PITTSBURGH, September 15, 2016 /3BL Media/ - Humanscale, Bureo, Owens Corning and Garden Tower Project have received Living Product certification for new and redesigned products that meet the high bar of the Living Product Challenge, that is, to design and manufacture products that function as elegantly and efficiently as anything found in the natural world. Turning inspiration into action, these forward-thinking companies were awarded new certifications at the second annual Living Product Expo, hosted by the International Living Future Institute September 13-15, 2016, in Pittsburgh. For more information, visit the website.
“These leading companies are writing a new chapter in industrial design and challenging the status quo when it comes to how products are designed, sourced and manufactured.” said James Connelly, Director of the Living Product Challenge for the Institute. “And, they are at the Living Product Expo to share and discover disruptive new ideas and technologies that are reshaping the materials landscape, accelerating the pace of transformation and making Living Products possible today.”
The full list of newly certified Living Products includes:
Garden Tower Project's Garden Tower 2 – Living Product Petal Certification for Water and Materials
Garden Tower is committed to socially-responsible practices at every level, and has a mission to help transform the face of gardening and food sustainability. The uniquely designed composting Garden Tower allows for the growing of a large variety of food in a very small space. The product has achieved Petal Certification for Water and Materials, and the company is currently implementing a new low-carbon, bio-based plastic, a first for its product category.
“Garden Tower’s social mission is just as critical to the company’s certification as is their material health and regenerative manufacturing innovations,” said James Connelly. “It is a great example of a new product that has the power to transform traditional industries.”
Humanscale Diffrient® Smart Chair -- Full Living Product certification
The Humanscale Smart® Chair is an ergonomically designed commercial desk chair that required a significant redesign on the path to Living Product Certification. Often, commercial office chairs are covered with fabrics that contain perfluorinated compounds. These chemicals, according to the National Institutes of Health, contribute to the body burden of toxicity and have a several year half-life, which means that the time it takes for the chemicals to leave the body can be several years. Humanscale has eliminated perfluorinated compounds from the redesigned Smart® Chair, which is manufactured in a solar powered facility with a newly installed rainwater collection system that offsets the water used in production.
Humanscale Float™ Table -- Full Living Product certification
The Float Table is an innovative sit/stand desk that 'floats' effortlessly when you push a small lever, contributing to an ergonomically superior sit/stand work experience. Humanscale removed PVC from the product—a material with significant lifecycle health concerns—and is working to ensure the remaining product ingredients are fully optimized and safe for humans and the environment. The product is manufactured in a process powered by 100% renewable energy onsite. “The lifecycle health benefits of using this product versus traditional tables is massively positive when compared to the potential health consequences of tradition design and production,” said Connelly.
“Both newly-certified Humanscale products are not only Net Positive for Water and Energy onsite – but we have conducted a rigorous LCA on each product and are now working to create Energy, Water and Carbon Handprints greater than the footprint of each product,” said Jane Abernethy, Humanscale’s sustainability officer. “We are increasing our handprint by switching to recycled nylon made from fishing nets from Bureo, teaming up with Kohler and an NGO to supply Clarity water filters, and providing water heater blankets to school children.” The practice of Handprinting refers to the measurement of positive impacts that a company makes compared to business as usual in addition to reducing their environmental footprint. More on the Humanscale achievement here.
Bureo – Net+Positiva Plastic -- Petal Certified for Water and Materials
Bureo is a unique company designed around the concept of net positive, and its first product was a skateboard made of recycled fishing nets from coastal artisanal fishing communities, which has been widely recognized for ingenuity in design and sourcing, with investors including the Patagonia $20 Million and Change Fund. Bureo has achieved Living Product Petal Certification for Water and Materials for its Net+Positiva Plastic, recycled plastic resin and pellets which they source from fishing nets, and which they intend to sell to other consumer goods companies to scale up their business.
“Bureo recently installed low flow shower heads in their production facility and is planning to distribute them in communities in which they work, which contributed to the Water Petal certification,” said Connelly. “Bureo is also investing in a solar array for a nearby community school for disadvantaged youth, which will contribute to the company’s full Living Product Certification.”
Owens Corning® EcoTouch® PINK® Fiberglas™ Insulation – Unfaced – Living Product Imperative Certification
With EcoTouch® unfaced fiberglass insulation, Owens Corning achieves its second Living Product Imperative Certification for a product that reflects the company’s long-term commitment to sustainability. EcoTouch® is a residential and commercial insulation product that is certified to include a minimum of 65% total recycled content, and is GREENGUARD validated to be formaldehyde free.
“Owens Corning’s commitment to sustainability is embedded in the foundation of its product stewardship process,” said Connelly. “A core value of the company is developing products that make the world a better place.”
About the Living Product Challenge
The Living Product Challenge re-imagines the design and construction of products to function as elegantly and efficiently as anything found in the natural world. The creation of this program kicked off a groundbreaking new event that brought together leading minds in the product industry to inspire a revolution in the way materials are designed, manufactured and delivered: the Living Product Expo.
At the first event in 2015 sustainability directors from the world’s leading design firms, prominent manufacturers and sustainability consultants learned about and shared game-changing innovations in product design.
This second annual event moves from inspiration to action. The Expo is an opportunity for participants to share and discover disruptive new ideas and technologies that are reshaping the materials landscape, accelerating the pace of innovation and making Living Products possible today. Join us, and together we will craft the future of materials.
About the International Living Future Institute
The International Living Future Institute is an inspiring hub for visionary programs. Our mission is to lead and support the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative. Composed of leading green building experts and thought-leaders, the Institute is premised on the belief that providing a compelling vision for the future is a fundamental requirement for reconciling humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The Institute runs the Living Building Challenge, Living Community Challenge, Living Product Challenge, Net Zero Energy Certification, the Cascadia Green Building Council, Ecotone Publishing, Declare, JUST and other leading-edge programs. A global network of more than 450 volunteers across nearly 42 countries drive the local adoption of restorative principles in their communities.
International Living Future Institute
Just in time for spring, here's a visual guide to designing your Garden Tower with a focus on salad veggies & herbs!
Due to many requests from gardeners, we've completed a Garden Tower planting design template and created an example "Salad Tower" using easy to grow, gourmet salad-appropriate plants that can be started from seed mid-spring. We paid attention to companion planting relationships in this design as well; however, most everything in this "Salad Tower" can be re-arranged without worry. Throughout the year we will post numerous requested garden designs from the brain-food garden to the perennial culinary herb special. We're having fun with this!
(click image to enlarge) (printable pdf: landscape) (printable pdf: portrait)
Tower Designer: Print the empty layout below and plan your garden!
(click image to enlarge) (printable pdf: landscape) (printable pdf: portrait)
When designing your garden, pay attention to veggie scheduling and companion planting info!
Subscribe to this blog for new themed tower designs!
Happy Gardening -- Garden Tower Project
A visual guide to proven organic, integrated pest management in your Garden
This fantastic infographic will help you identify common garden pests, proactively plan to prevent infestations, and naturally control insects, fungus, and other garden critters out to harm your veggies! Here at Garden Tower Project, we use a combination of water, neem oil, and natural liquid soap as our go-to all purpose insect control on herbs, veggies, and flowers.
(click the graphic below to enlarge!)
For more information on insect pest management of your Garden or Garden Tower, visit our earlier article: Integrating Pest Management
Keeping a garden journal is a beautiful blend of art and science. It is a testament to your garden and a notebook of learning accomplished throughout your growing year. What you put into a journal makes it incredibly useful for years to come—creating a kind of almanac specific to your location. Tracking changes in your garden—bloom times and harvest, seeding times, and so on also contributes to the study of local phenology. Phenology is “Phenology refers to key seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year – such as flowering, emergence of insects and migration of birds – especially their timing and relationship with weather and climate.” (read more). Below are some of the things that can be most helpful for your journal, an explanation of why, as well as an example of how to create a journal custom-tailored to your needs.
Planting Plan: In the beginning of your journal creating a diagram or map of what you intend to plant where is helpful. As you plant perennials, you might mark them on a base map and copy it each year – creating new plans for annuals. Pasting this into the front of your garden journal will help to keep you straight. It might even help a spouse not remove the wrong thing (I speak from experience) or point a temporary caretaker in the right direction while you are gone. I like to use a map and numbers to keep things straight, but you can also use a narrative description in your records to keep things clear.
Notes on major projects for the year: Do you want to put in a new compost system or fencing or chickens this year? Arbors, trellis, pathways, water collection, irrigation systems, greenhouses…. Using a Future Log on a couple of pages can help you figure out how to stage improvement efforts between planting and harvesting—or when you typically have good weather.
Plant information: Seed catalogs, gardening books from the library, apps and websites can all help you fill in the missing information over time. Knowing the varieties you have; how they perform in your garden; and whether you like them or not are all important things to keep track of. I like to put in how the kids respond to something (“We love cheese squash!” or “Alpine strawberries are the best!”)
Variety: This you might research before you order your seeds—or keep track of as you save seeds from your own garden. Paying attention to varieties is crucial because they help you know which niche in the garden to put them in, how long it will take (on average) for them to fruit, color, resistance to disease and many other characteristics.
Source: This can be a brief notation, but it helps to know which seed companies you like—or whether the seeds came from your own garden or a friend’s garden.
Date Seeds Started: Again, this is important because it helps you track performance—and have a sense of when to begin your garden and how things are changing from year to year.
Germination Date: The date you see the seeds emerge from the soil surface is notable because it will help you understand more about your garden and will help you to track the growth of the plants over time.
Transplant source: If you don’t plant your own seeds, germination won’t matter, but tracking where the plants came from and how they are doing will help you make decisions about plants in the future.
Flowering: This isn’t critical (except for fruit trees and shrubs), but it is nice to have a written record of what flowers when and how that changes from year to year. You might use it to help plan to have flowers throughout the year—whether for beauty or to feed and support pollinators in your garden.
Fruiting or Harvest: This is what you’ve been waiting for! The date you harvested, the quantity by number or weight, and the quality of the harvest are all items to consider recording. Does it look good, taste good, produce well, and resist pests? Does one variety tolerate the humidity or drought better? You might find you want to repeat some things and not others. Or you may find you want to save some seeds for next year. And a record is evidence when bragging to the neighbors!
Weather information: This might be kept on one sheet in your journal or noted amongst your daily observations. Having it in one place to compare months and years is often helpful. You’ll want to make notes on the high and low temperatures for the day, precipitation, cloud cover, and prevailing or significant winds. Some gardeners like to track and plant by moon phases.
Daily observations: It’s the little things that bring us joy. The most beautiful purple in a flower or seeing the swelling bud that will bring us the first berry in spring. Making a note or including a drawing let’s us track and relive these phenomena in our lives. The coming of insects in the spring to pollinate or the first pests can be valuable to know as our garden grows and adapts from year to year. Whether you can draw or not, this is a great way to record information.
How to do it: How to keep track and organize all of this? Spreadsheets and apps might work on your computer. I like to physically write down my observations—either right in the garden or at a station set up near my door.
This year I’m adapting something I like. The Bullet Journal method of setting up a journal might be a great option for you, too. The ideas from a regular journal organization can be modified to include the above categories. An index at the beginning helps you to organize and find information for the whole journal. A future log allows you to plan each month ahead. The month pages can be places to record weather information and tasks in the garden. Other pages can be dedicated to seed source information, seed starting pages, and pest management plans. With the index in front of the journal, you can cross-reference related items and easily find things from year to year—making your journal truly a reference item.
Whether you go all in and like to record every little detail or keep a notebook with a few jotted notes; whether you like to draw out your journal or keep a spreadsheet, journaling can deepen your connection to your garden and ensure more success from year to year. Here’s to a great year ahead!
Planning gifts for gardening enthusiasts? Here are some practical and fun items that will help your beloved gardener start 2016 off right.
Books, Calendars, and Apps
See here for a list of great tool ideas for gardeners. Gardeners will love hori hori, seeding tools, nitrile-palmed gloves, buckets and bags to organize tools, small wheelbarrows, kneeling pads and seats, broadforks, and more.
The best tools are often Japanese or Italian steel-bladed tools. Japanese tools can be specialized but are often beautiful, ergonomic, and durable. Simple design lines are helpful for keeping your tools clean. Wooden handles are beautiful, but often break down faster than plastic handled tools. It is always worth investing in a better quality tool that is likely to last generations.
Besides cutting and aerating tools; watering cans, rain barrels, and drip irrigation systems might be on your gardener’s wish list. If your gardener has a small container garden, a watering can may be enough. Rain barrels, downspout diverters, and hoses are helpful for small gardens (as long as your state and municipality allow them). Drip irrigation and wicking supplies might be better for larger gardens and dry land garden systems.
Besides durable tools, there are lots of things that gardeners enjoy this time of year in the way of supplies. Seeds, plant markers, pots and trays, heating mats, and grow lights extend capacity in the garden and are all appreciated. Plant markers—especially reusable ones for seed starting and annuals or more permanent metal markers for perennials--can help one remember what is what. Lights can help the gardener through the winter or starting seeds in the spring. Look for low energy lights to grow under.
Why not gift your gardener with unusual varieties and heirloom seeds? There are exciting discoveries and beautiful plant varieties found each year. Remember to check zone and light requirements for your gardener.
Soils and soil amendments might not be exciting to some gardeners, but there are a range of them to include in a fine gardening practice. Seaweeds and foliar feeds may be new to your gardener and helpful in creating beautiful, healthy plants in the summer. Seed starting soil blends along with trays, heat mats, seeds, and a grow light might be the perfect package gift. Why not put them together in a harvest basket?
Besides these, a small greenhouse or wrap (also called a fleece) might be perfect for starting seeds or protecting a Garden Tower.
3. Books, Calendars, and Apps
This category ranges across many subjects, but every gardener should have access to information. Thomas J. Elpel wrote a fun book to help us understand plant classifications:
Botany in a Day. It’s a small book and just as fun as his children’s book: Shanleya’s Quest.
Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed is a great primer on seed saving, care, and starting.
Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower and The Winter Harvest Handbook are two classics that bear a wealth of information and help the gardener and market farmer plan the coming year.
For those interested in permaculture, Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden is great for a beginning book. Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook is a dense and practical approach to suburban permaculture practice[i]. Rosemary Morrow’s Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture is also full of practical approaches to permaculture design.
Maria Thun’s Gardening for Life: The Biodynamic Way is a classic (albeit esoteric) introduction to this particular approach to gardening.
Every gardener needs access to a calendar. Many people swear by the Farmer’s Almanac. The land grant university in one's state probably has an online calendar or planting guide accessible through the extension office. Here is one example. Besides informational calendars, gardening journals to help a gardener plan, observe, and record the garden’s yearly activities is a thoughtful offering.
Apps are popular and several are geared to help you know when to plant in your area and to help one choose plants that will suit one's garden space—even helping you imagine what your designed space will look like through the season. In this case, a gift certificate to the app store might be just what is needed to round out a gift.
Remember, gardening not only produces beauty and food, but health and well-being to a gardening friend. What better gift could one give someone in the holiday season?
[i] In the interest of full disclosure, Peter Bane has been a mentor and colleague for the past ten years.
While we are on the topic of putting the gardens to bed and building soil this fall, let’s look into biochar.
What is it?
Biochar is a valuable soil amendment, first and foremost. According to the International Biochar Initiative, “This 2,000 year-old practice converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security, and increase soil biodiversity, and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.” (1)
Simply, it is a charcoal made at low temperature that is often then inoculated with beneficial bacteria and soil organisms that inhabit the very porous and expansive surface areas. Because nutrients, beneficial soil organisms and water are all held by the biochar and slowly released, soils are greatly improved—and maintain their fertility over a long period of time. These were first found as terra preta in the Amazon, where they worked miracles holding fertility in tropical soils. Biochar is useful when incorporated into temperate soils as well.
Image: By K.salo.85 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons
Biochar is now used agriculturally, not just to build fertility in the soil, but for animal feed and health as well—as biochar isable to capture and purge harmful bacteria in the digestive systems of many domesticated farm animals. As a feed additive, it is very useful. A 2012 report stated that 90% of European biochar was used in livestock farming. (2) We can find activated charcoal on the shelves of health food stores to deal with digestive issues. Feeding biochar to livestock is right in line with this practice.
Secondly, biochar can help to address climate change by storing stable carbon in the soil for a perhaps hundreds of years. While there are many ways to build carbon in the soil and remove it from the atmosphere (rotational grazing, for example), biochar may be an important aspect of addressing climate change and providing terrestrial system benefits simultaneously.
What can it do for you?
- Incorporate it into your garden soils
- Consider it as a feed additive if you have livestock
- Learn or encourage others to make it and provide it as a product in the community. Note that anytime you introduce bacteria and new components into an ecosystem, you should be knowledgeable about what it is you are incorporating and how to observe the space to note impact.
Another cautionary note:
When thinking about biochar as a solution to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it might be tempting to think that cutting down trees and creating biochar is the solution. After reviewing the situation, we know that we need our large trees and established forests to do what they do best—and provide the many ecosystem services they already provide (as well as inspire and move us to connection). What we need now are new forests and new ways of working with agroforestry in those new forests and grasslands to produce with biochar. Fortunately, this is something many excellent people are researching.