Friday lunch recap 11/15/2013: Community Building and Development

This past Friday we heard a talk on healthy communities from Rick Smith, a professor of Social Work at WSU who teaches community development. Rick mentioned: Communities are often associated with a specific place (such as a Green Garage community) Communities can be social circles (such as the virtual community of artists formed by Red Panda, a business-in-residence who makes guitar pedals and has a world-wide digitally-connected fanbase) Communities can be formed around a particular interest (such as the pet lovers in Adrienne Wisok's upcoming pet business) Communities are often informal, and NOT a bureaucracy. Rick told of healthy/unhealthy communities in Boston who, while having similar demographics, had differing levels of community engagement. More eyes on the street … [Read more...]

Friday lunch recap 11/8/2013: What About A Detroit Alley District?

Last month in Model D Claire Nelson and Francis Grunow wrote a piece entitled "What If Dally Was Daily?", making the case for an alley district in Detroit utilizing the existing infrastructure to encourage a more walkable community. This past Friday Francis and Claire described their vision at our Friday meeting, followed by an alley tour at 4pm. Some of their points included: A discussion of Sanborn Maps, drawn up for fire insurance purposes, detailing buildings, streets and alleyways from the 1800's. A view of a pedestrian-only district supported by an alley infrastructure as a new way of living in the city. The Alley District having a foundation where the current Dally in the Alley takes place, and spreading south and east. A discussion of scalability, with the dimensions … [Read more...]

Friday lunch recap 10/18/13: Designing a treehouse

Let's say you're designing a treehouse. What would you like to see in it? Are there any features you remember from a favorite childhood treehouse you'd like to see included (or updated)? How would you design it so that it could fill multiple purposes for multiple kinds of people (kids and grown-ups alike)? We were considering questions like this during our Friday lunch community design session on 10/18 lead by designer-in-residence Kevin Gardner. Kevin's working on the design of a treehouse that we're thinking about building on the site of the El Moore, our residential project down the street from the Green Garage. (For more info on the El Moore, visit our wiki and check in the bottom left corner of the homepage.) Kevin's early in the design phase and wanted to turn to the … [Read more...]

Spirit of Detroit

At today's Friday lunch conversation Tom asked the group to describe the current spirit of Detroit. The contributions included: Detroit is a mecca for art, music and manufacturing. It's an uplifting place, a forerunner. Detroit currently specializes in human technology - people drive everything. Human capital is what makes it roll. Look at the D:Hive theme: Detroit is for doers. Detroit is a charitable city - people give what they can to help others. There is an unparallelled level of volunteerism. There is a great deal of collaboration. One person used the analogy of 'breaking down silos.' Elsewhere, people and businesses can tend to center inward, in essence building their silo, but in Detroit we see more building of bridges, a greater openness to working across … [Read more...]

Friday lunch recap 9/27/13: Getting ready for winter

The last two Friday lunch presentations had to do with the approach of winter. September 27th's, by retired engineer and Green Garage welcome desk volunteer Tom Besemer, was about some basic steps that every homeowner can take to get ready for the colder weather. October 4th's was by Joe Gallagher, who manages the Green Garage's energy systems, and offered a look at the solar thermal panels that are an integral component of the GG's heating system. We'll briefly recap both presentations, starting today with domestic winter prep and continuing next week with the solar panel talk. Preparing the Home for Winter Tom Besemer broke down the steps we can all take to prepare our homes for winter into three categories: the furance, living area, and insluation. Here are some of his thoughts on … [Read more...]

Friday lunch: introduction to permaculture

Last Friday, Matt Sitek of Pill Pouch, a family business-in-residence at the Green Garage, presented an introduction to permaculture. Matt's been interested in the subject of permaculture for some time. Recently, he attended a nine-day permaculture workshop in Wisconsin, and he's started facilitating an open, informal weekly lunchtime discussion group at the Green Garage about permaculture's 12 principles and their application in the GG's rooftop farm. (Tuesdays at noon.) Matt started his presentation with definitions and a history. Permaculture ("permanent" + "agriculture," later "permanent" + "culture," too) is a way of designing systems based on natural processes and relationships. It's "ecosystem mimicry," in Matt's words. He briefly outlined its origins, after Australian … [Read more...]

Friday lunch: the life in the soil

Last Friday, our resident rooftop farmer Kirsten Lyons spent a few minutes disussing the microbial life in the soil around us. Kirsten, who manages the Green Garage's urban rooftop farm, has been playing in and learning about Michigan soil for decades as a gardener, farmer, and landscape designer. Some years ago, her passion for soil brought her into contact with the work of Elaine Ingham, a soil biologist who advocates for an ecological approach to soil management. Rather than relying on chemicals and tilling to nourish healthy soils, Ingham's approach consists in learning about the astonishing abundance and diversity of microbial life that calls the soil its home, then naturally creating the conditions in which that life can thrive. A thoughtfully balanced microbial ecosystem … [Read more...]

Incubating a pet business

When we first started incubating businesses here at the Green Garage, we never thought we'd be delving into the pet business, and yet for the past few months we have been working with Adrienne Wisok on incubating her emerging animal-related enterprise. Adirenne, who works as a veterinary assistant, entered into the process thinking that she wanted to open a sustainable pet retail shop. Working through 4 weeks of collaborative design and a summer of seed design (defining the core of the business), a new business idea has emerged that better reflects her passion: a human/animal companion therapy business. She has moved from products to a service-based business. Here is Adrienne's description: I create the conditions in which animals and humans – each unique – can teach each other to be … [Read more...]

Friday lunch: the buzz about bees

Well, hello there! After more than a year away, we've decided that it's time to dust off the old blog, in part to extend the reach of our Friday lunch conversations. If you've never attended a Friday lunch, we hold them every single Friday (except major holidays) at noon. Everyone brings a lunch and introduces themselves, then we introduce the work that goes on at the Green Garage and host a brief presentation, either about our work in sustainability or the work of one of our businesses-in-residence. (After lunch, starting a few minutes past 1:00, we give a tour of our building.) From here on out, we're going to do our best to recap all the presentations here on the Green Garage blog so that folks who can't make it to lunch can still connect with the material & the people … [Read more...]

Measuring Performance

It's one thing to renovate a building to make it highly energy efficient. It's another to measure the performance of the building and its occupants over time to see if your goals have been met. We have begun a series of measurement pages on our wesite that measure our water use, waste output and energy efficiency. We have enough data to look our water and waste numbers for a year and see trends. We began measuring our energy 4 months ago. Here's an example of a chart measuring our water usage from July 2012 to July 2013. Notice the bump in October in 2012. This was due to a toilet that ran all weekend. We compare our water usage per person per month to the industry standard for office buildings, and here's how the comparison looks for the same time frame. Our numbers are a … [Read more...]

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