New Video – YERTpod16: Energy Sipping Homes in Colorado

Hi, YERTians!

(YERT is now available on Blip.tv, YouTube, and Veoh. You can even download YERT to your video iPod with iTunes! You can also subscribe to YERT on any of those video services for automagic delivery to your inbox. And… stay tuned for more outlets, or suggest one to us. We’re all ears—though not of corn.)

It seemed that everybody in Colorado had something to say about green building, so we decided to capture the wise words of some wizards in the field and share them with you. Many thanks to Stu Galvis in Boulder for assembling our green building panel and delightfully endless eco-site tours!

No sooner had we driven up to Boulder, Colorado, than we were whisked off to a multitude of green building activities prepared by our friend Stu. We toured ecologically innovative condos, new homes, renewed homes, and then checked out the nifty systems that helped them get near or better than “zero energy.” In other words, you get all the comfort without the carbon! We found sunlight piped into dark corners, cool air piped from underground, and super-solar-heated water piped into a carbon-neutral Jacuzzi!

You may think that all of these eco-features cost an eco-fortune. Well, in some cases you’re right. Fortunately, however, the best low-carbon features are perhaps the least expensive: drapes, sweaters, and small residences will keep your bills low while we all wait for the more advanced greening features to trickle down from the rich to the less-rich. Ben Apple, from GEOS, took a few minutes to explain his middle-income housing complex that makes traditionally expensive green features affordable to the masses. Stu also showed us a charming new eco-residence for those at the lower end of the buyer scale. And we expect the prices to keep on dropping, and interest levels rising, and the knowledge about all this growing.

We thought we knew plenty about green building, then we met the wizards.

Humbled,

Ben, Julie, and Mark (Your YERT Team)

(Please send e-mails to team@yert.com instead of list@yert.com.)

P.S. We could fill a book with the breadcrumbs from our visit to Colorado, but read on for the essential extras…

  • What’s the bottom line on green homes? If you enter one you’ll find that they smell good, feel good, look good, and are good for the planet. It is difficult to put poetic words to “better insulation,” “sun warmed,” “energy independent,” and “minimal toxic smells,” so YERT encourages you to visit a green home in your area. Meet the owners or builders and they’ll often be happy to show you around and help you start on your way to make your home green, too. Stu sent an interesting fact my way that sums it up nicely: A recent Green Home Buyer survey indicated that 85 percent of green homeowners say “they are much more satisfied with their new green homes than with their previous, traditionally built homes.”
  • Want to go further? You can find the mother lode of green building resources at the Rocky Mountain Institute’s “Buildings and Land” resource page: http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid174.php . Also, size matters when it comes to home energy costs. Read about "McMansions" and other not-so-eco homes on AlterNet here. Then re-think that new guest room addition.
  • And finally, here are the faces you’ll see in the video, including all of the “Wizards” from our green building round table:
    • Stu Galvis is the Chief Visionary and a Realtor for Boulder Green Properties, and from what we saw during our visit he is taking charge of the eco-building scene. Stu is helping the entire community of Boulder to understand the benefits and sheer importance of building green—everywhere. All the time. Even for visitors like YERT. http://www.bouldergreen.com
    • Eric Peltier is the owner of Dovetail Lending. His company’s website notes that they’re “Colorado’s First Sustainable Mortgage Broker,” and we like what he’s up to. Wind powered and locally owned, Eric understands the unique value of environmentally sustainable houses and incorporates that knowledge into his business transactions. http://www.dovetaillending.com
    • Norbert Klebl is the founder of GEOS, working with Ben Apple to develop an affordable and sustainable housing development. Norbert also filled the room with wisdom rooted in his European upbringing, and we were heavily tempted to skip a few states to jump overseas to learn more. But we didn’t. Norbert will do for now. http://www.discovergeos.com
    • Ben Apple, Principal of ActNeutral, LLC, has been instrumental in the development of the GEOS project. Once finished, GEOS will be the first and largest net-zero energy housing community in the United States. Geothermal heating, solar panels, and powerful common sense come standard with every home. (To view the full slide show from GEOS used in our video, click here.)
    • Pete Chandler is the President of Living Space, guiding homeowners and consumers through the growing array of green furnishing and remodeling options on the market, to ultimately create healthy habitats. He also specializes in minimizing toxicity in the home—there are more toxic surprises in your home than you probably realize. http://www.livingspc.com
    • Eric Doub is the President of Ecofutures Building, Inc., and he built a net-zero home to demonstrate a variety of quality energy-saving features that you can build into an otherwise conventional home. His home is the highest energy-star rated home to-date in Colorado. Way to go, Eric! http://www.ecofuturesbuilding.com
    • Rick Felton and Rob Jenkins are co-owners of SIPCON, and they have developed a structurally insulated panel (SIP) that is uniquely sandwiched between concrete for better thermal and structural properties. These things generally go where your board and fiberglass walls would ordinarily sit. Think warmer, stronger, cheaper homes. (These guys weren’t on the green building "wizard" panel, but not because they didn’t have the skills! They’re making magic in the green building industry, too.)

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YERT in San Francisco Chronicle!

Hiya, YERTians!

We’re happy to announce that the San Francisco Chronicle ran a full story about YERT and it just came over the wire tonight. You can check it out here:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/27/DD4STJDQ0.DTL

Here’s a little quote from the story:

“Apart from the technical difficulties that come with charging laptop computers and cameras, maintaining a travel blog and editing video while cruising the nation’s highways and byways, the group has set for itself a separate set of challenges: refrain from switching on incandescent lightbulbs, use water sparingly and produce only enough monthly trash and recyclables to fill a medium-size shoe box. This does not include toilet paper and feminine hygiene products.”

Feel free to send it around to friends and family– we can always use a little help getting the good green word around the planet…

Cheerio,

Julie, Ben, and Mark (Your YERT Team)

team@yert.com

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Babysteps nothing. Steps backward, anyone?

OK yeah yeah
cool and interesting things all over the country. Then again…
Here’s some of the more unbelievably asinine things that we are hearing about and have to share with you:

1. to cool down those thirsty residents in the Arizona desert:
There are plans in motion for a giant waterpark in Mesa that will dwarf other waterparks. No citizens groups have protested.

2. for all those Texans yearning to climb ice caves and ski down slopes of snow that may all be gone in 30 yrs., there is also a “snowcave” planned for Texas…

These things are actually in the works. How this is possible, I cannot tell you, but I have to say I am reeling from the news.
Ooof.
Come on, America. Really?

Day 133-137: Nevada: And the water goes to…DOH!

Oh boy. More and more we are coming to understand that water is our most precious resource!
We have heard in several states now by several different people, this Mark Twain quote: “Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fightin over…” and we are seeing how this may be as true now as it ever was. Nebraskans have to limit their water intake for the residents of Kansas, Coloradans have been legally obligated to personally conserve water or some time now – in order that states downstream get their “fair share” of the Colorado, and Nevadans are being offered incentives to “tear up their turf,” (basically, let their lawn be torn out and replanted with native Nevadan desert plants.) And the population is booming.

Think about it: the human body is basically 70% water. The earth is about 3/4 water – which might seem like plenty until you recognize that only about 2% of the water on the earth is fresh water (drinkable). Some human communities are more used to droughts than others, due to their usual arid climate, and we are seeing exploding populations in the 2 states that are basically situated in a desert. Nevada is the first one we visited, so water is what we focused on there.

We stopped first at Lake Tahoe near Reno, then on to visit the Mount Rose SnoTel site with water supply specialist, Dan Greenlee, who showed us the measuring facility and how it works under tens of feet of snowfall every winter. Ben wanted to hear that there is a demonstrable deficit in snowfall these days but Dan explained that there is still much change from year to year (ie: last year was one of the driest measured years in history but the year before was one of the wettest). So, no conclusions from the Snotel site, though Dan confessed that he believes that climate change is inevitable and he is worried.

Next we stopped at Walker Lake, which Dan had mentioned as one of only 5 terminus lakes in the world (meaning that it doesn’t end in the ocean). It is one of the Nevada lakes that feed the desert population’s thirst. You can see from our pictures that the water is low… According to the USGS report (US Geological Society), the lake is now only 83′ deep at its maximum. Since the lake has reportedly declined 145′ since 1882, this means that, according to my math, Walker Lake was 228′ deep and has lost over 70% of its volume. And Nevada is the fastest growing state (re: population) in the nation. Look out, fishes. Not only is there less water but it is way more saline due to to concentrated mineral salts so fish are NOT thriving there at all.

And we were on our way to Las Vegas, city of lights, broken dreams, facades in all flavors with their own water features and a whole new level of mindless consumption. The really nice people we were going to house us came down with a meningitis-y type illness, so we opted for safety and stayed instead at a Budget Suitey-type thing off the Strip. I worried over the amount of pollution that we were inhaling on a daily basis being so close to the highway…

We were pleased to get to talk to Doug Bennett, Conservation Manager for the SNWA (Southern Nevada Water Authority). Doug told us that Nevada (which gets only 4″ of rainfall per year) is special because, although water conservation laws are regionally decided, Nevada municipalities are working together so that everybody can be on the same page. He believes that the biggest challenge is keeping Nevada cool. This they want to do by planting foliage, but it has to be done sustainably. Nevadans are being offered incentives to tear up their turf (see this excellent article) and are being asked to replace traditional lawns with natural desert landscape (see photo) or, hilariously, astroturf. From what we understood, new developments are not allowed swimming pools or lawns. And people in Georgia are calling up Doug to find out Nevada’s tricks to dealing with drought. Policy-makers are taking the water shortage very seriously. Fines are in place for people who water during the day, or allow water to flow over paved surfaces, and increase with every offense. After all, water is incredibly valuable and, as Bennett puts it, “Water running into the street has NO value…Nobody grew up with a waterfall in their front yard. We just have to remind them.”

And then we hit the Strip. Man, I was not looking forward to it, feeling kind of crappy. We found parking fast, and i followed the boys around while they shot b-roll. We watched a crazy water show in the fountains in front of the Bellagio (I had never known that fountains could dance!) and I found myself wondering how much of that supposedly recycled water gets lost every day in evaporation, and how much energy it takes to make those fountains dance… By 10:30 I really was not doing well and sat down while the boys tried to find people on the streets to talk to. I couldn’t tell you what was said, but they seemed satisfied when I finally said, That’s it, I gotta go. (Thanks, Boys.)

Next day we got a fortunate call back from a friend of ours who is managing Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, and who performs ceremonies as Elvis. We went the very next day and even got to witness the last drunken nuptial of the evening. Surreal. Then Brian put the YERT name up in lights outside the building and proceeded to give us his thoughts on the water situation in Las Vegas, as Elvis. He even improvised a little song for us. Sweet.(Thanks, Brian!)

I feel I ought to mention that several of the people we talked to were quite upset about the fact that Nevada has NO RECYCLING. Even the Whole Foods may not be recycling though it has recycling bins in the front of the store, we can’t be sure. Nobody picks it up. We didn’t have time to investigate but does anybody want to look into that? let us know…

On to Arizona, past Hoover Dam and Lake Meade, which is now at 49% volume. Uh-oh. Composting toilets, anyone?

FW to Happy Thanksgiving

So, along with the many email Forwards I received in the last week, one seemed to need some actual response instead of the usual ‘read and delete.’ It was forwarded to my mailbox as Jay Leno’s words, but in actuality they are the words of one Craig Smith, who turned a very short little quip delivered as part of Leno‘s monologue into an op-ed for World Net Daily (a totally conservative e-rag, by the way, that includes articles such as how eating soy at a young age turns people gay. go figure.)

I read the whole thing and felt my blood rising as I realized that Mr. Smith’s “challenge” to Americans to quit complaining about what their government is doing and just be grateful for living in the manner to which we have become accustomed, without looking and understanding what is happening, is a big mistake that I hope people don’t take to heart. (I haven’t included Mr. Craig’s opinion but you can find it here.)

I hit “REPLY ALL” and asked everyone to Please do be grateful but Please do NOT stop thinking… Within a day, my brother David wrote this beautiful and poignant response, for which I am endlessly thankful:

Ah, how to start.
As I sit here with my infant son sleeping comfortably on my chest. I read this commentary, and I don’t care who wrote it. I am always happy to be reminded of all that I have to be thankful for. We all need to take time to appreciate those that we love around us, and time to unwind away from the crazy world around us.
I’ll start with how I am thankful that I have two beautiful, gentle, healthy, wonderful sons. But that doesn’t mean that at moments, my heart isn’t filled with the grounding reality that at the prime of their lives, they could get dragged off to some armed conflict based on lies and sent back in bodybags.
I am thankful that I live in a warm, dry house with a quality of life unheard of on this planet until the last 50 years. But that doesn’t keep me from realizing that with the technology that we have in place at this moment, if every man woman and child on our planet had this same quality of life, our environment would (without question) collapse in not years, but days.
I am thankful that I don’t have to worry about my family being victims of violent crime, even though I know that the widening chasm between rich and poor, and the failings of education in this country will most certainly ensure that this is just a golden age. We won’t have that luxury for long unless we figure out some very important policy gaps and start supporting our fellow man substantially. And it doesn’t keep me from remembering occasionally that there are sizeable portions of our own population who live in jungle fear in poor urban neighborhoods.
I am thankful that I live in a country so full of caring people – doctors, engineers, builders, heroes of all varieties, and that even if our constitution gets whittled away and our government gets us so used to lies that we don’t notice, we WILL still come together in groups that warm our hearts, and in crisis will probably rise to the occasion and make things better. But it doesn’t keep me from remembering that there are places in this country where the police are feared, and fire trucks rarely come because the economic base can’t support good rescue services.
I am thankful for science, for showing us how to treat terrible diseases, and for letting us find truth about the world.
I am thankful for this president for very backwards reasons, for being such a terrible president that it wakes up the electorate to what power can do to a group of people… and for taking our country to a place of near economic and military collapse so that we no longer have the means to pursue hegemony over the oil of the planet.
I am thankful that oil has officially reached its peak production, and the price of gasoline is being driven to prices that we can’t afford (thanks again to our president’s military adventures). F inally those technologies that are so crucial to the health of our planet and survival of so many species, including ours, will be driven inexorably to the forefront, and no global warming deniers will have even financial reasons to deny the energy revolution that will save us.
I am thankful for the possibility of recession, aside from the pains that it will cause many families, because it will wake us up to the unsustainability of our lifestyles. It will teach us that our grandparents learned the most valuable lessons during World War II, that we need to live frugally, and responsibly, and not waste like there is no tomorrow. It will teach us that a dollar spent has to be a dollar earned. It will bring us right back down to the reality of how we need to live.
I am thankful that the clothes I wear are affordable, even while realizing that accepting them means I contribute in some small way to slave labor in China and environmental disaster in some place th at I probably won’t ever see.
There are ways out of all of this. And I agree that drowning yourself in disaster-filled news isn’t the answer. But neither is living in a bubble of blissful ignorance. And neither is clinging to religion if that religion is trying to convince you that this administration isn’t lying to us, or championing things like banning gay marriage at the expense of responsible public policy.
It is very easy to get tied up in problems that are too big for us as individuals to fathom, much less solve. It i s very easy to allow disappointment to cloud our days. But let me just suggest that another way is to simply digest the problems with the belief that we can fix it eventually, or if you happen to be religious, to have faith that your god or gods will help us do the work that we have to do.
We have to review these problems with care as we look at the policies our politicians champion and vote always and responsibly. Liberals shouldn’t be hitting the all democrat tab, and neocons shouldn’t hit the republican tab. We need to take a bit of time and really understand what we are voting for. We need to hold our politicians to standards of honesty and integrity. Lies need to be a reason to dismiss them. We need to understand the shifting line between spin and dishonesty. And pin it down, hard, in a place that we hold our own friends and relatives accountable for.
Ah, it hurts the bra in, but so does learning a new language or anything that is big. Maybe some of us aren’t up to the task. But that doesn’t mean we have any excuse to not try, and allowing any crap like Britney Spears gossip or Montel Williams shows into our heads greatly reduces our capacity for keeping our eye on the ball.

Fill yourself up with thanks of all that we have here, and then with that strength holding you up, realize

that our lifestyles are NOT sustainable, and that we are part of a very small percentage of the people on this planet that are as lucky, and we have a responsibility to do what it takes to find what is most important and get rid of the excess so the rest of them can hope for a life worth living as well.

If you have read this far, I love you.

David

I am filled up to the brim with thanks for more than I can say.
Thanks for the opportunity to make this trip, to share what we are learning, to see great friends and meet new people, to be encouraged by all the people who care and who are willing to make change…and for everybody who has been supporting us along this trip. As I said to one of my dear NY friends who sends us random comments every week or so, You are keeping us afloat, truly.

Happy Thanksgiving!!! with all the good stuff…


New Video – YERT Conversation 14.1: Simple Living 101

Dear YERTians,

Howdy! We have a special pre-holiday conversation to share with you— something that we hope you’ll watch before you launch into your Thanksgiving weekend. This YERT Conversation takes a peek at voluntary simplicity, and we hope it helps you find a little extra free time and peace of mind in the weeks ahead.

During our trek through Iowa we met with Gerald Iversen, National Coordinator of Alternatives for Simple Living, and picked his brain for ways that we could simplify our lives without giving up that which matters most. What matters most? Jerry tells us in the video. Find out if you agree…

Thankfully Yours,

Mark, Julie, and Ben (Your YERT Team)

team@yert.com

P.S. And now for Breadcrumbs! If you want to learn more about the topics in this video, check out these resources:

  • If you want to consume less and live more, you can also explore the resources made available by The Center for a New American Dream. They have great ideas for keeping the holidays simple, and their stated mission is… “The Center for a New American Dream helps Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and promote social justice.”
  • Check out a great series on American Public Media called “Consumed.” Find this and all sorts of other resources for the sustainable-minded seeker here.
  • Morgan Spurlock of “Super Size Me” fame, recently produced a film called “What Would Jesus Buy?” It was scheduled for release on 11/16/07, and it may be ready for your viewing pleasure at a theater near you! It is definitely on our simple little list of things to do this holiday season. The official website is here.
  • And a smart article by Mother Jones about credit card companies, and the role they play in the upcoming presidential election.

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Day 128-131: San Francisco Green Festival

Flying home from Oahu, we felt torn – sad to leave such a beautiful place, worried for its preservation and ready to get back to the mainland.

We were picked up at the airport by our friend, Michael, and brought back to his place, where Rachel Carson waited for us in the garage. Funny how attached we become to material things, and how we anthropomorphize them – I actually apologized to our dashboard lemur for leaving him home instead of bringing him to Hawaii with us to ride on the rental car dash…and patted Rachel Carson on her Y…

Next morning had us up early, repacked into the car and headed to San Francisco’s Green Festival – a major green marketing event sponsored by Global Exchange. We parked, got badges at Media check-in, and Mark went to find our contact people…and then we were off into the mayhem. There were booths selling everything from independent media to hempfood to hanging bamboo baby hammocks to CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) to the local PG&E to our good friend Andy at Chicobags. It was like a giant overwhelming Eco bazaar, throngs of people milling around making contacts and buying alternative holiday gifts…It was a bit difficult to step out of the consumer mindset…but I got out of there only buying my husband a back support for when he is editing all night hunched over his computer…

We interviewed people every day, and were even a part of the Green Festival team that followed Deepak Chopra. (His book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, was at one time my “Bible,” and may be the closest thing I have found to the kind of universal spirituality that I can relate to. But he has many many others.) Ben walked with Deepak, asking what gives him hope. Deepak’s answer, that hope implies despair so he does not hope, was referenced in his audience address later that evening to 5 balconies and a full floor of people, and I squoze Ben’s hand for having planted a seed.

My favorite interview was with a young man named Ryan Mlynarczyk, (who i don’t have a picture of, cause sometimes i forget the most important things). Ryan is gearing up this month for his cross-country trip, by bicycle, documenting sustainable communities (his favorite green way of living). We had been hearing of Ryan for some time so I was eager to meet him, and when I finally found his booth, and he saw the YERT on my media tag, he held out his hands to me and hugged me right away. The boys arrived and we took turns interviewing each other in the Sustainable Communities booth, totally joyful meeting like-minded fellow travelers out to see the world change! However, Ryan, unlike YERT (which had a few years of savings to draw from), is starting his trip on a few dollars, a happy prayer and the clothes on his back. I hope that people all over America will visit Ryan’s current website, bookmark his coming documentary website, and offer him all the comforts they can afford!!! YERT vouches for him as a genuine beautiful soul…

Other thing I really liked about the Festival was the amount of free organic food samples that were offered all around the inner section. I wasn’t feeling all that well for about the whole festival so being able to fill up my mug with orange juice at any time for free was a boon.
Also, a girl named Echo gave me a pair of wings on Friday when I admired them, so Sunday I was wearing them all day. People smiled except if we were really crowdy and they bumped someone.

Next stop: Nevada. No offense, but I wished we could skip it and head straight to Arizona, Ben’s family and Thanksgiving…

Day 126: recap from Oahu


Ben is sick, caught my Maui cold! Sorry, Babe.

On to Oahu, where the lovely Smith family shared their home with us for a few days.

We had a rare treat on this leg of the trip – Since we’re driving a rental car and don’t have our year’s worth of stuff, we were able to bring a guest with us to our daily interviews! (Thanks for coming, Rachelle!) We drove to the Lyon Arboretum where Director Christopher Dunn showed us some basement seedbanks and explained to us the difference between non-native species (“alien,” – not necessarily bad) and invasive species (also alien – but very bad – take over whole ecosystems, competing for air, light, soil, etc.) He described to us the distinction between indigenous species (native) and endemic species (native but occurring nowhere else in the world) and told us that Hawaii has the highest percentage of endemic species in the World, and they are disappearing rapidly.

Part of what botanical gardens do is collect, preserve, and propagate specimens of plants that may no longer occur in the wild, in the hopes of possibly reintroducing them at some future point. We walked into an incubator of just such specimens at Lyon, and were struck by the nursery of seeds and seedlings, growing each in their own little test tube of jelly nutrient. We were even more struck by the ruthless mosquitos (incidentally not native to Hawaii at all – special thanks to whoever brought those over).

We headed to University of Hawaii’s student sustainability meeting a little late, so Ben and I went ahead with the camera while Mark and Rachelle looked for parking. We creaked open the red door at the top of the 6th Floor of Saunders Hall onto a full room of engaged faces. These people are excited about sustainability! They are doers: architects, engineers, business majors, green builders, environmental studies majors and graduate and doctorate students working to make change happen right there on campus. A charming dark-eyed mechanical engineer named Shanah Trevenna leads this group with a focus and a fire that is infectious. Her determination and optimism seem amazingly matched by the willingness of the student team to come up with answers to our most pressing environmental challenges. (ie: The team is finding ways to save the University $$ by studying sustainable energy alternatives, and then offering to make the changes themselves, in exchange for a portion of the savings. And the University is going for it!)
It’s working!

One of their professors is Ira Rohter, who authored the book, Green Hawaii, In it, he tried to describe a sustainable path for the Islands so that people might get an idea what that would look like and gravitate toward that. Since the professor wrote Green Hawaii in 1992, with many projections about what the future could look like, we were interested in getting his take on Hawaii’s current state of wellness and how he now pictures the future. More later, but the most important thing to me was Prof Rohter’s belief that it is not a question of IF the world will change but WHEN in our lifetime, and will we be able to meet the challenges that are coming. I asked him, What tools will we need, to be prepared? He said we need to relearn some skills. Knowing how to grow food, how to cook, how to sew, even something as simple as knowing how to cut bread will make the transition less of a shock. Guess I better start working on that goat farm?

Our last interview on Oahu was with Christy Martin, of CGAPS, Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species. Christy talked to us more about the importance of keeping Hawaii free of invasive flora and fauna and the difficulty in keeping out alien species on such a high tourist destination. Ben, in particular, is likening humans to the invasive species. Oahu, in particular, is so developed that the air smells like smog and all you see are high-rise buildings and parking lots, big box stores and highways. What used to be one of the most easily sustained human settlements, without the use of electricity, now has to import 90% of its energy and 75% of its food from outside the islands. Not a very good use of natural resources that were already there, and not a very good use of traditional wisdom that was already there.

And yet, somehow, the local Hawaiian people maintain a sense of community that isn’t found in most of suburbia. They still hang out with each other on porches after sunset and tell stories, they still sit around the beach and cook for each other. They may be more prepared than the rest of us when it comes time to rely on our friends and neighbors to embrace our changing world. Anyway, we thank them for welcoming us onto their homeland. Mahalo.

New Video – YERTpod15: In-tree-guing Discoveries in Nebraska

Dear YERTians,

We finally wrapped up our visit to Hawaii, and so that means that Ben has spent most of the last 72 hours indoors focused on Nebraska. Editing the Nebraska video, that is. Once known as the “Tree Planters’ State,” we looked at things tree-related out there.

There is more than meets the eye in Nebraska, but you have to drive to find it—particularly if it doesn’t involve corn husking. And so we drove and drove, all the way out to Wellfleet, Nebraska– to stay in a mud hut—on purpose. That’s right. The closest we’ve come to sleeping in Mother Earth happened in Nebraska of all places, at Dancing Leaf. Les and Jan Hosick are worth a visit for your whole family. Trust us, then read more about it in the breadcrumbs.

The mud hut at Dancing Leaf was made of mud and grass and tree parts, all carefully assembled without nails or pegs, to create a beautiful home. We also found ourselves quite at home with the folks at the Arbor Day Foundation in and around their Tree Adventure. Bev and Amy gave us a guided tour of the place, and even put up with us figuring out how to play the YERT theme song on a gigantic wooden xylophone. Then we were treated to fresh apple pie and apple slushies. We experienced deep tree love. Thank you, trees. And thank you, Nebraska.

Tree Husking,

Julie, Mark, and Ben (Your YERT Team)

team@yert.com

P.S. And now for Breadcrumbs! If you want to learn more about the topics in this video, check out these resources:

  • Dancing Leaf: We could have stayed here for weeks without ever getting bored. Unfortunately, we only had time to spend a single night and glorious morning with Les and Jan Hosick. They’ve created a magical place where Native American culture comes alive within you, like nothing you’ve ever experienced. And the breakfast that they prepared for us was deliciously like nothing we had ever experienced. Sleep in the earthen igloo on a deerskin. Visit the fossil museum. Be a human again.
  • Arbor Day Foundation: If you ever visit one place in Nebraska with your kids, be sure to visit the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure. When YERT tests out a playground meant for children, we put on our kid gloves seriously. And we really enjoyed this place. We uncovered loads of creative fun ways to become more familiar with the natural world around us—stepping into a pair of hearing-aid cones that help you listen to forest sounds, and guessing the not-so-familiar smells of the plants and animals in the woods.
  • Ogalala Aquifer: This thing is a giant underground reservoir that sits partially in Nebraska, and… well, I’ll let the news speak for itself. Here’s a quote from U.S. Water News Online – “The Ogallala aquifer is the world’s largest underground water system, irrigating one-third of the nation’s corn crops and providing drinking water to Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. It contains enough water to cover the entire United States to a depth of one and one-half feet. But because of heavy usage, some water experts have pronounced it one of the fastest-disappearing aquifers in the world.” I encourage you to read more about it here, then think twice about your water consumption. Indeed, YERT has decided to focus on water for our next eco-challenge. Stay tuned…

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Day 121: We passed the 1/3 Mark!


Real quick:
YERT passed the 1/3 mark…on Mark’s 33rd Birthday.
Happy Birthday, Mark!
and Happy 1/3 of the way to everyone who is coming along on this trip…

For those of you desperate to know how much water you’re using each day, here is a handy dandy calculator:

http://www.csgnetwork.com/waterusagecalc.html