Shawn Klassen-Koop

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since Dec 16, 2014
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Shawn Klassen-Koop currently moderates these forums:
Shawn spent the most formative years of his life working at a summer camp where he quickly gained a passion for nature and for building a better world. Struggling to see how his future career in computer engineering was going to solve these big problems, he decided to leave it behind and dedicate himself to finding practical solutions that people can implement in their backyards. Shawn looks forward to starting his own homestead in southern Manitoba in the next few years, where he plans to implement many of the techniques laid out in his upcoming book and come up with a few more solutions along the way.
Manitoba, Canada
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Recent posts by Shawn Klassen-Koop

Chris Kott wrote:Looks good. I think it's an important conversation to have.

Is there somewhere on the site where you go over the "Virgin" part of VORP?


Thanks Chris. Good question. I'm thinking of making a separate thread about VORP some time in the next week. Maybe today. We'll see.
19 hours ago
Paul and I have been hard at work on our book. We have one little section of one chapter left to write. Just a little section, but one that seems super important so we're spending a lot of time trying to get it right.

One of the big problems that we tackle in the book is carbon footprint. We talk about solutions that we can implement at home and in our backyard that make a huge impact in this space. Solutions that could go so far as to entirely offset our carbon footprint. Or even put it in the minus.

Paul and I recently watched "Cowspiracy." In this movie they suggested that the #1 best thing you can do for the environment is to become a vegan. I think that the movie raised some very good points, but I also think that it drew the wrong conclusions from those points.

Before I go any further, I want to say explicitly that I am totally 100% okay with it if people choose to eat a vegan diet. No problem. That's going to be the best option for some people - for all sorts of reasons. On the other hand, I think that it is not going to be the best option for all people - for all sorts of reasons. So let's explore how a vegan can lower their carbon footprint and how an omnivore can lower their carbon footprint without becoming a vegan.

Maybe someone will someday throw millions of dollars at in-depth (somehow unbiased) research into this. Until then, please excuse me while I ramble away with some numbers, some of which might be a bit squishy.

The biggest claim made in the movie was that livestock and their byproducts cause at least 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. I have all sorts of things I wish to say about this, but instead I want to share a quote from this article which is written by Danny Chivers, a climate change researcher who is also a vegan:

There’s only one problem with this eye-grabbing stat: it’s a load of manure. Emissions from livestock agriculture – including the methane from animals’ digestive systems, deforestation, land use change and energy use – make up around 15 per cent of global emissions, not 51 per cent. I’ve been vegan for 14 years and have been asked to justify my dietary weirdness at more friend and family meals than I can count, so believe me – I’ve looked into it. If meat and dairy really were the biggest cause of global climate change I’d be trumpeting that statistic myself every chance I got.

There were a whole bunch of other numbers shared during the movie but it felt like the main thrust of the whole argument was this 51% figure. So it seems to me that it's a bit of a blow to their argument to say that their big point was drastically exaggerated by a factor of more than 3.

A big point that they were making in the movie is that everyone is focused on fossil fuels and reducing fossil fuels to reduce carbon footprint. And they were trying to point out that no one ever brings up animal agriculture, which they claimed was an even bigger factor. I think that we've already seen that there are some issues with the numbers, but I think it's good to remember as well that a lot of the emissions from conventional animal agriculture are also from fossil fuels used for feed production and transportation.

Still, even though I disagree with their numbers, I am thankful that they are trying to draw attention to the fact that our food has a footprint. Because that's not talked about nearly often enough. In this thread I talked about how, after many hours of debate, Paul and I agreed that if you consider all direct and indirect sources, food might make up 35% of all carbon emissions, which I think does put food at the #1 most important thing to work on - just not in the way that the movie suggests.

The average adult footprint in America is 30 tons. 35% of that is 10.5 tons. Given the significant proportion of people who follow the Standard American Diet (SAD), I think it is fair to say that the food footprint of the average person on the SAD is 10.5 tons per year.

Next, let’s look at the vegan diet, keeping in mind that a vegan diet can consist of diet cola and “cookies” just as much as the SAD. It just swaps out animal products for plant-based proteins. One of the more powerful things that some vegans like to point out (though surprisingly Cowspiracy did not), is that with conventional agriculture it takes roughly 10 calories of animal feed to produce 1 calorie of animal food. And that feed has roughly the same direct footprint as conventional agriculture-raised human food.

To massively oversimplify, let’s say that 30% of an omnivore’s diet comes from animal products. That way, if a vegan diet is 100 units of footprint, an omnivore diet is 70 + 10*30 = 370 units of footprint. The direct (and some of the indirect) footprints are almost 4 times greater! Unfortunately, a huge portion of food footprint comes from indirect sources, most of which are not significantly affected by whether or not the food is animal-based or plant-based. Looking at the figures and trying to be generous in the direction of the vegans, my rough estimate would be that switching from the SAD to a vegan diet could cut up to 15% off of the average overall footprint - nearly half of the average food footprint! So where the food footprint of the SAD is 10.5 tons per year, the food footprint of the vegan diet would be around 6 tons per year. That’s pretty significant!

Of course, we can do better than that…

Let’s look at “next step” for omnivores - pastured meat. I’m going to oversimplify by focusing on cows. Researching for this book, I read a section written by Eric Toensmeier in Steve Gabriel’s book “Silvopasture: A Guide to Managing Grazing Animals, Forage Crops, and Trees in a Temperate Farm Ecosystem.” In this section, Mr. Toensmeier shared that there is a lot of skepticism of some of the big claims of managed grazing and silvopasture. To illustrate the points he was making, he chose to use numbers that were 10 times smaller and closer to the “accepted” numbers with the hopes that maybe someday we’ll have enough evidence that it is indeed way better. I’m choosing to do the same here. Using data that Mr. Toensmeier shared from the IPCC in that section, I believe that by switching from grain fed to managed grazing, each person can sequester roughly 0.4 tons of CO2 per year. PLUS! We can also remove almost all of the direct and many of the indirect footprints of raising grain fed animals. Taking these things into consideration, and trying to be conservative, I think that an omnivore eating the SAD except with well managed pastured meat (still bought from a supermarket) would weigh in with a diet footprint of around 4.5 tons per year.

But wait, there’s more! This is permies. This is where we talk about permaculture and working in a symbiotic relationship with nature. It is true that today it’s hard to find permaculture food at the grocery store, but I dream that I may live to see such a day come. As we were working on the book we wanted a new word to label food that is “permaculture food”… but that means a lot of different things to different people. So we came up with “Virgin and strictly Organic and Rich soil and Polyculture/Permaculture” (VORP). And since we made the word up we get to define what it means!

VORP means:
- low processing, low packaging
- foods are grown in aged soil with a high organic matter level
- polyculture of at least 12 species
- harvested with minimal soil disturbance
- harvested by hand (no harvesting by machine)
- human to acre ratio is very high:  more like gardening than farming
- super localized inputs
- minimal irrigation
- seasonal foods
- minimized grafting
- super localized plant and animal varieties
- no cardboard or newspaper in horticultural endeavors
- no pesticides, even OMRI approved pesticides
- growing plants in a space that suits them as opposed to adding fertilizers and using pesticides to force an artificial environment
- pampered animals (bye bye CAFO)

Let’s talk about a world where VORP food is available at the grocery store. I imagine VORP food would come out of something that at least somewhat resembles silvopasture. Silvopasture sequesters at least 3 times the carbon as managed grazing alone, so rather than 0.4 tons of CO2 sequestered per person, we’d be looking at something closer to 1.2 tons. The net direct emissions would be -1.2 tons per person. Further, there would be many further reductions in the indirect emissions category. I think that a person buying VORP food at the grocery store would have a food footprint of around 2 tons per year.

Time to return to the vegans. A vegan diet bought from the store might be around 6 tons per year. If instead vegans would grow most of their own food in their backyard, even if they still use petroleum-based machinery and fertilizers and pesticides and such (all permitted under the vegan umbrella), they will have eliminated a huge portion of the indirect footprint of their diet. So much so that their food footprint could reasonably be less than half a ton per year!

But of course at permies we are trying to get away from all that petroleum-based machinery and fertilizers and pesticides and such. And it gets really cool when you look at the potential footprint of an omnivore’s VORP forest garden… -1 tons per person! Yes that’s right, net sequestration!

To summarize:

dietCO2 equivalent footprint (in tons)
SAD - purchased10.5
vegan - purchased6
SAD w pastured meat - purchased4.5
VORP omni - purchased2
vegan garden0.5
VORP omni forest garden-1


Rather than switching to a vegan diet to lower your carbon footprint, it would be far more impactful to grow your own food.
19 hours ago
Thanks to everyone who has helped so much already! The Badge Bits (BBs) are really starting to be filled out!

I thought I would make a list so that we can keep track of which badges still need one or more pages for BBs at the sand badge level. The aspects with links are all the ones that have been posted so far. The aspects with a line through them have all of the BB pages for their sand badge done.

If all of the BB pages for the sand badge of one of the aspects is filled, post in this thread and I'll update this list.

dimensional lumber woodworking
round wood woodworking
natural building
Food Prep and Preservation
Wildcrafting and guerrilla gardening  (xxx needs better title)
tool care
animal care
electricity (including solar)
woodland care
community living
commerce (be able to do business)
greywater and willow feeders
plumbing and hot water
natural medicine
homesteading (known experiences that don't fit into the other aspects)
oddball (unknown things that come up)
1 day ago
For a while I (Paul) had about 30.  But after some thought, I combined a few and ended up with 26.  Shawn helped me polish the list.     And then I found that i very much wanted a lot more of one than another, so the one I wanted a lot from i divided.   And while yakking on and about it yesterday, jocelyn (and maybe jeremy) helped me think of two more.  A bit more fiddling and I am now at 22.

I cannot help but think that there are 2 more that I have not thought of yet.  Somehow, it seems like 24 is gonna be THE number.  I feel that sharing where I am now, there could be some brainstorming (shitty ideas leading to good ideas) that will finish up this list.   (maybe gardening needs to be divided?)

dimensional lumber woodworking
  dimensional lumber
  heavier on power tools
round wood woodworking
  Green woodworking
  proenekke (all hand tools)
natural building
  cob / plaster
  straw bale
Food Prep and Preservation
Wildcrafting and guerrilla gardening  (xxx needs better title)
  fishing and hunting
  mend clothes, make clothes
  curtains, upholstered furniture
  basket stuff
  rocket mass heater
  rocket oven
  rocket cook top
tool care
  small tool care (sharpening/handles/etc.)
  large tool care (truck/tractor/etc.)
animal care
electricity (including solar)
  simple solar (no battery, strict DC)
  basic solar (battery, strict DC)
  full solar (battery, AC/DC)
woodland care
  junkpole fence
  living fence
  twig construction (arbors, tomato cages, trellises, wattle fence)
community living
  public art
  cooking 4 meals for a group
  (xxx needs more stuff here)
commerce (be able to do business)
  set up a residual income stream
  bring income from the greater community
  bring income from the global community
  roads, trails, and lawns
  experience with large equipment
  dry stack
greywater and willow feeders
plumbing and hot water
  shoveling snow
natural medicine
  known experiences that don't fit into the other aspects
  unknown things that come up

1 day ago
(note:  this document is still under construction - feel free to comment!)


Zero glue.  Rarely using metal.  Everything built from logs, branches and sticks.  Nothing starts with dimensional lumber.

Power tools can be okay, but, in general, less power tools.  Some projects specify no power tools.

sand badge

club style mallet (hand tools only)
compound mallet (smaller dry stick goes into bigger green stick (head)) (hand tools only)
carve a big, ugly, nearly useless spoon (hand tools only)
add one horizontal log to berm/hugelkultur scaffolding
   - you do the joinery work
   - you can have help positioning the log
   - low quality wood is acceptable
   - loose fitting joint is acceptable
dry peg in green wood project (build one):
   - coat hooks (4)
   - half log bench (six feet long) on four legs
   - saw horse
   - saw buck
   - stool
three log bench
   - 7 feet long
   - 16 to 18 inches high
   - peeled logs
   - saddle notches
   - hewn top
two coat hooks made from small trees and the hooks are the branches on these trees
   - no need for any joinery

straw badge

lightweight stool
shaving horse
3 three log benches
carve a nice, lightweight spoon you can eat with
bowsaw frame
decent sawhorse
decent sawbuck
basic heavy kitchen chair with a back

wood badge

shrink pot
japanese chisel box made from a block of firewood
pole lathe
bowl from a pole lathe
honey dipper from pole lathe
lightweight kitchen chair
heavy table
skiddable shed for green woodworking that includes
   - a cleave break and
   - a place to dry wood/pegs
   - storage for a shaving horse and pole lathe
   - storage for mallets and other tools
proenneke hinge - using root wood
really nice door latch
light and excellent bowsaw frame
validate the sand badge of six others

iron badge

light dining room table (no metal or glue)
wood log trough
magnificent roundwood bed
two really nice wood bowls
two really nice wood plates
a steamed wood project
swinging bench in a skiddable structure
outdoor firewood rack
2 nice outdoor chairs
rocking chair
bunk beds
2 more lightweight kitchen chairs
carve 2 large spoons for cooking/serving and 3 small spoons for eating
excellent shaving horse
curtain rods
picnic table without dimensional lumber
   - pretty much an extension of the 3 log bench
deck railing
wofati freezer
   - 200 square feet of freezer space
   - 100 square feet of root cellar space
   - at least 7 feet tall
   - large eave
   - cold charging tube for mass
   - logging thermometer records temps below freezing from april through october
validate the straw badge of six others
1 day ago

paul wheaton wrote:

What if, at the $1 level, I changed

permaculture playing cards ebook (gift code)  


permaculture playing cards ebook (12 gift codes)


What if we take it a step further? What if we add in 12 gift codes for the "Care and feeding of a rocket mass heater" microdoc? We'd be looking at over $100 worth of rewards for $1. Is that crazy? Or is it so crazy, it just might work?
6 days ago
Yes it is! A shiny new acronym that we came up with to describe food that is Virgin and Organic and grown in Rich soil as part of a Polyculture in a permaculture system.

(I think that sentence sounded better the way it was written in the book but I'm between tasks so you'll have to deal with this less polished version for now.)
6 days ago

raven ranson wrote:Do you have your final retail price decided for the book and ebook?  How do the low-level rewards compare?
Are you doing a wholesale price so shops can carry it?

I can't remember the exact numbers...

One ebook will probably sell for $9.99 once the kickstarter is over and the book is ready. We would have upped it but decided not to, mostly because charging any higher puts you into a space with Amazon where they take a much higher cut of your sales and it's almost not worth selling there at all. That's one of the reasons why we're loading up the lower levels with a bunch of extra candy.

For physical copies, I found a note somewhere saying we were talking about printing a price of $19.50 on the back cover. I'm not sure if that will be our final price, but the $15 price tag for a single book for kickstarter backers is intentionally ~25% lower and has a bunch of candy thrown in because we want to shower extra love on those who back this project before it's all the way done.

I'm guessing we will probably offer some sort of wholesale price if shops want to carry it. We will also continue to sell the book by the dozen after the kickstarter is over.
6 days ago

Sonja Draven wrote:May I suggest, if it's not TOO much work, that at some of those levels you do a BOTH option for paper  & ebook versions (if someone wants it)?  

Hi Sonja, thanks for your feedback! I think that logistically this could turn out to be a bit of a nightmare... but I'll try and think about it some more.
6 days ago

Mike Jay wrote:In the gloryglory level, the early access and last minute feedback seems like it would just be a source of comedy and probably not lead to very many actual improvements.  Unless you're willing to accept the comedy for the extra $20.

I think I'm willing to accept the possibility of comedy for an extra $20. Mostly because I think that if 100 people support at that level, less than 5 might provide comedy. $2000 for a little bit of comedy? Fine with me.

Mike Jay wrote:I think the $80 is almost too good a deal compared to the $60 level.  Twice as many books for only $20 more?  If you're ok with the comedy mentioned above, I'd think you could eliminate the $80 level all together.

I would be interested to hear what others think of this.

Mike Jay wrote:For the $200 level you might want to mention if the PDC and ATC are 2017 or 2018 recordings or if they're live events

This is a good point. I think that the idea is that what I have above is what the sidebar with rewards will look like on kickstarter and that in the main body of the kickstarter page we would explain these rewards in more detail.
1 week ago