Thursday, December 30, 2010

EcoLabels & Certifications: Textile Certifications

Today's installment of Deborah Fuller's Eco-Labels and Certifications series focuses on Textile Certifications.


SMaRT/MTS –Sustainable Textile
The goals of the SMaRT Sustainable Textile Standard are to:

  • Increase the economic value of sustainable textile throughout the supply chain by enhancing market demandfor sustainable textile products.
  • Provide information that enables specifiers to sort out the complex information on sustainable attributes.
  • Identify other consensus based standards and Sustainable Textile.
  • Educate and instruct all stakeholders in the textile supplychain.
  • Encourage competition between manufacturers and their suppliers to seek out or develop environmentally preferable processes, practices, power sources, and materials.
  • This Standard is intended to help raw material suppliers, converters, manufacturers and end-users.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits ID 1.1-1.4
non profit organization
www.mts.sustainableproducts.com

Crypton Green/C2C & SCS Certification
Crypton Green is the first high-performance fabric system to receive a Silver Cradle-to-Cradle™ certification as well as the SCS Gold Indoor Advantage™ certification. Chemical formulations have been optimized and the product has been thoroughly tested for emissions of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), including formaldehyde and aldehydes.

In extensive testing with SCS, Crypton Green complies to the "Collaborative for High Performance Schools,"Section 1350, a standard that specifies maximum thresholds for 80 organic compounds with possible indoor sources.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits ID 1.1-1.4
for profit organization
www.cryptonfabric.com

Green Shield Finish
GreenShield is the first textile finish in the world to receive this pioneering certification from SCS.Unlike other textile finishes on the market today, GreenShield uses on average 8 times less fluorocarbon to deliver similar or better water and oil repellency performance on most fabrics. Fluorocarbons have been shown to be persistent in the environment and bio-accumulative, a term which specifically refers to the accumulation of a toxic substance in various tissues of a living organism. In this manner, compounds such as fluorocarbons can potentially be harmful to life.GreenShield is made using proprietary processes that leverage the principles of green nanotechnology to eliminate waste, reduce energy use, and use only water-based solvents.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits ID 1.1-1.4
for profit organization
www.cryptonfabric.com


Check back soon for our final installment: Multiple Attribute Certifications

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Road to Paperless

I'm moving offices and in an effort to clean up my desk, I went through a couple of large filing drawers I've been dragging around for the last 6 years. I realized, with some surprise, that literally every piece of paper was not necessary to keep and could be recycled. Up until the recent past, I've feel the need to hang on to this paper. Why is it that I finally decided I could get rid of it? Is it because I'm absolutely sick of paper dust, because I am tired of the burden of dragging it around, or that I'm finally confident enough about technology that I can save what I need online? Likely it's a combination of all three, but I must say, I feel so much lighter!


I recently went through a purging effort at home too. We refinished just about every surface in our apartment and needed to move our massive book collection into our storage unit in the basement. I used this opportunity to donate roughly 95% of my books (my husband only donated about 50%). But after close to 4 months post construction, we still haven't moved them back into our living space. We're perfectly happy with a small collection of our favorites and our Kindles. Seems almost counter-intuitive given both my husband and I are authors and complete book lovers. But somehow taking all of the books away made us feel less burdened and our home feel more clean. We do have a wee too many computers/electronics, but that's next on the list ;).

Next week I'm due to have our second child. Though my nesting instincts are still pretty strong, I'm finding a strange urge to reuse as much as possible and minimize buying all that new baby stuff. I just got rid of it... I don't want to go through the process of buying it again anyway! It feels really great. I'm less worried about those runs to BuyBuyBaby and BabiesRUs and more focused on taking lots of great photos and really enjoying our new family.

So what does 2011 promise? Less stuff and more energy and dollars spent on what's really important. Cleaner and more focused workplace and home. Less is truly more. Oprah would be so proud.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

EcoLabels & Certifications: Green Housekeeping Certifications

Today's installment of Deborah Fuller's Eco-Labels and Certifications series focuses on Carpet Certifications.

Greenstar Certification

Greenstaris an independent not-for-profit organization.Its purpose is to achieve a cleaner, healthier and sustainable world through the identification and promotion of products that are produced and used in an environmentally sound manner.The health, cleanliness and sustainability of the environment can be improved through focus in the following areas:

  • Protect human health
  • Eliminate use of known or suspected carcinogens
  • Eliminate use of known or suspected toxins
  • Protect existing ecosystems
  • Minimize Ozone Depletion
  • Minimize Global Warming (Restrict the use of human introduced atmospheric carbon dioxide)
  • Eliminate production and use of products that create toxic pollution and damage or modify ecosystems
  • Conserve resources
  • Eliminate, wherever possible, the use of non-renewable resources, especially fossil based fuels and materials
  • Encourage efficient use of renewable resources, including natural materials/ingredients
  • Facilitate reduction, reuse and recycling of industrial, commercial and consumer waste

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits ID 1.1-1.4, EBc4.3-3.6 Cleaning Products, EBc 3.9-Pest Management
non profit organization
www.greenstarcertified.org

Green Shield Certification - Pest Control
Green Shield CertifiedSM–sustainable pest control products. Green Shield means smarter, more effective pest control without unnecessary pesticide use. Certified professionals attempt to solve the underlying cause of pest problems, providing lasting pest control buildings and other facilities.

Green Shield Certified is an independent, non-profit certification program that promotes practitioners of effective, prevention-based pest control while minimizing the use of pesticides.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits ID 1.1-1.4, EBcI 3.9-Pest Mgmt
non profit organization
www.greenshieldcertified.org

GreenGuard Certification–VOC levels Green Housekeeping Products
GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified®Product certification program for housekeeping cleaning products. All GREENGUARD Certified Products have been tested for their chemical emissions performance and can be found in the GREENGUARD Online Product Guide.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits ID 1.1-1.4, EBc4.3-3.6 Cleaning Products
for profit organization
www.greenguard.org

Check back soon for our next installment: Textile Certifications

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Greener PDF: .WWF?

The World Wildlife fund has a new document format ... .wwf. It essentially creates a PDF document that you cannot print! Download is free, and sure to create a reduced carbon footprint (and possibly some frustration if you forget it doesn't print to paper).


Thursday, December 16, 2010

EcoLabels & Certifications: Carpet Certifications

Today's installment of Deborah Fuller's Eco-Labels and Certifications series focuses on Carpet Certifications.
Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label Plus
Today, indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important environmental consideration, especially since we spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors. Green Label Plusis the certification standard the USGBC requires for carpet, carpet tiles, carpet pad, and adhesives to help specifies products with very low emissions of VOCs.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EQc 4.3 Carpet
non profit trade organization
www.carpet-rug.org

Floor Score
FloorScore, developed by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) in conjunction with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), tests and certifies hard surface flooring and flooring adhesive products for compliance with rigorous indoor air quality emissions requirements. Individual volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are evaluated using health-based specifications. Flooring and adhesives that earn FloorScore certification earn a legitimately enhanced market position, distinguished by the FloorScore certification label.

Contributes to:USGBC –LEED credits EQ 4.3 Floor Systems
industry organization
www.rfci.com/int_floorscore

Climate Neutral - Climate Cool
The Climate Neutral Network is an alliance of companies and organizations committed to developing products, services, and enterprises that have a net-zero impact on global warming.

Climate Cool™ products or services are determined to completely offset the greenhouse
gases generated across each stage of their life-cycle including the sourcing of its materials, its manufacturing or production, its distribution, use, and ultimate end-of-life disposition.

NOTE: Climate Neutral Network is currently transferring to another non-profit and is not accepting any product certifications

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits ID 1.1-1.4
www.climateneutralnetwork.com

NSF –140-2007 Sustainable Carpet Standard
The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) set out to provide the commercial market with a single easy-rating certification system for carpet and rugs. With the assistance of NSF International, a leader in standards development and product certification, a Sustainable Carpet Assessment Standard was created. This standard for carpet includes a rating system with established performance requirements and quantifiable metrics energy and energy efficiency; bio-based, recycled content materials; environmentally preferable materials; manufacturing; and reclamation and end-of-life management.

NSF 140 was designed to establish a system with varying levels of certification to define sustainable carpet. This establishes performance requirements for public health and environment, and addresses the triple bottom line –economic-environmental-social, throughout the supply chain.

NFS 140 is the first multi-attribute American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for environmentally preferable building materials in the construction industry.

www.nsf.org

SCAS Carpet Standard
Carpet must represent at least 2.5% of the total project material cost for Gold certified styles and at least 1.25% of the total project mater Sustainable Carpet Innovation Credit The Sustainable Carpet Assessment Standard (SCAS or NSF-140-2005) SCAS makes specifying green carpet beyond recycled content easy. It is the only carpet sustainability standard in North America that evaluates the environmental impacts of carpet for its entire lifecycle, from manufacturing to reclamation, renewable energy use to social equity.

Note: SCS Sustainable Choice certification signifies compliance to the SCAS Standard (NSF-140-2005).

Check back soon for our next installment: Green Housekeeping Certifications

Thursday, December 9, 2010

EcoLabels & Certifications: Energy Performance Certifications

Today's installment of Deborah Fuller's Eco-Labels and Certifications series focuses on Energy Performance Certifications.


Energy Star
Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that promotes energy efficient products and practices to identify and promote energy efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 1996 the EPA partnered with the US Dept. of Energy for particular product categories. Energy Star Ratings are available on lighting products, appliances, equipment, electronics, HVAC equipment, homes, buildings and low standby energy use.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EAc1 Optimize Energy Performance, EAc1.4 Appliances & Equipment, SSc1 Optimize Energy Performance, EAc1 Optimize Energy Performance, EAc1 Optimize Energy, Performance
Energy Star is a government organization (US)
www.energystar.gov


Cool Roof Ratings Council
The Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) is an independent, non-profit organization that maintains a third-party rating system for radiative properties of roof surfacing materials.

The core of the CRRC is its Product Rating Program through which roofing product manufacturers can label their products with solar reflectance and thermal emittance values, measured by CRRC Accredited Independent Testing Laboratories.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits SSc1 Opt 1E Heat Island Effect Roof, SSc7.2 Heat Island Effect Roof
CRRC is a non profit organization
www.coolroofs.org


Water Sense Label
Modeled after Energy Star, the EPA’s WaterSense program seeks to educate consumers about water efficiency through an easily identifiable label. Products bearing the label are generally 20% more water-efficient than similar products in the marketplace and must be independently tested before qualifying for the label.WaterSenserequires all products bearing the WaterSense label to be independently certified. Certification provides consumers with confidence in both the efficiency and performance of WaterSense labeled products.

NOTE: this is not a certification but an EPA label that verifies high efficient plumbing products.

Water Sense is a government organization
www.epa.gov/watersense


Green-e
Green-e is the nation's leading independent consumer protection program for the sale of renewable energy and greenhouse gas reductions in the retail market. Green-e offers certification and verification of renewable energy and greenhouse gas mitigation products. It is a voluntary consumer-protection program that verifies superior, certified renewable energy options offered by utilities and marketers in the retail market.
Sets minimum consumer and environmental protection standards that bolster consumer confidence and market credibility and ensure the healthy growth of voluntary green power markets nationally. Certifies products in three types of markets: competitive retail electricity providers, monopoly utility green pricing, and renewable energy certificate markets

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EAc4 Green Power, EB EAc 4 Renewable Power
Green-e is a non profit organization
www.green-e.org


Cleaner and Greener Certification
The Cleaner and Greener Program helps companies and organizations quantify their emissions footprint, calculate emission reductions from energy efficiency and other emission reduction projects, offset emissions, and certify the level of emission reductions and offsets.

Cleaner and Greener Certification is a program of Leonardo Academy, a charitable foundation dedicated to putting the competitive markets to work on reducing environmental emissions.
This is important because about 65%-85% of all energy use in the US comes from product production, delivery, & use (Green Energy, Leonardo Academy 1998).

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EBc 5.4 Performance Measurement, Emission
Reduction
Cleaner and Greener is a non profit organization
www.cleanerandgreener.org


Climate Neutral –Climate Cool
The Climate Neutral Network is an alliance of companies and organizations committed to developing products, services, and enterprises that have a net-zero impact on global warming.

Climate Cool™ products or services are determined to completely offset the greenhouse
gases generated across each stage of their life-cycle including the sourcing of its materials, its manufacturing or production, its distribution, use, and ultimate end-of-life disposition.

NOTE: Climate Neutral Network is currently transferring to another non-profit and is not accepting any product certifications

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits ID 1.1-1.4
www.climateneutralnetwork.com

Check back soon for the next installment: Carpet Certifications

Thursday, December 2, 2010

EcoLabels & Certifications: Furniture Certifications

Today's installment of Deborah Fuller's Eco-Labels and Certifications series focuses on Wood Forestry Certifications.


GreenGuard Certification–VOC levels in Furniture
GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified®: Product certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finish systems. All GREENGUARD Certified Products have been tested for their chemical emissions performance and can be found in the GREENGUARD Online Product Guide.

GREENGUARD for Children & SchoolsSM:Product certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings,and finish systems used in educational, office and other sensitive environments. All GREENGUARD Children & Schools products have been tested for their chemical emissions performance according to CA 1350 and can be found in the GREENGUARD Online Product Guide.

Contributes to: USGBC - LEED credits MRc4.5 Sys. Furn & Seating, ID 1.1-1.4 , EB MRc 2.2 Furniture
Green Guard is a for profit organization
www.greenguard.org

SCS–Certified/BIFMA Standards
SCS Certified -Furniture brings a new level of verified environmental performance to furniture certification. Based on both environmental and social criteria set forth in the

BIFMA Sustainability Standard (BIFMA SS), a product’s entire supply chain is assessed to insure that the product meets measurable milestones of environmental performance at every step of development. SCS Sustainable Choice Certification includes an evaluation of specific corporate policies and guidelines and an assessment of associated company manufacturing facilities. Products must meet rigorous, quantitative criteria in four categories: materials, energy and atmosphere, human and ecosystem health, and social responsibility.

Certification verifies a manufacturer’s commitment to environmentally and socially responsible products and business practices.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits MRc4.1 –Recycled Content, MRc4.2 –Recycled Content, MRc6 –Rapid Renewable, MRc7 –Certified Wood, EQc4.5 –Furniture, ID 1.1-4 Innovation In Design
SCS is a for profit organization
www.scscertified.com

BIFMA Level Certification
level is a multi-attribute, sustainability standard and third-party certification program for the furniture industry. It has been created to deliver the most open and transparent means of evaluating and communicating the environmental and social impacts of furniture products in the built environment. Products are evaluated and rated based on the following:

  • Climate Neutral Products
  • Life Cycle Analysis
  • Effective Use of Materials
  • Rapidly Renewable Materials
  • Recycled & Biodegradable Materials
  • Bio based Materials/Sustainable Wood
  • Buy Back/Take Back Policy
  • Water Management
  • Human and Ecosystem Health
  • Socially Responsible

Contributes to:USGBC –LEED credits MRc4.1 –Recycled Content, MRc4.2 –Recycled Content, MRc6 –Rapid Renewable, MRc7 –Certified Wood, EQc4.5 –Furniture, ID 1.1-4 Innovation In Design
BIFMA is a for profit organization
www.scscertified.com

SCS Indoor Advantage Gold
The emphasis on individual VOCs rather than on total VOC concentration is one of the features that distinguish the SCS Indoor Advantage™ Gold program. The health risks associated with individual VOCs vary, making some more of a concern than others. Likewise, this emphasis on individual VOCs encourages manufacturers to identify and address the sources of chemical contaminants in their manufacturing process and enables them to establish specifications for the materials and components they purchase.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EQ 4.5 Furniture, ID 1.1-1.4
SCS is a for profit organization
www.scscertified.com

Check back soon for the next installment: Energy Performance Certifications

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

EcoLabels & Certifications: Wood Forestry Certifications

Today's installment of Deborah Fuller's Eco-Labels and Certifications series focuses on Wood Forestry Certifications.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) –Forestry, Wood and Chain of Custody

The Forest Stewardship Council is a nonprofit international organization committed to the conservation, restoration, and protection of the world's working forests through standards setting and accreditation.

The term "independently certified forest products" refers to those products originating in a forest that an independent third party has certified as well-managed and sustainable. Forest certification validates on-the-ground operations employing the best management practices at a specific forest to ensure the long-term health of the total forest ecosystem.

Today, the only ratings available that meet the criteria established by the Certified Forest Products Council are those of the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC standards were developed by representatives of conservation groups, the timber industry, economic development organizations and the general public.

A forestry operation that meets FSC standards protects forest ecosystems, water quality, wildlife habitats and local communities. To ensure the integrity of the certification, the wood and fiber from certified forests are tracked through the commercial chain from logging sites to retailers and to the end user (COC).

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits MRc7 –Certified Wood
FSC is a non profit organization
www.fsc.org

Rainforest Alliance Certification

The Rainforest Alliance is a nonprofit organization with more than two decades of experience developing environmental and social standards for the sustainable management of natural resources while helping companies and organizations of all sizes adopt sustainable practices.
Central to the Rainforest Alliance's sustainable forestry efforts is independent third-party certification, which assures consumers that the wood products they purchase come from well-managed forests. With the launch of SmartWood in 1989, the Rainforest Alliance developed the world's first global forestry certification program and the first to rely on market forces to conserve forests. The Rainforest Alliance is one of the founders of the Forest Stewardship Council , and is the largest FSC-accredited certifier. The Rainforest Alliance has certified the greatest number of community and indigenous operations to FSC standards.

The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal ensures that goods and services were produced in compliance with strict guidelines protecting the environment, wildlife, workers, and local communities.

The Rainforest Alliance is a non-profit organization
www.rainforest-alliance.org

Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) on-product label provides customers and end users of wood and paper products an assurance that products are produced in accordance with their environmental expectations. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program states it has the most comprehensive approach to wood supply monitoring of any forest certification program in the world and can help provide this assurance with several options for chain of custody and on-product labels. SFI program participants practice sustainable forestry on all the lands they manage. They also influence millions of additional acres through the training of loggers and foresters in best management practices and landowner outreach programs.

SFI is an industry organization
www.sfiprogram.org

CPA/EPP Certification for Engineered Wood
The Composite Panel Association (CPA) launched an environmentally preferable product (EPP) certification program to reduce the use of virgin timber in engineered wood products. Based on the principles of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program, CPA’sspecification will ensure that EPP-certified products contain 100% recycled or recovered wood fiber. The specifications include sawmill waste in this “recycled or recovered” content. “If we didn’t use sawmill waste, there wouldn’t be an industry,” CPA also conducts product testing and third-party certification programs, offering the first ANSI accredited Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) certification program.The EPP Program certifies composite panel products that are 100 percent recycled and low emitting. Downstream manufacturers who use EPPcertified substrates can also market their products as environmentally preferable through this program.

CPA is a non profit organization

http://www.pbmdf.com/

American Tree Farm System (ATFS)
Our mission -To promote the growing of renewable forest resources on private lands while protecting environmental benefits and increasing public understanding of all benefits of productive forestry.

The American Tree Farm System® (ATFS), a program of the American Forest Foundation's Center for Family Forests, is committed to sustaining forests, watershed and healthy habitats through the power of private stewardship. Currently, ATFS has certified 24 million acres of privately owned forestland and 90,473 family forest owners who are committed to excellence in forest stewardship, in 46 states. Tree Farmers share a unique commitment to protect wildlife habitat and watersheds, to conserve soil and to provide recreation for their communities while producing wood for America.

ATFS is a non-profit organization
www.treefarmsystem.org

Canadian Standards Associate (CSA) -Wood
CANADIAN STANDARDS ASSOCIATION (CSA) is a not-for-profit membership-based association serving industry, government, consumers and other interested parties in Canada and the global marketplace. A leading developer of standards and codes, we provide products, services and training that help enhance public safety and health, improve the quality of life, facilitate trade and preserve the environment.

CSA is a non-profit organization
www.csa.ca

Check back soon for the next installment: Furniture Certifications

Monday, November 22, 2010

Taking the Tube Out of Toilet Paper

Well, it's true that we can't exactly reuse toilet paper, but we can reduce the waste it takes to make it! Scott just came out with a "tubeless" toilet paper roll with no cardboard paper roll in the center or glue that holds it together. This from a recent USA Today article:




The 17 billion toilet paper tubes produced annually in the USA account for 160 million pounds of trash, according to Kimberly-Clark estimates, and could stretch more than a million miles placed end-to-end. That's from here to the moon and back — twice. Most consumers toss, rather than recycle, used tubes, says Doug Daniels, brand manager at Kimberly-Clark. "We found a way to bring innovation to a category as mature as bath tissue," he says.


Kimberly-Clark is testing the tubeless Scott tissue in stores across the Northeast. If you live in that neck of the woods... look for this product and put your money where it counts! (pun intended)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

EcoLabels & Certifications: Indoor Air Quality Certifications

Today's installment of Deborah Fuller's Eco-Labels and Certifications series focuses on Indoor Air Quality Certifications.

GreenGuard Certification–VOC levels in Furniture, Materials and Finishes

  • GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified®: Product certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finish systems. All GREENGUARD Certified Products have been tested for their chemical emissions performance and can be found in the GREENGUARD Online Product Guide.
  • GREENGUARD for Children & SchoolsSM: Product certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finish systems used in educational, office and other sensitive environments. GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certification sets strict emission limits on over 360 individual chemicals and requires a cap on the total level of all VOC emissions.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits MRc4.5 Systems Furn & Seating
GREENGUARD is a for profit organization; the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute is a not-for-profit organization.
http://www.greenguard.org/

Green Seal - VOC Levels in Paints & Coatings

Green Seal certified products meet science-based environmental certification standards that are credible and transparent. Green Seal utilize a life-cycle approach. Green Seal is recognized by the USGBCas the certification system for Paints and Coatings.Products only become Green Seal certified after rigorous testing and evaluation, including on-site plant visits Green Seal provides science-based environmental certification standards that are credible, transparent, and essential in an increasingly educated and competitive marketplace. A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, Green Seal issued its first environmental standards in 1991-2, and the first product certifications were completed in 1992.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EQ 4.2 Paints & Coatings
Green Seal is a non profit organization.
www.greenseal.org

Blue Angel - VOC Levels in Office Equipment
The world's first eco-labeling program, Blue Angel, was created in 1977 to promote environmentally sound products, relative to others in the same group categories. The Basic Criteria apply to components of desktop computers, including workstations consisting of controller (console), keyboard and monitors, copiers, printers and plotters.
Blue Angel certification for computers is primarily concerned with waste avoidance and reuse potential. The criteria for awarding the Blue Angel include:

  • the efficient use of fossil fuels
  • alternative products with less of an impact on the climate
  • reduction of greenhouse gas emission
  • conservation of resources
  • once approved, eco-labeled products are reviewed every two or three years to reflect state-of-the-art developments in ecological technology and product design.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EQ 5 Chemical & Pollutant Source
Blue Angel is a government agency (Germany)
www.blauer-engel.de/

SCAQMD –South Coast Area Quality Management District –VOC levels in Adhesives & Sealants
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) (AQMD) is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. This is the second most populated urban area in the United States and one of the smoggiest. AQMD is committed to undertaking all necessary steps to protect public health from air pollution, with sensitivity to the impacts of its actions on the community and businesses.
NOTE: this is not a certification but a governing agency that regulates VOC’s. The USGBC has adopted this standard for all Adhesives and Sealants.

Contributes to:USGBC –LEED credits EQ 4.1 Adhesives & Sealants
SCAQMD is a government agency (California)
www.aqmd.gov


Floor Score
FloorScore, developed by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) in conjunction with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), tests and certifies hard surface flooring and flooring adhesive products for compliance with rigorous indoor air quality emissions requirements. Individual volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are evaluated using health-based specifications. Flooring and adhesives that earn FloorScore certification earn a legitimately enhanced market position, distinguished by the FloorScore certification label.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EQ 4.3 Flooring Systems
Floor Score is an industry organization

www.rfci.com/int_floorscore

SCS Indoor Advantage Gold
The emphasis on individual VOCs rather than on total VOC concentration is one of the features that distinguish the SCS Indoor Advantage™ Gold program. The health risks associated with individual VOCs vary, making some more of a concern than others. Likewise, this emphasis on individual VOCs encourages manufacturers to identify and address the sources of chemical contaminants in their manufacturing process and enables them to establish specifications for the materials and components they purchase.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EQ 4.1 Adh& Sealants, EQ 4.2 Paints & Coating, EQ 4.3 Comp. Wood, EQ 4.5 Furniture
SCS Indoor Advantage Gold is a for profit organization
www.scscertified.com

Carpet & Rug Institute Green Label Plus
Today, indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important environmental consideration, especially since we spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors. Green Label Plus is the certification standard that the USGBC requires for carpet, carpet tiles, carpet pad and adhesives to help specifies identify products with very low emissions of VOCs.

Contributes to: USGBC –LEED credits EQc 4.3 Carpet
Carpet & Rug Institute is a non profit trade organization
www.carpet-rug.org

Check back soon for the next installment: Wood Forestry Certifications

Thursday, November 11, 2010

EcoLabels & Certifications: An Introduction

This post is the first in a series on EcoLabels & Certifications, courtesy of HOK's Deborah Fuller (RID, IDDA, LEED AP BD+C). Through this series, Debi attempts to clairfy the confusion with green certifications, eco-labels, and green logos, and share how to use them in sustainable design (and the LEED documentation process).

Even if you're not a designer or involved in any LEED projects, this series will help you sort through all those labels - find out what's for real, what's not, and what it all means!

What is an "eco-label"?
  • According to Consumer Reports, an "eco-label" is a seal or logo indicating that a product has met a set of environmental or social standards. But, who monitors these claims, and how do you know they are legitimate?
  • According to the Global Ecolabelling Network, "ecolabelling" is a voluntary method of environmental performance certification and labeling that is practiced around the world.
  • According to Wikipedia, an "ecolabel" is a labeling system for consumer products (excluding food and medicine) that are made in a fashion that avoids detrimental effects on the environemnt. Many (but not all) ecolables are not directly connected to the firms that manufacture or sell the ecolabeled products. Just as for the quality assurance labeling systems, it is of imperitive importance that the labeling entity is clearly divided from and independent of the manufacturers. All ecolabeling is voluntary, mneaing that they are not mandatory by law.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has identified three broad types of voluntary labels:

  • Type I- a voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party program that awards a license that authorizes use of environmental labels on products indicating overall environmental preferability of a product within a particular product category based on lifecycle considerations
  • Type II - informative environmental self-declaration claims
  • Type III - voluntary programs that provide quantified environmental data of a product, under pre-set categories of parameters set by a qualified third party and based on life cycle assessment, and verified by that or another qualified third party.

What is Greenwash?

(green'wash', -wôsh') –verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

In December 2007, environmental marketing company, Terrachoice, gained national press coverage for releasing a study called "The Six Sins of Greenwashing," which found that 99% of 1,018common consumer products randomly surveyed for the study were guilty of greenwashing.

What is Certification?

Dictionary Definition: cer·ti·fi·ca·tion; Function: noun
1. the act of certifying.
2. the state of being certified.
3. a certified statement.
4. A standard set of guidelines and criteria against which a product can be judged.

Because green certifications or eco-labels are voluntary, green product certifications are showcases for manufacturers genuinely interested in being taken seriously by the architectural and design community, facility managers and owners who want to purchase products with verified green claims.

Three Levels of Certification

  • First Party Certifications – declarations that have not be tested or verified. These are also referred to as “Trade Association Labels." Most of these consist of marketing claims, product specifications, and material data safety sheets.
  • Second Party Certifications –more credible by involving a trade association or firm that sets a standard and verifies claims.
  • Third Party Certifications: conducts independent testing and awards certifications. Consensus negotiation process. No vested interest in product. These are also referred to as “Independent” certification organizations that establish high standards for product testing. These certifications are the most robust and the measure of quality control is often ANSI-approved, which verifies the certifier’s objectivity.

Who is the "Watch Dog" for Green Certifications and Labels?
Currently there is no overall governing agency that monitors the eco-labels,certifications or green product labels. The USGBC does not endorse anyparticular products, however they do recognize certain organizations andcertifications and labels with the LEED certification process.

Many organizations are trying to get the federal government orthe EPA to act as the “watch dog” for these claims but as of now this is not happening. So we have to rely on credible organizations that have unbiased opinions to help us make decisions regarding these claims.

This series will be divided into a number of topics:

  • Indoor Air Quality Certifications
  • Wood Forestry Certifications
  • Furniture Certifications
  • Energy Certifications
  • Carpet Certifications
  • Green Housekeeping Certifications
  • Textile Certifications
  • Multiple Attribute Certifications

A snapshot of those, for readers anxious to see exactly what we're going to cover:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

DC's "Bag Tax" Works!

This January I wrote about DC's recent "bag tax" that requires all retail stores to charge $.05 for paper or plastic bags at the check out counter. In addition to the cost of the bag, consumers are told they should "skip the bag and save the river," reducing pollution in DCs Potomac and Anacostia waterways.


Well guess what. It's working! According to the Wall Street Journal last week:

Retail outlets that typically use 68 million disposable bags per quarter handed out 11 million bags in the first quarter of this year and fewer than 13 million bags in the second quarter, according to the district's Office of Tax and Revenue. That may help explain why volunteers for the city's annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup day in mid-April pulled 66% fewer plastic bags from the Anacostia River than they did last year.
I write about community based marketing and behavior change techniques all the time, but in this particular case, I really paid attention to my own behavior. At first, I definitely reduced the number of bags I took home due to cost. If I didn't have a reusable bag with me, I would carry things in my pockets or stuff them in my computer bag. Whatever it took to not pay for a cheap and frankly ugly bag. After a while though, I've noticed that its really "uncool" at the store to pay for bags anymore. There really is a kind of peer pressure around the city... people who have to buy bags are considered "wasteful" or "thoughtless."

Honestly I had my doubts this would be effective, but the 1-2 punch of the pro-environment message and the immediate cost (awareness of the negative externalities) has really worked here. And this is a city with LOTS of outsiders from across America visiting everyday. Let's hope they take this idea home with them!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Interview with Rod Stevens of Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business

Rod Stevens is a favorite person of mine – he’s a good natured guy, always ready to share his thoughts on sustainability. I was so excited when I first met Rod and visited the Pioneer campus for a couple of reasons. First, because one of my favorite colleagues, Pete Winters, is a big fan of Rod’s. Second, I associate Pioneer very much with my dad and his parents. My grandparents were farmers and my dad spent one summer as “corn detasseler” on a Pioneer test farm. Rod was so gracious and gifted me with my very own Pioneer baseball cap, as well as one for my dad. We’ve been buds since. I hope you enjoy Rod as much as I do!

What is your current role at your organization?
I am the Architect /Facility Information Manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred. Additionally, I am on the Board of Directors of IFMA, the International Facility Management Association. (Bet you didn’t know you were talking to such a big cheese!) and a LEED AP.

What is going on with sustainability at Pioneer?
We have recently hired a new sustainability coordinator – Derek Nelson. He’s a very enthusiastic young guy who first got interested in sustainability through a course he took as part of his MBA program at the University of Iowa. Part of what he and I are talking about is not doing everything at once, but taking measured steps.

At Pioneer, we’re exploring a lot of different things: solar energy, wind energy, and even single-stream recycling. Finding the infrastructure for single-stream recycling in commercial applications just hasn’t quite made it to Des Moines. Our labs generate a lot of recyclable waste – some of the advocates have been taking it upon themselves to take it away and get it recycled. For example, last winter, we had a localized, very severe hailstorm that took roofs out of many of our greenhouses. These are made of extruded plastic that is as close to double-glazing as you can get without being glass. It’s recyclable, but there were no places nearby that would take it – the local haulers were charging us very expensive fees to haul it away. One of the technicians called around and found a company in Canada that not only hauled it away for free, but also paid us for the material!

It’s like The Little Green Book says, “as an individual you don’t think you’re doing much, but if we all do a little bit the aggregate is very powerful.”

What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
As you might have gathered from the story about recycling, local resources certainly play a role in what we have and have not been able to accomplish to date.

Another issue related to our location is that electricity is pretty inexpensive in the Midwest. In Iowa, about 78% comes from coal plants. Looking to alternative sources of energy is difficult since the paybacks are so long. On the upside, Pioneer recently installed a 40,000 SF photovoltaic array in Hawaii – The cost of electricity in Hawaii is expensive, and the payback on PVs is much lower and therefore a much more attractive option.

We struggle a bit with the concept of water scarcity here in the Midwest. In recent history we have had a lot of rain, we have floods, and we have not experienced drought or water shortages in recent memory. I believe that water is going to become an issue in the future.

What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
Be patient! Chip away at sustainability. Small victories – a series of them – are better than shooting for the moon (and missing).

Also, try to understand that what may be obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to everyone else. For example: you see people drinking bottled water and wonder why anyone would do that. It’s gotten to be your only choice at a number of venues (in many you can’t even bring in your own water or reusable container).

Another major consideration is communication. I truly believe that sustainability is about 90% communication.

Tell us about something that has inspired you recently?
My wife and I recently took a vacation to San Francisco and Sonoma valley. I was very impressed to see how ingrained sustainability is in the general populace – much more so than in Johnston, Iowa! There were recycling and composting bins just about everywhere – nothing special, everyone just knows to recycle and does it.

When I was in Sonoma, I went into an import/export store and in the back was this book, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner by Fred Pierce. The author is a British guy who decided he was going to track down where his “stuff” came from. The book documents, chapter by chapter, him tracking down his “stuff”: there’s a chapter on coffee, a chapter on seafood, etc. He traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to track the stuff down (mines in South Africa to see where gold came from, coffee plantations in South America – he shares a really interesting description of fair trade and how it’s better, but not really fair). His research was exhaustive and the story is really compelling – it really kind of makes you want to stay home and not buy anything due to the far-reaching ramifications of your actions.

My wife and I grew up on farms in Iowa so have a reasonable understanding at least of how food gets to our homes, but even some of the city kids in Des Moines have no idea where their food comes from. Americans in general really have no concept of how stuff is connected. We all just need to pay attention and work to understand how everything relates to everything else.

Rod Stevens is Architect/Facility Information Manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred. This posting expresses Rod’s own opinion and does not represent DuPont company, positions, strategies, or opinion.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What You Can Do to Save MORE Energy

Not every energy-efficiency project is free. Here are a few ideas of things you can do that are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. Again, many apologies if this is old hat to you:

  • Replace light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs. Using compact florescent or LED (light emitting diode) lights can save lots of energy; estimates from ENERGY STAR say that a single CFL bulb can save more than $40 in electricity costs over its lifetime. It uses about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, lasts 10 times longer, and produces about 75% less heat so it is safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with cooling. CFL bulbs are slightly more expensive, but watch for sales at your local store.
  • Install a digital thermostat. A programmable thermostat offers pre-programmed settings to regulate your home's temperature in both summer and winter. For example, during the summer you can set your thermostat so that your home automatically cools when you are home and awake, and becomes slightly warmer when you are asleep or at work. You can buy a digital thermostat for about $30.
  • Insulate your hot water heater with a blanket/jacket. This is fairly simple and inexpensive, and it will pay for itself in about a year. You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $10–$20. Choose one with an insulating value of at least R-8. Some utilities sell them at low prices, offer rebates, and even install them at a low or no cost.
  • Purchase green power or green power credits. Instead of burning fossil fuels to create electricity, green power is electricity created from clean, renewable sources such as wind power, solar photovoltaics, landfill methane capture, or biomass. Many utility companies offer the option to buy “green power,” “renewable energy credits (RECs),” or “green tags.”
  • Use landscaping strategies to improve your home’s energy use. A well-designed landscape not only can add beauty to your home but it also can reduce your heating and cooling costs. For example, trees can help shade your home, reducing the need to cool it in the summer. Landscaping can provide a windbreak to help protect your home from winter winds.
  • Make sure your doors are airtight. You can use weather-stripping to help reduce drafts around windows and doors – keeping the conditioned air inside and the unconditioned air out.
  • Use a clothes line. Consider purchasing a clothesline if your community allows them. Retractable lines can be purchased at your local hardware store for less than $15.
  • Replace your AC filter with a reusable one…and wash it monthly! The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters. Clogged, dirty filters block normal air flow and reduce a system's efficiency significantly. Keeping the filter clean can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5%–15%. Many hardware stores sell reusable, washable filters for about the same price as a regular disposable filter.

Some slightly more expensive or challenging projects include:

  • Improve the insulation in your attic, basement, or crawl space. Properly insulating your home will not only help reduce your heating and cooling costs but also make your home more comfortable.
  • Switch to a tankless hot water heater. Tankless water heaters, also called instantaneous or demand water heaters, provide hot water only as it is needed. Traditional storage water heaters produce standby energy losses that cost you money. A tankless water heater is used only when there is a demand for hot water. Many tankless water heaters have a life expectancy of more than 20 years. They also have easily replaceable parts that extend their life by many more years. In contrast, storage water heaters last 10 – 15 years.
  • Restore porches and awnings. Awnings and porches provide protection from the sun, rain, snow and wind. They can also protect your indoor possessions from fading in locations that receive a great deal of sun streaming through the windows, and help save on energy bills by shielding the sun from heating up the home’s interior in warmer months, and diminishing the amount of wind that hits the windows and doors.
  • Insulate your pipes. Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2ºF–4ºF hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing for a lower water temperature setting.

Image Source: Triple Pundit

Friday, October 8, 2010

Interview with Randy Knox, Director of Global Workplace Solutions and Head of Environmental Programs at Adobe

I always want to know what Randy Knox is up to on the sustainability front. He has been instrumental in seeing that Adobe stays on top of energy savings, stakeholder engagement and the latest green technology. Here's where his head is today...

Q: What would you say are current “trends” when it comes to organizations adopting green strategies or principles?
A: I think the trend is companies continuing to pursue LEED certifications, which are at an all time high. In addition, companies like Adobe who have facilities that are already LEED certified are beginning to think “beyond LEED.” At Adobe, we continue our quest to lower our energy requirements. For example, in our downtown San Jose headquarters we have just completed the installation of 12 fuel cells. These fuel cells will be fueled with renewable methane gas making the electrical energy generated on site 100 percent renewable and carbon neutral. We expect the fuel cells to produce up to 30 percent of the power required by our three office towers in San Jose.

We also recently installed 20 Windspire vertical wind turbines. And last year, we completed installation of the Optimum Loop technology in one of our three office towers. The Optimum Loop controls all of the equipment in a building’s chilled water loop with the sole goal of reducing the amount of power that the chiller requires. The chiller is the single largest energy hog in the operation of a building.

Q: How have recent legislation or corporate/federal mandates changed the way your organization addresses environmental issues?
A: Adobe has always had a strong sense of environmental stewardship. As such, we have tackled environmental issues from the start and continue to do so today. While I think that recent legislation and pending legislation will move more corporations to do the right thing, Adobe is well ahead of the curve as this has always been part of the company’s core values.

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: I am most proud of the way Adobe executive leadership has supported these efforts to date and have allowed us to be a leader in this field. We’ve done so many projects both large and small that I am proud of, but I would have to point to the fuel cells as our most recent and perhaps proudest moment overall.

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
A: We have received so much support from the Adobe executive team and individual employees in response to our efforts to make our facilities more sustainable. More to the fact, we are constantly challenged by our employees to do more. The only general limitation is time and resources -- two common challenges most everyone can relate to in some capacity.

Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
A: Know you ARE doing the RIGHT thing and that there is money to be saved in time. Also, start with the low hanging fruit. I know that this is an over-used phrase, but it does have its place here. It helps facility operators build a history of performance and trust that will allow larger projects to be approved. As an example, many of our early projects cost us next to nothing to implement -- things like de-lamping in some areas and installation of compact fluorescent lights in others. Our most recent project, the fuel cells, obviously required an upfront investment, and gaining that approval was based on years of proven performance.

Q: What is your favorite source for sustainability/environmental trends or information?
A: While there are many great sources and resources available right now, personally, I get the most from my relationship with Sustainability Roundtable, Inc., based in Cambridge, MA.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What You Can Do to Save Materials


We've shared recently some ideas for saving energy and water. Today we're going to focus on some ways to make smarter use of natural resources. Again, hopefully this is all old news...but if not, please take a tip and make your day a bit greener!

Some free and relatively easy things to do include:
  • Set up a composting pile or bin. If you have a yard, find a place to put a pile of your organic wastes. This could be a pile, a box built from scrap materials, or a purchased composting bin. If you live in an apartment or condo, consider purchasing a countertop composter. There are lots of options available, ranging from electric composters (use about the same energy as a light bulb), vermiculture (composters that use worms to speed the process), and basic bins. The right choice depends a lot on where you live, how much you want to spend, how much time you want to invest in composting, and how quickly you want your materials to decompose.
  • Purchase products with little packaging, or in bulk. Many of the items we buy come in excess packaging. Look for items with little or no packaging and consider buying in bulk when appropriate. Bring your own containers when appropriate, such as to the local farmers market.
  • Purchase products made from reused or recycled material. Recycled-content products are made from materials that would otherwise have been discarded. Items in this category are made totally or partially from material destined for disposal or recovered from industrial activities-like aluminum soda cans or newspaper. Recycled-content products also can be items that are rebuilt or remanufactured from used products such as toner cartridges or computers.
  • Purchase products and services made locally. Buying local not only reduces the environmental impact associated with transporting goods, but also helps keep money in the local economy, helping keep local jobs and improve the local tax base.
  • Use the 30-day rule. The basic idea behind this rule is that you seriously consider whether or not you actually need to purchase a new item and avoid impulse buying. For example, you see a sweater or a new computer that you’d really like to have. Take 30 days to mull it over. If you still think you need it at the end of the 30 days, go for it.
  • Purchase non-toxic cleaning products. Nontoxic cleaning products are generally available for about the same price as traditional, more toxic products. Using non-toxics is good not only for the environment, but also for your health. Additionally, using non-toxics helps reduce the risk of poisoning to children and pets!

Now some inexpensive and easy-to-do ideas:

  • Replace disposable products with reusable ones. This crosses all kinds of different products. Wherever possible, look to products that can be reused. While reusable materials (such as razors) may cost more initially, the overall cost is often lower. When you do use disposables like plastic cups, plates, utensils, and plastic food storage bags, don't throw them away! Wash and reuse them -- most of them will last for a long time with many uses
  • Repair things when they break. First, look to products that are durable. And, when the durable product breaks, get it fixed rather than replacing it!

Of course, when you do replace durable materials (or any materials, for that matter), consider donating the old products to charitable outlets (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, etc.), or repurpose them through venues like yard sales, Craigslist, or Freecycle.

And when you look to replace or purchase something, instead of buying new from the store, check yard sales, Craigslist, and the charitable outlets first. Often you can find “good as new” (and sometimes new-new) products for a fraction of the price!

Image Source: ECycler

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Drowning In Packaging

As the fortunate recipient of a huge number of gifts recently, much of my after-work time has been spent opening boxes and disposing of packaging. I truly appreciate thoughtful and careful packaging. After all, it is so much nicer when a gift arrives in one piece and un-broken. However, in order to ensure that it arrives this way, different retailers tend to rely on various methods of cushioning to achieve the same goal. This can range from Styrofoam “peanuts”, to air pillows, to wads of paper.

As a rather devoted opponent of clutter, the process of opening gifts has been to open, admire, and then remove all packaging immediately for trash and recycling. It is incredible how much “trash” just a few packages can produce. I began to wonder what to do with all of this packaging. Clearly, throwing it in the trash is not the right answer. At the same time, storing what would have been 35 full-size garbage bags full of peanuts and air pillows for future re-use was not something that I was necessarily interested in. I was sure that there was a probably a very simple and convenient solution….and there was. Just a quick internet search and phone call provided two solutions. The quick internet search resulted in finding the Plastic Loose Fill Council (http://www.loosefillpackaging.com/). A very easy-to-navigate website that provides many convenient locations close to you that are thrilled to get your “packing peanuts”. The easiest location for me ended up being any one of the four UPS stores between my home and office.

As for the unbelievable amount of “air pillows”….Williams-Sonoma loves getting them and they re-use them when packaging other peoples gifts. Also….it’s a great excuse to go check out all of the kitchen stuff that you really “need”.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What You Can Do to Save Water

Ready for some more tips? Here are a bunch of free (or cheap) and easy things you can do to save water. Again, hopefully you're already doing all of these and this is boring, old news. If not, take a moment and think about whether you can implement one (or more) of these simple tips!

So, what can you do to reduce your water use? Lots of things, most of which are pretty easy and inexpensive (or free). For example, some free things you can do include:

  • Check for leaks in taps, pipes, and hoses
  • Wait until you have a full load before running the dishwasher or laundry washing machine
  • Rinse your dishes in a plugged sink rather than running water
  • Don’t run the water while you brush your teeth

Inexpensive and relatively easy things you can do include:

  • Install low-flow fixtures (sinks, toilets, and showers). Low flow fixtures generally cost about the same as traditional fixtures and can be purchased at your local hardware store.
  • Install a dual-flush kit on your toilet. You can buy a dual-flush kit to retrofit your existing toilet for about $25. Dual flush toilets use less water for liquid waste and a full flush for solid waste.
  • Install rain water cisterns/barrels. Rain water cisterns collect water run off from your gutters; this water can then be used for purposes such as watering your garden or lawn. You can purchase barrels, or make your own from materials like a covered trash can. Many municipalities offer courses in making your own cistern. Warning: uncovered cisterns can become mosquito breeding grounds, so consider covered options, or investing in mosquito dunks to kill larvae.
  • Replace sprinklers with drip irrigation. Sprinklers shoot water into the air where it can easily evaporate. In contrast, drip irrigation is a method of applying slow, steady amounts of water to specific areas. This reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation, and also the amount of water that ends up in places it doesn’t need to be (like on the sidewalk or other runoff).

Look for some easy options for saving materials coming soon!

Image Source: Green O Green

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What Can You Do to Save Energy

Sometimes you get into a "green couch potato" mode and need a kick in the pants to get up and do something. As such, I've compiled a list of free and easy things you can do to help reduce your personal environmental footprint (either at the office or at home). You'll notice that none of these tips are earthshattering...just some commonsense things to do.

Hopefully you do all of these already and I'm wasting your time! If not, pick one (or more) and see if you can make a simple lifestyle change at the office - and at home - for the environment.


  • Close or adjust window blinds and curtains. In the summer, close the blinds during the day to reflect the sun’s heat outward. In the winter, keep the shades closed to help trap warmth inside the house.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights. This is a no-brainer: if you’re not using a space, turn off the light. Many people have been told that turning a light on and off uses more energy than leaving it on. This is only true if you’re turning it off for only a few seconds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Unplug equipment that drains energy. Did you know that many items will draw energy even though you’re not using them? This is sometimes referred to as “vampire” power. Some examples are cell phone chargers and other power adapters. Also any items that have “instant on” functions, or things that have a clock. If you’re not using them, unplug them! Or put them on a power strip and turn the power strip off.
  • Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater. For each 10 degree reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3 and 5 percent in energy costs. Some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140ºF, but most households usually only require them set at 120ºF. Reducing your water temperature to 120ºF also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes. This helps your water heater last longer and operate at its maximum efficiency.
  • Wash your clothes in cold rather than hot water. Hot water does not clean clothes better, and actually is tougher on clothes in terms of wear and tear and fading. Using cold or warm water will get your clothes just as clean and use less energy. Always use cold water for the rinse cycle.
  • Clean your lint trap in the clothes dryer after every load. Cleaning out the lint trap helps maximize circulation of warmed air in your clothes dryer, making your clothes dry faster and more efficiently.
  • Do not preheat the oven. For most cooking and baking options (particularly for meat and vegetables), preheating the oven is not a big help. For very sensitive tasks, like baking, preheating the oven is still necessary. In other cooking-news, ways to reduce energy use include not opening the oven door during cooking, and turning the oven off a few minutes before the food is done (it will hold the heat as long as you don’t open the door).
  • Set your thermostat a few degrees cooler/warmer. In the winter, consider keeping your house a few degrees cooler and wearing a sweater and some slippers. In the summer, do the opposite and keep the house a few degrees warmer.
  • Open the windows instead of using the AC. Of course, it’s always more energy efficient to use natural ventilation rather than conditioned air!
  • Heat only the rooms you use. In the winter, consider closing off rooms that are rarely used (like guest rooms). By closing the vents in that room and keeping the room closed, your system will use less energy to heat the space that you do use.

Coming soon - free & easy tips for water conservation.

Image Source: Energy Efficient Choices

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interview with Lisa Shpritz, Environmental Risk and Sustainability Executive at Bank of America

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Shpritz, Senior Vice President at Bank of America. Lisa is smart, funny, and dedicated to the environment (and good business practices). In addition to her “real” job, Lisa also serves on the Board of Directors of the USGBC in the Finance, Surety and Corporate Real Estate seat.

Hope you enjoy Lisa and her take on the green workplace as much as we did:

What is your current role at Bank of America?
My official title is Environmental Risk and Sustainability Executive and I am part of Bank of America’s Corporate Workplace Group. My role is twofold: running an environmental risk group that manages environmental compliance and a sustainability team that focuses on integrating environmental practices and principles into the way Bank of America does business.

I have been with Bank of America for five years, coming here after graduating from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business. Prior to attending UNC, I worked in international environmental management for a telecommunications company.

This is the first time I have worked at a large company, and it is great. My background is in environmental management (I have a master’s degree in environmental management from Duke and a BA in Biology from Cornell), and I have always been interested in contamination and its effects on real estate (brownfields, for example). In business school, I made the connection between environmental management and business, and really focused on real estate.

At Bank of America, I get to pull all of my interests together, working on a really broad range of everything – cleaning brownfield properties, maintaining compliance, arranging air permits, dealing with hazardous waste and asbestos, and everything from carpooling and water conservation to LEED certification, recycling, and waste management strategies.

We have over 125 million square feet of space (approximately 10-11,000 buildings), and have lots of opportunities to improve the environment.

What green/sustainability-related project are you most proud of?
I think my greatest accomplishment at Bank of America is putting together our team. I never imagined that five years later the group would be what it is today. The team has recently expanded (we added six people in the last six months). The team is comprised of two environmental risk managers who are responsible for maintaining compliance for all of Bank of America’s domestic properties, an associate engagement manager, and a sustainability director plus her team, which includes a person dedicated to LEED-EB, a person dedicated to waste and water, one who is responsible for green leasing and transactions, a sustainable transportation manager, and a person dedicated to supply chain sustainability.

The associate dedicated to green leasing and transactions has a very challenging task. Many of our facilities are leased, and this person is responsible for making sure that the language in our leases is green. They are also responsible for working together with our landlords to integrate services like recycling and green cleaning – things you think would be easy, but when maintaining consistency over such a large portfolio, become very challenging.

Our sustainable transportation associate is responsible for running our Hybrid Vehicle Reimbursement Program (we reimburse associates $3,000 for the purchase of a new hybrid, electric, or compressed natural gas vehicle), setting up electric vehicle charging stations, and managing our compliance with trip reduction ordinances across the country, among other things.

The associate engagement position was developed to help Bank of America get the story out to our associates. We have lots of great programs available, but until now, did not have a good way of getting the information out.

Our program is based on a foundation of compliance, which I think is very, very important. Any sustainability program worth its salt is steeped in compliance. Many organizations are so rushed to get a program up and running that they forget to look at the basics.

I’m very proud that Bank of America has developed a solid, holistic, environmental program that is now integrated into the way we do business. It’s not extra, or other, or fringe; for example, LEED certification is now our standard for how we build our banking centers and renovate space.

What has inhibited you or Bank of America from making more progress on the sustainability front?
This is a hard question. From the very start, I had incredible leadership support from Bank of America’s senior management. At the very beginning it was a little tough because I think people were maybe a little suspect, but overall the reception has been incredible.

I think it helps tremendously that we have constructed our environmental management and sustainability programs so that they make sense financially – they are not an “add on,” but instead an integral part of the way we do business.

What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
If you are starting a sustainable program from the very beginning, the best thing to do is to pick a couple of “low hanging fruit” projects that will absolutely save money. Once you have documented the return on investment from these projects, use them to prove to leadership that there is a business case for going green. A perfect example of an easy win is changing out light bulbs. This is easy to implement and easy to show a return, no matter where your company falls on the green spectrum (white or deep green).

Another easy win is being wiser about waste. Investing in a cardboard recycling program can lead to instant returns. Most commercial offices have waste streams that are very heavily comprised of cardboard. By recycling cardboard, waste removal fees will be lower, and, depending upon your municipality, you may be reimbursed for recycling the cardboard.

Generally speaking, when you are getting started, look at practices that are common sense, things that are “quick hits” that save money easily. Once you have established a market for environmental behaviors, it is easier to get approval.

What types of strategies have you found most challenging to adopt/push through? Changes we make in our portfolio have to make financial sense. We don’t make choices to do things just because it’s the right thing to do (although that’s certainly part of the decision-making process).

Our national energy team is fast and firm that we do projects that make sense for our shareholders, clients, and associates. Because of this, we’ve found a lot of support. It may sometimes limit the projects we do (for example, those with a 25-year payback are hard to sell), but has enabled us to maintain an incredible level of support for environmental programs.

When times get tough, our integrated approach has helped tremendously – sustainability is more likely to continue in rough times because it’s not as if it is a separate project with a higher price tag.

That said, the sustainable projects may have a higher first cost, but it is not much of a premium over “the normal way.”

Any parting thoughts?
For any students who may be reading this post: one of the areas with great future opportunities is sustainability marketing. There are lots of architects, designers, and scientists with great understanding of sustainability and environmental management; there are even a significant number of green MBAs, but there are very few people who understand both sustainability and true marketing. Many marketing professionals are interested in sustainability, but very few have been trained in both fields. That seems to be a big gap in the marketplace right now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Losing Money Motivates Green Behavior

I was listening to a lecture by one of my favorite psychologists, Dr. Robert Cialdini. His speciality is the power of "influence" particularly as it pertains to business. Here's a post about social influcence from TGW last year.

His topic in this lecture was the influence of scarcity. The idea is that perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a "limited time only" encourages sales. But what might this mean for encouraging green behavior?

There was a study done in Santa Cruz, California. Researchers went door to door in certain neighborhoods with an official from the local power company who did an energy audit on each of the homes, telling homeowners where they should use weather stripping and insulate, and so on. And at the end of this audit, the official told half of them that if they would insulate their home fully, they will save $.75 a day every day. The other half were told, if you fail to insulate your home fully, you will lose $.75 a day every day. Significantly more people insulated their homes under the loss instruction then under the gain instruction.

Language and perception is everything!

Image: Total Green Energy Solutions

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Interview with Gerry Faubert, HOK's Director of Integrated Design

Q: What would you say are current “trends” when it comes to organizations adopting green strategies or principles?
A: Not a trend but a common denominator is the basic tenet that clients will adopt green strategies when there is a compelling story. Chapters in that story include impact to their bottom line, affordability, cost savings, IRR, improved workplace environments. Organizations are realizing the importance of sustainability and many firms are have created a Sustainability Officer role within their firm to provide leadership, expertise, guidance and intelligence on sustainability issues across the broad spectrum of operating a business. At the outset of the internet revolution we saw the role of a CIO be introduced. We now have the Chief Sustainability Officer. This is definitely a growing trend.


Q: How have recent legislation or corporate/federal mandates changed the way your organization addresses environmental issues?
A: Recent funding opportunities such as the ARRA are spurring interest with clients and in turn rejuvenating interest in new solutions. Innovation thrives in times of turmoil.

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?
A: HOK’s Zero Emissions Building Prototype. The firm embarked on a challenge to test the ability to design an affordable 200,000 SF building which achieves net zero emissions on an annual basis.
Lessons learned were invaluable. The question “can form follow performance, be relevant and inform design?” A resounding YES is the answer. The experience is now being applied to other challenges such as existing buildings which is a very exciting opportunity.

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?
A: All large firms are challenged by the complexities of organization, effective knowledge sharing and implementation. All these challenges need to be addressed with a simple pragmatic approach that stands the test of time. In terms of advancing sustainability a reference point could be a question to help validate a decision e.g. is what we are doing sustainable? Keep it simple and look for solutions with multiple benefits.

Q: What advice would you give others in your position trying to make a difference for the environment?
A: Progress can be made with deliberate steps to effect change based on solid principles. Independent will has a role to play when attempting change. Three things you need to do:
1. Never, ever, ever give up. Keep the ball in motion.
2. Know what you want.
3. Fear not what you don’t know.

Q: What is your favorite source for sustainability/environmental trends or information?
A: Nature, just look outside!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interview with Paul Westwood, Sustainable Development Manager for Texas Instruments

Paul Westwood is doing some incredible work with Texas Instruments, particularly with regard to saving energy and reducing carbon emissions in TI's manufacturing facilities. Here's what he's working on now...

Q: What green / sustainability-related project are you working on now that you are most proud of?

A: We just received LEED Gold certification for a large semiconductor assembly and test manufacturing facility in the Philippines. TI had the first LEED Gold wafer fabrication facility in the world in Richardson, Texas and now we’ve added the first LEED Gold assembly facility. This is only the 3rd LEED building in the entire country of the Philippines and one of the others is a TI LEED Silver facility.

Q: What has inhibited you or your organization from making more progress on the sustainability front?

A: Sustainability is still not well understood. People immediately want to start talking about the “green bling” of solar panels and wind turbines. It’s hard to get people to think about the whole system and how to eliminate waste and inefficiency first. The day to day work tasks sometimes cause people to seek the quick answer instead of the best answer. Being efficient and eliminating waste is a fundamentally good business practice so eventually everyone should get on board.

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