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

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