Regulars and Shorts

Green Bits: April 2012

By Pax Rasmussen

News and ideas from near and far for a healthier, more sustainable future. 

Cars not so cool anymore

According to an article in the New York Times last month, cars are declining as a symbol of status, freedom and cool in youth culture. In 1998 (the year I graduated high school), about 65% of people ages 16 to 19 had driver’s licenses. That number dropped to 46.3% just 10 years later, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

More telling, research from the Gartner firm claims 46% of drivers aged 18 to 24 would rather have Internet access than own a car. Kids just don’t care that much about cars anymore. “They think of a car as a giant bummer—think about your dashboard. It’s filled with nothing but bad news,” says Ross Martin, the executive director of MTV Scratch—who GM has hired to try to figure out how to make kids think Chevys are cool again. I can’t help but hope he fails miserably.

Reclaiming the land

Ever see vacant lots—lots that have been vacant and blighted for years, if not decades—and wonder: Couldn’t something productive be done with that wasted space? A group in New York City, aptly named 596 Acres, mapped out all city-owned vacant lots in Brooklyn and found that the total land added up to: 596 acres. They then figured out how to jump through the bur­eaucratic hoops of tracking down agencies and individuals responsible for decisions about city-owned property—and managed to unlock three lots that have been blighted for more than a two decades. Along with other volunteers in the community, those lots are now being reborn as community gardens. 569 Acres is now looking to expand into NY’s four other boroughs—and hooking up with people to expand the project into Detroit, Philadel­phia, Vancouver and even Rio de Janeiro. Maybe SLC next?

Don’t lick those receipts

By now, most folks know that BPA (bisphenol A), commonly found in plastics, cleaners, pesticides, upholstery and even grocery store receipts, is bad news—it disrupts the endo­crine system causing all sorts of icky effects. BPA is even worse than we thought, though: Unlike most poisons, which are highly dose-dependent (in other words, a little bit won’t hurt you, but a lot will), even very tiny amounts of BPA can have serious health implications. The required dose for noticeable effects is apparently well within the range that people are exposed to in daily life. Yikes.

IKEA alternative

When you buy furniture, especially from places such as IKEA or Wal-Mart, you’re buying a product made of wood grown in one country (or continent), cut and fashioned on another and shipped to a third. Not exactly the model of sustainability. So what’s the alternative if you need a place to stack your books but don’t have much dough? Build it yourself!

Design firm Filson and Rohrbacher has created a set of plans for some really interesting and simple-to-build furniture—and are giving them away free (via Creative Commons License) on their website. Take the plans and your material—plywood, pine, aluminum or whatever else you’ve got lying around—to any machine shop with a CNC (computer numerical control) machine (there are several in Salt Lake). Then assemble the pieces yourself.

Finding a shop to machine the pieces isn’t difficult—just Google it—but if you’re really the DIY type, check out Make SLC. They’re helpful folks, and they have a CNC machine for use by members.,

This article was originally published on March 30, 2012.