senior project. Fortunately, there is overlap between certain aspects of permaculture design (observation, analysis and assessment) and the process of Earth Medicine will help tremendously with the initial fundamental stages of any good permaculture design.

Fortunately, I plan to remain living where I am for several seasons after I graduate, which will allow me to continue to work on the permaculture design after I graduate. I also have a feeling that having more time to deliberate and research proposed aspects of the design will make for a more intelligent and appropriate design overall. Ultimately, what’s most important is that I’m being True to mySelf. So long as my thoughts and actions are grounded in the integrity of who I am at my core the outcome will be most evolutionary for all concerned.

Prairie Song Permaculture Project (Part II)

By the time mid-November came around I was exhausted from all the grunt work but felt great about the increased growing capacity in the garden from the formation of new beds. All in all, there is about 1500 sq ft. of prepped bed space that will be ready to plant in come spring. Originally, the plan for my senior project was to focus on growing as much food as possible in the garden to feed farm residents and sell at the farmer’s market; in addition, I would do a comprehensive permaculture design for the farm.

However, various conversations with friends and fellow permaculturists inspired me to think about the garden’s growing potential more as a perennial medicine garden than purely annual veggies. Growing herbs for market and certain restaurants seems to offer more of a profit-earning niche for the farm than would annual veggies; also, it seems to be a better use of space, since the price per pound of fresh herbs may yield more dollars per square foot than would melons or broccoli or beans, if you know what I mean…

With this shift in focus for the garden I realized that the garden itself will be an ongoing project beyond the scope of my 2 months of senior project. Thus, the formal permaculture design will be the primary deliverable and focus of my senior project, along with the creation of a website to display and present the design among other things.

Thus, the deliverables for my proposed project are:

  1. The entire permaculture design, with physical base maps, overlays, species lists, etc.
  2. A digital representation of the full permaculture design and a presentation of the design from the viewpoint of the website. This will include a guided tour of the website for Stacy, who will be grading my project.
  3. A 10-page summative/integrative essay (double spaced) to replace the 30-page paper (double spaced) currently required by the official SL Senior Project Guidelines. This paper will integrate the most pertinent principles of SCI that inform and enrich the project, as well as a summary of accomplishments and short discussion/reflection about the significance of the senor project experience (what I got out of it).

Since most of my time during this month of self-directed study was spent outside in the garden, it was only toward the end of this month that I really sat and thought about the permaculture design process itself. I chose to do a formal design for the farm because I identified that it will provide a thoughtful and comprehensive basis for the ongoing development and creation of this sustainable living experiment. For a concise background of Prairie Song Farm and its mission see “Unconventional Rurual Permaculture Farmstead with Work-Trade Renters,” posted on February 24, 2012.  As students come and go, this design will be useful to offer a context and common basis for action, with regard to project phases of implementation and long-term goals.

I feel like this process is important for my evolution as an individual, because I’m learning that the key to a successful design is how well I observe. My primary goal is to spend quality time observing and yield to the voices of the land and its inhabitants – plant, animal, elemental, invisible. This place is home to people seeking spiritual growth as a primary purpose for life, and the actualization of material projects, whether they’re called “permaculture” or “business” or “creative,” are a waste of time if they don’t serve the spiritual evolution of the people, planet, and universe. This means that this project is less about what comes to be and more about how it comes to be. I don’t expect to be perfect when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the design. All that I hope to accomplish is a deeper acquaintance (and thus knowledge) of the land and its diverse inhabitants, and that I observe/listen to the source of creative intelligence out of which all things come.

If I can leave behind a permaculture design that is creative and useful to residents in some way I will be happy. If I can learn to be a better inhabitant, a more responsible co-creator, a better son and servant of Mother Gaia during the process I will be happier. And if by some miracle I can remember to keep things simple and not over-think it, I might actually enjoy myself the whole time.

Prairie Song Permaculture Project (Part I)

Today is November 20th, 2012. For the past 6 weeks I’ve experienced something novel: Life at the farm, enrolled at MUM, and not in class. I’ve been blessed with the freedom to create my own schedule with a self-directed study to prepare for my senior project. I’m writing this to reflect on the value of this time, show-off some of what I’ve done, and draw out lessons learned to help me as I continue the permaculture design process.

To be honest, most of the time has been spent gardening; double digging new raised beds, sheet-mulching garden pathways, and putting the existing raised beds “to sleep” for the winter. These are all “grow-biointensive” style gardening practices and i’ll explain their function/reasoning (in a nutshell):

1) Double Digging – this is a labor-intensive method for forming new beds; ideally, a “broad fork” is used to break the surface of the soil and de-compact the virgin soil (in our case, clay) to about 2 ft. dept. Then, a flat shovel is used to dig out the de-compacted soil and pile it on top of the forks-worth that you turned up 2 feet earlier; This allows air, water, and plant roots (hopefully they’re plants of your choosing) to penetrate more deeply, which sets the conditions for healthier plants with more soil and nutrients to gobble up.

Sascha uses a broad fork with 18inch teeth to decompact clay in our garden

2) Sheet-Mulching – this is a labor-intensive method for suppressing grass growth in the garden. A double layer of cardboard is put down to cover the entire area of path; next, a 6-8 inch layer of wood chips are added on top of the cardboard to form the floor of the pathway; this thickness of wood chips prevents light from reaching the soil (understanding that the cardboard will decompose eventually) and prevents existing grass and dormant grass seed from establishing roots. A grass-free garden reduces competition for soil nutrients, root-space, and water.

Straw – the carbon blanket that puts beds to sleep

3) Putting Beds to Sleep – this is a method for adding natural fertilizer to the garden bed before winter; ideally, a biologically active and balanced compost is added across the top of the existing raised bed; this addition of carbon material and microorganisms will add life to the soil and replace some of what was taken out by the plants that grew there during the spring, summer and fall. Super-ideally, a layer of cardboard is put down on top of the compost to cover the entire bed like a blanket. Finally a 6-8 inch mat of straw or leaves is added as the final top layer to hold down the cardboard and provide even more carbon-rich material to feed the soil microbes and add nutrients. Its important that the compost and cardboard be wet or soaked with water during this process so the microbiology can thrive and decompose everything faster. By spring, the bed should wake up feeling recharged and full of fertility!

Pictures of the Process:

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