We've been fascinated with the concept of tiny houses since we first learned of them. We've loved watching the reality shows that demonstrate the builders' amazing creativity designing multi-use activity areas for the most efficient use of the space they have to work with. One of my favorite uses of space was a quilting workspace and sewing-machine cabinet that doubled as a kitchen table! We have also followed the experience of our friends who had a tiny house built at Starseed Healing Sanctuary in Savoy, Massachusetts. Their off-grid tiny house is nestled in a quiet, wooded area and you can even rent it for the night on AirBnB if you want to try out tiny-house living.
This article notes that tiny-house plans are changing, with designs moving from cute, little spaces to those that sustain a more permanent kind of living, with the perks you would want for a well-rounded lifestyle. There is a trend now to build in a modular fashion to keep an extended tiny-house collection movable, with each piece able to be moved on its own trailer.
The tiny house featured in the article has a separate green house and a comfortable front porch with a swing. The interior of the house is beautiful, with full-size kitchen facilities, stairs that lead to a comfortable sleep space, and dining and lounging areas. You can even buy this exact house because it's for sale in South Carolina for $81,000. We're all set with our smallish house, but if I were looking for a tiny house, I might be tempted by the extra relaxing room on the porch and the ability to grow plants and vegetables through an extended season.
With less open space and more people, smaller farms that feed people locally and replenish the soil are becoming popular in many areas. Limestone Permaculture Farm is a one-acre farm in New South Wales, Australia that was started ten years ago when the wife fell ill. Her husband, a builder, described his excitement about discovering permaculture like this, "When I found permaculture, it was less about one form and more about following nature’s design. It blew my mind.”
Their farm now produces enough produce for 50 families. It uses permaculture techniques and also powers itself primarily from renewable energy. Bees, goats, and chickens also share the farm and contribute their talents. The farm's owners, Brett and Nici Cooper, are still working full-time at jobs away from the farm, but they hope to make farming a full-time life soon.
The Coopers share what they've learned by offering tours, internships, and permaculture programs, hoping to pass on their knowledge and inspire others. As Nici Cooper puts it, “We feel there has been an awakening across our beautiful country, self-reliance is on the rise again; urban and rural homesteading has people taking their food and energy supply back into their own hands. With each passing day we are transitioning to a more wholesome life, creating a more fulfilling and positive future, not just for ourselves but also for our family, friends, and community.”
That's inspiration worth growing everywhere!
According to this article, electric vehicles are not only the way of the future, they'll be our drivers too. They're getting cheaper and there are fewer moving parts to maintain. That has wide implications for the auto industry and all those who support it. England and France have announced that they will be banning traditional internal combustion engine vehicles in 2040 and undoubtedly more nations will follow suit. There are lots of interesting details in this article, including how this timing aligns with the end of the oil industry. Electric vehicles are non-polluting and I hope we'll be around long enough to see them widely used.
Speaking of the Fresh Express mobile deliveries in the Phoenix, Arizona area, Elyse Guidas says, “For a lot of our customers, this is one of their only lifelines and access to healthy food.” And it's not only inner-city lives that are affected. When we traveled across the United States a couple of years ago, along the East Coast and through the back roads of the Midwest, there were many rural, desolate areas where factory farms grew food for people far away and the people who lived there had to travel long distances to find anything other than convenience-store food.
Turning vacant lots into community gardens, delivering fruits and vegetables to community centers, and setting up urban farmers' markets are all examples of bringing the earth's gifts to barren food deserts and the people who live in them.
Shareable.net, "A model of community-supported agriculture in western Massachusetts is going strong"
One of the reasons we moved to western Massachusetts was the bounty of small farms in the area. Living here we could support the farms, simultaneously helping the local economy and reducing the carbon emissions caused by long-distance movement of food. Indian Line Farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts is located in the Berkshire Mountains west of where we live. It serves as an example of long-term farm planning that brings together community-shared agriculture, land protection, and incentives for investing in local businesses.
Members of the community can purchase shares in the coming year's crop. When they purchase those shares with BerkShares, the local currency, they effectively receive a 5% discount, thanks to the incentives for using the currency to make purchases at local businesses.
A model like this that helps local farmers, businesses, and community members is one that we believe is the foundation of future resilience.
Mother Nature Network, "Remember that kid who invented a way to clean up ocean plastic? He's back, and it's happening"
Boyan Slat, a Dutch high-school student, was so distressed by the amount of plastic floating in the ocean during a diving trip in Greece six years ago, he decided to do something about it. "I finally decided to put both university and my social life on hold to focus all my time on developing this idea. I wasn’t sure if it would succeed, but considering the scale of the problem I thought it was important to at least try," said Slat.
Two years later, after conducting a two-year feasibility study of his ingenious invention and receiving $320 million in donations, his first booms will be launched in 2018. Working with scientists and computer modeling, he predicts his booms will be effective enough to clean up half of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch in just five years.
With young people like this, we may yet have a chance to clean up our world.
An inspiring group of ten teenage girls from San Fernando High School in California didn't have the money to help the many homeless people they encountered on their way to school, but they knew they wanted to help somehow.
See the article for many more photos of the girls in the process of making and testing their invention and for anecdotes about what this experience has meant to them and their dreams for the future.
Thanks to the Clean Water Act of 1977, the waters around New York City are now cleaner than ever. The food system that whales depend on has improved dramatically. Increasingly more humpback whales are being spotted in the water, so much so that ferry services are now offering whale-watching tours. Here's yet more inspiration and evidence that environmental protection works. We must keep protections in place on land and at sea.
A simple, yet generous idea: providing a neighborhood cabinet kept full of food and hygiene products for anyone who needs them. Neighbors who need items and neighbors who give items have a chance to meet and learn from each other. The founders say at least 100 people pass by every day. They learned about the community cupboard idea online from someone else and now they're planning to offer help and ideas for other people who want to do it. Their Facebook page is Fountain Street Community Cupboard if you want to follow them.
This might be a good idea for our neighborhood, which is in the middle of a double cul-de-sac that combines rental properties and single-family homes with a mix of older people and families with young children.
The inspiration and hard work of one man in Mumbai, India and his 84-year-old neighbor turned into a two-year beach cleanup project with over a thousand volunteers. The beach that was unwalkable in 2015 has now been returned to its former beauty and the momentum of this success is leading to plans to clean up more of India's shoreline. Whenever you start to think that you can't make a difference on your own, remember Afroz Shah and his dream, and know that you can.