Thursday, February 28, 2008

So many free newspapers... so much waste


This week in London a house was built from unwanted newspapers to raise awareness of the volume of waste created by free newspapers in the UK capital.

The Newspaper House is a public art installation by Sumer Erek making use of the free newspapers disposed of to 'grow' the house in one week! In London tube passengers alone discard approximately nine-and-a-half tonnes of freesheet newspapers a day. To raise awareness of this Londoners have been invited by the artist to insert their own personal news within the newspapers and add them to the house structure, with the aim of reconnecting them with the value of the newspapers.

For more information see the artist's website.

Also this week, over sixty volunteers armed with pink recycling bags split into teams to cover the busy parts of London and between them collected 800kg – the equivalent of around 8,000 free newspapers – over the space of a few hours. The bags were taken to Potters Field, just behind City Hall, and a Polaroid of the bags and the volunteers was hand-delivered to the Mayor of London. “The amount of newspapers we were able to collect was astounding – it was sometimes possible to fill an entire bag with the free papers in just one Underground train”, said one volunteer. “We collected as many papers as we could carry but we also knew that we could’ve been there all night”.

Project Freesheet is a web based campaign and the main thrust of the project is to highlight issues and concerns raised by the ever increasing amount of free literature (aka freesheets) now being handed out on the streets of cities around the world. Tube Lines reported in December that they are collecting 9.5t of free newspapers every day.

Fit Club


"The first rule of fit club is that you DO NOT talk about fit club." Oh wait, that's fight club....

Fit club, well, we can talk about that. Our firm, like many architecture firms, has lots of vendors come in and do presentations about their products and services. Usually these are accompanied by lots of food, sometimes wine or beer for an afternoon presentation. One vendor had a great idea: in addition to marketing their sustainable products and developing relationships with designers, they would also help designers treat their bodies sustainably.

ALKS, a commercial flooring vendor, hosts a monthly fit club at Washington, DC's Sports Club LA. In addition to free use of the VERY nice gym, designers can enroll in a corporate spin class, participate in one of the club's standard classes (yoga, dance, etc), and enjoy the pool, sauna, basketball court, etc. Following fit club, designers are welcomed to a healthy happy hour where ALKS educates us on their product over smoothies.

I love the concept of promoting health and wish more learning events could be like fit club.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Take Back Programs

The blog below by Millennial 4 Earth about the Nike take back program made me think about what other big companies are doing. Whether the reason is customer demand, a tidy profit in the resale market, or out of civic responsibility, many big companies are getting in the act. Fewer electronics that we use in our offices and homes are ending up in landfills after their "useful" life and polluting our soil and water. Here is a compilation of some of the "greatest hits".


The Apple free computer take-back program offers US customers environmentally friendly recycling of their old computer when they buy a new Mac®.  The Apple Store® (www.apple.com) and Apple retail stores gives customers the option of recycling their unwanted PCs, regardless of the manufacturer.


Responsible Manufacturing

Apple plans to completely eliminate the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in its products, and arsenic in the glass of flat-panel displays by the end of 2008.  Apple helps to safeguard the environment — as well as consumers’ safety — by restricting the use of environmentally harmful compounds in materials and the manufacturing processes. 

Energy Efficiency

A device’s greatest environmental impact is often its energy consumption over time. Apple has made great strides in recent years to optimize the energy efficiency of hardware and created
tools, such as the Energy Saver feature in Mac OS X, that allow consumers to manage the power consumption of computers.  Since 2001, all Apple desktop computers, portable computers, and displays have earned the ENERGY STAR® rating

Recycling

Apple’s holistic approach to recycling — encompassing a product’s entire lifecycle — includes extensive take-back programs that enable consumers and businesses to dispose of used Apple equipment in an environmentally sound manner. Since the first take-back initiative began in Germany in 1994, Apple has launched programs in the United States, Canada, Japan, and throughout Europe, diverting over 34 million pounds of electronic equipment from landfills worldwide.

Sony's take back program has been ongoing since 2000. Sony teamed up with Waste Management and built a recycling program that makes it easy to dispose of electronics in an environmentally-safe way. Bring your unwanted Sony product to any participating Waste Management eCycling drop-off center (in every state) and recycle it for free.  Waste Management will collect, store, track inventory and dismantle the products into the form of common raw materials where they can be bought and sold on the global market. In some cases, it is likely that recycled plastics will be purchased for reforming into a new current model electronic product.

Additionally, as a member of the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), Sony encourages consumers to recycle their used rechargeable batteries through RBRC’s recycling program, “Call2Recycle.”

These programs are part of Sony's broader global commitment to environmental stewardship, which spans product design, recycling, facilities management and energy conservation across all categories.


Dell offers consumers the opportunity to recycle unwanted Dell-branded Product for free. Plus, if you buy a new Dell desktop or notebook and select the free recycling option at the time of purchase, they will recycle your old PC and monitor at no cost to you (even if it isn't a Dell-branded Product.)



Panasonic has teamed up with the Electronic Industries Alliance to provide consumers with an interactive website to help them locate nearby recycling facilities. EIA’s Consumer Education Initiative helps consumers easily find convenient nearby collections sites and provides guidance on other reuse and recycling options. As a service to all Panasonic mobile computer individual and organizational customers, Panasonic, through its partner PlanITROI, offers three interconnected, retired IT Asset solutions covering product remarketing, reuse, or recycling. Each option for Panasonic's Toughbook® mobile computers offers the assurance that the units will receive proper, environmentally sound disposal at their useful end of life. All units handled under the PlanITROI's recycling process are managed in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPEAT standards. The process works the same for all customers and is free of charge. In addition, all units are handled in accordance with U.S. Department of Defense standards for data removal.


Best Buy now offers grants to help increase the recycling opportunities available in communities across the country. Grants range from $500 to $1,500 per event, depending on the size of and scope of the program hosted by nonprofit organizations, cities, counties, or public-private partnerships.

Free recycling drop-off kiosks – these kiosks, just inside the door of every single U.S. Best Buy store, are available for consumers to drop off old cell phones, rechargeable batteries, and ink-jet cartridges at no cost.

Appliance Recycling – Best Buy will remove an old or obsolete appliance at no charge from a consumers’ home when a new product is purchased and is being delivered to the home by Best Buy Home Delivery or Geek Squad.

Television Recycling – Best Buy will remove an old or obsolete television at no charge from a consumers’ home when a new product is purchased and is being delivered to the home by Best Buy Home Delivery or Geek Squad.

Mail-in cell phone recycling – New cell phone customers receive free, postage-paid envelopes to mail old phones to ReCellular, our cell phone reuse/recycling partner. In turn, ReCellular donates dollars from their recycling program to Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Recycling events – Best Buy hosts and/or sponsors a series of weekend recycling events at its store parking lots across the U.S.

Best Buy is a member of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Plug-In to eCycling program - , in which it worked with other member retailers and electronics manufacturers in 2007 to voluntarily recycle more than 34 million pounds of electronics in 2007.

Electronics Industry Code of Conduct (EICC) – Best Buy is a proud member of the EICC, a coalition of 26 multinational corporations and manufacturers that deliver the consumer electronics in demand around the world.


Nokia applies product life-cycle thinking across its entire operations.  Design for Environment is a key first step that minimizes the environmental impact over the entire product life cycle, starting from materials management, and ending with take-back and recycling.  Environmental requirements are extended by Nokia Siemens to its suppliers, while the Environmental Management System manages the environmental impact of Nokia Siemens' own activities. At the end of the product life cycle, take-back, reuse and recycling services for equipment ensure recovery of material and secure safe disposal of substances.



Recycled shoes?


I became a huge fan of Nike when I was in San Francisco and spent a long weekend walking about the city (over 40 miles on foot in 3.5 days!). My sneakers were old and by the end of the second day, my feet were killing me. I was staying very near Union Square and saw Niketown. I hobbled in there to buy some new kicks…and much to my surprise, they not only took my old nasty sneakers (not even Nikes), but they also gave me a discount for recycling them! I was thrilled and have become a loyal Nike customer.

I just found another reason to be loyal to Nike: the company has just released a new basketball shoe, the Nike Trash Talk made from manufacturing waste. This shoe was modeled after Steve Nash’s (of Phoenix Suns fame) shoe, the Nike Zoom BB II Low.

A few of the features of the Trash Talk include:
  • The upper is pieced together from leather and synthetic leather waste from the factory
  • The mid-sole uses scrap-ground foam from factory production
  • The outsole uses environmentally-preferred rubber that reduces toxics and incorporates Nike Grind material from footwear outsole manufacturing waste.

For more information on Nike’s commitment to the environment and their Considered design ethos, check out their corporate social responsibility report on line.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Green Plug


We've all heard about the incredible drain on power that our phone'less and laptop-less chargers can be when left plugged into the wall.
Someone has gone out and created a device that communicates between our portables electronics and the wall, and stops draining power when our phone/camera/laptop/thingamajig has gotten all the power it needs - or isn't even plugged in anymore.
Now I think this is fantastic and I want to immediately start lobbying every manufacturer of rechargeable objects to automatically include this sort of technology in their charging equipment. Duh. http://www.greenplug.us/

Friday, February 22, 2008

Beer Bricks


Those beer companies have always had a knack for marketing. That's right, beer bottles that can be used as bricks. I found this on Frostfire Zoo. It only takes a 1,000 beer bottles to create a 10x10 structure. Ask a bunch of college buddies over and you've got the start of a new home! The story goes like this:

"Alfred Heineken had an epiphany while on a world tour of Heineken factories. When Heineken was on the Caribbean island of Curacao in 1960 he saw many bottles littering the beach because the island had no economic means of returning the bottles to the bottling plants from which they had come. He was also concerned with the lack of affordable building materials and the inadequate living conditions plaguing Curacao's lower-class. Envisioning a solution for these problems, he found a dutch architect John Habraken to design what he called 'a brick that holds beer.'"

What is Heineken up to today? Their 2006 Sustainability Report is very compelling and shows their well-rounded commitment to the environment. However, it lacks the creativity and chutzpah of their strategy from the 60s. Bring back those bricks!

Kill-A-Watt EZ


One of the things that I find hardest to comprehend is how much power everything uses. I read about this cool little tool: Kill-a-Watt – it measures the energy use of anything that plugs in. Simple to use: plug the Kill-a-Watt into the wall, and then plug your small appliances into the Kill-a-Watt.

This could be a powerful demonstration to employees and employers alike. Also might be used for demonstrations to school groups.
Knowledge is power – if we know how much energy our appliances draw, maybe we’ll think twice before using them, or leaving them plugged in to be vampire power suckers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Green Celebrity!


Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m addicted to celebrity gossip, AND I’ve found the perfect place to get updates in bite-size bits. Today’s recap included a link to “green celebrities” – of course I clicked on it. It took me to an article entitled “Who are the Greenest Celebrities?”.

Of course some of the usual suspects were there: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and Ed Begley, Jr. But there were some others with environmental accolades of which I was unaware: Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon, Talib, Daryl Hannah, Harrison Ford.

It’s always good to see celebs using their influence to improve the world, whether it be promoting peace or environmental causes. Let’s hope their commitment and influence helps move along the green movement in our offices and personal lives.

Unpackaged

A new shop called Unpackaged has just opened down the road from me in Islington, London, and I think it's such a good idea that I should tell you all about it...


Unpackaged believe that most packaging is unnecessary so they're doing something about it. The shop is the new way to shop safe in the knowledge that you’ve not created any waste that’s going to end up in a landfill.

Unpackaged sell organic wholefoods and environmentally friendly products such as eco-cleaners for the home. You take along your own containers along for the products and the lovely people at Unpackaged fill them up for you with your favourite products. They also sell reusable containers that you can bring back next time in case you forget to bring your own with you.

Unpackaged have received some excellent press coverage here in the UK, so let's hope the idea catches on worldwide! See the Unpackaged website for more information.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The New Epoch: Anthropocene



An epoch is a period marked by distinctive character or reckoned from a fixed point or event or a unit of geological time – as a point of reference, you may remember Ross Gellar on Friends going on and on about the Mesozoic or Paleozoic eras.

Geologists have been considering adding a new epoch for the modern day: the Anthropocene. This epoch measures the first time in Earth's history when humans have become a predominant geophysical force. The article says, “Naming such a new epoch would also recognize that humans now share responsibility with natural forces for the state of our planet's ecological environment.”
This epoch has been discussed since its coining in 2000 by geologist Paul Crutzen, but is gaining steam.

It is interesting to think how our use of land and natural resources has such a profound impact on the planet itself.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Corporate Social Responsibility Pays


If you need proof that paying attention to corporate social responsibility creates value in your company... look no further! Two studies have just come out that prove just that.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's report, "Doing good: Business and the sustainability challenge" [PDF], surveyed 1,254 senior business executives to find out how, if at all, stock performance correlates to CSR performance:
"There is a link between corporate sustainability and strong share price performance. In our survey, companies with the highest share price growth over the past three years paid more attention to sustainability issues, while those with the worst performance tended to do less. Causality is difficult to establish, but the link appears clear: the companies that rated their efforts most highly over this time period saw annual profit increases of 16% and share price growth of 45%, whereas those that ranked themselves worst reported growth of 7% and 12% respectively. In general, these high-performingcompanies put a much greater emphasis on social and environmental considerations at board level, while the poorly performing firms are far more likely to have nobody in charge of sustainability issues."

IBM's "Attaining Sustainable Growth Through Corporate Social Responsibility," surveyed 250 business leaders and found that 68 percent of them are currently engaged in CSR practices, and shows that they can be potentially revenue-enhancing operations.

"A growing body of evidence asserts that corporations can do well by doing good. Well-known companies have already proven that they can differentiate their brands and reputations, as well as their products and services, if they take responsibility for the well-being of the societies and environments in which they operate. These companies are practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a manner that generates significant returns to their businesses."

The CSR Value Curve (pictured above) shows how IBM is tracking organizations as they learn to integrate social responsibility into their value chain. It just makes sense! Organizations that think more holistically about risk avoidance and are open to new means of value creation are going to be more successful. Period.

Caffeine Fix!


I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but every once in a while I get in the mood for a “fancy coffee”…which usually results in a run to Starbucks, Dean & Deluca, or the coffee shop in the mall. Sometimes I remember to bring an old cup sleeve/coffee cozy. Sometimes I don’t. And since I’m not a regular coffee drinker, I don’t have a reusable travel mug.

Our office has a coffee machine and reusable mugs (yay on the cups), but I hesitate to use it. Why? Well, the coffee (even the cappuccino and hot cocoa options) is pretty bad. And it uses little individual metal/plastic packets for each cup. In the case of cappuccino, it takes two packets per cup. While these may be recyclable, they are not something we can throw in our standard mixed plastic/glass/metal recycling pick up…which means they go in the trash.

In an office of 140 people, this results in a lot of waste. Or trips to the “fancy coffee” store in the case of the coffee snobs – which also results in a lot of waste because many people don’t remember their reusable mugs.

What are the solutions? Well, a better coffee option at work might help. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Get a barista machine and provide higher-end coffee
  • Add a staffed barista kiosk available in the office part time
  • Provide travel mugs and encourage employees to use them
  • Provide exclusively organic free-trade coffee – locally grown if possible
  • Brew large pots in a standard drip coffee maker and compost the grounds
  • Use sugar and cream dispensers rather than individual packets

Would these be more sustainable options? Possibly, depending upon implementation. It’s definitely worth thinking about.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Commuting Comfort


As I was flipping through the Sunday Washington Post today, I ran across an article on adding "comforts" into cars: When Home Seems To Be on the Road.

This article discusess how auto manufacturers are adding more perks into cars as Americans are spending more and more time on the road.

Having very recently had the worst commute of my 8 years in Washington,DC (2 hr, 31 min to go 11 miles), I can appreciate why people would want more amenities in their cars. I certainly could have used a fresh beverage or a TV.

Of course, on the flip side, as a gal who is concerned about the environment, I was horrified to think of all the people who may be encouraged to spend even more time in their cars.

I think that auto manufacturers are missing the mark: while packing cars with perks may add short-term profits, the long-term business plan should first be focused on increasing fuel efficiency/reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and secondly on getting people out of single-occupant cars and marketing transportation solutions.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Greenopolis: Social Networking at its Greenest?

There is a new social networking site called Greenopolis. It's all about sharing green ideas with a network of people focused on green issues. I didn't realize that "niche social networking" was in, but its a natural progression... like minded groups are bound to want to find each other more easily online.


A good portion of the site is educational, but there are also media content from The Green Broadcast System (GBS) stated to be the"premier collection of sustainability-related news, video, and podcasts." The Galleria features green products and books. There is a eGreenU section for schools to collect education materials, there are blogs, events, polls, forums, groups... the list goes on and on.

As part of your profile you can answer a series of questions that determine your "badge level." Clearly I am way behind the times because I was labeled a "Green Newbie." Actually a little embarrassing! But I guess the point of the badge is to try and improve your score through behavioral changes, such as not using 6-10 consumer products like I do to fix my hair and makeup in the morning.

Happy Valentine's Day

Trying to impress your valentine? Yes, yes we all are, but with a little foresight you can also have a green(er) Valentine’s Day.


Let’s start with the card: according to the Greeting Card Association, Americans purchase 7 billion cards a year and they buy most of those cards on Christmas and…Valentine’s Day. Additionally, the “majority of Americans say they prefer the old-fashioned handwritten card or letter to make someone feel truly special.” So what to do? Try electronic cards or environmentally sensitive paper greeting cards with “100% post-consumer content (PCC)” specified.

The dozen flowers you just purchased are very romantic but are very South American and are probably soaked in pesticides. Look for flowers with the VeriFlora certification, which guarantees “that flowers and potted plants have been produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner and meet the highest standards for freshness and quality.” To gain certification, growers and handlers must meet six criteria: sustainable crop production, ecosystem protection, resource conservation and energy efficiency, integrated waste management, fair labor practices, community benefits.

As for the chocolate, finding organic chocolate shouldn’t be that difficult anymore but here are a few. Green & Black’s chocolate is both organic and Fair Trade. Dagoba Chocolate not only features organic chocolate, but their wrappers are 100% recycled and use vegetable based inks. And their facility is 100% powered by renewal energy. If you still haven’t found that perfect bar of chocolate, check out Endangered Species Chocolate, who donates 10% of their net profits to “help support species, habitat and humanity.”

Finally, tell her she has cute shoes. Good luck!

For a complete Valentine’s Day green gift guide, visit here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Green Profiling

I work with a number of organizations to make their workplace greener. I spend much of this effort on change management activities. After a while I've started to see patterns in the ways in which people approach going green. I've even started to categorize an organization by what I call their "green profile." The green profile is the unique mix of people in the organization made up of four types:

Greeniacs. This portion of the population will say “yes” to anything when it comes to helping the environment. They have already purchased their solar backpack, are using geo-thermal energy to heat their home and have an electric car (better yet, they bike to work). When it comes to creating a green workplace for this portion of the organization, they are ready to go and probably impatient for their organization to “get with the program.” This group is not afraid to practice what they preach and share with others what they are doing. Organizations like the Nature Conservancy, the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council have large portions of their population that are comprised of this group.

Business Environmentalists. This group is aware of the environment and active in their community when it comes to green issues. They believe there are environmental problems that need to be solved. They also believe that making good choices for the environment are often good business decisions as well and can save costs and increase organizational value in the long run. This group is already engaged in environmentally-friendly behavior; they may recycle, purchase local foods and drive a hybrid. However, they are not first adopters to green technology or ideas – they prefer to see them tested before they invest time and energy taking on something new. A growing number of people fall into this category.

Couch Potato Environmentalists. This group is willing to try new green behaviors, but only if it is easy for them to do so. They are not interested in going out of their way to try something green, especially if it is disruptive to getting their job done. Green strategies that work with this group are about tackling the low hanging fruit (simple changes that minimize labor or costs to the organization). Strategies that affect them personally and make their life easier are also very effective. An example of this might be providing a campus shuttle to minimize single occupancy vehicles. The shuttle service probably saves these folks the hassle of finding a parking space, so they are willing to adopt a new behavior.

Green Skeptics. This group may be annoyed by the constant media attention given to green issues and feel that even if there are environmental problems, the environment is just one of many very important priorities (and perhaps they are champions of one of the other priorities). This group is a small and a decreasing percentage of any organization, but should be acknowledged, particularly if they are in positions of influence. This group may never enroll in a green strategy or behavior, but will need to be considered when planning for target metrics.

How how do you assess your organization? We'll share that on a later post. For now, know that it's important to acknowlege and listen to everyone (those nay-sayers usually have very good points) and keep your focus on enrolling the Greeniacs and Business Environmentalists - they are more likely to lead the organization into a greener future.

Office Health Fair

Typically when we think of green workplaces, we think of energy efficiency and water use reduction. But a large part of sustainability is the health of employees. Our office offered a health fair today – a great way to get people thinking about how to more sustainably use their bodies. As part of the health fair, the following services were available:

  • Basic health screening: This tested emlpoyees cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, body fat and body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. A health counselor was on hand to review the screenings with individuals, provide some basic advice on how to improve scores, and provide outside resources.
  • Massage: sadly I did not get to experience this as there were limited slots available.
  • Vision Screening: Early identification and treatment can prevent or at least alleviate many of the problems that result from impaired vision.
  • Chiropractic Advisor: A Chiropractor was available to provide stress screenings to assess the impact of physical trauma, emotional stress, and chemical toxins on your body.
  • Stress-Management Advisor: This session offered relaxation and breathing techniques and stretching exercises specifically designed to relieve tension caused by repetitive office routines; how to utilize aromatherapy; strategies for getting a better night’s sleep; and self-massage techniques for reducing tension in the head, neck, shoulders, and hands.

This is a great way for people who don’t have time to get to the doctor to do a quick check in for huge red flags. One of the senior principals of the office was perhaps the best salesman: “if we’d had this years ago, I would have known to change my lifestyle and could have prevented a stroke.”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Remote Work and Your Health

It’s rapidly becoming apparent to the masses that remote work can be good for the environment (less driving, less office space, etc.); however, there are some aspects of remote work that can be hazardous to your health.

This post is inspired by a section on bags & briefcases in this month’s Women’s Health magazine. In between extolling the virtues of different bags and briefcasses, the magazine plopped in an interesting fact: doctors recommend that you carry no more than 10 to 15% of your body weight.

The average woman, according to the magazine, already carries 6.5 pounds of essential items (wallet, phone, makeup, keys, lotion, iPod, etc.). For the remote working woman, the tally begins to add up quickly. In addition to the 6.5 pounds of essentials, she also may carry:
  • Laptop (6-10 lbs)
  • Laptop support (mouse, power, flash drives, etc)
  • Other chargers (phone, iPod, etc.)
  • Paper/work materials

Having a job where I travel and sometimes work from home, I invested in an ergonomic backpack to help shoulder the weight. This was great…except that I would cram easily 40 lbs of stuff into it…that would mean I need to weigh between 266 and 400 lbs to carry this load (for the record, I do not).

The average American woman weighs 140 lbs (source: http://www.inch-aweigh.com/dietstats.htm) - meaning that the maximum she should carry is 14 to 21 lbs. I’ve remedied my personal situation by purchasing a smaller, lighter backpack, and when my laptop lease is up, I’m going to lobby for a lighter version.

Just something to think about as we transition more toward mobile workforces.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

News of the Weird: Man Sued for Generating No Trash


I recently read an article on the Baltimore Examiner's website: City sues man for canceling trash service.
A quick synopsis: The homeowner in question cancelled his trash service because he no longer generates any measureable waste for collection:

  • Paper, plastic, and metal are recycled
  • Yard waste is mulched and used in the yard
  • Food scraps are run through the garbage disposal
  • Unwanted items are given away to friends or through Craigslist

The city requires weekly trash pickups as part of their municipal code, and as the homeowner does not have one scheduled, has opted to pursue legal action.

Granted, upon further investigation, it appears that there may be some extenuating circumstances related to the city's decision; however, this issue highlights the importance of policy in encouraging sustainable practices, whether in the work place or at home.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cool Green Websites


Planetizen is a super-cool resource for planning geeks. This week, they sent out a list of their top ten websites of the year. Sadly, The Green Workplace didn’t make it, but some other really good ones did. Here are a couple of my favorites in the green category and an excerpt of Planetizen’s description:

NYC/London Interactive Transit Map: These two web tools by software developer Gregory J. Brail combine transit data and Google Maps to create the easiest way yet to figure out how to get somewhere using public transit (at least in New York and London). By simply clicking (or typing in the address) of your starting point and destination, these interactive transit maps instantly plot the shortest travel route using each city's underground metro.
Post Carbon Cities: Post Carbon Cities has taken up the challenge of helping local governments understand and respond to the challenges of peak oil and global warming by bringing together a valuable set of resources on energy and climate change. The site's weekly blog provides overviews and advice on topics such as green building and transit-oriented development.

Walk Score also made the list. Refer to Greenette’s previous post on this resource.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Air Car


That's right, a car that runs on compressed air!
The Air Car is the brainchild of Guy Negre, a French inventor and former Formula One engineer. In February, Negre’s company, Motor Development International (MDI), announced a deal to manufacture the technology with Tata Motors, India’s largest commercial automaker and a major player worldwide. Plenty
Finally... all that technology R&D used to create those ridiculously fast cars is put to good use! The Air Car will cost around $10K and have zero emmissions. The car provides a range of around 60 miles per tank at highway speeds. Anticipated to be released in India at the end of 2008, the car may also be available in twelve other countries soon, including South Africa, Israel, and Germany.

New Year's Resolution: Car-Free Diet


As a metropolitan Washington, DC resident, I'm aware of lots of cool transit initiatives ranging from public transit to car share services to slugging . . . but I just heard of a super-cool inititative in Arlington (one of the close-in counties). It's called the car-free diet.

The car-free diet teaches people the advantages of going car-free, and gives advice on how to do it. The website includes a calculator, that with a few quick inputs, shows you much money you'll save, how many calories you'll burn and the amount of CO2 emissions you'll reduce with your choices. It also links to information on transit options (both man-powered and machine), suggestions of places within the county where it's easy to go car-free, and tons of links to other resources.

The car-free diet even has its own blog: http://commuter.typepad.com/the_carfree_diet/ - full of great advice for those looking to go car-free and personal experiences of those who are trying it. This is a great initiative for a county where there are lots of people, lots of transit, and lots of interest in environmental friendliness.
As my daily commute takes me through parts of Arlington, I'm definitely going to take advantage of the information about this diet.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Greenest Presidential Canidate?

Make your plug for Super Tuesday (Feb 5)! Who do you think will be the strongest on environmental issues? Tell us why and leave your comments below.

Here's what others have to say: Grist, Low Impact Living, CNN, The NY Times

And Treehugger gives advice on what we should be asking the candidates (or all other politicians for that matter):

1. How would your administration plan to reduce global warming emissions?

2. How will your administration work with other nations to reduce global warming pollution worldwide?

3. How would you balance federal funding for public transportation and road construction?

4. How do you respond to industries who try to argue that we have to choose between jobs and clean energy?

5. What are your policies on new coal fired power plants and new nuclear power plants?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Creating Demand

I was travelling for business recently and struggled with living sustainably out of a hotel room – I had some successes and some failures. For example, I found a great way to combat purchasing bottled water – refills from the filtered water in the gym rather than the slightly rusty water from the hotel faucet.


One thing I was not able to do successfully was recycle…especially paper and plastic bottles. Every time I threw something recyclable away, I cringed! What did I do about this? Nothing. What should I have done? Talked to the hotel about instituting recycling programs: either in room, or at least in each elevator lobby/ice machine alcove.

It’s well known that the U.S. is a heavily consumer-driven society. If we the consumers make our demands known, soon enough, suppliers will begin to meet the demand. One way to do this is through corporate travel programs – while each individual user still has impact, a company with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of employees may be able to make a bigger mark.

Some companies have corporate travel policies that support environmental/social responsibility:
  • Preferred rental of hybrid automobiles
  • Carbon offset purchasing
  • Preference for hotels with green energy/green buildings

Not only should we ourselves create demand with our dollars (and words), but also, we need to encourage our companies to increase their dedication to sustainable travel initiatives.

The Bottled Water Alternative

"Americans send about 38 billion water bottles a year to landfills. Considering the 1.5 million barrels of oil needed to make those bottles, the environmental impact of plastic bottle waste is truly staggering." (from Filter for Good)

So filter your water! It saves money and the environment. The low tech route? A water filter on the faucet or a filter pitcher in the fridge. A slightly higher tech version? Try the Innowave Chiller (pictured.) It filters water three times over from your tap.

And take the pledge to reduce bottled water! Go to Filter for Good and find out ways to reduce bottle waste. You can also "map the pledge" to see how many people have pledged to save bottles in your city.

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