Biofuel is cool
Solar-power panels, brochures about organic gardening, and electric cars that make a Mini Cooper look spacious were all on display in the second annual Sustainable Ballard Fair. The event was the latest project of Sustainable Ballard, a 2-year-old all-volunteer nonprofit seeking to gradually move the Seattle neighborhood of roughly 45,000 off the grid of the global economy.
The group was born out of frustration at trying to mount opposition to the Iraq war, said Vic Opperman, one of the three founders. Sensing that they weren’t making a dent on the international front, and disheartened by the direction of federal policies, the Ballard residents opted instead to try to craft a blueprint for turning Ballard into a sustainable town. There, energy and other resources would be used at levels that can be maintained for generations.
“We’ve got to take care of ourselves,” said Opperman.
Opperman has taken it to heart. She moved from a 2,400-square-foot house to a bungalow a quarter that size. She switched her office from Capitol Hill to Ballard so she could walk to work, where she helps design eco-friendly homes. Her car is an aging, tan Mercedes diesel that she runs on fuel made from vegetable oil.
The work by the neighborhood group offers a model that could be imitated by other neighborhoods, said Diane Sugimura, director of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.
“I think this is great what they’re doing here,” said Sugimura, who was a featured speaker at the event.
While the Ballard blueprint is far from finished, yesterday’s gathering gave a glimpse into what it could look like.
The picture: small cars powered by soybeans or electricity, lots of solar panels, bicycles, earth tones and an abundance of organic gardens.
The ideas offered up to the steady stream of passers-by ranged from ways to reuse ink cartridges from computer printers to a $2,700 battery-powered mountain bike. A coalition of local groups advertised a new Web site, www.seattlegreenmap.net, that allows people to find everything from environmentally friendly coffee shops to sources of air pollution.
Richard Thompson, aka Solar Richard, offered one of the most eye-catching presentations. Sporting a white tunic, a brash red tie emblazoned with rays of sunshine, and rose-colored spectacles, the Tacoma solar-panel installer regaled visitors with the benefits of solar power.
Mike Petersen, captain of a fishing trawler, quizzed Thompson about what he would need to heat water for a house. Petersen said he was considering building a home in Eastern Washington and figured solar power could work well there, even if the installation costs are higher.
“I don’t mind spending a little extra upfront just for the planet,” he said.
That’s the kind of thing Opperman was hoping to hear. The options can be dizzying, she said. But she says people can start with something as simple as replacing a regular light bulb with an energy-saving compact-fluorescent bulb.
It was all a perfect example of the “Think Global, act local” policy. Ballard High School students demonstrated how to brew diesel from old cooking oil.
Best Paints, a Ballard company, showcased paint so clean you can practically drink it.
More on the organization and its mission can be found at www.sustainableballard.org