August 9th, 2009
The partnership between a home improvement company and a shelter provider might seem simple, but the plans that two established organizations have now are far from cut and dry. A $30 million green building program is going national, funded by the Home Depot Foundation, and plans to build 5,000 efficient homes over the next five years.
Habitat for Humanity and the Home Depot Foundation started a pilot last year through 30 affiliates that resulted in 260 sustainable homes. The Partners in Sustainable Building program began there, and is now poised to break into the national sphere.
Some of the homes were even certified to LEED Platinum, which resulted in nearly 50 percent energy savings in some cases. During the pilot, which according to Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford was “extremely successful,” early results yielded 15 to 30 percent energy savings.
At the end of August, over 120 Habitat for Humanity affiliates will participate in the national rollout across 45 states. Affiliates will receive grants depending on certifications that structures attain– $3,000 for Energy Star guidelines and up to $5,000 for other nationally recognized standards.
Habitat expects nearly 1,500 homes to be built between the August start and the end of 2010. Some of the certifications mentioned by Reckford were the National Association of Home Builders standard, LEED, EarthCraft and Enterprise Green Communities.
Retrofitting has been an emphasis by administration recently, citing green jobs and efficiency, though Habitat is meeting an ever-expanding need for new and innovative construction. These new buildings will be supported by Habitat’s network through eight Habitat State Support Organizations (which service 4,400 affiliates) and will be growing in size and host new training sessions to teach green standards.
Out of the 263 homes built in the pilot program, most buildings leaned towards a higher green building level (135) and 128 were certified to the Energy Star guidelines.
Popularity: 11% [?]
June 29th, 2009
The heat of summer is upon us, and that means folks are cranking up the AC, making an extra batch of ice, and generally burning energy 24-7. But we need all need to continue to try to conserve as much energy as possible to save resources and slow the march of global warming. And we get to save money at the same time– nice one!
Here are the eight easy things we can all do at home to cut our energy consumption.
1. Keep your home at an eco-conscious temperature. 78 degrees is plenty cool in the house. Turn down the AC and get a programmable thermostat so you’re only cooling the house when you really need to.
2. Work with the sun to keep your house cool. Close all shutters and blinds during the day to keep the sun out– then open windows at night to cool the house and feel the breeze (if you have any!).
3. Let the air dry your dishes and clothes. The dryer and dish washer use a lot of energy– and the air does the drying job just as well. Plus your clothes will last longer. See some great clothes-drying racks here.
4. Take shorter showers and do not take baths. Hot water heating is one of the major uses of energy in any home. Showers are the way to go– and keep ’em short. Baths use much more water and heat than do baths (unless you’re taking 30 minute showers!). You can also look into solar hot water.
5. Ditch the beer fridge. It’s amazing how many homes have two refrigerators. Please do not use more than one fridge. And if you have an old model, get a newer Energy Star model.
6. Use ceiling fans rather than AC. They are much more energy-efficient and you can get very reasonably priced Energy Star models.
7. Get solar screens for your windows. These screens cut 75% of the heat coming through your windows, but don’t impact your visibility. They are really great energy savers. See solar screens here.
8. Spend one night each week in candlelight. It’s romantic, fun and inspires new conversation. If you’ve got kids, how about turning off the TV one night and playing a board game by candlelight? Clue would be particularly spooky!
Popularity: 8% [?]
June 25th, 2009
The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere will undergo a $350 million “green” retrofit that its owners said on Wednesday will make the 110-story office tower a beacon for environmentally sound space.
Plans call for the 1,450-foot Sears Tower to reduce its electricity consumption by 80 percent and water usage by 40 percent. It will be renamed the Willis tower later this summer in a deal with new tenant global insurance broker Willis Group Holdings.
To achieve the savings, owner American Landmark Properties and its partners plan to:
- Replace the 1973 tower’s 16,000 tinted single-pane windows and create a “thermal break” between Chicago’s frigid winters and hot summers and the interior.
- Install gas boilers equipped with fuel cells, which generate electricity, heat and cooling.
- Revamp the tower’s 104 elevators and 15 escalators to cut their electricity usage by 40 percent.
- Conserve 24 million gallons of water with new restroom fixtures and “condensation capture.”
- “Harvest daylight” by installing systems that automatically dim lighting based on available natural light.
- Install solar panels to heat water.
- Erect wind turbines on building setbacks, if possible.
Popularity: 13% [?]
June 4th, 2009
Happy June everyone! We’re eager for summer to arrive– aren’t you? There are many things we can all do to ensure that we have a fun, eco-friendly summer. Read on and get that barbeque apron at the ready!
What You Need to Know Before You Mow
As the grass grows longer, we get the mower ready to go to work. You will probably be shocked to learn that gas mowers are MAJOR environmental offenders. According to the California Air Resources Board, lawn mower engines contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than do cars on a gallon-for-gallon basis. The pollution from a year’s use of an average gas-powered lawnmower is equivalent to the pollution from driving a car 86,000 miles. YES, it’s that bad. And some chainsaws and trimmers are even worse.
So please consider ditching your gas mower and getting either a battery powered or push mower. This Brill Luxus 38 push mower gets great ratings for usability and effectiveness. And there are some great cordless electrical mowers here, too.
Don’t Be an Enviro-Hog at the BBQ
When we have a summer BBQ, most of us generate a pretty impressive amount of waste. You can cut down on the trash going to the land fill in several easy ways. First, make sure to put out two trash cans: one for the food junk and one for recyclable glass & cans. As you know, if you don’t have a separate can, people will dump all of their cans and bottles right in with the other trash. If you don’t have a second can, then put out a cardboard box and write RECYCLE on it. Then you can toss the whole box in the recycling bin after the party!
Next, don’t use traditional paper plates and plastic utensils. Get yourself some compostable and biodegradable alternatives. These are just as functional as the plastic/paper kind but will decompose over time. Or if you don’t want to go that far, look for paper plates and napkins made out of recycled materials.
And what about the left-over veggies, salad and buns? You know where those go–right into your handy composter, to make healthy mulch for the garden.
Be Water-Wise this Summer
Don’t forget that water is one of our most valuable natural resources. In the Western US this summer we’ll be facing a fierce drought, given what little rainfall we’ve had so far this year. Please be sure to conserve water by 1) watering only in the early morning when the sun and evaporation are lower and 2) adjusting your sprinklers so that they only water your yard and not your driveway or street.
With all of the outdoor recreation and beach trips, showering can increase over the summer. Save as much as 40% of your water and energy per shower with this new Delta Fluidics showerhead that offers low-flow efficiency and high-flow comfort.
Cool It with a Ceiling Fan
Energy Star ceiling fans are much more efficient than air conditioners and can cool your house by a few degrees or more. Run a ceiling fan instead of AC whenever you can, and even if you do run AC, run it at a higher temp and use the ceiling fan to recirculate the cool air. See our selection of Energy Star ceiling fans here.
Kids at Loose Ends? Here is a Great Game!
Get the Bioviva board game and teach your kids about our global environment. This award-winning game will help instill in your kids, and yourself, an interest in learning more about nature and our planet. Multiple choice question cards cover topics such as solar systems, plant/animal behavior, evolution, and environmental protection. Kids earn eco-points by correctly answering questions, with the winner being the first player to collect the required eco-points for the locations listed on his or her destination card. Find the Bioviva game here.
Don’t Put Toxins on Your Family’s Skin - Sunscreen and Insect Repellant
Standard insect repellants contain chemicals that not only repel bugs but also are toxic to humans. And sunscreens also often contain harmful chemicals. Protect your family with toxin-free insect repellant and healthy sunscreens.
We hope you all have a wonderful summer! Keep your mind on relaxing– and protecting the Earth at the same time.
Popularity: 4% [?]
May 27th, 2009
Courtesy of CleanTechnica.com
Experts call energy efficiency the low-hanging fruit, because it’s cheaper to cut power use than create new energy from fossil fuels like coal.
But our creature comforts — like iPods, cell phones, PCs and plasma TVs — are sucking the life out of advances in energy efficiency around the world, the International Energy Agency says.
In other words, too much fruit is rotting on the vine.
The IEA says in a new “Gigawatts and Gadgets” report that electricity consumption from power-hungry electronics could cause household energy use to triple by 2030. That means increased greenhouse gases from electric generation, and increased electric bills for creating that power.
The agency is urging consumers to choose more power-sipping devices when they go shopping. Technology allows trendy gadgets to be up to 40 percent more energy efficient, but standards are lacking.
It used to be that refrigerators and other appliances used the most electricity in our homes. If you go to buy a new fridge, you’ll see tags that show “estimated energy use per year.”
Our digital gadgets have now surpassed the electric use of “white goods” like refrigerators, Reuters reports.
What to do? Before you go shopping, check out some online guides to greener gadgets:
Popularity: 2% [?]