Thursday, December 6, 2007

Final Reflection Assignment

With the readings, films, and discussion, this class painted a picture to me of a world that was completely new to me. For reasons I’m not quite sure of, my idea of healthy communities was simply eating healthy food and just making a conscious thought to what one is putting in their mouth. This class opened my eyes to an even better idea of healthy communities, one that encompasses the wider social and political implications of eating. Healthy communities should contain organizations dedicated to their improvement, constantly giving back, in new, creative ways. People’s brings something new to the table, in my world in any case, in that they bring ‘eating local’ and ‘community sustainability’ to the definition of healthy community.

This group project helped me develop not only skills to be successful and work well in a group setting, but also in a professional setting as I was conducting research and connecting with other business as a consultant for People’s. The ball was very much in our court as the project underway. I say this because in previous classes we either were given tools or information sets that would give us a boost in a project. Although we were given an optimal end goal by Sarah Cline, it was totally up to us to design the path to get them there. Our end goal was to find the feasibility of implementing solar technology at People’s. We definitely hit some obstacles along the way. Right off the bat, I wanted to set up energy audits with nonprofit organizations who conducted them for free. I found two organizations that did this: PGE and Energy Trust of Oregon. I set up the audit with PGE pretty quickly, but it turned out to be a sit-down discussion of the energy efficient aspects of People’s and the services that PGE provides. Verleah with PGE was a little helpful in pointing us in the right direction for solar technology. I then went to a class sponsored by Ecotrust called “Solar Basics.” It was very informative as they went over the type of solar energy technology and the incentives to do so. Although it was mostly directed at residential installations,  it was very beneficial to take this class near the beginning of the project to get a solid overview of installing a solar energy system. There were even solar contractors there that helped to explain things and get rid of common misconceptions. I wasn’t able to schedule an audit performed by Energy Trust until the week before finals due to a long lead time of paper processing that they have (you have to submit an application for audit). This audit actually involved an in-depth walk-through of People’s. The auditor identified not only areas that People’s could improve, but areas that they were above average in terms of energy efficiency. Although there were a couple things that the auditor recommended People’s adopt, they were fairly insignificant and the audit was not complex enough, nor did the auditor have enough experience with newer systems like the ground source heat pump, for the audit to really amount to much. An example of one of the recommendations was for People’s to replace their incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents (there were about 8 throughout the store) and also to replace the rubber door sealers of the refrigerated food cases.

I was also able to schedule a site visit for a solar contractor, Solar Energy Solutions. This contractor was exciting to work with because the owner (Andrew Koyaanisqatsi) had been involved with People’s since the 1980s and he was very motivated to work with them again potentially. I believe he was in the running in 2003 when People’s was constructing the building now as a solar contractor. During the course of the site visit, Andrew had the opinion that implementing a solar thermal system instead of a photovoltaic system would be more beneficial. After a lengthy discussion regarding it, Andrew gave a rough estimate of $12,000 to $18,000 for a solar thermal system. Steve and I realized how infeasible the system really was after we saw that People’s gas bill (they use gas to heat their water) was only $50 a month, so the savings would be minimal. The ground source heat system is not only very sustainable, its also very efficient.

Steve Theiss also scheduled a site visit with the solar contractor O’Neill Electric, who gave us a bid on implementing photovoltaic panels. It was with this bid that we began to analyze the costs and benefits of implementing a PV system. Steve did a wonderful job in taking the information from the bid and other information from me and Scott’s research and creating an Excel spreadsheet summarizing in a concise way what we found. He listed the benefits and drawbacks of each system by manufacturer. He also did a complete cost analysis of implementing a PV system. My first thought when we got the bid back from O’Neill Electric was that the system would cost too much money, especially because the system would only offset People’s electric bill by about 3% monthly. However, with Steve’s Excel tool, we saw that over 25 years People’s would save $1500. Although this isn’t very much monetarily, the marketing impact as well as the impact on the community has a high dollar value and should be considered as it makes the investment more worthwhile.

Scott did a great job researching all the incentives People’s could enjoy if it implemented a solar electric system. He also took the reigns for presenting our findings.

I would give Scott an A for his research and availability. I would also give Steve an A for his work organizing all of our research and bringing to the table a great amount of expertise.

Introduce students to the complexities and challenges of healthy communities, related to urban design, society and food issues.

I felt that this class did a thorough and eye-opening job of showing the complexities and challenges of healthy communities, especially with the difficulties I saw  at People’s. As was noted by the group who spear-headed the food drive, most of the donations were canned, not the most healthy of food.

Communities today still have a narrow focus in what is healthy. For example, for me, healthy is just eating healthier foods. However, healthy communities are at its prime when every member takes responsibility for its footprint, and reducing it as much as possible.

Orient students to the particular history and culture of cooperative businesses and the natural food industry.

This class showed the current state of cooperatives and the natural food industry. The three field trips to local natural food cooperatives demonstrated the impact each coop had on its community and also the impact of the community on the coop. The book by Michael Pollan Omnivore’s Dilemma gave a thorough and interesting point of view on the history of the natural food industry and the coops that participated in it. It was interesting to read about the roots and obstacles the natural food industry and its members have been through.

Provide students with ethnographic tools to successfully interact with individuals, groups, and cultural landscapes, and be able to document and analyze their observations and communicate them to others.

I felt that as a class, most point of views were communicated and welcomed. I felt it was a little one-sided at times, but I especially learned a great deal about how my classmates view our culture. This was refreshing as it gets a little frustrating at times to be exposed to one way of thinking for awhile.

Gain a cultural sensitivity to be able to work with and understand the experiences of a diverse community of people.

I felt like I already had the tools of cultural sensitivity. My previous classes equipped me with these tools, but more importantly my workplace. Learning to understand through cultures, ages, sexes, etc. This class definitely provided an atmosphere of learning and new experiences. I loved how Professor Ferbel would always ask “What are your new food experiences this week?” Also, I felt that all my classmates came from a variety of backgrounds, and it was fun to learn in that atmosphere.

Learn environmental and social ethics related to taking initiative to sustainable agriculture, land use, and food issues.

Omnivore’s Dilemma as well as the guest speaker (he used to work for Apple) did a great job in presenting the political and social issues in agriculture and land use issues. It was assumed at one point that organic is the preferred (and ethical) way to farm if one was farmer interested in sustainability. However, the rules and regulations surrounding the term organic now has gotten away from its original intent, it is generally agreed.

People’s Coop was a wonderful community partner to work with. They are eager to learn how to improve their business and eager to learn from us students. The relationship that has been cultivated between PSU and People’s adds great value to both institutions. I believe that People’s has a strong competitive advantage because of its flexibility and willingness to change, and to network among many organizations, like PSU. I wouldn’t change things for future students. I loved my experience with them!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Green Building Project Proposal for People's Co-op

Solar-Electric Power and People’s Food Cooperative

   As the natural food industry becomes a global commodity, the disproportionate imbalance of calories consumed to create calories of food energy continues to grow exponentially. Rebuilding sustainable local food systems offers a viable solution to reducing the farm to plate miles, and the associated energy consumption / carbon footprint. In order to further offset this phenomenon, the final mile (retail distribution) must actively seek to reduce the energy consumption required to stock and sell its products. Increasing energy efficiency and reducing dependence on conventional energy sources can be realistically achieved without sacrifice to profitability.

The average produce travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate. Buying closer to home reduces the distance, transportation costs and the environmental impact.” – corporate website

One of the principles of modern grass farming is that to the greatest extent possible farmers should rely on the contemporary energy of the sun, as captured every day by photosynthesis, instead of the fossilized sun energy contained in petroleum.”-The Omnivore’s Dilemma, pg. 188

   Natural food stores and cooperatives in the Portland area are actively seeking to reduce their carbon footprint not only through local sourcing, but through innovative energy and waste reduction programs. People’s Food Coop is already the leader in incorporating green building principles into their current location. Neither Alberta Food Coop nor Food Front has shown as strong a commitment as People’s. This project is about exploring how People’s could take that commitment further by pursuing solar power in one form or another at their current location. This course of action would be in pursuit of deeper commitment and devotion to the seventh cooperative principle of concern for community. By becoming more responsible and sustainable in its energy consumption through solar power, People’s would be taking a leading role in reducing its carbon footprint and ending our nation’s reliance on non-renewable sources of energy. We believe that this possible course of action could go hand in hand with other plans that People’s has for the future to reduce its impact on the environment, such as its planned use of roof-runoff water to supply its low-flow toilets.

   We will gain insight in to People’s current energy usage by having the Energy Trust of Oregon conduct an energy/green audit, and compare People’s current energy usage to 2003 remodel for a baseline. From there we will talk to commercial solar installation companies in the area such as Mr. Sun Solar to have them do a feasibility study of the site, and give us information on what the costs and benefits would be if People’s followed through with a solar electric system. We will also compile information from the Energy trust of Oregon that lays out what incentives People’s can take advantage of to recoup some of their expenses for installing a solar electric system.

   We expect to find at the end of our research that it is financially feasible for People’s to purchase and install a solar electric system at their location, and that a staged implementation plan will put the least financial strain on the cooperative.

   At the end of this project, we plan on delivering a PowerPoint presentation accompanied by a short packet that will lay out the results of the energy audit and the feasibility study of solar-electric at the site. The final project we will have accomplished at the end of the term is a detailed and comprehensive plan of action that People’s could implement to install a solar-electric system. This plan of action would cover how they would find a contractor, what they could expect their options to be and the associated costs, the different governmental and private incentives available to People’s, and what benefits People’s could expect to realize from the solar-electric system.

Key Dates

Nov. 5th: Project proposal

Nov. 9th: Energy Trust site visit

Nov. 13th: Attend class on solar-electric energy

Nov. 16th: Have completed all site visits by Energy Trust & by solar-electric contractors

Nov. 21st: Hand in executive summary

Dec. 3rd: Final presentation


The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Penguin Press, New York City, NY. 2006. Page 188.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Assignment 2

Here is what I bought on my last trip to the supermarket with the motivation for each purchase:
  • green apples (my favorite snack :-)
  • bananas (good breakfast food)
  • orange mango juice (I love juice and its better than drinking soda)
  • ground beef (we make stuff like hamburger helper for lunch)
  • organic carrots (I admit I'd rather buy organic products rather than conventional)
  • organic fat-free milk (it just tastes better!)
  • chocolate pudding (a low-calorie snack I like)
  • peach cups (also a semi-healthy snack)
  • Kashi cereal (this stuff is healthy and delicious - so hard to find)
  • Kashi frozen entree (I bought this for lunch, easy and good)
  • Raisinettes (my guilty pleasure...)
  • taquitos (they are pretty good and easy to make)
  • 8oz coke cans (trying to wean myself of soda by buying smaller sizes...)
  • rice cakes (again, for convenience and its healthy)
I admit my main motivation with food is convenience. I place a high priority on my time, so unfortunately good, plain cooking (from scratch) doesn't happen as often as it should. Another reason why I don't cook "good" meals that often is that I grew
 up in a fast-food household. My mom only cooked once or twice a week and my dad would make the same breakfast every Sunday. I know I have a passion for cooking (I love to try new dessert recipes all the time), but I feel like I need to a learn a few rules before making rather complex healthy meals, and I just don't have the time.
As far as marketing/advertising of products, they have a definite effect, although this may be positive or negative effect. I have a specific taste for marketing. So while most marketing and advertising out there doesn't have any effect on me, there are a few "campaigns" that really catch my attention and I'm influenced to the point of buying it. The type of advertising that really effects me is the labeling of the product and the overall "classyness" of the campaign. Many of the organic lines have a more clean and tasteful brand image and that draws me to their product. The only other thing I bought that I though had a positive marketing/advertising effect was the 8 oz Coca-Cola cans. They are just so cute! And the size makes me feel like I'm managing my bad eating habits. In reality though, I never drank more than 8 ounces of of Coke in a regular 12 oz can so I'm wasting les
s, but paying more (its $2.99 for 6 cans of 8 oz Coke and its $4.50 for 12 cans of 12 oz Coke).

I went to my local Farmer's Market (Beaverton) as part of eating healthy natural foods for a day. I loved it! It was awesome actually talking the producers of the food I was buying. Although there were some bigger farms where the people in the tent weren't the actual producers, most of them were and were very knowledge not just about their products, but the natural food industry as a whole. I first bought pork roast from Sweet Briar Farms in Eugene. The farms uses no growth hormones or antibiotics. The man in the tent told me also of the diets that they feed their animals, which is corn, wheat, vitamins, and nutrients. The man gave me a couple brochures as well as a recipe for the roast I just bought. The cost of the pork roast was no more expensive than that of a supermarket. I loved that fact that I was buying local at this point.  I also bought some bread and red potatoes at another local producer's stand. I a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Kaleng's Produce for only $5.00. That was a cool find! I then b
ought apples from Mason Hill Orchard. It was very cool to learn and try samples of apples that I had never heard of. They were very tasty and the producer was very friendly. 
An odd thing I found at the market was blackberries. This was late September and not even Safeway carried them at this point as the season for them was over. I wanted to ask how they were able to stock them, but they were not sure.
The last place I went to was Two Brothers Foods. The background of this company is 2 brothers made this chocolate sauce that was extraordinarily good. They sold the chocolate little by little in their younger years. When they became college-age, they decided to sell it on a much larger scale. Their parents were the ones manning the booths as their sons were at college at the time and the samples were very good. It was a cool story of a local family developing and marketin
g their own product and selling it at their local farmer's market.
It was very enriching experience, going to my local farmer's market. I definitely should have done this sooner. When it starts again in May, I will definitely shop there at least once a month.

I made a trip to my local New Seasons Market. Very big and new! My first impression is they do a very good job marketing and my first impression of their brand image was positive. Walking in, it didn't feel like a locally-owned grocery chain, more like a nationwide chain. But no, there are only 9 stores, all in the Portland Metro area. I don't believe that they will stay in the area, but I do believe if they want to keep their brand image, they can't branch out too far. You lose the community identity that way. 
I think the biggest differences between People's and New Seasons is the clientele and the distance of producers of the products they sell. Oh and the fact that People's is focused on other sides of sustainability (like green building) and the fact that New Seasons is a whole lot bigger.
New Seasons is great step forward in grocery industry sustainability and People's is a small, community-owned store that is a breath of fresh air in this world of big business.

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