Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who Gains From Your Pain?

This past year has been met with several changes in the marketplace, which affect the price of gas, food, energy, travel, and so on. It's gotten to the point where people have taken "staycations" this year, a new term to describe forgoing a proper vacation to stay at home and do local activities.

I personally think many of these changes are positive, like frequenting farmers' markets and driving less, but many people aren't happy about the increased cost of just about everything. (Why everything? Well, because it seems like everything is somehow connected to oil.)

But not everyone's complaining. On the contrary, there's much to be gained from your pain: money. This morning, Exxon Mobile posted their second quarter earnings. They made $11.68 billion this quarter - that's the most amount of profit ever reported in US history. Impressive, right? Well, this $$$ figure was lower than investors expected (I know, get the kleenex out and shed a tear!). But who knows? Maybe this year they'll beat last year's annual profit of $40 billion. That's something to look forward to.

Reading this news makes me grateful for riding my bike. I haven't bought any gas since May, which has saved me some much needed cash. And perhaps this goes without saying, but biking doesn't pollute and it's good for the body. You just have to be careful. And that goes for drivers, too!!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Biking In Memoriam

Yesterday about 300 bicyclists got together in Granger to bike in memoriam of Patrick Sawyer. My friend Matt Mooney helped organize this event. He also picked me up so we could carpool together. Along the way, he gave me more details about Patrick and his family. They were good friends, that much is true. He wasn't sure how his wife was doing and we both asked many questions about their children. How is she going to raise four kids on her own? I don't think they came from wealthy families. The good news is that many people in our community have pitched in to help the Sawyer family. Matt also said they hope to make this an annual event so that Pat's kids will have the things they need as they continue to grow and live their lives.

It was a stunning to see so many people bike in Pat's honor. I'm glad I was able to pay my respects in this way.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

RIP: Patrick Sawyer

I received terrible news yesterday - Patrick Sawyer, an IUSB student, was struck by a car on Monday while riding his bike on Cleveland Avenue. Sadly, he ultimately did not survive the accident.

A few of my friends have organized a charity ride in honor of Patrick and to help his family. Patrick leaves behind a wife and four young children. It will take place next Tuesday, beginning at North Point School in Granger. Folks will be arriving around 5:30pm and the race will kick-off at 6pm. People are welcome to ride multiple distances and all are welcome. Yours truly will be there.

If you can't ride, but would like to make a donation, you can drop it off at the local bike shops (Outpost Sports, Spin Zone, and Pro Form). Key Bank is also hosting a trust fund for the family (it's called Benefit of Patrick Sawyer).

Rest in peace, Patrick. I know you are missed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thank you, Al Gore!

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing." Those words have stuck with me for several months now. It boggled my mind why the need for solar energy wasn't receiving greater, positive attention - instead, it seemed like most folks talked in circles about our dependence on oil and the limitations regarding renewable energies. For me, such negative talk about solar and wind energy produced "green fatigue." I was getting weary of hearing the same tired arguments. I think I've grown tired of hearing many people talk - I want to see action.

So perhaps it's ironic that I felt encouraged by Al Gore's speech yesterday.* It is, after all, more words to listen to. But this time I heard optimism and conviction resonate in his voice. To invoke Emerson, I believe that Al Gore sees the sun.
Gore said, "Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses. And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America."

Gore clearly sees that our current status quo must end by embracing renewable energy within 10 years. I really do think we're at a tipping point and that sweeping, innovative changes will be made in the near future. So thank you, Al Gore, for speaking on behalf of so many individuals who are craving genuine leadership in this front. I for one sincerely appreciate his efforts.

*Above is an annotated version of Gore's speech. To watch the speech in its entirety, click here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Story of Stuff

Apparently, over 3 million people have already seen Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff on the internet. I just got the memo, but it's certainly not to0 late to watch this 20-minute film. Dr. Leonard does a brilliant job outlining the relationship among the processes of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. She integrates social justice issues and our perceptions regarding how much value we place onto other people (basically, the more stuff you have, the more valuable you are perceived).

Ok, I don't want to give too much of the film away, so I hope you get a chance to watch this. And afterwards, go check out her blog. Dr. Leonard has additional resources and information about the work she's done for over 20 years. Amazing!

Monday, July 14, 2008


Yesterday, my friend Deb and I went to the movies and saw Wall-E. I hadn't heard much about this movie - I checked online at to see its ratings and it scored a 97%. So I figured it must be good!

This was a clever film about a robot whose job is to clean the all the junk and debris left behind by us humans. The humans have long since abandoned the planet, living far in the galaxy on a luxurious spacecraft. For the most part, Wall-E the robot lives a humdrum existence cleaning up trash. But he finds himself in a romantic and life-preserving adventure, which is fun, entertaining, and thought-provoking. If you feel in the mood to go to the movies, I encourage you to watch this film!

Deb also surprised me by giving me a Preserve toothbrush. It's the same toothbrush made by Recycline, the company that uses recycled yogurt cups. So cool! They really thought of everything, right down to the packaging, which I can use as a reusable travel case. The toothbrush was also made in the USA, which is refreshing (what? It's not made in China?!?). And instead of throwing the toothbrush away when it's old, Recycline has a postage-paid mailer that I can use for recycling. Three cheers for Recycline's commitment to be environmentally friendly. Now I can feel good when I brush my teeth three times a day!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why We Don't Use Plastic Bags

Sometimes it's good to be reminded why we don't use plastic bags. At least that was my thought when I received an email from my friend David today. He sent everyone a pdf regarding the environmental hazards of using plastic bags. I think this document provides a brief, yet thorough overview of this issue. If you have a couple of minutes, I encourage you to take a look at it.

He also wrote about his and his wife's change to using reusable bags:

Annette and I have recently finally gotten in the habit of bringing our own bags to the grocery store. It took a while to get in this habit; not only did we need to i) acquire a sufficient number of cloth and sturdy re-usable bags, we needed to ii)  keep them in the car, and of course then iii) remember to bring them into the store. However, now that we're fully into the routine, we remember our bags all the time and perhaps we are now in the category of people that use 12 less bags/week = 48 bags/month = 576 bags/year.

That's so awesome! I must also thank Dave and Annette for giving me their composting bin a year ago. Thanks to them, I no longer throw my food waste into the garbage. This has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the frequency and amount of trash that I generate at home. No more stinky trash! And I would say that I use 2 trash bags a month to handle my waste. That's down about 50%. Sweet!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Stonyfield Yogurt - Bid with your lid 2008

Stonyfield Yogurt - Bid with your lid 2008

Check this out - Stonyfield Farm donates 10% of their profits to three non-profit organizations: Physicians for Social Responsibility, Ocean Conservancy, and The Worldwatch Institute. All they're asking us to do is vote for our favorite organization. Doing so will allocate a percentage of $40,000 to those non-profits. You can only vote once, so feel free spread the word to your friends!

And while you're at their site, also check out their Recycline Toothbrushes. I really like their vision: From Yogurt Cups to Razors and Toothbrushes. I appreciate their efforts at trying to close the recycling loop. It reminds me of some of the principles I read about in Cradle to Cradle (a great summer reading book if you have the time!).

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Mayor Needs Us - RSVP Deadline Tomorrow!!

Have you heard the news? The Mayor of South Bend wants us to participate at the next public forum on July 12th. This is our chance to participate in the democratic process of renovating LaSalle Square. But we have to RSVP by tomorrow, so there's no time to procrastinate. I'll be making my reservation by calling the city's Division of Community Development at 235-9660.

Here is more information about the event, which I've copied from the city website:

What's the best way to build community consensus on the future of LaSalle Square? Residents are being invited July 12 to play a game based on Monopoly to consider how to allocate public resources at the former retail shopping center in need of revitalization.

The LaSalle Square Steering Committee, a partnership of residents, businesses and the City of South Bend, is overseeing the process to create an action plan for the site. They seek to leverage public resources in order to expand private investment at LaSalle Square, located on the city's northwest side at Bendix Drive and Ardmore Trail.

But the first step, based on the advice of planners and architects from Chicago hired to assist in the process, is to get public input about what residents believe will work best at LaSalle Square. Reservations are required for the July 12 event. See details below.

"City officials, developers and planning professionals don't have a monopoly on good ideas. That was confirmed when more than 3,000 people participated in public meetings to shape the development of City Plan, the 20-year comprehensive plan for South Bend's future," said Mayor Stephen J. Luecke. "This is not just a game, but an attitude: A belief that interactive planning represents the best way to shape good public policy and foster strong private development for LaSalle Square's future."

Neighborhood Transopoly, a planning version of the classic Monopoly board game, is designed for groups of five to eight people. With support from facilitators, they will make decisions about how to spend money allocated in the game for traveling to and within LaSalle Square. Players will work on table maps of the area and consider how to improve streets, lighting and landscaping. Developed by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, which has used the exercise in other communities, Neighborhood Transopoly feeds the consensus from each group into overall planning.
"We tailor the game to the unique needs and interests of each community we work with," said David Chandler, the Center for Neighborhood Technology's senior business analyst.

"Basic questions of LaSalle Square's connectivity to the existing community and the potential for some form of Transit-Oriented Development can be facilitated in a short period of time with Transopoly," according to the planning proposal.

After a short break, the second portion of the meeting will feature a charrette design process managed by zpd+a, the Chicago-based architecture firm that is serving as the primary LaSalle Square consultant. The charrette, an intense period of visual and interactive design activity, will build on the Transopoly process to determine the best land uses – residential, commercial, office or retail – as well as possible look of the buildings.

Participants in the planning process will benefit from a market analysis as well as feedback from interviews with area stakeholders, including businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches, neighborhood-based groups and residents. The market analysis will assess the history, current conditions and likely future commercial and housing markets of the site. It will include studies of a one-mile pedestrian radius; the Lincolnway, Bendix and Ardmore corridors, the South Shore passenger railroad corridor; South Bend Regional Airport; the Amtrak Station; and sub-markets within a five-mile radius.

The gathering is the first of two public planning sessions, to which all are invited.

  • The first, featuring Neighborhood Transopoly, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 12, at Faith Apostolic Church, 921 N. Bendix Drive, in LaSalle Square. Light refreshments will be served. Reservations are required.
  • A second session, tentatively scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18, will feature a report developed based on the input from July 12. Proposed solutions for LaSalle Square will include sketches, illustrations, photos and policy recommendations.

"The only requirements for participating in the meeting are a desire to see South Bend and the West Side thrive and to register by Tuesday, July 8, so that materials can be prepared for your participation," said Jeff Vitton, the community development planner managing the project. Call the city's Division of Community Development at 235.9660 to RSVP or for more information.

zpd+a will gather all information into a draft action plan for presentation to the city's Redevelopment Commission for approval. Final action is anticipated in September.

Last summer, the Redevelopment Commission added LaSalle Square, the Marycrest/Hurwich area and the former Sample-Ewing Development Area to the Airport Economic Development Area. Mayor Luecke has pledged to make LaSalle Square a priority for investment, committing $2 million to support those planning efforts and serve as seed money for substantial private investment.

Both projects are funded by tax increment financing (TIF) revenue from the west-side Airport Economic Development Area, the city's largest.

In a TIF district, the increase in tax revenue generated by new development stays within the boundaries of the district to fund infrastructure improvements, including curbs, sidewalks, streets, landscaping and other public improvements. These resources are available for economic development but not for general city services.

Last week, the Redevelopment Commission approved a development agreement between the City of South Bend, Memorial Hospital and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center to renovate a vacant medical office building across from LaSalle Square to create a west-side family practice facility.

In early 2009, Memorial Hospital and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center will launch Bendix Family Physicians, a fully staffed physicians' office at 1010 N. Bendix Drive, under the auspices of the non-profit Community Health Partners of South Bend. The hospitals and private foundations will support Community Health Partners.

Renovation of the medical office building will take place in 2008. The facility is expected to open in 2009.

Community Health Partners will invest nearly $1.2 million to furnish and equip the facility as a full-service medical practice and a venue for community health information and programming, and underwrite ongoing operational costs.


  • Mikki Dobski, Director of Communications & Special Projects, 235-5855 or 876-1564
  • Jeff Vitton, Community Development Planner, 235-5827 or 289-1066, Ext. 206