Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Toolbox for Sustainable City Living

It's a small world and we're all connected.

A few weeks ago, I was playing my Japanese flute in a forest near my home in Wellesley. A gentleman stopped to listen and introduced himself as Gregory Peterson, a Harvard alum who owns a communications firm. He wondered if I was a musician. I explained that I was a CIO. He then asked if knew anything about Green IT. I told him that I've blogged extensively about it.

Greg introduced me to Susan Labandibar, President of Tech Networks of Boston. She, Greg and I had a vegan lunch last week at My Thai Vegan Cafe in Brookline. Susan is also a vegan and is deeply committed to sustainability in IT and in life.

We talked about Power Usage Effectiveness and measuring the energy savings of Cloud Computing/Software as a Service. We talked about thin client computing. We talked about virtualization.

I truly believe that in an era of constrained resources, rising expenses and a faltering economy, all of these issues will be increasingly important to CIOs and I expect Susan's company to be very successful.

On a personal note, Susan gave me a copy of "Toobox for Sustainable City Living" by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew. It's available from South End Press.

I've written about lowering my impact on the planet and my dreams of a greener existence.

This book is a great primer for those seeking to move off the grid. Admittedly, some may find the recommendations a bit extreme, but I really appreciated the authors' point of view.

Although I've considered building a solar cell array on the south facing rooflines of my house, solar cells have a reasonably short lifespan and require a high level of technological sophisticated to fabricate.

Creating passive solar systems which capture the sun's light via south facing greenhouse windows, using biofuels, and building small scale wind power are ultimately more sustainable because a non-technological society can easily create and install such systems.

The book includes chapters on sustainable food strategies, water collection/purification, waste recycling, energy, and bioremediation of pollutants.

When I read this book, I really thought of Myst. Imagine a world in which the inhabitants create self sufficient communities using basic technologies in advanced ways to achieve sustainable, environmentally friendly homes.

I realize that the idea of growing your own foods, providing for your own water, harnessing your own energy, and recycling your wastes seems out of the mainstream for the 21st century. However, as resources become more constrained and the world economy seems increasingly unstable, such self sufficiency seems very forward looking. I want my daughter to inherit a planet she can thrive in, so I will pursue sustainability in my own incremental way, for the rest of my life.


Anonymous said...

Really interesting blog...
Our own journey toward sustainability began over 23 years ago, resulting in our family moving off the grid in 1993.
It is possible, what you suggest, but it takes a persistence and initiative to do it. Self sufficient today can mean many things, but for a start it means energy consumption.
For that reason a lot of our energy has gone into finding reasonably priced ways of producing our own renewable energy, building our own wind generators and solar panels for living off the grid.
If any of your readers would like to find out more about how they can get started, just visit us at
Living Off The Grid

All the best, and keep up the great writing, thanks,
Les and Jane

FreePlay said...

I just started reading that book too and have been loving it. My friend Juan did the illustrations. If anyone wants to read an interesting permaculture blog check out

Ray Creations said...

Thank you for this nice article.
web designer