Saturday, February 28, 2009

Become a Fan of The Green Workplace

Become a fan of The Green Workplace (the book) on Facebook and we'll give you updates on when the book will be available in bookstores, events and other news.

The Green Workplace Facebook Page

The World of Transit

I'm a sucker for good graphic representation of complex ideas (hello Edward Tufte)...I stumbled across a great graphic in GOOD: American Transit Lags Behind. This graphic demonstrates the length of transit lines and the level of ridership.

The U.S. has some serious work to do in catching up with the top transit cities world wide.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tweet-a-Watt... The Green Social Networker's Dream

I have found nervana... it's a combo social networking / green behavior changing gadget that is affordable and simple to use. The winner of the Greener Gadgets design award was announced today in NY. The gadget is a jerry-rigged Kill-o-Watt plug in device (seen above) which effectively measures the power your computer or appliances use. What makes it a Tweet-a-Watt is an added wireless device that sends regular messages to your friends through you Twitter account of the energy you are used that day. Not only does it wirelessly tell your friends about your power use, but it tracks energy use over time through an internet site, so also you can make incremental changes to reduce your power use.

Even better - the inventors are making it open source, so that others can play around with the technology and use it for other technologies. AWESOME.

Image from Make Blog

Idle Much?

Recently I've been reading a lot about idling: it's been a hot topic on the Fostering Sustainable Behavior listserv, it's hit Planetizen, and my mom's school's environmental club has asked parents in car line to turn off their cars.

Every day millions of people drive to work...and a lot of us sit in traffic or pause at the drive-thru. Or we use busses, vans, and taxis that idle. When our vehicles are running, they're spewing emissions (well, most of them except the ZEV's)...even if we're sitting still.

So, what's the story? Should we be turning off our cars? There's certainly a myth out there that turning off the car has greater wear & tear than idling. Here are a few bits of research that help dispell that myth:

So, turn off your car already!

Image Source:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Green Workplace Bloggers

For those of you who haven't figured this out, there are lots of smart people blogging for The Green Workplace. Check out the "Posted by" note at the bottom of each post to find out who said what. Most of us use a pen name or "handle" if you will, but we're not ashamed of our identity. To find out more about us, go to the right hand side of the site and scroll down to the section "About Bloggers."

A special thanks to our regular bloggers for their outstanding contributions to this blog, the industry and the environental movement:

Millenial 4 Earth, aka Jodi Williams
Green A, aka Anica Landreneau
Green London, aka Emma Wharton

There are several other brilliant contributors to The Green Worplace as well. Check them out!

Friday, February 20, 2009

solar powered cellphone - need I say more?

Samsung Electronics has unveiled the world's first solar-powered smartphone - and it's made out of recycled plastic bottles.The back panel of the new Blue Earth touchscreen phone doubles as a solar panel, enabling users to "generate enough electronic power to call anytime anywhere," according to Samsung. The device also comes with an energy-efficient plug-in charger that draws less than .03 watts in standby node, the company says.

The rounded, pebble-shaped handset is built from PCM, a plastic made from recovered water bottles. The entire device, including charger, contains no brominated flame retardants (BFRs), beryllium, or phthalate - potentially toxic substances common to some electronics products. Streamlined packaging is made from lightweight, recycled-content paper.

Finally, we don't have to carry around one of these 'universal' solar chargers with so many adapters you can start your own landfill with the leftovers!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fun New Toy: Gapminder

I ran across this website when checking out Planetizen's Top 10 Websites. Gapminder is a tool that seeks to promote sustainable development through the use of data and statistics on all sorts of indicators. Great interface, beautiful site, interesting information!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Being Green at Google

Monday, February 16, 2009

Herman Miller's Aeron Gets Greener

A great post from my Emma Wharton on the Life at HOK blog. Here's what she says:

Herman Miller’s iconic Aeron chair today has received the McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) Cradle to Cradle Silver certification for environmentally friendly design. The design is already 94 percent recyclable and made up of up to 64 percent recycled materials. The seat frame and back contain over 60 percent recycled content, made from approximately 36 recycled two-liter plastic beverage bottles per chair. Aeron is also assembled with 100 percent renewable energy and is GREENGUARD certified.


Biomimicry & Traffic?

Just ran across a fantastic article about using leafcutter ants as an example for traffic planning:

Taking Traffic Control Lessons — From Ants.

The authors discuss how leafcutter ants travel immense distances in large groups, carrying heavy loads...but never get stuck in a traffic jam. This is because the ants have learned (0r instinctively know) that sacrificing speed for the individual benefits the collective group.

Researchers believe that if humans could utilize a system like the one used by ants, traffic incidents would be largely prevented, and average wait times would be reduced. Definitely a green idea!!

Pretty cool idea...even if it means giving up control.

Check out Greenette's previous post on the HOK/Biomimicry Guild Partnership, or some Life @ HOK posts on biomimicry.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Post-Car Future?

With all the talk of government bailouts and stimuli, there's been a lot of attention paid to making a greener car. This is great news, since we are clearly "addicted to oil" and have our rear ends firmly implanted in our cars. But there is a downside: when things are more efficient, we tend to use them more (or buy more of them, or more people buy them)....which offsets the good done by making them more efficient.

Check out The Myth of the Efficient Car.

As a hybrid driver, I'm not 100% behind Dubro's argument - I certainly don't drive MORE than I used to, but I don't drive dramatically less either. Regardless, it's certainly thought provoking. Happy Valentine's Day!

The Green New Deal

Well, we've done it. Though I have my misgivings, the U.S. Congress has signed a massive stimulus package for $787 billion. The good news in my view is that the bill dedicates significant dollars for energy programs and tax credits focused largely on energy efficiency, renewables and smart electricity grid projects. The Detroit Free Press gives a very clear breakdown of spending if you're looking for an "at a glance" view here. Some of the measures I'm most interested to see play out:

  • $18 billion for clean water, flood control and environmental restoration.
  • $8 billion for high-speed rail.
  • $4.5 billion to make federal office buildings more energy-efficient.
  • $30 billion for a smart power grid, advanced battery technology and other energy efficiency measures.
  • $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next 10 years.
  • $6.3 billion for energy efficiency in multifamily housing getting federal assistance, such as HUD-sponsored low-income housing.
  • $5 billion to weatherize more than 1 million homes owned by “modest-income” families.
  • $1.6 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science for areas such as climate, biofuels, high-energy physics, nuclear physics and fusion energy.
  • $1 billion for NASA, including $400 million for climate change research.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Making the Utilitarian Beautiful

Utility boxes are generally pretty unattrative, but necessary evils in neighborhoods and campuses (especially if we want to use utilities in our offices and homes). Check out what artist Joshua Callaghan does to make the utilitarian beautiful:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stimulus or Sustained Investment?

According to my friends on Capitol Hill and my many colleagues and clients who work for federal agencies, stimulus money will likely be spent on "shovel ready" projects, or those that are already planned and ready for a contractor to pick up a shovel and go.  Many of the projects are infrastructure- and building-related, which is normally a good thing for my industry.  
However, I'm concerned that in our hurry to boost the economy, we are not really paying attention to the long- term projects that will help sustain us yet may not be quite ready today.  Take the smart grid for example.  Or what about alternative energy investments that don't quite have the payback to compete with clean coal this year, but could in five.  And if we spend all of this government money now, and in one shot, will we have the ability to make investments ten, twenty and thirty years from now on projects that may be a better bang for our buck?  
It seems to me that a smoother, slower investment over time (so we can see results and course correct) is a little more sane.  This sense of urgency we have to "fix" the financial markets and "fix" the economy... isn't that need for quick results what got us into trouble in the first place?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Road Trip! Mobile Alt. Fueling Station Locator

Google is just about the coolest thing to ever hit the internet. Once again, Google strikes in a massive effort to help connect moving people to transit, alternative fuels and useful information about getting from A to Z. Props to DOE and NREL too!

Driving cross-country or even around town in an alternative fuel vehicle used to require drivers to do a little homework to find the nearest fueling station—but not anymore. Drivers on-the-go can now access the Department of Energy's (DOE) Alternative Fueling Station Locator using their cell phone, BlackBerry, or other personal digital assistant (PDA). And I just bet there's a cool iPhone app for this!

The Mobile Alternative Fueling Station Locator allows drivers to find the five closest biodiesel, electricity, E85, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane fueling sites. This convenient tool uses Google Maps (woo-hoo!) to automatically generate maps to fueling sites and lists each station's contact information and business hours.
The mobile station locator is part of the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC) Web site. It was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which manages the AFDC. The tool is sponsored by the Clean Cities initiative, a government-industry partnership sponsored by DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sad Electric Bills

I'm sure you remember Mr. Yuk reminding you to avoid drinking/eating poisonous materials, but did you know that your electric company may begin to use a similar method to dicourage you from excess electricity consumption?

A friend turned me on to an article in the NY Times: Utilities Turn Their Customers Green, With Envy. Basically, energy companies are starting to use the "keeping up with the Jones'" concept to help their customers reduce their energy use.

Energy bills can include comparisons to average and efficient neighbors, as well as comparisons to previous usage patterns. One company went so far as to assign smiley/frowny faces to customers to encourage conservation.

It's a great way to see how you're doing, and how you could do better. I hope my utility company starts giving comparisons to neighbors soon!

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