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the suburbs

The standard North American home (pictured above) is horrible inefficient and quite bad for the environment. As the climate crisis conies to worsen we need to change the way we provide shelter for people: and that’s exactly what Phoenix, Arizona did. Arizona is experience such extreme heat that everyday objects are melting and car tires explode, sometimes the airport can’t function either. This led the City of Phoenix to launch a competition for making the most affordable and environmentally friendly home.

The winning home building plan is available for free online from the city, meaning you can download a home.

The winner of the contest, Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects, went even lower. The studio’s affordable, three-bedroom home, dubbed HOME nz, has an impressive HERS rating of zero. A $100,000 prize went to Imirzian’s firm, and the design is now available for widespread use; the City of Phoenix has made the construction plans for HOME nz available for free to encourage the public to build more eco-friendly homes. “The city of Phoenix has a very visionary sustainability director and department who are looking for leadership for built work in the Phoenix area,” says Imirzian. “[The] goal was to show how simple moves could result in significant [environmental] changes.”

Since Phoenix’s dry, sun-bleached environment involves extreme heat, the design incorporates high-performance glass, which reduces heat transmission from outside, and retractable fabric screens for greater shade and passive cooling without the help of an AC unit. But HOME nz is a useful and applicable model no matter the climate. “If the volume performs well in terms of the separation of the interior and exterior then no matter where you build your house, it will be managed optimally by what you’re surrounding the house with,” notes Imirzian. “It would do just as well in a very cold climate or [a place] where you need conditioning or heating.”

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It’s Time the Gig Economy Paid

Foodora work

Foodora workers are looking for justice for the way they have been ripped off and poorly treated by Foodora. Foodora is like any other gig economy company insofar that it takes an existing business model but places the operating costs onto independent contractors. Due to legal loopholes Foodora workers are easier to exploit and get less protection than workers labelled as employees – and this issue isn’t unique to Foodora. Most gig economy “jobs” are questionable.

In the USA, Trump’s anti-labour government has failed to protect workers so individual states are starting to act. California is looking at legislation to protect people who work in the gig economy.

Last Wednesday, the California assembly passed legislation codifying an important California supreme court decision: in order for companies to treat workers as independent contractors, the workers must be free from company control, doing work that’s not central to the company’s business, and have an independent business in that trade.

Whatever national rule eventually emerges for defining gig workers, they’ll need a different system of social insurance than was the case when steady full-time employment was the norm.

For example, they need income insurance rather than unemployment insurance. One model: If someone’s monthly income dips below their average monthly income from all jobs over the preceding five years, they automatically receive half the difference for up to a year.

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Work Less to Save the Planet

economic chart

You already know you’re working too many hours, so let’s change that and save the planet in the process. Economic growth has physical limits and we’re hitting those already as we run out of finite resources, or those resources are getting harder and harder to reach like oil. So to maintain growth we need to switch to a renewable energy based economy and fast. We can also just work less and focus on decreasing the growth of consumer capitalism.

This is where the idea of degrowth comes in. Degrowing our economy focuses on getting rid of things awe don’t need and are incredibly destructive to the environment (like fast fashion) and focusing our attention to bettering society as a whole (like free daycare). Another way to degrowth the economy is to reduce our working weeks to produce more jobs and give everybody more leisure. Aren’t we all working for the weekend anyway?

To get emissions to zero, it will involve a kind of “degrowth,” but one targeted specifically at fossil-fuel consumption. “That doesn’t mean we have to degrow everything,” Pollin said. “We really need to degrow the fossil fuel industry to zero, but massively expand the clean energy systems, the investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.” This is essentially the Green New Deal: a push to increase renewable energy while eliminating fossil fuels, and including an effort to create a just transition for the people who have jobs in that sector.

To Pollin, even this would be a radical improvement. A plan to get to zero carbon emissions in 30 years would mean shutting down one of the world’s most powerful industries. He thinks that that is ambitious enough without trying to implement other broad societal changes.

“If we take the climate science seriously, we only have a few decades to make huge progress,” Pollin said. “And whether I like it or not, we’re not going to overthrow capitalism in that time.”

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Cap Executive Pay for a More Productive Company

happy workers in a factory

John Driscoll is the CEO of a health care company and he sees value in paying people what they’re worth. A few years ago he turned around a company from a downward trajectory to a profitable and growing concern by raising the wages of the average worker and freezing the salaries of executives. In an age when inequality is growing due partially to increased executive compensation this story might sound out of place. Really, this story should be heard and shared everywhere because it shows that if you pay people fairly for doing their job then the whole company benefits. Just paying those at the top a lot of money while paying the minim for others does not equal success.

What that meant for our company was that if we just froze the wages of our most senior team – less than 20 executives – we could radically increase the wages and improve the lives of nearly 500 of our teammates.


Raising wages in the midst of a business turnaround was not easy. We needed our executive team to buy into a vision of business success where every employee had a fair shot at success. It worked.

Our business has tripled over the past five years. Our minimum wage is now approaching $16.50 per hour and last year we broadened profit sharing to all levels of the company.

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A High Minimum Wage is Good for Everybody

happy workers in a factory

Raising the minimum wage helps you no matter how much you earn. The next time the debate about whether or not your region of the world should raise wages you ought to argue for rating wages. The only downside of getting paid more is that…well, nothing really. Don’t believe the lies that raising minimum wage increases leads to job losses because there’s no evidence that that is the case.

Economist Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who is perhaps the leading expert on the economic impact of the minimum wage, and his co-authors Doruk Cengiz (also at UMass), Attila Lindner of University College London, and Ben Zipperer of the Economic Policy Institute conducted the study. They used detailed data and advanced statistical methods to parse the effects of minimum-wage increases on low-skilled workers—including those making at or around the minimum wage—as well as on high-skilled workers and the economy as a whole.

The study finds that minimum-wage increases occurring over more than three-and-a-half decades resulted in higher wages for low-skilled workers, with no reduction in low-wage employment five years out. This was true overall, and separately for younger workers, less educated workers, and minorities. Low-wage workers saw a wage gain of 7 percent after an increase in the minimum wage.

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