Being Green – Celebrating Abundance

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  I usually decide on a weekly topic based on something I pick up during the week past, and for this week’s post I had a few ideas… all of which evaporated when I received a note from a fellow forum user this morning (thanks, D.!)  He pointed me to a Youtube video of William McDonough giving the opening keynote address for “Global Forum 2009: Business as an Agent of World Benefit“.  The video is a little over an hour and I haven’t listened to it all yet, but I will.  I really like the reference near the beginning of the talk to the green roof on the Ford plant instead of asphalt (‘ass fault’, as two words denoting blame).  I’ve been a fan of William McDonough and his work for a number of years now, both in the work of his architectural firm and from his founding partnership with MBDC, the people behind the ‘Cradle to Cradle’ certification.  In his opening for the TED talk he did in 2005 he lamented how a ‘rubber duck’ sold in the state of California needs to carry what amounts to a biohazard label.  There’s just no reason for that. Continue Reading →

Being Green in 2011

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  In the links below you’ll find several posts from people talking about the best ‘green’ topics of 2010 and predictions for the green future of 2011, so I won’t repeat them all here.  I will say that 2010 brought a number of wonderful new technologies and ideas, several insightful conferences, and is further proof that we as humans have the capacity to make our world better.  As to what 2011 will bring?  Personally I’m going to adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude, but I am looking forward with anticipation to more new ideas, new technologies and new projects that will bring us, both individually and collectively into a ‘greener’ future!  This being my first ‘Being Green’ post of 2011, I should probably reiterate what you can expect to find on this section of our blog.  On Fridays (almost always!) I write a short post on a topic related to green living in some capacity – this started out as a section devoted to green building specifically, but has expanded to include issues of sustainability in a larger context, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and other topics related to living in harmony with this little blue marble of ours.  For the most part I write about solutions rather than problems, and I tend to focus on positive innovations rather than negative news as the latter is well covered elsewhere.  I don’t generally profile specific products or services unless I think they’re really innovative, but there are few hard and fast rules here!  I also add a list of links to other sites of interest that I’ve come across in the previous week.  Most of these come from links I’ve encountered through Twitter, and some come from e-newsletters I receive.  I trust you will find some benefit in what you read here, and invite you to leave a comment on anything ‘green’ you’ve encountered, sites you think others would like to know about, etc. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Biomimicry

Hi Folks:

It’s Friday evening as I write this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  I had the opportunity this past week to watch a webinar on Biomimicry presented by Marie Zanowick, Certified Biomimicry Professional at the US EPA.  The talk was called, “Biomimicry in Action: Using Nature-Based Principals to Promote Sustainable Solutions (.wmv file).  You can also download the Powerpoint presentation (with notes).  This talk was well done, but it wasn’t my first introduction to the idea of biomimicry; that came from two TED talks given by Janine Benyus: “Janine Benyus shares nature’s designs” and “Biomimicry in action“.

Essentially, the idea behind biomimicry is to look at the rest of the planet and see how nature deals with specific challenges, then to adapt those ideas for human use.  The results may lead to better ways to capture and store water in dry regions, better ways to manage waste, less toxic alternatives to chemicals currently in use, and much more.  People involved with biomimicry start with a question such as, “How would Nature move through the air?” and then come up with different strategies on how this is done.  Ms. Zanowick’s talk covered the essentials of biomimicry very well, but I believe she also touched on something important when she asked the ‘opposite’ question – namely, “If nothing else in Nature is doing _____, should we?”  It reminded me of the slogan on the ‘3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’, and someone suggested adding a fourth – ‘Reject’.  If a product is over packaged for example, don’t buy it.  If a chemical or process brings harm to living creatures, why use it?  Is there a better way to achieve the same result?

When it comes to ‘being green’, understanding and utilizing biomimicry principles is one tool in the toolbox, but it has vast potential to improve the way we interact with the world.  Some of the species with which we share this little blue marble have been in existence for millions of years, adapting perfectly to their environments.  It would be the height of folly to ignore them.

There are three ‘branches’ to the Biomimicry Group.  The Biomimicry Institute is the not-for-profit organization.  The Biomimicry Guild is the innovative consultancy that seeks to develop solutions to challenges.  One of their projects is ‘Ask Nature – the Biomimicry Design Portal‘.  And next spring the Biomimicry Group will be offering an 8-month biomimicry training program called the ‘Regional Specialist Program (BSpecialty-Biomimicry Specialty Program)‘.  If you’re not familiar with biomimicry and what answers it may have for the challenges your company is facing, I highly recommend checking them out.

Okay, the links for this week include:

That’s it for now. Have a great week!

Hugs,
Mike.

P.S.  The 2011 Random Acts of Kindness Week will be coming up in a couple of months (Feb. 14-20, 2011), and I thought these might give you some ideas to consider:

  1. The Giving Effect – matches donors with organizations
  2. Man bikes 25,000 miles promoting kindness
  3. William Ury: The walk from “no” to “yes” (TED video)- one way to promote peace in the world

Being Green – Thanksgiving

Hi Folks:  It’s Thursday as I write this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post, even though you won’t get to read it until tomorrow.  It’s just that tomorrow also happens to be the birthday of someone very special to me, and, well, we have other plans.

Today is also Thanksgiving for our friends south of the border, a day where everyone takes time to reflect on that which is important to them.  By some strange twist of fate tomorrow is ‘Black Friday’ in the US, which I understand is like Thanksgiving Day for retailers and credit card companies.  Here in Canada we celebrated Thanksgiving last month, a topic that Marcia and I covered in our weekly ‘He Says, She Says…‘ post, but one can never have too many things to be thankful for! Continue Reading →

Being Green – Greenbuild 2010

Hi Folks:

A short ‘Being Green‘ post this week, and a day late it is, too.  T’is now November 20, and that means the Greenbuild International Expo is winding down for this year; people are taking down their booths and taking in their final tours of the ‘Windy City’.  I wasn’t present for this conference, but I’ve been following what’s been happening through the web and through Twitter, and there have been some great presentations.  A number of videos from the conference are available through the Greenbuild Speakers page; more archived sessions will be added shortly.  In addition, the people at ED+C magazine have a blog site dedicated to Greenbuild, available here.

I don’t know if Greenbuild is the largest conference of its kind this year.  It certainly isn’t the only one, and more and conferences, sessions, workshops, etc. have been coming into being around the world every year.  I find it fascinating to see because when I wrote my first letter about Canada’s environmental issues to a federal politician some 37 years ago, I couldn’t imagine the tour de force that the ‘green’ movement has become today.  Entire new industries have been created, new products invented, new policies and regulations brought into being, and thousands or more likely millions of people now work in a field that in one way or another helps the planet and its inhabitants.

When I used to write those first letters all those years ago, I had one subscript that I added to all of them:  This earth may be some 25,000 miles in diameter, but she’s a tiny blue marble in the vastness of space.  If we screw this up, we have nowhere else to go.  So, to everyone who works in an environmental or ‘green’ field, to everyone who helps to educate upcoming generations to understand their amazing legacy, and to everyone who, in his or her own way, tries to walk a little more lightly on the earth, my thanks.

Hugs,
Mike.

P.S.  A part of the Greenbuild conference has been a number of walking tours of the host city, Chicago.  Seeing ‘green’ skyscrapers is probably the better option, but I have to admit that the ‘Chocolate Tasting‘ tour would get my vote… assuming it’s organic, fair trade chocolate, of course.

Being Green – ‘Biophilic Design’

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  The title for this week’s post came from a webinar I watched this week called, “What is Biophilia, and What Does It Have To Do with Sustainability and Illusions of Nature in Architecture?”  It was the title of that webinar that attracted me to it, because ‘biophilia’ translates as ‘love of life’.  It’s a term first coined by biologist E. O. Wilson and described in his book of the same name.  Basically, biophilia means that we have an innate and unbreakable connection to this little blue marble we call earth.  Nalini Nadkarni’s TED talk “Life science in prison” speaks well to this. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Finding Inspiration

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.   Before I get started, if you happen to be in Victoria, BC this weekend, the Cascadia GBC Vancouver Island Branch Emerging Professionals and Jawl Properties are hosting an art exhibition with eight artists on the theme of sustainability.  The exhibit is being shown in the lobby of ‘The Atrium‘, one of Victoria’s newest  buildings, targeting LEED Gold certification.

Okay, the title of this post is ‘Finding Inspiration’.  I was originally going to name it ‘Seeking Inspiration’, but since it’s possible to look for something and not find it, the latter choice of title seemed more appropriate.  In one of his blog posts last month, Seth Godin wrote about ‘Heroes and Mentors‘.   In a nutshell, mentors are great when they’re available, but if they’re not, heroes can fill the gap and provide inspiration for all of us.  Every week I collect links, stories, news articles and information from a number of ‘sustainability’ fields, and I find a lot of inspiration in what I read too.  I thought I’d share a couple of those stories with you this week. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Pursuing Perfection?

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.   I wasn’t going to write about this, but the biggest ‘green’ news of late seems to be the class action suit filed in the US against the USGBC and their LEED certification; after reading the articles and comments surrounding both sides of the issue, I must admit I don’t understand the suitability of this case.  The basis of the suit, as I understand it, is that the plaintiff feels that the USGBC is overselling their LEED standard and not paying enough attention to other ‘green’ standards.  That may not be entirely accurate, but I believe it’s close enough.  Is it ‘true’?  Truth is a complicated word, often dependent on perspective; as the saying goes, history books are written by the winners.  Are LEED-certified buildings more efficient than buildings constructed to other standards or to no standards at all?   That question I can’t answer and is one that could probably only be answered on an individual basis. My post last Friday focused on the world’s first certified ‘living buildings’. So far as I know, the Living Building Challenge offers the most stringent building certification strategy currently in existence. At the same time, it’s not for everyone, and I’ve never been an advocate of any one or any system that seeks to build itself up by putting others down.

However, those aren’t the fundamental questions to me.  Is the LEED system flawed?  That’s possibly a better question, and if LEED is flawed, how can it be improved?  Does LEED measure energy efficiency, and if so, does it do it well?  What other factors are involved in achieving LEED standards, aside from energy efficiency?  If the lower levels of certification, say LEED and LEED Silver aren’t stringent enough, should they be dropped in favour of more stringent qualifications?  Given the costs involved in achieving a certfication for a building, at what point do the achieved improvements fail to account for the costs involved?  Again, that can probably only be answered on an individual basis.

Perhaps the best question is, will the LEED standard be improved by spending hours and possibly years of time in various courtrooms and by spending (?) millions of dollars in fees and other costs that won’t be used in improving LEED (or anything else)?  As I said at the beginning of this post, while I think I have some understanding of the basis for this suit, I fail to see the suitability of seeking such answers in court.  In the end, perhaps it comes down to the motivation behind it.  Some would label it as political, others as frustration, some as a simple ‘money grab’, some may call it a plea to be heard.  William McDonough asks, “How do we love all the children of all species for all time?” To me, if the desired result is to continue to move ourselves and our planet toward celebrating this way of being, personally I don’t see this suit as achieving that aim.  Others are certainly welcome to disagree.  As I said to a friend recently, can you imagine a world where the worst we can do is agree to disagree, while still respecting each other and ourselves?

Okay, the links for this week include:

Okay, that’s it for now.  Have a great week!
Mike.

P.S. Looking for some happier news? Try Happy News!

Being Green – Living Buildings

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, so T.G.I.F. to all of you!  Actually, Marcia and I believe it’s important to give thanks every day, but that’s another topic entirely.

So, the big news this week is…

The International Living Building Institute celebrates the world’s first Living Buildings.
(cue applause)

If you’ve read my ‘Being Green‘ posts before you’ll know that I’ve sometimes lamented the (overly?) many, complicated and often divergent standards and certifications that exist for everything from floor tiles to lighting, and from green landscapes to green travel to entire green neighbourhoods.  For the most part I don’t doubt the integrity of the various organizations involved in creating and maintaining these standards and certifications, it’s just that as someone with more than a basic knowledge of this field I often find them bewildering and conflicting.  However, of all of the standards in existence, there has been one for the last few years that has stood out in my mind as being the most advanced and most comprehensive green building standards of all, and that is the Living Building Challenge.  While many systems work on a series of ‘points’ to achieve different levels of certification, the  Living Building Challenge is different.  Organized into seven ‘petals’ or performance areas (Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty), each Petal is subdivided into as many as 20 imperatives and each imperative in each petal is mandatory to achieve certification.  Also, the Living Building Challenge certification is withheld until after the building has been completed and operational for a minimum of 12 months before testing to determine whether or not the building’s actual performance conforms to expectations.  An overview of the Living Building Challenge 2.0 requirements may be found here (.pdf).

Is the Living Building Challenge something you and/or your company should consider?  There’s no right or wrong answer for that question.  From what I can see, constructing to the Living Building Challenge standard requires an extremely high level of dedication and commitment from everyone involved in the building project, and a considerable investment of both time and money.  There are a number of other worthwhile building certifications in existence, such as LEED, BuiltGreen, Passivhaus and others, but I don’t believe any of them can meet the overall results achieved by the Living Building Challenge.

Seth Godin posted an interesting blog post today on ‘Heroes and Mentors‘.  Even if this standard remains one of your ‘heroes’, it still provides something to which we can all aspire.

Have a great week!

Mike.

P.S.  If you’ve read these posts before you’ll know that every week I provide a long list of links to other articles of interest I’ve come across this past week.  Well, I invested about three hours in doing so today, but when I switched from HTML to the Visual Editor, WordPress decided to simply delete them all.  I guess I should have listened to that little voice that told me to hit the ‘Save Draft’ button…  And I know better!  Oh, well.

Instead, how about the following talk from Ze Frank on connecting with others through the web (TED video).

Being Green – The Long View

Hi Folks!

Happy Friday!!  The basis for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post comes in part from a couple of articles I read recently on the  ED+C magazine website.  The first, titled, ‘An Ethical Equation’ was quite surprising to me and begins with the following:

“According to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin, a developer could have saved more than $300,000 and spared the atmosphere more than 850 tons of CO2 (1,885,500 pounds) had he used an organic solvent-borne air barrier rather than a water-based product.”

The article is quite comprehensive and worth reading, but at its heart the author Ulf Wolf suggests that when considering a ‘green’ product or service that one considers everything related to the material or procedure’s ‘carbon footprint’.  Sometimes this may seem like a simple matter, but as demonstrated in the article, such answers are not always simple.

In a conversation I had with a friend recently she mentioned that while incandescent bulbs generate more heat than light, this may be a good thing in cold climates.  Such regions tend to have much longer daylight hours in the summer and therefore more natural light, while shorter daylight hours in winter create more need for artificial lighting but also for heating the space.  Therefore, according to her argument, one might spend less on electricity for lighting by using CFL or LED lighting, but this would be more than offset by an increase in other heating costs.  I don’t know what information she had to support this argument, but it’s something I hadn’t considered until she mentioned it.

Continue Reading →