What happened to Betsy? – A look at that quintessential of American breakfast things!

This week I am traveling.  But that doesn’t mean I wont blog!  Its not for no reason they say that the best of ideas come out of the blue.  For me this happened aboard Southwest airlines which by the way has the best service, convertible roof tops notwithstanding.  I have always enjoyed their in-flight magazine Spirit.  The articles are informative, educational and entertaining.  Well, this one issue featured ‘Eggs’ and I have to say it was all of the above!

From philosophy to religion, from literature to every day language and culture the egg is ubiquitous.  Examples abound from Humpty Dumpty to Aliens and the Beatles singing Eggman.  Of course the articles pointed out the various ways eggs have found their way into our vocabulary – from nest egg, to good egg, to egg head and eggshells, to egging you on and egg on your face and numerous others; too many to list out here.  What interested me more was that eggs aren’t created equal.  Or the growing trend to raise chicken in homes or my recent adventure trying to locate Betsy the newest addition to the coop at a friends baby shower.  For these and more I urge you to read on!

Well we know all eggs are not created equal.  In fact you are what you eat.  A recent article in the New York Times ‘Another Side of Tilapia, the Perfect Factory Fish‘ amply illustrates this point. This article and the blog follow up at Epicurious clearly illustrate that its not elitist to wonder what goes into our food – literally.  The farmed Tilapia for example are fed soy and corn – not something that grows under water naturally last I checked!  You guessed it.  The beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids are also missing with Tilapia scoring a measly 135 mg per 100 grams of fish.  Compare that to say the wild salmon that comes in at 1700 mg/100 grams of fish.  Wait something is fishy.  What happened to those eggs!

Lets get eggstatic about egg statistics.  Iowa is not just first to the polls.  Its the most chicken friendly state producing upwards of 54 Million eggs a year.  Or did you know that egg whites are the best part of the egg containing the maximum protein, niacin, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and sodium concentrations.  As for the yellow it does store a lot of cholesterol.  But it also contains the bulk of the vitamins.  I further learnt that off the 78.5 Billion eggs produced in 2010 44.9 Billion went into retail, and 6.3 Billion in to the food services industry.  Combined, and assuming a population of 350 million thats about 142 eggs per person per year.  About 300,000 eggs go to Peg’s Glorified Ham N Eggs in Reno, Nevada each year alone.  I am not kidding.  You better get to know your eggs well.

This got me thinking.  Are there best places for breakfast atleast in my home state of CA that are worth knowing about.  Well there is a website that tracks just this kind of information.  Mr.Breakfast.com  is a site which lists and ranks breakfast establishments for all states. Atleast for CA the top five are listed as: Ole’s Waffle House in Alameda, Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles in Pasadena, The Sugar Shack in Huntington Beach, Jacks Restaurant and Bakery in Bishop, and Nick’s Laguna Beach in Laguna Beach.  If you have eaten at these places, do let us know!

But then what about folks who prefer to eat their breakfast at home.  Well a lot of them are getting the eggs in their backyard.  Yes, a lot of folks are taking to their backyards to raise chicken.  Some cities even have laws which allow a certain number of chicken to be raised domestically in residential neighborhoods.  Apparently even New York City allows the raising of hens.  Neighbors beware.  But then again when you consider the cost of a chicken, the coop (which you can fashion yourself if you want), and the cost of the feed ($20 at most a month), its a very cheap hobby to have the eggs delivered to your doorstep – literally.  Well almost, unless your front door faces your backyard.  A good source of information as mentioned in the articles is BackYardChickens.com  The site started in 1999 has everything you need to know about raising chicken.  There are health benefits to consuming these eggs as well when compared to the store front variety, such as lowered cholesterol, and increased vitamins.

“Betsy, Betsy.. Woo hoo… Where are you… Betsy! Betsy  come here… Oh dear”  My host was getting a bit alarmed.  We had been searching for 15 minutes in her backyard for the latest addition to her hen collection (Betsy had joined two others just a few weeks ago).  Still socially awkward and feeling a bit unwelcome Betsy used to hide.  But now she was nowhere to be found.  Of course our host was getting worried and soon the baby shower turned into a ‘find betsy’ affair for those out in her backyard. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long. Not long after one of the kids heard some scraping from behind one of the closed doors under a disused staircase.  We wedged the door open and sure enough there she was. Betsy had been found.   She had just laid the most perfect of eggs!

Note: We welcome your comments around a)the best breakfast recipe with eggs, and b)your favorite breakfast restaurant.

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500Gallons Interview with Dr. Kevin Danaher

It was well worth driving up to San Francisco the other day.  Traffic notwithstanding, we made it to meet with Dr. Kevin Danaher.  Kevin was very generous with his time and the Founder and Executive Producer of the Green Festival, and Executive Director of the Global Citizen Center sat down to talk passionately and at length about sustainability, the green festival, global exchange, and other issues close to his heart.  Here is the interview.

In Part I Kevin talks about his passion for sustainability, what got him to go down this path, as well as discusses Global Exchange at length, as well as the concept of fair trade stores

In Part II Kevin explores his conceptualization of the ‘Green Festival’ and its many years in existence.

Part III saw Dr. Danaher talk about the green economy center, a novel concept that he is spearheading.  Watch him explain how he plans to bring all things sustainable under one big roof and provide a forum for the smaller players to survive and thrive.

Finally in Part IV we spoke about the role of the internet, public policy when it came to sustainability as well as probing what the average citizen can do.

We really hope you liked this four part piece from 500Gallons.  Stay tuned as we plan to bring more of these interviews from the road for your pleasure.  Up next in the ‘We Salute You’ series is Aseem Das from World Centric.  We hope you can join us.  We can’t wait!

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee solely and do not reflect the official policy or position of 500Gallons

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Green Certifications and Branding – What Can Restaurants Cook Up

No one is arguing the fact that going green and employing sustainable practices in restaurant operations benefits the environment.  For that matter, owners are even aware of the benefits to the pocket book that environmentally friendly practices can deliver.  So, in the hospitality industry taking that to the next level i.e. connecting the branding power of sustainable practice to increased client traffic should be natural.  As a result restaurant owners start going green in droves, and certification bodies attest to it, giving customers a choice as to where they take their dine-out dollars.  And everyone (restaurant owners, and customers) should be happy with the results right? WRONG!

A little while ago USA Today had an interesting article on restaurants and going green.  Statistics abounded in this piece.  Restaurants consume about 5 times more energy on a per square foot basis when compared to other commercial establishments.  Nearly 80% of the $10 billion dollars of energy consumed in the commercial food segment is lost to inefficiencies in cooking and storing.  Recall our blog on ‘it takes 10 calories to create 1 calorie of end product consumed in a restaurant’.  The numbers seem to be adding up so far.  One PG&E estimate pegs the average restaurant as using 500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, 20,000 therms of natural gas and 800,000 gallons of water annually.  Another way of looking at it comes from the PG&E study ‘Boosting Restaurant Profits With Energy Efficiency’ which really put it in perspective for me.  Consider this – powering a typical electrical, open, deep fat fryer takes about 11,000 kWH per year.  Now that same energy can power the average California home (granted these are not McMansion sizes) for two years.  Or consider this – that same power the fryer uses can power six energy efficient 13W lamps for five hours a day for the next 77 hours.  That is a lot of energy!

So, now that we have established how waste occurs in a restaurant can we do something abut it?  Sure!  For example a restaurant can cut down on water consumption by using low flow or slow flow valves for pre-rinse purposes.  Or, according to the EPA replacing a standard urinal with a waterless urinal can save them about 40,000 gallons a year.  So, next I looked up water rates in the city of LA.  Depending on whether your restaurant falls into the first tier or the second tier category you end up paying roughly $0.005 to $0.007 per gallon.  In essence 40,000 gallons saved a year maps to about $200 to $300 per year .  Now that in of itself may not seem to be much.  But lets say you have four urinals in your establishment.  All of a sudden you are looking to save close to $1,000 or shall we say you wont be flushing $1000 down the toilet in an average year (you might save more if you serve extra chilled drinks!).  Now if you are like me you may wonder what the average life of a urinal is. Lets say its about 10 years if you take care of maintaining your plumbing.  So, now your efforts at conservation pay off in many ways.  You save water a precious resource, your bills go down and you save money, and guess what, you get bragging rights.  While there are many other ways to make a restaurant sustainable in a profitable way, I want to next focus on the last leg of this article – branding and bragging about sustainability.

Does a restaurant’s sustainable behavior give it branding leverage that is measurable?  If I were looking at a choice of restaurants to dine at on a given night, along with the quality of food, the service, and the ambience, the eco-friendliness measure of the establishment would play a big role in my selection.  Turns out I am not alone in my thinking.  Study after study seems to suggest that eco-friendliness can make for a very positive and reinforcing entrapment as far as restaurant patrons are concerned.   This ScienceDaily  article suggests that diners may be willing to pay more to eat at ‘Green’ restaurants.  In a study that was conducted by Ohio State University researcher  Jay Kundampully, that appeared in the Journal of Tourism and Hospitality fully 85% of the respondents (sample size 455) said they would be willing pay anywhere from 10 to 20% more to be able to dine at green restaurants.  Close to 3/4 of the respondents had a positive association of restaurants that adopted sustainability measures.  So wait a minute.  You save money by going green. But you also attract more patrons, who are also willing to pay a premium to dine at your fine establishment!  Wow!

So, whats wrong with this picture?  Restaurants go the sustainable route, save money in the process, brand themselves as green and make customers happy right? WRONG!  Turns out while there are a plethora of bodies claiming to certify a restaurant as green there are no set, standard ways in which these self proclaimed certifiers operate.  Research shows that consumers are becoming skeptical of environmentally friendly claims that establishments are making.  According to new research from EnviroMedia Social Marketing, 65 percent of Americans would prefer just one seal for green products over the hundreds now that are causing confusion amongst consumers.  Further, according to EnviroMedia, today there are more than 350 labels or seals of approval for being green – information overload to the extreme if you ask me. In fact Green Washing Index an innovative site lets users rate the environmental qualities of a company or a product thus making businesses accountable while educating consumers.  When it comes to restaurants dubious mechanisms of recognizing them as being green have been written about in quite some detail.  Sustainablog carried an article not too long ago claiming to expose just such a thing.  In their investigation they were able to create a fictitious restaurant and get it necessary recognition as well as seemingly bonafide marketing collateral in minutes without incorporating a single sustainability action, or purchase!

In closing, what we probably need is maybe an Underwriters Laboratory equivalent for green certification.  A uniform standards based approach to certifying businesses and products as green. Else you may spend your hard earned dollar at the corner restaurant that claims to be green while it dumps oil and grease down the drain.  Beware of those certifications, and be willing to question them! Bon Appetit for now…

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When Zagat says ‘Don’t Open a Restaurant’

I was tuned in to ‘Talk of the Nation’ just yesterday and Neal Conan decided to feature Nina and Tim Zagat of Zagat.com fame!  What a treat.  The conversation all of about 20 minutes was rich in content, and stories that users called in with.  The focus was on opening restaurants or should we say not opening restaurants.

The interview was based on an article in the Wall Street Journal that the Zagat’s wrote.  The whole premise revolved around what it takes to open a restaurant and be successful.  Tim opined that being a good cook is good, but not good enough.  In opening a restaurant one has to consider a lot of things.  From choosing prime real estate to attract the best of and most frequent clients, to ensuring that the decor is just right – not too gaudy, not too shabby.  Restaurants need good PR as well.  Don’t expect to be just found by folks walking into your establishment!  Tim also pointed out that a restaurant owner better have good business skills.  Skills such as being a shrewd buyer who knows how to run their inventory tightly is key. Elsewhere  I have blogged about how for every calorie consumed 10 go waste or into creating it (depending on your viewpoint).  Waste endemic as it is to the restaurant business is not something to be taken lightly!  Owners need to be on top of their game as to their usage patterns, buying patterns, and costs therein.

Tim and Nina also pointed out that a restaurant needs to be heavily capitalized.  There is a lot of front end investment which does not see a return for a while.  Also, they mentioned that the owner needs to be a jack of all trades.  Be an electrician one day, a plumber the next.  A broken faucet or a leak needs to be attended to immediately and cant wait for your roto-rooter to waltz in.  All in all long days (some starting as early as well before sunrise, and ending well past midnight) are the norm, and this means missing out on your favorite holidays – valentines day, thanksgiving, christmas etc!  This is all of a sudden not looking to be that enticing a proposition is it?  Nina also pointed out the need for good overall leadership.  This point cannot be emphasized enough.  From the runners (those who deliver food to the table), to the wait staff, from chef to cleaning staff and front of house folks, you need team work, efficiency, and reliability.  A successful business hires well and hires for the task that needs to be performed.  In fact surveys have pointed out that a majority of complaints about a restaurant do not relate to the quality of the food, but more to the quality of the service.  I see the chefs smiling!

So you may wonder whether doing all of the above things guaranteed success.  Unfortunately not.  Even if you did all of the above, chances are according to the Zagat’s that you will still fail with a 60% chance that you wont last 3 years in the business.  Neal the host went on to ask them about what are things folks could do to improve the odds.  The Zagats pointed out that having a partner who would focus on the business side was one way to spread the responsibility.  Having family as an integral part in the initiative was another way.  And of course publicity is very important.  To the last point they gave the example of ‘George’  who opened a Chinese restaurant and who knew all about Chinese cooking.  There was a fire the first week and the restaurant reopened a month later.  However there was no publicity and 6 months later they were out of business. On the contrary they found a new restaurant very close to where they work which had some really good food.  Having lunched there, they called up all the food critics in town that they knew and asked them to visit the restaurant and write about it.  Today that place is a huge success.

All in all opening a restaurant may seem like a very romantic idea.  I will be the first to admit that the thought has crossed my mind.  It almost feels like being able to throw a rip roaring party every day and getting paid for it in the bargain as Neal put it very succinctly.  Alas! If only things were so easy.  So while the food channel may get your adventurous side going Tim and Nina Zagat advise you to not to gamble just on the basis of your dreams or a romantic notion.  Instead go out for a walk and stop by your favorite restaurant for that best of entrée you desire.  You can leave the cooking to them!

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Counting Calories and Restaurant Waste

Last year in December TED published a video of legendary chef and restaurateur Arthur Potts Dawson talking about his efforts at creating a sustainable restaurant.  This has to have been one of the most illuminating talks that no restaurant owner can afford to miss.  From learning about how many different ways a potato gets handled all the way to using the elements (wind, water, sun) to power restaurants the short (less that 10 minute) talk is packed with information and thought provoking commetary.

Dawson starts out by informing us that for every calorie consumed in a restaurant 10 calories go into creating it! That is highly inefficient. Dawson goes on to take the example of  the “humble potato” and describes the various (8 according to him) stages that it goes through from ‘cradle to grave’. A lot of these stages say growth, transportation, cooking etc involve expenditure of energy.  An important concept that underlies this piece of the conversation is our inability to look at the full system components – the cradle to grave lifecycle if you will, and to take into consideration all avenues where energy is wasted.  Point being that the final product or end point in isolation while important needs to take into account the journey to get there.

Waste as per Dawson could be anything, time, material, space, ‘waste-waste’.  In this context Dawson goes on to describe his vision of a sustainable restaurant next.  The Acorn House has floors that are sustainable and recyclable, chairs that are recycled and recyclable, walls with shelves to eliminate wasted space.  The restaurant is run on sustainable energy (wind in this case), all the bulbs are daylight bulbs, reuses a lot such as a reconditioned coffee machine.  Reuse is also a practice as in filtering their own water, filling up bottles and refrigerating them and using them over and over and over again!

Some other innovative ideas in Mr. Dawson’s restaurant are around portion sizes.  As a patron you can not only specify what you want, but also how much you want.  That is a novel idea indeed and worth emulating elsewhere.   Wasted food has to be the biggest concern for anyone looking at the sustainability aspects of running a restaurant.  In this regard his restaurant composts food, has a wormery,  and then uses the post-compost to grow vegetables on premise.   When it comes to water the restaurant is equipped with (and tastefully done if I may add) with a step wise water filtration system that takes reuse water and irrigates the garden.  They also have plans to take this water and use it as flush water in the restrooms.

Dawson talks about his crusade to create sustainable restaurants.  In this regard he introduces ‘The Waterhouse’ where thee is absolutely no gas energy.  Everything is run on electricity – hydro electricity that is.  The restaurant is “cooled and heated by water, filters its own water and is powered by water”.   Heat exchangers and a convenient canal nearby provide for natural airconditioning.

Dawson sure is changing the world view of what a sustainable restaurant ought to be.  Concepts based on wood (the acorn house), and water (the waterhouse) are to be followed by others such as one based on fire.  If this were not enough to keep him busy, he is also responsible for the people’s supermarket.  Of course I dont want to give everything away in this blog.  Go to the video and enjoy the rest of it. It will be 8 minutes well spent.

Mr. Dawson, Greenmachan salutes you!

To my readers, as promised this is a shorter blog article.   I will soon be evaluating some cool technologies.  If you are interested in reading about specific innovations send me a note at greenmachan@gmail.com

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Spring Step to the Green Festival San Francisco, April 2011

It was the perfect day to head out to San Francisco for the Green Festival.  I could tell spring was very much in the air after the recent torrential rains we received just a few weeks ago.  We bundled our little ones in to our hybrid car (make withheld for what will be obvious reasons) and prepared to get going on our 45 mile trek to the city.  One problem.  The car wouldn’t start!  A quick dash into the house to get the keys to our old faithful alternate – not necessarily the best alternative – car and we were on our way.  Parking was a breeze and the staff the most friendliest that I have come across.

As the nation’s premier sustainability event 10 years and going, with a total visitor count exceeding 1 Million, this project is jointly driven by Green America and Global Exchange.  This years festival was staged at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center and was a treat for the eyes, and provided substance for the mind and soul.  As such, I would be doing it injustice without interspersing this narrative with a few visuals.

a mountain made of recycled containersMountain of the Recycling Goddess

The setup was linear with two rows of booths filled with exhibitors.  The food court was at the very back of the exhibits and so one had to walk a bit through all the vendor stalls to get there (great way to build an appetite).  The recycling mountain caught my eye first.  This was literally a 5 foot tall structure made of recyclable containers.  What a way to welcome one to the festival I thought!  Next up I decided to take a tour of all the vendors, and select a few that I thought had compelling products to write home about.  While I think every product was great, I had to put some definition as to which products I would blog about.  My criteria for this was two fold.  The product should have a practical use and should not just showcase a technology (so feel good potions and perpetual motion machines were ruled out). Second I was looking to bring to you my readers products or approaches to sustainability that stood out as unique – the stuff that makes one go “Huh” and then “Wow”.  How best to start that journey than to suggest that we use paper made out of elephant poop!

elephant poop to paperPachyderm to Paper Terms

At first glance Dr. Karl Wald’s Mr.ElliePooh endeavor seems to be too good to be true.  While saving forests from logging (by the paper industry) is clearly one benefit, reduction of Human/Elephant conflict and providing employment to the local population are equally important effects of this program.  Dr. Karl’s story is equally inspiring and is worth a read at their website.  The product itself takes many different forms – Scrapbooks, Journals, Stationery, Office Gifts and Exotic paper pulped to perfection by the elephants of SriLanka.  The paper is made from 50% elephant dung and 50% post consumer paper.  As their motto states, this is ‘Conservation through Innovation’  Dr. Wald I salute you!

While not one to jump at the prospect of jewelery shopping, what caught my eye aboutFrom War to Peace was their claim about creating jewelry from dismantled nuclear weapons systems.  Paul and Sandee Ogren reclaim the copper used for wiring in nuclear missile systems and turn that into pieces of art.  So while you shouldn’t expect your neck to glow in the dark the fact that they have managed to help decommission yet another war head is something we need to thank them for.  From there I made my way over to understand what glob was all about.

glob pain is made of fruits and vegetablesWhen you use fruits and veggies to paint

If you worry about whats in your child’s paint then glob might be the answer.  Arts and crafts paints could contain volatile organic compounds, lead and cadmium.  Glob paint owes its pigments to fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices.  Yes you could literally eat that painting of a plum your kid has drawn!  Their water based paints and pigments are biodegradable.  With brushes made of bamboo we were ready to paint the town red!  From here, making my way through yipi! and The New Wheel and a few stalls advertising herbal remedies, we made our way to the The Takeout Store.

Disposable tableware

Angela Peng the general manager introduced me to the various eco-friendly disposable tableware that her store carries.  Their disposable plates, bowls, clamshell containers, cups and utensils are biodegradable and compostable.  The products are made from Bagasse which is a byproduct of sugar cane and poly lactic acid which in turn is extracted from corn starch.  A great replacement for all the Styrofoam and plastic we see strewn around. In a similar vein Guru Shetty and his enterprise The Avani Store markets BioPlates made from the naturally shed leaves of the Areca palm tree.  Being 100% natural these BioPlates degrade like any other plant matter.  Their curry bowls and fruit bowls could easily fit a Thai restaurants menu!

And lastly, there was stuff for the little ones as well.  The new Green Kid’s Zone filled with Tree Frog Trek’s Rockin’ Reptiles, Creative Reuse craft projects, and fund educational interactive performances with Green Kids.  If there was anything that I felt was a bit incomplete, it was the lack of focus on B2B companies.  While there were some vendors focused on providing goods and services to other businesses, for the most part the exhibition was very consumer centric.  I hope the festival organizers realize that a lot of big changes can be affected by targeting small to medium businesses as well.  Atleast a few more booths catering to this segment would have been nice.  This is a long post but hey so was the festival!  This barely scratches the surface and I hope to be there again soon. Hope to see you too!  Until then and with a shorter post next time…

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In 2012 Let Maya Teach You Green!

My dad used to tell me “Son when you think of the future, make sure you look into the past.  Hiding in there you may see what has been and is to be”.  It did not make a whole lot of sense to me growing up.  Of course we are all well familiar of those clichéd utterances that go something like ‘History repeats itself’ or something to that effect.  If we peer deep these turn out to be of a symbolic nature, or something that repeats itself in spirit.  But I least expected to get reinforcement about sustainability by peering into the dark pages of a long gone past!

For the history buffs amongst you, the Mayan civilization dates back to ancient times.  From 2000 BC or beyond (depending on which version you are reading), to until their Spanish conquest the Maya civilization extended throughout present-day southern Mexico, and extended to include present-day nations of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and parts of Honduras.  So what does that have to do with sustainability or being green you may wonder?  You may even go as far as to remind me that per the Maya everything ends next year – 2012!  So what’s the big deal here?  That is the subject of today’s blog entry…

Recently, a friend of mine who learnt about my blogging attempts sent me an email with a link that took me to a cnet article ‘Archaeologists: Mayans were green builders‘  Initiallly, I thought this was an April fool’s joke.  The article was dated May 2010.  Why would he send me something a few months old. But upon a closer look, and some more googling to research I discovered to my amazement that he was right.  The damn Mayans knew what it was to respect our spot on this planet.  This planet we fondly call the third rock from the sun and which goes around it at a whopping speed of some 67,000 miles/hour.  You got it. Those damn Mayan’s knew what it was respect our spot on this planet.  Bears repeating especially when our existence falls into perspective.

So what was special about their building one wonders… According to the cnet article, NASA scientists and archaeologists have unearthed an ancient Mayan city that employed a system of urban architecture.  The Caracol project team of Dr. Diane Chase and Arlen Chase from the University of North Carolina have mapped about 77 miles of the ancient Mayan city of Caracol.  This city supposedly supported upwards of 100,000 people from 250 to 900 AD.  Aerial inspection using NASA satellites showed that the Mayans employed terraced roofs for agriculture and maintained sustainable dwellings long before ‘green’ was an operative word.  Elsewhere it has also been reported that the Mayan architecture called for concentration of people into smaller areas by interlacing work and living places.  Now whether this was due to other societal reasons, maybe borne out of the ‘power in numbers’ syndrome in those days of internecine warfare, I do not know.  However, compare that to today’s generation wanting to ditch that 30 minute/20 mile commute and move to the city or to live near their place of work.  There seems to be something to it huh?

So, have we learnt anything from this.  Well, its heartening to report that we are not just reading about it and feeling good.  There are some folks out there who are trying to emulate (atleast in theory) some of what the Mayans did.  Take for example the Laboratory For Architecture that as recent as Nov of last year presented a design of a sustainable building that resembles the famous Mayan pyramids.  According to this articlethe structure includes both office and residential spaces. Hmmm… It only gets more interesting.  The structure located in Merida, Mexico has a number of green features that lets it reduce its overall power consumption drastically.   For example, stepped back terraces allow sunlight to reach the vegetation from the highest to the lowest floors.  Water consumption and energy use are reduced thanks to rainwater capture and solar panels lining the exterior facade.

A second heartwarming example is the Tecnico Maya school.  Its a green construction project by Long Way Home Built in Guatemala, the building materials consist of recycled tires and trash bottles.  Along with other education, the school will also focus on green vocational skills for students 10 years and older, and equip them with the skills to break the cycle of poverty, but in a sustainable fashion.  Talk about history repeating itself in modern day Mayan areas.

In closing, I would say when your pops tells you something, listen to him carefully.  For he may be passing along a gem, that nugget of wisdom that if you pay attention to you will be well served.  Equally important (and in this case) we have the choice to listen to the collective human voice.  That of our forefathers who roamed these lands.  From tree worshipers, to star gazers, from taking care of their farm, their animals and their lands, to ensuring that they took only that which the needed from earth, these folks might provide a valuable lesson as we careen towards a future of increased stress on our resources compared with its decreased overall availability.  What we should do is peer back into the annals of history occasionally.

While 2012 would make for a great movie plot, the Mayans and others like them, before and after them, also had a lot of positives to teach us.  Respect for the earth certainly was there – somewhere in there.  All you have to do is look!

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