Freeganism, the philosophy of non-participation in the capitalist economy through minimization of what one buys, has been getting heaps of press lately, with outlets as high-rolling as the New York Times and the Washington Post running pieces on the subject. But while much recent media coverage focuses on what it’s like to live as a freegan, I’m interested in the forces that freegans are reacting to, and the realities that allow them to sustain their lifestyles. In this four part series, I’ll be examining these questions by looking at food waste, disposable culture, modern work, and the state of community in America.

One night in late November, in the courtyard of a community center in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a bread mountain was constructed. It measured about four feet tall and 10 feet in diameter, the product of a few nights of dumpster diving throughout New York City. Hundreds of rolls, pumpernickel loaves and baguettes lay stacked in various states of edibility, but like so much wasted food in New York City, they would never make it to the people that needed them most.

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Architect designer Michael Jantzen has created a green oasis of sorts with his wind shade roof concept. Basically, it’s a large oval roof clad in wind turbines that powers whatever is under or around the structure.The particular roof in these concept photos is shown covering a large swimming pool. The integrated turbines would provide power for night lighting, pool maintenance, pumps, temperature control, etc. These would also make really cool pavilions, say, for farmers markets or other functions.

A German company has created what appears to be the first integrated solar vertical axis wind turbine. Obviously, the advantage here is that when one resource isn’t available, the other may still come through to help produce some energy.

The company, Bluenergy AG, based their design on sailing engineering. The wind rotor is rotated by two spiral-formed vanes. According to the site, the installation costs relatively little, produces no noise or significant shadowing, and can be easily maintained from ground level. It also appears that the vertical wings can be lowered horizontal for access as well. One interesting design highlight claimed by the site is that the solar cells are cooled by the rotation of the turbine and thus generate more electricity. Anyone know if this would add significant output?

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U.S. Bank Morgan Stanley has estimated that global sales from clean energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power and biofuels could grow to as much as $1 trillion a year by 2030. In the meantime, the market may hit $505 billion in sales by 2020 — almost 9 times the level in 2005. Not a bad idea to invest, right?

Well, maybe. While it’s a sure bet that renewable energy will grow in percentage sales of global energy sources; there’s no telling how rapid or sustained such growth might be. Morgan Stanley was clear to indicate that current numbers are based on bullish investments, the rising value of oil, and current worldwide concerns over global warming. A change in any number of these factors could affect the industry. From the article,

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One of the stories that should circulate the “green” blogosphere, and be posted on everyone’s site. I usually skim longer posts, but when I realized the heart and depth of the writing, I took the time to slow down and read a truly wonderful and heart-wrenching story.

From Celais, by John Robbins:

One day in Iowa I met a particular gentleman—and I use that term, gentleman, frankly, only because I am trying to be polite, for that is certainly not how I saw him at the time. He owned and ran what he called a “pork production facility.” I, on the other hand, would have called it a pig Auschwitz.

The conditions were brutal. The pigs were confined in cages that were barely larger than their own bodies, with the cages stacked on top of each other in tiers, three high. The sides and the bottoms of the cages were steel slats, so that excrement from the animals in the upper and middle tiers dropped through the slats on to the animals below.
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Really? Here is a picture of a few things I picked up yesterday. 6 butternut squash. 1 hubbard squash and 15 pounds of sweet potatoes. Set me back $29.

The ad flyer for my local grocery store lists butternut squash at $.49 per pound. I have 27 pounds in my pictures. That works out to $13.23 for the squash. (No comparison for hubbard’s so I included it with the butternut squashes)

In the same ad sweet potatoes are listed at $.69 per pound for a total of $10.35.

Total cost at the store is $23.58. Total cost from the farmer is $29. The difference is that in my case the farmer got the entire $29 instead of a wholesale percentage of the cost.

From the same farmer I also have on order 75 lbs of potatoes. They’ll cost me about $30. That works out to $.40 a pound compared to a sale price in the ad flyer of $.26.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll gladly pay that slight premium for fresh local foods that support farmer’s more. The squashes I purchased had just been picked yesterday morning. Now that’s fresh!

A couple months ago, I casually wrote a post wondering aloud if quiet hybrids and electric cars would be a hazard to pedestrians who are visually disabled. After all, it’s quite easy to hear a combustion engine from a distance. Many commenters bashed the post saying that it was stupid to suggest adding some type of small noise to the vehicles. Apparently, these people were not blind.

Today, the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind will present written testimony asking for a minimum sound standard for hybrids to be included in the state’s emissions regulations. As the President of the group, Marc Maurer, mentioned, he’s not interested in returning to gas-guzzling vehicles, they just want fuel-efficient hybrids to have some type of warning noise. From the article,

“‘I don’t want to pick that way of going, but I don’t want to get run over by a quiet car, either,’ Maurer said.

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Last week, the LOOK campaign – which aims to educate the public about bike safety – was launched in Union Square. In an unprecedented collaboration, the NYC Bicycle Coalition, the City Departments of Transportation, Health & Police, the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, the Triple AAA, and the Office of the Public Advocate all endorsed the campaign.

StreetFilms personally loves the ads appearing in TimeOutNY and New York Magazine as well as city bus shelters. They are creative and handsome; they stop you in your tracks.

The LOOK campaign ads were created pro-bono by Publicis in Seattle