Saturday, December 29, 2007

Traveling Abroad ( and Within Our Own System)

Scrambling through the last minute details will only allow for an experience twice what I had originally imagined.

Ah, yes. I will be following the path previously traveled by Caleb Dean himself, and to Copenhagen ( or Kobenhavn), I go! Through the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the spring semester of my junior year will be spent overseas in the lovely Denmark. While the wind circulates unremittingly through the turbine blades, the next five months are bound to contribute to the generation of my own sustainable energy. Experiencing a culture already in tune with, and invested in, the future, not only reinforces the mental models I have been creating, but will provide a foundation upon which the chance to evaluate and spectate on the application of sustainability and social responsibility in practice is limitless.

Their ideas and actions are progressive, and their homes, well just plain cozy sums up the community-oriented candlelight. The social economy is strong and so too are the daily expenses. For a country that has taken a true stand towards sustainability, I guess this may be expected. Offshore farms of wind turbines do not exactly come off as cheap technological structures. So the price of sustainability...

When solar panels, organic food, fair trade goods, hemp clothing, spiritual retreats and yoga classes and hybrid vehicles come into the picture, not everyone, whether they are interested or not, can even afford to become part of the movement. I know from personal experience that shopping at Whole Foods instead of Big Y puts an enormous dent in my wallet. Yet I continue to dish out for the higher costs to mark my contribution in the green revolution.

Again, the actual economic price of sustainability...How does this effect the who, what, when, where, and why? Are we leaving people behind who wish to join? Does mainstream marketing and product/service availability strengthen or weaken the underlying values? How can we make sustainability sustainable for all people and all places, all things and at all times, for all of our reasons and ideas?

More to come on this complex yet truly eye-opening and powerfully important topic.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Conversaton: Walter Cudnohufsky

One concept that stood out during my conversation with Walter Cudnohufsky is, to paraphrase;
The greatest exercise in human capacity is to see the possibility for development and leave it alone.

Walter Cudnohufsky is a landscape architect and planner located in Ashfield, Massachusetts. He is an accomplished artist and writer, and in 1972 founded the Conway School of Landscape Design.

I asked him what led to establishing a master's program in landscape design and his response was "madness." He took all the negative aspects of his degrees from the University of Michigan, Harvard Design School and his time teaching at the University of Massachusetts, removed them and started a program of his own.

"The mission of the Conway School of Landscape Design is to explore, develop, practice, and teach design of the land that is ecologically and socially sustainable."

Although he refrains from over-using the term "sustainable", Walter continues to be a leader in the realm of socially and ecologically responsible land use and design, and in my eyes, defines the concept of revolutionary thought.

More information on Walter Cudnohufsky the designer can be found here and the artist, here.

Information on the Conway School can be found here.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Check It: Vernacular Green Roof

Example of a vernacular green roof in Vallø, Denmark south of Copenhagen.

More on green roofs to come...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On Green Capitalism.

I recently spoke with Solitaire Townsend, founder of Futerra Sustainability Communications about the state of green industry and if she ever expected to run out of work. Futerra Co. is a full capacity communications firm located in London with a new branch that is soon to open in NYC. The business is structured so that they have one primary client; sustainable development. This essentially means that the companies and organizations that Futerra provides communications services for are secondary to the larger issue at hand. In a world of black and white where corporations are destructive and not for profits are underfunded-ly picking up the pieces it was relieving for Solitaire to tell me of this business structure. "We are not technically for profit but we are very profitable."

Futerra's Website

So there is hope for those of us that wish to be responsible consumers, business people, stewards of the land, and make money. If big-oil and socially destructive, environmentally exploitative corporations define the current business empire, who's to say that there cannot and will not be a move away from this. So much of the problem lies within the equation that money equals power. If green controls more of the green would we be in a better place? This of course is a simplified way to look at all the intricacies of international economy, but I believe the structure of Futerra is a move in the right direction.

To read more about the concept of green capitalism follow this link to

Welcome Jennifer!

A quick note to introduce our newest contributer to the blog. Jennifer is a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she has created her own major focused on sustainability and continues to work with GS. Keep an eye out for her pieces surrounding healthy living, responsible products, and her upcoming adventures in Europe. We are excited to have her intelligent and balanced voice report on the all things Generation Sustain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Natural, or Not?

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The UMass "Applied Marketing for the Green Industry" students registering for the "Women in Naturals Panel and Networking Event."

It was a spontaneous trip, especially for an in-debt college student. Invited by Seed to Shelf: Marketing for Sustainability President, and University of Massachusetts lecturer Cynthia Barstow, I was part of a group of students who headed down to Baltimore, MD for the Natural Products Expo East 2007. Held in the heart of the waterfront city at the Baltimore Convention Center, the expo showcased 1,790 exhibits, representing all sides of the natural and organic industry.

Seed to Shelf: Marketing for Sustainability
President and UMass Amherst teacher Cynthia
Barstow enjoying the food and conversation
at the "Women in Naturals Panel and Networking
I am currently enrolled in a course at UMass titled “Applied Marketing for the Green Industry.” With a professional instructor (Barstow) and other energized students, I have been introduced to the business world, which to my great surprise actually has something to do with sustainability. Varying from fair trade restaurants to recycled wood surfboard fins, my classmates and I have begun marketing plans for our very own products. An opportunity to observe and communicate with green industry professionals, buyers, entrepreneurs, and fellow consumers at the Expo East was an event that
needed to be utilized. There were the success stories, their competitors, innovative new developments, and of course, the products and people who knew nothing about the foundation of the movement.

I must admit the samples were great. I spent twice as much time packing up my suitcase going than coming due to the five large canvas bags I crammed to the top with free products. Divided into supplements, bath and beauty products, food and drink, plus the new creation section upstairs, I spent hours on tired feet, moving back and forth between the booths, collecting. My favorite things were just sitting there on display shelves, waiting for hungry hands to grab them, love them and buy them! I found part of myself completely turned on. And the other part, disgusted by what I saw. I am an advocate of “going green,” I study “Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development” in college, I support fair trade, organics, social justice, and am always thinking about ways to make my ecological footprint a size smaller. I buy expensive Dr. Hauschka skincare products because why on earth would I want to rub chemicals onto my skin? I think about global warming, economic disparity, pesticides on crops, in the water we drink, and in the air we breathe. I think about landfills of trash, trees being cut down in the rainforest, and carbon emissions. I spend so much time letting my thoughts pull me down and pick me up. Where are we in this quest for sustainability? Some are believers of going backwards, giving up what we have created in order to simplify our lives. And it makes sense! If we didn’t build strip malls, process food, or let manufactures pump out shiny new cars every hour, there would a lot less damage done to this planet. Unfortunately, I began to see the expo as a contributor to this mess. Over 25,000 people went home with hundreds of free samples, all wrapped up in their individual packages. Over 25,000 people went home, back to hotel rooms, stomachs full of food that came on toothpicks or scooped into a miniature plate. The journey of the toothpicks and the miniature plates was a short one. From package to trash, they went un-recycled along with the cups, forks, napkins, plastic bags, brochures, product guides, convention center maps, and the list goes on and on.

Again, I will admit the samples were great. I will not deny that I am a consumer. I am won over by a good marketing strategy. The newest fashions excite me and probably always will. I love my skincare products, my chemical-free shampoo and conditioner, and my baking soda deodorant. Yet, in the deep, deep, mental models of sustainability, do I really need that “stuff”? The physical answer is no. Human survival does not need papaya or tea tree or lemongrass scented soap. But I need it. The things I spend my money on define who I am. So here I am, in a room bustling with people and products everywhere I look and I have no idea why I am there. I thought sustainability was about small town farms and coffee shops, reusing plastic bags and mason jars, not investing in multi-million dollar companies, no matter the fact that their product is organic. What is this, a fad, a trend, or a lifestyle and perspective? I could go on and on, between sustainability indicating a step backwards or a step forwards. Let me tell you the process is exhausting. The more time I spend worrying about the future of sustainability, I miss out on what is going on right now. We are part of a society that thrives on accomplishment and maybe I shouldn’t be ashamed of that. The point is that there is no right and no wrong. We are all different people and our experiences influence our perspectives and our beliefs. Instead of trying to find a balance between two of my own perspectives and beliefs, I need to come clean with understanding that this is me. It is ok to be confused, to love what I see but evaluate its flaws at the same time.

In the case of the Natural Products Expo East 2007, this is exactly what I will take away. People are doing great things, making great things, and voicing themselves to the rest of us, the concerned, environmentally and socially aware citizens. Even so, I think we can do better, and better than better. We can change every structure ever created in this world to make it work the way we want, and we can use what we have, what we know, and what we love, to help us along the way. Everyone is allowed to participate in his or her own way because honestly, what good comes from being negative? I have forgiven myself for being this consumer, easily sucked into the deadly, corrupt marketplace. Or is it? This world of business, the investing, the banking, the advertising, it defines our generation. No matter what, we are moving forward in the sustainability revolution, and by all means, let’s invite everyone to contribute their own.

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One of my many meals at Expo East. This one in particular was courtesy of the Women in Naturals Panel and Networking Event

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cope Wind

Avadøre Power Station and Middelgrunden Wind Farm, Copenhagen Denmark

This shot is of the wind farm that helps to power the city of Copenhagen. Denmark's wind power is an excellent example of harnessing abundant local renewable resources. The coal burning plant in front of the farm is claimed to be the cleanest in the world. The Danes also claim to have the oldest flag in the world, which fell from the sky after a defeat of the Estonians in 1219, and if you ask any Dane they will swear to have no pollution. Nevertheless , Denmark and subsequently, the city of Copenhagen, have implemented some of the most sustainable forward policies and practices regarding energy production and use, transportation, and lifestyle.

(More information regarding why the Danes are so great will follow in a later post.)

As the power of wind is being harnessed to supply the city of just over one million, local homeowners living in the area of Amager closest to the arcing row of windmills have reported that it is nearly impossible to sell their homes. A professor of mine while studying in Copenhagen and one of these homeowners claimed to "learn to live with it." This "it" being the intense level of noise that these turbines produce when spinning.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, we are still waiting to see if the proposed offshore wind farm that would be located in Nantucket Sound off of Cape Cod Massachusetts will ever produce a watt of electricity.

Picture this: Greenpeace boats being surrounded by local fisherman and the Kennedy's Yachts in protest of the visual decimation of the Sound, a seascape historically known for harboring the largest fleet of whaling vessels the oceans have ever seen, ships dotting the landscape, powered by wind.

More on the Cape Cod Project here:
What does MIT think?


Monday, November 19, 2007


I spent Thursday in the city puddle jumping and without planning to, having a very French experience. My favorite thing about NY, that I'm reminded of every time I go, is that from the outside Manhattan seems to be an over-consuming, vulnerable, neatly organized yet extremely messy metropolis of an island, but once I step out from Grand Central the city transforms. The notion of scale that fuels this perceptive transformation is why I like to walk. Conquering an urban environment by foot seems to makes it feel both grand and manageable.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Quote: Walter Cudnohufsky

"The greatest exercise in human capacity is to see the possibility for development and leave it alone"

Walter Cudnuohufsky is a landscape architect and planner located in Ashfield, Massachusetts. He is an accomplished artist and writer, and in 1972 founded the Conway School of Landscape Design.

I asked him what led to establishing a master's program in landscape design and his response was "madness." He took all the negative aspects of his degrees from the University of Michigan, Harvard Design School and his time teaching at the University of Massachusetts, removed them and started a program of his own.

"The mission of the Conway School of Landscape Design is to explore, develop, practice, and teach design of the land that is ecologically and socially sustainable."

Although he refrains from over-using the term "sustainable", Walter continues to be a leader in the realm of socially and ecologically responsible land use and design, and in my eyes, defines the concept of revolutionary thought.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Interview Series

Over the next month or so we will be conducting and publishing a series of interviews with leaders that are and have been pushing the boundaries of what it means to design, communicate, influence, help, and live sustainable. These interviews will help to define the term sustainability and provide insight as to how we all can live, work, and prosper while being socially and environmentally responsible. Make sure to check in for updates… I'll be posting soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dwelling on San Francisco

I was in San Francisco this past week to attend Dwell Magazine's conference focused on "Building Communities in the Modern World." I had few expectations but was impressed by the line up of speakers so I was sure that I had to take something away from the two-day event. San Francisco loves design, loves the color green and of course loves itself, as it should. San Francisco has, by far, the most comprehensive set of environmentally friendly initiatives and incredibly strong public and private support for all things "green," of any American City I have traveled to in the past few years. The steering wheel for the green bandwagon is most definitely in the bay area. That said, with all the free tree-hugging love oozing from the central west coast, how does the 'sustainability conspiracy,' spoken of by moderator John Hockenberry, conspire to win over the rest of the United States?

The answer, I believe, is with a shift of attitude expressed in the communication of this movement. For years now the liberal pockets of the US have been nurturing the family of green movements that have evolved out of environmentalism. This nurturing has led to a great deal of momentum but also a great deal of protectiveness. The choir may be growing but not at the exponential rate needed for the ideals of sustainability to hit home with a large populace of the US that dismisses the green movement as elitist. Hollywood is buying hybrids faster than automobile companies can make them. Fast food now serves locally grown products and organic coffee. Fair trade is cool and green is chic. This may be a move in the right direction. If sustainable, responsible products can infiltrate mainstream America perhaps we do not need to convince anyone. We can herd the sheep right into the fresh green pasture and they can unknowingly graze the fair trade grass until the earth heals itself, right?

I foresee a backlash. I, who once thought the only way to save us, was to stop driving SUV's and go back to some type of neo-hunter-gatherer society, find myself frustrated with the liberal elite who want to keep this movement to themselves and away from American industry. We get it, why don't you?

This exclusionary attitude is exactly what the conspiracy needs to move away from, for example, Discovery Channel recently announced that the purchase of to compliment their new eco-channel 'Planet Green' as part of their push to bring green to the mainstream. I have visited, I have used Treehugger to look for jobs and research topics. I also know people who use the term tree hugger as derogatory slang. Perhaps the people at Treehugger and the Discovery Channel can make it safe for the closet environmentalists to come out and win over young professionals who have discovered the joy of organic fair trade lattes, but by nobly trying to change the social connotations of a negative term they have limited their potential for broad social change.

Not to say that the sustainability movement is entirely exclusionary or elitist. The excellent lineup of presenters at the Dwell event showed that the notion of inclusive action and communication is alive and well, so, back to the conference.

Alice Waters and her presentation of the edible schoolyard exemplified this attitude with her push to empower every child with the skills to grow and provide for their community. The Architect Frank Harmon opened eyes to other parts of the country by introducing the California design community to modern North Carolina prefab; a doublewide trailer home on stilts, which was received by a chorus of nervous laughs. Reed Korloff, former Dean of Tulane University's School of Architecture demonstrated how a student designed and built green home can be affordable, appealing, and a strong investment.

The last question posed to the final panel by moderator John Hockenberry was, how much of the current green initiatives would remain intact in our society and how much would become fad. The panel, consisting of Frank Harmon, Reed Kroloff, Geoff Manaugh an editor at Dwell and author of Bldg Blog, the architect Lorcan O'Herlihy, and Gwynne Pugh of Scarpa Architects, answered with overwhelming realism leaning toward pessimism ranging from 50 to 80 percent fad. I agree that this is an uphill battle and much of this green-chic will fade to fad but Geoff Manaugh had a different take, one that hints at a fully charged youthful push. This push, naive as it may be, will not only help to get the ideals of social and environmental sustainability into mainstream America, but make it second nature so that eating locally grown organic foods, building self cooling / heating buildings powered by renewable resources, and placing human and environmental health above fiscal prosperity will become the system that we live in.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


This page is the editorial companion to I will be doing my best to highlight the next generation of socially and environmentally responsible thought, ventures, news, and art. Now that green is chic and on the verge of being cliche I believe there is a need to highlight positive endeavors that are working toward the goal of taking our world and the systems we use to reach a level of sustainable prosperity. Whether or not the Earth is melting or freezing, and whether humans will end up being the disease or the cure, there is a strong youthful push to rethink the way in which we live, interact, and think. This group that ranges from artists to entrepreneurs and everyone in between is pushing the envelope and reshaping our society. This group of people I like to refer to as "generation sustain" is set to inherit our world and accept the challenge of rethinking the way in which we live and work by making sure that we do not live wastefully and uninformed.

If you think that you fit into this group of people or have anything to say I urge you to contact me and check out the site which is set to launch shortly. (there will be an announcement!)

Thank You,

Caleb Dean