Carbon Negative, Zero Waste, (oxford comma) and Energy Independent

There’s a ton of versions of this vision that are pure pragmatism and way easier to achieve, but this page is reserved for one or more pie in the sky versions of what our little town could become. I challenge you to dream of what the Green New Deal would look like if applied intelligently to our hood: Carbon Negative and Energy Independent. As it turns out, the two are closely intertwined.

The big conversation this cycle is about this 60 acres that our little town has to work with just down the block from me. It’s a golf course now, and I think it could still be awesome for golf and also solve some of the worlds problems. The lease is up and it hasn’t been profitable, although it is used and loved by a small and passionate group of souls who need a seat at the table, more on this later.

Energy independence is more than it sounds like. It’s really more like thriving. It would mean we had enough (green) energy that we could power this town and that the resources exchanged for said power stay local and boost our economy, ending the ages old deadlock of “how are you going to pay for it”.

The water is the key, but there’s more to it. We have an INCREDIBLE juxtaposition of green energy sources here in our little town. We have solar, being in the rain shadow. We have vertical tidal on both sides of us in the strait and Port Townsend Bay (as well as nearby Discovery Bay). We have amazing wind, being on both the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the North South run of the Salish Sea. We have infinite wave action due to both wind and tides. We have infinite salt water. All of these resources can stack with one another to create resources and eliminate problems like carbon dioxide and garbage). For example, when you heat water (using passive solar) to make steam to turn a turbine you get salt, electricity and freshwater as well as you just cleaned the water.

All of those energy sources are effectively infinite, stacking to amazing potential. Paired with a progressive mindset amongst the people and the council, we stand poised to lead the world to microcosmic (aka local) energy independence. Purely economically, Imagine how much money we would save (and create) if we weren’t buying power from the Bonneville dam on the Columbia River, but rather selling it locally? The thought is simply staggering. And it gets better, the bi-product of some of several ways to create green energy is water. Fresh, beautiful water. And for you environment nuts (I say this with utmost solidarity and respect), we can do our part to clean up the Puget Sound as a bi-product of this endeavor, with impacts reaching (or rather not reaching) even the great pacific garbage patch in a sustainable way. Many of these things alone would seem so small as to be inconsequential… But what if we weren’t the only ones doing it and the world only need to see how to do it.

This is too long an essay with too many variables to write in a single sitting. So I have to settle for a small taste of many possibilities. So I’ll draw you a map, tell you a story, of one way this could look. Given an infinite number of possible variations this equation is solveable in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.

Hypothetical version of the Port Townsend Commons take 1:

We run two big (really big) pipes from there up two blocks (not so far in the real world) underneath Kearney street. Leave the lagoon alone, one of our missions is to protect it. On the saltwater side you have wave action, infinite. Use the wave action to pump the water to the Commons. You now have an infinite amount of salt water at the commons. Lets say it’s in a large pool that takes up 1/2 of one of the 18 holes of golf. 17 Holes still are being played on in this version.

Now you build upwards to the height of the poplars (because that’s how high the view was to keep the neighbors happy) and you leave the poplars to keep it pretty and because they are already doing a better job than we are at reversing climate change. This giant pool of potential energy is heated using (passive) solar (and whatever else you want to add) to create steam, the steam turns turbines that create electricity, the fresh water is caught up high (raising it’s potential energy again) and goes to pool number two. Pool number two is as big as possible and is, in theory, as big as you can dream it, in this example it’s the size of one half of a golf course hole and quite tall. You then can use the output of that tank to gather more electricity at the bottom for another source of energy. Built into all this is workforce housing, our most desperately needed and wanted asset. The housing is all covered in green edibles and solar which adds more to your electricity (which means money) pool. so at this point you’ve captured electricity at three different places and haven’t tapped wind (other than that it makes the waves) but you have a certain amount of power to work with. That amount can be multiplied by some 20 times just with basic math (by using the rest of the golf course), not counting stacking with other potential energy sources simply by using the rest of the space. You can also keep all or some of the golf course on top of it all in any number of versions of this. Personally I want to see adult mini golf (no not that kind), where you use your full driver set but the range in font of you has variable shapes and targets and trees etc… and you can change one hole to a million different variations. Yes there will be more on how awesome golf can still be, I just have limited time to spit out one example

Now if you add to the salt water pool and the pipes (lots of pipes now) this use of algae that has gotten some attention lately, you start to actually trap some carbon as well as stop burning it by producing your own energy. You may have seen pictures of a freeway lined with tubes full of green algae in the sun. What they are doing is using photosynthesis to turn CO2 (our most dangerous adversary at present) and turning it into O2 (Oxygen) and more algae. So if you can imagine a system in which every extra inch of space was used to a) move water, increasing it’s potential energy for free, whilst b) cleaning the water and trapping carbon (that eventually you get to eat after you compost it and grow Kale) the correct way we start to really get somewhere. So now we have a system that’s not super big that provides a small but usable amount of electricity and also outputs fresh water and cleans up the ocean. Also all of it is scalable.

So now you figure out how you can take your energy source and add more to it. Wind turbines are generally noisy but perhaps you’ve seen the ones that look like trees and are quite pleasant to look at and silent. We have space for that and can add it to the mix increasing our power pool as well as our wealth. Tidal is more complex, both vertical and certainly horizontal. But let’s not forget that we have the largest moving body of water for a hundred miles right here in Admiralty Inlet. The entire Puget Sound comes in and out here four(ish) times a day like clockwork and being a rare 100% predictable force of nature. That could be harnessed. Granted it would take some serious cooperation and most likely with the park (Fort Worden), the groundwork for which appears to be laid.

So just accept for the moment that there is some version of all these variables that would get us enough energy that we could decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. Even if it was just a little bit. Perhaps add that the people could learn to use less. All of us could. How far would we have to strive to close the gap to Energy Independence? How many tubes of algae would it take to claim Carbon Negative as a city? What if we just shot for Carbon Neutral? How would our town look if the crippling lack of funding were reversed, and all the money we spend on our water bill was staying right here at home and recirculating in town, vitalizing our small businesses and multiplying economic growth? We could send water back down the pipe to Chimacum and ease the burden on our farms (who we should really, really, really try really, really hard to support) by making it more accessible and less expensive.

But more importantly, we could walk the talk. We could lead the charge in reversing our collective direction on climate change and safeguard the reality that our children will have a world to live in. I challenge you to dream with me on this and actively apply the Green New Deal on a local level. It’s up to us, don’t wait for anyone at the top to do it. All I can see is potential, no-one can convince me that we don’t have the resources right here to solve global problems for our little corner of the world. And if we can do it so can others, and that is how you solve global warming.

As time allows I’ll write more and lay other possibilities of how we could rethink an re-imagine our local culture that rises to the challenges of our times. I have to get to taxation (not my strong suit), and several other ground level topics that people will want to see my stance on before I can really stretch out on this, but I’m looking forward to it.

Also please just remember that I’d be all about keeping it a golf course that simply added some housing to our community and shared the space with non-golfers. I dream big and work with the community, it’s up to the magic of emergent design and it’ll take having the right people involved to even touch any of this. I submit for your consideration that I can bring people to the table and facilitate a conversation that will allow us to go there once we have created a model that is sound.

The more I dream and the more I talk to people, the more the possibilities multiply. Add a Zero Waste concept and use the heat to help boil the water for more potential energy and trap the carbon while saving time, money and carbon on the dump trucks the landfill and the garbage. Same idea for industrial composting but do it all here and move it as little as possible. Capture the methane and burn it producing more heat and more pure water, and have an organic sorting so you can sell and use your organic compost for the edibile forest above. Handle all the recycling to modern standards and actually make the bones of the infrastructure using our own garbage. It’s the third millennium folks, lets use the tools we’ve got to solve the problems we’ve got.

The idea here is that we would create many versions of how it could look and all pass them around to one another and distill an ideal general plan. Then we would get all the qualified people in town to solidify and prove the concept and eventually we would begin making concrete steps after we figured out the nuts and bolts and money of it. But for now we can just gather ideas and build models and talk about different ways of doing stuff and what we want to see. I’m going to start keeping a list of specific qualities that the Commons would have to have in order to satisfy the entirety of our community. The list will be at or near the bottom of this page.

I also want to just keep adding facets and possibilities as they cross my path. For example this idea of Zero Waste, as championed by my financial advisor. I’m a huge recycling nut (see Wheelhouse, nearly two decades dedicated to training for the big cleanup in our ocean), and at the heart of this facility I would want to see some serious thought put into how we deal with our waste. It’s carbon negative from day one, and I believe we can use every scrap. Even the nasty stuff can be put into the concrete of the structure itself, and a smart, motivated workforce can do wonders with what society leaves behind. I envision the core of the commons being such a place, where literally everything can be taken for sorting. A free store, a thrift store, regular recycling,industrial compost, and probably an incinerator for the small amount of stuff that literally has no home. This circles back to the use of green algae for carbon trapping, a key point as my strategist vehemently champions. We must care for our atmosphere at every step. Such a device could allow us to achieve zero waste and even produce the material for concrete, so long as we had the infrastructure to trap the CO2, which we would as a part of the fresh water and energy generations system, simply by having the water containers and pipes also be algae farms.

The commons MUST be beautiful. They must be a tourist attraction. Another friend asks for a botanical garden, and yes of course is the answer. It would be covered in green and the vast majority would be a park. Maybe a park that you could also play golf in and take turns with the rest of the community.

I imagine a rec center that has the sort of gym that adds power to the power system, multiplying yet again our vast number of energy inputs in the quest for carbon negativity. Imagine how fun and motivating it would be to know that you were working out and literally saving the planet by trapping and saving carbon? And knowing that a carbon tax (and carbon credits) are inevitable, we could even create yet another income stream. How many income streams do we have now in this version? Water, Power, Salt, Concrete, Recycling, Thrift, Carbon Credits, Compost, Reusable Plastics, Metals, EcoTourism, the list goes on.

I want to segue here to the port. It’s within our city limits. It’s not easy to think about, but we eventually have to clean that up. The sooner we start the better. The mouth of it just happens to be right where the obvious access for saltwater to the commons is. It’s not such a stretch to think that that process could be begun now, even if only with baby steps. Just by pulling water from the mouth of the marina into a purification system we would already be doing the Orcas a favor. I’d be inclined to suggest that the cleanup of the port, as well as the golf course itself, should be a top priority. It really, really should be, and as long as we do it in a way that is economically sustainable, I think this town would get really jazzed about it. Especially if we were all getting in shape at a gym that made power and helped reverse global warming.

So the trick is to start small. Super small. Carbon negative and dollar positive. Start with small scale workforce housing just for the people doing the work, to offset their living expenses as well as the amount they would have to get paid, as they’d be getting shelter in kind. Get them water and power right off the bat and you’ve found a way to magically save money. Add food as soon as possible and all of this stacks and suddenly you have the majority of the things you need to start building something substantial.

I love that this page has become almost stream of consciousness. I’m just going to roll with it. Let’s talk about golf.

I love golf. I also think 60 acres for use solely by such a small percentage of the population is way out of balance. And I’m hyper aware of the need to clean it up, because I’ve never seen anyone pulling weeds over there and I know what it takes to stop the dandelions. It takes a lot of work or poison. I want to invite folks to think big on this. First off, keep the driving range and add mini-golf right off the bat, and also add pitch-and-putt. All of my golf as a kid was mini-golf and pitch-and-putt. We loved it. Do it up big and turn it into a cool place to go so that it stacks with the tourism and local interest angle. This can be the place where people go to have fun in this town. And with the rest of the 60 acre park, you could keep the top level a park and you make everything such that you can shut it down for part of the week and golf there. So there’s an outdoor amphitheater, but it’s just part of the 12th hole, and the rec center, well you just drive from the roof top, right over the top of the algae tanks and the sand trap is built into the sloped side of the thrift store, etc… There’s no limit to how interesting we could make this thing if the basics of sustainability (economic as well as environmental) are solved. The golf in the golf course becoming a tourist attraction, accessible to a wider range of the community and using less space would all fit into making this vision, however it turns out, completely awesome.

Now Id invite you to imagine what adult extreme mini golf (Maximum golf?) but hold the mini would look like. What if we had an indoor driving range that had a variable landscape, such that you could easily move a large number of items about in it creating the ability to have infinite variations (like 18 holes) but in the space of one. So you get the workout of your full set of drivers and it’s fun because you get to play off of various shapes and drive around various shapes and have to get through stuff and dodge sand traps and the whole works. I could see this being a tourist and income generator and a great place for the kids to work out their swing without requiring 60 full acres. Also note that this facility could accessible year round in all weather. I invite you to consider that this would actually be better for golf, golfers and the golf team from a fitness/skill/workout/precision/interest perspective.

An outdoor amphitheater would allow for events large and small and add to local interest as well as tourism. A lookout tower (that would naturally double with water and energy production) would be a great destination that you could walk or e-bus to from uptown or downtown. From it you could see all of Port Townsend bay clear down into Mystery bay and all the mountains including Tahoma on a clear day.

The concept of an Eco-Gym would be another stream of revenue and an attractor of interest that stacks with Eco-Tourism as well as many micro sources of energy and the whole theme of permaculture and sustainability. It’ s indoors, usable year round and offsets energy costs. They don’t produce enough power to make a huge difference, but they are a step in the right direction.

List of basic principles for the commons


Economic Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability

Carbon Negative

Zero Waste

Workforce Housing

Food Security

Energy Independence

Cleaning up the Big Messes