Monday, July 28, 2008

Walkable Neighborhoods

I did a post a couple weeks ago about walking instead of driving ... even if you just do it once a week. Today, I stumbled on to this website that scores neighborhoods based on walkability. Pretty cool ...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bele Chere

This weekend is the 30th year of the Asheville downtown street festival Bele Chere. Most of downtown Asheville is blocked off and over 350,000 people are estimated to attend. Bele Chere is always full of great music, local arts and crafts, children and many other events and it's free ... or mostly free - A couple of the big headliners will have a cover charge but there is plenty of free activities. See the official Bele Chere website at

Over the past couple of years Bele Chere has been working on 'greening' the festival. This includes a couple hundred recycling and composting bins, using corn cups (that look and felel just like plastic but are plant material) as well as recycling gray water and oil.

This year promises to be even greener with the new EcoTrips shuttle service working the festival with their electric cars. Call for reservations at 828.699.1623 or 828.699.1624

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green meets arts and crafts

Great West Asheville green home. Check it out ...

more details here ...

call Haven if you are interested! 828.230.0555 or email haven(at)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

walk ...

once a week instead of driving - even if it's just 1.5 miles to the store. Just once a week. There are approximately 70,000 of us living in Asheville. That means .... 70,000 X 3 miles (1 round trip to the store)= 210,000 miles in one week. 210,000 miles x 52 weeks in the year = 10,920,000 miles in a year. How much does gas cost a gallon today? How many days a year do we have Orange level ozone around here? You can do that math.

In our family, we ride bikes and walk a good bit so I have learned the best ways around town and granted... we all know this isn't a very 'bike friendly' town.

At any rate, I saw this post a few days ago and it made me think about tools to aid in using less gas and therefore - GoogleMaps will now be providing walking directions - in select locations to what some have said 'random' users (I can't find it for anywhere yet) and I'm sure it will be beta FOREVER.

This kind of mapping applicaiton is nice in a town like Asheville with major roads, interstates and river going through the heart of it. At least we are small (all the more reason you should be walking or riding) and most of us know how to avoid the interestate but give it try the next time you visit a place you aren't so familiar with the Washington DC.

Google wasn't the first to do this ... you could always tell MapQuest to avoid interstates which is surely a lot of what the walking directions in Google does and has had walking directions for some time now.
Google's new 'walking directions' service will surely grow as they build the database of pedestrian trails in towns that aren't in the normal street databases their mapping application is currently based on.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Southern Living Idea House

The Southern Living Idea House was built by the EcoBuilders of Asheville. It's located in Whisper Mountain which is located about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville. The climate is about 5 degrees cooler and the views are spectacular. The house is a cool combination of a Madison County farmhouse with a modern flare. Did I mention the sweet green features? Check out the menu of green features.
  • 1550 gallon rainwater catchment system used to flush toilets
    and irrigation on native landscaping.
  • Solar hot water system with a tankless water heater
  • 10 solar panels provide 1.8 kilowatts of power that feeds directly to the local power company.
  • Energy Recovery Ventilator introduces measured fresh air mechanically. This also pressure balances the house and circulates indoor air, while HEPA filtering incoming air.
  • Low VOC paints and finishes used throughout.*

    *Thanks to Rob Moody for the points on the green features.

    So far, the green certifications include:
    1. LEED Homes either Silver or Gold.
    2. NC Healthy Built Homes
    3. Energy Star-50 HERS rating

Sustainable Development

"Sustainable Development" is a term that's been getting a lot of buzz over the past few years. I stumbled on this short video of Peter Head - Director of Sustainability at Arup - where he gives a great summary and overview of what we need to do to 'make cities work'. You will hear Peter talk about sustainable development and using a balanced approach to continue to meet the socio-economic demands of a city while addressing things like CO2 emissions. This is a great primer on sustainable development.

Make sure to check out the other videos linked on this page where he discusses future cities and ecological footprint.

There is also a great interview on today where Peter discusses China's first eco-city that Arup is playing a large role in.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Building up rather than out

With all the controversy over the Parkside Condos here in Asheville on a piece of property next to Pack Square in downtown Asheville, I thought this article in the Wall Street Journal this week was interesting. The article describes how Sacramento, California has been building more densely, instead of sprawling out for many years. This is even more important with gas over $4 a gallon- and only going higher. Sacramento is being watched very closely and seen as a model for other towns.

'For decades, backers of "smart-growth" planning principles have preached the benefit of clustering the places where people live more closely with the businesses where they work and shop. Less travel would mean less fuel consumption and less air pollution.'

... full article here

Obviously, the Parkside Condo project in Asheville has it's own polarizing issues (is it public or private land) and I'm not weighing in on 'good or bad' for that project here. I just thought it was an interesting segway into the discussion of building up rather than out and this very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal this week.

Make sure to check out the interactive map in the article!