Central Coast Bioneers — Breakthrough Solutions for People and Planet

Central Coast Bioneers LogoI read about the Central Coast Bioneers conference in the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter newspaper. It sounded interesting so I checked out the Central Coast Bioneers website and then bought tickets for us to attend the October 2012 conference. It was a fun, educational, and inspiring weekend, and we look forward to attending the 4th annual Central Coast Bioneers next year.

Central Coast Bioneers Conference

The main Bioneers conference was held in northern California. Those of us attending the Central Coast Bioneers conference, otherwise known as Beaming Bioneers, were able to see and listen to the plenary speakers and performers via a satellite feed. Local activities in the afternoons included workshops, field trips, a seed exchange, green marketplace, local food, silent auction, green car show, films, and entertainment by local musicians.

Green Marketplace

The green marketplace consisted of product and service vendors, as well as booths for nonprofit organizations. A local bookstore, Volumes of Pleasure Bookshoppe, set up an impromptu bookstore on the premises and offered a selection of books written by plenary speakers and related topics. I purchased several books, including a pop-up version of one of my favorites, The Lorax, by Dr. Suess.

Silent Auction

Generous sponsors donated a wide variety of goods and services for the silent auction. We scored a native plant consultation and kayak tour.

Extreme Green Car Show

Across the street we had an opportunity to check out green cars that already meet or exceed the recently set Federal fuel efficiency rules for auto makers of 54.5 MPG or equivalent by 2025. Unfortunately, we did not get to test drive the Tesla sports car.

Organic Farm Field Trip

We opted for the organic farm field trip one afternoon and visited two organic farms, one raising animals, oranges, and avocados; and the other organic produce.

Old Creek Ranch Hass Avocado OrchardAt Old Creek Ranch, we were greeted by Bob Blanchard, two dogs, and a goat named Stuey. Bob and Terri Blanchard are the second generation to run this ranch which raises 100% grass-fed beef, goat, and lamb meat; pasture raised pork, eggs, and organic oranges and avocados. Bob imparted a wealth of information in a humble and often humorous manner. We learned about how the ranch has migrated over the years to their current philosophy of, “organically grown in harmony with nature”.

It is my understanding from listening to Bob that Terri Blanchard is the brains behind the ranch’s marketing program. She was busy getting ready for a weekend trip to sell the ranch’s products up north, but graciously stopped what she was doing to allow us to purchase delicious fresh squeezed orange juice and avocados right off the tree.

Los Osos Valley Organic Farm StrawberriesWhen we arrived at Los Osos Valley Organic Farm, Jim Terrick welcomed us with a big smile and enthusiastically showed us around his organic produce farm and shared his vision. He was a fount of information about everything from soil to seeds. Jim talked about some of the challenges associated with organic farming. I didn’t realize critters can be more of a problem than insects.

He showed us the insulated bags that were being prepared for their weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Members receive a weekly selection of fresh seasonal organic produce picked fresh from the farm. That sounded fun and delicious. Later in the week we signed up for the winter season.

Green Home Tour

The next day we had the opportunity to visit four green homes from a tiny studio apartment to a multi-family property.

The first home was a renovated apartment chock full of energy saving devices and “green” building materials.

The next property contained several buildings that were different yet created a unified whole. The owner claimed he was not “green” he just like reusing old stuff. There was a story behind most of the materials and a surprise around every corner.

The third home was a craftsman style bungalow that had been expanded and remodeled by a local architect who designs green educational facilities. The photovoltaic system on the roof produces the home’s electricity and recharges the family’s electric car.

The last home was a newer home that had been designed and built incorporating “green” features such as high levels of insulation, overhangs that help maintain comfortable temperatures, and bamboo flooring.

Central Coast Bioneers ConferenceWe are thankful to Stacey Hunt, Michael Jencks, and Celia Zaentz for creating the first Central Coast Bioneers conference in 2010 and continuing to put on this wonderful event year after year.

Hopefully more Beaming Bioneers groups will form around the country so more people can experience this fantastic organization.

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Reinventing Fire — Book Review

The Lorax Book CoverEver since its discovery, humans have been fascinated by and feared fire. In Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, by Amory B. Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), fire is energy.

Over thousands of years, the wood burning fires of our ancestors have become the fossil fuels we burn to generate the energy that powers our current civilization. Reinventing Fire presents a vision and road map for carrying out a new energy strategy by 2050.

Book Review

The essence of Reinventing Fire can best be summarized by an excerpt from the book.

“RMI launched its Reinventing Fire initiative to answer two questions: Could the United States realistically stop using oil and coal by 2050? And could such a vast transition toward efficient use and renewable energy be led by business for durable advantage? The answer to both questions proved to be yes.”

The book covers goals for 2050 and ideas on how to achieve them. It outlines business opportunities, jobs, costs, and economic benefits. Suggestions include how government and non-governmental organization (NGO) policies and actions can encourage and support innovation. Although the focus is the United States, the Reinventing Fire new energy era blueprint has global applications and implications.

Chapter 1 Defossilizing Fuels

Readers are provided an overview of the hidden costs of fossil fuels and oil as a national security issue. A glimpse is given of how the United States energy future can be transformed by 2050 through three main concepts: Do More with Less, Modulate Demand, and Optimize Supply.

Chapter 2 Transportation: Fitter Vehicles, Smarter Use

A brief physics lesson of how cars work and auto industry historical highlights lead into how to design and build autos differently, better. The real cost of driving is explored along with ways to use autos more productively. Heavy trucks, airplanes, trains, boats, and other vehicles are also covered. Various fuel sources are reviewed.

Chapter 3 Buildings: Designs for Better Living

This chapter deals with residential, commercial, and industrial building energy use and efficiency. The benefits of integrative design for new and existing buildings is explained. In this process, all components and systems are designed and evaluated together instead of as individual systems like electrical, plumbing, etc. Energy data and management systems are explored as ways to understand how buildings perform and identify areas for improvement. Examples demonstrate how building owners, investors, and users have reduced energy use and saved money.

Chapter 4 Industry: Remaking How we Make Things

Energy efficiency is looked at as it relates to industrial processes and practices. Examples show that significant reductions in energy use are also possible in the manufacturing sector through integrative design. Harnessing the knowledge and experience of employees is discussed as an effective way to identify and implement energy reduction ideas and innovations. How customers can impact energy use through the products they buy and companies they choose to do business with is touched upon.

Chapter 5 Electricity: Repowering Prosperity

Four scenarios illustrate potential energy models: Business-as-Usual, Migrate, Renew, and Transform. The business-as-usual approach covers supply and demand, aging infrastructure, global technology shifts, and security concerns. Migrate provides a scenario for “carbon-free” energy via more nuclear power and carbon sequestration. Renew looks at renewable energy sources and electricity storage. Transform focuses on renewable energy and intelligent micro grids versus our current centralized distribution grid system.

Chapter 6 Many Choices, One Future

The final chapter shares what it might be like to look back from 2050 if the ideas and solutions presented throughout the book are implemented and fire is reinvented.

The Bottom Line

Amory B. Lovins is a physicist, leading expert on energy, and co-founder of Rocky Mountain Institute, an independent, nonprofit, think-and-do tank.

Reinventing Fire contains a plethora of information. Data and projections are illustrated through the use of comprehensive charts and figures. Readers need to be actively engaged in reading the book—one does not skim over the material. An open mind is helpful, a science degree is not needed.

Lovins conveys information, concepts, and ideas, in a straightforward manner and shows us a doable energy future that does not rely on burning fossil fuels.

Anyone interesting in learning about realistic energy solutions and actions will benefit from reading Reinventing Fire.

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