the greenest good for all
Environmentally friendly gadgets and goods, a local
eco genius, and the truth about compact fluorescent lightbulbs
Written and Produced by MOLLY JANE QUINN
fine tines • Talk about clever recycling: the
reclaimed wood handles on Vivaterra’s Misprint
flatware ($149 for four place settings, $39 for
two servers) are wrapped in colorful misprinted
sheet metal from soup and juice cans.
The graphic labels make the settings
perfect for casual everyday meals.
Vivaterra also sells watering cans ($48), waste
baskets ($35), and magazine racks ($89), all
featuring the kicky Misprint metal. Shop online at
Vivaterra.com or call 800-233-6011.
history rewarded • When structural engineer John Ochsendorf walks about
centuries-old ruins or Gothic cathedrals, he sees more than the building
techniques of the ancients. He sees the way of the future.
“I look at these structures with deep humility,” he says, “with the notion that
the people who built things before us, were at least as smart as we are, and
probably a whole lot smarter.”
Ochsendorf’s passion to apply the lessons of history, archaeology, and
engineering to contemporary building earned the 34-year-old associate professor
at Massachusetts Institute of Technology a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant
this year. Unlike awards that recognize decades of achievement, the five-year
fellowships sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation are
awarded to those at pivotal points in their careers.
“We’re finding ways to use low-tech materials, such as earth and masonry
units — which are essentially dirt — and then make very high-tech, sophisticated
structures using new structural modeling we’re developing at MIT,” he says. “And
this could start a quiet revolution in how we build for the future.”
Necessity forced ancient builders to find local sources of materials, and plan
carefully for both the maintenance and ultimate disposal of a structure when its
life was complete. This same ethic has contemporary implications. “How we
consume our natural resources,” says Ochsendorf, “and our need to move
toward a sustainably built environment are lessons so clear from these engineers
and builders of history.”
One of Ochsendorf’s favorite examples of back-to-the-future engineering is in
the Boston Public Library’s vaulted ceiling. In 1889, Rafael Guastavino, a Spanish
immigrant, used locally made brick to build a long-lasting, load-bearing system
using a technique that, at the time, was at least 600 years old.
Will Boston’s skyline some evening light up with a new generation of straw
bale high-rises, powered by solar collectors?