Paving our way to green

Segmental paving dates back to the Roman Empire. Treating a road surface like a wall buried in the earth, they created a series of primary and secondary roads that together covered almost 200,000 miles (321,900 km). Built to last for a century, these roads shared the characteristics of a straight path, gradual gradients, curved surfaces for water run-off, curbs, and gutters. Often 6 feet (1.8 m) thick, the primary roads consisted of a series of rock, stone, and gravel layers covered with paving stones.

Today, asphalt covers more than 94 percent of the paved roads in the United States; it’s the popular choice for driveways, parking lots, airport runways, racetracks, tennis courts, and other applications where a smooth, durable driving surface is required.

Interlocking concrete pavement (ICP) or permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) consists of manufactured concrete units that reduce stormwater runoff volume, rate, and pollutants. Placed in segmental paving much like the Roman’s did, today’s version is made of precast, high-strength concrete paving units. They are designed with small openings that create permeable joints. The openings typically comprise 5% to 15% of the paver surface area and are filled with highly permeable, small-sized aggregates. The joints allow stormwater to enter a crushed stone aggregate bedding layer and base that supports the pavers while providing storage and runoff treatment.

The physical properties of pavers provide longer pavement life, reduced maintenance costs and extend the replacement cycle while conserving the use of raw materials. It can use local materials and recycled content that reduces energy requirements and carbon footprint. Segmental concrete pavements withstand freezing temperatures, snow plows and deicing materials.

For more information about this sustainable approach to roads and paved surfaces, visit Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute.

For more information about urban naturalization and how it relates to you, visit

Can your home be greener?

Solar power can be a great contribution to the heating requirements of a building. Depending on the local weather and the predominant need for a house or building to be heated or cooled, there are wide range passive techniques. The aim is to rehabilitate the buildings to be energy efficient and offer high standards of comfort. The buildings that attempt to cover their energy needs using appropriate and constructive arrangements average insolation are called "passive solar buildings".

Passive solar design takes advantage of a building’s site, climate, and materials to minimize energy use. A passive solar home collects heat as the sun shines through south-facing windows and retains it in materials that store heat, known as thermal mass.

According to PSU architecture professor Jeff Schnabel the price of a truly green home is not prohibitive for most Oregon families. “The payback period on the technologies employed is short. There might be an extra investment up front, but families would get that money back very quickly over the life of the house, in the form of heating and energy savings.” By spending 10 percent more during construction, the need for 80-90% of the heating energy can be eliminated compared to conventional structures.

You can apply passive solar design techniques most easily to new buildings. However, existing buildings can be adapted or "retrofitted" to passively collect and store solar heat. In some ways, every home is a passive solar home because it has windows. Before you add solar features to your new home design or existing house, remember that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing heating and cooling bills. The first step is to have a home energy audit to prioritize the most cost-effective energy efficiency improvements.

To learn more about passive solar design visit the Passive House Institute. For additional information and practical steps you can take to help naturalize your environment, visit

Welcome to Stumptown

In the city of Portland, and in the Northwestern United States, trees are very important. Not only are they beautiful, they are the reason why our air is so clean as well. Recently, with the hikes in population size in the Portland metropolitan area, new homes and apartments need to be built. Slowly, the trees that the Northwesterners have grown to love are being torn out in efforts to aid new construction and road renovations to support this boom in population. Nearly 2.35million people live in the Portland area with an increase in population of nearly 40,000 people in the last year according to an article from Oregon Metro.

As population continues to increase, the need for housing does as well. Roads are being expanded and city-wide traffic has increased 6% in the last year. In East Portland, residents have noticed trees disappearing at an alarming rate. These “tree huggers” are concerned that the need for rapid expansion is taking away from the natural beauty of the Northwest. Despite the vast majority of people in support of keeping our trees, the city ordinances regarding tree removal are very lacking. With these unclear rules, many contractors are able to tear out trees on public and private land with little to no consequence.

In an effort to aid citizens in being heard, the Urban Forestry Commission of Portland has began an initiative to redraft laws regarding tree removal and also to put into place replanting laws that force contractors to replant so many trees based on diameter of trees removed. Ideally, if the ordinance passes, this will limit further deforestation of Oregon as a whole and will lead the way for many other cities in the Northwestern United States.

Now for any of the “tree huggers” out there that want to have their voice heard on the issue of deforestation in Portland, please contact send written testimony to Mieke Keenan at by September 9, and cc: Commissioner Dan Saltzman at and Commissioner Amanda Fritz at

Don’t delay in your responses to our city’s leaders. You may be our only hope to stop Portland from becoming a stump town. 

Visit our Urban Naturalization Website

Hello readers! All of us here in the Portland State University Multimedia Capstone course have been working hard over the summer to create a website about Urban Naturalization. We hope you will take a chance to look at it and possibly integrate what you read into your lives.
Here is a list of contributions by class members:

Michael Alner
- Posted website content
- Designed website
- Worked many things technical

Selina Cleary
-Creative direction & design
-Color scheme
-Infographic creation (Benefits & Costs)

Michael Ferguson
-Tracked progress using Gantt chart
-Coordinated between groups
-Gave input on technical decisions
Erin Looney
-Wrote benefits and costs section
-Edited content for site
-Worked with creative team

Jonathan Marcos
- Collected/researched raw data
- Wrote and edited content for website
- Took photos used on website

Emily Pitkin
- Wrote content for "Urban Naturalization" page
- Researched/collected raw data
- Coordinated between groups

Paul Rosales
-Creative direction
-Logo design
-Website layout

Garrett Williams
-Website & blog testing
-Analytical analysis
-General layout assitance

Sustainability in Business

Businesses nowadays find many opportunities to grow and change their processes to meet the needs of their customers. Recently, with the boom in conservation efforts throughout the US, businesses are looking for ways in which they can become more sustainable but also save time and money in the process. GoGreen Portland is a conference that is being held to achieve this very goal.

This year, their conference will be taking place on October 6th with a focus on collaboration between businesses both large and small in an effort to preserve our planet. This year they are featuring Kate Brown, the governor of Oregon, as one of their keynote speakers.

The goal of the GoGreen conference is to enable businesses through keynote speeches, workshops, open collaboration, and lab times to be able to grow their interconnectedness with one another. This creates an outward motivation for companies to change when companies such as Nike or Columbia are on the list of attendees.

If you or someone you know owns a business, please refer them to the GoGreen Portland conference. It will not only get them plugged in with some of the largest and most sustainable local companies, but they will also be contributing to saving our planet from waste and pollution.

Indoor Gardening

As a follow up to my post on how to contribute to Urban Naturalization if you live in an apartment or someplace with little yard, I wanted to make a post about indoor gardening.

I came across an interesting video of a woman turning one of her NYC apartment walls into a living wall. There are many such interesting videos on Youtube if you search "indoor gardening". The same benefits that plants and trees provide to the outdoor environment can be experienced indoors as well. Visit our website to find out more!

These plants are grown as aquaponics, using not dirt. Instead the plants get their nutrients from  enriched water. Interestingly, aquaponics can be used to grow food as well, even indoors! A company called WindowFarms has evolved over the past few years from a group of innovators looking to creatively use indoor space to grow food. They have created a simple system that people can set up and use to grow their own food in front of their windows at home.

Ecology Benefiting Economy

Trees have various benefits on air quality within the city.  They differ on oxygen output based on their size, maturity, evaporation rate, and leaf surface characteristics.  Urban parks have the ability to cool adjacent neighborhoods and buildings through their implementation. Parks can be vital to emergencies such as heat waves and droughts within the city.

A recent case study in Chicago illustrates the values of parks within its urban areas. Analyzing over 250,000 of its local trees and studying over 58 of the trees species; they found that urban parks store over 52 tons of excess carbon. Local trees additionally remove over 64 tons of air pollutants each year. More information on Chicago's climate action plan can be located here

With the addition of parks, the city has also developed multiple mitigation strategies to improve power plant efficiency, build renewable electricity, and promote household renewable power. The Center for Neighborhood Technology is a great source for making a change in your city today! Improving ecology can simultaneously improve your economy while promoting healthy lifestyles for everyone in your city.

Design Ideas for Urban Naturalization

     When you think of Urban Naturalization, it can often be difficult to visualize how it can be done and implemented over the millions of square miles of city landscape that exists today. However, some people over at THLA and are doing just that and generating many ideas for how it could be done. The images below titled "Carolinian Way" show a detailed design for how a new natural space could be constructed over a back alley. 

Check out some more of their designs at and tell me if you think any of these other concepts would work in your city.

Earthships: A New Generation in Sustainable Living

     What is an Earthship and why should I care? A long answer made short -- they are 100% self sustainable homes that generate power, food, water, can heat and cool for free and are made entirely of recycled materials.  I know I said short, but these incredible homes do a lot for their inhabitants and can help people survive in some of the most treacherous conditions on the planet. From sub-zero arctics to blistering deserts. See for yourself in these two videos below:

Earthships 101 part 1

Earthships 101 part 2

     These homes offer solutions to dwindling water and power, garbage and the high cost of living. While they may not be entirely practical to for an already established urban environment, it really makes you wonder what can be done in our current homes to emulate some of the technologies these Earthships employ. 

     For more information, check out their other videos on their youtube channel and their website.

Earthship Biotecture Youtube Channel

How to Start Your First Garden

   When it comes to helping the environment out, one thing that anyone can do is learn how to become a little more self sustainable. You don't have to drop thousands of dollars in order to remove yourself entirely from the grid; even something as simple as supplementing food from a personal or community garden can help lessen the strain our economy puts on our country to feed 225 million people.
     The people over at the "Food is Free Project" have taken an initiative to try and educate people towards this cause. By following some of their guides and videos you could be up and running with an eco friendly garden in no time.

Food is Free Presents: How to build a Wicking  Bed Garden
     This simple design makes it nearly impossible to over water your garden and destroy plant life, and is relatively inexpensive as the majority of the components can be constructed from salvaged materials.

     You should definitely head over to their site and learn more about their mission to teach people about self sustainability by growing food independently the easy way. As I mentioned before, this is a really easy way to get involved with naturalization, leading a healthy life and contributing to a healthy world.

Invasive is Not the Solution

Restoring environments to their natural habitats has been a growing concern over the last few decades.  Thousands of cities across the country have been embarking on a mission of urban naturalization.  For those of you who do not know, urban naturalization is an ecologically based approach to landscape management that seeks to restore environmental integrity to urban landscapes through the use of plant species native to the region.  
Over the years, residents of Southern California have been taking natural plant life out of their residential and urban areas and planting more eye-appealing (ornamental) plant life.  However, what they are not realizing when doing so is just how harmful this is to the ecosystem.  One way to prevent this problem is by being aware of and removing invasive plants.
Invasive plants are a distinct group of weeds that occur in habitats that are not their own. These plants are usually inadvertently introduced to a habitat and can either grow or die. Depending on the plants ability to adapt to an environment, invasive plants can thrive and destroy native plants, crops, and gardens. The most common way invasive plants spread are through people buying and planting ornamental plants. The problems isn’t the ornamental plant themselves, it is the chance that invasive plant seeds can be attached to them. The most important aspect of these invasive plants is their ability to adapt, survive and take over in a new environment.
According to the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources, invasive plants cause ecological disruption to natural ecosystems, and the severity of the impact varies considerably based upon the plant species and the area being invaded. California has the greatest number of natural plant species diversity of any state in the U.S. with over 5,000 species.  
There are many benefits to restoring plant life into their natural habitats.  Oregon has done a great job in starting the process with urban naturalization projects such as the park blocks in Downtown Portland.  It is time for our Californian neighbors to follow Oregon’s lead. For more information please go to and see what you can do to make a difference.

Nature in our daily lives

“What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?” E. M. Forster

Since immemorial time flora and fauna survive in biological corridors that  we have interrupted with increasing urbanization and the generation of urban green areas that do not relate to the local species. The forest outside the urban areas are the remaining pockets of these corridors, allowing room for local fauna and migratory animals.
We all enjoy having nature being part of our lives, however, the economic factor is the most common measurement criteria applied when choosing a new tree or plant for our back yard, along with the aesthetics or availability in local nurseries. The relevance of the species according to the region and the environment usually does not come to mind, and the results are known: roots that break sidewalks, clogged pipes, allergies, or just dissonance with the local ecosystem.

If you are curious about urban naturalization and how it relates to you, check out

Mass transit just got greener

Oregon’s largest transit agency, TriMet, has installed what it calls "eco-track" at the future home of the Portland-Milwaukie MAX line's Southwest Lincoln Street and Third Avenue station.  The vegetated trackway will provide a colourful carpet of low-growing plants along 200 feet of light rail line on either side of the Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave MAX Station platforms.

Although “green” or “grass” trackways exist in Europe, it’s a rare application in the U.S., according to TriMet. The vegetated trackway area is pervious to stormwater, thus reducing runoff. The eco-track is comprised of 1-inch thick mats with various sedum species, which are a hardy, low-maintenance vegetation commonly used on eco-roofs. 

The sedum planting will initially be irrigated with a drip watering system for establishment and then irrigated on an as-needed basis.

In addition to the eco-track installation, the light rail project has replaced trees and is incorporating sidewalk stormwater planters on SW Lincoln Street. The line is set to open Saturday, September 12, 2015.

Green Portland: How Have They Done It?

Portland, OR has been hailed as one of our nation's green leaders countless times, and the question on the minds of many of its not-so-green neighbors is: "How have they done it?"

Business Insider named 6 main environmental sustainability efforts in which Portland excels:

     -Air Quality
     -Water Quality
Air Quality:
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has implemented a plan to "meet the health-based benchmarks for all air toxins" and "operated three programs that achieve significant reductions of air toxins from vehicles: the Employee Commute Options Program (ECO), the Vehicle Inspection Program and the Oregon Low Emission Vehicles Program," (2). The Vehicle Inspection Program alone prevents the release of 170 tons of air toxins per day. It's all paying off, as Portland ranks as one of the top metropolitan areas for air quality in the country (3).

You can even view current air quality status and air quality forecasts here!

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has long withstanding philosophies when it comes to their Transportation Systems Plant (TSP): "cost-effective street, transit, freight, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements," in order to provide "transportation choices for residents, employees, visitors, and firms doing business in portland," with "a balanced transportation system to support neighborhood livability and economic development," (4). With those philosophies in place, 25% of Portlanders commute using alternative forms of transportation (5)!

Water Quality:
The Portland Water Bureau collects, monitors, and tests water samples in accordance with regulations (6). In addition, the DEQ Water Quality Program aims "to protect and improve Oregon's rivers, lakes, streams, and groundwater quality" in order to keep "waters safe for a multitude of beneficial uses such as drinking water, fish habitat, recreation and irrigation," (7). Moving beyond the city's obligatory quality standards and treatment systems, local government is providing incentives for residents to contribute to water quality efforts as well. These extras have names Portland as having one of the cleanest water supplies of any city in the United States (8).

In 2000 the City of Portland launched their Green Building and Development Program, which has transformed the practices of residential, business, and community buildings into that of sustainability (9). Residents are offered individual incentives to "go green," and energy usage in buildings is now targeted, tracked, and reported (10). As a result of all of the city's efforts, it now has the highest number of LEED certified buildings per capita in the U.S. (11).

Portland General Electric (PGE) offers a promise of 100% renewable energy sources if customers elect for Green Source. Signing up for Green Source guarantees that all electric energy used comes from all renewable sources-- wind, geothermal, and solar. This option is slightly more expensive (PGE expects it to be about $7 more per month per person). However, these costs can vary-- this writer has never paid  more than $20 per month total for electric, which includes the Green Source option. Green building programs, energy options, and energy awareness have made Portland the national leader in renewable energy (12).

When is comes down to it, recycling is a culture, and Portland has it. The City of Portland Planning and Sustainability offices have helped to create that culture, promoting education, offering resources and smart practices, setting goals, and boasting results (13). In 2008, 56.8% of waste created in Portland was recycled (14). By the end of 2015, Portland's goal is to raise the recycling rate up to 75% (15)!

How have they done it? Portland has made sustainability one of its top priorities, and through communication and marketing, they have created a culture where its practices are commonplace. 

ANY city can go green. Follow Portland's lead!

City's Ranking in Urban Naturalization

There are hundreds of cities in the United States and around the world and many of these cities are beginning to see the benefits of urban naturalization and city beautification. Many city officials are changing policies to help improve the lifestyle and the cityscape to become more beautiful, less wasteful, and have cleaner air. These changes, while important, sometimes take a while to complete, and some cities might not see the benefits right away of including green spaces in their cities. What I wanted to do, was figure out where some cities stack in the grand scheme of things and find out what is being done to improve lifestyles around the globe. I found a website that stacks and grades cities on the green improvements they have made in city living. Take a look here, and see what I am talking about. (Go Portland!) Portland, Oregon has one of the largest wooded area inside the city limits in the United States. I thought this was something very promising in Portland’s quest to be green.

There is a lot that can be changed in the urban landscape, and this is something you could become a part of. Cities can always use volunteers to improve landscapes and build mini-parks, gardens and other naturalized locations. This is a great time to share another website we completed this term. Click here to visit the website we’ve been working on all term and see other things you can do to become a part of a city’s future.