Driving Electric Is Now Easier than Ever

By Zach Henkin, Forth

If you missed the electric car test drive event at our recent Home and Garden Tour, here’s your chance to learn more about how fun and easy it is to drive an electric car. Read to the end to learn about local incentive programs that make owning an electric vehicle more affordable. 

car-1209912_1920Imagine never having to go to the gas station again, cutting your car maintenance bills in half, and enjoying the quietest ride on the road. Impossible? Nope, that’s what electric vehicle (EV) ownership is all about and it’s more accessible than ever! Oh, and did we mention zero carbon emissions?

When EVs first made their appearance on the car market, ownership was a bit complex. With only a few models to choose from, limited battery range and mystifying charging options, prospective EV owners faced numerous obstacles.

Fast-forward 20 years and the future is bright!  Buyers now have a choice of three different types of EVs:  100% battery-powered electric, Plug-in Hybrids, and Extended Range vehicles, which primarily run on electricity but have a small gas motor to charge the battery. All have the bells and whistles (and safety features) of a gas-powered vehicle and are fun to drive.

More than 20 different models of EVs are available, with mini vans, SUVs, compacts, sedans and more to meet the needs of a diverse market. Range has improved drastically, with some cars able to go 70-200 miles on a single charge. The West Coast also has one of the most extensive charging networks in the world. DC fast chargers can be found in many convenient locations and most can fully charge your car in about 30 minutes.  Websites and phone apps will show you where your closest available charging station is located.

Home-charging options have increased as well. The average price of a Level 2 unit starts at around $500 and manufacturer’s rebates are widespread.  EWEB offers a $200 incentive to help offset these costs. However, many EV owners find that a standard, dedicated 110 outlet, is sufficient for their charging needs.

With our ample and green power supply, transportation electrification is a smart solution to make real progress on our community’s carbon reduction goals. Increased EV usage means we optimize the investments made in our existing electric system, which helps all our customers economically. Visit EWEB to learn if an EV is right for you and to find current program offerings that support electric vehicles.


Green and Graceful Aging in Place

aging in place

When we think of green building, we tend to think of the built environment’s impact on the planet. But there’s a human component to crafting sustainable dwellings. An eco-friendly home should be one that maximizes a person’s health, well-being and productivity at every age.

As the U.S. population ages, and as more people choose to live in multigenerational households, there’s increased attention to creating homes that allow people to “age in place.” The idea is to build structures that can accommodate people’s changing mobility as they age so people can stay in their homes as long as possible.

The principles of “universal home” design are well aligned with many green building principles. People are more affected by toxins as they get older. As a result, it’s important that they age-in-place.jpglive in homes crafted with materials that will not leach chemicals. Older folks are less able to perform maintenance tasks on their homes. Homes built with quality, long-lasting materials will require less labor. Homes with universal design features don’t need few resource-consuming (and expensive) modifications such as wheelchair ramps or lifts.

There are numerous qualities to consider when building or remodeling a home so it’s appropriate for aging in place. They include:

  • Creating zero-step entrances from inside to outside, as well as within the house
  • Installing a curb-less shower and hand-held shower head in at least one bathroom
  • Making doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair
  • Designing rooms large enough to do the same
  • Installing blocks behind the walls of bathrooms and other rooms so it’s easier to install grab bars at a future date
  • Designing gardens and other outdoor spaces with adaptive gardening and mobility in mind

If some of these tasks seem impossible – for example, if your green ethos involves built up rather than out because of a desire to preserve land – include these components in the downstairs portion of the house only. That way, should a resident eventually become unable to use the entire house, they’ll still have a place they feel comfortable.

By incorporating some of these principles, homeowners stand a better chance of being able to stay in their homes and communities longer. They’re less likely to become isolated (a real concern for older folks) or suffer injuries, and they’re more likely to carry on with planet-friendly tasks such as gardening, cooking from scratch and walking to places they enjoy. Healthy, happy people make for a healthy, happy planet. And that’s a good thing for everyone.

Wabi-Sabi: What It’s All About

bring tourThe annual BRING Home and Garden Tour provides inspiration and ideas for simple living. We want to demonstrate that simple is beautiful, that imperfection can be something to find peace with rather than fighting. The concept of wabi-sabi is a perfect fit with that.

We hope you’ll learn more about the Japanese philosophy by reading this article, and we look forward to seeing you at this year’s BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $14 at the door. The tour will feature seven green homes, two organic gardens and one new business that emphasized reuse when designing its new facility. Get a preview of each property here. Buy your tickets on our website or at Down To Earth, Lane Forest Products or the Planet Improvement Center. We also hope to see you at Hot Mama’s Kitchen + Bar, 23 Oakway Center, for the tour afterparty.

What is wabi-sabi and how does one go about living in this way?

Wabi-sabi, the art of finding beauty in imperfection, emerged in the 15th century as a reaction to the lavishness, ornamentation, and use of rich materials that was popular during the time. In Japan, the concept is deeply ingrained and it is difficult to translate to Westerners.

In broad terms wabi-sabi is flea markets, not high-end boutiques; aged wood, not glossy finishes; a chipped cup instead of a new one. Understated, natural materials, and items that are cracked and used, are all wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi values simplicity, uncluttered, understated, and modest surroundings. Authenticity is key to the philosophy and the aesthetic: the presence of cracks and frayed edges are considered to be symbolic of the passing of time, and should be embraced.

For example; In Japan, broken pottery is mended instead of thrown away. Kintsugi or kintsukuroi, is a centuries old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum colored lacquer. Beautiful seams of gold fill in the cracks, giving a unique appearance to the piece, one that celebrates and emphasizes the fractures and breaks instead of hiding them. Kintsugi often enhances the repaired item making it more beautiful for having been broken.

When it comes to creating a wabi-sabi home it doesn’t require money or a set of special skills. Wabi-sabi living inspires minimalism that focuses more on the people who live in the space than anything else. Possessions and other items are pared down to the essentials based on utility, beauty, and emotional connection. The idea is to live modestly, and learn to be satisfied with life once the unnecessary is stripped away.

Collections of wabi-sabi possessions are well curated. They are continually pared down to those that earn their place. What makes the cut?

1) Useful things: Tools, essential kitchen utensils, and even a personal computer. The idea here isn’t to live without, rather to live with less and with things that are used regularly.

2) Loved things; Your grandmother’s quilt, a rickety chair from your childhood home or a piece of art from a recent vacation are all things that offer memories or nostalgia. If you love it, keep it.

3) Quality things, built to last:  Quality over quantity is the key to wabi-sabi. Choose high quality goods that are made to stand the test of time. Items that grow in their character when lovingly used.

Wabi-sabi is both an aesthetic and a state of mind.  It encourages us to find the beauty in what exists and, to be at peace with the natural processes of life and with the eventual decay and deterioration that comes from use. Wabi-sabi also teaches us the impermanence of all things and requires us to shift our thinking to appreciating rather than perfecting.

Home and Garden Tour Focuses on Human Side of Sustainability

A focus at this year’s BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 is how reachouthouse2local nonprofits are bringing sustainable housing to low-income people. Because eco-friendly materials and systems are often more expensive than their conventional counterparts, we typically think of green housing as only being available to people with resources. But working families, veterans, people with disabilities and homeless youth also deserve to live in high-quality, healthy homes that tread lightly on the earth. It’s exciting to see this happening in the Eugene-Springfield area.

The Youth House, developed by St. Vincent de Paul, is one project that showcases how green homes can be affordable to people at all income levels. The local nonprofit is “recycling” a former church on Willamette Street into studio apartments for young women between 16 and 18. Residents in the target age range can stay as long as they remain in school. By keeping the existing building instead of tearing it down, St. Vincent de Paul will greatly decrease the amount of waste sent to our landfill.

The other affordable housing development featured on this year’s tour is Emerald Village Eugene (EVE), a community of micro-homes for people transitioning out of homelessness. The project, supported by SquareOne Villages, will feature 22 homes for adults, many of whom are currently living in Eugene’s Opportunity Village.

The majority of the homes in EVE are being donated by local designer-builder teams. Two are being spearheaded by student teams, including the innovative ReachOUT House. The house is the brainchild of Lyndsey Deaton, a Ph.D. student in the University of Oregon’s architecture program. Deaton has a keen interest in homelessness and wanted to design a house with the needs and desires of future residents in mind.

As part of her dissertation research, she and research partner Christina Bollo interviewed people experiencing homelessness and asked them what they’d want in a permanent home. Many of the features they described will be included in the ReachOUT House.

“A lot of people told her they wanted a bathtub,” explains Paige Portwood, a public reachouthouse1policy, planning and management master’s student and member of the three-person leadership team that also includes architecture student Samantha Freson. “At missions they can only take brief showers. A bathtub symbolizes relaxation and safety.”

Homeless people tend to live in very cramped spaces like cars or single-room apartments, Portwood says. Although the ReachOUT House is only 180 square feet, it’s designed to have an open and spacious feel.

EVE is intended to be a close-knit community, and Deaton designed the ReachOUT House with that in mind. The living space has French doors that lead to an outdoor living space and the common area. This will make socializing and gatherings more convenient.

Deaton and her team are committed to using recycled materials in the house whenever possible. They estimate that 70 percent of the building materials – including the wood, windows, interior finishes and paint – are post-consumer products, many of which were donated by or purchased at BRING. The home is designed to consume 45 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than a typical tiny house.

“Micro-housing is already using less materials and leaving a small footprint on the earth,” the group shares in their promotional materials. “The ReachOUT House wants to make the eco-friendly gap even smaller with the innovative and creative use of recycled goods.”

Much of the labor for the ReachOUT House will be donated by University of Oregon students. Portwood emphasizes that the leadership team is interested in engaging students from Lane Community College’s construction program, Oregon State University’s engineering school, or anyone else who would like to get involved in a meaningful and worthwhile project.

Construction on the house will begin in September and is expected to be finished by October. EVE has already interviewed and selected tenants for the property, so Portwood and her team already know who will occupy their house: a 66-year-old woman named Alice Gentry who has lived in Opportunity Village for the past year.

“That’s where we get our motivation – the knowledge that we’re giving her a house,” Portwood says, ebullient at the knowledge that in a world filled with some many problems, her time and effort really can make a difference in a person’s life.

Professionals willing to donate services are encouraged to contact the volunteers at ReachOUT House through their Facebook page. The leadership team is hoping to secure onsite construction managers who can lead students at a couple of key times during the construction process.

Anyone willing to support this project financially can make a donation through ReachOUT House’s YouCaring account. Portwood offers thanks to the Rotary District 5110, Rotary E-Club of the State of Jefferson (D5110) and other local Rotary Clubs, which have made significant donations of money and volunteer labor.

Don’t miss the ReachOUT House, Youth House and other homes, gardens and businesses on the ninth annual BRING Home and Garden Tour on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the Planet Improvement Center, Down to Earth and Lane Forest Products.

Working Upstream: Why Extended Producer Responsibility Makes Sense

Older televisions and computer monitors are notoriously difficult to recycle

The benefits of recycling are well known. By diverting useful materials from landfills and incinerators, we save raw resources, reduce toxins in the environment, create jobs and save money. It’s good for the planet and good for us.

Many of the products we interact with on a daily basis are made of materials that are fairly easy to recycle, such as paper, bottle glass and aluminum. But others – things such as hard plastics, computers, furniture, and clothing and shoes – cannot be recycled so easily (and in many cases, can’t be recycled at all). This creates a real problem in the waste stream.

In addition, some consumer and environmental advocates believe our whole system of recycling needs some tweaking, especially when it comes to dealing with those hard-to-recycle products. Why do products have to be made with so many materials that have no second life, or made in a way that makes them expensive to recycle? And why do our tax dollars pay for waste disposal and recycling programs instead of the company that created the problem in the first place?

For decades there’s been a small but vocal group of people advocating for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), a policy approach that puts the onus for reducing waste in the hands of the people who have the greatest ability to do something about it: producers. Companies who manufacture consumer goods have the best shot at reducing product’s adverse impact by changing product design, manufacturing and packaging.

According to UPSTREAM, a national organization that focuses on the root causes of environmental harm, EPR policy has two related features: (1) shifting financial and management responsibility, with government oversight, upstream to the producer and away from the public sector; and (2) providing incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and packaging.

Europe is way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to EPR. The European Union (EU) has been working on making producers more responsible for the waste they create since the 1980s, when it set rules on the “production, marketing, use, recycling and refilling of containers of liquids for human consumption and on the disposal of used containers,” according to its website.

In addition, some Member States set rules to address the environmental aspects of packaging and packaging waste. Since then, the EU crafted EPR legislation to “harmonize” what individual Member States had already been implementing and maintain a level playing field for manufacturers across the EU.

According to a 2012 report by the environmental group As You Sow, fifteen EU countries require that producers finance all costs of collecting and recycling packaging, and in 10 countries, governments and producers split the costs.

Although bottle glass can be recycled and made back into bottles, window glass cannot be made into windows or many other things.

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brought together large retailers and consumer goods producers, with state governments, city officials, and NGOs, to start a dialogue on how to pay for recycling. While companies pushed back against the notion of regulation, a few participants such as Walmart and Coca-Cola have since started offering grants and low-interest loans to municipalities to improve recycling. Product stewardship advocates say that’s not nearly enough. Companies, they believe, should be footing the bill for the whole system.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) “supports product stewardship principles” as a way to reduce the environmental impacts from a product’s life cycle, and shift the cost of managing waste products from government agencies to those who produce and use the products. But it’s been largely up to state governments to enact laws. According to the Product Stewardship Institute, there are dozens of EPR laws in 34 states, often covering products that are difficult to recycle, like mattresses and paint.

Oregon has EPR programs for electronics, mercury thermostats and containers (bottle return programs are not managed by manufacturers, though). Oregon was the first state in the nation to enact a law requiring paint manufacturers to start a product stewardship program “to reduce waste, increase reuse and recycling, and safely dispose of remaining unusable paint and other coatings.”

In 2012, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission adopted Materials Management in Oregon: 2050 Vision and Framework for Action. According to the DEQ, “The 2050 Vision takes a holistic approach to reducing the environmental impacts of materials across their entire life cycle–from resource extraction and design through production, consumption and management of discards.”

SB 199, a bill introduced in the Oregon Legislature earlier this year, would have required EPR for household hazardous waste, a category that includes solvents, pesticides and herbicides, and pool chemicals. The bill died in committee, but it shows that Oregonians are still thinking about ways to hold manufacturers responsible for what they create.

Consumers have a role to play in making EPR a reality for more materials. You can use your buying power to help encourage retailers and manufacturers to make products that are less toxic and easier to recycle, the Northwest Product Stewardship Council says. Here are their suggestions for making your voice heard:

  • Before buying a product, find out if the manufacturer or retailer takes back and recycles their products.
  • If you’re buying a product to replace one, ask if they will recycle your old one.
  • Let manufacturers know you would like them to offer a take-back program.
  • Share your knowledge and choices with your friends and family.

Sustainability Education Doesn’t Stop for Summer

Kids may be out of school for the summer, but that doesn’t mean BRING has put its image3mission to teach students and community members about the impacts of waste on hold. Our various education programs are still going strong thanks to partnerships with great organizations like Willamalane.

Teaching people about reuse and recycling has been a core part of our mission since we were founded in 1971. Since that time BRING has presented thousands of free educational seminars at K-12 schools, churches and community groups.

For the past two years BRING’s environmental educators have been presenting short, fun workshops to kids in Willamalane’s summer day camps. The curriculum is very similar to what we do in classrooms during the school year. Lessons are hands-on, fun and short. They incorporate Common Core Standards and Oregon State Standards for social studies and science, and can be geared toward people at any age.

image1The three most commonly requested presentations are on the 4 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle and rot), vermicomposting with worms, and papermaking. Education and events manager Emily Shelton recent took the latter presentation to 10 elementary-school aged youth enjoying a morning of activities at a Springfield park.

At a picnic table under a tall tree, Shelton mixed brightly-colored paper particles with water in tubs. The absence of power at the park meant she couldn’t demonstrate the real first step in making paper, which is to shred it into a pulp (she does this with a blender, which is a great way to destroy the appliance, she notes).

But the bins of pink, turquoise and lime goo were enough to capture the campers’ attention. “Do we have to touch that?” asked one girl, looking dubious.

“You get to touch it!” Shelton replied. The response was a group “ewww.”

But once the demonstration started the kids got more enthusiastic. Shelton showed them image2how to pile a thin layer of pulp on top of a screen, spread it around, then place it on a piece of recycled newsprint. She used a sponge to draw out excess water. When most of the water was gone, she pulled up the screen to reveal the final product.

Once hearts, circles and rectangles in brilliant shades started to emerge, all hesitation vanished. “I’m going to make another one!” said the child who had kicked off the shrieking about getting her hands dirty, running off to get another screen.

“How do you think you can use your paper?” Shelton asked the campers as they continued making paper. One person thought she would color on it. Another thought she would use it to make cards.

image4When everyone was done with their paper, the sheets of newsprint went in the sun to dry. As Shelton started to clean up, she explained that the purpose of this workshop was to get kids thinking about unique ways to use everyday materials, as well as explain the basics of recycling and reuse. The message seems to have sunk in – at least to some extent.

“What did you learn today?” she asked before she left.

“You should never touch pulp without permission,” one responded.

“Yes… but what else?” Shelton asked.

“We learned about how paper is made,” says another child. “It’s pretty simple. All you need is blended wood and paper.”

“Do you know what happens when you send something like paper, glass or cans away to be recycled?” Shelton said.

“They take it and use it again and it keeps going,” says one person. “That’s a lifecycle.”

Building on that answer, Shelton made an effort to draw a connection between the paper they’d just made and the recycling process they participate in at home. Mills need raw materials to make paper. They can extract those raw materials from the earth by cutting down trees, or they can turn old paper into new and cut down fewer trees. The best way for them to get recycled paper is for people to be diligent about recycling paper at home. “By doing that you’re helping Mother Nature,” she said.

“What’s Mother Nature?” a child asked.

Obviously there’s still more work to be done to educate children about sustainability. But thanks to BRING’s many partnerships with school districts and community groups, that child might get another fun and inspiring from Shelton in the future.

Baseball and Bikes with BRING Next Week

We have two can’t-miss events coming up next week!

emsJoin BRING Recycling at PK Park on Good Karma Monday, July 10 as the Eugene Emeralds take on the Tri-City Dust Devils. As part of the Good Karma Monday program, friends and supporters of BRING will be able to name their own ticket price at the box office. That’s right – pay whatever price you want for the baseball game (in dollar increments) – $3, $5, $10, $YOUR PRICE. Fifty percent (50%) of what our fans choose to pay will be donated to BRING.

Tickets must be purchased on game day at the ticket window. The game starts at 7:05pm. Good Karma Monday is presented by Café Yumm! and Yogi.

bicycle repair it2And coming up that weekend… Do you want to know how to care for your bike and get more enjoyment out of riding it? Join BRING for the latest in our series of Repair It! workshops, which will focus on bicycle maintenance and repair. This hands-on event, sponsored by Arriving by Bike, will provide plenty of knowledge and inspiration.

The Repir It! workshop will place at the Planet Improvement Center, 4446 Franklin Blvd. in Glenwood from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 15. Pre-registration is not required, but come early as this is a popular workshop. There is a $3 to $5 suggested donation per participant.