Being Green – Update

Hi Folks:

Friday once again!  It’s also the end of the month, and that means our “Eating Our Way Through Victoria” post and my “Photo of the Month” post as well as our usual Sunday “He Says, She Says…” and Monday’s “Marcia’s Meanderings” posts are coming due as well!  Going to have to limber up those typing fingers.

I was going to write a post this week about “Intentional Communities“, but I’m going to postpone that for a week.  Please bear with me.  In exchange, I’ll offer a couple of reminders of upcoming events this weekend.  If you live in the US or know someone who does, the premiere of Jamie Oliver’s program “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” begins this evening on ABC.  If you’re asking yourself, “What’s green about that?” consider the enormous amounts of water and energy that go into not only the production of ‘fast food’ and prepackaged foods, but also the environmental costs of the packaging, transport, etc.  There’s a link on ‘hidden water use’ in the list below.  Also in the news this week are plans to ‘downsize’ parts of Detroit. Suggestions include the creation of a series of ‘urban farms’, more parks, and interconnected ‘villages’.  Not a simple idea by any means, but it’s an idea Jame will agree with, I’m sure. Greensburg, KS might serve as a role model of sorts, since almost the entire town was wiped out by a tornado a few short years ago and rebuilt as a model green town. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Certifications

Hi Folks:

Friday once again. Having for the last two weeks lamented the swift passage of time, I’m loathe to do so again! In a previous blog post I wrote about the many differing and sometimes conflicting standards and certifications there are out there when it comes to green building – LEED, BuiltGreen, Green-E, FSC, Cerflor, SCS, BREEAM, Energy Star, BOMA BESt, Cradle to Cradle, Living Building Challenge, GreenGuard, IICRC, Environments for Living, Green Seal, EOCP (BC), NARI CGP, NAHB CGP, GreenPlumbers, ASHRAE, Cal IAQ – and that’s far from a complete list. Some are national, some are by province or state or other jurisdiction. Some relate to entire buildings, some to components, materials or systems. I must admit I find it baffling, and I doubt anyone can accurately say they understand them all. I haven’t included certification for green real estate agents, certifications for green lodging and travel companies, organic certifications, etc. They do all have one thing in common, which is that they all seek to make our stay on this planet a little better. Their various merits, strengths and weaknesses I leave to others to debate, although one article I came across today is, “Need for re-look at Green Building Rating Systems“.

The reason I mention this here is largely because of an article I read this week on Cradle to Cradle (CtoC) certification. I don’t mean to isolate them, but I, like possibly many others, was curious when it was announced that Dow had achieved CtoC certification for five of their insulation products, two at the Silver level and the other three at the Basic level. I was under the (mistaken) impression that CtoC was only bestowed on those products that contained no hazardous or toxic materials. That’s not the case. As outlined in the article “Fixing the Perception Problem with Cradle to Cradle Certification“, the CtoC Basic and Silver certifications do not mean that the product is free of toxic materials. They do require and provide an avenue for the company involved to work with MBDC and related groups to find new, more sustainable solutions, and are an expression of commitment toward this goal. Therein lies the perception problem. From the article:

“Here’s the problem: for designers—even those at the leading edge of green building—any level of Cradle to Cradle Certification creates a perception that the certified product is green. We call on MBDC to fix this problem, and we offer the following suggestion for doing so: at the Gold and Platinum levels, continue to refer to Cradle to Cradle Certification as a product certification. At these levels, a product must pass muster with a robust set of filters ensuring that it is safe for humans and imparts minimal damage to the environment; designers can be fairly confident that such products are indeed green…”

Of course, such problems occur on other levels as well. In a two-part series by James D. Qualk, LEED AP in Environmental Design + Construction magazine, he asked the question, “Does LEED Have a Problem?” The articles may be read here: Part I, Part II. The articles focus on two main areas. One is a perception that buildings certified by programs such as LEED are performing no better than their non-certified counterparts.  An article by James Qualk is: “Buildings Shall Be Capable Of…“, which suggests that a part of the problem with LEED-certified building performance is making the building’s occupants aware of best practices.  There’s no point in building a super-efficient building if one leaves the door open.

The other issue is that there have been a few cases where such failures have lead to lawsuits. One article, also on ED+C magazine’s site, written by Kamy Molavi is “Avoiding Potential Green Building Liability”.  Another article by Barbara Quinn is “Green Connections: Keeping Green Claims Accurate“.  On the mlive.com site there’s an article entitled, “Lawyers anticipate LEED-liability suits“.  On Green Building Law Update there’s an article titled “GSA’s Green Building Role in the Federal Government“.  Finally, on the Build2Sustain.com podcast site there’s an interview on on “Managing Client Expectations and the Green Lease“. Not specifically related but also on the Build2Sustain.com podcast site is another interview on “LEED, the Living Building Challenge and the Future of Green Building“.

You’d think a species as intelligent as us would be capable of achieving a simpler way of reaching the same goal. Just saying, is all.

Okay, the links for this week include:

That’s it for this week.  See you next Friday, and if you have anything to add, please leave us a comment!

Mike.

P.S.  The 2010 Geneva Auto Show is currently under way, and there have been a number of new ‘green’ introductions, including some completely electric vehicles.  Hyundai has announced a diesel-electric hybrid sports car, the i-Flow, and even Ferrari announced a new hybrid vehicle.  The car that I find most intriguing is the new Porsche 218 Spyder plug-in hybrid.  It’s a prototype, but Porsche suggest a fuel consumption of 3 litres/ 100 km, which works out (assuming I can still do math), to nearly 94 miles/(Imperial) gallon, and lower CO2 emissions than a Toyota Prius.  There’s an interesting article here on hybrid cars as well.

And finally, speaking of motors, the Sturman Industries site is worth checking out.  There’s also an interesting .pdf available, called “An Alternative to Alternative Cars“.

Being Green – Good News!

Hi Folks!  Friday again… where does the week go?  Wait a minute – didn’t I ask that same question last week?  Oh well…  This is going to be short, I’m afraid, but I didn’t want to let a Friday go by without doing a ‘Being Green‘ post.  I’ll add my usual weekly links at the bottom, but I wanted to mention a few ‘good news’ items I’ve come across recently.  While I don’t like to show favouritism and highlight specific companies, there are many that are making a conscious effort to go greener in different ways.  I’ll let you decide whether or not their products are right for you.  One is Method, a company that makes environmentally friendly cleaning products.  They’ve just announced a new non-toxic, plant-based laundry detergent, super-concentrated, but the best part is that it’s “the world’s first Cradle to CradleCM certified laundry detergent, thanks to its comprehensive green design. And like other method products, it’s recognized by the US EPA’s DfE program for its safer chemistry.”  They even show their ingredient list on the site. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Social Networking

Greetings!  Friday once again… where did the week go?  Ah well, as the saying goes, there are 168 hours in a week; what you do with them is up to you.  I was sitting at my computer, staring at a blank screen (that adamantly refused to write anything on itself), when my wife (who sits at the computer beside me) suggested I ‘follow’ on Twitter someone from England who blogs about rooftop gardens, green roofs, etc. (@gardenbeet on Twitter).  That got me thinking about an article I had read earlier today entitled, “Why you have to engage in social media, even if you don’t want to“.

While it’s true that twenty years ago few people had ever heard of a ‘web site’, the simple truth is that websites now get lost in their sheer numbers and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and more are sweeping the world and very directly changing the way we do business.  Marcia and I wrote a post last month about our own foray into Social Networking, and we now have a Twitter landing page on this site, where we provide links and information related to social networking information (updated as we can).  Social networking affects every group or business, in every field.   During the recent 2010 TED Conference in California, there were over 40,000 ‘tweets’ (short posts) about the conference.   Chris Anderson of TED can be found at @TEDChris. More and more businesses are allowing/encouraging their employees to post about their experiences with and within the company, and while there have been a couple of instances of people being dismissed as a result of their posts, these events were anything but private and reflect back to the company as well.  ‘CoTweet‘ for example is a resource that allows the employees of a company to share one Twitter account, engaging with their clients online.

Curious, I went to the US Green Building Council home page, and they have a Twitter account (@usgbc).  Being Canadian, I also went to the Canada Green Building Council home page, and they’re not (yet?) hooked up to Twitter.  I’ve sent them an e-mail letting them know that when they do, I’ll be happy to update this post!  Some of the groups, organizations and companies I ‘follow’ on Twitter in relation to sustainability and green building, in addition to those mentioned above, are:

I’m sure you’ll develop your own lists.  Oh, BTW, if you’re like me and tend to be a bit loquacious, I highly recommend Twitlonger.

Articles, sites and news I found this week include the following.  Before I get to that, a reminder that there’s a webinar on ‘Understanding Green Schools‘ on March 17, 2:00 p.m. EDT.  Click on the link to register.

In no particular order:

Have a great week!

Mike.

P.S.

If you’re in the Portland, OR area on March 20–21 and are looking for a way to release some of the stress in your life, drop by the Ohara Ikebana Exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden.

Being Green: Body and Mind – The Olympics and TED

Hi Folks:

Well, another week has flown by!  The Vancouver 2010 Olympics begin today, and there’s been a lot of effort put into making this Olympics the ‘greenest’ one ever.  There are, of course, two opposing views on their efforts.  On one side, Daily Planet has created an extensive chronicle of the science and technology that has gone into the preparations for this event, and a part of their efforts include eight segments highlighting different ways in which this Olympics are ‘going for green‘.  The official Vancouver Olympics website also has a section of their site devoted to explaining their sustainability efforts.  Even the Olympic medals are made partially from metals recycled from electronic waste.  On the other side of the table, a recent article by Dr. David Suzuki serves to highlight the (many?) ways in which the 2010 Olympics has fallen  short, and the ways in which future games might be improved. As an example, one new structure at Whistler is a chalet designed to PassivHaus standards.  A PassivHaus consumes 90% less energy than one built to standard building code.  I think that’s wonderful, and ideas like this need to be incorporated into every new building.  At the same time, the building was created in a factory in Austria and then shipped around the world to BC where it was erected, so that process itself may negate the environmental benefits of having such a tight structure.  I can’t say for sure.  Can we do more?  Need we do more?  For my part I say yes, certainly, on both counts.  At the same time, I believe we advance ourselves further with compliments than criticisms, so I offer my congratulations to all involved with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics for their efforts in sustainability, and I trust that future events will greatly exceed the efforts made here.

Now the Olympics is primarily about the body.  Yes, there’s technology and development and mental acuity and more, but overall the Olympics is about physical excellence.  There’s another ‘Olympics’ of sorts that’s also going on right now, a little farther south, in Long Beach, CA – the 2010 TED ConferenceTED is an acronym for ‘Technology – Entertainment – Design’ and in some respects TED is a mental olympics.  But while the Olympics proper is about competition, striving to be the best, TED is about cooperation, perhaps coopetiton.  Some of the most important minds in the world gather every year at TED.  There’s also ‘William’.  He’s 11, and the youngest TED attendee to date.  At TED you’ll find doctors, engineers, business leaders, and also people like William Kamkwamba.  A native of Malawi, at 14 William had to leave school to support his family.  He went to the closest library and found a book on wind energy, and using some wonderful adaptive engineering he built a wind generator for his parent’s home.  Basically he built a wooden tower, formed blades out of melted PVC pipe, and connected these blades to the pedal arm of a bicycle.  When the wind turned the propeller blades, the rotating crank would ‘pedal’ the bicycle, spinning the rear wheel and generating electricity using a small generator designed to operate a bicycle headlight.  He generated enough power to provide for four lights in his parent’s home, and so he went beyond that, adding in a circuit breaker and four light switches.

To say a lot has been written about TED – some good, some less than flattering – would be a vast understatement.  There’s such a broad scope of topics covered at the main conference every year, and increasingly in independent ‘TEDx’ conferences (300 so far), that any attempt to cover them all would fall short.  But since these weekly posts are about green building and sustainability, I thought I’d highlight just a few to get you started.  Hundreds more can be seen and/or downloaded from the TED website.

Rachel Armstrong presented an idea to use ‘protocells’ to create building structures that sequester CO2 from the atmosphere or from water, creating carbonate ‘reefs’ that build and repair themselves.

Juan Enriquez talked about the tremendous advances in agriculture caused by shifting our thinking from using ‘force’ to grow food to using biology, and how this concept is our way forward to a sustainable energy future.

Norman Foster discussed how architects can design buildings that are “green, beautiful and basically pollution-free.”

Willie Smits spoke about recreating a clear-cut tropical rainforest in Borneo, providing habitat for local orangutans and providing food, homes, and a sustainable wage for communities of local people.

The winner of the 2010 TED Prize, Jamie Oliver outlined a plan on how to make children (and their parents, and everyone) food aware.  Malnutrition and obesity are linked if we’re eating foods that our bodies can’t effectively utilize.  How does this relate to green building and/or sustainability?  Americans invest $150 billion a year on healthcare issues related to preventable disease arising from obesity and food disorders.  As things are, this will only increase.  The production, transportation, marketing and distribution of ‘unhealthy food’ has costs that are staggering, and not just in an economic sense.  I’ve mentioned this before, and while I can’t remember the name of the original author, the ‘triple bottom line’ for businesses today involve environmental sensitivity, corporate sustainability and profit.  What the speaker said was to consider this as a three-legged stool.  He went on to say that what’s important to remember is not that if you remove one of the legs the stool will fall over.  What’s important to remember is that it doesn’t matter which one of the legs you remove, the stool still falls over.

Okay, the links this week are:

Okay, that’s it for now.  Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to leave us a comment to say hi!

Mike.

P.S.
Something a little different – a touch screen you don’t need to touch.  Gesture Cube: No need to touch – just give it a wave!

Being Green – Up On the Roof

Hi Folks:

Well, The Drifters did it first…

So, I wanted to talk about roofs today, but before I get into that I wanted to start with something that at first blush doesn’t seem to have anything to do with building at all.  I think it does… Continue Reading →

Being Green – Update

Hi Folks:

Well, my plan for this week’s post was to talk about ‘green roofs’, but this week decided to unfold as it wanted… “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew…” Of course, Burns’ poem was about disturbing a mouse house, so it  sort of fits into a post about ‘green building’.

Having said all that, here are the links for green building I came across this week, and we’ll get to green roofs next week.  I’ll start with a green roof story, though. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Seeing the Light

Hi Folks:

Well, Friday is upon us and that means I’m turning my attention to ‘being green’ once again.  I labeled this post ‘Seeing the Light’ for two reasons.  On one hand, with the plethora of information that’s coming online today in all aspects of being ‘green’, sustainability, corporate responsibility, etc. it seems that more and more people are indeed ‘seeing the light’.  Further to that, as I type this I’m listening to the TEDxSOMA live and the focus of this series of talks is on interconnection/ interactivity, sharing ideas and communication.  We all share this little blue marble, and we all need to work together to find a better way to live on it.  In the book ‘The Sacred Balance‘, David Suzuki used this analogy (allowing for my memory here):  take a basketball, and overlay a sheet of tissue paper onto this ball.  The basketball represents the earth (yes, the earth is an oblate spheroid, but stay with it).  All life on earth exists in a layer comparatively similar to that layer of tissue paper.  Visualizing that changes how one sees the world.

Seeing the light also means something completely different because artificial light has revolutionized how we exist in the world.  Whereas we once operated largely from sunrise to sunset, artificial light changed that forever.  We shifted from torches to candles to oil lamps, and in about 1809 Humphry Davy invented the first electric light.  This idea was latched onto by others, and Thomas Edison finally perfected the idea for the vacuum bulb that we know today as the incandescent light bulb.  They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, some have gases inside the bulb, but by and large the idea hasn’t changed.  I’m not going to try to guess the impact of the electric light on the industrial revolution, but it was nothing short of revolutionary.  The biggest problem with the incandescent bulb however, is that it’s horribly inefficient.  Any child who ever used an ‘Easy Bake Oven‘ could tell you that an incandescent bulb is primarily a heat source that also gives off some light.  Somewhere around 80% of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is lost in giving off heat.  Halogen lamps are a type of incandecent that were first used in the movie projection industry in the 1960s.  They’re now used in car headlamps as well as in residential and commercial use.  Halogen bulbs use less energy and last longer than typical incandescent bulbs, but still generate a lot of heat. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Good News?!?!?!

Hi Folks:  Well, Friday has come around once again and that means it’s ‘green day’ here for us.  Without question the biggest news in the world this week is the aftermath following the earthquake in Haiti.  If you’re interested you can find links to disaster relief sites here.  It’s events like this that bring the words ‘climate change’ into real focus.  It’s wonderful that so many millions of dollars and thousands of hours of effort have been offered in assisting the people of Haiti deal with what’s happened on their island; as Marcia said to me though, where were the funds to help them upgrade their infrastructure BEFORE this happened?

Ah well.  The title of this blog post is ‘Good News’ and all evidence to the contrary, there is good news to be found.  Last week’s post focused on what I see as the somewhat bewildering plethora of green building standards and certifications, but even that is good news in a way.  It wasn’t that many years ago that none of this existed.  One article I came across this week is titled ‘A Very Brief History of Sustainability‘.  These ideas continue to spread beyond building construction as well.  On the Sustainable Sites Initiative website you can find information on “The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009” (.pdf), which includes “all stages of the site development process from site selection to landscape maintenance”.  There’s also a companion guide called “The Case for Sustainable Landscapes” (.pdf)  It brings a different slant to the idea of being ‘green’.  Another site I came across talks about greening up building operations and maintenance.  In the US these guidelines fall under the USGBC LEED for Existing Buildings – Operations and Maintenance Guide.  The article I read is titled, “LEED Cleaning – Why Not?”  Consider for a moment the wide range of chemicals used in traditional cleaning products and their effects on both the people using them and everyone else occupying the building after their use.  I certainly applaud less toxic alternatives!  Continue Reading →

Being Green Update – Water

Hi Folks:

First of all, for everyone following the Gregorian calendar, Happy New Year!! We wish you and those close to you a 2010 filled with as much health, happiness, peace and prosperity as you can handle!

Okay, I wanted to talk a bit about water this week. As the expression goes, “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” We tend to take water for granted; most of this little blue marble of ours is covered with water, and water makes up some 55-78% of our bodies depending on size, sex and age. We use water daily for drinking, for cooking, for cleaning, for waste removal, and for so many things that we don’t often consider that all of the water that comes out of the tap must be collected, transported, treated… and there is a similar ‘stream’ of actions must be taken for water that pours down our drains.

Continue Reading →