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Globalization, sustainability, and cob benches at People's Co-op

The People's Co-op is one of the premiere examples of green-building in Portland. Despite the heat of summer, the store has been quite cool and comfortable thanks to a passive heat exchange system that works by circulating air through a pipe that goes 300 feet under ground. In the winter, rainwater will be collected in a reservoir and used for grey water purposes, such as in the toilets. The exterior siding and the porch's large pillars are of wood recycled from an old dock in Seattle. The cob walls offer insulation, and are decorated with delightful bas relief plants, trees, and sensuous, root-like curves.

But the beauty of the People's building is not found only in the simple elegance of its practicality; the process of creating it all has been an integral component of its appeal and success. Throughout the renovation and up to the present, people who visit the store have had the opportunity to observe, ask questions, and -- best of all -- participate themselves. For the past few days, people have been working on finishing the cob benches in front of the store. Working with earthy materials, patience, and a light touch, volunteers and staff have been putting a colorful smooth coating over the firm cob. The community and sustainability expressed in this project is only the latest illustration of the uniqueness that People's brings to the neighborhood and the city, a quality that could never be reproduced sincerely by a larger, corporate store such as the one that's threatening to move onto a site just a few blocks away.

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