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Wednesday
Jan112012

Economic downturn & Sustainable products

In this very tough business climate there are still innovations being made, produced and marketed for ‘green’/’sustainable’ products.  Remember, just because a product is healthy does not mean that it is made of sustainable materials, and conversely, some products made of sustainable materials still off gas toxic voc’s. 

GLASS 2, is making a VERY COOL glass product made of 99% recycled glass.  What makes it different from other glass products is that the ‘layering’ of the glass is visible from the edge, creating a wonderful natural pattern.  Overall the product looks like pieces of glass floating in water with the layers visible from the side.  It is stunning when back lit, leading to natural applications of floating counters, front desk materials, etc.  It comes in slabs of 2cm and 3cm in 11 colors and is fabricated by the same fabricators that you use for stone counters.  Glass2 is currently available through Pental

 

Bio Green Clean was introduced to me by my husband and I have to say that this is the ultimate in a cleaning product.  It works on everything from counters, floors, stone, leather, metal, teeth, blood, automobiles, mirrors, appliances, coffee machines, etc.  AND it really works!.  AND, by the way, it is 100% plant derived and is so healthy you can eat it.  (It is not really recommended that you eat it, but the MSDS sheet states that you may experience some diarrhea due to the ‘emulsification of grease and oil in the digestive tract’) You can obtain the product directly through www.biogreenclean.com

It is truly inspiring to see people establishing new businesses and producing products in a poor economic market that are both sustainable and safe! A colleague recently said to me, ‘some people are still wringing their hands and crying about this economy, and others are out there making lemonade from the lemons they have been given.’  What kind of person are you?  I challenge you and myself to rise to the occasion and make 2012 the best come back year ever!

Keeping Green and Positive,

Christine

Wednesday
Dec072011

The Grid and those trying to loosen the stranglehold of government

The Grid – Those trying to loosen the stranglehold of government and Those who never were on the grid

It is interesting to me that with our struggle with energy, (too expensive, pollutes too much, need to lower our needs, etc) our government laws and codes often prevent us from getting off the grid. 

The Bullitt Center being built on Capitol Hill is being hailed as inspiration as it will provide all its own water, process all is own sewage, balance out a net zero on electricity, etc. But as Denis Hayes commented “This building was illegal to build in Seattle three years ago.” He was still trying to persuade health officials to allow the building’s drinking fountains, sinks and showers to use treated rainwater collect on the roof.  The health department wants a level of chlorine that contradicts the Living Building Challenge’s prohibitions on toxins so the center will currently be built with a hook up to city water.  The city granted several code exceptions for this building, specifically height restrictions that prevented the use of higher ceilings to maximize the use of natural light.

THEN there are the monks in Cambodia.  One hour from Cambodia’s capital is a village with eight monks and 10 orphans who have electricity in the first time in their lives – from solar panels.  The solar panels were donated and installed by a NGO (non government organization.) There is a good chance these monks will never be on the grid, and it is increasingly clear that some societies can jump frog the grid entirely as well as jump frog the accompanying government regulations.

Somehow, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Keep Green,  Christine

Wednesday
Nov092011

My Peace - My Space - My Energy Savings

Sometimes you cannot be the person who invents new energy sources or figures out how to take wheat board and make it into edible salad croutons.  Sometimes you are just the person who follows the mandatory recycling/composting rules, watches documentaries on global warming and takes walking vacations in Spain (my father said, you call that a Vacation?)

How can I still make a difference?

My Peace – meditate for inner peace.

My Space– it is suggested that low-tech actions such as weatherizing homes and installing more-efficient water heaters could reduce household carbon emissions by 20% within 10 years.

Appliances – BIG energy savings can come by replacing old appliances with energy efficient EnergyStar appliances. (dishwashers, washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc)

Toilets– need I tell you again? Replace the old water wasters with HET (High Efficiency Toilets) and watch your savings on your utility bill.  Installing a HET can save up to 22,000 gallons of water per year. 

Water Heaters – install more efficient water heaters

Insulate – my home, like many other older home had NO INSULATION in the exterior walls. When remodeling, add insulation and watch your heating bill dwindle.

Windows – replace old windows with the double paned variety, no more drafts!

Plumbing Fixtures– look for the WaterSense label to curb your water usage.

Leaking pipes & faucets– can waste as much as 7 liters a day.

Yard – selecting plants that coordinate with our weather will reduce watering costs

Rainwater harvesting – collecting rainwater, primarily from your roof, can offset your irrigation/yard watering costs.  If you want to go further, you can install a filtration system and plumb the water back into your home to be used to flush your toilets.

New Habits – turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, use the dishwasher only when you have a full load, thaw frozen food in the microwave

My Energy Savings – makes me happy and brings me full circle to my inner peace…..I am just ‘me’ and that is okay.

Wednesday
Oct122011

To LEED or Not to LEED

Definition -  LEED:  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building certification system established in 2000 by the United State Green Building Council (USGBC)     LEED AP:  LEED Accredited Professional, a person who has demonstrated knowledge on the LEED green building certification program by passing a test.

In 2008 USGBC decided to SIGNIFICANTLY change the accredited professional program.  They decided that the education and accreditation of individuals would need to be done by a separate company, the Green Building Certificate Institute (GBCI).  GBCI set up a new certification program, first you have to take a test to be a ‘Green Associate.’ Those who pass that test can have the appellation ‘Green Associate’ after their name.  Has anyone heard of a green associate? (Do I want to look like Kermit or do I want to look like a professional?)

After passing the Green Associate test you can take a Specialty test IF and only IF you have documented experience on a project registered or certified for LEED.  Meaning your name has to be on the documents turned into USGBC as being part of the team working on a registered project.  In other words, you have to have worked on a LEED project before testing to be a LEED accredited professional.

My dilemma is that I spent thousands of dollars and many hours taking seminars, buying books and studying to pass the original LEED exam and now I am being told that I have to take the tests (and pay for them) all over again.  Plus, I do not have documented experience on a LEED project, so I am not allowed to take the Specialty test. 

Let’s look at some statistics to reflect on:

*As of 2011 there are 155,270 LEED Accredited Professionals

*As of 2011 there are 8,668 certified LEED projects, in other words there are around18 accredited professionals for each one project.  WHY ARE THERE SO FEW LEED PROJECTS?  Could it be that the weight of the documentation and cost of documentation, commissioning and registration make it prohibitive for most businesses?

*In 2008 those of us ‘heritage’ professionals (those who passed the original test) were told we had 6 months to switch over, take the new tests and commit to the new organization requirements. 

*THREE years later, the requirements for compliance have changed, and the current deadline for compliance is October 27, 2011.

*THREE years later 84% of the LEED APs (original test) have not switched over (129,681 LEED Aps with no specialty of a total of 155,270 accredited professionals.)

I believe in green building, I believe in testing and showing qualifications for accreditation.  I believe in the framework of credits that USGBC has established (and continue to change) for evaluating green building projects.  I do not believe in restricting access to the program to a few ‘CHOSEN’ that work at large architectural firms that work with large businesses or municipalities.  If the majority of businesses cannot afford to participate in the program because of the high cost of registration, commissioning and documentation AND the majority of heritage LEED APs do not qualify to take the specialty test because of the exclusivity of opportunities to work on LEED projects, then WHO is this program FOR?  WHO benefits? And WHO loses?

Tuesday
Sep132011

Global Village

Global Village was the name of a presentation that Ray Andersen presented to thousands of people in both large and small groups.  It visually demonstrated realities of our world community, the amount of people who do not have potable water, the amount of people who have cell phones, who own cars, who die from starvation.  It was after experiencing this presentation, myself and hundreds of others were inspired to ‘do something’ to ‘make a change’ to help humanity.  We felt as ‘one’ with the others in the world.  If nothing else, it made us realize that we are the lucky ones, not because we are special or smart or hard working.  We were just born in the right place and time.  Our brothers and sisters across the world are no better or worse than us.  They were just born into less than preferable environments/communities. 

The 10th anniversary of 911 revived a sense of unity, a remembrance that there is more to life than the price of gas or political fighting.  We remembered to appreciate life.  To appreciate PEOPLE - people who help other people.  On September 11, 2001 the world community mourned with us and we felt as ‘one.’

August 8, 2011 Ray Andersen, founder of Interface Inc., passed away.  He was one of our beacons to follow, to aspire to.  At the age of sixty, he went back to Interface to steer it   “on a new course – one designed to reduce our environmental footprint while increasing our profits”…(he) “wanted Interface, a company so oil-intensive you could think of it as an extension of the petrochemical industry, to be the first enterprise in history to become truly sustainable.”

Ray made a difference in the world.  He made a difference in our environment.  He reminded us that we are all on this earth together.  He reminded us to appreciate life, to appreciate people, and to respect our environment.  May we continue this quest.