Here's a clip from behind the scenes as Justin Cave and the rest of the Ground Breakers crew shoots the final act of the green renovation at 844:
I was busy filming this and a few other clips before I took my turn in front of the camera.
This experience has been memorable from the start and I'm grateful to the entire HGTV team (not to mention Lynn Saussy for introducing us) for making the project so much fun. More info to follow about when the episode will air, but I'm thinking it'll be in the fall sometime. They followed us from beginning to end and will likely do quite a bit of morphing and time-lapse photography on some of the elements. Mary Grace even snapped a shot of me in make-up! Of course, I ended up sweating most of it off...
During one of my more recent Marta rides, I shared a moment with a gal on the train... She was sitting across from me when I spotted a note that had obviously not found its intended recipient. The note was next to her left shoulder, and like the obnoxious photog that I am... I took out my camera and shot the sad little scrap right then and there. I handed her my business card and we both went on our way.
Later, I did a post about it - and I was actually quite happy with one of the photos. Just today I received an e-mail from the gal, Marina. who found my site and made a comment on the blog post. We both agreed that finding the note livened up an otherwise boring subway ride.
"It's nice to see my brush with Internet fame," she wrote today. "Finding that note certainly made my Marta trip to the airport a lot more fun."
Thanks to Marina for being my partner in crime that day.
(CHARLOTTESVILLE :: 11 August 2008) The color may have changed quite dramatically since my original post on the subject, but the crisis of conscience remains the same. So goes my driving life with the as-yet-unnamed, gently used 2005 BMW X3 - a capable if bland SUV that gets me to my point B pretty nicely, albeit a bit more wasteful on gas than I'd like.
But then, on a steamy summer day in Atlanta when I was off to the recycling center at Dekalb Farmer's Market, I realized the true spirit of being "green" (vs. baby-spew orange) is not defined by MPG alone. It's measured in how and what you do with your footprint.
I live within a half-mile of where I work. I walk there and other places. I combine errands to reduce emissions. I walk to my workouts. I try and drive evenly so as to not waste gas (that last one being extremely difficult in the third-world war zone driving scene that is Atlanta). I carpool. I have stopped driving to the airport altogether.
There's something else: I miss my stick shift. Big time. But the trade-off there, if there could be one, is that I know Gracie's new owner - and he's taking good care of her down in Savannah. He's promised me pictures of her, and when he sends them, I'll do a post about it. It's a cool story.
I knew it was just a matter of time before someone snatched up Gracie from the dealership. Back to being green. I continue to clamor for an SUV in the nice-ish luxury category that has not just low emissions - try ZERO. I anticipate that day because I'll be first in line. We need that. To be kind to the planet, to be off our addition to oil (both foreign and domestic) and to be the fabulous country we used to be. Maybe one of those snazzy new diesel engines would do the trick, too. I'm considering a 2009 X3 European delivery with a standard transmission - juice boxes be damned.
So, while you're considering the hybrid "badge of honor," or if you think being green is some sort of status symbol you wear for showmanship, think again. It's in the total picture of the person that really and truly makes a tree hugger.
Alas, I was counting on Basil as my "in" for Halloween, but it wasn't mean to be - at least not in this lifetime. He's now making another driver in metro Atlanta think hard about mileage... and about color.
Check out this piece on WSB-TV that features Radial Cafe! If you haven't yet visited this Atlanta landmark, you should do so ASAP. Similar article forthcoming from yours truly in Atlanta Intown newspaper. Radial is using biodegradable to-go materials (pictured here) and is exploring the idea of composting egg shells and coffee grounds.
I was doing my green duty riding Marta to the airport the other day and stumbled across this note... it was initially hidden from my view, but when a passenger got up I spotted it. There was a nice gal seated to the left of the note, across from me, who thought I was nuts taking this picture -- but I wanted to capture it. All the Marta riders around me cocked their heads to figure out what I was doing.
In the spirit of "Postsecret," a collection of secrets from anonymous sources (thanks to Wayne and Ed for showing it to me), I've helped give Byron one last chance to reach the girl of his dreams. This made riding Marta that day totally worth it.
I also gave the gal who tolerated me shooting this picture my info, so I hope she gets back. If so, give me a shout! Thanks to her for putting up with me.
So... Here is an example of honest and spontaneous affection that seems to have not found its recipient... So I'm putting this out there to keep his hopes alive.
# # #
Update: I did hear from my gal pal on Marta! Thanks to Marina for dropping me a line. See the comments section for more.
"I try to bring more than I can handle; I bring it to the table, I bring what I am able."
I keep forgetting what an amazing talent Sarah McLachlan is. She makes music worth listening to.
There's obviously a parallel between "World on Fire" and our commitment to the planet... where you can do your part, your little part, that affects the greater good. It's about challenging ourselves for tough decisions, and not to shy away from something that appears complex on its face, but that can and will be tremendously rewarding in the end.
I admire people who can so eloquently tell that story and inspire us to walk the earth with greater respect -- of people and of nature.
That's not tree-hugger sensibility, it's humanity. Easy.
Today, Bush is heckling Congress that if they don't act before recess, they've got the blood of $4 per gallon gas on their hands without domestic drilling. Without a formal plan for alternative energy, he's just trying to make his fat-cat buddies even fatter than they were before.
Bush is incompetent. He's an elitist scumbag who thinks he's God's gift (literally, figuratively...), which, as evidenced by the below video, is definitely not true.
It's sad that impeachment is summarily off the table basically because we're so close to him leaving. Just on energy policy alone, his grade is "F".
Discovery Channel's "Planet Green" -- a brand-new, all-green channel with requisite tree-hugger programming -- will feature the house renovation next week. Check your local listings, but on my Comcast DVR it's slated for Wednesday night at 6 p.m., on "Renovation Nation."
As you check your local listings, watch out for the "Renovation Nation" that focuses on the Atlanta area.
(ATLANTA :: 10 June 2008) As I embark on this active journey to refashion the house on Myrtle, I’ve come to know my home on a deeper level - and, as it turns out, I have sharpened my home-improvement priorities even further. As a writer/blogger, I see it as an obligation to write about my experiences - to show that eco-friendly practices, home updates and renovation need not break the bank. In fact, they can end up saving money in the long run.
And let’s not forget, as we update our homes we are suiting our own priorities in addition to writing the next chapters for those who live in the house after us.
What have I learned? Here’s a primer:
- GeoDeck. I now have this pastic-sludge derived product abutting the front door of my historic, Midtown Atlanta home. The “driftwood” color reminds me of the grey shingles you’d find on a Cape Cod home on Nantucket - except it’s virtually indestructible. Don’t try to install it by yourself - even someone like Steve Thomas had issues trying to lay it correctly at the house. (We had to order another batch because of the error.)
- Brac Greywater system. This product has its faults, including leaving rings on toilets and needing filter maintenance. But when you’re in a drought-prone area like I am, this system will come in handy. It’s in place for the future of the house once I put on the addition and more water can feed into it.
- Rinnai tankless water heater. The advantage here is that, once your H20 is hot, it stays that way. In standard water heaters, you keep a set amount of water hot for use at all times - and use energy to keep it that way. With a tankless, you turn your home into an on-demand consumption zone and save energy.
My improvement pursuits have also spurred a story idea - one that has been accepted by The Sunday Paper. Through an extended title search during the renovation I learned that my home was quite likely the first owned by a woman in the state of Georgia. (For more, watch the HGTV episode.) Her family, the Cannons, owned the property for roughly 50 years. So, I thought, what a great idea to name the house after them.
I’m now on a mission to find this family and include them on the renaming - and also create a commemorative plaque for the house’s façade. Watch for that soon.
Meantime, here’s my final message and lesson learned: always embark on your home-improvement journey ready to learn more. About your home, its history, and your own priorities.
I bought a new car. I got a great deal on it. Since it was a loaner that had just come off its "temp" status, I snagged it for considerably less than list.
He's an SUV, and he gets an uber-crappy 14 miles to the gallon in the city. His name is Basil, named after the big boss in the Austin Powers movies. (For those of you playing at home, yes, he puts the "Grrrr" in swinger.) But for someone concerned about our dependency on foreign oil and saving the planet, those gas numbers royally suck. The car, however, doesn't - it's a Land Rover LR2, funky in its baby-spew orange and comfortable over Atlanta's obnoxious, lunar-surface city streets.
Still, my conscience is heavy. It's a second car to help me schlep a little easier, and navigate without bottoming out every five seconds on a shitty street like Juniper. (Chuck Benny is using Gracie for the time being.)
But no matter how elegant and agile, no matter how joyous Basil makes the jaunt from point A to B, I wish we had more choices in the luxury, small-scale SUV category that would be easier on the environment.
Until that time, and in light of this decision, I've shifted some habits that might help compensate. To wit:
-- Use Basil for recycling everything under the sun, including cardboard, glass, plastic and other household goods that the city ignores. -- Instead of driving to my workout sessions with Eric on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I walk to his place and work out there. -- Combine errands in a single outing and make sure to go easy on acceleration. -- Walk to the office. -- Do not involve myself in traffic. -- Walk more in midtown to restaurants and shops, where possible (already doing that).
I'm so jazzed by the idea of using a new diesel engine with fry oil that I believe "Basil" will be a temporary indulgence. It'll be fun while it lasts.
In the meantime, Atlanta roads look and feel a lot less like the moon. - WP
The green renovation of my house has, it seems, some admirers... Lynn Saussy, the landscape architect for "Team Pollock" as we call it sometimes, hooked us up with HGTV's "Groundbreakers" show. Last week they came to the house and did some initial interviewing. I was, as the saying goes, "a pig in shit." I'm hoping that I'm only on the 2nd of my 15 minutes -- because it was a TON of fun.
Thanks to Mary Grace, Justin and the entire crew for making the day so awesome.
Below is a bad export of one of the movies I took!
CNN's Rob Marciano ignited quite a shitstorm a few days ago when he unexpectedly slammed the global view in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Marciano questioned whether or not the strength of recent hurricanes like Katrina could be attributed to global climate change.
And my thought for this Green Machine post is simple. We as Americans can only be responsible for ourselves and live by example... And yet we're notorious for living in excess, lacking in the ability to self-police or self examine.
Seriously: this is actually a call for cultural change, underscored strongly by natural signs. Some of this climate-crisis blowback is, at best, misplaced, since we should be lessening (read: correcting) our impact on the planet regardless of where the facts point us.
Some of these folks espouse contrarian views for the sake of being fancy assholes... on the way to fat ratings. But hey, Fox Noise needs a reason for being, too.
With its forthcoming Planet in Peril series, Rob's comments are, shall we say, against the CNN grain.
A Medill student named Sarah Baicker, working in the position I had at MarketWatch while at Medill, wrote a piece recently on the effect of conservation on neighbors. Since I've started a green renovation of my home in midtown, here are some other changes I've made to help ease our impact on the planet:
-- Kleenex, kitchen towels and other paper products are now 100% recycled -- Transitioning from standard cleaning products to environmentally sensitive detergents of all kinds (dishwashing, laundry, etc.) -- Using Atlanta's recycling and reducing landfill waste
Have you been reading the series of editorials in the AJC about the Botanical Garden's parking-deck? The project has been sold to us as a boon for business, OK for the environment and a help to congested neighborhoods. I'm not convinced. Since I can't get anyone to publish such a long editorial, here it is.
With no-bid contracts, waste and corruption causing all sorts of embarrassment here and around the world (New Orleans, Iraq), a "trust us, you'll see" approach is lame. Enjoy. And stay informed!
The Garden, Parking Deck & Conservancy: Of Two Minds In Midtown
(ATLANTA – 14 September 2007) I’m following the debate over the Botanical Garden’s parking deck, as I hope many city residents are. The work of the Piedmont Park Conservancy has benefited me -- as an investor at Piedmont Crest, a new Park-side condominium development off of 12th street; as an ALTA player out of Piedmont Park Tennis Center; and as a frequent visitor to Park events such as Screen on the Green, the Dogwood Festival and the Dave Matthews Concert.
I am also a paid member of the Conservancy. Their work has, without question, brought this great park of ours forward – and has made it greener, cleaner and more full of life. We are the better for it.
So it’s with a heavy heart that I question the defensive and self-promoting editorial by Debbie McCown, the Conservancy’s Executive Director (“Conservancy openly takes park from blight to bright,” @issue, 22 August). This stuffy piece was the second of the one-two punch I read in the AJC, after a gaggle of attorneys wrote in defense of the Botanical Garden’s independence from city affairs and state Sunshine laws (“Plan will be a boon; Garden has nothing to hide,” Saturday Talk, 25 August 2007). Why are we rehashing this stuff?
Both McCown and Team McBeal are missing the point. We are on a slippery slope when we as a city give ourselves wholly over to the private sector. It’s one thing to source corporate assistance to help create a commercial thoroughfare such as the Midtown Mile; but quite another to give over a natural jewel such as Piedmont Park. Not only have our city planners ceded control of that treasured asset – we are, in many ways, relinquishing the spirit that our residents, our Mayor, our visitors and our city council members have worked so hard to build. As an activist, property owner, journalist and business manager here in Atlanta, I stand firmly behind Mike King’s plainly worded editorial (“Park groups should let sun shine in,” 17 August 2007). It asks, in simple language: Now that the Botanical Garden’s Grecian Army of lawyers has snake-charmed the presiding judge to toss many of the claims brought by Friends of Piedmont Park, just come clean.
Show us how you’ve awarded contracts, to whom, and why; disclose your finances and balance sheets; and give us less lip when we ask you to comply with Georgia’s Sunshine laws. You’re doing the city’s work, the people’s work, even if it’s not coming directly from City Hall. If you’ve given no-bid contracts to friends of the Conservancy, as is rumored, then I want to know about it. And so do a lot of other folks.
Doug Abramson, principal of Friends of Piedmont Park, the advocacy group leading the legal opposition to the parking deck, also says our great gains in beautification have come at a price.
“The Garden and the Conservancy do some good work in the Park, but when questioned about their decisions and their practices they respond that they have raised millions of dollars over the years and somehow that should insulate them from public scrutiny and accountability,” he says. “As stewards of our public park and as representatives of the City, they should act transparently and disclose how and where money is spent, and otherwise conduct their affairs publicly.”
Actually, the current parking arrangement works pretty well. Piedmont Park Tennis Center – one of the last units of the park still managed by the City of Atlanta, run expertly by Sharon Lester and her team – enjoys regular access off Park Drive to the modest yet ultimately convenient parking lot adjacent to Magnolia Hall and, yes, the Botanical Garden. We have managed with this arrangement because the unpretentious parking area provides a small, controllable yet effective resource when these great events happen (including our home tennis matches). My teammates and I use this lot frequently and do not want to see it torn up. Rather, it should be maintained and used as is. What about eco-friendly asphalt? Low-water landscaping? More restricted access? Other creative uses? This area could be a testing ground for new environmentally friendly landscaping products, but all we ever hear about is how this mammoth car deck is going to be our savior, an expansive car heaven that will alleviate Midtown’s parking woes.
Let’s also remember how royally the private sector can fumble the public ball. After mulling this issue, I kept having nightmare reminders of Iraq reconstruction getting handed over to the likes of Halliburton, Parsons Corp. and others -- only to have billions wasted. Do we need such a profound example of alleged no-bid private contracts gone awry? I don’t think so. Privatization, in some weird way, seems to absolve officials from the personal care and obligation that comes with public management. And since secrecy breeds skepticism and mistrust, here we are.
I write this, clearly, of two minds, because again, I know full well the benefits we’ve seen in the Park. I may be a Conservancy member, but remain a dissenting voice, hoping the air around this project is cleared. But this nose-thumbing, redundant, “look what we’ve done for you lately” approach is maddening and makes me want to scream – and it should bring all Atlanta residents to their front porches, too, to do the same. McCown earned nearly $115,000 in annual salary in 2005, which has most certainly increased since then; in that year, the Conservancy, a non-profit, paid more than $100,000 to an external PR firm. Are these needed expenditures or extravagant usage of donors’ generosity? And that’s only the stuff we know about.
Simply singing one’s own praises does not magically immunize you from public speculation – particularly when you have people in the city who enjoy the park set-up as is, and would rather not indulge the Botanical Garden’s desire to give their members in Alpharetta a more convenient place to park in the city. I use the tennis center proudly, along with its parking area, knowing the recently updated clubhouse and courts there are the last bastion of municipal-managerial excellence that the park has.
I am a traditionalist and would prefer to see the park’s car-management system kept the same while still have the park expanded and enhanced. However, if the parking deck is our savior, show us how. If any of our private partners must stand on a pedestal to claim grand success, and continue to move us forward in this great city of ours, let us peek behind your curtain so we’re all on the same page. Without that, it’s a mystery too great to accept. - Will Pollock
Update: Atlanta Business Chronicle reporting that the Botanical Garden and its parking deck project are not subject to Georgia Sunshine Laws. Pending further appeal, it looks like the project will proceed.