Sunday, March 29, 2009

Use the Stairs, Get Rewarded with Bugs!

Check out this great example of how you can encourage users to modify their behavior. Students in the Computer Science Department at Grinnell College mounted blinking firefly sculptures leading from the elevator to and up through the stairs. Surveys showed that the ingenius public art worked.

Friday, March 27, 2009

$2000 Cars are Here

Tata Nano . . . my new favorite car, simply because it's fun to say! And, it's cheap (just over $2,000), super tiny and fuel-efficient...all of which are good things.
As of the car's launch on Monday, the Indian company Tata Motors had over 1 million people on the waiting list...for an expected production of 60,000 cars in the first year.
The Nano provides an interesting social and environmental quandary: it's fuel efficient, which is good for the environment, and extremely affordable, which is good for the people, BUT being more affordable means more people will buy it (especially people who couldn't afford cars before)...and there will be more cars on the road. Not so good for the environment.
I'm all about evening out the haves and have nots...but this is a tough situation!
What do you think?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Green (Home) Workplace

So... You left on a business trip and forgot to turn the heat off in your home office? No sweat! (Pun intended.) Out to a client lunch that went too long and you wish you could open your window shades to let in that glorious sunlight and heat your home office? Well, now you just might be able to do something about it from wherever you are...

Verizon announced yesterday (March 25) that it is moving towards rolling out a new home energy management service run through FiOS broadband service this year. The system will allow FiOS customers to regulate thermostats, window shades, and other energy saving devices remotely - even from cell phones. Though partnering companies, cost, and dates have not been released yet, Verizon says it could be as early as 2009.
The technology would most likely connect energy management systems to home routers, potentially bringing energy management companies, utilities, and telecommuication companies to the same table. While there are details yet to be worked out, there is tremendous opporunity to bring consumers faster and better-managed utilities as well as expanding the marketplace of energy-saving service providers.

Picture: "This Might Be Big: Verizon Fios Plans to Green Your Home with its Remote Control",

Is Your Cistern Illegal?

Most greenies advocate rainwater capture and reuse (in both commercial and residential applications)...but did you know that this is illegal in some states?!

Crazy, right? Not so crazy if you think about it....many states, particularly those in the west, have demand that exceeds the available supply of water, and to prevent major drought issues, have sold rights to water.

When individuals collect and reuse rainwater, less water makes it to the streams and rivers that are used to provide water to the parties (farmers, developers, water agencies, etc).

Check out the article that discusses whether laws should be changed so that rainwater cisterns can be permitted: Who owns Colorado's rainwater?

Image Source:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Leaving PCs on overnight costs companies $2.8B a year

USA Today featured a report released by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy that found that half of the 108 million office PCs in the US are not properly shut down at night.

According to the report, U.S. organizations squander $2.8 billion a year to power unused machines, emitting about 20 million tons of carbon dioxide — roughly the equivalent of 4 million cars.

"Wastefulness does not just affect a company's bottom line, it creates environmental concerns. If the world's 1 billion PCs were powered down just one night, it would save enough energy to light the Empire State Building — inside and out — for over 30 years."

"Workers do not feel responsible for electricity bills at work, and some companies insist PCs remain on at night so they can be patched with software updates," says 1E CEO Sumir Karayi. He says 63% of employees surveyed said their companies should take more steps to save PC power.

"Simply shutting down PCs at night can save a company with 10,000 PCs over $260,000 a year and 1,871 tons of carbon dioxide emissions."

Friday, March 20, 2009

In Celebrating Earth Day

The story goes that Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson and his assistant Denis Hayes after a trip they took to Santa Barbara right after the horrific oil spill off our coast in 1969. On the 22nd of April, 1970, Earth Day marks the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Approximately 20 million Americans participated, with a goal of a healthy, sustainable environment. . Click here for more detail on the history.

Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, and his youthful staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power planrs, raw sewage, toxic dumps,pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extincion of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values
Many cities extend the Earth Day celebration to be an entire week, usually starting on April 16, and ending on Earth Day, April 22nd and people around the world celebrate the event.
In celebrating Earth Day this year, The South Coast Earth Day Festival is supporting a Green Car Show on April, 19th, click here to see the flyer. This show serves as a showroom featuring the latest technologies in hybrid and advanced-fuel vehicles.

For further reading on Earth day history, please visit the following websites:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Green Product Purchasing Up for Fifth Straight Year

Green products continue to gain traction despite the current recession, according to the latest IRI Times & Trends Report tracking purchasing trends in the consumer packaged goods industry.The popularity of eco-friendly, organic, and fairtrade products has increased each year for the past five years as more shoppers factor in the environmental impact of the products they buy, the report finds.

While the most environmentally focused consumers held steady in their green product spending last year, the report chalks up the flat sales to the fact that these consumers have already "saturated their [shopping] baskets with sustainable products." The next greenest consumers haven't yet tapped out their adoption of new green products, increasing spending on these items by 15%.

"Because green products are considered to be more expensive than 'traditional' products, it would be natural to think that as the economy plunged into recession, prices rose and people lost their jobs, the sale of sustainable products would plummet," says Thom Blischok, president of innovation and consulting at IRI. "However, the truth is much more nuanced. CPG marketers need to understand the level of 'greenness' and mindsets for each consumer segment to really create a clear picture of opportunity."

The IRI report identifies eight green consumer segments, encouraging marketers to understand their core values and align product assortment and merchandising programs accordingly:

Eco-Centrics are the most well-informed and actively involved in environmental issues. They are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products.

Respectful Stewards are idealistic and community focused. They are also willing to pay for more eco-friendly products.

Proud Traditionalists are hard-working and focused on family. They run environmentally responsible homes and experiment with eco-friendly products.

Frugal Earth Mothers are lower-income women looking for ways to save money wherever possible. They are more focused finding good, wholesome products for their families.

Skeptical Individualists are highly-educated, high-income men who tend to be skeptical about corporate green initiatives.

Eco-Chics are young adults who see green as new and hip. Impulse buyers and early adopters, they tend to be drawn to environmental causes but aren't necessarily well-informed about them.
Green Naives are young, lower-income shoppers with little interest in environmental responsibility.

Eco-Villians - generally middle-income men - do not environmental concerns into their purchasing choices.

"Certainly, some consumers are not spending money on green products, but others are actually maintaining or increasing green spending," Blischok says. "A viable green market remains, even in these challenging times; the key is to understand different consumer segments and create messages and products that meet their varied needs."

Download the report, "Sustainability: CPG Marketing in a Green World," here (free registration required).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Biomimicry: Natural Air Conditioning

We've written a lot abut biomimicry in the past - how nature is the best teacher for solving really complex problems while minimizing impacts to the environment. Here's one of my favorite examples.

Most think of termites as destroying buildings, not helping design them. But the Eastgate Building, an office complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, has an air conditioning system modeled on the self-cooling mounds of macrotermes michaelseni. Termites in Zimbabwe build gigantic mounds inside of which they farm a fungus that is their primary food source. The fungus must be kept at exactly 87 degrees F, while the temperatures outside range from 35 degrees F at night to 104 degrees F during the day. The termites achieve this remarkable feat by constantly opening and closing a series of heating and cooling vents throughout the mound over the course of the day. With a system of carefully adjusted convection currents, air is sucked in at the lower part of the mound, down into enclosures with muddy walls, and up through a channel to the peak of the termite mound. The industrious termites constantly dig new vents and plug up old ones in order to regulate the temperature.

Architect Mick Pearce collaborated with engineers at Arup Associates to design the Eastgate Centre, which uses 90 percent less energy for ventilation than conventional buildings its size, and has already saved the building owners over $3.5 million dollars in air conditioning costs. The Eastgate Centre, largely made of concrete, has a ventilation system which operates in a similar way. Outside air that is drawn in is either warmed or cooled by the building mass depending on which is hotter, the building concrete or the air. It is then vented into the building’s floors and offices before exiting via chimneys at the top.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Green-Up Your Cuisine

New green cuisine refers to a current environmentally-focused food movement. New green cuisine encompasses many food concepts, drawing on principles of organic, local, artisanal, environmentally sound, and slow food. The movement focuses on seasonal, healthy choices for consumers that come from sustainable small farms and have as little environmental impact as possible.

The benefits of eating a well-balanced, healthy diet are endless. People who have improved their diets have reported improvements in: Mood, Energy Levels, Skin, Sleep, Pain, Digestion, Menstruation, Memory and Allergies. There is no one size fits all when it comes to nutrition.

So Let us help you Green-Up your Cuisine !!!

  • Start a conversation about healthy food with your family, friends or at work, not only by nutritional quali­ty, but how and where it is raised, grown, processed and distributed.
  • Create a food system which is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible.
  • Set goals to increase the purchase of locally- seasonal produced and fresh produce;
  • Explore Farmer’s Markets near you;
  • Shop early for the best selection – between 6 and 7 am
  • Buy more certified organic food products, or buy from producers who have reduced synthetic pesticide use;
  • Purchase foods that provide fair prices and living wages to the people who produce them;
  • Buy milk produced without the use of synthetic hormones, like recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH, also referred to as rBST);
  • Buy coffee certified as Fair Trade;
  • Become a fast-food free zone and limit the use of vending machines and;
  • Add more Seafood to your menu

For more information and tips on eating green please visit these websites;
Green Recipes;
Healthy Food in Healthcare;
50 ways to eat green;

Net Green Jobs?

While green job creation is excellent for the environment and the economy, it may not be 100% of the solution to our economic woes. Check out Slate magazine's article on the muddy math surrounding the calculation of green jobs impact on the economy.

Image source: Treehugger.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I have always heard that the real reason nuclear (touted as the carbonless energy source) isn't viable is because there isn't enough water to keep reactors cool. And I knew traditional power plants used water to keep cool too (notice, they're almost always on a lake or river?).

And I also know that water is very energy-intensive to treat and transport. In the United States and other developed nations, on average, about 4% of total power generation is used to supply, purify, distribute and treat fresh water and wastewater.

A new World Economic Forum report draws the connection from water to energy to water and back to energy again. Saving one saves the other and vice versa. Maybe we should be looking at the two issues in tandem, rather than in a silo as we often do.

According to the report, the energy sector uses about 8% of all freshwater withdrawn worldwide and as much as 40% of freshwater withdrawn in developed countries.

As a result, water issues will impact future energy choices, and energy companies will increasingly be called upon to be partners in managing the world's water resources. As the report says, "Water is life, so we need to connect the dots on this critical issue for global policy-makers and leaders."

See the World Economic Forum's February 19 press release and the full report (PDF 2.8 MB).

Easy Greywater System

I ran across this in EcoHome magazine and simply must have one: the Aqus Greywater System.

This is a simple system that collects and filters water from your sink and uses it for toilet flushing. Brilliant! Check out the product.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Green Fashion for the Workplace

I have a bone to pick with the fashion industry... they need to get with the program. The green program that is. I've looked lots of places for environmentally friendly clothing options for the office and I come up empty handed. With the small exception of purses and sachels (the Ecoist candy wrapper bag is a real favorite), I can't find green options for a "professional" look. Sure I can find a sporty number at Patagonia or a t-shirt at American Apparell, but at the office, that can look pretty sloppy.

I'm not the kind of person will sort through thrift stores for slightly worn clothing. It's not that I mind used clothing, it's just that I travel for work, I've got a 3-year old, I'm writing a lot - no time for that. And with the horrific economic condition we're in, not only can I not afford Stella McCartney, but her clothes fit really strangly and are too revealing for my office anyway.

What annoys me in addition to not finding good green options (which I hope some of you readers will help me find) is that the fashion industry seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Last I heard, shoulderpads and bright colors from the 80s are back in style. So we are adding more material and dyes into our styles this year - WHAT?? Who in NY, Milan and Paris are making these decisions and why? Let's give them a piece of our mind!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Green Cities

A Greener City will be a place where young people choose to make their homes and raise their families and a desirable location for companies that use quality of life as a yardstick when they decide where to set up their headquarters. –Jerry Abramson, Mayor Louisville Metro.

The "Green Cities Movement" encompasses thousands of urban areas around the world striving to lessen their environmental impacts by reducing waste, expanding recycling, lowering emissions, increasing housing density while expanding open space, and encouraging the development of sustainable local businesses.
In general; a healthy urban city is the city that has improved its urban living environment as a whole through concrete activities such as:

  • Co-operation and partnership among authorities, citizens, business life and other stakeholders aimed at developing and improving urban living conditions;
  • Implementation of sustainable mobility solutions,
  • Introduction and expansion of parks and recreational areas,
  • A modern approach to waste management,
  • Innovative solutions to noise pollution,
  • An integrated approach to urban management ensuring positive long-term effects.

How Green is Your City? Is the first national ranking of 50 US cities evaluating how well cities are doing in implementing sustainable practices based on a comprehensive set of indicators, ranging from air quality to use of renewable energy. This is a must read for city officials and citizens who are interested in how cities are responding to the integrated global challenges of environmental and economic sustainability. — Prof. Susan M. Wachter, Co-director, Institute for Urban Research, and Director, Wharton Geo-spatial Initiative, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

According to the survey “What Makes a City Green?” by Paul McRandle and Sara Smiley Smith; A green City, is a city that fulfills a combination of any of the following criteria:

  • Renewable energy supply;
  • Extensive wetlands program;
  • Green Builder program;
  • Smart growth initiative;
  • Committed to solar power;
  • Wind power;
  • Green building standards;
  • Excellent public transport;
  • Affordable housing;
  • Clean air and water;
  • Bicycle paths and lanes;
  • Building local food production;
  • Biomass power generation;
  • Excellent public education program;
  • Smoking ban; and
  • Commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.

Now, Let Us Know
“How Green is Your City?"

For more information, please visit these websites:
Green Cities;
The Green Guide; Earth talk: Green Cities; Earth

Monday, March 9, 2009

Green Buildings that Teach: Sidwell Friends Middle School

It costs $200,000 for a full page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal, a page that is probably only looked at by the reader for no more than five seconds. But the buildings you sit in every day have an incredible amount of “advertising space” on walls, windows, roofs, ceilings and floors... for a significantly lower cost per square inch.

Think of your office not as a finished product, but a billboard and a laboratory for testing green strategies and innovations. If employees can see ideas at work in the office, they will learn something new and are more likely to try them at home. Sidwell Friends Middle School in Washington, D.C. has taken this to heart by engaging students, parents and the community in the design and construction of their LEED Platinum facility. Here are just a few of the many green strategies that provide ongoing teaching opportunities in their building:

  • Green roof and photovoltaic panels on the roof and weather station• On-site constructed wetland treats all water used on site and recycles for reuse in the building’s toilets, urinals and cooling towers.
  • A building “skin” constructed of recycled wine and grape juice casks.
  • Exterior light shelves that reduce heat gain/cooling load and glare and interior light shelves that reflect daylight into classrooms minimizing the need for artificial light• Solar chimneys on the roof for improved natural ventilation.
  • Native and adaptive landscaping that reduces the need for insecticides and irrigation• Carbon dioxide monitors in public areas that trigger the building’s mechanical system to increase fresh air when room occupancy increases.
  • Occupancy sensors in each room that turn off the lights when there is no movement and photo sensors throughout the building that measure available natural light and dim electric lights as required to reduce energy consumption.

To reinforce their message of using the building as a learning tool, Sidwell maintains an online, real time dashboard of their electricity use, water reuse and weather conditions (

Sidwell uses their facility to not only teach their students, but also the community, offering regular tours to architects, public officials and other community groups ( /).

One of bloggers on The Green Workplace, Anica Landreneau, worked on getting this facility LEED certified. And yes, Malia Obama will probably go here next year.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ten Green Travel Tips

I'll be honest - I completely stole this off our intranet page - some great work by Rania Khalil from HOK Advance Strategies in Houston.

The greening of the travel industry-whether away for business or pleasure is now required. Here are some tips to help you choose where to spend your travel dollar and green-up your trip:

  • Greening your travel starts even before you leave home by unplugging unused appliances, turning down the thermostat of the hot water heater, adjusting your AC/heater thermostat and stopping your newspaper
  • Book flights electronically and book flights with airlines that recycle the waste created when serving food and beverages to passengers
  • Book your guestrooms and meeting rooms with hotels that are clearly interested in protecting our environment, and let management know that's why you chose their hotel
  • Participate in the hotel recycling programs by placing recyclables in appropriate bins
    When you leave your hotel room, turn off the AC/heat, lights, TV and radio and close the drapes
  • Eat at organic restaurants that serve healthy food
  • Try to incorporate “Car-Free” days into your trip. Use public transportation when available or when renting is needed
  • If renting a car is necessary, rent from places where hybrid and low-emission vehicles are available
  • Carry a water bottle and refill as needed and try to avoid carry-out
  • Buy local products; talk to local people, and enjoy your time

Visit these websites for more information and tips:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Green Workplace is Fanning Out

Thanks to all of you who became a "fan" of The Green Workplace on Facebook. For those of you who haven't, please do so now and tell your friends! We're now up to 475 fans in just 5 days. We feel so loved!

In case you are interested, Facebook now gives data on "fans." So far, this is what our fan base looks like - it lags a couple of days behind.

You Know You Ride Transit Too Much When. . . can stand without holding on to any handrails can fall asleep standing up know which car lets off closest to the stairs (or your transfer point) are extremely annoyed by people who don't obey the "stand right, walk left" rule know exactly which trains you can catch and still make your bus
...the bus driver (and newspaper guy) knows your name don't stop to look which way you are going right outside the train door refuse to use anything other than a SmarTrip (or similar) card for payment know on which side of the train the doors will open no longer refer to maps and instead count stops know exactly how much longer it will take to get home/to work from every stop along your route have "bus stop friends"

What about you and your transit daily grind??

Check out the article that inspired this post: Becoming an expert transit rider

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zipcar: Marketing Geniuses!

Today I heard about a genius marketing move by Zipcar...this is the second time in a couple of months that they've wowed me with their marketing brilliance.

The first one: a Zipcar Prius was driving around near GWU with a cup of Starbucks on the roof. If you stopped the car, you got a free Starbucks gift info about Zipcar.

Today's great idea: "Green Confessions." This is a free event for Zipcar members & their friends, hosted by Zipcar, Live Green, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth. The deal: "Confess your green sins and relieve your guilt by referring friends to Zipcar, signing up for Live Green, or making a donation to CSG." In addition to guilt reduction, free drinks, and free munchies, drivers get a $50 credit for each friend who signs up for Zipcar.

What other genius green marketing tools are you seeing out there?

Monday, March 2, 2009

LED Lighting

People ask me about light-emitting diode (LED) lighting from time to time. Most agree that this light source is the most energy efficient option - even more efficient than compact flouresent bulbs (by about 6 times), and the quality of light is warmer and debatably more flattering to color than compact florescents. Designers love LEDs because they are energy efficient (of course) but also because there are hundreds of options for color and shape - a limitation we had with incandescents for 200 years.

If you'd like to give LED lights a try, here are some sources with good, simple options:

Image: twig light design by mirko kisser from Germany

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Build Your Own Home (or Office)

When I was a kid (well, and even still today), my dad would take leftover shipping pallets and build stuff out of them (mostly birdhouses, a few horse jumps for my cousin, some lawn furniture; they even got used for some school projects). Recently he sent me a link to prove that this was now a cool thing to do: Build Your Own Free Tiny House with Shipping Pallets.

You can learn interesting pallet factoids and get your own free plans for a pallet house. It is, indeed, cool!

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