Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A chorus of G-men took center stage when Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S) took its NEO “Start Up Showcase” to the Akron Business Accelerator. Rapid-fire five-minute elevator speeches including how many dollars were required to fund their ventures went head-to-head for whose sustainable products and services were best in creating new markets, building new industries and growing a sustainable regional economy.

Women and minorities were absent from the line-up (what’s up with that?) and easily half the green-E’s in my mind couldn’t spit out properly what amazing things they were really up to! My best bets lie with these Great Eight. Pick your favorites.

 Here we go with the line-up (in random order):  

  • Ed Shank/Lance Schmidt, F.G. Ayers is introducing the Passive House from Deutschland with the promise of slashing the heating energy consumption of buildings by an amazing 90%. Retrofits for Akron? No dumpsters necessary when these guys rehab a house.   
  • Jim Galvin, Legacy Polymers LLC  is your one-stop shop for companies’ plastic recycling that can even start generating new revenue streams.  
  • Jeff Guritza, REDUSA Enterprises hauls anything that’s consumer debris… from appliances to yard waste.
  • Joe Hensel/Jay Schabel, Polyflow are true social media guys. They twitter. They You tube. They Facebook. They’re taking plastic and rubber waste and converting it to solvents and gasoline blendstock.
  • Tony Lammers, Mars Systems LLC is the faster, cheaper and greener solution for the removal of heavy metal contaminants from water through its Sorbster™ media.
  • Timothy Madden, BioDynamicz LLC is a “bricks ‘n clicks” Cuyahoga Falls retail storefront and online e-commerce supplier of indoor organic produce gardening equipment and supplies renewable energy of organic produce; manufacture of greenhouses and hydroponics.
  • Dana Myers, Myers Motors is America’s only highway speed EV under $30K.  The goal is to get it under $20K and add a seat.  
  • Steven Spoonamore, Absorbent Materials Company LLC pumps those ABS by using reactive glass and sands for site-cleanups of toxic spills.  

 

Myers Motors rig was on display at E4S entrepreneurial showcase in Akron

Myers Motors drives away with one of the best pitches of the evening.

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Monday, June 29

Gardeners gather 'round master gardener Nancy Clem (far right) for helpful advice.

Gardeners gather 'round master gardener Nancy Clem (foreground group right) for helpful advice.

Our assigned night to get green tips from the Ohio State University Master Gardeners (OSUMG).  It was a great excuse to gather the gardeners together.  At my Charles & Turner site, the gardeners came out in droves (a couple dozen) together with the surrounding neighborhood folks. 

Larry Parker, Akron Coop and manager of the Akron Community Garden project, was flipping over the turnout and community interaction. “This is as good as it gets!,” he said. “It’s exactly what community gardening is all about–bringing the community together.”

The Charles & Turner site is taking on a life of its own!  A couple of gardeners worked together to place spigots in selective locations around the garden plots.  This replaced the hassle of dragging around a single hose from one location where the hydrant stands.  The Youngs, whose home sits on the west end of the garden, placed a series of chairs and endtables on the sidewalk for all the weary gardeners to sit, relax and enjoy their gardens between workouts. 

P1010040Akron’s newest immigrant community, the Karens, are active participants at the Charles & Turner site. Master farmers from their homeland of Myanmar (Burma), they are the gardeners to watch. Oscar Baaye, a Karen leader who recently relocated to Akron from Seattle, serves as the official interpreter for the group. Wearing his native garb, he is an upbeat, delightful guy who is working hard to uplift his people settling in Akron.  His involvement with the plight of his Karen people, living most of their lives in refuge camps, victims of the cruel ongoing extremely violent civil strife, has enough compelling content for an epic Hollywood edu-tainment flick.   

Nancy Clem,  a volunteer with OSUMG Summit County, gave me the news I expected about my garden: “Gotta get the weeds out!”  So, between great conversation, I got my hoe in hand and started hacking.  Then Nancy told me how to lay down nothing but newspapers on the soil between plants acting as one of the best weed inhibitors. 

Oscar Baaye (left) relaxes on the sidewalk chairs with the Young family

Oscar Baaye (left) relaxes on the sidewalk chairs with the Young family

I am now finding myself heading over to the community garden as many evenings as possible, not just to tend my garden, but to meet up and chat the night away on the Young’s sidewalk chairs with my newfound friends–gardeners and neighbors alike–on these balmy Akron summer nights until the fireflies start flittin’ about.

The Crain gardeners: Tom (dad), Olivia (daughter #1), Cessily (daughter #2)

The Crain gardeners: Tom (dad), Olivia (daughter #1), Cessily (daughter #2)

June 17, 2009

As soon as the city tilled and mulched, the community gardeners were called in to plot and plant.  A deluge of rain that week ended up helping the new plants, but slowed down the city prep a bit for some of the other gardens.  

On Saturday morning, we drove on in to the community garden at Charles & Turner (near Howard & North) in the Elizabeth Park Valley neighborhood, shook hands with half a dozen of our new community garden friends and staked out our 10’ x 20’ plot. The garden is in an ideal spot situated in a scenic and secluded wooded valley surrounded by friendly neighbors in well-kept two-story homes willing to help when needed. A big and friendly watchdog and a working fire hydrant with attached hose were additional accessories.  What could be better?

The gardeners are already bonding—exchanging plants, helping each other out with staking and watering and even making plans together for the unclaimed dirt.  

 My crew (two daughters Olivia, 11, and Cessily, 8) laid down a variety of tomatoes, peppers and strawberries.  We got to bond with the resident watchdog (I believe there’s a wee bit of pit bull in him, so it’s important to win him over).  Who knows, maybe we can train him to bite the pants off of any tomato wranglers.  

 

The honeymoon period for gardening hasn’t worn off yet. Not enough time has passed for inevitable pesky weeds, chomped leaves from invading pests or drooping plants from lack of rain.  Ahhh…life is good.  Will it continue?  Stay tuned for the next steps in the growing season including getting to know the unique mix of fellow gardeners.

May 13, 2009

Larry Parker and Jerry EganMustard Seed Market and Cafe in Fairlawn stepped up as the new meeting site for the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S) networking events, now held regularly in Akron, alternating monthly with Cleveland. Apparently, Akron membership has grown too green for E4S to keep their events exclusively on the Big Lake.

The topic of the May meeting was all about the local food economy featuring Akron growing champs including Larry Parker of the Akron Cooperative and the new Akron Grows community garden project; Beth Knorr of the Countryside Conservancy; and Chris Norman, Akron Summit County Food Policy Coalition and director of Crown Pointe Farms.

Father and son, Phillip and Abe Nabors, were on hand to offer tours of their Mustard Seed Market, claimed to be NEO’s largest locally-owned natural and organic foods market. Phillip also spoke about his love for gardening and push to feature locally-grown food at his 28-year-old retail grocery.

NEO rarely sits in any Top 5 positive city rankings, but how about a stellar #2 for locally-grown foods second only to my hometown of Minneapolis? SustainLane, a popular national sustainability movement website came up with these rankings using data from the US Department of Agriculture for farmers’ markets and community gardens.

Many palatable ideas for sustainability in the Akron area are growing out of the local food movement.

Lance Schmidt

Lance Schmidt

May 28, 2009

When it comes to home building in Akron these days, efficient and passive is all the rage. So much so, that its local Home Builders Association showcased three trailblazing pioneers in sustainability for housing at their May 28th special “Going Green” homebuilding seminar .

Lance Schmidt, F.G. Ayers, Inc., synonymous with “The Passive House” who prides himself on being “that crazy environmental homebuilding rebel” is ushering in a German-born concept of a super-insulated, air tight, highly-efficient home that doesn’t need a conventional furnace and cuts winter monthly utility bills down to double digits only.

The great news about what Schmidt is up to is that he’s committed to bringing this cutting-edge concept to Akron’s urban core via retrofitting and hoping to build a demo house in the area.

Look out NEO homebuilders, he’s wielding some real power. He was recently elected VP of Summit-Portage County HBA and is getting known by Akron city officials for sitting on a key Board.

Joining Schmidt were Karl Balla, Energy Pros of Ohio, a certified Home Energy Rater, on how to get high marks on home energy audits, and Hallie Bowie, New Leaf Home Design, registered architect and certified Green Professional on Green Home Action Items for energy efficiency, indoor air quality and sustainability.

Kudos to Akron HBA. You are showing a bright shade of green these days when it comes to housing and remodeling.

home_builders_association

thumb plantOur mission is to educate, inspire and involve the average consumer in the green sustainability movement. Through our programs and services, everyone, regardless of age, race, religion, income or any other demographic factor can participate in the sustainability movement to enrich their lives including saving money, improving health, protecting the planet and building community

What makes this sustainability project different? Each practice, product and service is available and affordable to the average household in the urban corridor. In some instances, an initial outlay of cash may be necessary with the understanding that ROI must come to full fruition within a year’s time. If it’s not affordable, practical, or easy-to-apply, we’ll see to it that it gets the Green Thumbs Down.

Selecting seed packets for the community garden

Selecting seed packets for the community garden

The City of Akron together with the Akron Cooperative and Ohio State University Extension is breaking ground to offer community garden plots for its residents.

Eight city-owned lots scattered about town are being tilled, furrowed and sown to move closer to a vision of one day sustaining a third of the dietary needs of its citizens.

The Summer of ’09 is the revival of a program now taking on the challenge of getting enough participants at each site to ante up $20-30. Larry Parker, director of Akron Cooperative says, “That initial investment will be repaid to urban gardeners many times over. Keep in mind that for $20 or $30 you can produce a couple hundred dollars worth of fresh veggies.”

So far, plenty of gardening go-getters have formally registered to get their fingernails dirty working those spades and hoes to reap a bounty of homegrown veggies and/or colorful sprays of flowers.

At the 11th hour, I stepped up as a participant, running my app. over to the city planning office. Kurt Mulhauser, urban planner and the city’s head hoe-downer, tipped me off that an orientation was taking place that very evening at the Highland Square Library.

Listening to the enthusiastic and encouraging words from Kurt, Larry and Denise Ellsworth, OSU Extension master gardener, and grabbing a handful of seed packets and a $15 live plants/seed packets voucher from the City of Akron to Donzell’s, Graf Growers or Pettiti garden centers, and later, starter plants donated from Crown Pointe Ecology Center in Bath (I already got my initial investment back!), I can’t wait to dig in!

Can a greenhorned gardener like me pull up at least one radish by harvest time? What kind of “garden-variety” angels will be stepping forward inside and outside of the community garden neighborhoods to aid the cause?

Get all the latest digs right here on the community gardens adventure as the project continues to grow!