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Emi Day
Feb 4, 2012

ARCHIVE: Bike tour aims to spread truth about sustainable lifestyle

Feb 4, 2012 by Emi Day


Published January 26, 2007
A dozen students and community members braved the cold Saturday morning to meet in the EMU Amphitheater and participate in the Green Eugene Bike Tour, an event sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Living (CASL) and led by Jan Spencer of the Eugene Permaculture Guild.

Student-run CASL’s mission is to challenge the perception that a sustainable lifestyle is labor-intensive or time consuming. Spencer said the group aims to offer hands-on learning opportunities to teach ecologically and socially sustainable technologies and living practices in a residential setting.

Passing gaggles of hooting and hollering Duck football fans on their way to the game, Spencer led the group down E. 13th Ave. toward the new Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse. The tour paused for a moment in front of the new building. The site formerly served as a cannery that processed local vegetables and employed many community members.

“I’d prefer the cannery,” Spencer said.

The group stopped next at Skinner City Farm community garden to give an example of the opportunities available to Eugene residents who may not have gardening space to grow their own produce.

“This park is a product of people who had a vision and worked hard. It is an example of private initiative for public good,” Spencer said.

Continuing on the ride, Spencer welcomed the group to his home in the River Road area.

“This is my one-fourth acre of inspiration,” he said of his property.

Since moving to Eugene 13 years ago, Spencer has converted the property into a working model of sustainable building and living practices.

The original front yard contained a lawn and driveway leading to a carport. Spencer rented a cement saw and cut away most of the driveway except for a narrow strip, which he now uses as a walkway.

He objects to driveways because when cement covers soil it creates an impermeable surface, which increases run off into creeks and streams. Spencer said soil plays an important role in filtering water and moderating the speed and volume at which it drains to waterways.

Instead of disposing of the cement chunks, which fill city dumps, he used them for landscape features, creating a small pond with a waterfall.

He also replaced his lawn with a garden. Lawns require a lot of water, but serve no immediate purpose, he said. Gardens, however, produce food.

Spencer then converted the carport into extra living space, so he could rent out the rest of the house for extra income and to increase the residential density of the property.

The carport conversion paid for itself many years ago with the rent income he collected, Spencer said.

Next stop on the bike tour was the Dharmalaya Center, a normal-looking house that is insulated by straw. The sustainable building serves as a community center and permaculture demonstration site Ravi Logan said.

The bike tour also visited an eco-village, a community that lives sustainably, and a permaculture co-op, constructed using sustainable building methods.