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Date: Monday, 25 Oct 2010 16:50

Money“There is a lot of financial assistance for green building – and it’s growing all the time,” according to a recent article in GreenSource magazine.  “The level of funding has increased substantially, but there are still challenges to access,” says Paul Naumoff, national director of business incentives and tax credits at financial services firm Ernst & Young.  Here are some sources to look into:

1. Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction – A Federal tax deduction, which reduces taxable income, and is worth up to $1.80 per square foot in commercial buildings.  Set to expire in 2013, the incentive rewards efficiency in lighting, mechanical systems, and the building envelope.  Projects that can show a savings of 50% over ASHRAE 90.1-2001 using a whole building simulation are eligible for the full amount.  Partial deductions are allowed for efficiencies in the listed systems.

2. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – This program doesn’t offer direct incentives to green buildings, but includes provisions for additional funding for renewable energy, weatherization, transit, and training.  Many of the funds are distributed through federal agencies or state governments.

3. State Incentive Programs – State and local governments offer many tax breaks for energy efficiency and green building – 41 different incentives according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE).  The site lists 18 incentives for green building, including non-financial incentives (such as expedited permitting).  According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), 213 localities and 34 state governments have LEED related policies or legislation.

4. Non-Financial Incentives – Expedited permitting allows green projects to be given priority during plans review over conventional projects.  This saves time and money for developers.  Seattle offers density bonuses to downtown projects that achieve LEED Silver or higher certification.  Projects are allowed to have larger floor area ratios (ratio of total floor area to site area), and greater heights than zoning laws allow.

Other options include loan programs, property tax incentives, rebate programs, sales tax incentives, and utility rate discounts.  Check out the references below for more specific information.

Tax Incentives Assistance Project

Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE)

EERE Financial Opportunities

Recovery.gov

Photo courtesy of Danial Borman through a Creative Commons License.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "Energy Efficiency, Programs and Standard..."
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Date: Friday, 22 Oct 2010 15:58

Innoventor, a St. Louis-based design-build company, using a grant from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, has engineered a device that recycles pig waste for durable road paving and roofing products. As reported Kristen Hinman in the November issue of The Atlantic, the company says the need for stinking manure lagoons can be eliminated, as can some reliance on fossil fuels.

The processing machinery is said to function much like a pressure cooker does, creating a certain temperature and pressure at which solid excrement is converted to bio-oil . At the same time, the wastewater is saved and can be converted into a liquid fertilizer.

Innoventor’s Swine-Manure-to-Energy unit appears to be odorless, reports hog producer, Rick Rehmeier, whose barn is being used for testing by Innoventor.  He has 10,000 hogs that produce over 5 million pounds of excrement annually. Traditionally, most of this has gone to waste.

Innoventor describes provides this perspective of the manure-to-energy business: “The future state of confined animal farming is to utilize a “Manure to Energy” process.  In this process, the solid and liquid waste is used to generate an economically sustaining energy source, and the odorous contaminates in the air stream from the cooling fans are removed.  There are thus three aspects to the “Manure to Energy” process: solid waste utilization, liquid waste conversion, and airborne waste removal.”

Rick Lux, an Innoventor engineer, said Innoventor could produce almost one pound of oil per pig each day. He adds the converted product can be used in the asphalt binder market.

Innoventor is not merely looking at pig excrement for material. It is looking at other forms of waste, including human excrement. On its website, Innoventor describes itself as a progressive, entrepreneurial design/build engineering firm diversified in five major industries. Our core competency is leveraging cross-industry experience and cutting edge technology to provide innovative solutions for our customers.


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "Energy, Materials, Agriculture, asphalt,..."
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Date: Friday, 22 Oct 2010 15:42

ACEEE 2010 Scorecard Rankings Map

States across the United States achieved major new strides in energy efficiency, according to the 2010 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard from the nonprofit and independent American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

California lead the way for the fourth year in a row, with increased investment in energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy.  Massachusetts also remained in second place.

ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel said:

Even as Washington dawdles on climate and clean energy, states are moving ahead with considerable vigor on these vital matters, with energy efficiency initiatives leading the way. In particular, states are moving forward and advancing energy efficiency policies and programs in an effort to create jobs and stimulate their economies during a period of considerable economic uncertainty. While $11 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds was helpful in this process and there were setbacks in a few states, the overall story here is one of states getting done what Congress has so far failed to do.

The fourth edition of ACEEE’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard is a comprehensive state energy efficiency policy Scorecard to document best practices, recognize leadership among the states, and provide a road map for other states to follow. The Scorecard benchmarks state efforts on energy efficiency policies and programs with the goal of encouraging states to continue to raise the bar in their efficiency commitments. While several states have been pursuing energy efficiency for decades and are leading the way, several new leaders are quickly emerging by adopting and implementing innovative new efficiency policies. The Scorecard finds that many states can accomplish much more to encourage energy efficiency and cannot afford to be left behind.

The ACEEE report provides a comprehensive assessment of policy and programs that improve energy efficiency in our homes, businesses, industry, and transportation sectors.

Graphic courtesy of ACEEE.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "Energy Efficiency, News, ACEEE, Californ..."
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Date: Monday, 18 Oct 2010 23:10

The auto industry is hoping green eco cars will help pull them out of the recession blues. Among them is Chevy with its Volt, looking to do for electric vehicles what the Toyota Prius did for hybrids. However, unlike hybrids, electric vehicles face a fundamental fact that will make it harder to become popular. They need to be plugged in.

The basic idea behind an electric vehicle is that you plug it in at night and then it is charged and ready for use the next day. But what happens when you run out of charge? Car manufacturers built in back up gasoline engines to get us home when we run out of charge, but the ultimate solution is going to be the ability to “recharge” on the go. Fortunately, companies like GE and others are already hard at work solving this.

The GE WattStation will start appearing in cities in 2011, and can recharge an electric vehicle completely in 4 to 8 hours. You can effectively recharge your car while you are at work, running errands, out on lunch, or doing anything else you do while your car is parked.

While devices like the WattStation are still in early production stages, the possibilities for these devices are endless. To begin with, small efficient solar panels could eventually be utilized to provide power to the charging station, making for a truly off the grid automobile. What a difference this future image of “refueling” is compared to our current day greasy and noisy gas stations.

Technologies like the WattStation and the Volt help us reduce pollution and our dependence on oil. GE, founded by inventor and early clean energy activist Thomas Edison, estimates that for every 10,000 drivers that switch to an electric vehicle,  CO2 emissions would be cut by 33,000 metric tons per year.What a difference that could make!

As a Thomas Edison quote goes, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

A hundred years after Edison said that we still aren’t free of our oil and coal addiction, but with products like the Volt and WattStation we are certainly getting there.

Photo credit: GE

http://www.ge.com/innovation/electric_vehicles/index.html


Author: "Chris Keenan" Tags: "Energy, Energy Efficiency, Green Technol..."
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Date: Monday, 18 Oct 2010 22:56

Walmart has announced a series of new goals at a Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting in Bentonville, AR that are intended to overhaul the global food supply chain.

According to Greenbiz.com, a series of five-year goals for the company address everything from farm to table, focusing especially on farming and the food supply chain.

“When we think about our sustainability goals up to this point, it’s not an area we have addressed adequately,” said CEO Mike Duke, stating that only four of Walmart’s 39 sustainability goals address food. “But that’s changing, today,” he added.

The goals include supporting farmers and their communities, producing more food with less waste, and sustainably source key agriculture.

Walmart has made these commitments:

  • sell $1 billion in food sourced from 1 million small and medium farmers;
  • provide training to 1 million farmers and farm workers on areas including crop selection and sustainable farm practices;
  • increase the income of the small and medium farmers it sources from by 10 to 15 percent;
  • In the U.S., doubling its purchase of locally sourced produce, to reach 9 percent by 2015.

It is estimated 30 to 40 percent of the food grown around the world never reaches a table. Knowing this, the second set of Walmart’s sustainable agricultural goals addresses cutting the amount of food waste by 15 percent in Walmart stores in emerging markets and by 10 percent in the United States.

Walmart’s Sustainability Index aims to bring the same level of transparency and reporting that its manufacturing suppliers have to food producers as well. “We will do this through our Sustainability Index by asking our top growers for the first time to provide detailed information on their agricultural practices,” Mike Duke explained. “This will lead to more efficient use of water, pesticides and fertilizer, and ultimately, more sustainable practices.”

Leslie Dach, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, spelled out what that will mean for large agricultural suppliers: “We’ll be asking growers to share information about their water, fertilizer and chemical use,” he said. “And as we’ve seen from our other work, this kind of transparency encourages efficiency, innovation and the optimization of resources.”


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "News, Agriculture, Global Sustainability..."
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Date: Friday, 15 Oct 2010 15:37

This is a good day to spread the word that not everybody in the world enjoys water the way we do in the United States. In fact, almost 1 billion people living on this planet go without enough water – water that is potable and can sustain healthy living.

For all folks interested in things like sustainability and green building, change.org asks for your participation today:

Or visit Change.Org to get information and participate.

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year’s topic is water. For facts, figures, and post ideas, click here.

Here are some of the featured posts:


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "News, Activism, Blog Action Day, Change...."
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Date: Friday, 15 Oct 2010 15:03

Ikea logoIKEA and Clif Bar announced earlier this week that they are going solar.  IKEA plans to install solar panels at seven stores and a distribution center in California, and the Clif Bar Headquarters in Emeryville is soon going to be home to the largest smart solar installation in the state.

IKEA’s plans will generate 4.5 megawatts of power for the company, and cover 90% of the company’s properties in California.  At it’s distribution center in Tejon, 216,000 square feet of solar panels, 7,890 panels, will be installed, making it the second-largest single-roof commercial installation in the state.  The expected output from all the IKEA installations is 6.65 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

The system installed at the Clif Bar Headquarters includes smart technology that is expected to increase output 6 to 8 percent over standard photovoltaic systems.  The system will include over 1,900 panels.

The eight installations by IKEA are estimated to save 5,269 tons of CO2 each year, or the equivalent of keeping 856 cars off the road.  This is not IKEA’s first trip into renewable power.  Other solar projects include their properties in Brooklyn, NY, Pittsburgh, PA, and Tempe, AZ.  Solar water heating systems are being used in Charlotte, NC, Draper, UT, Orlando and Tampa, FL; and a geothermal system in a being built in Centennial, CO.

Logo courtesy of IKEA.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "News, California, Clif Bar, IKEA, Renewa..."
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Date: Thursday, 14 Oct 2010 15:25

WindmillWind energy is one of the greenest out there.  Many residential property owners are looking into the cost of using this resource, and they are getting sticker shock.  According to an article in the Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland, Oregon, the shock isn’t from the price of the equipment, but from the cost of permitting and installation.  It can be up to three times as much as the system cost.  According to the article, a $6,500 system may cost $12,000 to $17,000 to install and permit.

The problem?  Mainly outdated code requirements.  They are often up to 20 years old, and do not address small wind projects.  According to a local manufacturer of small wind turbines, “Products are being shipped that aren’t installed….  Hopefully as an industry forms, we can address this issue.”

The high cost of installation isn’t deterring some customers.  In Oregon there are tax credits and incentives from utilities to help offset initial costs.  For many rural customers, the peace of mind that comes from not being dependent on the grid is worth the investment.  Installers in Central Oregon are seeing the amount of calls they receive triple in response to these growing concerns.

This trend continues nationwide.  According to the American Wind Energy Association, there has been a 15 percent increase in systems sold from 2008 to 2009, representing $82.4 million in sales in 2009.

The hope is that as more community residents adopt small wind, the much needed changes to the building code will be made.  Streamlining the process will increase the size of the market and lower costs, reducing the barrier to entry that many are heeding.  Much like solar panel efficiency in recent years, small wind efficiency should increase as the market size increases.  Current wind turbines require winds of 6 to 10 miles per hour.  One company, however, is boasting that theirs only needs 2 mph to generate electricity.

Small renewable power generators, such as windmills and solar panels, are an integral part of the concept of the Smart Grid.  Eventually they will help local utilities meet demand and lower costs by reducing infrastructure.  Therefore, it is important that these types of projects be supported, so that we can benefit from them in the future.

Photo courtesy of Mike Baird through a Creative Commons License.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "Energy, Oregon, renewable energy, Renewa..."
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Date: Wednesday, 13 Oct 2010 20:22

Here is recent information concerning the EPA and its drive to help in promoting green building and sustainable design practices. It also showcases entries in its Lifecycle Building Challenge, such as the photo at the left, Pavilion in the Park: Lifecycle Building Challenge winning entry by David Miller from The Miller|Hull Partnership

This summer, the EPA Region 4 released its Sustainable Design and Green Building Toolkit for Local Governments. The purpose of this toolkit is to assist local governments in identifying and removing permitting barriers to green building practices.

Shari Shapiro, writing for GreenerBuildings blog, wrote, “It provides a resource for communities interested in conducting their own internal evaluation of how local codes/ordinances either facilitate or impede a sustainable built environment, including the design, construction, renovation, and operation and maintenance of a building and its immediate site.”
To read more on this subject, select this link: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2010/08/19/behind-epas-new-sustainable-design-and-green-building-toolkit#ixzz12GnJNTaI

http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2010/08/19/behind-epas-new-sustainable-design-and-green-building-toolkit#ixzz12GmJwgJKThe

Elsewhere, Region 9 has provided the following building  and energy codes:

·  Building Codes

·  Energy Codes

·  Green Building and Energy Efficiency Rating Systems/Standards

·  Building Rating Systems/Standards

·  Energy Efficiency Rating Systems/Standards

·  Other Green Building Resources/Programs

For people and firms that have not kept in touch with the EPA, this is valuable information to have at hand.

Lifecycle Building Challenge entry: GroJoint: Lifecycle Building Challenge student entry by Adam Fenner, Jason Bond, Thomas Gerhardt, Josh Canez, and Nick Schaider from Texas A&M University.

http://www.epa.gov/region9/greenbuilding/building-codes.html

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Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "Energy Efficiency, Green Construction, D..."
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Date: Monday, 11 Oct 2010 16:25

Event highlights 350350.org declared yesterday a Global Work Party in it’s fight to stop global warming.  Around the globe, people gathered together to bring attention to the plight of the planet and what we can do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

As can be seen from the picture above, people in Azerbaijan gathered to push for more bicycle use.  188 countries are said to have participated in over 7,000 events yesterday.  Organizers are still gathering information on all that took place.

350.org is named for the target level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is considered safe for humanity (350 parts per million).  Currently we are at 388.  The group advocates for government changes and grassroots efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.  Obviously, events like 10/10/10 are making a difference.

Last year’s Global Day of Action created 5200 demonstrations in 181 countries.  Planned events for this year included a bike fix-up day in New Zealand, installing solar panels at the President’s house in Maldives, and a carbon neutral picnic in Bolivia.

Suggested activities for the day included:

  • Plant a tree
  • Go solar
  • Work in a community garden
  • Take a bike ride
  • Install wind power
  • Increase efficiency
  • Trash cleanup

With simple steps like these, we can all make a difference as we work to reach 350.

Photo courtesy of 350.org.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "News, 350.org, Community, Education, Env..."
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Date: Friday, 08 Oct 2010 18:01

Power linesMany people think they know what the Smart Grid is.  As I learned yesterday at a half-day seminar on the topic, there are as many definitions for the Smart Grid as there are potential users.  Portland General Electric, the local utility company in Portland and Salem, Oregon, sponsored a look at the Smart Grid entitled, “A Smart Grid Perspective of Energy Efficiency, Renewables, and Demand Response.”

At the beginning of the seminar we learned that there are over 80 different definitions of the Smart Grid floating around.  Even the Wikipedia definition is under dispute.  We had to come up with some construct to talk about, and PGE offered what they considered the key characteristics:

  • “Enables active participation by consumers.
  • Accommodates all generation and storage options.
  • Enables new products, services, and markets.
  • Provides power quality for the digital economy.
  • Optimizes assets and operates more efficiently.
  • Anticipates and responds to system disturbances (self-heals).
  • Operates resiliently against attack and natural disaster.”

There are several features of the Smart Grid that are key to its operation and “smartness.”

  • Smart Meters – These are solid-state, communicate with the utility through radio, and send usage data regularly.  Through these meters, the utility can also receive power outage notifications, maintenance requests, and other alerts.
  • Renewable Power Generators - Most people are familiar with these: photovoltaics (solar panels), windmills, fuel cells.  The difference is that consumer-provided generators will become an active part of the grid and the utility system as a whole.  The solar panel on your roof will eventually generate power for your neighbors.
  • Smart Appliances - One of the basic tennents of the Smart Grid is that consumers will be able to actively manage when they use electricity in direct response to varying costs.  In other words, electricity at night will be cheaper than during the day, and consumers will be aware of this and can make educated choices about when they use their power.  Appliances will be able to monitor power costs and program themselves to run when power is cheaper.  If they have batteries to store power, such as electric cars, then they can actually draw power when it is the cheapest and feed the grid when demand is high.
  • Utility Data Management – With all the information utilities will be receiving from their new meters, they will be better prepared to respond to peak usage times and discover problems before they occur.  The system can only produce what power can be used at any given time.  Without large banks (or buildings full) of batteries, there is no way to store power that is generated and not used.  Surprisingly, at some points in time, too much power is being generated and must essentially be thrown away.  With better data, and more consumer generators and storage devices, the utility will have to generate less power, and can store the excess when it is not needed.

I admit that some of these ideas seem futuristic, but they will be coming into our lives in the not-so-distant future.

Thanks to Portland General Electric, Jeff Hammarlund, and Conrad Eustis for content provided in this article.

Photo courtesy of Horia Varlan through a Creative Commons License.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "Energy, Green Technology, Education, ele..."
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Date: Friday, 08 Oct 2010 14:48

It is estimated that almost 1.6 billion people on this planet live without electricity. To have light in the darkness, toxic fuels like kerosene are used to fuel lanterns. While they provide much needed light, they also pollute habitats and endanger the health of those living inside.

A Denver inventor, Stephen Katsaros, appropriately named the solar light he developed Nokero, short for “no kerosene.” The solar battery powered LED-type solar-powered bulb measures 70mm by 125mm and emits light for two to four hours, depending on the charge. Such a clean, low-cost technology might eventually make lighting fuel like kerosene obsolete. The Nokero website states that 5 percent of the average user’s income is spent of fuel for lighting. The price of a Nokero bulb and charger package is $15.

The story about this innovation has been featured on National Geographic and Denver television station, KCNC-4 , among a growing list of interested media.

The Nokero bulb is being manufactured in Hong Kong, under the business heading, Nokero International, LTD. According to Nokero’s website, this manufacturing base allows the company to deliver “the world’s only solar powered light bulb at a quality and price point that can not be met by traditional manufacturers / distributors.

On its website, its mission reads, “Nokero’s vision is to provide solar light bulbs to replace kerosene lanterns used throughout the world. We work with dealers,  non-governmental organizations (NGO), donors, and proactive groups around the world to make this vision a reality.

The inventor, Stephen Katsaros, says his career has been centered around innovation—ranging from product development to intellectual property. He holds a Bachelors of Science Mechanical Engineering (BSME) from Purdue University (1996) and was a non-degree seeking student at the Bard Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado, 1998-1999. He received a B.F. Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Award in 1995.


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "Energy, Products, Denver, Ltd, Nokero, N..."
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Oct 2010 14:47

This October 15, join bloggers across more than 100 countries who are participating in Change.org’s Blog Action Day for clean water. The purpose of this event is to debate, brainstorm and raise global awareness around clean water. Participating bloggers will take this single day to write about this very important and ill-understood issue.

“Why Water?” asks the Blog Action Day website. Many people just take water for granted, like the photo on the left. But there are one billion people on this planet without enough water.

Change.org writes, “Right now, almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s one in eight of us who are subject to preventable disease and even death because of something that many of us take for granted. Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.”

Here is a list of suggested posts copied from the website:

  • Water as a Human Right: In July, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right over objection from the United States. Today, nearly one billion people lack basic access to safe drinking water. More Info »
  • Women: In Africa, women are predominantly responsible for collecting water. They walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 40 pounds to gather water for their community, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info »
  • Polluted Oceans: Not only is pollution bad for the environment, it’s also expensive! Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. More Info »
  • Uninhabitable Rivers: Today, 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life. That’s not surprising considering the fact that 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually. More Info »
  • Food Footprint: Do you know the water footprint of your food? For example, 75 liters of water are required to make a glass of beer and 15,500 liters to make a kilogram of beef. More Info »
  • Water Wars: Many scholar, researchers and political analysts attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. In fact, a report commissioned by the UN Development Program found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info »
  • Technology Footprint: On an average day, 500 billion liters of water travel through US power plants to power all the technology that we use every day. For example, that shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with approximately 6.4 million active iPhones in the US, that’s 3.2 million liters to charge those alone. More Info »
  • Bottled Water: Even though people in the US have access to clean water from their taps, they drink an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. More Info »
  • Farmers vs. Animals: As water becomes scarcer in Africa, farmers not only compete with each other but also with other animals, including elephants. Forced into close contact with farmers, elephants destroy crops and wreak havoc on agriculture, causing farmers in turn to resort to violence in order to protect their crops and water sources. More Info »
  • Children: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info »
  • Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now took 400 gallons of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 1800 gallons. Not wearing cotton? The dyes and synthetic fibers used to make your clothes create waste that’s among the many contributors to water pollution. More Info »
  • Water Celebrities: A number of celebrities have taken up the cause of water and water rights, including Matt Damon , Adrian Grenier , Leonardo DiCaprio , and Will & Jada Smith .

Blog Action Day is an annual event that brings bloggers together to post about a worthy cause. In its fourth year, Blog Action Day has covered environmental issues, poverty and climate change. This year, water was chosen by user vote on Change.org’s blog. It is the first year that Change.org is taking on the event from Blog Action Day co-creators Collis and Cyan Ta’eed.

Blog Action Day is very much about grassroots activism, taking the philosophy that a lot of ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference. Change.org hopes that the volume of blog posts on October 15 will create a meme around water issues, raising awareness and creating a digital, global think tank.


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "News, Blog Action Day, Change.org, clean..."
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Date: Monday, 04 Oct 2010 16:52

House in British ColumbiaThat is exactly what an Atlanta family has done.  In 2006 the Salwen’s sold their home and bought one half its size.  The proceeds of the sale went to The Hunger Project, helping 30,000 villagers in Ghana move out of poverty.  The family has published a book about their experiences, The Power of Half, and also have a blog.

14-year-old Hannah Salwen is inspiring her classmates with her family’s lifestyle.  In an interview in Natural Home Magazine, she states that, “A number of my friends at Atlanta Girls School have started their own Half projects, including a couple who are donating half of their babysitting money to environmental causes.”

The family misses many of the conveniences of their old home, but say the sacrifice is worth it to help 30,000 villagers in Ghana.  They are touring with their book, and have found that experience rewarding too.  “At one of our talks, someone said to us, ‘It took half a house to make you feel whole.’  It was such a great line, and it really expresses how we feel,” Hannah said in her interview.

Stories like this make us think, and rightfully so.  “Could I live with half of what I have now?”  Many of us cannot fathom the circumstances that would cause us to give up half of what we own, and we are lucky to have that luxury.  I know I have learned that nature abhors a vacuum, so give me more space and I will fill it up with stuff.  The challenge is to reduce the space available so we have to have less stuff.

The Salwen’s book, The Power of Half, is available at many online booksellers.

Photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest Regional Architecture through a Creative Commons license.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "News, Atlanta, Conservation, Home and In..."
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Date: Monday, 04 Oct 2010 11:37

Builders seeking fresh approaches to how they design and construct habitats might find an exhilarating breath of fresh air by looking at the modular geometrical works of Gregg Fleishman. Fleishman’s work includes playgrounds, sculptures and plenty of thought-provoking examples for modular housing and furniture. As he states on his website, his mission is to “continue developing ways to make building easier. Bringing a natural order back into building.

Fleishman’s work reveals the influence of Buckminster Fuller, developer of the geodesic dome. “A key feature of Bucky’s work was geometry,” writes Fleishman. “This work follows that thread.”

Mr. Fleishman is a curious amalgam of “architect, designer, artist and inventor whose work is largely informed by geometry and functionality.” But he has not put any of his theoretical structural and material ideas into practice building a house or building. He waits for others to take that lead.

In 1970 Fleishman earned an architectural degree at the University of Southern California.  He studied with Konrad Wachsmann, famous for his structures illustrated in his book The Turning Point of Building including the prefabricated house developed with Walter Gropius.

Fleishman’s innovative architectural structures express both modern and futuristic aesthetics and have been featured in articles by the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Much of the prefabricated work he displays has been assembled without nails or screws. Instead, he uses integral slots and notches, even employing wood springs and wood hinges. He holds several patents for his designs. His SCULPT C H A I R S, in collections ay the New York Museum of Modern Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago, are assembled using this technology.

Fleishman has coined the term Rhombicube referring to a diamond panel form which is distilled out of a 3-D checkerboard of cubes. As he puts it, “The various truncations of the Rhombicube form the orthogonal variations of Archimedean solids. The assembly of these solids in various configurations form the geometrical basis for his Shelter Systems.” His SCULPT C H A I R S and Shelter Systems are all cut out from flat sheet material and European birch.

He says he was largely influenced by his early work experience in the construction industry. It sparked his philosophical side, as well, stating that his modular work provides a way to be green in architecture, one that focuses on process in building both in and beyond the factory. The geometric forms he loves allow for design repetition, while providing greater structural efficiency, manufacturing economies, easier handling, less specialized work force, and lower start up costs.

“What distinguishes this geometry is that it excludes the pentagon, instead focusing generally on the cube and the octagon, more specifically variations of a 3D checkerboard of cubes or “rhombicubes”. When oriented in different ways, these cubes have provided for a veritable bouquet of new and different building types to sprout up using faceted geometrical faces that can provide a new and more natural look and feel to our buildings, with visible joinery illustrating the simple means of construction and assembly fostering more interactivity for the user and a sense of creativity and unlimited possibilities, redefining structures in playful expressions of geometrical harmony.”


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "Architecture, Green Design, Buckminster ..."
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Date: Saturday, 02 Oct 2010 05:01

In a cross-posted article for the Center for American Progress and Climate Progress, Richard Caperton, a Policy Analyst with the Energy Opportunity team at American Progress, writes about smart meters today and 20 years from today: “Currently you use electricity whenever you want, pay a flat rate for all of the energy you use, and the only real service you expect from your utility is to keep the lights on. Consumers in 2030, however, will have houses that are optimized to use energy when it’s most efficient, pay rates more closely related to the power’s cost, and expect their utility to be much more of a service provider.

“At the heart of this change is information: information about the energy we use, how we use it, and the real value of that power. Data will flow in a two-way conversation between homeowners using electricity—and maybe even producing it, too—and the energy companies managing the electricity grid.

“The smart meter is a key to managing all these information flows, and new research shows that smart meters are technically up to the challenges of the future. Consumers now have to learn how to benefit from this new technology.”

Here is the rub: a number of consumers are not at all interested in smart meters and the time required in learning how to use them.

Caperton points out that such opposition usually stems from consumers being unconvinced that the meters will provide benefits that outweigh their costs, even when it is evident such meters are already an improvement over the traditional electromechanical meters on most houses.

In California, for instance, PG&E’s meters allow the utility to tell consumers how much electricity they’re using and then help them manage their usage. “In short, they are teaching devices that can help customers be better-educated consumers,” writes Caperton.

Smart meters can also help utilities run their distribution grid more efficiently, reducing by almost 3 percent the overall amount of electricity that is demanded.

To accomplish this will require a significant amount of consumer education. “BGE, for instance, plans to spend $60 million educating consumers about their new smart meters,” states Caperton, adding that the federal government can also play a part in this education effort.

Here is a good case where a little bit of education can go a long way.


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "Energy Efficiency, BGE, Center for Ameri..."
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Date: Thursday, 30 Sep 2010 17:02

New York CityThe Big Apple took a large step toward greening its building codes yesterday.   The New York City Council enacted five laws implementing recommendations from the NYC Green Codes Task Force, bringing the total number implemented to twelve.  The most significant of these changes adds “the environment” to the list of purposes of the code.  It joins the promotion of ”public safety, health and welfare.”  This lays the groundwork for the greening of the building codes in future sessions.

The other recommendations are in regards to lighting energy efficiency, replacing outdated codes and making way for new technologies.  One bill will allow designers to count daylighting levels when calculating egress lighting for exits and public corridors.  It will also allow the use of occupancy sensors in these areas.

The new code will also require “vacancy sensors” instead of occupancy sensors in many areas of commercial buildings.  These sensors shut off automatically, but must be turned on manually, avoiding unnecessary operation when an occupant is only in the room for a short period of time.

The other two bills passed replace wattage requirements for common areas, temporary construction walkways, and sheds to footcandle requirements.  Thereby eliminating the power-used measurement, and replacing it with a measurement of the amount of illumination.  They also allow for the use of photosensors to reduce the amount of light produced in response to the amount of daylight.

Though the changes above may seem small, it is a big step for the code of one of the largest cities in the nation (if not the largest) to recognize the importance of protecting the environment while designing and constructing buildings.

Photo courtesy of Eva Abreu through a Creative Commons License.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "Green Design, Programs and Standards, bu..."
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Date: Wednesday, 29 Sep 2010 03:05

The deadline has been extended for submissions to the 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge by two weeks to October 22 at 5:00 PM (EDT).

In a press release, Elizabeth Thompson, executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) said, “We want to make sure that anyone seriously engaged in this kind of work knows about The Challenge and has the time they need to submit a high quality proposal.”

To review the criteria that drive the selection of the winning solution click these links:

Challenge Criteria Video

Challenge Criteria Webpage

BFI explains the background of the prize program in the following statement:

“Short term reductionist thinking which dominates all industrialized societies is a fundamental cause of the massive social, economic and environmental deterioration our world is confronted with today. It is now painfully obvious to many that most attempts by civil, corporate, scientific, academic and government sectors to deal with these breakdowns, despite good intentions and significant investment, often exhibit little more than a reflexive default to the same reductionist approach that created the problems in the first place. Little if any attention is ever directed toward optimizing whole systems. Instead the focus remains riveted only on improving various parts in isolation. Not surprisingly, when it comes to solving complex problems, actions are typically fragmented, disjointed and piecemeal. The net result: on a global scale the level of deterioration is rapidly increasing and imbalances have already reached crisis proportions.

“During the past half century pioneers like Buckminster Fuller and other visionaries responded to the failure of reductionism by developing new approaches to meeting human needs, concurrent with preserving the vital diversity of cultures and ecosystems that form the fabric of life on Earth. Their holistic approach has influenced thousands of individuals in numerous fields who continue to break new ground in how to think, plan and design.

“This evolving and growing body of work contains the seeds, models and strategies for the fundamental shift in direction so urgently needed today. The work spans a range of development stages— from the conceptual phase, to prototype ready, to well proven models poised to scale up. However, most of these new approaches, even the most advanced, remain under funded, under recognized and have yet to significantly penetrate mainstream education, economic activity, media, philanthropy and public policy.”


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "Architecture, Green Design, News, BFI. B..."
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Date: Monday, 27 Sep 2010 23:55

Graydon Blair, the owner of Utah Biodiesel Supply, is one of the first in line to say the fuel alternative in which he specializes is not going to answer all the world’s fuel challenges. But it will address some of the important ones.

In addition, he says, watching or hearing a vehicle smoothly roll down the highway on a tank full of used fryer oil is a sight to behold, and one that’s considerably less smelly than petroleum-based diesel. Here then, is good reason for shouting to the rest of the world know this is one alternative fuel source very much worth considering.

Blair provides his customers and onlookers with a remarkably comprehensive website about the business of biodiesel. His customers include small business operators and contractors who run their own fleet of biodiesel vehicles.

Reasons for switching to biodiesel? Start with the, economy, he says. “Biodiesel can be produced by individuals on a small scale relatively inexpensively when compared to Petrodiesel. Figures range anywhere from $0.40 a gallon to about $1.25 a gallon depending on the cost of materials required to make it. With prices that low, most people are able to save hundreds of dollars on their fuel bills. In some cases it even goes into the thousands of dollars. With savings like that, most people are able to recoup their initial investment on the equipment needed to make biodiesel within a matter of months.”

Second, and very important, the product is renewable: “Instead of making a fuel from a finite resource such as crude oil, Biodiesel can be produced from renewable resources such as organic oils, fats, and tallows. This means that it can be made from things that can be regrown, reproduced, and reused.”

Importantly the environment must be considered. To this end, the Utah Biodiesel website states that when Biodiesel is used to power diesel engines, the emissions at the tailpipe are significantly reduced. Studies by the US National Renewable Energy Lab indicate drops in several key areas that help the environment. Carbon Dioxide, Hydrocarbons, and Particulate Matter (the black smoke from diesels) all are significantly reduced when Biodiesel is used.

Blair adds this observation: “When used in older diesel engines such as indirect combustion diesels, the results are astounding. We personally saw a reduction in our tailpipe emissions of nearly 90%. It’s one of the many reasons we exist. We were incredibly impressed by our results. It also has a positive energy balance. Click here to read more!”

Blair says his customers include middle-aged tree huggers, hobbyists, and commercial firms that have found a way to run a small fleet of company trucks on on biodiesel. Bottom line, says Blair, diesel vehicles running biodiesel may run 10 to 12 percent less efficiently than standard diesel fuel but they can reduce hydrocarbons by 60 percent, CO2 by 80 percent, and particulates by 90 percent.

“We believe that when you compare Biodiesel to all of the other alternatives out there, it just makes sense,” he says.


Author: "Glenn Meyers" Tags: "Energy, Sustainable Business, Transporta..."
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Date: Monday, 27 Sep 2010 14:54

Duo-Gard Spokes bike shelterA far cry from the standard metal bike racks that usually adorn most buildings, Duo-Gard bike shelters are designed to complement any architectural style.  They offer a wide range of options, including custom designs.  The shelters are formed from polycarbonate panels, made up of 20% recycled materials, and are 100% recyclable at the end of their product life.  They can be fitted with standard outdoor lighting, or solar-powered LEDs.

Duo-Gard Industries Inc., a provider of translucent daylighting, architectural illumination and specialty structures, says its shelters serve as a cost-effective solution for city planners, landscape architects and specifiers looking to enhance building sustainability and design, specifically those projects looking for LEED certification.

“Our bike shelters allow us to bring prominence to alternative transportation and to support the growth of green building by assisting in the LEED certification process,” said Michael Arvidson, executive vice president of Duo-Gard.  “For over 25 years, our mission has been to provide our customers with contemporary solutions that utilize our advanced polycarbonate technology. Our bike shelters help deliver on our sustainable commitment and provide architects with versatile, visually appealing design options.”Duo-Gard Apex bike shelter

From the simple to the artistic, these bike shelters are easy to install, and can be designed as open, attached, or fully-enclosed structures.  Optional features include bike racks, lean rails, seating, and Duo-Gard’s 3S Solar Block coating, which reduces heat loads.

Duo-Gard’s web site features a complete portfolio of enclosures.

Photos courtesy of Duo-Gard Industries.


Author: "Dawn Killough" Tags: "Materials, Transportation, bike racks, G..."
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