Thursday, May 20, 2010

Family Friendly Communities

Let us know what your thoughts are on the question: What characteristics define a family friendly community ?

The American Planning Association conducted a survey on family friendly communities and their results are at: APA Survey Results

Some interesting quotes from the APA presentation:

"Families are the most likely population group to reinvest in their community through time, money, and other forms of civic engagement."

"Families are important to growth, sustainability, and diversity. They build vibrant communities."

From the National League of Cities: “Strong cities are built on a foundation of strong families and empowered neighborhoods that support every child.”

From Jaime Lerner, former three-time mayor of Curitiba, Brazil: “When you start to love the children, you have to love all of the children because if the city can't love those children too, then those children will grow to hate the city. And if they hate the city, they will destroy the city.”

One of the goals of the Human Life Project® is to write down a list of features for the "ideal" family friendly sustainable community. Hopefully we will get to this in the near future, but for the moment, these features will have to be inferred from the other postings.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sustainable Activities

In previous posts, sustainable patterns encompass environmentally-friendly practices, socially related practices such as strengthening relationships, and an overall effort to establish healthy living patterns.

What activities do you as an individual or family engage in to be more sustainable?

As we started to compose our list, it was very short but grew in length rapidly. We would encourage you to add one sustainable activity to your lifestyle periodically. For business people, add one sustainable activity each quarter. For families tied to school schedules, add one sustainable activity during the first half of the school year before Christmas, one activity from Christmas to the end of the school year, and finally one activity during the summer break.

Here is our brainstorm list:

Environmentally-friendly practices:

- Replace plastic grocery bags with reusable bags

If you pay attention to adds, you can get bags for free or $1. Our grocery store gives 5 cents credit per reusable bag that is used. Shopping every week, payback on reusable bags can be as soon as 5 months.

- Plant a garden in our yard

We are hoping to reduce our grocery bill and provide healthier food for the family. Preparing the garden did cost some money, but hopefully within a year or two we will have a net saving.

- 100% of our electricity from solar panels on our roof (hopefully near future)

Leasing solar panels is actually more cost effective. As mentioned in a previous post, this can be with 0 or some upfront cost, but the 20 year savings are substantial

- Composting

Reduced our household related landfill contributions in half

- Switched to CFL light bulbs

- Cloth diapers in place of "landfill" diapers (no service, we wash our own diapers)

Our estimated savings per month is $50-60. We do still use disposable diapers when out of the house.

- Converting front yard from grass to xeriscape (still in progress)

- Installed dual flush toilet in main bathroom

Uses 50% less water at .8 gallons instead of the standard 1.6 gallons for most flushes

- Bike for local chores (kids in bike trailer)

- Paid extra fee to electric company to support wind generated electricity

- Traditional Recycling: paper, plastic, metal, glass

- Recycling usable items instead of throwing into trash, take the extra effort to find a friend or family member that can use the item.

For example, an old computer not being used at our house worked well for another family with a young son.

Social Related:

- Mentor engaged couples to help them establish good patterns and improve the changes for a life long marriage

- Eat dinner together as a family almost every night

- Maintain Sunday as a special family day allocated to time together as a family. (avoid making Sunday a chore day)

- Developing and maintaining a network of friends and family

Healthy Patterns/Improve Quality of Life Related:

- Created automation tools for work tasks and established work related process improvements resulting in lower stress and less overtime. This leads to more time with family and improved family life.

- On a personal level, work no or only very little overtime

- Use vacation days

- Avoid food with "bad" ingredients such as artificial coloring, high fructose corn syrup, and artificially preservatives.

- Nursing our baby to help keep her healthier

- Regular exercise

- Not spending more than earn

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sustainable Human LIFE Communities

The Human Life Project® includes a proposal for building Sustainable Human LIFE Communities. City case studies offer valuable incentives to transform the natural and urban surroundings as well as improve marriages and family life. Environmental incentives are seamlessly integrated with the social needs of the people. The result: our families and communities are more alive and healthy to withstand the inevitable life trials.

Sustainable Human LIFE Communities are eco-friendly and family-friendly. The family is the human gateway to our communities where each new life enters, develops, contributes, and finally leaves behind the shadow of his/her hands. Sustainable patterns endure over time, preserve ecosystems, allow for growth, ensure continuation of human life, strengthen relationships, appreciate life phases, embrace children, improve the human condition, encourage co-responsibility, and enliven social interaction.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Curved Edge

Markers inserted in the landscape and urban areas could be a useful tool in detecting and measuring unhealthy patterns. Biomarkers or life markers, strategically located around the curvature of the earth, would assist in encouraging co-responsibility. The Human Life Project® envisions biomarkers monitoring not just the natural surroundings, but expanding into social and urban patterns.

Nature biomarkers encompass land, water, climate, plant and animal life. Social biomarkers might include marriage, children, education, and human life development. Urban biomarkers evaluate transportation, land use, waste, energy, food, and buildings. The combined biomarkers would assist in identifying and establishing healthy living patterns for humanity.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quality of Human LIFE

A massive demographic shift is occurring among people moving to urban areas. Paul Hawkins mentions in the introduction to the SustainLane U.S. City Rankings that “every week, over one million people are leaving the country and moving to the city.” Unfortunately, families raising children are pushed to reside an increasing distance from the city center. The Human Life Project® believes that improving quality of life must include a renewed effort to address family households living in urban areas. The community effort is two fold: addressing the physical environment and human rights.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines fundamental areas to improve the human condition including education, jobs, motherhood, and family. The word, everyone, appears 28 times and unites the human family around the world. While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted sixty years ago, many of the statements have yet to be fully realized. Thus, the Human Life Project® applies an acronym for LIFE to facilitate improving the human condition: love, investment, family, and everyone.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Welcoming New Residents

The family is the place where new residents are either welcomed with open arms or turned away. Jaime Lerner, former three-time mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, offers a very real picture of the importance in embracing the children. “When you start to love the children, you have to love all of the children because if the city can't love those children too, then those children will grow to hate the city. And if they hate the city, they will destroy the city.” If a child is not loved from the very beginning, that child may never have the opportunity to be part of a family and the greater community.

The successful characteristics of strong families and communities are outlined with a special emphasis on children. Communities are evaluated based on family household type, youth population, education, and level of care for children. The evidence demonstrates social patterns are essential to building truly sustainable communities.