Good morning, Tim

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And good morning everyone! Please join me in welcoming my friend Tim Toben to BlueNC today. If you want an on-the-ground, behind-the-scenes view of environmental issues here in North Carolina, this is the place to be.

Tim should be online for an hour or so, starting around 8.


This picture is from Treehugger

It's a photo of Tim at the "biodiesel station" he's constructed on his land in Orange County.


Here's an earlier questions from Blue South.

I know someone who is fairly high in the EPA. I made sure that he saw the article in the indy about that mix used building. Its probably the best architectural idea I have ever seen.

My question is, what needs to be done to get projects like this started across the country, and the state? Will it require much of a change in technology to get these buildings going? What does the upfront cost look like compared to other types of buildings, and what are the expected savings?

Good morning James

Thanks for inviting me today. You guys are doing
wonderful work on blueNC and getting lots of good
attention from our political leaders, so thanks!

I'll dive in on the question from Blue South.

Projects like Greenbridge are popping up around the
country. Because many of the building materials are
new, distribution is not broad or well established.
We need bills like the NC Green Act that Bev Perdue crafted with Sen. Tolson that stimulate investment by suppliers in NC. As the support industries move into the state,
and we see success stories in Green Building, more of it will show up in NC and elsewhere.

How Did You Make Your Biodiesel?

Is the technology hard to replicate on a small scale? (community/neighborhood size)

What kind of ingredients did you use and how do you keep a steady supply?


We've got a bunch of very passionate college students
from UNC-CH, who are trying to carve a different path for the future who drain grease traps from local restaurants
and bring barrels of it out to our farm each week.
We bought a small processor from a CA company that enables us to separate out glycerin from the fatty acid chain. We add methanol and in about 24 hours convert waste vegetable
grease into biodiesel that we use in my VW Jetta, our tractor, and the John Deere Gator.

Biodiesel feedstock

Restaurants used to pay folks to empty their grease bins. No more. Brown gold. NC Tea. We haven't been asked to pay for the waste grease, but some have. I've heard up to
15 cents a gallon for what used to end up in the landfill. Of course, the big guys are using virgin soy bean oil.

NC Tea

Now listen to a story 'bout a man named Tim! That's a good one.

The new economy that emerges around reuse, recycling, etc., will be robust. Al Gore was right (of course).

Another question from earlier

stimulated by our discussion of the "bee crisis."

Might it be practical to create a "set and forget" bee box that could be placed by the public and is not necessarily used for harvest; but is left alone in the hopes that it might self-propagate new colonies?


We're just getting into bee keeping on Pickards Mountian. My very rudimentary understanding is that bees do require some routine attention to keep mites and other nasties out of the hives. I'd have to pitch that one back to the experts though.

Greenbridge---will there be more?

I've been reading about your various adventures in greening, and I'm particularly interested in green building (I'm in real estate/mortgages over in the Triad area). The plans you have in place for the Greenbridge development look pretty awesome.

I know just from demographics it's at least marginally easier to pioneer these types of projects in places like Orange County. Do you have any environmental development compatriots in the Greensboro/Winston-Salem area?

Also, it seems like the folks at the forefront of the green building movement are more into multi-family housing (you guys, Greenfire in Durham). Are there any NC developers who are focusing on green single-family living?

Thanks, and keep up the great work---you are a true hero to me.

War is over if you want it.

Green Development

I know that Dennis Quaintance (sp?) a partner in Weaver and Quaintance in Greensboro has been bitten by the green bug.
His new hotel has a large solar thermal (hot water) system and I met some of his staff in a US Green Building Council Seminar, so he's serious and into LEED -- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Call him.

These times call for anyone who is interested in this stuff to assemble local groups who have pieces of expertise and patch together teams -- for advocacy, policy work, and to form development teams. You sound like someone who
is already connected to the industry, so you have assets that could be valuable to a green single family home development.

We are drawn to multi-family, because it meets the goals of dense urban infill and fulfills our goal of creating walkable cities that require fewer vehicle miles traveled.

Don't know Dennis

But I think that's the same group that's in the restaurant business. Glad to hear he's taking the lead in hotel design around here. I'd love to support him in other efforts as applicable to what I do.

Those are great reasons to be drawn to multi-family. Is multi-family also much lower, cost-wise, on the front end? It seems like most builders think about one thing---cost. Are the costs getting more in line with traditional building materials, or is it much higher still?

War is over if you want it.


Here's a typically uninformed Puppetshow article about wind power. As someone who has a wind "mill" on your property, do you have any comments?

Wind Power


Where to begin...

50% of US Electricity comes from burning coal. It's even higher in NC (60%). We're fighting against states whose coal plant plumes pass over our beautiful mountains and defoliate our Blue Ridge and foul our streams with mercury.

I do not advocate wind turbines on Grandfather
Mountain, but there are MANY farmers who might be able to save family farms by harvesting the wind crop above their fields. They can still plant corn and soybeans and wheat, while receiving serious cash for providing power to
the grid.

Wind turbines kill eight birds per turbine per year. Our houses kill more birds per year than that. This is a myth perpetuated by the fossil fuel guys. Of course, we site these farms away from bird migration paths and near transmission so that costs can be contained.

We MUST declare an end to the fossil fuel era and
a beginning to the renewable era. Wind power is growing by 30% per year worldwide. The US is being left in the dust. Fortunately, we have visionary leaders like Bev Perdue in NC and John Edwards nationally who get it and are pushing for state and federal mandates (Renewable Portfolio Standards) to ensure that we participate in the new energy economy and least a portion of energy supply comes from clean renewable resources.

The John Locke Puppetshow

is notorious for propagating whatever myths necessary to sustain their agenda. It's kind of sad to watch them become such bizarre parodies of themselves.


Any teachable moments being offered by your cadre`?

What can we do to convince you to make this a road show? More people need to hear your message.

Any hope of setting up something at JCC?


We're already doing some green building education
at our Greenbridge office in Chapel Hill (919)
968-7991. The broader stuff happens at Pickards Mountain, which you can contact at

A solar panel on every house.

What about a government/private industry/power company project to put solar power on every roof that is attached to the power meter. The direct to whatever it is called. Consumers win by having lower power costs, the power companies win by not having to build a new power station, the state wins by luring a panel producer into the state, and the environment wins.

One man with courage makes a majority.
- Andrew Jackson

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Walmart - an unlikely ally?

I've heard some noise about WM looking in to using its purchasing and distribution power to slash the costs of solar panels and try to make them cost effective for more people. Time will tell, right?

Solar Roofs

Love to see it! Precursors are legislative. Get involved with the wonderful slate of bills introduced in the
current session of the NC Legislature:

HB77 and SB3 are the Renewable and Efficiency Portfolio Standard Bills. These will create a mandate to the
Utilities that 10-20% of our power will come from renewables and energy efficiency measures by 2020. Write and call your representatives and senators and get them behind these bills.

Also, look at Janet Cowell's SB668 and HB 1075 which are also clean energy bills. HB1073 and 1074 are also strong environmentally smart energy measures. Get behind Pricey Harrison, Grier Martin, Ellie Kinnaird, Janet Cowell, and Verla Insko and the 5-10 others who are leading the charge on the new energy economy AND get involved in Bev Perdue's campaign for governor.

Bev is a great leader, who has studied and understands these issues in depth. She is a consensus builder, who can bring very diverse interests together and she gets things done. There is nothing superficial about this woman. She has fought for education, public health, and smart growth and she sees that all of these are called for in the new energy economy.

It is leadership from those folks that will get us solar rooftops, wind farms, and green buildings.

Thanks, Tim

Thanks for this info and for stopping in. I was just reading a bit about Bev Purdue's green credentials. Glad to hear more from you on this as well as the info on the bills.

My best to you, for your continued good work!

Climate Crisis

Thanks for being available Tim. Congrats on your paradigm-shifting work... on all fronts. Do you think climate change is really the most serious issue humankind has faced?

Climate Crisis

It is real. It dwarfs any future challenge. But,
if we all act now and elect visionary leaders who
understand the challenge, we can have a very bright
future. Imagine this -- we get to create an economy and society based on clean renewable resources. Locally grown food, homegrown energy, sustainable communities, recyled and recyclable products. The opportunities for creative entrepreneurs abound. And NC will lead in the Southeast. It's what will make us blue...and green.

Thanks James and thanks bluenc.

Good Morning, Tim

Just in from school carpool. Sorry I couldn't be here earlier. I have a bit of a selfish question.

My husband and I are about to break ground in 3 acres of deciduous forest (I know, it breaks my heart to take any trees down.) on what will be our primary residence. I would like to make it as green as possible, but financial resources are more limited than I would like. What would you prioritize? Would it be solar, rain water collection system, certain building materials?

I wish we didn't have to choose and unfortunately pointing to savings in the future doesn't pay for the house now.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

The main compromise

That's in my mind (I won't be building my dream green house for another 10 years) is commuting - It seems as if "three acres in the forest" is incompatible with, say, a bike commute to RTP. I keep the dream alive (spawned by a visit to the NC solar house at about age 10) with the hope that I can get an electric car :)

Tim, any thoughts on the apparent contradiction between ground-up green building and location-location-location?

Nope...there will be no "bike commute"

but hopefully a three mile commute to light rail lines from Mecklenburg County. Sometimes people need to think about the future and planning for it as much as we expect our government to. If I wait until light rail is extended from meck to lincoln to there won't be any land left, so we bought our land and once we're there, I'll get busy convincing Lincoln Co. they need to connect to Meck via rail (or other appropriate mass transit). Hey, it's the least I can do. My husband travels for work and I'm a stay at home mom. We are only a couple minutes from the girls' new middle and high schools and very close to several family farms that sell to the public. It's very rural and not bike or pedestrian friendly, but if we get started now we can maybe help make it that way as it grows.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Take a moment

to pat yourself on the back. You're actually doing something about this mess we've gotten ourselves into. Set a goal of cutting your carbon footprint in half each year. If you need help doing that, there's no shame in buying carbon
offsets through places like TerraPass or
NativeEnergy. Another option is to form a carbon coop. Look collectively at your coop's carbon footprint. Start with home lighting and then shop at the local farmer's market or sign up for a Community Sponsored Agriculture Project,
or CSA. Every food item you buy from a chain supermarket travels an average of 1500 miles, before it reaches your dinner table. In other words, your dinner plate may be wearing some hefty carbon shoes. Local farmers need your support and you reduce carbon by buying food that's grown within 15 miles of your home. There are many ways to lighten your load on the Earth. Many little steps and convrsation with friends will make a BIG difference. You are already way ahead of the pack, based on your questions. Just keep moving forward and sharing your stories.

That reminds me of some follow up I need to do ...

I started planting seeds of a Saturday Farmers Market in downtown Clayton. It's something they've talked about and tossed around a lot already ... certainly not my idea or a new idea. But they didn't know that Clayton residents are already actively seeking out CSAs (there are two drop sites for a nearby CSA in Clayton already) and help them see that there's a real market here for organic produce. Besides that, if the market is downtown and it brings in organic and sustainable producers in the surrounding area, our farming heritage will win, our less economically comfortable residents will benefit, our Saturday downtown traffic will increase and I don't think it will compete with the produce/plant/wood stand up the street. thanks for the reminder!! :)

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Didn't know that link, thanks.

I like this one, too. Found lots of good stuff around Johnston County.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."


I love visiting farms. When I was little I wanted to live on one. I wanted horses, cows, goats, etc. I'll settle for a nice garden when we move.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Green Home in the Woods

Start with energy efficiency measures FIRST. Spend your limited resources on insulation, wrapping pipes, building envelope, sealing crawl spaces, installing LED or compact flourescent lighting (NO incandescents). That other stuff is great, but icing on the cake. Reduce your demand on the grid and you're helping your pocketbook and the environment longterm.

Beautiful, thank you!

I am already shopping for light fixtures for the compact flourescent bulbs. I love lots of light and love these bulbs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I'll bet one thing....

would be to install the most energy efficient appliances. By the end of year 1 you would probably save the increased cost, given how expensive energy is becoming. Install all compact fluorescent light bulbs from day 1 and save 10%.

I don't have any idea about buildings, but efficiency would prbably be key.

One man with courage makes a majority.
- Andrew Jackson

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

You're speaking to my hubby's heart right now

He is having more fun looking at appliances and is willing to spend money to buy the most energy efficient. That and the windows.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.


Right on brother. Appliances are key, especially refrigerators. Ask your state representatives to support an Appliance Efficiency Standard like they have in CA. You can't buy an appliance in that state that is not Energy Star Certified.

Tim, Thank you so much for being here

I know you've probably had to go, but this is wonderful. Thank you.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Yes, thanks Tim!

A client called right in the middle of our session and I had to pay attention to his Good Friday demands. Grrrrrr.

But please accept my thanks for all your time and attention this morning. I'm sure the questions will keep piling up, so I hope you'll have the chance to stop by later.

Thanks too!

I got pulled off for a Meeting With The Boss, but it was nice.

oh and the pickards mountain link needed fixing:

pickard's mountain dot org.