Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Energy Management System that Integrates Human Behavior

Chris Thorman, a blogger for Software Advice, recently wrote about a very cool environmental monitoring system developed by Sharman and Knowledge Global, a sustainability consultancy. Their Environmental Management and Measurement Application (EMMA) records and diplays real time carbon footprint information, and sends real-time alerts to property managers, is tied to "eggs" that glow green or red based on energy use and records daily metrics. This system engages occupants as well as building managers. The occupant engagement component is particularly critical for ongoing energy reduction as we know from recent behavioral studies.

Thorman describes the behavioral aspects of the system:

  • The EMMA monitor in the lobby of buildings displays energy use by floor, room and even by tenant. This makes it easy to organize competitions that motivate tenants to reduce the amount of energy they are using.
  • EMMA’s wireless “eggs” are another visual incentive for reducing tenants’ carbon footprint. These egg-shaped devices sit throughout a building – in common areas and on each floor, for example – and glow red or green as energy use fluctuates against the optimal forecast. This constant reminder about energy use encourages tenants to use less, or at least, makes them aware of energy use in areas they may have not even thought about before.

Here's a flow chart describing the basic aspects of the entire system:

More resources on this system:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Energy Fix by Greg Allen

One of my esteemed colleagues, Greg Allen, is a "sustainable strategist" in HOK's Toronto office who specializes in energy. Seriously, this guy knows everything about it... non-renewable, renewable, anything you want to know. I ask him all of my obscure energy-related questions that noone else knows the answer to... like about co-gen, solar nano-technology and if T. Boone Pickens really knows what he is talking about.

Greg has just written a really nice white paper about retrofitting buildings currently reliant on fossil fuels (that means most buildings). It's a very helpful resource if you're looking for ways to seriously change the way your building uses energy and, in fact, create revenue by selling energy back to the grid. His answer is NOT just slapping solar panels on the roof. Be prepared, it's a complicated answer, but worth really understanding.

For the short version of his paper, click here.
For the long version, click here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gingerbread Green Homes

And now for a little holiday humor... For those of you who spend way too much time doing LEED checklists, you'll enjoy this. John Cantrell, Weronika Cichosz, JoAnn Brooks, Lori Selcer, Julian Tablada - colleagues of mine from HOK - came up with a green checklist for building a green gingerbread home.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On My Bookshelf: Clean Energy Common Sense

It’s no joke, I like to read. A lot. In fact, my birthday gift this year was a Kindle – partially because it’s green, partially because it’s cool, but mostly because I’ve run out of room on the bookshelves in my house.

One of my recent reads is a little book on current affairs and the environment by Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):

First, about NRDC: NRDC is an environmental action group whose mission is “to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.” No small task! This organization has been doing good work since 1970 and is popular and influential today: How I Met Your Mother’s Marshall Erikson’s dream job is to be a lawyer for NRDC.

The book itself is inspired by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and includes a foreword by Robert Redford (yes, that Robert Redford). It’s a quick read – at only 106 pages, I was able to get through it in two sittings.

What I really liked about this book is that it truly lays out the arguments for combating climate change in a clean, clear, no-nonsense manner. Anyone who reads this book will understand Beineke’s arguments: written simply and without a lot of jargon or extraneous information.
The book is written for any number of audiences: from those who question whether climate change is real to those who are the greenest greenies.

For me, the part that resonated most was the section on carbon cap & trade (part of Chapter 4: A Blueprint for Change). This section takes a complicated subject with all kinds of market and political aspects and makes it very understandable – extremely helpful for those who do not spend their days studying carbon trading, emissions, global politics, manufacturing, and/or the global free market.

The Epilogue calls for each reader to “do something”: contact your Senators and Representatives, write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper or magazine, or start a dialogue with your contacts. I’m hoping that this post gets you thinking about the environment and what you can do, whether it’s read the book, research the issues, or change your behaviors and urge others to do the same!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Green Depot" Offers Great Gift Ideas

I think I may be slow to realize this website even exists, but I must say I was pleased to find it. The Green Depot sells efficient light bulbs, filters, low VOC paints... all of those green household items you would have had to search for hours online for in the past, but now you can search for in an instant.

My favorite part of their site is the "gift ideas" section where you can find everything from recycled wine bottle glasses, to a Kil A Watt gadget to measure your appliance energy intake; from a dual flush toilet retrofit to a composter for the home. SO COOL!

Friday, November 20, 2009

GHGs Reduce with Economic Condition

The talk shows yesterday were all abuzz with the announcement that greenhouse gas emissions have reduced globally by 3% in 2009 due to the slowdown in the economy (according to the Global Carbon Project). They likened it to hundreds of power plants shutting down for several weeks. Basically, we've slowed down the production of "stuff," slowed down our driving and reduced our energy use in general.

My own family has been affected by the recession - we planned to move out of the city into a larger home to accommodate our 3 year old. After a couple of years of sticking with a smaller apartment at this point, we've unwittingly realized how great it is to have less "stuff" and commute less. Since we didn't buy that big house in the burbs, we don't need more furniture, we don't need that second car and we don't need "yard equipment." We probably contributed to that 3% reduction because we just stopped buying as much, period. I gotta say, it's much less stress and a great lifestyle.

So what if we all just keep doing more with less - would it give us more time, more money and fewer emissions to worry about? Honestly, I think so. I'm up for redefining the American dream and creating a World dream of less stuff and less hassle.

Monday, November 16, 2009

HOK's Aha! Moments at Greenbuild

Last week at Greenbuild, my company decided to host a booth as we always do. Usually at our booth we talk about how great our green buildings are, what fabulous books we've written, etc. But not this year. This year we decided to capture on video those many inspirational people we meet at Greenbuild and share their most personal moments with the world. The Aha! moment when all of these brilliant minds realized that the environment was important to them for whatever reason. We've been compiling some great video - some of it very touching. I had to share - feel free to share your Aha! moment on this blog. We'd love to hear from you.

Here is my personal favorite Aha! Moment from John Lalumiere at the World Wildlife Fund.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Disposable Water Bottles... Why Are They Still Here?

I just noticed this photograph of the Asian Pacific countries gathering in Singapore this weekend talking about their emissions pledges in advance of Copenhagen. Now, does anything seem strange to you about this photograph? Yeah, disposable water bottles? How can they possibly be serious about climate change issues posing in front of photographers with plastic bottles sitting prominently in front of them? As much as I'd like to give these guys a hard time, I struggle with the disposable bottle issue all the time. The real issue, I find, is having access to consistently clean, filtered water. I don't really have an issue at home or work, but when I'm traveling, I can drag around my reusable mug, but I really have no idea if the water fountains in the locations I'm traveling are trustworthy (if there are water fountains at all).

I think it's time to start petitioning airports, hotels and restaurants to provide filtered water on a more regular basis. I'd even pay for filling my bottle up if I knew I could trust the source!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Appearances Matter

So you want to be green? Sometimes it involves a trade-off...there's only so much money and time available for upgrades! A new survey indicates that more homeowners are likely to invest in kitchen and bathroom renovations or floor finish replacement (appearance-focused) rather than energy efficiency projects like replacing HVAC or windows.

Question: If you were suddenly handed $10,000 for home improvements, what would you do? (2009 data)
  • Refinish the kitchen or bathroom (37%)
  • Replace carpet or add hardwood or tile (33%)
  • Replace windows (31%)
  • Replace HVAC/furnace (23%)

Hopefully everyone is using eco-friendly new finishes and recycling their construction waste!

As for me, the choice was based on necessity - I had to replace my HVAC because it stopped February (brrr!!). And the windows got replaced because whenever it rained hard, water leaked into the house. The kitchen and bathrooms, well, they're still 1983-style sexy!

Above: Leaking window - duct tape was not a successful solution - very unusual!
Towel and blanket pile post-flood in the 1983-style bathroom - please note that i have since replaced the original showerhead with a low-flow fixture!

It's definitely frustrating - my house is not as pretty as some of my friends' and neighbors', but I spend a lot less money on energy than they do, and, well, no more flooding or freezing!

Check out the article:Survey: Homeowners Prefer Appearance Over Energy Efficiency .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walk..or Bus...Score

Last year, we shared a fun favorite: walkscore. A cool tool then...even cooler now. Walkscore now incorporates transit information like bus stops in its calculations. Pretty awesome.

Check out what came up for the HOK WDC Office:

A score of 98 isn't too shabby. Of course, one of the restaurants on the list is definitely no longer open (boo bad economy) and I'm not sure that "The Shops of Georgetown Park" qualify as a school....regardless, impressive stuff!

Check out the Article: Walk Score incorporates transit, real estate industry takes note

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is Your City REALLY Recycling?

I just read an article in Washington, D.C.'s local CityPaper this week about how a good portion of our city's recycled trash is picked up and co-mingled with the regular trash. In 1988, the city set a goal of recycling 45 percent of its trash by 2004. The city is only recyling 24 percent now. And based on what CityPaper reporters have witnessed, the recycling level is likely much less than that. Apparently San Francisco, Seattle and Dallas recycle around 50 percent of their trash, so D.C. is far behind.

What's D.C.'s problem? Turns out it multi-fold:
  • Garbage crew members say they are running behind schedule and under orders from supervisors to just get the trash off the streets. Apparently citzens complain more about getting garbage off the streets than they do about the co-mingling of non-recycled and recycled garbage.

  • Some regular garbage crews said they were "helping out" the recycling garbage crews who could not handle all of their stops around town.

  • Recycling prices have plummeted, so the city's 40 companies registered to haul away recycling from commercial buildings have lost an incentive to recycle to the extent they did a year ago.

  • The city awarded a Maryland company the contract of processing all of D.C.'s recyclables. This increased the costs for garbage trucks to collect and deposit the garbage (longer distances to drive) which put an unnecessary burden on smaller recycling garbage collectors.

  • D.C. is pretty good about enforcing some recycling enfractions, but not the hauling of recycling to the city dump.
As someone who trys to religiously recycle at home and at the office, it's extremely frustrating to think of my hard work going to waste (pun intended). But there are clearly incentives that need to be adjusted for all parties to work well in this recycling system. If you feel the same, let D.C. administrators know!

By Mail

DC Department of Public Works - Office of Recycling
Government of the District of Columbia
3220 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20020

By Email:
Office Hours: 8:15 am to 4:45 pm, Monday through Friday, except District holidays
By Phone
Main: (202) 645-7191
Fax: (202) 645-8518

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rules of the Road for Bikers

As a little kid, I remember very clearly listening to my mother tell me that bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road, just like drivers. Granted, at that point, I wasn't riding my bike in very heavily trafficked areas (around the park, to my friend's house a few doors down, etc.).

Now, I sometimes ride my bike to work, which is a 14 mile ride on a mix of trails and roads. I've continued to follow my mother's advice...for the most part. I admit, I'm guilty of blowing through stop signs (when there's no traffic). Let me just say from experience, stopping and starting is a lot more difficult for a bicyclist than it is for a motorist!

I ran across an interesting article (Stop Means Stop in Slate Magazine) this morning. This article discusses whether or not there should be a separate set of rules for bicyclists. As a sometime cyclist, I completely understand the desire to not exactly follow the laws (stopping is hard; sometimes there are more direct routes than what you could take in a car). As a sometime motorist, I sometimes almost run over cyclists who are not obeying the law and are putting themselves in dangerous situations (like the woman riding the wrong way on M Street during rush hour when the sun is directly in front of the driver, or some of the lovely gentleman crossing K Street on a diagonal at a 4-way stop without stopping).

After reading the article, I think my mom is definitely a vehicularist, while I fall more on the facilitator side. I love riding on bike trails and feel much, much safer when I'm in a bike lane on the road. Where do you fall?

Image source: Wikimedia

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Is it Really Local?

We've heard a lot about greenwashing in the past (false claims regarding the green-ness of a product, service, etc), but have you heard of localwashing? I ran across an article discussing how global corporations are now claiming to be local.

I hadn't been thinking about this concept, but sadly, I wasn't surprised to hear it. I did a bit more research and found that it's not just one or two companies, but many. Lesson learned: be vigilant about investigating "local" claims, as well as "green" claims!

Some other articles I found:

Image Source: Your Green Friend

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Good Morning America Features The Green Workplace!

ABC’s consumer correspondent, Elisabeth Leamy, ran a story on “greenwashing” today. Greenwashing” is a term, first used in the 1990s, that refers to the act of misleading others regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. For example, a bottle of toxic cleaning chemicals may have an image of lakes and forests on the front to give the impression that it is good for the environment. Or a product may be listed as “certified” green, but doesn’t say who certified it.

Because greenwashing is a topic we address in The Green Workplace and because I’m pretty passionate about the topic, my daughter and I got a chance to say our peace on national television today about products that protest to be green and are not. Some market reports show that consumers are willing to spend up to 10% more for products they know are better for the environment, and many companies pray on this by slapping a green label on products that are not even close. Call it a pet peeve, but I believe it’s about time we started insisting on more comprehensive labeling. Comprehensive, but not confusing I might add.

Here’s the story if you missed it this morning:

Could Your Office Park Also Be A Farm?

Just ran across an interesting article about "agriburbia" in the Denver Post. So, what is agriburbia? Essentially, it's integrating suburban development with agriculture on a large-scale (more than your basic herb garden). So, you build your suburban housing development, office park, golf course, whatever, but still use the remaining land as a productive agricultural resource.

Definitely an interesting concept. Check out some other resources:

Image source: Agriburbia

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Get Rid of Your Old TV (For Free!)

We've talked a lot about companies doing good things, and also about electronics recycling. I'm all for reduce, reuse, recycle, so any time I hear about new programs, I smile a little bit.
I recently received a press release from Mistubishi (below), so I thought I'd share their new plans for reducing their environmental impact.

Image source: DavidDesign

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc. Joins MRM National Recycling Effort

Television Manufacturer Continues to Reduce Impact on Environment with

Eco-Friendly Initiatives and Energy-Efficient Products

IRVINE, Calif. October 13, 2009 As part of its ongoing environmental efforts, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc. (MDEA) today announced that it is joining the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company’s (MRM) national recycling initiative. Effective immediately, all MDEA TVs can be recycled at no charge to the consumer through MRM’s growing infrastructure of drop-off locations around the United States.

“MRM is immensely pleased to welcome Mitsubishi to the growing family of manufacturers seeking to provide environmentally responsible recycling opportunities to customers in all 50 states,” said David Thompson, president of MRM. “With the popularity of new television technologies, we are seeing a tremendous need for recycling televisions and we applaud Mitsubishi for its efforts to help the environment and make recycling easier for consumers.”

By joining MRM’s recycling initiative, MDEA bolsters its existing eco-friendly efforts, including advancements in reducing the energy consumption of its products. MDEA has a robust selection of highly energy efficient TVs including the company’s Home Theater TV series and LaserVue®, the most energy-efficient large-format, high-definition television available on the market today. With operating power consumption at approximately 135W, LaserVue uses exponentially less power1 than comparably-sized LCD and plasma TVs.

“With the addition of the MRM recycling program to our already aggressive environmental efforts, Mitsubishi hopes to significantly reduce the eco-impact of electronics-based waste,” said Frank DeMartin, vice president of marketing, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc. “Whether it is recycling or leading the industry in creating energy-efficient TVs, Mitsubishi is committed to help make this world a better place for future generations.”

For a listing of MRM recycling drop-off locations, please visit

To learn more about MDEA’s energy efficient Home Theater TVs, LaserVue and the LaserVue Carbon Neutral Campaign, please visit: and on Facebook, and on Twitter.

About Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc.

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc., the Official HDTV Sponsor of The PGA TOUR, manufactures and markets a comprehensive line of premium quality 1080p Home Theater and Unisen Immersive Sound TVs, along with the world’s first Laser TV: LaserVue®. Recognized as the world leader and innovator of large display high-definition televisions, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America builds products that lead the industry in quality, performance and ease-of-use. For additional information about MDEA, visit

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Open Space in Green Buildings Reduces Productivity?

Because of the focus on natural light and ventilation, green buildings are typically more “open” than traditional office space, meaning there are fewer full-height walls and and more flexible open areas instead. Many claim that this general trend has helped reduce energy use and building material consumption, but not necessarily productivity when it comes to acoustics or visual distractions. For more collaborative work, ambient noise or a general "buzz" around the office is good for productivity. However, employees trying to perform tasks that require a high degree of concentration may lose productivity due to noise in their work area.

My own view is that acoustics can be very subjective. For example, my husband likes to fall asleep to the sound of television, whereas I find television too stimulating and cannot go to sleep with it on. Some of my colleagues love to listen to music to drown out background noise... I find that even more distracting than tuning out what is happening around me. Maybe having a 3-year-old helps with this, I'm not sure. In any case, this recent push on companies to become more collaborative and more green has increased the amount of open space and now we're all finding our limits to what we can tollerate in terms of acoustical distraction.

Interestingly, when employees have some degree of self-control over the noise in their environment, they are less distracted by it (A. Kjellberg, U. Landstrom, M. Tesarz, L. Soderberg, and E. Akerlund “The Effects Of Nonphysical Noise Characteristics, Ongoing Tasks and Noise Sensitivity on Annoyance and Distraction Due to Noise at Work,” 1996). Maybe this explains my colleagues' headphones.

But it's not just noise. Research in open offices show that visual distractions associated with the continual movement of people has created high levels of dissatisfaction. This has lead to the widesrpead use of ever-more high partitions (cubicles). Although partitions reduce visual distractions, they have not adequately reduced the noise distractions (J. Heerwagen, “Investing in People: The Social Benefits to Sustainable Design,” 2006).

So what are companies doing about the constant complaints about their open offices? The solution for many organizations is to provide a mix of workplaces for their employees to move around in during the day, some of which have acoustic and visual privacy (supporting heads-down work). Other organizations have in invested in sound masking or have building smaller open areas (not just a sea of cubes) in order to minimise noise disruption.

My own view is that we put too much pressure on the physical office space to reduce acoustic issues and not enough focus on behavioral changes, policies and good technology to solve the problems we encounter. I'd rather not give up my windows for a sound-proof dark room... thank you very much.

This 5-minute Julian Treasure TED video is not exactly accurate in my view (Treasure claims noise in an open-office environment reduces productivity by 66 %), but he makes a good point about the power of noise! Check out his talk, “Four Ways Sound Affects Us.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Earthster, the Next Sustainability Rating Tool

For those of you following all of these emerging rating systems... Earthster is one of the latest attempts to create a common life cycle assessment tool for companies to use to rate their products. Earthster is headed by Gregory Norris and designed to be an open-source information system to evaluate a product’s life-cycle assessment relative to industry norms. Norris is part of the Sustainability Consortium, which is developing the index and is centred at Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas.

Normally, a system like this would take decades to get thousands of companies to 1) see its value in the marketplace, 2) adopt it 3) make needed changes in their production process to improve environmental impact. What is unique about this rating system is that Wal-mart has agreed to use this rating system to influence their more than 100,000 suppliers. I'm sure other organizations will also be considering this third party system (especially since Wal-mart is doing it... I mean, who wants to be behind Wal-mart when it comes to the environment!)

The fact that the system is open source is also intriguing, as it will help suppliers and bulk buyers spot ecological upgrades that will improve the product’s rating. Given that a number of Wal-mart's suppliers are in China (some 20 percent of factories in China provide products for Wal-mart) this means the impact of these ratings is global almost immediately.

A pilot project now underway with Earthster involves seven products from Wal-Mart. The intention is to make the system scalable, so that one day all items in Wal-Mart’s (and other retailer's) aisles will have a sustainability rating.

The founding and current members of the Sustainability Consortium is an impressive list of companies by the way... everything from the EPA to Seventh Generation to P&G to Waste Management. If you have any interest in this consortium, get involved now! Here are the academic minds behind the Earthster and the standards behind it:

Dan Vermeer, Duke University
Eli Cox, University of Texas
Olivier Jolliet, University of Michigan
Greg Norris, Harvard University
Tony Kingsbury, University of California, Berkeley
Peter Guthrie, University of Cambridge

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Save the Earth with Fun (Theory)

I'm a huge fan of social influence, real time feedback and other incentives to encourage green behavior - even if it is subliminal. But making the greener, more socially beneficial choice also fun? Now that is something I can support with GUSTO.

Volkswagen is sponsoring a new campaign called The Fun Theory... last entries accepted November 15. The piano staircase in Odenplan, Stockholm is my favorite - after it was installed, 66% more people than normal chose to take the stairs over the escalator.

Or how about this garbage bin? It makes a noise that sounds like the trash is being thrown into a deep well. 72kg were thrown into this bin in one day - that's more than 41kg than were thrown into the "normal" bin nearby. Who says design can't be influential?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Environment Guardian

After a rather long hiatus, I am back. So from here on in I will endeavour to keep you more up to date on European news!

First up I want to draw your attention to my most used source of all news environmental over here the environmental pages on The Guardian newspapers website;

I am slightly biased, as my team recently competed the Interior Design Brief for The Guardian's new building (which, showing they really live their values, is a building with excellent environmental credentials).

This is a brilliant resource for keeping up to date on the latest news, political agendas, tips of green living and even for recipes. I thoroughly recommend a look.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Executive Order Sets New GHG Emissions Target

New Executive Order released October 5th requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days!

This new Executive Order requires agencies to measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions toward agency-defined targets. It describes a process by which agency goals will be set and reported to the President by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Executive Order also requires agencies to meet a number of energy, water, and waste reduction targets, including:

  • 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020;
  • 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020;
  • 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015;
  • 95% of all applicable contracts will meet sustainability requirements;
  • Implementation of the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement;
  • Implementation of the stormwater provisions of the Energy Independence and Security
  • Act of 2007, section 438; and
  • Development of guidance for sustainable Federal building locations in alignment with the Livability Principles put forward by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Will this Executive Order actually stick? Can Federal agencies actually get their act together and meet this order within 90 days? I'm optimistic they can, but it's going to take a lot more than policy to change the way these agencies do business. If I was to prioritize, I'd look at making contracts green first... the government cannot change fast enough, but the companies who work for them can be more agile and they desparately need business the government offers. Put the burden on change where it can be affected fastest. All of the other items on this list can be accomplished by changing procurement policies.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Clean Your Office with Ionized Water

I just found out about a new technology by the Tennant Company. It's called ec-H2O and it uses no cleaning chemicals and 70% less water than normally required by traditional scrubbing methods.

Here's a little film on one of their vacuum cleaners.

Here's a film on the hand-held version from Activeion Pro.
It's almost crazy how simple the solution is... just change the attributes of H2O so that it becomes "activated" or charged water that picks up dirt particles. After sprayed, it converts back into water. I'm sure the chemical companies are not so excited about this product, but it's truly innovative and definitely green!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Green Workplace Chicago Book Signing

The HOK Chicago put on a great booksigning event for The Green Workplace last Thursday evening. Co-hosted by Allsteel in their showroom at the Merchandise Mart, the event was complete with green drinks (vodka, green tea and cucumber?) and lots of smart green experts from all over the city.

More photos of the event here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Top Green iPhone Apps

I'm not afraid to say it. I LOVE my iPhone. And here's even more reason to share that with others - Green iPhone Apps!

Love Tomorrow Today listed its favorites:

Go Organic! [Free] finds organic grocery stores and Earth Day events near you.
shopgreen: [$0.99] based on information you enter about your green habits, the app alerts you of promotions from local businesses.
MyMpg: [$2.99] helps you maximize your fuel efficiency. It evaluates braking forces and acceleration, tracks stats and improvement in gas mileage over time.
Green Lemur: [Free] offers advice on green tweaks, with a tip of the day on how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
iRecycle: [Free] provides information on where to recycle/dispose items. Choose from over 100,000 locations from coast to coast.
Yowza: [Free] finds coupons for nearby retailers that you present digitally rather than having to cut them out of newspapers and magazines.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Green Workplace Book Events

  • September 30, 2009 - Chicago, Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Event
  • October 1, 2009 - Chicago, HOK and AllSteel Event
  • October 6, 2009 - Washington, DC, HOK Event
  • October 8, 2009 - Orlando, IFMA World Workplace
  • October 15, 2009 - Las Vegas, CoreNet Global Summit
  • October 21, 2009 - Houston, Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Event
  • November 5, 2009 - San Francisco, HOK and Autodesk Event
  • January 14, 2010 - Charlotte, NC, Bank of America
  • January 14, 2010 - New York, HOK Event, AIA Center of Architecture
  • January 20, 2010, Los Angeles, Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Event
  • January 21, 2010 - Los Angeles, HOK Event
  • Febrary 1, Colorado Springs NACM Mid-year Conference
  • February 17, 2010 - Houston, HOK Event
  • February 18, 2010 - Washington, DC, Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Event
  • March 10, 2010 - Falls Church, Viginia, The Congressional Schools of Virginia
  • March 24, 2010 - Baltimore, CoreNet Mid-Atlantic Chapter Event
  • April 21, 2010 - U.S. Green Building Council, Washington DC Chapter
  • April 22, 2010 - Panel, Akridge Client Sustainability Forum, Washington, DC
  • April 26, 2010 - Washington DC, CoreNet Mid-Atlantic Chapter Event
  • April 27, 2010 - Raleigh, NC, CoreNet Carolinas Chapter Event
  • April 28, 2010 - Charlotte, NC, CoreNet Carolinas Chapter Event
  • September 15, 2010 - Atlanta, Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Event
  • September 29, 2010 - London CoreNet Summit
  • October 21, 2010 - U.S. Green Building Council, North Carolina Chapter
  • November 15, 2010 - Deloitte, New York

Monday, September 28, 2009

Influencing Human Behavior around Recycling and Litter Reduction

The following clips are from Fostering Sustainable Behavior: Community-Based Social Marketing byt Doug McKenzie-Mohr, PhD. It's a free book you can easily download and I highly recommend it... full of incredibly powerful anecdotes on how to leverage human behavior to be environmentally friendly. Mohr has a section in the document where he looks at specific tools and prompts to leverage behavior around recycling. Facinating stuff. I can't help but think that designers and messaging experts could do a better job about encouraging all of us to recycle more and properly:

Litter receptacles serve as a visual prompt for the proper disposal of garbage. Simply making a litter receptacle more visually interesting was found to double the amount of litter deposited in one study and increase it by 61% in another.

Compared to baseline, the introduction of more conveniently located recycling containers and the use of prompts increased the amount of newspaper recycled in three apartment complexes from 50 to 100%.

Following the introduction of verbal and visual prompts in a high school cafeteria, littering was reduced by over 350%.

Prompts have also been shown to have a substantial impact upon paper recycling. In one department at Florida State University, a prompt that read "Recyclable Materials" was placed directly above a recycling container. The prompt indicated the types of paper to be recycled, while another prompt over the trash receptacle read "No Paper Products." The addition of these two simple prompts increased the percentage of fine paper captured by 54%, while in another department the same procedure increased the capture rate by 29%.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dyesol's Dye Solar Cell (Emerging Solar Technology)

Dyesol’s technology is based on Dye Solar Cell (DSC), which has been identified in the Japanese and EU Photovoltaic Roadmaps as the emerging solar technology, it has also been called the most promising advance in solar cell technology since the invention of the silicon cell.

DSC technology can best be described as “artificial photosynthesis” using an electrolyte, a layer of titania (a pigment used in white paints and tooth paste) and ruthenium dye sandwiched between glass. Light striking the dye excites electrons which are absorbed by the titania to become an electric current many times stronger than that found in natural photosynthesis in plants.

Compared to conventional silicon-based photovoltaic technology, Dyesol’s technology has lower cost and embodied energy in manufacture, it produces electricity more efficiently
even in low light conditions and can be directly incorporated into buildings or structures by replacing conventional glass panels rather than taking up roof or extra land area.
I think this is a brilliant product. It's about time we started develop energy generating building skins... it uses less net material and integrates our best thinking.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Leveraging Technology to Save Energy - In Real Time

I love this product called Energy Joule by Ambient. It's a little plug in device that tells you when peak consumption hours are... it lights green when energy is cheap and red when energy cost is at a premium. Users are given immediate feedback on their energy costs and can make descretionary decisions about what to turn on. Apparetly you can just plug it in and it automatically tunes in to the Ambient Infocast Network.

Unfortunately you have to be a customer of Consumer Powerline in order to purchase this little gizmo... and their major energy markets include New York, New England, the Mid-Atlantic region, Texas, California and Ontario. The company's clients range from medium to large energy users, and span the industrial, commercial, retail and institutional markets, including Stanley Tools, CB Richard Ellis, Cushman Wakefield, Sears Holdings Corporation , NYU Langone Medical Center, and the Massachusetts State Division of Capital Asset Management.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Wordle of The Green Workplace Blog

One of my colleagues recommended this great site called Wordle. It creates visual clouds of all of the content in a document. Here is a cloud of The Green Workplace blog. Looks like we talk about water a lot!

Accidentally Green

I recently bought a product because I thought it was cool...but it turns out to be extremely green (for me)! So, what is this mystery product, and why is it so green?

It's the Soda Stream! Soda Stream is a little machine that carbonates liquids for you. That's right, a homemade soda fountain. I love it because I am ADDICTED to sparkling water...and I know that going to the store to buy 1 liter bottles of sparkling water is hugely wasteful (not only the plastic bottles, but the transportation costs).

Dropping some cash on a soda stream machine means far less waste for me - all I do is fill up the glass soda stream bottle with some regular old tap water, then push the magic handle, and poof...sparkling water!

What's even better than saving plastic is that Soda Stream is dedicated to recycling the carbonaters...and not just dumping them in the recycle bin. They want you to send them back to be refilled, and incentivize you to do so. It's free to ship them back, and if you don't ship them back, you pay $15 more. That works for me!! You can also purchase in stores. And, if you use it a lot, you'll pay off your investment in no time. I think I've already saved at least $30 in just three weeks...

I've never tried their soda mixes, but I can attest that my homemade sparkling water sure does hit the spot! And it's fun, too :)

Now, if I wasn't such an addict, this might not be so green (I mean, it takes some energy to make the system, so if you were only an occasional user, you'd probably be better off just buying finished products at the store). Regardless, for you bubbly water addicts out there - I highly recommend checking it out!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Say Goodbye to E-Waste

This morning I was cruising through the CNN homepage to see if the world had fallen apart (it hasn't, and Jon & Kate are still on the rocks, in case you were wondering). By chance, I happened to find a cool article about a nifty company that will pay you for your old electronics.

No more putting your old ipod in a heap of electronics...simply ship it to and they'll send you some cash. The entire premise of the company is that if an item still works, why not reuse it instead of demolish it for parts.

Once they receive your shipment, Gazelle evaluates it to determine whether or not it can be sold on the secondary market. If so, you get cash! If not, they'll recycle it for you at no cost. Ok, it's not quite that simple on the Gazelle side, but, for you, the electronic recycler, it's a great option.

In addition to your old iPod, they'll buy your old cell phone, laptop, video games, external drives, LCD monitors, desktops, calculators, etc. Pretty great concept...I think I'm going to be digging through my closet of retired electronics!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weighing Environmental Impacts

This morning, my husband announced that he was finished using the metal water filter for the coffee maker and was going to used recycled paper filters instead. When he saw the look of horror on my face and my green horns emerging, he suggested that the paper filters take no water to clean... and it takes a lot of water to get all of the coffee grains out of our metal filter holes.

Of course I know that paper filters likely have an embedded water footprint due to their manufacturing process and obviously take energy to make, but we likely use much more water per filter cleaning out that metal thing. So which is better for the environment? Metal reusable filters that take a gallon or so to get clean each time or recycled paper filters? Honestly, I'm not sure I know, and it got me thinking of all of the times recently when I've been hard pressed to know the right green thing to do. Like, is it better to replace 3 light bulbs with compact fluorescents or just one light bulb with an LED bulb (if money is an issue). Or if you happen not to have a bag with you... is paper or plastic better? Or, if you only have two choices at dinner, Alaskan salmon or farm raised white fish, which is better - one that is flown in from far away or one raised in captivity?

I think all this environmental talk has raised many great questions, but it is terribly confusing sometimes and not intuitive at all. I find myself having to prioritize values that I never even knew I had before. For example, I like the idea of the salmon living wild and free versus that poor white fish stuck in some man-made pond even though the salmon came via plane. Chances are the salmon has a little more protein in it as well, satisfying my appetite so that I'm not likely to want a second helping of food.

I guess the best part about all of this is that those of us with these strange ethical dilemmas are at least thinking about things rather than blindly making choices with no consideration for the environment at all. It can be exhausting though!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Green = Productive

We've been talking about this for a while, so it should come as no surprise that a new study by the University of San Diego and CBRE found that employees working in green buildings are more productive than those in traditional buildings. Some juicy tidbits:

  • 45% reported that they had experienced 2.88 fewer sick days on average
  • 54.5% reported being more productive
  • Present value financial benefits could range from $37 to $55 per square foot
Check out the information in the article:USD/CBRE Study Finds That Employees in Green Buildings Are More Productive Than Those...

Or, read the full report.

Image source: Portland Sentinel

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No place like Home

I just recently got back from an incredible trip to Argentina, my time was split between Buenos Aires and Mendoza. While in Buenos Aires, I stayed at a great hotel in the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood. Hotel Home, started by a British record producer and his wife, an Argentine PR director is absolutely one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in. While the hotel design itself is worthy of pages and pages of praise, the people that work there really make hotel Home live up to it's name.

Anyway, the rooms at Home were equipped with something I have never seen before. Attached to the room key is a plastic card the size of a credit card. The plastic card is what activates the power supply to your room. So, when you open the door, you insert the plastic card attached to your key into the wall receptacle right inside the door (See top photo). This simple action activates the electrical current into your room. Everything that you had left on, on the way out like lights, TV, mobile phone charger, turns back on. While this is cool to come back to, the real benefit is that when you leave and take your key (with plastic card attached), in one simple quick action you are able to deactivate all of the electrical current into the room. This is a tremendously effective and easy way to reduce power usage. It is so simple and brilliant that I started wondering about other applications. I have stayed in hotels all over the world and vastly different levels of comfort and I've never seen this before. Wouldn't it be great to see this in US hotels? With some slight modifications, wouldn't it be wonderful to see this technology in the workplace? Imagine if the swipe card or fob that you use to get into your office building could also be used at your desk to turn on your task light, computer, and monitor all at once. Then, at the end of day when you leave, you take your card/fob with you and all of your electronic equipment shuts off automatically. This would even be great to use in dorm rooms. With tuition rates far outpacing inflation, any way to help cut costs may help the overall price of education. The possibilities are fun to think about. I think that people are generally good about turning off lights and the television when they leave home (where they pay the bills). However, when people are in places like hotels and their office and someone else is picking up the bill, laziness kicks in. This seems like such a great solution.

I posted some other pics from Home Hotel for some eye candy of the best place to stay in Buenos Aires. The Home breakfast (pictured) was the way I wish I could start everyday.

Green Fonts?

OK, now I've seen it all... green FONTS? Acutally, this is kind of interesting. Spranq, a Utrecht, The Netherlands creative communications firm, has created a font with "holes" in it called Spranq Eco Sans. This font apparently reduces the amount of toner / ink cartriges needed when printing (they claim 20% savings). The Ecofont website claims, "After extensive testing with all kinds of shapes, the best results were achieved using small circles." It looks very similar to Verdana (see example below):

They recommend using a font size of 10 or 12 so that the fonts are less... well, holey.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Use Pedal Power to Charge Your Batteries

For those of you who complained in our post Make Your Bike Electric! - about how using an electric bike is greener than driving but still uses carbon - this post should make you happy.

There are a number of interesting "pedal power" gadgets out there, but I'm looking forward to the BioLogic FreeCharge from Dahon. It puts a dynamo on a bike wheel that then charges a battery powered USB hub which you in turn plug your MP3 player/PMP or any other USB-chargable device into. Dahon claims that a full charge will be reached at around three hours of cycling. The BioLogic FreeCharge will be available in March 2010 for around $100.

It will charge camera batteries, iPods, phones and whatever small gadgets you have lying around that need regular juice. Now that's a productive workout.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why White Roofs are More Energy Efficient

Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy, discusses why white roofs are better for the environment.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why Labor Unions are Going Green

Leigh Stringer interviews Tom Kriger, Provost and VP for Academics for the National Labor College on why the NLC is creating a new Green Workplace Representative Certificate program on The Green Workplace Radio.

The National Labor College is in Silverspring, Maryland and the only accredited college devoted exclusively to training and educating union members, leaders, activists and staff. Turns out... labor is really pro-green, especially when it comes to re-tooling the workforce to be competitive and supporting local green jobs.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Commercial vs. Residential Building Energy Use

I've found a new favorite place for juicy green info... David Chu's Facebook Notes Page (aka Secretary of Energy or our proverbial "Energy Tsar"). He posted this little chart the other day that breaks down energy use by commercial vs. residential use. The big difference? Commercial energy use is largely driven by lighting versus heating (the more likely candidate at home). Many people ask me where to focus their attention when it comes to energy use. This little chart is a nice cheat sheet. That said, I believe that computer/office equipment creates a bit more energy proportionately (if you've got lots of servers, that number goes up more).

Drivin' on Sunshine

We've talked a lot about solar power and a lot about transportation, but this is the first time I've heard of this awesome bit of news (from autobloggreen): Solar Roadways get prototype funding from DOT.

Basically, this is a system in which all asphalt would be replaced by a series of structurally engineered solar panels. While this is an awesome concept (think of all the energy generated from the sun hitting our roads, parking lots, and driveways), the inventors have taken it a step further: they plan for these roadways to heat themselves (no more plowing), light themselves, and provide charging for EVs. Pretty cool!

Let's hope that next year we're reading about how the technology has been proven and it's being rolled out world wide!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Why Cap and Trade Should be the Least of Your Worries

Leigh Stringer from The Green Workplace Radio Show interviews LaRee DeFreece from HOK St. Louis on cap and trade policy. LaRee outlines some serious issues we’ll need to face over the next few years. Listen to her HERE and understand why cap and trade is only a small part of a major sea change coming to our marketplace!

Green Consumer Myths

Great blurb in EcoHome Magazine: 6 Myths of Green Consumers

A study done by the Shelton Group found that there is no "typical green consumer" and that green consumers aren't really as green as you (and marketing people) might expect.

Some of the interesting factoids:

  • Top concern: the economy
  • Top reason to reduce energy use: save money
  • Almost half think CO2 depletes the ozone layer (it doesn't)
  • Green consumers don't fall neatly into any demographic category
  • Knowledge doesn't always mean people will make greener choices.
Interesting stuff. Check out the article!

Image source: paradise earth

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Streetlights that Dim with the Moon

Lunar-resonant streetlights, designed by Anton Willis of Civil Twighlight, LLC, are LED outdoor lights that dim when the the ambient light in the night sky increases. From the Index Awards website:

Now in talks with communities in San Francisco, where he lives, and in Austin, Texas, Willis is in an active search for test markets for his Lunar-Resonant Streetlights, which use a sensor to measure and respond to moonlight.

His light source is housed in a fixture folded from a single sheet of aluminum. The arc of the shape is inspired by the lunar analemma, a geometrical diagram of the moon's movement.

Willis agrees that Floridian coastal communities could be particularly right for this lighting system because of the needs of nesting sea turtles on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico shores. "A sort of peripheral area of research I was into involved how natural and astronomical cycles are involved with physiology and the human body and other animals.

We love the enginuity of this simple device... no parking lot should be without it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Make Your Bike Electric!

So you own a bike, and want to reduce your carbon footprint, but you don't want to arrive at work sweating and smelly? Have no fear... make your bike electric! Check out this electric bicylce conversion kit! Made by Flexitron, you just assemble to the bike you already own and go!

Their website claims it is built for "rough and tough use" in all terrains and you can go a minimum 30 kilometers on a full charge. So now you have no excuse!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Green Walls

I've blogged before about vertical gardens, but now I've found a cool system that helps you create an entire green wall!

I was cruising through the Top 100 Products issue of Buildings Magazine, and ran across Green Walls by Green Screen.

Green Screen is a 3-D welded wire trellising system that can be used pretty much anywhere, even as a free-standing element. When used in conjunction with a building, the trellising system keeps plants from growing directly on the facade, thereby protecting the building.

Definitely some beautiful options out there. Wonder if my HOA would approve? Or if I could actually keep the plants alive? :)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

To Demount or Not to Demount

When thinking about constructing an office or renovating an existing facility, many facility managers, architects, and designers consider demountable walls.

For those of you that aren't in the biz, demountable walls are essentially pieces of furniture that go from floor-to-ceiling to create a separation of space. They can be easily disassembled, moved, and reassembled.

When thinking about construction, cost is always an issue. The first costs of installing permanent drywall partitions are pretty much always lower than those of demountable partitions BUT, given the lifecycle cost of having to demolish and rebuild walls versus the deconstruction of demountable walls AND the focus on sustainability, demountable walls can be a good option for some situations.

Some of the demountable wall plusses include:

  • Flexibility
  • Modularity
  • Technology - flexibility for wirign and cabling
  • Reuseability
  • Appearance - they can be snazzy
  • Integration with furniture systems is possible
  • Potential for lower lifecycle cost
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Acoustical privacy can be an issue
  • Appearance - they can be ugly, too!

As always, consult with designers and manufacturers before making a decision!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Green is Your Alma Mater?

I received a press release from our friends at Greenopia (you may remember them from the post). This time, they were sharing information about the greenness of institutes of higher education (colleges & universities).

Institutions were evaluated on a number of criteria, including environmental reporting, green building design, waste program, renewable energy, green food options, alternative fuel vehicles, and water conservation.

My hubby will be pleased to see that his alma mater (Penn State) received 3 out of 4 leaves landing it in the top 10, while mine (University of Virginia) got a whopping ZERO! C'mon Wahoos, let's pick up the pace for next year!!

Greenest Universities: West Coast Beats Out East Coast

by Starre Vartan
Monday, August 24, 2009

Universities aren't shy about touting their green initiatives, and for good reason. When making a decision about what college to attend, as well as who to work for after they've graduated, most Millenials will opt for the greener choice. But a few well-publicized green initiatives don't make a college more environmentally-friendly than the next; Yale has gotten tons of press about its planet-friendly practices, but it was beaten out by fellow Ivy Harvard, in Greenopia's recently-released environmental rating of 100 of the largest universities in the United States.

At the top of the list, receiving 4 out of a possible 4 leafs were the University of Washington (for 4 LEED buildings and 25% of food served in cafeterias being locally-grown, as well as a comprehensive composting program) and the University of California at Santa Barbara. UCSB got top marks for having 6 LEED-certified buildings (with 20! more on the way) and a recycling rate of 62%

Rounding out the top 10 greenest schools were the University of Oregon, the University of California at Davis, Colorado State, Stanford, Harvard, Penn State, the University of California at San Diego, and Duke.

“Rating the environmental performance of a university is a daunting task”, said Doug Mazeffa, Greenopia’s Research Director. “There are many different criteria that must be considered before any conclusions can be drawn.”

Data was collected from the university itself or from other credible sources pertaining to the green building design, waste program, food selection, campus vehicle fleet, water conservation measures, climate performance, renewable energy usage, and the overall environmental transparency of the school.

“It was fascinating to see the variability in the environmental performance of each university”, said Gay Browne, CEO of Greenopia. “Some schools have made a tremendous effort, while others really have yet to make any significant changes to their policies.”

Click here to see the full rankings and all the Universitys' rankings.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy Planets!

I was cruising along the internet superhighway the other day and ran across the "Happy Planet Index."

The Happy Planet Index rates countries based on ecological impact and human well-being. Essentially, it measures how much countries damage the planet against how long their citizens live and how happily they do.

HPI measures 143 countries (99% of the world's population). This year's happiest planet country was Costa Rica. Overall, the countries with the highest HPI scores were located in Latin America (green on the map below). Note that NO countries scored highly in all categories, and we all have "a ways to go."

The United States' score was a mere 30.7 out of 100, putting the country in the bottom of the pile. The good news is that the US scored highly for life expectancy and satisfaction; however, our consumption of natural resources was dreadful - 9.4 global hectares per capita. The global goal is 2.1 gha/person, meaning that in the US, we are using nearly four times our fair share. YIKES!

The Happy Planet Index was created by nef, a global think-tank committed to making the world a better place :)

Download their data here!

Image source: HideYourArms

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Green Workplace Interviews Sprint's Sustainability Manager

The Green Workplace interviews Alicia Martin to find out about Sprint's green initiatives internally and their newest green product...the"Reclaim" phone that just hit the market - it's 80% recycled material and very GREEN.

Podcast of The Green Workplace interview with Alicia Martin, Sprint

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