Being Green – Bottling Sunshine

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  Of all of the world’s current ills, one of the largest and most well known is global warming – sometimes called the ‘greenhouse effect’.  There are essentially two strands to this problem: one is that plants like trees and even algae (which sequester CO2) are being killed off faster than they are being replenished through activities like logging and through poisoning the world’s oceans, and the other is that in our demands for energy we are burning fossil fuels to produce electricity and to power our vehicles (from cars to airplanes), thus releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere.  All in all, not a very pretty picture, and one that presents clear long-term consequences.

Many people talk of electricity as ‘clean energy’, but at the moment that’s more advertising hype than it is truth for the simple reason that most of our ‘clean’ electricity’ comes from dirty sources: generating plants that burn coal or even natural gas.  Nuclear reactors present their own very-long-term challenges as well as the potential for environmental disasters… such as what happened in Chernobyl. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Fair Trade

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  Imagine getting up every morning and going to work, but discovering on payday that you have to pay your boss for being there…  Sounds silly, right?  Consider then that of the roughly 8 million tonnes of coffee consumed every year, some 80% is sold for less than what it costs to grow it.  That’s just one example, albeit a common one; where would we be without our caffeine jolt in the morning?  While people are generally happy to discover low prices on foods and other products in the store, how many stop to consider what the ‘cost’ of those low prices really is?

The term ‘Fair Trade‘ has been given several definitions, but the one agreed upon by the four member organizations of ‘FINE’ (from Wikipedia) is:

In 2001, FINE members agreed the following definition of fair trade, on which to base their work:

Fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair trade organisations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade”.

FINE members further agreed to define fair trade‘s strategic intent as:

  • deliberately to work with marginalised producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to security and economic self-sufficiency,
  • to empower producers and workers as stakeholders in their own organisations,
  • actively to play a wider role in the global arena to achieve greater equity in international trade.

Continue Reading →

Being Green: Green Consumers

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  The title for this post was inspired by a couple of articles I read this week.  The first was, “It’s not easy being a green consumer“, and it begins with:

Green consumerism has the ring of being an oxymoron, but we all need to consume to live. One could go crazy trying to be totally consistent (even Gandhi realized that). Buying less and local are good starts. Combining that with some research and exercising common sense could go a long way, it seems, towards making us all more responsible consumers. (GW)

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 – Celebrating the Holidays

Hi Folks:

Been a little quiet in our corner of the ‘net lately for several reasons, but partly because of the holidays.  There are so many different traditions and celebrations this time of year it’s hard to count them all, from the Islamic New Year (a different calendar, but corresponding to Dec. 7 this year) to Kwanzaa to Hanukkah, Solstice, Saturnalia and Christmas.  I’m sure there are others.  Here in the northern hemisphere we’re coming up on the shortest day of the year, while our neighbours south of the equator will be celebrating their longest.  All in all, however, while it’s certainly possible to get caught up in the mad scramble for presents, holiday deadlines, office parties, too much traffic and too many people crowding into too many stores, I also see more people being kind, open, polite, generous and giving.  It’s something that was written very well in a story called ‘Patience Pants‘.  This time of year we are reminded that no matter where we live or how we live, we are all part of a larger brother/sisterhood of humans and beyond that to being a part of the intricate web of life on this little blue marble we all share. 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!


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 – Getting ‘Buy-In’

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  The title for this post is ‘Getting Buy-In‘, and since developing a sustainability strategy affects everyone in your home or business and extends out to include suppliers and clients as well, I thought I’d toss out a few ideas on how to implement this.  Keep in mind that even in your home your ‘suppliers’ include the utility companies, grocery store and other stores, and ‘clients’ can include your friends, neighbours and family.  Many of these ideas are supported by great information from others, so I’ll begin by appreciating them!  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!

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

Being Green – Playing Games With Sustainability

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  Before I get to that, however, I want to add a couple of things.  First, in last Friday’s ‘Being Green’ post I talked about taking the ‘long view‘ on making sustainable choices.  This past week I came across one person’s critical view of waterless urinals, here: Flush with environmental enthusiasm.  Second, Tim Fausch (publishing director with BNP Media) wrote a blog post this past week titled, ‘Moving On…It’s Time to Share Your Story‘.  In his post he mentioned how he’s getting tired of hearing only negative news on the ‘net, TV, radio, etc. and invites everyone to share postive stories instead.  You can add your story here: Moving On: Thriving in Tough Times.  BTW, if you’re looking for more good news, the following are a few good places to start:

Okay… this week’s topic is about playing games, and I must admit that I’m old enough to remember a time before computer games.  Yes, really.  Actually, somewhere in a box I still have the slide rule I used to use in a world before pocket calculators, and if you don’t know what a slide rule actually is, well, you’re not alone.  Continue Reading →

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 →