Link-asaurus #11: The case for BRT + Whole Foods ups transparency on produce, flowers


Where we’ve been on the web this week: as the weather gets colder, there is lots of great news on the green front to lighten our spirits.

John Greenfield writes a thoroughly researched piece on examples of successful BRT lanes, including ones that have banned left turns on major streets (a point of contention in the BRT debate.) He brings up some interesting differences between our bus system and that of other cities, including that riding the bus tends to be more a “last resort” option here in Chicago, and with long wait times, cold winters, slow pacing and overcrowded aisles, who could blame us? What we hope everyone can agree on is that improving the efficiency of the bus will make it a more desirable mode of transportation, such that people will take it because it actually makes sense, not just because they “have” to, saving money and energy in the process.

A Zagat interview with eclectic restauranteur Brendan Sodikoff, who is expanding his offerings to include a ramen barbbq joint and a juice bar this year. “I am totally fine opening restaurants that don’t make any sense to anybody,” says Sodikoff in the interview. “I don’t think they should all be like that, or otherwise you wouldn’t be around very long. Your brand needs to be sustainable, but you need to be on that edge.” Food for thought about what concepts will stand the test of time, staying dynamic and not staid, but without being too trendy as to become irrelevant. We believe good food and good design are at the heart of it.

Whole Foods is working to label all food items with GMOs by 2018, but in the interim, they are firing up the transparency levels on produce and flowers. The system, which will go live in September 2014, will be a more regulated and itemized way of assessing the environmental and ethical impact of a piece of fruit or a bunch of flowers. The item will be rated on ten factors that are determined to affect its overall sustainability. The factors will include pest management, farmworker welfare, pollinator protection, water conservation, soil health and five other invaluable criteria for better measuring the sustainability of a particular item’s production. One point we’d like to hear more about is the rather vague “energy” criteria. Will that include food miles and packaging (if any)? In any case its a wonderful step forward for consumers making educated choices and breaking down the “true cost” of an item. Check out our sustainability labeling concept from last summer that we hoped would become a reality in the future. Looks like it got here a lot faster than we expected!

CDOT will now have to include sustainable development in every new project. “Green infrastructure is not an option; it is an integral part of CDOT’s work and will be folded into every project,” states one of the principles in the new “Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines.” One of the most exciting and forward thinking elements of these guidelines is the Passive Irrigation Requirement, which necessitates that all built urban landscapes be designed to absorb runoff. This infrastructure purifies stormwater before it hits Lake Michigan, as well as help protect against flooding.

Don’t forget this Sunday is Daylight Savings time. Have a great weekend!