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Greener Also Means Tougher

Posted: March 28, 2012 by , Category:Green Building, Sustainability

Yes, green buildings are more energy efficient. And yes, they are even healthier for occupants. But safer and more durable than traditional buildings? A joint report by the USGBC and the University of Michigan says you can add this benefit to the list.

The report, highlighted in GreenBiz.com, goes as far as saying that the added resilience of green buildings could even be a major selling point and boost the market for green structures. While the news is great for the industry, I

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actually don’t find it that surprising. Tighter seals on doors and windows, more efficient ventilation and improved insulation protect buildings from the elements. So it makes sense that they are safer.

“…some of the most costly, serious damage is done when wind and water infiltrate a building, sending water deep into hidden cavities. A small opening — whether a missing shingle or a poorly sealed window — can set off a domino effect of damage,” GreenBiz points out.

This domino effect has not gone unnoticed. Organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) know the damage that wind and water are capable of all too well. It’s even prompted the agency to look into green building as way to improve safety during natural disasters. The high quality and detail that goes hand-in-hand with green building could keep roofs intact and windows in place during hurricanes.

“[Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator,] called on leaders from major corporations, government, academia, the scientific community and civil society to help advance green building as a complementary strategy to address pre- and post-emergency-management situations, ultimately forging more resilient communities.”

Construction materials have come a long way in just the last few years. Technology has advanced drywall and windows beyond what many of us thought possible. I’m amazed every time I walk a tradeshow floor. My most recent favorite discovery was insulation made out of recycled blue jeans. Genius! As products continue to become better and better, buildings are getting more efficient, less costly to maintain, healthier…

And now we can add one more reason to the list of why green building practices should be incorporated into every project. Safety.

As a keen live music lover I spend a lot of my time going to gigs and festivals throughout the year. A lot of the bands I see in Glasgow are usually stopping off as part of a UK tour or on some occasions, a worldwide jaunt. It got me thinking about the huge environmental footprint that could be left behind by tours — flights, a convoy of busses for crew and equipment, venue emissions and gig goers waste. Safe to say a pretty big footprint eh? I decided to take a look and see if there are any bands or records labels out there that are actively challenging this issue and coming up with ways of reducing their tour’s impact on the environment. It didn’t take me long to find some positive and creative action being taken…

The Dave Matthews band collaborated with FilterForGood in order to reduce the amount of bottled water waste on their 2010 tour. They provided refilling water stations for their fans to help reduce the large quantities of bottled water waste that makes its way into landfills and our waterways. As part of their commitment to the environment they also provided recycling stations in the parking lots, encouraged fans to carpool to gigs, used sustainable biodiesel and offset the tours carbon emissions.

The Black Eyed Peas tour took a creative approach to promoting recycling waste on their worldwide tour. The waste that was accumulated at each venue was then recycled into official merchandise and on average venues reported an increase of 20-50% in recycling taking place on the night of a Black Eyed Pea’s show.

The Stowaways are a Canadian band who are setting out on a “sustainable music tour” this summer, as they will be travelling from gig to gig along the west coast by sailboat. This is a great idea to cut down their tour footprint and an even greater PR opportunity for the band.

My final and favourite example of a band going on a “green tour” has got to be the Ginger Ninjas. These guys are an American rock n roll band who will travel by bicycle across the US and Europe on their “Pleasant Revolution Tour”. They will also be playing on stages that are completely bicycle powered.

Could you imagine how many bicycles it would take to power U2’s stage? Answers on postcards please.

Housing for the Future: Eco-villages

Posted: September 15, 2010 by , Category:Sustainability

Eco-friendly living can come in many shapes and forms – from recycling paper and aluminum to placing solar panels on your home, to the more extreme option of living in an eco-village. An eco-village focuses on organic farming, green building, communal spaces and many other aspects of sustainability. For those that remember the communes of the 1960s and 1970s, eco-villages do have some similar characteristics as they both center around sharing and using the land to farm and eat but the main difference is they aren’t solely for hippies anymore. From Sweden to Missouri and everywhere in between, these new settlements are popping up and prospering.

“The future of housing, in general, is sustainable communities,” Laura Mamo, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland and co-author of Living Green, tells Green House. She argues that single-family homes on large suburban lots have failed society, because they’ve created social isolation, dependence on personal cars and intolerably hefty mortgages for homeowners.

Each village differs – but for the most part, residents own the home but not the land it sits on, helping to significantly reduce the taxes. Residents of these communities are usually responsible to help out by cooking communal dinners, tending to the wood-burning furnace that heats all the homes or maintaining the surrounding gardens. Each eco-village or community has its own set rules and way of life but they all share the same principles of living a more simplified

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life and reducing their overall carbon footprint for a better tomorrow.

If living in an eco-village isn’t for you, then try looking at some of the unique ways these residents live and try adapting them to your neighborhood. Why not unite with your neighbors and try growing a few items in each of your yards

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and sharing the crop? Or set up a monthly volunteer day to plant new trees or flowers in your neighborhood parks? These are small ways to make an impact in your own community and make your own pseudo-eco-village!

Football season kicks off in the US this month, and the Big Apple has a brand new green home for its two teams.

2010 is the first season for the New Meadowlands Stadium, the new 82,000-seat home of the Giants and the Jets, in East Rutherford, NJ, just a few miles west of New York City. The $1.6 billion venue was constructed right next to its now-demolished predecessor, Giants Stadium. It has twice the square footage, holds more people, and boasts many more amenities than the old stadium.

Its builders say it’s “one of the greenest stadiums in America.” Last year, the EPA signed an agreement with its owners to “incorporate eco-friendly materials and standards into [its] construction and operation.”

But did it apply for LEED certification? No.

According to Sports Business Journal, the stadium would have been “one or two points shy” of the total needed to be LEED certified because of the glass used to enclose its 200 luxury suites. The mullions that seal the insulated glass that they could have installed would have obstructed fans’ view of the field, so the stadium’s management chose less-insulated (and less energy-efficient) glass, and elected not to pursue LEED certification because they knew they would have come up short.

Still, there are plenty of features that would have given the New Meadowlands Stadium plenty of LEED points, including:

-The stadium is on a brownfield site in the New Jersey Meadowlands

-It was built with 60,000 tons of recycled steel, including some from old Giants Stadium

-The seats are made of recycled plastic and scrap iron

-A new rail service takes fans to and from the stadium, cutting down on auto traffic

-The men’s rooms have waterless urinals

The stadium has gotten plenty of positive publicity in the green community, and rightfully so. Its builders went above and beyond to make it as green as possible, despite its lack of LEED certification. But still,

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it’s a shame that windows are the obstacle preventing the new crown jewel of America’s favorite sport from really leading the way.

Besides, aren’t you supposed to watch the game outside anyway?

Plastic Bags!

Posted: May 18, 2010 by , Category:recycling, Sustainability

Ok, blog time again. I am going to take this opportunity to follow up from my blog before about plastic bags. I’m sure some of you will want to use one to suffocate me but I need to get it out there ok? Anyway.. so I am an active member of my local green group, The Beacon Hill Green Committee, meeting once a month or so to discuss and brainstorm ways to improve the “greenness” of the neigbourhood. This month, I was put in charge of an investigation into plastic bag policy. Now, lets look at what other countries have done.

Some countries just decide on an outrite ban but that means they need an alternative and paper bags aren’t much better. However, China did this and saved 37million barrels of crude oil per year though — if they can do it, why can’t everyone? (politics) Ireland chose a different approach, introducing a tax on the bags — 33 cents or so per bag (not sure about the number), but it was high enough to deter people from taking them resulting in a 94% decrease in plastic bag consumption. The accumulated tax then subsidised the cost of a pint of Guinness (in an ideal world).

So, to get back to my meeting. I looked into it for Boston, and there was talk about bringing in a ban or a tax but these things take time (politics), so I took it upon myself to do it another way — through education and awareness of the impacts that they can cause. I think my poster does that quite nicely — straight to the point, shocking and truthful…

The New CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme came into force on 1st April

The new Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme began in earnest on the 1st April! The scheme aims to achieve an annual energy reduction of 3.2m tonnes by 2020 and stimulate businesses to make their buildings more energy efficient. It affects around 20,000 organisations — is yours one of them?

Any organisation with a half hourly settled electricity meter needs to do something. It was the requirement for qualifying organisations to start monitoring energy usage from all qualifying sources that started on 1st April 2010.

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And whilst it may be straight forward to gather retrospective data from half hourly sources, this may not always be the case for class 5-8 meters, for example, which are also considered as core sources under the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

Those qualifying for the CRC will also need to register while those under the threshold still need to make an information disclosure. Both actions must be done before 30 September 2010. However, as the process could take up to 4 weeks to complete don’t leave it until the 29th September!

A raft of recent surveys indicates just how confused and unprepared organisations are for its implementation…

A survey by energy consultancy McKinnon and Clarke found that 54 per cent of participants were uncertain whether they come under the scheme, which encompasses all bodies and businesses with half-hourly meters (HHMs) that consumed more than 6,000 MWh of electricity during 2008. Around 5,000 of the UK’s heaviest energy users will need to participate fully, while another 15,000 odd organisations that consumed less will need to make an information disclosure.

In addition, the survey also found that three in five companies had not factored in the financial implications of having to participate fully in the scheme. At the lowest qualifying level, a typical organisation will pay £45,000 a year to advance purchase allowances at a rate of £12 per tonne of carbon dioxide. In addition, they will be placed in a league table, showing their carbon emissions relative to their peers. Companies at the bottom of the table will be penalised, with the money recycled into rewards for the most energy-efficient.

In another survey by the power supplier Npower, nearly half of companies surveyed said official advice about the new legislation had been “inadequate”. About 49 per cent said they did not understand how to buy the necessary carbon allowances and 44 per cent said they do not know how to forecast their carbon emissions.

Mudballs Clean Up

Posted: February 25, 2010 by , Category:Uncategorized

Recently, there is different kind of activities in Malaysia where people start promoting a technology called Effective Micro-organism (EM) technology. This is mainly used to treat greywater, minimise odour in septic tanks, remove sludge from drains and improve recycle water.

Last year, there is an environmental biomediation project & awareness campaign in Penang named “One million apologies to mother earth”. The idea was to organise an event of making one million EM mud ball and throwing them into various heavily polluted rivers in Penang, Malaysia in a single day.

The concept of EM Technology was developed by Japanese horticulturist Dr. Teruo Higa, from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan. Dr. Higa claims that three groups of micro-organisms exist: ‘positive micro-organisms’ (regeneration), ‘negative micro-organisms’ (decomposition, degeneration) and ‘opportunist micro-organisms’. In every medium (soil, water, air, the human intestine), the ratio of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ microorganisms is critical, since the opportunist microorganisms follow the trend to regeneration or degeneration. Therefore, Dr. Higa believes that it is possible to positively influence the given media by supplementing with positive microorganisms.

Japan had used EM Technology to clean up more than one hundred heavily polluted rivers over the last 20 years. EM is a proven technology in environmental remediation and all the rivers that have been treated with EM in Japan have also managed to resuscitate aquatic life, bringing back all fishes and other water life forms and aquatic plants. The most famous project in Japan is the cleaning up of the Seto Inland Sea.

EM has also been employed in 130 countries in many agricultural applications and also in the production of several health products in South Africa and the USA.

Hope this technology can be promoted more around to help improve the water quality in any polluted rivers or close system ponds in an environmental friendly way.

Here is a video on how to make mud balls.

For more information about Effective Microorganisms Technology, here is some extra reading.

Calculating your Carbon Footprint

Posted: January 27, 2010 by , Category:Sustainability

If someone asked me what my carbon footprint was 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have had any idea what they were talking about. Now, I can find that answer rather quickly on a number of different websites including carbonfootprint.com and the Nature Conservatory’s website. Just by imputing a few estimations about my home energy use, recycling, and transportation choices I am given a number in tons of carbon/year. Most sites will also show you how you compare you to the US national average and the global average and show recommendations on how to lower your green house gas emissions.

While measuring my personal carbon footprint takes a few minutes, how would someone go about measuring the carbon footprint of an entire city like Boston? Calculating this footprint has a great deal more variables including measuring the exhaust of the commuting traffic daily, energy consumption for both commercial and residential and consideration of photosynthesis in the city. Recently Nathan Philips from Boston University received a grant to take on this task. The National Science Foundation and U.S. Forest Service are financing the precursor to this project which will measure carbon footprint around one of Boston’s busiest streets, Commonwealth Ave.

Their calculations will cumulate to create a map of Boston that will display the largest carbon emission spots and uptake zones. Philip’s hope is that policy makers in the city will use this to address the serious problems that the city and other cities worldwide are currently facing.

How can cheese save the world?

Posted: November 17, 2009 by , Category:Sustainability

Any idea? Neither do I. Instead, I would like to blog about quantification because it’s been bothering me. For example, let’s take the Prius. Is it really that good for the environment after you take the batteries into account? The embodied energy..how much energy is required to process, manufacture and transport the batteries? What about the disposal of the batteries? How long do they even last? Does the reduction in emissions from fuel efficiency offset this enough? How do we know? Is keeping an old car that gets 25mpg better than buying a new one that gets 45mpg when you take that embodied energy into account? How long do the batteries last anyway? What about a Lexus hybrid? 6.0L car that comes in hybrid version. Is the hybrid actually worse for the environment?

I read an article saying that driving 2 miles to the store is actually better than walking because the energy required to process, manufacture and transport the food needed to provide the calories for the walk is greater than the emissions from the car. Ummm…what about the energy to extract, process and transport the fuel? What about the energy to manufacture the car? Did the walker get his lunch from the moon??

In the home, is it better to recycle junk mail or switch off your heater and burn the paper to keep you warm? How do you quantify this? What about paper towels vs hand drier vs cotton towels? Which one? Are the paper towels recycled? Is the hand drier hot or cold air? Is the water you use to wash the towels hot or cold, detergent natural or synthetic?

Oh btw, these are not rhetorical. Answers on my desk Monday morning please. Oh and bring me some cheese.

Save some for the fish

Posted: October 21, 2009 by , Category:Sustainability

My parents used to always warn me that it was wasteful and potentially life threatening for creatures of the ocean to leave the water running while brushing my teeth. When I was a child I remember this to be a huge deal and was conscientious to ensure that no extra drop was wasted. A few years later, I realized that this was potentially a stretch of imagination and a fairy tale my mother and father created. Once Global Warming became a household concept, I found myself to start believing the severity of the situation and actual lack of available fresh water.

Even though the globe is mainly covered in water, humans naturally require fresh water to survive. With the world’s population increasing rapidly and the availability of fresh water decreasing just as fast, it is important to think of strategies to increase our supply on both small scales and large. I picked out some of my favorites techniques below:

Learn how to fix a leaky toilet — There is something to be said for someone that is able to fix household plumbing issues and by staying on top of this, you can save a great deal of water from being wasted.

Wait till you have a full load – We all have our favourite jeans and are disappointed when they are in the wash, but it’s important to hold off until you have a full load to conserve water.

Grey Water — The home of the New England Patriots and New England Revolution uses grey water supplied by the stadiums own wastewater treatment system. This system recycles over 10 million gallons of portable water a year.

And of course make sure the water is off while you are brushing you teeth!

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