April 22, 2010


April 22, 2010

Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary.

Today is the day I chose as the ‘official’  launch date ‘igloos in the desert’ and share it with all of you. You have probably started to see some early posts in the last few days as a part of my ‘soft opening’. As I am sure you can all tell, this blog is a passionate plea for us all to live our lives a little more sustainably. It is one point of view, one voice, but I hope that my words make you laugh, make you think, inspire you, infuriate you or maybe move you a quarter of an inch. Maybe.

Come on in. Take a look around.

Mahatma Gandhi said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. Perhaps my words can help fuel the change and you will be your own change. Today, this day, my step forward towards change is to share the wisdom I have found, the mistakes I have made and the lessons I hope to repeat with you. What will your step towards change be?


Letters: Introduction

April 17, 2010

As a part of Igloos in the Desert I’ve decided to include some of the many letters that I write to various people about sustainability issues. Over the years I’ve found that the simple act of putting pen to paper with the intent of providing specific critique and potential solutions to issues is an effective way to make things happen.

One example I love, is when my wife and I bought our house a few years ago. We live on a quiet street that happens to be a tempting shortcut for traffic to a much used highway entrance. We would spend many a weekend afternoon sitting on our front porch watching cars whiz by in an effort to save a few seconds off their trip. We worried about the many children who lived nearby, and what would happen when we had our own children. Concerned enough, we decided to act by writing a simple pointed letter to our town representative and mayor.

About two weeks later, I was happily surprized to get a personal call from my representative asking for more information about the issue. We talked a bit and she came by one afternoon to see for herself. About two weeks after that we had a new speed limit sign on the street (ironically, in front of our house) and a larger police presence enforcing it for a few weeks.

Now the sign and the police presence didn’t completely solve the problem. We still have the occasional idiot who thinks the speed limit is 52 MPH not 25 MPH, but it has certainly improved.  Regardless, all of this transpired from a simple letter to the right people. The issue was identified, an improvement was offered and they took action.

In the past few years I have personally written dozens of letter to politicians, business people, colleagues, neighbors and friends. Starting now, I have decided not just to continue to write these letters, but to post them here and share the successes, and failures in getting someone’s attention about an issue. The goal is never to scold, chide or idly criticize, but instead to identify problems or issues and offer potential solutions. With any luck some of these letters will open a dialogue or send someone on a new path.

If my ideas resonate with you, or you have had a similar experience feel free to use the text of my letters and send them yourself, or better yet repurpose them based on your own experience. Email is just as good as an envelope and a stamp, in fact that is how almost all of my letters are sent now, but occasionally pen to paper is the best way to go. Use your own judgement there. If you do send a letter based on one of mine, please post about it. I would love to hear more stories about how this works out for you too.

A few notes:

  1. On all of my letters I include my personal address, phone number and email. I would suggest you do the same. I will not be including that information on these posts and similarly would suggest that you leave your personal information except an email address off any posts here.
  2. Typically, I try to send my letters to at least two people; someone near the top, and someone who is personally involved with the issue. For instance, in the letter to my town I included my Mayor and my local representative on the Town Council.  By doing this, I am usually able to gain traction quickly. I would suggest  you try the same.
  3. Please be sure to include names and title’s of the recipients on any letters you post, but again I would suggest you leave off address information.
  4. Finally, please send me updates if you get a response to your letter. I plan to do the same here.

Igloo Design

April 16, 2010

The Igloo is a beautiful thing. I think it deserves its own design category. It falls somewhere between architecture and sculpture and performance art; creating shelter, giving form and evolving with the seasons. Igloo Design is a step beyond Green Design. It is Design with a capital I not a little g.  

Here are some of the qualities of Igloo Design:

  • The igloo is tenacious, built for the harshest climate, but fragile in the sun.
  • The igloo has form that is designed for optimum function. It is no taller than necessary, but built just the right size and shape to capture heat and create a comfortable environment inside.
  • The igloo uses no more materials than necessary. Frozen water in the forms of Ice and Snow are the building blocks for this structure.
  • Only simple tools are required to build the igloo.
  • Igloo design has little regard for financial value or social status, it is about survival and efficiency.  
  • When the structure no longer has value to the builder it can be abandoned without remorse. The igloo will eventually melt back into the soil with the changing of the seasons.

Now maybe all this exists in the built world, but I have only seen it in the natural world. Pieces of fruit, eggs, cocoons all share many of the qualities described above, but buildings? There are few buildings in today’s world that even strive for the same goals. Our structures are carefully designed creations using a collage of materials to thwart nature and provide robust spaces for living. Our cities are filled with beautiful, crafty well thought out machines where we live and work.

Perhaps we need to put our pride and ego aside and humbly examine the simple qualities of an Igloo? Perhaps we need to rethink how we design buildings, not just to go Green, but to create structures that evolve with the seasons, literally and figuratively. I know that I have a long way to go in my own design work to create something as smart and beautiful as an Igloo.