Archive for August, 2009

Weekend events: Hip-hop in the Park, Tillamook Cheese Days and more (Aug. 27-30, 2009)

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

by The Oregonian

Thursday August 27, 2009, 5:52 AM

From thrills to food to exhibits, the Oregon State Fair has something for every member of the family.

School may be looming, but that doesn’t have to mean the end of summer fun. The Oregon State Fair opens in Salem this weekend (can you say “corn dog”?).

Or stop by Portland International Raceway to see some of the top drag racers compete in the National Hot Rod Association Open Series.

Friday (Aug. 28) would be a great day to use your zoo membership: It’s Tillamook Cheese Day, with cheese samples, mascot visits, cow art and games with prizes.

And moms can pick a designated driver and head to the Green Dragon Indie Beer Fest.

Have a blast!

Parenting

Baby Sign Language 101 Parent Workshop: 10:30 a.m.-noon Thu, Aug. 27. Andaluz Waterbirth Center, 3323 S.W. Naito Parkway; $35; www.tinytalkersportland.com or 503-754-8776

Library sampler

Get Ready to Read: 10:30 a.m. Thu, Aug. 27. Program for ages 2-6 promoting literacy and language skills through songs, movement and sign language. Parent participation required. Beaverton City Library, 12375 S.W. Fifth St., Beaverton; free; www.beavertonlibrary.org or 503-644-2197

Mother Goose on the Loose: 1-1:45 p.m. Thu, Aug. 27. Sing, play and re-enact Mother Goose nursery rhymes. St. Johns Library, 7510 N. Charleston Ave.; www.multcolib.org/events or 503-988-5397

“The Liar”: 6:30-8 p.m. Fri-Sun, Aug. 28-30. Masque Alfresco presents the slapstick comedy outdoors on the library lawn. Families, picnics and chairs welcome. Beaverton City Library, 12375 S.W. Fifth St., Beaverton; free; www.masquealfresco.com

Zany-alphanimalbet for Kids: 2-4 p.m. Sat, Aug. 29. Use animal figures to create a zany initial or monogram using markers, watercolors and gold paint. Albina Library, 3605 N.E. 15th Ave.; 503-988-5362

Family fun

Festa Italiana: 4-11 p.m. Thu, Aug. 27; noon-11 p.m. Fri, Aug. 28; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat, Aug. 29. The main part of the festival is the three-day gathering of entertainers, food vendors, wine and the grape-stomp competition. Children can see puppet shows and have their faces painted (Fri-Sat only). Pioneer Courthouse Square, 715 S.W. Morrison St.; www.festa-italiana.org

National Hot Rod Association Open Series: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri-Sun, Aug. 28-30. More than 350 of the region’s top drag racers meet in Portland for cash awards and trophies and open series points. Portland International Raceway, 1940 N. Victory Blvd.; $10 general, $5 ages 6-12, free for ages 6 and younger with a paying adult; www.portlandraceway.com or 503-823-7223

Tillamook Cheese Day: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Fri, Aug. 28. This year Tillamook Cheese celebrates 100 years and the zoo parties with cheese samples, mascot visits, cow art and games with prizes. Learn about the importance of farming to Oregon’s economy. Free with regular zoo admission. Oregon Zoo, 4001 S.W. Canyon Road; free with zoo admission ($6.75-$9.75); www.oregonzoo.org or 503-226-1561

Oregon State Fair: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily (until 11:30 p.m. Fri-Sat ); fair runs Aug. 28-Sept. 7. It’s the big one: the annual state fair in Salem. For 11 days, the fairgrounds are filled with livestock exhibitions, carnival rides, talent shows, barbecue, live music, rodeo and monster truck competitions and plenty of other family activities. Oregon State Fairgrounds, 2330 17th St. N.E., Salem; $5-$10 general (reduced price advance admission available); TicketsWest, 503-224-8499; www.oregonstatefair.org or 503-947-3247

Oregon International Air Show: Gates open 5 p.m., show starts 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28; gates open 9 a.m., show starts 10:30 a.m. Sat-Sun, Aug. 29-30. Enjoy air shows, stunt fliers, aerobatics and more. Hillsboro Airport, 3355 N.E. Cornell Road, Hillsboro; $13-$85, free general admission for ages 5 and younger; www.oregonairshow.com or 503-629-0706

Things that make you go ewww? Bug Fest at Tualatin Hills Nature Park will introduce you to the beauty of multilegged critters.

Bug Fest: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat, Aug. 29. Explore the world of insects with games, displays, crafts, live bugs and discovery stations. The I.D. stations can help you identify a bug brought from home (must be taken back home and not left at the park). Tualatin Hills Nature Park, 15655 S.W. Millikan Way, Beaverton; $2; www.thprd.org/parks/thnp.cfm or 503-629-6350

Proper Festival: Noon-4 p.m. Sat, Aug. 29. The annual festival features live music by E.D. Mondaine & Belief and Michael Allen Harrison, live art, multicultural entertainment, prizes, children’s games and more. Kenton Park, 8417 N. Brandon Ave.; free; www.properusa.org or info@properusa.org

Oregon City Open Air Antique Fair: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun, Aug. 30. The family-friendly event features more than 100 vendor booths selling antique and collectible items ranging from china to furniture to toys, antique appraisals, live music from the 1950s and 1960s, a food court and more. Tenth and Main streets, off Highway 99E, Oregon City; free; 503-656-1619

Salsa en la Calle: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun, Aug. 30. Features salsa bands, dancing, Latin American crafts, children’s activities and food. Eastbank Esplanade, Southeast Water Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard; $12 before 2 p.m., $15 after 2 p.m.; www.salsaenlacallepdx.com

Family Picnic: 1-4 p.m. Sun, Aug. 30. Beaverton Christian Church will hold its annual family picnic featuring summer activities and children’s games. Participants can bring their own picnic lunch or purchase a meal of a hot dog, chips, drink and ice cream for $3.50 for adults and $2.50 for children ages 12 and younger. Schiffler Park, 5600 S.W. Erickson Avenue, Beaverton; 503-646-2151

Hip-hop in the Park: 5-7 p.m. Sun, Aug. 30. Bring the family for live performances by Odd Thomas, Propaganda and Theory Hazit with special appearances by Da’rel Jr. and Ragen Fykes. Fernhill Park, Northeast 37th Avenue and Ainsworth Street; 971-219-7879

Moms’ night out

Green Dragon Indie Beer Fest: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat, Aug. 29. More than 30 independent Oregon-based breweries offer hard-to-find brews for tasting. Also a dog wash, pinball, shuffleboard and more. Event is held outside between Belmont and Yamhill on Ninth Avenue. The Green Dragon, 938 S.E. Ninth Ave.; $10; 503-517-0606

The Oregonian

WiMAX in North America Defying Global Trends

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

By Gerry Blackwell August 27, 2009

We’ve been on a virtual tour of WiMAX markets around the world. Now with this final installment in the series, we’re back home in North America. It may be the most interesting and singular WiMAX region of all.

Throughout the tour, one trend has been borne out repeatedly. In developed regions, such as the UK and Ireland, western Europe and parts of Asia-Pacific where wireline broadband and 3G wireless penetration is high, WiMAX ends up playing a niche role.

Established operators don’t need it, except to reach under-served regions. And the return on investment isn’t good enough for new entrants to risk building out national or urban networks to compete with established wireline and 3G players.

But in developing markets, such as Eastern Europe, Africa, parts of Asia-Pacific and most of the Latin America-Caribbean region, WiMAX shows signs of playing—and certainly has the potential to play—a much greater role.

In those countries, where 3G and wireline broadband are less well-established, or non-existent, WiMAX is being touted as a way to relatively inexpensively leap-frog the developed world in terms of communications capabilities, and provide new entrants an opportunity to build viable, competitive businesses.

North America, which for our purposes includes the U.S. and Canada—we treated Mexico as part of the Latin America-Caribbean region—would seem to fly in the face of this logic. It’s a developed region with highly evolved communications infrastructures, yet WiMAX appears poised to play a major role here.

According to 4GCounts, a WiMAX/LTE tracking service, North America already boasts more broadband wireless subscribers—just over a million—than any other region, with 34% of the global total. Quarter-over-quarter growth was slower than the global average, however, 4GCounts notes.

Gartner estimated the number of WiMAX connections—of which there could be more than one per subscriber—at about 870,000 in North America at the end of 2008. This was fewer than the more than one million in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Gartner.

Controlling interest

The North American WiMAX numbers are heavily skewed by the activity of one player: Clearwire Corp. It accounts for about half the subscribers.

Clearwire started by deploying pre-WiMAX gear to support mainly fixed wireless services, but is now in the early stages of building out an 802.16e-based mobile WiMAX network running over 2.5GHz spectrum.

The company claims that by the end of 2010, it will be up and running with mobile WiMAX service in 80 urban markets in the United States covering 120 million people.

“It’s interesting,” says analyst Caroline Gabriel, research director at UK-based Rethink Technology Research Ltd. “On the surface, yes, there are a few factors that suggest logically [North America] should be similar [to other developed regions]. But then there are some [factors] that make it very different.”

One is that 3G has not been established as long in North America as it has in western Europe, for example. Nor is coverage as dense. Part of this is simply that population isn’t as dense—more North Americans live outside heavily built-up areas.

Gabriel also notes that Wi-Fi, partly because of the relatively late arrival of 3G, has played a larger role in delivering broadband services to mobile workers in North America. That will tend to make the market more receptive to WiMAX, she believes.

While Clearwire is by no means the only WiMAX operator in North America—4GCounts says there are 22 active operators in the region—it has the most aggressive roll-out plan and it’s the only one targeting urban centers with mobile WiMAX service.

Clearwire is an anomaly partly because it owns enormous spectrum resources. The U.S. awarded larger parcels of 2.5GHz spectrum to successful bidders than have most other jurisdictions. Clearwire has as much as 100MHz in some markets. “Clearwire’s real competitive advantage is the amount of spectrum it holds,” Gabriel says.

It holds most of the 2.5GHz spectrum available, which is the band best suited to mobile WiMAX using 802.16e. There is little, if any, more to be allocated so it’s highly unlikely others will be able to copy Clearwire’s strategy. “No one else is going to get that much spectrum,” Gabriel says.

Other WiMAX players in the U.S., as a result, are pursuing much less ambitious niche strategies.

Open Range in Colorado, for example, along with other smaller local and regional operators, is mainly targeting under-served rural areas—a WiMAX strategy familiar from other developed regions in the world. Some of the markets it aims to serve are so remote that Open Range will sometimes use satellite links for backhaul.

Towerstream, based in Middletown, Rhode Island, is targeting major population centers—it’s already in nine, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco—but it uses WiMAX mainly as a last-mile solution to deliver fixed broadband services to businesses over 5GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum.

Seeing ‘Clearly’

Spectrum holdings are only part of the Clearwire story. The company is also well-backed, including by partner Sprint, the number three national player in the U.S. cellular market—and the only one to opt for WiMAX rather than LTE for 4G.

In partnership with Sprint, it launched the Xohm brand and service in Baltimore, Maryland last October. Xohm offers multi-megabit mobile service mainly for laptops and netbooks equipped with built-in, PC-card or USB-dongle modems. It works even in fast-moving vehicles.

(Clearwire and Sprint refer to this as 4G wireless, although WiMAX 16e does not in fact meet minimum performance objectives for 4G as set down by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations agency.)

Since then, Clearwire has added new strategic investors. The roster now includes Intel Capital, Comcast, Sprint, Google, Time Warner Cable (part owner, through its parent, of online bookseller Amazon) and Bright House Networks.

It also re-branded the mobile WiMAX offering as Clear 4G and launched three new markets, in Portland, Oregon, Atlanta and—as of last month—Las Vegas. (It’s the same technology as the Xohm operation in Baltimore and subscribers in any of the Clearwire “4G” markets can roam to the others.)

The company is currently available to about 7.5 million Americans, but that number should be up to 30 million by the end of 2009, including in new markets, such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Honolulu, Seattle, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin. In 2010, it plans to add New York, Boston, Houston, Washington, DC, and the San Francisco Bay area.

Clearwire won’t say exactly how many customers have signed up for Xohm/Clear 4G service. It reported 500,000 broadband wireless subscribers in total as of first quarter 2009, but “the vast majority” subscribe to its earlier pre-WiMAX services, says marketing director Todd Lewellen.

Lewellen adds, however, “We’re really pleased with progress so far on the customer take rate.”

Xohm and Clear 4G so far appeal mainly to consumers. (This is a region-wide trend: according to 4GCounts, 86% of North American WiMAX subscribers are residential.)  They use it at home, but also for commuting—including to watch streaming video while riding commuter trains, Lewellen says.

More and more businesses are now finding reasons to subscribe, though, he says. Construction companies can install a residential modem unit in a trailer at a building site, for example, and get broadband service on the entire site.

Commuter rail services are looking at using it to backhaul streamed video from Wi-Fi-based surveillance cameras on trains and to relay real-time train diagnostics back to a control center.

Clearwire is also offering VoIP services to residential customers, but Lewellen says there is no reason subscribers can’t use softphone-based VoIP services, such as Skype even while mobile.

Unlike WiMAX operators in some other regions—notably Yota in Russia—Clearwire has not yet introduced a dual-mode WiMAX/3G telephone handset that would allow subscribers to use VoIP services, such as Skype while fully mobile.

“We’re working on our own plans and our own technology and [handheld telephony] devices that we think will deliver the best possible subscriber experience,” Lewellen says.

He implies the company is waiting in part until it finds ways to seamlessly integrate 3G and WiMAX telephony.

“What happens, for example, when you’ve got a great call going over the WiMAX network and you drive out of coverage? How do you seamlessly switch to 3G. Those are the kinds of things we’re working on.”

One big question mark for Clearwire watchers is whether the company’s competitive head start in mobile broadband wireless can survive the anticipated 2012 arrival of LTE, chosen 4G technology of most North American cellular operators. LTE can theoretically deliver much better performance than WiMAX 802.16e.

LTE providers will also have the advantage of being able to offer telephony and mobile broadband data services over the same network on one bill, while Clearwire will only be able to provide a dual-mode 3G/WiMAX service through its partnership with Sprint.

However, Lewellen points out that LTE operators will also be offering dual-mode services—with 3G for voice nationwide and 4G for data and voice in major centers—for years after the first LTE build-outs. He also notes that the next version of WiMAX, 802.16m, which could come to market before or not long after LTE, will deliver functionality and performance similar to LTE.

Gabriel is “bullish” about Clearwire’s chances of surviving and thriving even after LTE arrives, although she admits other analysts see it differently. LTE providers won’t have as much network capacity as Clearwire, she points out. And Clearwire, with a well-established network by then, should be able to compete well on price.

“One reason we’re bullish is that despite the power of the big two [cellular operators, AT&T and Verizon], there is more competition in the region now. It’s a very sophisticated market and there is room for a variety of operators supporting different types of services and technology.”

Another reason: Clearwire’s adherence to principles of open access and Net neutrality. Unlike cellular operators, it allows any subscriber to attach to its network with any compatible device.

“The other carriers will have to adapt to that and it will be painful,” Gabriel says. “It will hit their margins.”

Neighbors to the north

The situation in Canada, meanwhile, conforms more to what might be expected in a developed economy. Inukshuk Wireless, a joint venture between incumbent telephone company Bell Canada and Rogers, a major TV cable and Internet access provider, looked initially as if it might play a role similar to Clearwire’s in the U.S.

But Inukshuk’s momentum has slowed and it now appears to be focusing on serving remote regions of the country. “We increasingly don’t hear much from them and they don’t have a lot to say about their progress,” Gabriel says. Inukshuk declined an interview request from Wi-Fi Planet.

Gabriel speculates that Bell, which has committed to LTE for 4G, may be unwilling to promote a WiMAX service in major centers for fear of giving the technology a toe hold in markets where it would compete with its own LTE-based service in the future.

The only other WiMAX operators in Canada are small local or regional players. Craig Wireless, an unusual west coast company with islands of coverage in Canada and Greece, is the only one with announced intentions of offering mobile WiMAX service.

Will North America continue to be the exception that proves the rule—a developed market that embraces WiMAX and sees it compete with more established players and technologies?

It depends almost entirely on the success of Clearwire. And given the company’s aggressive roll-out schedule, the next 18 months should tell the story.

Gerry Blackwell is a veteran technology journalist based in Canada. Read more of his WiMAX coverage here.

Frugality in Practice: Alternate Modes of Transportation

Monday, August 17th, 2009

I’ve always been a car guy. It’s not that I’m mechanically inclined or that I get into the latest makes and models — neither of these is anywhere close to the truth — but that a car has always been my primary mode of transportation.

When I was a boy, my family lived in rural Oregon, six miles from the nearest town. Automobiles were our only real option for getting around. Even when I went away to college, I relied on a car for most of my mobility. And so it’s been for forty years. As I say, I’ve always been a car guy.

This summer, though, I’ve had a sort of epiphany, one prompted by your comments and suggestions. I’ve learned that I can save money and improve my fitness by leaving my car at home — by exploring alternate modes of transportation.

The bus
After my small adventure riding the bus in April, I’ve begun to view it as a valid means for getting around town. I think it helps that our friends Chris and Jolie are huge bus advocates, and use it to travel to and from our house. If they can use the bus, so can I — right? Now, instead of seeing the bus as something other people use, I know it’s something that I can use as well.

For example, I’m hoping to take a French class at a local college when the fall term starts. (Kris and I are teaching ourselves French in preparation for our planned vacation to Paris next autumn.) If I do this, I intend to take the bus to school three mornings a week.

I still don’t use the bus often, but it’s now in my pool of options, especially if I don’t want to hassle with a car. Portland’s transit system has an awesome website, so it’s easy to find a route that works for me.

The bike
I love cycling, but I rarely hop on a bike anymore. For a couple of years during the late 1990s, I regularly rode my bike 5.8 miles to-and-from the box factory during the summer. I was biking over 1000 miles a year. I’ve biked occasionally here at our new house, but I’m older and fatter than I used to be, and my bike no longer really fits me.

I spent the better part of this summer avoiding a bike purchase — I just bought a car, for goodness sake — but two weeks ago, I finally realized that I was being foolish. I bought a city bike, one that actually fits, one that I actually use. Even though I could afford it, I felt apprehensive spending the money. (Still haven’t shaken all of the old mindsets.) But after a fortnight using my new vehicle, I’m pleased with the purchase.

A bicycle is handy not only for exercise, but also for handling middle-distance errands. If a destination is within 10-15 miles and it’s not raining (an important consideration here in Oregon), a bike is a viable option. Biking to my friend Andrew’s house takes about 25 minutes, for example; that’s only 10 minutes longer than it takes by car. And biking to the nearest grocery store barely takes any time at all.

Now that I have a bike that fits me — and one specifically designed for city cycling — I’m eager to make frequent use of it. It’s been over a decade since I had a 1000-mile year. It’d be great to ride that far again in 2010!

My feet
The bus and the bike are great, but the real revelation in alternate transportation this summer has come from my own two feet. I’ve been walking all over the place.

Kris and I don’t live in a very walkable neighborhood. Despite a “somewhat walkable” Walk Score of 68, there’s nothing much close by. (In calculating walkability for us, the Walk Score counts two minimarts as grocery stores and two bars as restaurants — including one with the dubious distinction of being named “the best dive bar in Portland”.)

After I developed another running injury in June, I decided that I’d have to get my exercise by walking. That meant jaunting five or six miles each day to get the same time on my feet that I’d spent running. It also meant learning to see the surrounding communities in new ways.

For example, I’ve always felt that the nearest city was too far to walk to. It’s 2-1/2 miles to the near side of town and three miles to the far side. But I recently made a deal with myself: Once per week, I allow myself to go to the comic book store and to eat at the cheap taco place — but only if I walk. Walking creates a barrier. By setting this requirement, I can’t just indulge myself on a whim.

It’s not just the comic book store and the taco stand, though. I walk three miles to the credit union. I walk a mile-and-a-half to the public library. I walk a mile to the grocery store. And once, I even walked two miles to the lawnmower repair shop, and then pushed my mower home.

I never thought I could make the time to walk five miles per day, but I was wrong.

And here’s something I’ve learned: Once you start walking five miles a day, your world gets bigger. I know this seems counter-intuitive — a car takes you further faster — but it’s true. You begin to realize that things are closer than you thought they were. Walking is a great way to save money, see your neighborhood, and have fun.

Other options
Although I may be new convert to alternate modes of transportation, many GRS readers have been working to reduce their car use for a long time, and for a variety of reasons. On Twitter last week, I asked people to share their stories:

Reliance on locally made biodiesel increases

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

By William McCall, Associated Press Writer
Monday, August 10, 2009

PORTLAND — Pulling up to the pump in a diesel car or rig? In Oregon from now on, a small portion of the fill-up will be soybean squeezings or recycled cooking grease.

Biodiesel production has reached a level in Oregon that triggered a mandate from the Legislature that requires a 2 percent blend with standard diesel fuel across the state.

The so-called “B2” blend requirement makes Oregon the third state — after Minnesota and neighboring Washington — to boost reliance on domestically produced biofuel, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

Massachusetts and Pennsylvania also have mandated a B2 standard, but that won’t go into effect until next year.

The Oregon mandate is part of the green energy policy that Gov. Ted Kulongoski and state lawmakers have promoted with hopes of expanding the biodiesel industry in Oregon while reducing carbon emissions.

But homegrown manufacturers still face competition from other biodiesel suppliers, especially Midwest soybean farmers sometimes favored by petroleum distributors who want consistent quality and cost savings from high-volume production.

“Our companies say they have four major concerns and the first three are quality, quality and quality — the other is price,” said Brian Doherty, an attorney and spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, an oil company trade group.

Oregon manufacturers of biodiesel, such as SeQuential Biofuels, say they meet the same quality standards as Midwest soybean growers but have less environmental impact because their fuel does not have to be hauled halfway across the country by rail.

“We have a lower carbon footprint,” said SeQuential co-founder and general manager Tyson Keever. “And the quality standards are the same for everybody.”

The Oregon company recycles cooking oil to create biodiesel. It started out with a capacity of about 1 million gallons a year but is ramping up to produce more than 5 million gallons.

“In the past three or four years, because of these mandates and state policy and incentives, we’ve encouraged over $300 to $400 million in development in the state of Oregon alone in biodiesel and ethanol production,” Keever said.

Supporters say biodiesel has several advantages as an alternative fuel because it is renewable, can be made locally from multiple sources, causes significantly less pollution and is roughly equivalent to the power output of standard diesel fuel.

“Pure biodiesel, or B100, contains only 8 percent less energy per gallon than the diesel motor fuel currently offered for sale in Oregon,” said Stephanie Page, the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s renewable energy specialist.

Page said about a half billion gallons of diesel are sold in Oregon each year, powering a wide variety of vehicles, from cars to heavy trucks and farm equipment.

Clark Cooney, assistant administrator with the department’s Measurement Standards Division, noted that many businesses and the city of Portland have been using a higher blend of biodiesel in their own vehicles on a voluntary basis, typically a 20 percent blend. Some Portland buses run on even higher blends.

Cooney said Portland has mandated a 5 percent blend for diesel sales since August 2007 “and I’m not aware of any problems being reported to us.”

Congress has approved blending 500 million gallons of biodiesel into the diesel supply nationally but implementation is awaiting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the impact.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act mandates that 36 billion gallons of biofuels a year must be blended into traditional fuels by 2022.

On Thursday, Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced legislation to simplify and extend the tax incentive for domestic biodiesel production and decrease reliance on foreign oil imports.

Cantwell said that oil prices that reached about $140 a barrel in 2008 had “devastating effects” on the economy while threatening both national security and the environment.

The shift to renewable energy has already attracted the interest of major oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., which announced in July it is investing $600 million in developing biofuel from algae, or pond scum.

In Oregon, the 2 percent biodiesel blend went into effect this week in nine counties with the rest to follow by October.

Nice day for a green wedding: Couple ties the knot in eco-friendly way

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Having grandparents that homesteaded on the Kenai Peninsula, Alex Jackson understands the importance of living a subsistence lifestyle better than most.

Jackson’s upbringing combined his occupation as a chef — where he sees food wasted on a daily basis — prompted him and his wife, Jen, to rid their lives of the inessentials, helping to preserve the world for future generations.

“This is how we live. We just believe in giving back,” Alex said. “It’s just important to us. We don’t even own a car.”

Both work as chefs at the same restaurant, Besaw’s, in Portland, Ore. They bike, walk or take public transportation all over the city. They only purchase seasonal foods from farmers markets and don’t even own a TV.

“We’re cutting down on things we don’t need,” Alex said.

Given the lifestyle Alex and Jen lead, it’s no surprise it played a major role in their wedding.

Described by Alex as a “sustainable, good-fashioned time,” the ceremony and reception, which took place Sunday, were 100 percent eco-friendly.

The fish served was caught locally by Alex’s father and uncle, all the vegetables were locally grown and only local and domestic beer and wine was available. No paper products of any kind were to be found at this wedding, including the napkins, which were linen.

For dessert, pies were baked using locally harvested fruit and every flower for the wedding was grown in Alex’s parents’ greenhouse.

As chefs, Jen and Alex prefer working with the freshest ingredients available. For them, freshest means locally grown.

Even Alex’s and Jen’s wedding attire supported local business. A Portland designer fashioned the clothes out of cloth made in the U.S.

“It feels good to support your community,” Jen said. Especially during the current economic situation, we need to support each other, she added.

The couple tied the knot on Alex’s grandparents’ homestead, located on Kenai riverfront property. The reception was held at the groom’s parents’ house on Salamatoff Drive in Soldotna, off Funny River Road.

When Alex and Jen shared their wedding plans with friends and family, they were overwhelmed by support. Some grew flowers, others donated time washing dishes, and even a friend of Alex’s parents — who he’d never met — supported the cause.

“People appreciate you working hard, sticking to your ideals,” Jen said.

Though at first, Jen thought an eco-friendly wedding would be a giant task to pull off, it ended up coming together pretty easily, she said.

“It’s more perfect than we could have anticipated or imagined,” Jen said.

Everyone should experience this type of wedding, she added.

Firmly rooted in their “green” lifestyle, Alex and Jen have every intention to continue to live this way forever.

“Once you start, you can’t go back,” Jen said.

Alex and Jen represent the fast-growing American population of environmentally concerned citizens. Alex said the repercussions of human behavior are finally being noticed, and a major reason for the increased interest in going green.

“The consequences of our actions are coming to a head,” he said.

Jen said the immediate result of taking care of the environment also attracts people to the lifestyle.

“One person can make a difference,” she said. “It feels good when you preserve something for the next generation.”

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.

Have your cake and eat it, too!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Have your cake and eat it, too-What does that mean? Simply put, we love to have the best of both worlds. We like things that are elaborate, and we like them to be simple and easy. The problem is that’s rarely the case. At ecoShuttle that’s exactly what we give you. We’ve always provided reliable transportation, and it doesn’t impact the environment the way traditional transportation does.

(more…)

Law pumps use of biodiesel

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Every gallon of diesel must include 2 percent of the alternative fuel

Download a PDF of this storyBy Beth Casper • Statesman Journal

August 7, 2009

A mandate that requires 2 percent biodiesel in every gallon of diesel in nine Northwest counties has local biodiesel companies gearing up to meet demand.

Salem-based SeQuential Pacific Biodiesel — the largest biodiesel producer in Oregon — has a 5 million gallon annual capacity. But the mandate creates such a demand for the yellow-grease-turned-fuel that plant managers want to create even more.

“We are already talking about expanding beyond 5 million gallons,” said Tyson Keever, the general manager for the plant. “It’s a night-and-day change from a month ago when we weren’t able to sell product.”

Now, biodiesel is “flying” out of tanks, Keever said.

Legislation passed this session helped trigger the 2 percent mandate, called “B2.” It requires the mandate to be implemented when Oregon has the capacity to produce 5 million gallons per year.

Oregon now has a capacity to produce between 8 million and 10 million gallons of biodiesel.

The Salem plant is not alone in its success related to the mandate.

Other producers, including Beaver Biodiesel in Corvallis, are gearing up for increased need for biodiesel.

“The B2 mandate is clearly going to help us,” said Daniel Shafer of Beaver Biodiesel, which will soon be running at a 1.2 million gallon annual capacity. “Today we have the ability to blend and distribute any blend of biodiesel. We have our own truck and blender. We buy diesel and blend it. We produce premium biodiesel fuel.”

So far, consumers have not seen diesel prices rise. At the DeHart Shell gas station on Mission Street SE, for example, diesel is $2.65 per gallon, the same as last week.

bcasper@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 589-6994

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