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 15th, 2009
Summer is just around the corner, and this is the time of year when we really ramp up our lawn activities– watering, fertilizing, mowing, etc. And all of these can have major negative environmental consequences. Did you know that over 50 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend, and that mowing contributes as much as 5% of the country’s air pollution? And it’s staggering to realize that the average American grassy lawn can use over 20,000 gallons of water each summer! So, a major part of any green home strategy should be to embrace eco-friendly lawn and garden care.
Here are 12 ways you can make sure you have an eco-friendly lawn this summer
1. Collect rain water and use it for your plants. Getting a rain barrel or two for your yard is a simple way to collect and reuse Mother Nature’s water. Just put it under your gutter’s down spout and you’ll be amazed how fast it fills up. Click here for rain barrels.
2. Make sure you’re not over-watering. Most of us over-water our lawns. Do you have moss growing on your driveway or sidewalk or in your garden? That’s a sign you’re watering too much. Do you have pools of standing water anywhere? Another sign. You can buy a very inexpensive lawn moisture meter that will tell you if you’re over-watering. You might also consider getting an intelligent irrigation control system that attunes your watering to the weather and your lawn’s needs.
3. Don’t hose down your sidewalks and driveway. That water is a valuable resource and the water you send into the gutter is carrying oil and a host of chemicals out as run-off that go on to pollute our rivers, lakes and oceans.
4. Get a push mower for your lawn. Traditional gas mowers are horrible for our air quality and contribute to global warming. They are major environmental offenders. A good-ole push mower is the eco-friendly solution. (Or if you can’t go all the way to push style, get a plug-in electric model– better than gas.) Find mowers here.
5. Say no to leaf-blowers! The gas-powered leaf blowers some people use are major carbon emissions culprits. Say yes to a broom! Your waist-line will thank you too.
6. And when you’re done mowing, leave your clippings on your yard. Those grass clippings make great mulch and will help you save water as well.
7. Be sure to compost your other yard waste. If your city doesn’t collect green waste for composting, please get a composter and do it yourself. It’s super easy and the composter will turn your waste into great mulch for use throughout your yard and garden. Find composters here.
8. Embrace native plants. Plants, flowers and grasses that are native to your region are the most atuned to soil, climate and water particularities. They are great water savers and will thrive with less care than tropical and other imported varieties. And they are gorgeous! Learn more about native landscaping here with our book collection. Or contact a green professional landscape designer or maintainance provider from our green services directory. We have eco-minded landscaping experts listed across the United States.
9. Are you addicted to the look of grass but live in a high-drought area? You may want to consider synthetic grass. It uses no water, lasts over ten years, and looks & feels surprisingly real. Learn more about synthetic grass here.
10. Why not start your own organic food garden? Nothing could be better for the planet or your health. Learn how to get started with organic gardening here.
11. Use non-toxic fertilizers and pest-control agents for your garden and lawn. Not only are these better for your plants (particularly any food you might eat), they reduce the amount of toxins that run-off into our waterways. Find safe alternatives here.
12. Use solar or LED lighting in your lawn. Solar lighting is obviously an energy-saver. If you don’t find solar lights bright enough, check out LED lights—they are very bright and use very little power. They will last 5-10 times as long as standard outdoor lights. Find energy-efficient lighting options here.
Popularity: 5% [?]
February 9th, 2009
Written by Keith Rockmael, courtesy of GreenBuildingElements.com
With the economy in turmoil, a real estate prices dropping, green communities and green building will become more important. It’s easy to see how broken our current community model is in terms of the urban sprawl; the average American commute continues to grow longer. Between 1969 and 2001, the number of vehicle miles traveled for commuting jumped from 4,180 to 5,720.
The Sierra Club notes that today’s average American driver spends what amounts to 55 eight hour workdays behind the wheel every year. Gas won’t stay at the current level so we need to look at developing more sustainable communities.
San Francisco area architect Michelle Kaufmann and Kelly Melia-Teevan came up with a top 10 (sorry Letterman) EcoPrinciples for Communities.
1. Smart Design
Some architects play God; instead of working with nature they go against it. Building orientation remains a big, no cost key, as well as designing to use less, and to collaborate with the landscape.
2. Energy Efficiency
Kind of a no brainer here. Everyone from Obama on down seems to be talking about energy efficiency. While some aspects remain somewhat pricey such as photovoltaic systems, other energy saving methods such as passive solar layouts, sealing building envelopes with super efficient insulation and glass and harnessing alternative energy sources offer not only a decent ROI but save the Earth’s resources as well.
3. Water Conservation
Here in the Bay Area we are headed for a drought. Ideas for water savings include basic ideas such as xeriscaping. Who needs a lawn anyway? Sculpting bioswales into the land, irrigating with rainwater catchment systems and paving with only pervious ground surfaces can conserve gallons without much added cost.
4. Reduce Waste
As one of the Three R’s, Kauffman suggests designing easy to access, easy to use recycling centers. How smart can it be to drive with a plastic bag of aluminum cans to the faraway recycling center? Also, she offers ideas such as integrating on-site composting, and facilitating “living machines” (engineered waste treatment system designed to process a building’s sanitary drainage on-site).
5. Healthy Environment
Everyone seems to forget this area in terms of Green Building. It won’t do much good to maintain a clean environment but have sick people living in unhealthy homes. A sustainable neighborhood will offer easy access to exercise, encourage cooking classes and establishing on-site food production instead of driving to some fast food joint for a completely unsustainable meal.
Cities such as San Francisco thrive because of the richness of diversity. A sustainable community will create an assortment of residents from different backgrounds, ages and cultures. The housing will offer both market rate and affordable rate housing options.
7. Smart Location
The name says it all. Kauffman suggests building and designing for environmental, social, and economic benefits. Might builders think about building near easy access to mass transit and choosing areas near sources of quality food? Is that too progressive?
8. Respect the Land
Something that seems to have disappeared from the vocabulary – r-e-s-p-e-c-t. That’s right just like Aretha. New green communities would protect the existing landscape and ecology by adopting functional, comfortable density, minimizing site disturbance and protecting biodiversity by maintaining native ecosystem.
9. Smart Auto Strategy
As much as we’d like to rid ourselves of cars completely it just isn’t going to happen. However, we can lessen the intrusion and impact of automobiles in communities by implementing smart parking requirements, and separating parking streets from pedestrian streets and bike lanes. Constructing more narrow streets in an effort to encourage walking and biking rather than driving isn’t rocket science.
10. Shared Resources
Create more community within the community (see how that works) by introducing resource sharing (bikes, cars, tools, garden equipment, child care), establish community victory gardens, and building playgrounds, parks, athletic fields, picnic areas, etc rather than just concrete jungles.
Let the greening begin.
Popularity: 5% [?]
February 6th, 2009
The 2nd Annual Greener Gadgets Design Competition is on, and there are lots of compelling, interesting, and just plain kooky designs in the mix. Core 77 design magazine and Greener Gadgets host this competition to inspire outstanding design innovations for greener electronics. The top 50 entries are published online for voting and commenting. You can vote for your favorites. Voting ends February 20, so get on it!
One cool product is the eMetric. This is a wireless office power management system. Designer Jason Deperro contends that the eMetric “allows teams of conscientious workers to control and learn about their electronics’ energy consumption - saving energy and money.” We like the idea very much that teams of folks could instantly track their usage and then work to lower their power consumption. It’s e-Nifty.
One design we also like is the Indoor Drying Rackby Rob Podell. First of all, it’s not electronic, so that’s cool. Also, we’re big fans of air-drying laundry here at Low Impact Living (remember that your clothes dryer is one of the worst power-sucking, inefficient appliances in your home), so we think this drying rack is pretty nifty. It folds down from the wall and creates an aerated kind of table for drying. Easy, attractive and electricity-free!
We also dig the CompostAll. This kitchen device, designed by frog design, is a replacement for the home in-sink garbage disposal. It allows food waste to be composted instead of sent down the drain. The CompostAll saves mulched food waste in a removable container under the sink. Frog design claims that the devise provides a convenient, discreet, and odor-free location for food waste. What’s also pretty cool is that it comes with an alert light on the sinktop that tells the user the container is full. Then you can just take the container out from under the sink and put the contents into your outdoor compost bin. You already have one of those, yes?
In the kooky column, I’ll add the Guilty Wallet. Ruhel Mohammed has designed a series of wallets aimed at helping people cut our consumer culture (which he spells in ALL CAPS). He makes the interesting argument that we need fewer green gadgets and instead should all buy less. He goes on, “We spend for so many reasons, but it is undeniably true that we spend through one of these vessels: GREED, LUST, PRIDE, ROTH, SLOTH, GLUTTONY and ENVY. Although spending and debt are the foundations of the capitalist society, we should be careful of excessive spending or GREED.” Wow, don’t get Ruhel involved in a debate at a cafe– it will not be a short discussion. His wallets may not have much of an impact, but they do make you think about spending for a brief moment.
Popularity: 4% [?]