With the planned opening of the Augsburger Road phase of the Bluffton bike path set for later this month, it is a great time to talk about making Bluffton a bike-friendly town. The new section of the bike path will connect Maple Crest Senior Living Village and Bluffton University Nature Preserve to Riverbend Rd. This bike path extension allows travelers to get from the new development areas on Augsburger Rd and Maple Crest to downtown for shopping, then from downtown to the Village park for a picnic or softball game.
Many people in Bluffton pride themselves on their use of alternate transportation to work and for pleasure. However, in order to make the bike path (and bicycles in general) a practical form of transportation, shopping bags, picnic baskets or other small loads need to be effectively, efficiently carried across town. There is no right answer for how to carry a load on a bike, there is just what works for you. The people that brought you the Mind The Gap Movie, a documentary on urban transportation, have a short video on way people carry loads on their bikes.
Bluffton Transition is dedicated to furthering the discussion of how to make Bluffton a more bike-friendly town. The bike path is a great start, but a knowledgeable biking community will be what allows Bluffton to be a city other cities look to for alternative transportation inspiration. What are some of your ideas?
Some paths are hard to walk, especially when you do not know where the paths start. That may be doubly true when you are talking about paths that lead to sustainable changes within a community. Paths that many people have walked down before are easily recognizable, but sustainability of energy and economies from a community perspective- well, many travelers are bush-wacking their way through a jungle of information right now. Information that, possibly, never quite fits the given situation. Some travelers stumble upon trail heads that have identifiable starting points, but not a blazed path.
Like explorers heading to the western frontiers sustainable communities look to early sustainability explorers for help along the path. Organizations like The Cardinal Group who published a research project over “barriers to sustainable community development”. The project was undertaken by Steven Peck, Peck & Associates & Guy Dauncey, and the Sustainable Communities Consultancy. In 12 Features of sustainable Community Development: Social, Economic and Environmental Benefits and Two Case Studiesthree levels of community interaction are looked at from two sites, one in Vancouver, British Columbia and one in California. The levels identified were Building Level (individual), Development Site Level (members in a community) and The Planning and Infrastructure Level (governmental). The project concluded that each of these levels needs to work together in order to create communities that stand strongly on their own. The studies finding are a perfect place to start conversations within or planning for a Transition Town.
The Major Features of Sustainable Community Development, according to the study, are:
Ecological Protection– Creating green areas which can increase property values from 5%-50% and foster stewardship.
Density and Urban Design– building for increased [infrastructure] density decreases impact of agricultural land and allows for economic growth within the community due to ease of access to storefronts.
Urban Infill– Make use of existing abandoned infrastructure which will reduce a need for urban sprawl.
Village Centers– Centers give the community a place to gather and an area for markets to form as well as building a community identity.
Local Economy– Local businesses need to be balanced, inclusive and varied so that all needs can be met within the community.
Sustainable Transport– Options for bike paths and walkways need to transverse the community and allow market access without having to drive for supplies.
Affordable Housing– A mixture of housing options should exist in a community to allow for a cross-section of society to thrive within a community and not become exclusive.
Livable Community– Provide ample opportunity for social and personal development as well as a sense of community participation.
Sewage & Storm-water– Monitoring runoff from agriculture and business for nitrogen and phosphorus loading and creating constructed wetlands will allow for water recycling projects and decrease the impact of the community upon the surrounding environment.
Water– Increased density in the community will reduce the need for irrigation and create a more sustainable use of the local water aquafer.
Energy– Increasing sustainable energy produced by the community decreases the transit cost and overall production of CO2 substantially.
The 3 ‘R’s– Creating programs for reduce, reuse, recycle decreases the communities environmental impact even farther. Utilizing building materials that fit one or more of these categories can be both environmentally beneficial and cost effective.
Perhaps not all of the above categories fit in every community, but people may be surprised how many of these topics can be included in a conversation to create a plan for Transition within the community.
According to the EPA’s Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures report which tracks the amount of trash and recycling throughout the United States, there were 254 tons of trash in 2013. Of this 254 tons, 87 million tons (34.3%) were either recycled or composted. For a comparison, the amount of recycled content in 1980 was 15 million tons. Numbers closer to home would make this individually 1.51 pounds of recycled/composted material to an average 4.40 pounds of trash per day.
Further statics gathered suggest American’s recovered 5.7 million tons of paper for recycling and averaged 60% of organic/lawn waste composted. All of this recycling and composting has reduced the amount of CO2 let off by 186 million metric tons. The EPA cites this as “the equivalent of taking 39 million cars off the road for a year.”
America has come a long way from the 80’s, but there is a long way to go in just reducing the amount of waste. Unfortunately, the EPA does not have data specific to Ohio (although they do other states). However, we could in the future. Tell your local representatives that you wish to support the data collection efforts of the EPA. Better yet, collect the data at a local level and create a community challenge to reduce the annual percent of waste.
How much dedicated acreage would the US need to allocate to wind turbines to power the US? That is the question the science news magazine IFLScience! posed to John Hensley, manager of industry data analysis for the American Wind Energy Association in a recent article. Shockingly, the amount of acreage is much smaller then most people would think. Mr Hensley worked the math and the United States would need approximately 583,000 wind turbines to supply the US’s annual power consumption of 4.082 billion megawatt-hours. The amount of acreage needed for these wind turbines would be an area roughly about the size of Rhode Island based on the 0.74 acres per megawatt produced.
If we bring that idea closer to home, a great conversation for Transition Bluffton would be how much acreage could Bluffton dedicate to renewable energy? What is Bluffton’s annual power consumption and what would be the benefits of being a town powered by renewable energy?
Transition Bluffton will be hosting a training seminar, tentatively scheduled for the weekend of February 25-26, 2017. The purpose of the training is to familiarize people with the Transition movement, provide instruction and tools for setting up a local initiative, and empower our community to tackle the issues of peak resources and climate change by rebuilding community resilience and self-reliance.
The Training session is open to any interested people from the Bluffton area, as well as anyone from throughout northwest Ohio and nearby areas of Michigan and Indiana interested in learning about how Transition might be of value in their communities. Please mark the weekend of February 25-26 on your calendar and stay tuned for more details as they are developed.