Archive for the 'my home town' Category

Green Schools Challenge

USGBC SWVA (US Green Building Council Southwest Virginia chapter) is hosting a green schools challenge.  The momentum has been building since the kick off last fall.  We have schools

throughout the region paired with mentors in the community all taking part in a living sustainable science fair.  As details begin to come in it is exciting to see and hear about the great sustainable work beginning done by our local students.  From the beginning USGBC recognized that instilling sustainable habits in children did two things: bubbled up to the parents and trickled down to the next generation of community leaders.  This is a win win strategy that will have long-term beneficial effects.

Just think about recycling.  Twelve years ago (1999) it wasn’t what I would call a common practice, at least not around here.  Those first graders are graduating now and just imagine where we will be in the next twelve or even twenty-four years as the next generations of little recyclers graduate.  If you don’t think that is a big deal, just ask communities like Lexington, Va.  Their landfill is about to close.

So keep your eye on our website http://greenvirginiaschools.org/ for all the latest updates across the great state of Virginia.

Simple as a Sidewalk

Maybe it is the recent snow pushing in on the streets and curbsides; or maybe it is the obsession of one of my colleagues, a driving  one woman force, to have sidewalks installed down Brambleton Ave or perhaps the sadness I feel when driving through parts of the town that need sidewalks and are left with dirt paths, whatever the catalyst, the sidewalk issue keeps popping in my head.  One of the lessons from my Georgia Tech days, was that good cities are made from good sidewalks.  This seems to be a simple enough concept therefore I am continually amazed when cities don’t get it.

Basically the concept is this, good sidewalks promote walking within cities. Walking within cities promotes community activity.  When streets are alive with people it becomes safer and more engaging.  It quickly becomes a place that people want to be in.   Bad sidewalks discourage the same activity.  When I lived in Atlanta it was obvious to see the walkable trendy neighborhoods had developed out of good infrastructure. Less desirable parts of town were run down, overgrown weedy roadsides and usually most unfortunately the parts of town where citizens couldn’t afford cars and resorted to public transportation and walking for their transportation.  I can vividly remember the continual news stories of kids being hit by cars as they were walking on the side of the road.  Roads, almost always, without sidewalks.

The story continues in my home of Roanoke, Virginia.  Throughout the downtown area, the sidewalks are in good shape and get proper maintenance but move a few blocks to the north and the parts of town that need the sidewalks are woefully ignored.  Just take a look at 10th street.  This is a major connection corridor.  On the Williamson Rd to 581 overpass part of tenth street, sidewalks no problems.    Once under the overpass, there is more of a gutter/leftover asphalt/trail.  Every Roanoker knows the 10th street cut through, especially fire and rescue. Inches from this busy road a continuous walk path to the local convenience store is ground into the dirt and weed roadside.  Yes I am aware that 10th street is slated to be widened and sidewalks should be put in at that time.  But how far in the future is that?  It is not uncommon to see children alone walking that stretch of road.  This is not a problem that has just occurred, but has festered there for a long time.

Just opposite the aforementioned convenience store the newly paved and barely used Brown-Robertson Park and the greenway gleams  The park has a sea of concrete and the greenway has flashing lights, smooth pathway and crossing with little use.  Now before I offend the local cycle community, please let me state that, the bike paths that Roanoke has developed are wonderful!  I use several of them for recreation regularly. When they all link up that will be a great thing for the Roanoke/Salem/Vinton area.  I already know one of my co-workers that use that particular path to help get from Peter’s Creek to downtown in order to bike to work.  My point is this ……. Cities please don’t turn your back on pedestrian infrastructure in the name of  anything else including greenway paths.  I am all for greenways in addition to sidewalk development but not at the cost of them.  In the current times of increasing cutbacks and budget tightening, sidewalks (repair and maintenance) is one area that cities would do best to continue to invest.  Imagine a walkable Roanoke.

Local Roots opens Friday

We were excited to see the progress two weeks ago.  I have high hopes for this sustainable restaurant in Roanoke.

via Local Roots opens Friday.

 

Jsut as a follow up on this very col restaurant in Roanoke….. the latest review.

 

http://www.roanoke.com/food/reviews/wb/272867

 

The Farmer’s Market

Growing up in Roanoke in the 70s meant on Saturday mornings we went to the Roanoke Farmer’s Market to shop and lunch at the Roanoke Wiener Stand.  I remember the crowded walkways and holding on to Mom’s hand so not to be swept away.  The fresh produce was endless.  And I even remember the sawdust floor and pungent smell of the meats in the old market building.

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Mom buying fresh Virginia grown spinach for tonight's dinner.

Today was a great day on the market.  It was the annual chili cook-off and strawberry festival.  I have always thought this was a strange combination but it seems to workout.  Nice weather, although the clouds were threatening all morning.

Between the strawberries and the chilies, the Roanoke Farmer’s Market is a natural pedestrian link and what a crowd.  It was wonderful to see the market humming.  It reminded me of those Saturday mornings, I was so much smaller than the crowds.  I am hopeful for the vendors on the market, as today was surely a great day for them all.

Farmer’s markets are the sustainably in thing to do these days.  They always have been sustainable.  And like the country song they were sustainable before sustainable was cool.   By shopping for produce at your local farmer’s market, you are supporting locally grown produce by local farmers.  The sustainable benefits include….

  • little transportation costs, straight from the field to the market,
  • no electric consuming big box store just you and the farmer in the elements,
  • you know where your food has been, most of the farmers love to talk about the crops they grow,
  • fresh local food and in some cases organic.
Geraniums ready to be potted.

Geraniums ready to be potted.

We are lucky to have the farmer’s market in our area.  It is one of the oldest continuously operating markets in the state of Virginia, since 1882.  So if you are also lucky enough to have a local Farmer’s Market, go check them out and support their efforts.  If you don’t then check out this great website and find one close to you. http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets  You will be shopping sustainably and your salad bowl will thank you.

Home Energy Audits

100_4983This past week the local USGBC chapter held its monthly meeting at one of our member’s home to preform a live energy audit.  It was an interesting evening.  We got to see a blower door test, duct test and infrared scan.  How these test worked was interesting and eyeopening. Because this was a remodel (somewhat in progress) we expected the results to be not so great.  But what we discovered was that if you took all the holes and leaks in the home and collected them into one big hole it was equal 25% of the exterior surface.  Ouch!  The amount of energy loss was more than even the homeowner expected.

Josh, our guide/tester/teacher recommended that the first line of defense should always be the roof.  Make sure your envelope is closed by insulating the roof.  Then the second most important place was the floor and lastly followed by the walls.  So if you have to break up the job, there is the most economical priority.

To have your own energy audit done is highly recommended.  The going rate is somewhere around $1,000 but expect a significant payback.  The audit will tell you exactly where the leaks are located.

January SWVA USGBC – Firehouse #3

engine-10The Southwest Virginia Chapter of the USGBC kickoff meeting for 2009 was held at a newly built #3 Firehouse on Williamson Road.  This is a relocation of the airport firehouse #10 and the old old #3.  The location is smack dab in the middle of  the Williamson Road activities.  Coordination with the transportation department on signal controls seems to have worked out.  Traffic briefly stops when calls are answered. 

It was one of those nights in Roanoke that was on the verge of a monster snow/ice storm but instead we got 33 degree rain.  Gloomy night to be out, however since this was a tour I was looking forward to seeing, it was worth staying out in the yuck a little.  The great men and women of firehouse #3 were nice enough to let our group invade their surroundings for a tour and meeting, even during their dinner.  Thanks to them for letting us see part of their world.  We even got to witness a real call going out.

The firehouse is currently truck1in the middle of LEED certification, seeking LEED Gold.  Some of the very interesting sustainable features include:

A rainwater collection system for toilet flushing and firetruck washing,

On site Bio retention pond – small but effective check out the video of Steve explaining the system,

Bike Rack and Neighborhood integration,composter

LED lighting and sensors,

in kitchen composter and recycling,

Soy based insulation,

Video LEED education programs.

Overall the building is efficient and well organized.  It hopes to serve its occupants as they serve the public.

answering

E-Waste Recycling

Today was a good day in the Roanoke Valley to recycle e-wasteewaste Despite the gloomy weather, the event was well attended.  It seemed organized and efficient. We pulled in, cycled in the line and waited only a few minutes for workers to unload our trunk.  Good-bye old outdated scanner. 

If you have old computers, TVs or other electronics seek out your community’s e-waste opportunities to recycle.  It keeps these items out of the landfills and out of potential deadly situations in unrestricted foreign back lots.  It is a common practice to smelt the heavy metals from the internal computer parts for scrap at the expense of worker safety, usually women and children.  This is a highly toxic and dangerous process for pennies in profit.  By recycling your ewaste you are doing the right thing.

ewaste-mtn