Thursday, April 30, 2009

Vertical Garden for your Home or Office

So you thought the only way you could get a fancy vertical garden was to have a black cape architect design a super green building for you? Think again! Smith & Hawken has designed a wall mountable unit with angled cells for planting....think a trellis, with dirt! Very cool. While not available yet, the vertical garden should be debuting next month.

In the meantime, check out Smith & Hawken's green marketplace for other cool (and green) ideas.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tracking Renewable Energy Initatives Across the Globe


It's young. There's growth happening. But could be an entree into the world of tracking renewable energy initiatives around the globe, energy efficiency player and even your own carbon footprint.

Developed by the Renewable Enerby & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), is described by its founders as "a user-friendly and comprehensive information portal on clean energy policy, regulation and financing". The site contains a Web search function, an index of key energy experts and resources, and feed from leading environmental and renewable energy news sources.

The coolest feature, however, is the searchable world map that allows the user to search via region or country, key stakeholders and major energy players within a region, news, and sectors (for instance, cogeneration, energy efficiency, etc.). The index has a ways to go before it could be considered "robust" and is not the only resource of its kind out there. But it's a great start to compiling energy information from around the world, listing resources and organizations involved in clean energy, and allowing the user to add tools - such as a carbon footprint counter - that make it more personal.

It's one to keep an eye on!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Energy Demand Response... Taking Hold?

My dad, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, mentioned today that Georgia Power had installed a device on his air conditioner compressors at home. This will allow them to shut down the compressors during peak demand periods. They expect that during May-September the total number of shut downs will range between zero and ten.

Lots of energy companies are getting pretty smart this way.

Adobe, for example, participates in Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) demand response program. On days when it’s particularly hot and demand for cooling buildings goes up, PG&E can call Adobe’s facilities team and they will reduce the company’s use of energy by up to 10% if needed, both to help protect the grid and to hold down critical peak pricing. In exchange, Adobe’s overall rate is lowered. Most of the energy reduction is around lighting – in interior hallways and exterior-facing offices. According to Randy Knox, this initiative has particularly strong support from employees, who have been told that, “on a hot day you may notice lights will be diminished to save energy and save costs. Employees feel they are ‘doing their bit.”

Could this be the start of a "smart grid?"

If He Can Do It, So Can You!

Berkeley, CA Mayor Tom Bates has taken green commuting to the extreme: he's ditched cars entirely and is walking to work every day. While an 18-minute walk isn't that far (probably a little over a mile), keep in mind that Mayor Bates is 71 years old.

It's always great to hear when a public figure does something sustainable, but this is one item that really makes me think about what I personally can do!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Twavel on your iPhone

I just learned about a cool new application for iPhone: Twavel. This app combines a twitter-like functionality with a carbon calculator with the goal of helping you make greener commuting choices.

Some of the features include:

  • Carbon emissions calculator
  • Section for sharing travel tips and links to cool websites
  • Messaging system for Twavel users
  • Trending calculator
I don't have an iPhone, so I can't tell you personally my experiences with this cool new app...but boy does it sound useful! Has anyone out there tried this?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Solar City

Much has been made of Abu Dhabi's Masdar City, but did you know that the U.S. is soon to have its own solar city?

Developer Kitson & Partners has announced plans to develop a new 17,000 acre development with 19,500 homes powered entirely by solar energy.

The development, Babcock Ranch, is planned to be powered by a 75 MW on-site solar photovoltaic energy facility. All development on the site will also be energy efficient, so not only will they be using clean power, but also they'll be using less of it. Pretty cool stuff!

Image Source: Miami Herald

Friday, April 24, 2009

Peer Pressure is Positive

Usually when we think about peer pressure, we think about teenagers trying to get each other to do unwise things. But what about using peer pressure for positive action?

You may remember, May is national bike-to-work month, and May 15 is bike-to-work day. There's a lot of talk at HOK about forming teams (we have four already, five with the WDC ofifce). I emailed some of the regular bike commuters to see if they were forming a team, and wouldn't you know it, gangleader Tim O sent an email to the entire office telling them that I was on the team.

I'd been thinking about joining, but am a little intimidated by the 12+ mile 1-way commute....guess now I'm going to have to just do it or face public ridicule! Thanks a lot peer pressure ;)

It was only appropriate that a friend send this article to me the same day Tim was harassing me about biking: Using Peer Pressure As A Tool To Promote Greener Choices.
While not purely about "do it because it's cool," the article focuses on behavioral economics - essentially making it "worth your while" to do good things. This applies not only to monetary reward (like having your name entered in a lottery), but also giving warm fuzzies (who doesn't want a gold star?!). Definitely worth a read.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Springtime Care for Your Trees

Spring is finally here and I’m sooooo happy! And so are my trees (but maybe not my sinuses). To keep them happy, I’m planning to follow instructions from my friendly neighborhood arborist (The Care of Trees):

  • Inspect for winter damage
  • Plan for pest management (look out for bag worms, ash borers, gypsy moths, and long-horned beetles)
  • Plant new trees (ok, I just planted a hydrangea bush, berry bushes, and some wildflower seeds, but still…)
  • Mulch your trees (This is apparently the most important step in protecting your trees – it cools roots in the summer, and keeps them warm in the winter. Aim for 2-4 inches of mulch extending outward in a circle, ideally as far as the branches reach. Keep the mulch away from the tree bark to protect the trunk from rodents)
  • Prune spring-blooming ornamental trees and shrubs
  • Prepare soaker hoses for drought conditions

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Global Warming and Pirates on Earth Day

I suspect many of you are already familiar the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster - one of the most important religious movements, ranking right up there with Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.

One of the major tenents of the Church of the FSM is the direct relationship between piratism and global warming:
"You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature."

As clearly a great deal of scientific research was put into this, we can only assume that global warming must be about to plummet thanks to the Somali pirate activity.

Happy Earth Day and may his "noodly appendage" touch you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

HOK named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2009

HOK has just been named one of Canada's greenest employers. For full list, go here. Each company competing for this prostigious award was evaluated based on:

(1) the unique environmental initiatives and programs they have developed; (2) the extent to which they have been successful in reducing the organization's own environmental footprint; (3) the degree to which their employees are involved in these programs and whether they contribute any unique skills; and (4) the extent to which these initiatives have become linked to the employer's public identity and whether they attract new people to the organization.

Why was HOK Canada selected? The company...

  • is integrating sustainable design guidelines into every project and educating clients about sustainable design issues and opportunities
  • has over 100 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professionals in Canada (and over 750 worldwide) who also work as ambassadors, regularly participating in public presentations about sustainable living and building design
  • has completed over 30 LEED-certified projects worldwide with nine projects reaching the highest LEED-Gold standard, including the Toronto head office
  • has unique building partnerships with the Biomimicry Guild (which incorporates nature's best ideas into building design), and the Clean Air Foundation's unique "One Panel" initiative to help promote solar power generation in Canada
  • introduced a number of workplace initiatives, from recycled paper to biodegradable cleaning products to motion sensor-controlled lighting fixtures in the office
  • recently implemented a carbon footprint reduction strategy to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2010
  • sources its power from Bullfrog Power, a leading Canadian power provider that sources power exclusively from emission-free sources, such as wind and low-impact hyrdro

Monday, April 20, 2009

Columbian Idol

I was inspired to post this blog after attending a recent presentation by Guillermo Penalosa (or “Gil”), a passionate advocate for biking who served as Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation for Bogota, Columbia. (He has also become one of my recent idols, along with Al Gore, Christopher Walken, and that Grissom character from CSI.)

Bogota is world renowned for its revolutionary transit system, designated car-free days known as "
Ciclovia", and numerous other recreational programs that Gil has helped develop. Among his most poignant points:

Pedestrians travel at a rate of 5 km/hr, bicyclists at 15km and motorists at +40km; therefore, it only makes sense for there to be designated lanes created for each

We must create bike lanes for everyone, despite age or status. For this we should use the 8/80 rule: bike paths must be accessible and safe enough for 8 year old children AND 80 year olds


If Copenhagen, a city with whose climate is not unlike our own can have a successful bike program, we can too!

If Bogota, a city whose budget for transportation is a fraction of ours can reinvent and establish itself as one of the world leaders in green transportation, we can too!

Winter rush hour in Copenhagen

[image sources:,]

affordable green shoes - heaven!

Payless (my guilty pleasure) has made good on a promise to develop a line of affordable green shoes called zoe&zac. I love Payless because they are really good at delivering stylish and comfortable shoes in the $20-25 price range. But I have always felt guilty about buying shoes that I suspected were made with materials I wouldn't normally agree to put on my body and that might end up in a landfill. I also worry about what kind of working conditions make these shoes so affordable (I am an incredibly suspicious person!).

Well, at least they have addressed the material aspects. Payless has developed a casual line of shoes that incorporate organic cotton and linen, recycled rubber, hemp, water based glues, etc.

And in addition, Payless has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to plant a billion trees. Payless will give $1 from the sale of every zoe&zac purchase and $1 from the sale of every reusable bag (sold for $1.99) to The Nature Conservancy for the tree planting effort.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

HOK Goes Barefoot... Again

For the second consecutive year, HOK is challenging its employees, clients and communities to “Go Barefoot” on Earth Day to demonstrate the positive collective impact of simple actions. This year’s activities will focus on reducing waste to lessen harmful greenhouse gas emissions created from disposing trash into our world’s landfills. Here's the press release:

Architectural Design Firm Challenges its People, Clients and Communities to ‘Lighten Their Load’ on Wednesday, April 22.

This Earth Day, more than 2,100 HOK employees on three continents are being challenged to “Go Barefoot” by reducing their waste footprint to help eliminate harmful greenhouse gas emissions created from the production and transportation of products and their disposal into the world’s landfills.

The architectural design firm's second annual “Go Barefoot Day” comes on the heels of last year’s inaugural Earth Day event, which challenged HOK people to reduce their carbon footprint by altering their travel habits. This year’s challenge aims to raise awareness about the amount of waste we produce and how to reduce the firm’s collective environmental impact.

“We are using Earth Day as a catalyst for making simple behavioral changes that will have a profound impact on our collective waste footprint,” says HOK Sustainable Design Director Mary Ann Lazarus. “After making this single-day commitment, we hope our people are inspired to make permanent, positive changes to their normal habits, both at the office and at home.”

Leading up to Earth Day, HOK sustainable leaders from 24 offices worldwide will conduct a series of “secret” waste audits at each office location to determine the amount of waste produced on a typical business day. On Earth Day, the entire firm will undergo a public waste audit during which all employees are encouraged to significantly reduce or eliminate waste, with the goal of reducing solid waste by at least 50 percent.

Possible ways to reduce one’s waste footprint include making lunch at home and using washable plates and cutlery instead of purchasing takeout food with disposable packaging; drinking beverages from a reusable container instead of a disposable one; reviewing documents online instead of printing them; and recycling or composting everything possible.

To share ideas and progress leading up to "Go Barefoot Day," HOK has developed an internal “Barefoot Blog,” arranged guest speakers, recommended videos relating to waste management and scheduled field trips to local recycling facilities.

“By quantifying the impact of simple behavioral changes, we can demonstrate how individuals can contribute to a significant reduction in waste and greenhouse gas emissions,” says Sara Graham, the firm’s sustainable knowledge manager, who is organizing the events. “The blog and local activities will promote awareness and connect our people around the world through their ideas, experiences and successes.”

As part of the initiative, HOK also is inviting its clients, partners and local communities to join the firm in reducing its waste for the day.

“We hope this year’s ‘Go Barefoot Day’ builds momentum beyond the offices of HOK and inspires our clients and communities to walk alongside us,” Lazarus says.

HOK is a global architectural firm that specializes in planning, design and delivery solutions for buildings and communities. Through its collaborative network of 24 offices worldwide, the firm serves diverse clients within the corporate, commercial, public and institutional markets. HOK is committed to developing resources and expertise to help lead the world toward sustainable communities and building environments. Founded in 1955, the firm’s expertise includes architecture, engineering, interiors, planning, lighting, graphics, facilities planning and assessment and construction services.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Could the UK introduce grants for home green retro-fitting?

The UK Government opposition party - the Conservatives have outlined plans to give every home in Britain a grant of up to £6,500 to pay for green retrofitting improvements.

This would not only be moving the UK towards a being a lower carbon economy, but could also provide extra work for architects, stimulate jobs across the construction sector and provide benefits for industries that provide energy-saving equipment.

To read more details see the article on Building Design's website.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Man's Best and Most Sustainable Friend

Dogs are generally pretty good at going green. If you think about it, they don't use more than they need, provide their waste as fertilizer, and are generally happy just hanging out. Their fur has adapted to keep them the right temperature in the right climate, and they eat whatever food is locally available.

Urbanized dogs have it a little tougher, as they have to "curb their waste" and get their food from the pet store. Apparently some dogs in Moscow have realized that their carbon footprints are getting a little out of hand and have turned to mass transit to help reduce their environmental impact.

Check out the article.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Freeganism: A Dumpster Diving Lifestyle

This recent video from the New York Post shows a bunch of people choosing to live off of trash from supermarkets and other stores. It's a little extreme... in fact I'm pretty repulsed by the idea yet intrigued at the same time. I throw stuff away every day, particularly food, and think, "Wow, that sure is a waste. I wish there was some way to give it to someone who needed it." Because there is no cost for me to toss it, I do.

I wonder if we all had to pay $1,000 for every trash bag we took to the street? Maybe we'd think a little differently about what we throw away. Many companies pay fines for hauling trash, but just consider it the cost of doing business. However, with the economy in the shape it's in, perhaps they could look at trash reduction as an easy way to cut costs and green the business at the same time?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Farming in the City

We've talked a lot about urban farming initiatives (Credit crunch causing a green-slip in the sustainability agenda? , Cuba: Not Just Cigars ), but never about vertical farms using seawater.

Dubai, the land of architectural inventiveness, is pushing the envelope yet again. A new building that uses seawater to cool and humidify greenhouses is on the drawing boards.
Here's how it will work:
  1. Air is cooled and humidified by trickling seawater over an evaporator
  2. Air passes through second evaporator and mixes with the warm dry air of the ceiling interspace making the air hotter and more humid
  3. Warm air rises, passing through a central chimney where it condenses when it comes in contact with tubes containing cool seawater
  4. Condensed fresh water is collected to be used to water the crops
Having been in the Arabian Sea before, I can tell you it's as warm as bathwater (and Dubai is already pretty darn hot and humid, especially in the summer)...but, if this works (and gets built), it's a really cool idea...and an interesting addition to Dubai's already fascinating skyline (see pix of Burj Dubai being struck by lightening here).

Image Source: Gizmag

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vancouver's Latest Hire

I've blogged about using livestock as part of a facility maintenance program before (Livestock in the City), so I was extremely pleased to see that the trend is starting to catch on a bit more in the mainstream.

The city of Vancouver, Canada is instituting a "GoatingGreen" program: they've hired an African pygmy goat to nosh on City Hall's grass. Tony the goat not only reduces the need for carbon-emitting lawn equipment, but also produces a good deal of manure. The manure is mixed with fertilizer and used to power small generators.

There are definitely some questions, particularly from animal-rights groups, and also from people who are concerned that Tony might wander off or bite someone. As for me, as long as Tony is happy and healthy (and nonviolent), I think it's great...and I'm still lobbying for my own goat.

Check out the article: Mayor Unleashes Goat Program

Image source: Maxitmag

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hospitality is going Green

I came across a global hospitality insights report and was amazed by how fast and expensive hospitality is going green in the Middle East especially in Abu-Dhabi and Dubai, and thought it might be interesting for people in the business.

According to the report: Last year, 2008, Abu Dhabi launched Estidama, initiative devised to make Abu Dhabi the sustainability capital of the Middle East. Under Estidama guidelines, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company is building the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste city, named “Masdar City: and is anticipated to include an environmentally friendly and sustainable hotel. The US$22 billion project, which is master-planned by Foster + Partners, is anticipated to house 50,000 people when completed in 2015 and is anticipated to include an environmentally friendly and sustainable hotel. The City will be the latest of a small number of highly planned, specialized, research and technology-intensive municipalities that incorporate a living environment, similar to Novosibirsk, Russsia or Tsukuba, Japan.

Other emirates are following the trend. In Ras Al Khaimah, Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture office is developing the “Gateway Eco City,” an over- 400 million-square foot development powered by cutting-edge solar power and designed to be entirely sustainable. Like Masdar City, the program consists of multiple retail, office, mixed-use, residential and hotel developments, among other buildings and uses.

Dubai recently unveiled its mammoth ecological project “Mohammed bin Rashid Gardens,” an 800 million-square foot project, estimated to cost approximately US$55 billion, and to comprise four clusters and 73% greenery. Dubai also launched an eco-initiative to encourage hotels to reduce their CO2 emissions by 20% by 2011. The initiative focuses on conservation of natural resources and sensible use of energy, water and gas.

Click here to view the report and read more about going green with hospitality all over the world.

Friday, April 3, 2009

RecycOlympics at HOK

In preparation for their sustainability awareness month, HOK's St. Louis office is taking recycling to a new level... the Olympic Level! They are in training and looking for competitors so get ready world!

Bring the green fashion to the work place and Green-Up your Make-Up!!!!

Bringing Sustainable Fashion to work? Wearing Make-up every day? Feeling good about yourself ?

YES !!! - Then you might need to read our blog today

Bringing the Green Fashion to the Work place is not limited to green clothes, cosmetics has been around virtually as long as civilization—ancient Egyptian women and men wore cosmetics in their daily lives; red henna on their fingernails, green eye shadow, and brows and lashes blackened by coal or metallic oxides. Throughout history, beauty and makeup trends have come and gone. What options exist for the girl who wants it all without sacrificing quality?
Following in the wake of sustainable fashion, the beauty industry is catching on. Today natural products are the fastest growing market in cosmetics, the revolutionary mineral make up is the trend and the professional make-up artist's turn to come to the green party. We know that consumer pressure can encourage companies to consider the impact of their products, but the makeup industry also works with professional makeup artists who can have influence on both the companies' products they use and the clients they work with. Greenmua has a great listing of companies, articles and links for pro makeup artists who are interested in making their industry more sustainable.

Below are our tips for you to go green with cosmetics

  • Stay away from the top 10 toxic ingredients; research found that the 10 top toxic ingredients to avoid are, are: Lead,, phthalates, petro-chems, SLS, coal tar, mercury, hydroquonine, parabens, formaldehyde, and food allergens
  • Go for Certified organic make-up
  • Purchase from companies that support the fight against HIV/AIDS
  • When you buy from a cosmetics company, be sure that they allow you to re-fill their compacts or containers.
  • With a little research and a decent amount of label-reading, along with the helpful guides, it’s possible to find safe, non-toxic cosmetics without having to give up on makeup altogether.
  • Check the green cosmetics guide here, also check the Eco-Beauty and Natural Solutions for natural and safe products that you might decide to use

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