March for Science

march-for-science-dark-background

Tomorrow is the March for Science, coincident with Earth Day. I’ve been a fan of the “Every Day is Earth Day” mentality for a long time and so to recognize this particular Earth Day as unique, is a mindshift. It is unique. It is a day to focus on the direction we want to go.

To that end, I dialogued with multiple-award-winning eco-Interior Designer Tracey Stephens of Tracey Stephens Interior Design, Inc.: EcoSmart Kitchens & Baths about recent proposed cuts to the US federal government’s Energy Star program, operated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the direction in which we might choose to go as a result of such cuts. Tracey’s passion about the March for Science and the overlap of our interests in green design spurred us to a dialogue about those proposed cuts around the corner for the EPA.

These are our back-and-forth questions and answers.

tracey stephens - large pic
Vintage-style bath by Tracey Stephens

Maia: Tell me in a couple of sentences about your work.

Tracey: Using my 25 years of interior design experience, I help homeowners bring their vision to life by creating kitchens & bathrooms that reflect who they are and how they really live. From space planning to selecting cabinets, tile and other finishes, my goal is to turn the daunting task of renovation into a fun journey. And with my background in green design, my interiors make the planet happy, too.

Maia: What kinds of products do you specify?

Tracey: I specify both building materials such as non-toxic stone sealer, formaldehyde-free insulation, and LED lighting and finish materials such as cabinetry, appliances and tile. I find my clients are eager to choose healthy products that don’t harm the environment so my job is to stay informed and share with them what’s available. I refer my kitchen clients to appliance showrooms — the technology changes so frequently I rely on my network of experts to help them. People also really want to avoid adding to the landfills so I coordinate donations of items like old kitchen cabinets or bathroom sinks to places like Habitat For Humanity. If something is too worn or broken I use a construction debris recycling company that grinds up materials into either alternative wood fuel (lumber and paper) or road paving materials (toilets, tile, concrete).

Maia: How do you use ratings systems as a guide for making product recommendations to clients?

Tracey: Product information can be very technical and vetting very time consuming so I rely on ratings systems evaluations. I prefer 3rd party certification to guide my decisions on what to recommend for example Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that cabinetry lumber has been responsibly harvested and GreenGuard for indoor air quality. But I have not found FSC certified kitchen cabinets within my New Jersey 500 mile radius so I buy from companies who participate in the Environmental Stewardship Program of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (2nd party certification).

Maia: What do you think of the Energy Star rating system? How have you used it in the past?

Tracey: I’m a big fan of the Energy Star program.  It’s an easy way for the average person to compare products while shopping. In a nod to the program’s popularity and recognition, many websites now have a search function that allows the buyer to select only Energy Star products.

Since its launch in 1991 starting with rating light bulbs, the voluntary program has grown to include office equipment, heating/cooling, audio/visual equipment, windows and appliances and even certification of buildings. Since 1992, the EPA reports that the Energy Star program has helped families and businesses save an impressive $430 billion on utility bills, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.7 billion metric tons.

Maia: What options do you see available instead of using the Energy Star system?

Tracey: If there is no independent rating system then the average consumer will have only the information from a company rating its own product which I do not feel confident about. Trade associations will likely step up with more 2nd party certifications. Consumers and designers will still want to know about the environmental impact of the products they’re buying.

Maia: How do you feel about the proposed elimination of the Energy Star system?

Tracey: Protecting the environment used to be a bi-partisan issue with wide support. The EPA was created under Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970. While not surprising considering Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it is infuriating to hear Budget Director Mulvaney say “We’re not spending money on [climate change] anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.” The Trump proposal to slash the EPA budget by 31% and eliminate 56 of its programs is short sighted. As part of the Climate Protection Program, the Energy Star program is on the chopping block, along with the Green Power Partnership (encouraging the use of renewable energy).

Fortunately there are many manufacturers, states and countries who have committed to sustainability regardless of which US administration is in power. For example, California will not roll back fuel economy standards.

Maia: What recommendations do you have for other designers in light of this proposed change?

Tracey:

For designers who care about sustainability, and honestly that should be all people everywhere, it is time to become an environmental activist.

If the federal government is going to roll back protections and programs we need to push our state governments to step up. I’m very hopeful about the state of New Jersey right now. An exciting new broad-based coalition of labor, faith, social justice, community and environmental organizations has launched Jersey Renews to urge our NJ elected officials to act now in support of climate justice, clean energy and good green jobs. And the People’s Climate March on April 29 in DC is going to be massive! We have at least 6 buses going for the day from Montclair. Click here to sign up to join a bus ride to Washington this weekend.

Maia: What recommendations do you have for legislators in light of this proposed change?

Tracey: Legislators at the local, state and national level need to reject climate denial and big business profits at the expense of our health and safety. And we the constituents need to encourage our legislators to support the crucial work of protecting our nation’s climate, people and natural resources, and hold them accountable. So please sign this petition urging Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R- NJ11), chair of Budget Appropriations Committee, to maintain the EPA’s full funding!

Maia: What could be an upside to this proposed change, that others might not have seen yet, and that you have a unique perspective on to share with other design professionals? What is your big picture scenario?

Tracey:

Since so many of us feel under attack, we are galvanized and energized to act.

Maia: There’s one last thing I would add to your big picture thinking scenario, and it comes directly from your website. It’s quote from Sufi poet Rumi, and I think if we step out with this attitude blazing forth, we will find a path to a new system, or way of thinking of these systems:

Walk out like someone suddenly born into color. Do it now. -Rumi

Tracey can be reached in Montclair, NJ at:

Tracey Stephens Interior Design, Inc.
EcoSmart Kitchens & Baths
973-202-8130
www.traceystephens.com

Let us know if you attend a March for Science near you!

Postscript from Maia:

I am personally very moved by these marches, although I won’t be able to attend this Saturday. Instead, I created two resources to share.

One: a printable poster in support of the March for Science (spoiler: includes a poem by me): https://www.maiakumarigilman.com/downloads

Two: a resource base online, of many of the US government’s energy and climate-related PDF documents: https://www.maiakumarigilman.com/resources

climate resources

As my website says,

These PDF files are archived US federal government documents relevant to architects, engineers and planners with energy and climate-related interests in historic preservation, community planning and disaster mitigation.

This is not a complete list and we do not have any further information about the files. Consider these archived/cached internet files that you may download and use in your work. Click on an image and then “Go to link” to access, then save to download.

-Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.comauthor of The Erenwine Agenda: a novel

One more sleep…

THE ERENWINE RELEASE POSTER WITH REVIEWS (1)

 

The Erenwine Agenda will be available for you to read tomorrow!

For those who have asked:

  • It is available to pre-order now. Pre-ordering counts toward first-day sales figures.
  • It is available on Kindle. As part of the Kindle Unlimited program, I will be paid half a cent (yes) per page you read. So please read to the end and tell everyone to read it too!
  • You can read Kindle on pretty much any device these days including smartphones, laptops, etc. Just need to download the Kindle app.
  • This is the first edition. There will be a second edition in the fall, designed by the multi-talented Lori Dalvi, and it will be a print edition available through distributor Ingram.
  • Yes, this took a long time. Six years! It seems like it happened quickly to those who’ve joined the conversation recently, but – not really. It’s been a long and slow process that has had to do with:
  • researching;
  • writing;
  • editing;
  • connecting with the right people to help it launch;
  • me being personally ready to launch it, and;
  • the world being ready to receive it.

If you enjoy this book, please do put up a starred review on both Amazon and Goodreads. There is an alchemical mix between the algorithms of the two sites that only a few people understand!

Much love to all who follow,

Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.com

www.aseiarts.com

#altopassante

SeaChange_MaiaKumariGilman

I’ve been figuring out how to share music with you, because music is important to me. It was a core influence in the writing of The Erenwine Agenda, which is not a book about music. It’s a book about design-thinking. And compassion.

The music carries the reader through the arc of design-thinking.

The music carries the reader through a journey of compassion.

Sound, in outdoor places—the hum of an all terrain vehicle, the whistle of birdcall—the sound of voices, carries the story.

It’s all music.

A phrase popped into my head upon waking this morning, one of those dream-state ideas. I wrote it down and googled it. It captures the essence of what I’m getting at here, even though I cannot find an exactly-perfect translation.

altopassante

It’s something like:

flying high. Traveling fast. Tall travel; passing height. Tall passer; passing over, at a height.

And so, this phrase that came to me, will do by way of explanation. #altopassante

A couple of years ago I sat for coffee on Granville Island in Vancouver with a dear friend and we, David and I, discussed this very topic. David and I met as undergraduate students in a post-colonial literature class run by the English Department at the University of British Columbia and was taught by the very smart Aruna Srivastava. Neither David nor I was an English major: I was an Urban Geography student (before Architecture) and David studied Music.

Somewhere in years after that Commonwealth Lit class, those interests of literature, geography and music came together in my work.

This made coffee with David the perfect setup to stumble into a deeper awareness of my involvement with music in literature. David drew a further understanding out of my thought process and made the music make sense to me, at it relates to my own creative process of writing. And I’m thinking of him now as I write this post about waking up with “altopassante” on my mind, because even though he would say “you totally made up that word!” I know David gets the core concept of this flow between music and literature, because he taught it to me.

This is the music that takes characters to that “altopassante” place, that drives a story to a height and then drops, air-pressure-like, to indicate conflict; that rises again with that “altopassante” energy, to arrive us in a newer and clearer place.

This is the music of The Erenwine Agenda:

 

Jascha Heifetz, Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No 2 in D minor 

 Norah Jones, Come Away With Me

Anoushka Shankar, Rise

Psy, Gangnam Style (강남스타일) M/V

Rhos Male Voice Choir – Music From The Welsh Mines

Celia Cruz, Para Decirte Adios

Pat Benatar, Love Is A Battlefield

Bobby McFerrin, Don’t Worry Be Happy

Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Mozart’s Requiem 

Barbara Bonney, Schubert’s Ave Maria

Julia Fischer, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

 

Enjoy!

-Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.com

New Book Alert!

Social media post The Erenwine Agenda

I’m excited to announce that my novel, The Erenwine Agenda, is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

This is the short description:

An intern architectural designer takes on the natural gas industry.

This is the little-bit-longer description:

Amalia Erenwine—an environmental activist working in New York City as an architectural intern—takes on the natural gas industry in this new book by Maia Kumari Gilman. Amalia rails against the underwriting of her employer’s work by a natural gas company involved with fracking. She clashes with the gas company’s petroleum geologist, executive Mark Stone—and yet, a hurricane of personal and continental proportions triggers the two of them to open their minds to a new world view.

Have a look, buy, bookmark and share. This is ecofiction that wants to roll out well before Earth Day, so please help the book along with a good word online. And for those who are wondering: the book encompasses a spectrum of politics and possibility. There is room for everyone here. ❤

Thank you!

More information can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-book-release-erenwine-agenda-maia-kumari-gilman

I’m excited…did I say that already?!

-Maia 🙂