I'm really excited to find others interested in sustainable ideas, hurray for this forum! I was wondering, I have gotten a lot of my information from books, are there any good books anyone would like to recommend? How about magazines or websites specializing in these ideas? Any scource at all that you have found a valuable rescource?
spot, I hope to move my books here within the next 6-8 weeks and then I'll have some titles. Many are probably out of print. I started on this path in 1975 so I've been exposed to lots of books and lots of ideas. I think everyone with this kind of interest should read Helen and Scott Nearing's books as they were the current generations' pioneers.
I also find ideas by following obscure links on web pages. For example, a novel I was reading 2 weeks ago mentioned Wattle and Daub construction. Well, I knew what it was, but not exactly HOW to do it. So I went to Google. One of the many sites had a link to the Rice Hull House, which I would never have found otherwise. I'd never have found "Flying Concrete" except for catching a segment of Extreme Homes... and so it goes. I guess I'm kinda like the babies that are taught math by the dot flash cards... their eyes really light up at a new card! (I have seen that myself with a friend's baby and a new card.)
summer, in the 1980's I worked as a construction supervisor for a government pilot program, "Self-Help Housing". We had 4 families in our crew and we built 4 houses, sub-contracting out the licensed trades. The deal was that all the families worked on all 4 houses, and no one could move in until all the houses were finished. 2 of the 4 houses were passive solar.
All of my building projects have been teaching opportunities, and mostly with unskilled women. Even the house I had published was built mostly by women. I also volunteered for the Habitat for Humanity's Women's House in Asheville. The coalition of women attorneys sponsored the house, and all of the labor was female except for the crane operator who helped set the trusses, and the mechanicals & electrical. The homeowners were a family of 4 generations of women.
I've never been tempted by Habitat for Humanity. When I was in Costa Rica a few years ago, learning timber framing & how to make walls of local materials (in this case coffee bean leftovers), an H for H house was going up down the road from our timber frame. It looked so dreary in comparison.
Summer, yes, they often pale in comparison to inspired innovations of design. But given the bare parameters of simply providing housing, they mostly work just like the large percentage of housing built everywhere.
That's why I'm hoping this forum can open some eyes on many fronts. We don't all have to live in look-alikes but so few people are aware of alternatives...
We have a lot of Habitat houses that have gone up and continue to go up in the city where I used to work. My major problem with them is they insist these people need NEW housing! They build house on vacabnt lots that could be community gardens etc. and leave lots of empty houses, empty. Why not rehab homes instead of building new? Rehab them to the point of being livabable then let the buyer do the rest. I bought my house in 91. It needed LOTS of work, and I'm still working on it! Gutters, furnace, windows, siding, plumbing, etc. etc. etc. etc. ... have all been done as money and time become available. Right now my bathroom is torn apart, has been for over a year. So why must these people have NEW or PRISTINE housing to move into? OK, so they must put some sweat equity into it, but from what I have seen they think the houses should then maintain themselves. Houses do not stay new for very long, its a constant effort to maintain them. IMHO a far better system would be to form partnerships with local contractors to teach renovation and maint skills. Provide low cost loans for homes that can be rehabilitated and and low or no cost links to contrators and materials instead of plunking a person down in a new cookie cutter home with no idea how to maintain it.
One thing I have seen them do right is in this city they opened a a place called "RE-Store" where they seel overstock and salvaged building materials and appliances etc. It is open to everyone but IMHO low income folks should get their stuff at reduced cost if this isn't already the case. This builds pride of ownership, fosters learning new skills etc.
The rate of people who don't pay their mortgages on these habitat homes is very, high. They also tend to leave the homes in trashed condition when they are evicted. This is not just in my area, I have read reports. Habitat works for some folks, but it is a big waste for others. IMHO,requiring people to rehab homes would be far better than enticing them with a new one. It would also be better for the community than a bunch of obviously low income homes on lots that could serve other purposes. A habitat house LOOKS LIKE a habitat house, gives the impression of low income that will be there as long as the house stands. A rehabed house looks good in the neiborhood, brings the value of the neighborhood up. Vacant lots can be turned into community gardens, parks, or sold or given to neiboring homeownerswho sign contracts to maintain them. Neighborhoods with larger lots have higher property values. Neiborhoods with more open green areas, community parks and gardens have higher property values. Neighborhoods with well maintaned rehabilitated homes have higher property values and are more desirable. Neighborhoods with a bunch of habitat homes and vacant homes are less desirable, and have lower property values. The folks living in these homes are not going to see the increase in their investment that they would see in other neighborhoods and will have less chance of "moving up in the world".
Spot, when I lived in Asheville, there was a large community group promoting and doing just what you describe, helping to rehab homes with low interest rate loans from the City, and a list of contractors to teach them.
Darius, IMHO this is what is needed. Many low income folks have not learned these skills, never had the responsibility of a home. No one can blame them if they don't know how. Education and access is what is necessary, not a bunch of new cookie cutter homes. As the saying goes, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, TEACH him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. A good WELL MANAGED program like this could reverse the tide of deteriorating neighborhoods. A cookie cutter house doesn't foster much pride of ownership, a distinctive home that one has rehabilitated is something to truly be proud of, not to mention in the process of rehabilitation one learns the art of maintanance that it takes to keep them looking and functioning the way they should. Our present welfare system has created a whole new underclass of people who simply don't have the skills it takes to survive. Its criminal IMHO. In the past being poor forced one to be MORE resourceful, now we encourage people to be less rescourcfull and condemn them to a life of poverty. Access and education is what is needed, not giveaways.
One of my favorite sources for information has been Consumer's Reports, for years and years. Consumer's Union is a strictly non-profit, unbiased organization that buys and tests all kinds of products. Do you want a paint that covers and levels well? Do you want a vacuum that is excellent, fairly quiet and filters dust well and will last a long time?
So many items that we use and build with are rated regularly. I have beaucoups of money over the years by finding that some of the best-rated products were not necessarily the most expensive.
It's the same with appliances, power tools, lawn mowers and tillers, even some foods.
Libraries keep a backlog of these magazines and the annual report in book form. I find the annual report does not have little things in it like the best dishwashing liquid so I save my magazines for about 3 years.
Absolutely, financial help is needed! Thats what I mean by access. Lots of cities have abaned homes sitting vacant drawing rodents and TROUBLE. I say GIVE these homes to someone willing to put the blood sweat and tears into rehabing them! Also, give them tax abatements, free training, negotiate materials at low or no cost for them, but also DEMAND results and a certain amount of giving back, say for example teaching others a skill they have been taught. Its much harder to manage such a program, but the results would be truly giving folks a way OUT of poverty, not simply helping them survive. But your right, I think I have stepped over the line into what is what many consider political but that was not my intention, I apologize.
In the next couple of days I am going to try to go thrpough some of my materials and start posting some book and site recomendations on permaculture, sustainability etc. I have found very usefull, that was my intention in starting the thread.
I have already recomended "Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls" in another thread. Great book with lots of info.
Thanks Dyson for the link to mother Earth News. Do you suscribe to the magazine? Do you like it? Or can read the best stuff on line at the site?
Woodspirit, very good idea! Part of sustainability is not buying another product that will not meet our needs and end up in a landfill sooner rather than later!
Another idea I like is Freecycle. I think they have them all over the US. I have found homes for several items and picked up others used instead of buying new. IMHO this a excellent methode towards greater sustainability.
Here is couple more excellent books. "Permaculture Principles And Pathways Beyond Sustainability" by David Holmgren. David Holmgren and Bill Mollison were the originators of the concept of permaculture and sustainability. This book is an excellent description of what it is all about. I don't agree with everything in it, but it contains some priceless info.
"Farmers of Forty Centuries" by F.H. King. This is an OLD book, originally published in 1911. It describes what Mr. King saw on his travels in China, Korea and Japan in 1905 I believe the year was. His interest was in how these farmers supported so many people on so little land and he documjents this in detail. His descriptions provide us with an ultimate picture of sustainability, nothing was wasted, not a drop of water or a grain of wheat. While I don't think any of us today could match what these people did, it is chock full of wisdom on how to live a sustainable lifestyle. Even Back then there were voices against the modern methods of food production, Mr. King does a lot of comparing of yeilds etc. Check it out, I think you will like it.
"The Humanure Handbook" by Joseph Jenkins. IMHO this book should be required reading for every person on the planet! He will help you view human waste in an entirely new light. For those of you concerned about disease you will be shocked at what this book has to say. The way we currently dispose of our waste is a crime. We contaminate our water with it! Not only that we spend millions doing it. Correctly composted humanure is far safer than dumping it in a river or septic tank and produces lots of HEALTHY fertilizer! No cow? No Chickens? No problem! Your family produces lots of manure that is just as healthy as any other when correctly composted and you won't be contaminating the environment any longer. As population grows this is going to HAVE to be the wave of future humanure disposal. An ultimate example of using modern scientific knowledge to improve on old practices. Do yourself a favor and read this book!
I've mentioned this guy, Dan Phillips, before, but just want to repost the link because he does all the things you were just talking about, in Houston. He gets cheap or donated lots, contractors' discards, unskilled labor & builds rustic, unique, modest homes, requires some sweat equity, then offers financing on each house with proceeds from the last one.
A couple more websites, like The Gutenberg Press, that contain libraries with classics that may be useful even now to concepts of sustainable living are in an article I wrote some time ago for DG on: http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/566811/ .
This is mainly oriented towards the arts and humanities with respect to gardening and nature, but my post of 1/9/06 at 6:41 am has Online Books Page, Henriettes Herbal and Soil and Health, which are huge repositories of free, online books relevant to this forum.
Inasmuch as free education accessible to all may be conducive to creatively meeting today's challenges, here's one more link to a cyber-university: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/ . Somewhere in Wikimedia or its affiliated websites are tutorials in math, sciences, and other academic areas from basics to way beyond - worth finding.
The most informative book in my library is Readers Digest " Back To Basics "
It touches on such topics as building a log cabin.Smoking and drying,harvesting and storing,farm animals,methane digesters,water,wind and sun power,how to navigate a fast moving stream and many other survival topics.
Another is " The Solar Greenhouse Book.If you had to you could live in one of them.
When the kids were young and were into scouting,I spent many interesting hour reading the Fox Fire books.
I have been a subscriber to Mother Earth News for over thirty years. Every issue has several articles that relate to this forum. It is an excellent magazine. A good book to read is Plan B 2.0, Rescuing a Planet Under Stress. The Author is Lester R. Brown. The book is published by W.W. Norton & Company.
In highschool I read Swiss Family Robison.It is a very infornative story of a family who were shipwrecked on a island and their ways of survival.The movie was not as informative.Has anyone read this book and had an impact on their life.