Monday, August 18, 2008


The University of Richmond, my alma mater, recently announced a new campus-wide energy monitoring system:

The system, which will be installed in all 14 residence halls, will allow students to track their energy use online. The idea is that if they can actually see that turning off their computer saves energy, maybe they will.

When the system is installed in Fall 2009, dorm residents will compete for the highest decrease in energy consumption. When Oberlin College did this, "students were able to reduce their electricity use by up to 55 percent over two weeks."

Worth noting, the system is being paid for by the Dominion Foundation. Dominion, based in Richmond, is one of the nation's largest producers of energy. They burn a lot of coal and are currently pursing plans to build a new coal-fired power plant in Wise County, Va. Here's a Washington Post article about it worth reading:


Wired magazine, one of my favorites, has two interesting sustainability related articles this month.

The first, the cover story, is about a businessman named Shai Agassi and his plan to bring electric cars to the world, starting with Israel and Denmark. His company, Better Place, has the cooperation of these governments and has raised more than $200 million in committed capital. According to Wired, Agassi has managed to launch "the fifth-largest startup of all time in less than a year." He's not building cars, but rather a grid of battery charging stations that will sell electricity like cell phone companies sell minutes.

Rather than try to summarize Agassi's crazy complicated business plan here (which began to sound less and less crazy as I made my way through the article) I'll leave it to the dedicated Farmbedded reader to find his own copy of the magazine. I recommend it.

The other article, an essay by Clive Thompson, argues for urban farming:

"The next president should throw down the gauntlet and demand Americans sow victory gardens once again."

It's worked before. Between 1942 and 1943, victory gardens produced 40 percent of the vegetables consumed in this country, according to Thompson. And innovations since then have made urban food growing "radically more efficient and compact than the victory gardens of yore," he says.

It seems like such a simple, sensible thing to do. The result would be better, cheaper food for urban Americans, less obesity, less CO2 resulting from shipping food across the world, more food independence, and you could even cool the cities by planting crops on rooftops.

What's more, Thompson writes:

"But what I love most here is the potential for cultural transformation. Growing our own food again would reconnect us to the country's languishing frontier spirit."

Well said.