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Sustainability Today

  • Rain Gardens Help Fight Pollutants
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    How your garden grows can often depend on water. And sometimes when it rains, it pours. A rain garden could be the answer to what to do with all that extra water spilling from the sky during stormy weather. Rain gardens capture excess storm water that might otherwise stream down littered sidewalks and dirty pavement and into public water drains headed for local streams. They are created on a sunken bed of land and filled in with native perennial plants that are hardy, easy to maintain and can filter pollutants found in storm water.
    Sign at district office shows elements of rain gardenBirds, butterflies and useful insects also benefit from properly designed and maintained rain gardens. Planting one might be easier than you think.

    The East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District , located at 5211 N. Williams Ave, in Portland, lends technical and educational support to landowners who want to establish or improve upon conservation soil and water habitats on their properties.

    Every spring and fall, district workers hold free workshops to teach people about rain gardens. The next series of workshops are slated to begin in October, according to Kathy Shearin, Urban Lands Program supervisor.

    One of the first steps to creating a rain garden is to take a lay of the land and discover the most suitable spot, explains Shearin.

    "Before we dig at all we would dig a little hole about a foot deep," she said. "Fill it with water. Let the water go away and then fill it up with water again and calculate how fast it drains.
    You don't want to put a rain garden in a soggy part of your yard."

    The district provides a list of plants that work well in rain gardens, says Shearin. They are typically plants with characteristically "wet feet," meaning their roots can handle heavy water loads in the winter while also withstanding summertime drought-like conditions. Examples include Slough Sedge and Pacific Rush.

    "The idea of planting plants is so that you can soak that water up quicker and you have a really nice landscape...that utilizes that water instead of just letting it flow off the property."

     This conservation group, funded with taxpayer dollars, promotes sustainability in various ways, including incorporating practices within the building where it is housed and on its surrounding property. The photo below shows Shearin standing in front of a downspout planter dubbed the "Bucket Brigade." Perched on the building's north side, the sculpture of planters absorbs water runoff from the roof above.

    The district also helps fund other programs that advocate conservation. The Center for a Sustainable Today recently received a Small Projects and Community Events Program grant from the district for our Green Neighborhoods Festival that will be held in Peninsula Park on Saturday Aug. 16.


    Watch this blog for more news about Green Neighborhoods Festival sponsors, vendors, workshops and other participants.

    Kathy Shearin Stands Outside the Office of East Multonomah Soil and Water Conservation District

    Written on Friday, 25 July 2014 19:46 in In The Community Read 2 times
  • The Intertwine Regional Trails Fair
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    The Intertwine Regional Trails Fair

    A great way to learn about trail projects, plans, grants and initiatives. Go to The Intertwine's Regional Trails Fair on Wednesday July 30, 2014 1pm to 4pm at Metro Regional Center Apotheker Plaza.



    Written on Friday, 25 July 2014 19:26 in In The Community Read 12 times
  • Totes Made of Feed Bags Help Home for Rescued Horses
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    Totes Made of Feed Bags Help Home for Rescued Horses

    Bright and colorful totes decorate the booth where two women who love horses stand at the ready to sell re-imagined and reformed livestock feed bags at a recent sustainability expo in Portland.

    The totes were born out of Suzi Cloutier's frustration from learning that her empty feed bags could no longer be recycled. One day she drove to a recycle station with a load of used bags that were turned away because feed makers had switched to a bag constructed of woven plastic that are not recyclable in her area.

    "Because we are a sustainable organization, that wasn't going to do," Cloutier said. "So I started hoarding them without an idea of what I was going to do."

    Cloutier runs Zeb's Wish Equine Sanctuary that cares for ailing, aging and disabled horses, donkeys and mules that might otherwise be put down. Based in Sandy Oregon, the home for horses was started at the turn of this century, 14 years ago, with the rescue of Zebediah, a blind and starving mule.

    Cloutier and Victoria Kress, a volunteer, attended the expo to sell the totes, which help fund the sanctuary, a place that Cloutier says has rescued 34 horses and mules from various nightmares of abuse, starvation, abandonment and slaughter.

    As the mountain of empty feed bags piled higher, Cloutier tried to think of what to do with them that would harmonize with the sanctuary's ethic of sustainability and care for the earth's resources. The perfect up-cycle solution came to light when her friend Zona took a single bag home and had soon fashioned a tote out of it.

    "She gave it back and said 'Now, go start raising money for the horses with these'," Cloutier recalled.

    With a little perseverance, Cloutier with her friends discovered a way to keep the recycle loop in motion. The way Cloutier sees it, the sanctuary recycles horses and the feed bags that allow them to live new and longer lives.

    The totes are sold online and at various recycle art events in Oregon and Vancouver, WA.  As their popularity spreads so do donations from other people not quite sure what to do with their own feed bags.

    "I'll come home and I'll have a mountain of feed bags laying there from some mystery person," chuckled Cloutier. "Cat food, dog food, chicken food, you name it, goats, sheep, cattle pigs, it all comes (packaged) in this stuff so we can upcycle all of it now."

    The totes cost about $13 each. More information about them, the horse in the photo below, and the equine sanctuary can be found at











    Written on Thursday, 24 April 2014 00:59 in In The Community Read 290 times
  • Free Expo Features Sustainable Living Ideas, Lectures and Products This Weekend
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    Free Expo Features Sustainable Living Ideas, Lectures and Products This Weekend

    The imagined future of sustainable living is one of the highlights featured at the Better Living Show that kicks off Saturday, March 29, for a free two-day event at the Portland Expo Center.

    About 175 vendors are expected to display their goods, which include a variety of products centered on sustainability, said Nikki Clifton, an event organizer.

    A display called The Home of the Future and sponsored by General Electric showcases energy efficient appliances and composting. Elsewhere, entertain alternative living spaces with a look at homes made by Pacific Domes, an Oregonian company, that was one of the first to commercialize its style of dome-shaped homes. The company plans to display three types of dome products that will include a green house, floating bed and a climbing gym that kids can try out, said company representative Benjamin Frederick.


    Children play on climbing gym by Pacific Domes 

    Children can participate in other ecofriendly activities that include games and prizes, Clifton said. One game involves making choices such as reduce, reuse and recycle. It is meant to inspire and raise consciousness about protecting and preserving our natural environment, she said.

    Both days will be filled with opportunities to learn more through guest speakers and more than 100 lectures held at three onsite classrooms.

    Other attractions include a Vegan Village and Eco-Fashion show and food, lots of food at an organic food truck roundup from at least 5 vendors, Clifton said.

    The event is held Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m at the Portland Expo Center, 2060 Marine Drive. Admission is Free.

    More information is available at

    Photos provided by Pacific Domes.


    Written on Thursday, 27 March 2014 01:06 in In The Community Read 262 times
  • Sustainable Today TV Explores Ecovillage Concepts and Photographs with Expert Karen Litfin-Part 2
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    Sustainable Today TV Explores Ecovillage Concepts and Photographs with Expert Karen Litfin-Part 2

    This month, we continue our discussion with Karen Litfin, a PhD professor at The Department of Political Sciences, University of Washington, about ecovillages. You can read our behind the scene blog of part 1 at

    Ecovillages are communities with the goal of becoming a socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable way of living. The term “eco-village” was first introduced in 1978 by Professor George Ramsey, from the Georgia Instate of Technology, in his speech about “Passive Energy Applications for the Built Environment” at the First World Energy Conference of the Association of Energy Engineers. In his speech, Professor Ramsey argued that “the great energy waste in the United States is not in its technology; it is in its lifestyle and concept of living.”  In 1995, the ecovillage movement started to become stronger at a conference called “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities,” held in Scotland.  Since 1995, many communities in the world have tried different approaches to eco-village building to achieve suitable development. For example, people in ecovillages try to integrate various ecological designs, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more to combat the degradation of our social, ecological, and spiritual environments.

    The principles on which ecovillages can rely vary depending on the setting.  Ecovillages can be built anywhere from urban to rural areas, from developed to developing countries. Karen provides 14 examples of ecovillages with different approaches in 5 continients.


     “We cannot live separately. You cannot extract yourself from the fact that we are not interdependable traded global species” Karen said.

     The show can also be viewed online at

    Written on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 03:34 in Behind The Scenes Read 408 times
  • Unravel. Recycling of Westerners' Unwanted Clothes in India Documented in Film at POW Fest
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    Unravel.  Recycling of Westerners' Unwanted Clothes in India Documented in Film at POW Fest

    Ever wonder what happens to those clothes even the second-hand store doesn’t want? A film showing tonight at  POW - aka Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival - spotlights a journey of garments through a recycling factory in India. See excerpt from the program below. Called Unravel and directed by Meghna Gupta, the documentary is in a 9:15 p.m. lineup with two other screenings tonight (March 7) at the Hollywood Theater. General Admission is $8.

    Unravel follows the Western world’s least wanted clothes, on a journey across Northern India, from sea to industrial interior. They get sent to Panipat, a sleepy town and the only place in the world that wants them, recycling them back into yarn. Reshma is a bright, inquisitive woman working in a textile recycling factory in small time India, who dreams of travelling the vast distances the clothes she handles have. While Reshma shows us how these garments get transformed, she and other women workers reflect on these clothes. Despite limited exposure to western culture, they construct a picture of how the West is, using both their imagination and the rumors that travel with the cast-off clothes.

     More information about POW fest, which runs through the weekend, can be found at



    Written on Friday, 07 March 2014 22:28 in In The Community Read 366 times

Saturday August 16th




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