Coworking In Action!

Nomads are not only universally beautiful and intelligent, but they are also always  working on interesting and worthwhile projects.  But Office Nomads (the business) tries to avoid advertising for any one project over another, so we don’t often shout about the amazing work our members are doing. However, in this case, we just have to stand up and cheer because Seth Stell and Peter Conerly have created a free tool that can benefit all of us.  Their work is a perfect example of coworking in action!

PaletteComp is, very simply, a way to test a variety of color schemes for your website, without having to write a line of code.  Most designers will provide you with one or two color schemes, but PaletteComp allows you to test out ANY color scheme you can come up with, and see it on different templates so you can really get a sense for how the colors will work together. The tool is available for free at www.palettecomp.com.  Check it out!

But the real story here is not about PaletteComp. It is about how two members lived the coworking values of Collaboration, Community, Accessibility, Sustainability and Openness to create it.

Seth and Peter, a designer and a developer respectively, are both Residents at Office Nomads.  One day they happened to sit next to each other.  Seth’s client had just gotten back to him and said they didn’t like the colors he’d sent, but they couldn’t explain why.

Frustrated, Seth talked to Peter about it.

Peter, being a coder, and Seth being a conceptual guy, discussed the need for an easy way to try different color palettes on websites. Peter figured out how to code it to Seth’s design and needs, and after two months and a ton of whiteboarding, PaletteComp was born.

This makes sense to them.

Seriously, LOTS of whiteboarding.

Seth had recently been turned down for a job at Micrsoft because they were unsure of his UI/design abilities.  Now he can add this to his portfolio and Peter, who “had a lot of fun coding this” can show it off as well!

And they’re not the only Nomads who got something out of the project.  Dana, a financial advisor, used it to figure out the color scheme for her new website.

What’s next for PaletteComp? Well, hopefully one of the color sites – like ColorLovers – will want it and take it over. Seth and Peter might add some features down the road but they have no plans of selling or marketing PaletteComp.  They both have full plates of their own work to do and just wanted to create a tool to help non-designers make decisions on how their websites should look. And of course, now Seth has an easy way to mock up color schemes for his clients.

Here’s where we would usually say this is all thanks to coworking, but Seth really put it best: “We were able to produce this because there was no bureaucracy.  The best thing about PaletteComp is that two people from different industries can identify a problem and solve it…fast.  If we worked in a traditional office this never would have happened.  We would have been in different departments and might have never even talked to each other.”

Seth!

Seth!

And Peter!

Peter!

 

A Field Trip to Cascade Recycling Center

This week the Nomads took another edu-taining field trip, this time to Cascade Recycling Center in Woodenville, WA.  Cascade is Waste Management’s sorting facility, where the contents of many Seattle recycling bins go.  The facility operates 20 hours a day, which means they sort over 150,000 tons of material a year!

10,000 of these, for those of you on the metric system.

Three things determine whether or not something is recyclable:

- The Material it’s made of
- Its Sortability
- What kind of Markets exist for it (changing markets are essentially the reason “what is recyclable” changes so often)

The materials are sorted in this order:

Pre-sorting: Here they remove un-recyclable materials like wires, phone books, black plastic bags, scrap metal, and pants.  Yes, we saw them take out some pants.

“Ooh, corduroy!”

Paper: Large rotary wheels separate 2-dimensional paper and cardboard from 3-dimensional items like cans and bottles.  Then a “paper magnet,” basically a spiky suction device, picks up the pieces.

Pictured somewhere on the left here: the paper magnet.

Glass: Glass is smashed and vacuumed clean.  This leaves a lot of labels still on the bottles, but those burn off when the glass is re-melted.

There’s some glass in there somewhere.

Magnetic metals, such as tin: Magnets, need we say more?

Plastics: These are sorted by hand, oh and also by frickin’ lasers.  They shoot a laser capable of identifying polyethylene terephthalate, the common plastic indicated by the number “1″ inside the recycling symbol, at the conveyor belt, then use a puff of air to shoot the correct items into a bin.

Oh.  My.  God.

Aluminum: Since aluminum is not magnetic, they use a “reverse magnet” to repel the cans and such off the conveyor belt.

Like this, but opposite.

Then they run anything left over through the system again, which is why they have a 95% recycling rate.

The materials are then bundled and sold to various recycling plants.

As Willustrated here.

What a fantastic time we had learning about recycling!  Where shall we go next?

A Field Trip to Cedar Grove Composting Facility

Last Wednesday a cadre of Nomads took a trip to Cedar Grove, the family-owned composting facility in Everett that handles the yard and food waste from King and Snohomish counties. When you put your coffee grounds, chopsticks, eggshells, orange peels, leftover Pud Thai, sandwiches, bonsai trees, and approved food packaging into the green compost bins at Office Nomads, this is where it ends up!

Hey! Don’t eat that!

They use a 3-phase Gore system (as in Gore-Tex, the company that makes the breathable covers for the composting piles) to turn organic urban waste into various garden soils and mulches.  In fact, theirs is the largest Gore system in the world!  It turns out over 400,000 tons of rich, fertile goodness every year.

And this bald eagle owns all of it.

The first phase grinds and sorts the waste into pieces no bigger than 4 inches.  Then it is churned in with wood chips, which are important to balance out the abundance of green yard waste they receive.  “Green” materials contain lots of nitrogen, while “brown” materials like wood have lots of carbon.  Getting the right balance is critical to making good compost.  Then, they use front-loaders to move the compost into long piles, which are aerated and sprayed with just the right amount of water for decomposition.  The next phase continues this, and the final one involves “curing,” i.e. letting the compost rest until it naturally darkens in color.

Conveyor system moving the compost from intake to Stage 1.

A long pile of compost in Stage 2

Their “recipes” for nitrogen and carbon (green and brown organic waste, respectively) ratios vary throughout the year in order to produce a uniform final product.  For example, they have a grass recipe, a pumpkin recipe, and a Christmas tree recipe, depending on what they’re getting seasonally from consumers.  They also modify the recipes with nutrients such as manure and loam to make the different products they sell to gardeners and landscapers.

Vesting up for safety

We were able to walk right up to the giant rows of compost to see and feel the various stages of decomposition.  Most were under their Gore-Tex covers, but in the final stage they are out in the open air.  We were able to touch them to feel how hot they get–the composting organic material naturally heats up to about 175 degrees!  This hot composting action works even in the dead of winter.

Veena feels the warmth

On a sad note, there were pieces of shredded plastic visible in all the piles. While they have a system to remove most of the plastic and metal that gets tossed in with the organic waste, seeing the plastic bags all piled in tall heaps was enough to make any Italian-actor-playing-a-Native-American-chief cry.  It might not seem like a big deal to toss a bag closure in with the spinach, but it adds up fast–and the result is pretty upsetting.  They can’t even sell some of their compost anymore because of all the plastic.

Huge magnet they use to remove metal

But encouragingly, everyone we met was super sweet, optimistic, and very passionate about composting. It was such a nerdy good time that we’d love to organize more field trips in the future.  Next up, we’re going to see if we can visit the recycling center to learn how that magic happens.  Onward to more adventures!