Building it Green: Our Tiny Texas House

1tconcept drawing Kemper kitchen end 2tKitchen end framing of Kemper

Recently, Margaret (my wife) and I bought a 1940’s “Austin stone” house in an eastern Dallas neighborhood. Upon buying our home, we immediately decided to remodel, and were faced with the decision to temporarily rent elsewhere, or live in a home filled with dust. Reluctant to disrupt our lives completely, we opted to build a backyard studio where we could temporarily live while our house was being remodeled. Since we had previously discussed building a space where visiting friends, musicians (www.eastdallashouseconcerts.com), and family could stay, the decision was easy.

After researching several options, we soon came across a magazine article featuring builders who were committed to building green, sustainable, small footprint homes. As we read through the article, we were immediately attracted to a company called Tiny Texas Houses in Luling, Texas, owned by builder and artist extraordinaire, Brad Kittel.

My wife and I quickly fell in love with Brad’s exceptional works of art, craftsmanship, and keen sense of design and we made a trip out to Luling. Upon arriving, we knew that we would soon own one of Brad’s amazing creations.

Unlike a typical home, a Tiny Texas House is built from salvaged materials, collected from deconstructed old homes, usually found in the path of economic development and highway projects. These wonderful old homes are typically 100 years or older, and yield thousands of feet in timber, boards, windows, fixtures, hardware, stained glass, and many other one-of-a-kind resources.

3cKemper tiny house ancestor 4stained glass kitchen window

In addition to Brad’s use of reclaimed materials, every Tiny Texas House is energy-efficient, insulated with Isonene Foam, so that heating or cooling is unnecessary, except during extreme temperature conditions. Every salvaged door and window is rebuilt, re-hung, re-weighted, and resealed with silicon stripping, ensuring that the entries are weather tight. The houses are then plumbed and wired to exceed municipal and state codes, as well as federal standards in the U.S.

Brad’s eco-friendly homes average 336 square feet, and house two people comfortably…perhaps more if you’re OK with sharing a small space. Once complete, our tiny home will be 252 square feet, and will house three cats, our cowdog Hank, as well as Margaret and I. We anticipate that we will live in our Texas Tiny House for a total of nine months while our house is being remodeled.  To see the beginning stages of our Texas Tiny House, visit the Dolphin Blue facebook page.

front from kitchen endfront from living end 2

Although it may be small in size, we are excited to live in a unique structure that will allow us to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint. I’ll keep you informed over the next several months.

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Straight Talk with Tom: The Soul of Money

The Soul of Money

I just finished reading Lynn Twist’s book, The Soul of Money, and it is one of the most inspirational messages I’ve ever read.  In this book, Lynn talks extensively about our perception of money — individually, in our families, and…

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Straight-Talk-with-Tom-The-Soul-of-Money.html

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Connecting the Dots: Breast Cancer and Office Paper

For many, October marks the end of summer, the beginning of numerous holidays, and of course, good food. But, did you know that October also marks the 25th anniversary of Breast Cancer Awareness Month? According to the Breast Cancer Fund, breast cancer impacts the lives of nearly one in seven women in the U.S. annually, and has increased in men by 25% in the last quarter century alone.

At this point, you are probably asking what breast cancer has to do with Dolphin Blue, a provider of eco-friendly office supplies. Well the answer is simple. Everything.

To continue reading this article, please visit:  http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Connecting-the-Dots–Breast-Cancer-and-Office-Paper.html

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Transitioning from a wasteful planet, to a sustainable planet

I recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise, where I spent one week on a ship weighing 130,000 tons and measuring 1,004 feet in length. I was among 4,500 other human beings, all being fed food requiring refrigeration, powered by petroleum. Each cabin, of which there were approximately 200 on most decks, had furniture, cabinetry, and various other materials including wood, plastics, and metal. Despite having a TV hanging on the wall of most cabins, the uppermost deck had a 40-foot by 20-foot big screen TV. Why? Because cruise lines use such enticements to get people to leave home, so they can experience ALL the comforts of home.

Upon returning from my cruise, I participated in a euronews forum asking, “What would it take to really speed up the transition to a carbon neutral, sustainable planet?” First and foremost…

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Transitioning-from-a-wasteful-planet-to-a-sustainable-planet.html

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Just Plant a Piece of Paper, and Watch it Grow.

         

The whole concept sounds like our grade school experiments with avocado seeds and toothpicks and a glass of water . . . or a bit of slow-sleight of hand.  What is seed paper?  It’s just what it says – paper embedded with seeds.    Put it in the ground and with luck and good weather you’ll have a small garden of annuals or wildflowers.

 

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Just-Plant-a-Piece-of-Paper-and-Watch-it-Grow.html

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Sinking Our Economy, Cementing Our Destiny

I recently heard about, and subsequently registered to be active in the AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting on our Budget and the Economy.

After reading the press release covering the National Town Meeting, and it’s 19 participating large cities (that were satellite connected and another 50+ smaller cities that were “on their own”), I knew I had to be present to deliver my side of what I perceive as the reason our federal government is in deep debt, and what I perceive and believe are the reasons for our economy being in such a frightening transformation for most people.

On Saturday, June 26, four hundred lively and concerned citizens showed up at the Dallas Convention Center, Ballroom C to express our views toward balancing the US Budget.

In anticipation of being outnumbered on my progressive views, I wrote the following piece to share with my fellow symposium attendees, expecting the majority of them to be from the radically-opposed, corporate freedom and big business as usual crowd.  What I discovered in my being there, was that this country’s politics have transformed, particularly since the main presenters and funders of the National Town Meeting are The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the advisory Committee is populated with the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and a few other think tanks I believe are pro-free trade and anti-environmental as well as being generally opposed to social justice.

My pre-NTM views and opinions follow:

If the reason for this meeting is to ensure there is an economic future to be enjoyed by all of us, then I am here to represent those who want to ensure there is a sustainable, healthy and vibrant natural world remaining for all of us. Look around at what is happening as we sit here debating. The gulf is being destroyed, and many species living there are being destroyed, because of our unwillingness to look differently and with a realization that we need more to become what we aspire to be, than to just amass more consumer goods and more oil-dependent products.

Without a world that provides the healthy air we breathe, the clean water we drink, and fresh, nutritious foods we eat, and our fellow species which pollinate, prey on insects and rodents and keep nature in balance, we’re all doomed.

Of utmost importance to me is insuring that we have a healthy and sustainable planet not just for us, but for future generations.

If one of the intentions of this NTM is to return to the former days of unsustainable economic growth, then we’re all simply accelerating our eventual demise. You may have heard of Peak Oil, if you haven’t, read Micheal C. Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse. Or, Google the Post Carbon Institute or Matthew Simmons. Matthew is a close friend of our former President, George W Bush. See what Matthew has to say on the subject of Peak Oil.

We are fast approaching the end of the age of oil, oil that is capable of running our and the world’s economy. Without that oil, we face a future unlike anything we can now imagine. Google The End of Suburbia by James Howard Kunstler.

If we return to the heyday of unlimited, damn the torpedoes growth, we only accelerate our final collapse. The time we now have is barely sufficient in allowing us to dig our way out of the mess we’re not being told (by our leaders) we’re currently facing.

Campaign contributions gain access and favorable legislation for corporations, who increase their profitability by sending US worker’s jobs overseas. We lose the income tax base, the unemployed workers then become dependent on the healthcare system, mainly county hospitals, and those hospitals receiving federal funds get pushed harder and harder, stressing our local economies and national budget even further.

(in the NTM, I learned the following in a conversation with one of the attendees: Les was telling me he has an asthmatic condition. In a recent episode where he was wheezing, he went to his local hospital’s emergency room, where he was given a blood test and a $ 26.00 prescription. Three months went by when Les received a hospital bill, dunning him for another $ 50.00. He asked the hospital to send him the itemized invoice for his emergency room visit. A few days passed, and Les received a bill showing the $ 50.00 the hospital wanted from him, plus another $ 7000.00 the hospital had invoiced Medicare. He was outraged to say the least.)

How many of these type incidents are happening without our knowledge. No wonder the Medicare and Medicaid programs are stressing the system. The hospital corporations, like the irresponsible giant corporations, are out of control. And our Congress, in its greed, has allowed them to behave in this manner.

Corporate subsidies such as defense dollars expended to conquer countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, are funded by you and me, bankrupting our government and disrupting our economy even further. Once Iraq is under US troops’ domination, companies such as Halliburton, MCI, Verizon, AT&T, Boeing, Blackwater, etc. get huge contracts (funded by you and me) to build infrastructure, which generates future business for these companies, who have given generously to our Congresspersons. We see no return from this expenditure. Socialized risk and expenditure, privatized profit. How long will this failed model continue?

How many jobs have been lost to NAFTA, CAFTA, MFN trade status with China, open markets and free flow of capital, so that our most profitable corporations can off-shore our jobs, derailing our economy further and deepening our dependence on foreign governments and foreign investors who control our destiny. All so a few obscenely wealthy corporations and heartless individuals can get richer and richer, while many of our employable, capable fellow Americans starve.

Healthcare is in critical condition because we’re being fed genetically-modified food and food heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. The food is being raised and shipped from distances many thousands of miles from our tables, causing the food to be heavily dependent on petroleum, creating ever-increasing toxic emissions. We’re eating oil. We’re drinking Viagra, Lipitor, Aleve, Allegra, Flomax, Xanax and Wellbutrin, as these all combine in our bodies, entering us through the tap water we drink. If we drink bottled water and eat from fast food plastic containers, we ingest BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals leaching from the plastic and entering our bodies. If you want to lower healthcare costs, clean up our Congress that so freely takes campaign contributions from BIG pharma. Clean up the USDA and FDA, agencies that are tasked with protecting us, that are now staffed with industry management and lobbyists, who continually enter that revolving door that provides access to more money and more power.

Our water is being privatized, and we’re drinking water contained in plastic, made from petroleum. All so corporations can generate ever-higher profits.

Beef, pork, chickens and other meat giving livestock are being raised and slaughtered in conditions that make not only the animals unhealthy, we are increasingly unhealthier for ingesting animals that have no life-giving energy, no life-giving spirit. We’re being fed animals that are being fed each other, that are being fed toxic food, and are living in conditions not qualified to be considered life at all.

Is it any wonder healthcare costs are continually rising? Is it any wonder Medicare and Medicaid budgets are continually increasing?

If we want to truly address the budget and healthcare in this country, we must first start by reeling in the campaign contributors, the wealthiest in our country and the corporations that are out of control and in violation of human trust, then, we must reform our electoral system and our legislators, who are so greedily allowing our country to be destroyed and bankrupted. We must also take our own responsible steps to do what is right and good for not just us, but for our children and their children. We must preserve our plant, our beautiful garden, because it is the only one we will ever have.
(end of my pre-NTM address)

As I participated with the four other attendees that sat at my table, I was respectfully heard, had plenty of time to express my aforementioned views, and generally had a very enjoyable time participating in the act of balancing the federal budget, something our Congresspersons should be doing in Washington, rather than fighting amongst each other and looking out only for the interest of their campaign funders.

As the early polls came in from the first few questions that were posed to all 3500 participants nationwide, I began to realize the responses appeared to me to be very much in alignment with my personal views. This was a very pleasant surprise. The remainder of the day produced participant views that stayed very much in alignment with my environmental and social views. Indeed, it was obvious many of us were pleased. There is still hope for America!

At the wrap-up of the Dallas NTM on Saturday, there were Theme Team messages voted on by all active 3500 participants in 70 cities across the US. One of the messages for Congress was “If 3500 of us, who sat down for one day, could collaborate and, respectfully dialog with agreement to reach a balanced budget, why can’t you?” I think I know the answer to that question…

  • We want to balance the budget!
  • We’re not being lobbied by every special-interest lobbying group for meeting their desired agenda!

The National Town Meeting went very well, surprisingly, and, unexpectedly, the opportunity for ALL voices to be heard was extended and welcomed. I believe the voices of those representing a vision of a healthy and sustainable planet for our children were present, were heard, and the overwhelming outcome reflected that.

A preliminary report, which was prepared and ready for all participants prior to our departure on Saturday, is available here as a PDF.

And, some articles that have been published online following the National Town Meeting…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-hickey/in-deficit-town-meetings_b_627030.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-kuttner/its-the-jobs-stupid_b_627141.html

It was fun being a participant in an event concerning such a critical issue. This may have been the biggest statement the American people, “We the People” have made in collaboration with our political detractors and deniers, in a peaceful and respectful manner.

We should all pat ourselves on the back and be proud of what we did on Saturday. Now, we must make sure Congress and the President do what we’ve shown them “We the People” can do, and do what we elected them to do.

To join in the AmericaSpeaks discussion, visit www.usabudgetdiscussion.org.

NTM Budget & Economy pg1

NTM Budget & Economy pg2

NTM Budget & Economy pg3

NTM Budget & Economy pg4

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Complete Conscious Consumption

When you buy something, you’re voting. You’re voting with your dollar and saying “I support this product.” But do you ever consider what you’re voting for?

Image is everything

Americans are great at selective conscious buying, especially when it comes to products affecting our image. This is why we focus on image products, products that have a significant impact when it comes to increasing our social acceptance. These impressions are superficial, and do not say much about us besides how we feel others will view our choices. There’s a good reason why we do this. These impressions are safe, they’re bland, and they allow us to appeal to the widest audience possible without jeopardizing our acceptance. We do this, however, at the expense of authenticity and a genuine connection with our values.

Cliché Consumption

What’s the difference between wearing a Nike or a Reebok sweatshirt? They may say which athlete we love, but they fail to reveal anything about our character. So are these purchases really that valuable in the long run? Just like how easily an athlete’s fan base can turn on them (oh how our opinions change overnight – ex. Tiger Woods), these purchases are trendy, fleeting, meaningless, non-exclusive, and cliché. Most importantly, they do not force us to align our beliefs with our actions.

What does this purchase say about me?

Think!So how do we bypass our selective identity crisis and make every purchase matter? It comes down to complete conscious consumption. Complete conscious consumption entails a lengthy list to consider when buying a product (this is by no means a complete list):

Where is it made?

Who benefits from its production?

What is used to make it?

What is wasted to make it?

What is created to make it?

Who makes it?

How are they treated?

How does its production affect the community?

How far does it travel?

Who sells it?

What else do they sell?

Who benefits from my purchase?

Will I use it?

How will I use it?

Will it improve lives?

Will it last?

What life does it have after my use?

Do I dispose it?

What effect will disposal have?

How will I dispose of it?

It’s a big list. More simply, we can ask “What and who has been, is, and will be affected by my purchase?” Every single product we buy, consume, and dispose of actively communicates our values. Every purchase!

The Challenge

My challenge to you is to think about this list before you make your very next purchase. Look at the country of origin, the ingredients and components, the company selling it… and ask yourself “What does this purchase say about me?” If you like your answer, then go for it. If not, I challenge you to find a better solution.

Do you like your answer?

What else can we do to make our purchases more important in our lives?

What is my list missing?

-Jeff Eyink

jeff@dolphinblue.com

Images via flickr from imchaudhry photo and fabiana zonca.

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Blood, Sweat and T-shirts

I was inspired by the recent BBC series “Blood, Sweat and T-shirts,” which I highly recommend everyone check out. It follows the exploration of six young British fashion enthusiasts

Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts

as they’re exposed to the production of their beloved mass-manufactured clothing. The viewer witnesses their emotional transformation from brazen consumerists to social activists as the cast experiences the industry’s harsh reality of non-existent wages, brutal hours, unhealthy conditions, and child labor. Chances are, 90% of those who see the series (I think I’m being generous here) will sympathize and move on, ignoring reality in exchange for synthetic ignorance. And that’s a shame, a truly horrific shame, because nearly every industry that we interact with on a daily basis has their own version of “Blood, Sweat and T-shirts.”

Being in the business of sustainable office supplies, the show led me to thinking about the abuse of natural resources and our environmental impact. With a few quick substitutions, the analogy holds true.

Poor wages = Little investment in preserving resources, leading to a continually degrading system

Long hours = Over-harvesting of natural resources, leading to diminishing quality and extinction

Unhealthy conditions = Outputs like chemicals and toxins entering other systems like water, air, soil food…

Child labor = Exploiting poorly managed resources without attending to its long-term effect

We need more great series like “Blood, Sweat and T-shirts” to keep these issues present and always important in mainstream media. Please check it out, pass it on to a friend, and then tell a stranger. Every impression is a step in the right direction.

I think we can empower and inform others by taking the same concept and applying it everywhere.

How can you apply the analogy to your industry or cause?

Jeff Eyink is the Marketing Manager of Dolphin Blue. He can be reached via email at jeff@dolphinblue.com

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CEO’s Green Wedding

In anticipation to the upcoming wedding season, Thomas Kemper (CEO of Dolphin Blue, Inc.) answered an email from a writer about his wedding and how he made it green and environmentally friendly. Throughout the courtship of Thomas and Margaret, the couple made eco-friendly items a priority, with Margaret changing her outlook on the environment and sustainability, and utilizing it in her medical practice. It seemed only fitting to bring their ideals to their wedding once Tom proposed.

The wedding was a three-day celebration held on a ranch here in Texas. Guests enjoyed the outside weather, the basic but elegant wedding setting, and the sustainable and earth-friendly attributes combined with the traditional wedding aspects.

To green their wedding they used the following:

  • Wedding invitations were printed on paper that is 100% post consumer recycled, FSC-certified, processed chlorine free and made carbon-neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.
  • Envelopes were made of paper with the same environmental attributes (All thank you cards sent after the wedding were also made of the same paper and envelopes).
  • The food was locally-grown, organic, and came from small farmers.
  • Wine and beer served were from a Llano, Texas (hill-country) winery and a Ft. Worth microbrewery.
  • On the wedding day, the catered lunch was prepared and served by Kozy Kitchen, a local Dallas-based family restaurant that offers a gluten-free, locally-grown fare.
  • All plastic plates, cups and utensils we used were made of 100% post consumer recycled plastic yogurt cups, collected by the manufacturer through a successful take-back recycling program, as well as all napkins and paper towels.

Overall, the weekend was a success and a great start to Thomas’ marriage to Margaret and, inevitably, their commitment to sustainability will continue to grow throughout their relationship and within both their businesses.

Have you been a guest at a green wedding or had your own? What is some advice we can give to others to help make their wedding a sustainable one?

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Trying to go Green? Get S.M.A.R.T.

By guest writer Jeff Eyink

If you’re like me, then you too are infatuated with the TV show Mad Men on AMC.  A few episodes back, the lead character Don Draper was speaking with a client, and he said something that got me thinking.

NatalGreenSnake“Some snakes go months without eating, and then when they finally do, they suffocate from eating too much. Let’s take this one opportunity at a time.”

I know this isn’t profound.  It’s really just a longer way of saying “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”  But it reminded me about the overwhelming amount of choices that we face when choosing an environmentally-minded lifestyle.  There’s a ton of information out there (here, for example) with what seems like even more people trying to tell you what you should be doing, buying, and saving in your all-inclusive dream of “going green.”  In our enthusiasm to save the planet, we often become paralyzed by the massive amount of choices available.  This is especially true for those of us who are new to game and taking on too much in an attempt to atone for their environmental “sins.”  So how can we avoid becoming the snake?  What can we do that will help us digest our options without trying to do too much, too fast? 

It’s always difficult when you’re starting out.  But just like any goal we set, living sustainably requires a rational approach.  Sure, it would be great if we all woke up tomorrow living a perfectly environmental lifestyle, but that’s not going to happen.  Going green is a lifestyle change, and changes take time, persistence, and accountability.  It’s something we must cultivate over time in order to achieve the best and most sustainable transformation possible. 

So what’s the greenhorn to do?  Let me pull a chapter from my Management 101 memories and remind you about S.M.A.R.T. goals, meaning:

                 Specific

                Measurable

                Attainable

                Realistic

                Timely

Just recalling this simple acronym should have most of us re-evaluating our approach.  But let’s quickly visit each part to see the components in action.

Specific goals require us to narrow our approach to attain a single achievement.  Think of it as breaking down the trance of “I’m going green” to something understandable like “I’m going to group my errands into one large trip instead of many small ones.”  “Going green” has too many paths, and trying to pursue them all (I don’t know how you could even list them) will leave you stuck in a mental quagmire.  Instead, start with a single path and dominate it.  You’ll feel good about yourself and actually accomplish something.

Measurable goals require us to pick something that we can actually put a value too.  Back to our example, “I’m going green” doesn’t give much depth when it comes time to reviewing how well we’ve done.  You either did or you didn’t.  “Going green” is a concept that constantly builds upon itself, with new paths toward its achievement being realized every day.  On the other hand, our errand example is very measurable and goes further than “yes or no.”  You can break your self- review into days or weeks, track how many extra trips you found yourself making, and give yourself a score (both qualitative and quantitative).   A goal can’t be achieved unless there’s a set way to gauge success.

Attainable goals work together with how you measure your success.  Simply put, if you can’t measure it, you can’t attain it.  Like we said earlier, “going green” doesn’t have an endpoint.  The paths we realize as its components, however, can be grouped into finite occurrences.  We all have to run errands, so our optimal number of trips in a given time is one.  Can we attain one trip a week?  Yes!

Realistic goals probably seem easy at this point.  If you can’t develop a goal that is Specific, Measurable, and Attainable, it surely won’t be Realistic.  Having lofty hopes and aspirations is great.  That (plus a lethal dose of coffee) is what keeps me going every morning.  But let’s remember that goals and dreams are not the same thing, so we shouldn’t treat them the same either.  “Going green” is admirable, but it isn’t fathomable.  Use your tremendous dreams to create practical goals. 

Timely goals force us to set an endpoint.  It also makes us realize the great differences between our goals and dreams.  When we create an end to our goals, we make them that much more prevalent and important in our day-to-day lives.  When I create a goal (like finish this draft before 3pm, or else), it becomes increasingly prevalent in my day.  Deadlines aren’t always fun, but they push us.  Deadlines force us to reassess what we’re doing, assign a level of completeness, and review our tactics.  Dreams can impact our choices, but they creSuperStock_1612R-15828ate little accountability.

By now I’m sure you’ve developed an entire plan mapping out each and every step you’ll take to live a green lifestyle, right?  Of course not.  That’s the importance of creating goals that lead to your dream.  Setting S.M.A.R.T goals is extremely powerful, and often liberating.  As you continue to immerse yourself in the world of sustainability, remember to avoid being the snake.  It’s easy to fall into a good-intentioned but fruitless coma.  Acting purposefully, however, requires patience and practicality along with your good intentions.  By taking a realistic approach to what you seek, you can diminish what was once impossible into something you’re capable of accomplishing. 

Jeff Eyink recently joined the Dolphin Blue team as the Marketing Manager. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Jeff came down to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University and received his bachelors in marketing, markets and culture and economics. Contact Jeff at jeff@dolphinblue.com.

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