Good Magazine Launches Contest to Help Rebuild Haiti

Here’s a chance for some people to help rebuild Haiti from afar. Good Magazine has launched a competition for idea on how to sustainably rebuild Haiti.

In the wake of the Port-au-Prince earthquake, Haitians have sustained an immense loss of life, with numbers still climbing, and the collapse of physical structures signifying the collapse of the governmental, social, economic, and infrastructural institutions those structures housed and represented. Many of those institutions and infrastructures were weak before the quake, as Haiti is among the world’s poorest nations, reliant on international aid and subject to severe economic disparity.

This earthquake was no typical disaster, and Haiti is no typical disaster-struck region. In many ways, Port-au-Prince and its institutions required rebuilding before the buildings collapsed. The relief effort of this particular disaster goes beyond air-dropping supplies and building emergency housing. Haiti also requires an emergency economic system (the banks and tax office have collapsed), an emergency medical system (hospitals have collapsed), an emergency justice system (courthouses and the federal prison have collapsed), emergency education (schools have collapsed), and an emergency government (the parliament and many ministry buildings have collapsed). People talk about emergency shelter. What about emergency institutions, only one of which is housing?

Participants in February’s Spontaneous Architecture competition are invited to take this question seriously, enacting a response onto the site included below. The site includes multiple institutions and social, economic, and governmental infrastructures as well as residential areas and open space parks currently being used as campsites for those in need of housing. Participants are asked to consider one or all of the institutions present and can operate on the entire site or a specific portion thereof. Responses can be strategic, organizational, institutional, and/or architectural.

Enter the competition here>

Old Jeans, New Insulation

Good news everybody! Your old pants could be worth more than you thought!

Students at University of Memphis have been collecting used denim for insulation in housing for Habitat for Humanity. So hang on to your old clothes so you can make somebody else’s house a little warmer.

Read more.

“It’s a project called ‘Cotton: From Blue to Green,’” explained Angie Dunlap, advisor for the student group. “The denim actually gets recycled into insulation that’s donated for housing for rebuilding communities.”

Many of those communities were hit by Hurricane Katrina, and many of the homes will be built by Habitat for Humanity, explained Brad Robb, vice president of communications for the Cotton Board.

“[The recycled cotton] is environmentally friendly,” said Robb, whose organization works with the program. “Not only is it just as good as regular insulation, you don’t have to use gloves. It’s not itchy, so that’s a plus.”

He said recycled cotton adds up to a lot of insulation.

“[It takes] roughly about 500 average size jeans for an average size house, around 1600 feet,” Robb explained.

101 Ways to Make the World Better

Here’s a nice list of 101 ways to improve your world, some of the ideas are really nice and simple while others are bit more extreme.

From the 30s:

31. Make breakfast in bed for someone you love.

32. Find something you’re good at and use it to help someone else.

33. Learn a new language, then volunteer as an interpreter.

34. Know someone who is sad and single? Find someone to hook them up with!

35. Bring coffee or baked goods to city workers who might appreciate it.

36. Help someone with a heavy load.

Green Cities Help Poor

city, green

Cities that go green not only help the environment, but they also help alleviate poverty. By investing in green programs they put money into an industry that is growing and needs labour. As a result, many environmentalists (myself included) are arguing for programs that go beyond hybrid cars and switching light bulbs to programs that promote systemic change. Building green cities is a change that can last more than a lifetime.

The Bronx group is at the forefront of a movement to put low-income and low-skilled workers in “green collar” jobs: manual work in fields that help the environment.

Cities trying to strengthen the local economy and go green see the solution in green-collar jobs. Jobs in the $341-billion-a-year green industry have the potential to move people out of poverty, says Trenton, N.J., Mayor Douglas Palmer.

Advocates of green-collar job programs say concerns about the environment have been focused on hybrid cars, polar bears and the melting ice cap. They want more attention on improving conditions in poor communities, which studies show bear the brunt of environmental hazards because they have more power plants, industrial warehouses and waste facilities.

“We want to use the green-collar movement to move people out of poverty,” says Majora Carter, head of Sustainable South Bronx. “Little green fairies do not come out of the sky and install solar panels. Someone has to do the work.”

Her group, which is funded through private grants, has helped almost 90% of its graduates find jobs working for the city parks department, local cemeteries and environmental groups, such as the Central Park Conservancy and the Bronx River Alliance.

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