Friday, 14 September 2012

Trees = Life

It's arbor month! - a time to raise awareness of the values of trees in our lives...

Initiatives around the country are planting and conserving trees in support of the event. The importance of trees? They offset carbon emissions, restore ecosystems, improve the environment, and create a healthier planet now and into the future, no biggie :) Trees still supply the most basic elements of life - oxygen, water vapour, food, shelter and fuel, and are an efficient way to offset the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Trees are the longest living and largest living organisms on Earth. In fact, without trees, people couldn't survive. Nuff said.

"Certainly, with urbanisation and man’s ever increasing encroachment on his natural environment, trees represent now, more than ever, those principles of beauty and spiritual growth that keep us essentially human." ~ Food and Trees for Africa

What's everybody up to for arbor month? Here are some worthy initiatives and/or info:

Food and Trees for Africa
Urban Sprout
Soil for Life
Green Times

Trees = Life²

What value do trees have in my life? Apart from the obvious facts such as I rely on oxygen to breathe...

As a designer, trees provide important materials, used extensively in the industry. From paper, fibers, cork, rubber, timber, tools, to turpentine. Some hints I keep in mind, which help me to be more of a conscious designer in this regard:
  - making use of alien and/or invasive trees (and tree products)
  - making use of tree species (and their products) that are abundant in my area
  - or spreading out my usage, so not to exploit a certain tree specie
  - making sure timber is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified
  - making use of recycled timber
  - designing in such a way which enables the reuse of materials
  - paperless office?
  - thinking twice (thrice, quadruple!) times before printing that construction plan for the 12th time!
  - recycling / reusing (scrap paper, off-cuts etc)
  - good design means minimizing (any) material usage (to build selectively with a small subset of elements)

(To be kept in mind also: yes one needs to use it consciously, but timber / wood products are one of the most sustainable resources, in comparison to other construction materials...)

As a biomimic and creative - the tree is a constant source of inspiration and lessons, too numerous too name. And while I'm at it, the importance of a tree as a permaculturist? Trees are food! Trees also provide homes and food for many animals in our life friendly perma system. They, very importantly, are wind breaks and create micro-climates, provide shade, aid in preventing soil erosion, and enrich the soil with their decaying leaves.

Trees are beautifully important gifts and wise mentors to be respected and appreciated.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

'Garbage Warrior'

Within the first few moments of watching the documentary 'Garbage Warrior', I knew it was something worth dedicating a blog post, on completion of the film, I realized that it was worth much more than just is worth dedicating ones life to. With a society that produces an estimated 4 to 5 billion tons of garbage per year (the equivalent of filling enough trucks to form a line to the moon), and the fast approaching, most significant battle the world is yet to face, we should all be picking up our 'plastic bottles' and fighting for our right, and the rights of future generations, to life...

[The following extract is from , written by Arielle Ford]

Would you live in a house made of empty beer cans, old tires and discarded soda bottles? Garbage like this is what renegade architect Michael Reynolds transforms into "earthships" — eco-friendly homes with surprisingly pleasing aesthetics and tiny (or nonexistent) power bills.

Author of six books on green building and energy-independent, eco-friendly homes, and the subject of the Earth Cinema Circle film "Garbage Warrior", Reynolds has experimented for 35 years with radically sustainable architecture and off-the-grid, energy independent communities.

Here's what he had to say about his claim to fame and the solutions he's contributing in the race against global warming and environmental degradation:

How did you get the moniker “Garbage Warrior?”

Reynolds: Oliver Hodge, the producer of the film "Garbage Warrior" came up with that name. I’ve been called King of Garbage, Garbage Architect … things like that. After the tsunami, when we went to India, the locals called us Tsunami Warriors.

What is an earthship?

Earthships are a highly energy-efficient, resilient and earthquake-proof method of building. We use mostly discarded materials rather than new materials. Studies show that an earthship-style home can last a thousand years.

What inspired you to build with tires and mud?

Everything we are doing comes from a response to the media. As early as the 1970s, I read that we are running out of fuel and water. I was inspired to create a way of life that responds to those problems.

There are mountains of tires around the world, and no one knows what to do with them. Hawaii actually ships its used tires to California. Once I added the concept of thermal mass by beating dirt into a tire, I created a low tech, readily available and easy to learn method of building. I couldn’t have conceived of a better material than tires to build with.

What other materials go into your earthships?

We now go to the garbage dumps and harvest the mountain of appliances, refrigerators, washing machines and dryers — we take the baked-n enamel covers and use the panels as scaled roofing to help capture the water. We are constantly finding new materials that are thrown away that can be built into houses.

Do you see a future in which subdivisions are filled with earthships?

Yes! I definitely see cities, villages and towns filled with earthships or buildings that passively heat and cool themselves — and homes that provide their own electricity and water and food, contain and treat their own sewage … . All of these utilities can be supplied off the grid in a self-sustaining community.

Architecture is clearly not addressing the needs of our times. Biotecture — a word I invented, a cross of biology and architecture — better describes what I do. So many parts of the world — Nicaragua, Jamaica, Norway, United Kingdom, France — are embracing the need for the biotecture method, regardless of what they call it. They are recognizing that conventional housing systems are not panning out.

Do you have hope for our planet?

We need to live on this planet in such a way that our very existence contributes to the world around us. A tree is constantly making new soil so new trees can grow; trees are contributing to the world around them. Humans are exploiting the world. And humans don’t seem to have the sense to see that the world as we know it will cease to exist and humanity will become extinct.

But things are getting bad enough that people are finally looking at this [green] kind of thinking. It’s causing people to make a change. Maybe it won’t be too late. I can’t change the world, but I can make change anywhere that I am.

What’s it like being the star of a documentary about your life’s work?

It’s surreal — but gratifying to be recognized for doing something reasonable. I’ve been doing this for 37 years. Repeatedly, I've been simultaneously condemned and praised.

Interview courtesy of Earth Cinema Circle, a DVDs-by-mail service featuring films about hope and environmental solutions for our planet.

For more information on how to own or build your own Earthship, visit

Monday, 13 August 2012

Turning over a new leaf...

And so my 4th and final year of studies has come and gone - and gone with it, is the obligation to blog (notice the near to 1 year gap between this post and the last)! Varsity obligation aside, I've decided to take up my pen again, or rather, put my fingers to the keyboard once again...

Once upon a 3rd year design project, I designed a lifestyle store, which introduced the concept of  'eco-living' and equipped customers with tools for a self-sufficient lifestyle. I called the store 'Sow.Reap'. When my imaginary-design-company logo (another varsity requirement) disappeared, my frivolous 'Joie de Vivre Interior Designs' company became a more conscientious 'Sow.Designs' - which grew on me...and stuck! From varsity imaginary-design-company, to varsity-obligated-blog name, Sow.Design is, well, me :)

So begins a new chapter. A new {ad}venture. 
An old passion...with new learnings. 

my recently designed business card (front)

my recently designed business card (back)