Current Show

Sustainability Today

  • Totes Made of Feed Bags Help Home for Rescued Horses
    Written by
    Totes Made of Feed Bags Help Home for Rescued Horses

    Bright and colorful totes decorate the booth where two women who love horses stand at the ready to sell re-imagined and reformed livestock feed bags at a recent sustainability expo in Portland.

    The totes were born out of Suzi Cloutier's frustration from learning that her empty feed bags could no longer be recycled. One day she drove to a recycle station with a load of used bags that were turned away because feed makers had switched to a bag constructed of woven plastic that are not recyclable in her area.

    "Because we are a sustainable organization, that wasn't going to do," Cloutier said. "So I started hoarding them without an idea of what I was going to do."

    Cloutier runs Zeb's Wish Equine Sanctuary that cares for ailing, aging and disabled horses, donkeys and mules that might otherwise be put down. Based in Sandy Oregon, the home for horses was started at the turn of this century, 14 years ago, with the rescue of Zebediah, a blind and starving mule.

    Cloutier and Victoria Kress, a volunteer, attended the expo to sell the totes, which help fund the sanctuary, a place that Cloutier says has rescued 13 horses and mules from various nightmares of abuse, starvation, abandonment and slaughter.

    As the mountain of empty feed bags piled higher, Cloutier tried to think of what to do with them that would harmonize with the sanctuary's ethic of sustainability and care for the earth's resources. The perfect up-cycle solution came to light when her friend Zona took a single bag home and had soon fashioned a tote out of it.

    "She gave it back and said 'Now, go start raising money for the horses with these'," Cloutier recalled.

    With a little perseverance, Cloutier with her friends discovered a way to keep the recycle loop in motion. The way Cloutier sees it, the sanctuary recycles horses and the feed bags that allow them to live new and longer lives.

    The totes are sold online and at various recycle art events in Oregon and Vancouver, WA.  As their popularity spreads so do donations from other people not quite sure what to do with their own feed bags.

    "I'll come home and I'll have a mountain of feed bags laying there from some mystery person," chuckled Cloutier. "Cat food, dog food, chicken food, you name it, goats, sheep, cattle pigs, it all comes (packaged) in this stuff so we can upcycle all of it now."

    The totes cost about $13 each. More information about them, the horse in the photo below, and the equine sanctuary can be found at











    Written on Thursday, 24 April 2014 00:59 in In The Community Read 278 times
  • Free Expo Features Sustainable Living Ideas, Lectures and Products This Weekend
    Written by
    Free Expo Features Sustainable Living Ideas, Lectures and Products This Weekend

    The imagined future of sustainable living is one of the highlights featured at the Better Living Show that kicks off Saturday, March 29, for a free two-day event at the Portland Expo Center.

    About 175 vendors are expected to display their goods, which include a variety of products centered on sustainability, said Nikki Clifton, an event organizer.

    A display called The Home of the Future and sponsored by General Electric showcases energy efficient appliances and composting. Elsewhere, entertain alternative living spaces with a look at homes made by Pacific Domes, an Oregonian company, that was one of the first to commercialize its style of dome-shaped homes. The company plans to display three types of dome products that will include a green house, floating bed and a climbing gym that kids can try out, said company representative Benjamin Frederick.


    Children play on climbing gym by Pacific Domes 

    Children can participate in other ecofriendly activities that include games and prizes, Clifton said. One game involves making choices such as reduce, reuse and recycle. It is meant to inspire and raise consciousness about protecting and preserving our natural environment, she said.

    Both days will be filled with opportunities to learn more through guest speakers and more than 100 lectures held at three onsite classrooms.

    Other attractions include a Vegan Village and Eco-Fashion show and food, lots of food at an organic food truck roundup from at least 5 vendors, Clifton said.

    The event is held Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m at the Portland Expo Center, 2060 Marine Drive. Admission is Free.

    More information is available at

    Photos provided by Pacific Domes.


    Written on Thursday, 27 March 2014 01:06 in In The Community Read 254 times
  • Sustainable Today TV Explores Ecovillage Concepts and Photographs with Expert Karen Litfin-Part 2
    Written by
    Sustainable Today TV Explores Ecovillage Concepts and Photographs with Expert Karen Litfin-Part 2

    This month, we continue our discussion with Karen Litfin, a PhD professor at The Department of Political Sciences, University of Washington, about ecovillages. You can read our behind the scene blog of part 1 at

    Ecovillages are communities with the goal of becoming a socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable way of living. The term “eco-village” was first introduced in 1978 by Professor George Ramsey, from the Georgia Instate of Technology, in his speech about “Passive Energy Applications for the Built Environment” at the First World Energy Conference of the Association of Energy Engineers. In his speech, Professor Ramsey argued that “the great energy waste in the United States is not in its technology; it is in its lifestyle and concept of living.”  In 1995, the ecovillage movement started to become stronger at a conference called “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities,” held in Scotland.  Since 1995, many communities in the world have tried different approaches to eco-village building to achieve suitable development. For example, people in ecovillages try to integrate various ecological designs, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more to combat the degradation of our social, ecological, and spiritual environments.

    The principles on which ecovillages can rely vary depending on the setting.  Ecovillages can be built anywhere from urban to rural areas, from developed to developing countries. Karen provides 14 examples of ecovillages with different approaches in 5 continients.


     “We cannot live separately. You cannot extract yourself from the fact that we are not interdependable traded global species” Karen said.

     The show can also be viewed online at

    Written on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 03:34 in Behind The Scenes Read 392 times
  • Unravel. Recycling of Westerners' Unwanted Clothes in India Documented in Film at POW Fest
    Written by
    Unravel.  Recycling of Westerners' Unwanted Clothes in India Documented in Film at POW Fest

    Ever wonder what happens to those clothes even the second-hand store doesn’t want? A film showing tonight at  POW - aka Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival - spotlights a journey of garments through a recycling factory in India. See excerpt from the program below. Called Unravel and directed by Meghna Gupta, the documentary is in a 9:15 p.m. lineup with two other screenings tonight (March 7) at the Hollywood Theater. General Admission is $8.

    Unravel follows the Western world’s least wanted clothes, on a journey across Northern India, from sea to industrial interior. They get sent to Panipat, a sleepy town and the only place in the world that wants them, recycling them back into yarn. Reshma is a bright, inquisitive woman working in a textile recycling factory in small time India, who dreams of travelling the vast distances the clothes she handles have. While Reshma shows us how these garments get transformed, she and other women workers reflect on these clothes. Despite limited exposure to western culture, they construct a picture of how the West is, using both their imagination and the rumors that travel with the cast-off clothes.

     More information about POW fest, which runs through the weekend, can be found at



    Written on Friday, 07 March 2014 22:28 in In The Community Read 353 times
  • The Rebuilding Center
    Written by
    The Rebuilding Center

         Do you have ideas for creative home repairs and remodels, art, and construction projects? The Rebuilding Center is a fantastic place to start. The Rebuilding Center fosters sustainability by repurposing materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.  With a varied and always changing range of materials, some modern and some not, The Rebuilding Center fills the needs of a diverse range of creators. While you may have to do some searching, the center is well-organized. In the door department, you can find already sorted louvered, hollow core, pre-hung, one panel, two panel, screen, sliding, and half-lite doors (and more.) Cabinets, roofing and insulation, flooring, lumber, tile and shower heads, electrical equipment, flashlights, siding, sinks and toilets, lighting, fencing, appliances and much more can be found throughout the expansive facility, all at a cost of 50-90% below market or retail price. If you lack inspiration, both their website and small pods throughout the store provide ideas for creative reuse. Think you might have something to donate? The website also contains a list of items needed for their inventory and a limited free pick-up service for some larger loads and specialty products. Additionally, they provide ‘DeConstruction’ services, a sustainable approach to demolition, and ReFind Furniture, which offers green home accessories and furniture.  All proceeds go to Our United Villages,  “a vibrant resource working to strengthen the environmental, economic, and social fabric of local communities.” For more information, you can visit the store at 3625 N. Mississippi Ave. in Portland or online at



    Written on Sunday, 23 February 2014 22:56 in Sustainable Living Read 372 times
  • Sustainable Today TV Explores Ecovillage Concepts and Photographs with Expert Karen Litfin
    Written by
    Sustainable Today TV Explores Ecovillage Concepts and Photographs with Expert Karen Litfin

    Our February television episode of Sustainable Today features expert Karen Litfin who explores the early days of the ecovillage movement when communities came together to adopt lifestyles that embrace sustainability values.

    An associate professor of political science at the University of Washington where she teaches international environmental politics, Litfin is the author of Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community. Her recent speaking tour in Portland that included visits to the Kailash Ecovillage, the Ecotrust Building and a presentation at Portland State University is the subject of a Sustainable Today two-part series.

    After 15 years of teaching and writing books Litfin came to realize that top down solutions to address environmental concerns were not doing the job. She says she tired of making her students depressed and angry and felt she needed to give them “something more positive.”

    She describes how she set out to find people who were actually living interplanetary dependence and not just talking about it. She visited 14 ecovillages on 5 continents and discovered a global movement.

    Sustainable living can be found among people who live in both rural and urban communities and use both low and high tech approaches to adopting a lifestyle that keeps resources front and center. Trust is key to community success, says Litfin.

    “One of the things that happens in ecovillages is that they are very much able to shrink their ecological footprint, in part because there is a higher degree of trust and so therefor a higher degree of material sharing,” she said.

    Litfin says she found inspiration as well as problems among the ecovillages she visited and does not see herself as a cheerleader for them. She describes herself as a global environment policy person interested in finding ways to scale up lessons from ecovillages to larger scales.

    In the second part of the series slated to air next month, Litfin presents more photographs and stories from the many ecovillages that she visited. That episode will air on Saturday, March 8 at 8 p.m. on Comcast Channel 11.  The show can also be viewed online at

    More information about Litfin her book and book tour can be found at

    Written on Friday, 21 February 2014 02:58 in Behind The Scenes Read 338 times