Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Personal Project Parade

Hey V515, sorry for the delay on this, but I've had a few too many ideas...all of which will be pursued and documented, regardless of whether they're officially selected for the personal project or otherwise. It's hard to choose among things that you love, but sometimes you just gotta do it.

Co-op Extravaganza: Bloomington COOPerates

You've heard the majority of this pitch, so I'll just list a lose order of objectives.  There's a lot to be done...and getting any of it done will be a project in and of itself.

1. Make a booth at the Farmer's Market:  From what I've seen and heard, Saturday morning Farmer's Market includes the Who's Who of the community.  CSAs, local farmer collectives, Council members, Chamber members, business leaders, press, and a large portion of the green/sustainability enthusiasts.  It's a great place to raise awareness; it's cheap to set-up; and it's fun!

2. Organize a Pan-Cooperative Community Meeting:  My status in the coop community is liminal at best, so I'm hoping really hoping that Bloomington's coop leaders get excited about the International Year of the Cooperative.Just staging a forum where such similar groups can meet, greet, talk and plan would be a big win.

3. Organize a Pan-Cooperative Student Group through IUSA:  It turns out that Bloomington Cooperative Living has a student group already; but, apparently, it's not very active or institutionalized.  Other than that, I couldn't find campus representation for any of the other coops in town...and enough students either belong to one, purchase from one, or work in/for one (like students that work at Bloomingfoods) that it might be good to create a focal point / meeting point  around which all their - respective, yet similar - interests can be represented.  It would help as a platform for lobbying IU and the student body.  Hooray collective-action!

4. Contact City Council district Representative, relevant Councils (like BCOS), and the Chamber of Commerce: The more the merrier!  Just as well, these folks know more about the economic, logistical, or political problems and promises of organizing in Bloomington.  Can't hurt to get the idea on their radar, right?

5. Investigate the Coop Situation at other Indiana Colleges and Universities: research, research, research. Record best-practices. Contemplate potential for transferability.  

6. Investigate Prospects for a Coop Themester in 2012: Fairly self-explanatory, but the lobbying work required - if there's any potential at all - would involve some well-coordinated, activist acrobatics.

7. Investigate Official Vetting/Qualification Processes for Coop Establishment and/or Certification: This is something that I'm not yet clear on. When I was musing about this yesterday, it dawned on me that fraternity & sorority houses - gotta rep Phi Kappa Tau, here - are strikingly similar to some cooperative living situations I've seen...with the exception of bulk-purchasing, joint-consumption, and, well, first-hand experience reminds me that party & event-planning practices are, to put it kindly, less than sustainable. 

8. Investigate and Promote the Integration of Sustainable Living/Working Topics within the MCCSC general Curriculum: Mostly some background work on whether sustainability or cooperative living/working models are ever mentioned or featured in local, public school curricula.  It might be worth asking if a representative from one of the local living cooperatives could come in and give a talk to high school seniors, many of which will soon be college-bound.

9. Seek Resources: It's highly likely that UN IYC organizers have regional directors that can advise/assist with programming local events.  Just as well, it would be worth the phone-call to contact NASCO for organizing advice/assistance (current NASCO president helped found Bloomington Cooperative Living).

10. To the Press!: BCL was recently interviewed by the Herald-Times and it was fairly well received.  Can't piggy-back on international press for the IYC if the local press doesn't have all the information or know about the opportunity!  One more way to put Bloomington on the progressive map.

Compost Collaborative: 
The state of my composting experiment is rather depressing.  After mounds of organic matter, soil, and dry bedding, it still generates very little heat, which tells me there is little actual composting going on.  Also, I don't know if it's a good sign or a terrible sign that all those friendly little sprouts that were popping up, for a few weeks, are now dead and gone.  Regardless, the little I've read on composting is obviously getting snagged somewhere in my situation or my brain (or both).  The vermicompost initiative has yet to take off, so here are the steps I'll take for this little project:

1. Laura Garrett, I Want Your Worms:  For realzies. We gotta plan this out. Can I just show up to class with a tub of soil?  It'd probably be best to be soil; I don't think the class wants to smell my fermenting fruit matter.

2. Just the Plants, Ma'am: For those biased against the wriggley-wigglies, I mean to continue with the organic-matter-only (traditional?) composting method, just so I can learn (and transmit my composting triumphs and tribulations).  That, and the fact that such a simplified model might be more easily scaled to a community-wide program.

3. Diorama-rama Day: I won't actually make a diorama of my composting project, I just like that episode of the Simpsons. BUT, I will make diagrams and post pictures of my composting bins (both with and without worms [or, "verms"]).  Might as well share the experience in all it's detail.

4. Collaboration (Scale 1): I'm in the process of writing letters (and baking treats) for the other folks in my apartment complex - which is actually just a house, subdivided into three, 2-person apartments - to try and persuade them to collect their plant matter in tupperware (which I will provide), so as to create a composting plan for the entire building.  Jesualdo, Jenny, Rachel, and Renee will definitely be down, right guys?

5. Collaboration (Scale 2): In the absence of a successful compost project for my building - like if we can't get it to generate heat, we run into container problems, or just generate too much plant matter - the secondary attempt would actually broaden the scope of contact by involving more people: the BCL house "Helm's Deep" is just down the street and they have an active, successful compost bin and a number of plant-growing (herb gardens, gardens, hoop-houses) projects that could benefit from all the plant matter that the apartments, in my house, generate.

6. Collaboration (Scale 3): If these go rather well - or at least generate a significant volume of plantmatter, composted soil, and verm-juice - the next step is to spread the love all the way to the community-at-large, publicizing a small-scale program for donating compost to local farmers and CSAs.  If it got any publicity, I would hope and think that others in the community would join in...and, if it really takes off, it could become an official thing.

7. Collaboration (Ultimate): Is it possible for Bloomington's waste-collection services (especially those responsible for collecting yard-waste) to collect compostable food (plant) matter? Has this been done in any other communities in the country? On the continent? In the world.  My hunch is that this idea has at least been tried...and, hopefully, in some places, it may even be successful.  Hearing that West Lafayette generates some energy from composted food matter is inspiring enough to really look into the matter.  This would require a significant amount of research...and why do all that for this audience, alone?  The goal would be to take the findings of the research, my own personal experiences and interviews with friends/neighbors about composting, and any policy-analysis methods at my disposal (few, at this point...SPEA folks, I'll need your help)...take all of this and draft a report to be submitted to relevant Bloomington waste-management officials, committees, & councils, as well as a public report for the City Council and relevant bodies like the BCOS.

Reels on Wheels:
This idea is still in beta testing, for sure.  Maybe even gamma-testing at that.  Does that even work? ...Alpha, beta, gamma, delta...(somebody fratty help me out here).  Anyway, the idea is kindof a hybrid of two others...but, being that both products and processes can be patented, maybe I should get on that before I divulge trade-secrets...

jk, I believe in open-sourcing

There is a project, featured on TED, that produces bamboo bicycles (sturdy, cost-effective) for sale in developing countries.  There are also reel mowers.  Their powers-combined create a landscaping tool of significant sustainability.

But, for real (or "reel" bwwaahahaha) sustainable landscape-maintenance could more easily be attained through the creation and use of more sustainable equipment.  We laugh when we think of someone mowing acreage of lawn with a reel-mower...but what if the blade-reel (or multiples of these) were attached to a bicycle?

Apparently some kid was way ahead of me on this one:  BUT, he obviously hasn't made the best entrepreneurial decisions about least I've never seen anybody buy or use something like this.

Besides, I have design ideas (to be posted) that are markedly different.  So glad I know engineers and handy people.  If this could be made, advertised, maybe donate/raffle-off a few prototypes at a B-Foods could be the new thing in town (in the town lawn-care community, that is).

Food Fun:
Every week, I donate 1.5 hours of my time to culinary, experimental expression. By which I mean that, once a week, I have very little time to try and throw together a dish or two to contribute to BCL's weekly potluck.  The above is a nice little creation: a pita pizza of garlic, cream-cheese, and shallot-sauteed spinach and, for desert, mango-puree pastries with a blueberry garnish.  Though delicious and less than an eyesore, these were hardly sustainable least, I haven't seen many mangoes growing around here, the pita was certainly not local, and the cream-cheese was most-likely processed.  New objective: culinary creations with local, organic ingredients.  Recipes will be posted.  Enjoy!
Yes, much ado about sustainability.


  1. Worms are all yours!!! I can bring them in a jar to you as soon as you need them. I've been collecting yogurt tubs for their travel. You just need to make sure they don't get too hot during the day and stick them in your compost bin when you get home!!! Love worms. Feel free to shoot me an email.

  2. Ps...I am also willing to use one of your prototype reels on wheels!!!