Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

An excerpt from the 8/28/13 article, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”, I wrote for my friend, Steven, at

“I thought the best way to change minds about global warming, climate change and ecological dysfunction was to get more education; this time, in sustainable management. If I could influence the corporate world to change their design principles and their social/financial responsibility to the communities from which they remove resources and in which they manufacture their goods, I would be doing right by doing good.

I realized the greater challenge is in educating the public about choices and practices so they can influence and raise the sustainable consciousness of their own families, corporations, communities, schools and workplaces with their own voices and pocketbooks. I know, an ambitious idea of mine to think I can help humanity save its resources by changing human behavior.

That’s when I met Deek, Steven, and other tiny house community members last November at a tiny house workshop. That weekend cemented my resolve to build the travelling sustainable “Silver Bullet Tiny House Classroom” I had been dreaming about for the last two years.


Constructing an affordable off-grid, net zero, eco-friendly “tiny house” that becomes a mobile classroom seemed like a natural part of the evolution of the non-profit organization I started in 2011 after graduating from Presidio.

After all, the tiny house community that has been growing for a decade is the sustainability imperative at work.

I envisioned the Silver Bullet serving as a base where I could work with individuals, families and communities to make smarter consumptive choices to live and learn how to design and build a more sustainable and affordable lifestyle.

I will stand on the shoulders of my sustainable giants Deek Diedricksen, Jay Shafer, Ray Anderson, Dee WilliamsBob Willard, and Bill McKibben to bring sustainable lifestyle practices and design to those who need it.”

You can check out our progress at the


Founder and tiny house builder/enthusiast, Vera Struck, celebrates the beginning of the Silver Bullet build in summer 2013 and the completion of her R34 sub-floor on her 8′ x 18′ trailer.

TerraBluTeam Practice #42

Recycled clothing as Sculpture by artist, Derick Melander.

The WHAT and WHY:

In 2005 I started a personal journey toward sustainability with a New Year’s resolution to understand the impact of all my purchasing and consumption choices. Easier said than done. Search engines like Google and Bing were not well populated with sustainable product information. Majorities of manufacturer’s were in their sustainable infancy.

Americans dispose of 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per year of which 99% could have been recycled. Subtracting the 48% sold to developing countries and the 17% that is currently recycled, that still puts 35% or 13.1 million tons of textiles and shoes into US landfills alone, according to the EPA.

As I was changing my seasonal closet wardrobe this year I took a closer look at the fashion trade and its current sustainable offerings. Most of the industry has moved towards improving the LCA of their products as well as the social/cultural/environmental responsibility of their manufacturing process. As textiles made from natural materials are water and energy intensive; manufacturers are finding better ways of designing with polymers than can be recycled into future garments.

Some high-end designers have pushed the sustainable envelope to another level and are producing biodegradable clothing and shoes.

I’m overjoyed that products like VerTerra, One Cup and One Moment 100% recyclable slippers are nurturing the eco-product trend. It’s not just Timberland, Tom’s, Teva and Patagonia anymore – hurray! Gucci announced its mostly biodegradable “Liquid Gold” castor oil seed plastic sunglasses, Icebreaker’s Merino Wool, Stella McCartney brought her biodegradable shoe soles to the market last month and even Puma is proposing they’re designing garments that can be cut-up, buried and used as fertilizer. You could even make your own bio-degradable clothes like UK’s fashion designer, Suzanne Lee; watch her 6 minute TED talk.

After all, much of the $774 billion dollar fashion industry has consumers buying and discarding clothing faster than ever. It’s imperative that we, consumers and manufacturers alike, make more sustainable choices.

Examine your wardrobe purchasing and disposal practices to decrease your impact on the world’s resources.

The HOW:

1.Practice the 4 R’s when disposing of your clothes.

2.Cut in strips and reuse them for vegetable ties to your garden stakes. You can also repurpose your sheets as shrub covers for winter.

3. Repurpose them into costumes for holidays like Halloween or your next child or adult costume party.

4. Hold a neighborhood/friend shoe or clothing swap party. Everyone brings ten garments/shoes, any leftovers go to a crisis center in your community.

5. Find a non-profit that resells clothing to support those in need.

6. Make a reclamation art project into designer fashion, a chair, like these artists:

Note: is a non-profit organization and does not receive any funds from the product links we suggest.

The Deep Dive:

LCA, life cycle analysis of all stages of a product’s life

Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things

A list of 24 Eco-conscious footwear brands

Ingeo biopolymer (from renewable resources such as corn)

Recycle your old bras by donating to

Donate your sports shoes to See Your Kicks Make a Comeback

TerraBluTeams Practice #28

The WHAT and WHY:

On July 11th global citizens will observe World Population Day. Did you know that in 2011 the world population surpassed the 7 billion mark? One of the greatest challenges we face today is figuring out how we are going to sustainably use our remaining limited resources while allowing future generations to meet their needs.

According to the UNFPA’s 2012 Population Matters for Sustainable Development Report for the Rio+20 Earth Summit, a call to integrate population into the water-food-energy nexus is the missing link in sustainable development. According to the expert panel from Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge University, population councils and other distinguished institutions we need to recognize:

• Population dynamics have a significant influence on sustainable development;

• Efforts to promote sustainable development that do not address population dynamics have, and will continue to, fail; and,

• Population dynamics are not destiny. Change is possible through a set of policies which respect human rights and freedoms and contribute to a reduction in fertility, notably access to sexual and reproductive health care, education beyond the primary level, and the empowerment of women.

“Any analysis of sustainable development must recognize the differences among people in terms of their impacts on the environment and their vulnerabilities to risk, which depend on their age, gender, location and other socioeconomic characteristics. New evidence indicates that human capital, enhanced through education and health (including reproductive health), can make a substantial difference in people’s contributions to sustainable development and their capacity to adapt to environmental change.”  The Laxenburg Declaration, 2012

This week’s practice is to empower yourself with the capacity to change your unsustainable behaviors. Not because you need “points” from a gamification website or the green initiative software at work, or because you will avoid fines, penalties, carbon taxes or imprisonment but because it is the right and healthy thing to do for yourself, family and community; and will leave a world inhabitable for your children and your children’s children.

The Top Ten HOW:

1.   Change one unsustainable habit at a time.

2.   Make it simple, start small.

3.   Write down a 30 day plan.

4.   Ask for help and support as there will be sabotagers.

5.   Become publicly accountable. Do it with a friend, a group, post it on your blog, write a column.

6.   Exercise, rest and drink lots of water.

7.   Use visualization, have a mantra and give yourself rewards.

8.   Engineer it so it’s hard to fail.

9.   Avoid situations and people that support unsustainable habits.

10. If you fail, try again. Obstacles can be overcome. Regroup, let go of guilt and just try again.

So let’s just do it, embrace radical openness* and cultivate an evolved sustainable world.

Let us know how you are doing!

The Deep Dive:

UNFPA 2012 Report – Population Matters for Sustainable Development

Population Milestones

Promoting Sustainable Behavior

How Radical Sustainability Can Save Your Business

RUST, Radical Urban Sustainable Living

*Thanks to my colleague, Chris Brogan, for reminding me how much I love TED talks.