Monday, March 21, 2011

Top Green Blog Lists

Thanks to our friends at Engineering Degree Online for featuring The Green Workplace as one of their list of Top 35 Green Architecture Blogs. They've classified them as "niche," "informative," "building" and "remodeling."

We also are on a somewhat related list of Top 50 Construction Blogs by Construction Management Degree Online. Includes topics such as "architecture," "green home construction," "local green construction," "blogs by an individual," "blogs by a group" and "specialty" blogs.

Great lists... including many on our blog roll.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

When Plastic is Good

I work with a number of "Boomer" architects, planners and designers. And every once in a while they remind me that back in the 1970s during the Carter Administration they did a lot of innovative thinking on the green front. While those of us swept up in this recent wave of greenitis think that we invented the mindset, it's actually been around for a long time -actually a VERY long time - even before my boomer colleagues.

Reading yesterday's OP-ED in the NYTimes by Susan Freinkel, she give me some context on plastic I hadn't thought of before. While I have recently become fairly anti-plastic - particularly with the concern over toys manufactured in China (I have a newborn) - Freinkel suggests that plastic, at one time, was the answer to our environmental problems:

The earliest plastics were invented as the substitutes for dwindling supplies of natural materials like ivory or tortoiseshell. When the American John Wesley Hyatt patented celluloid in 1869, his company pledged that the new man made material, used in jewelry, cobs, buttons and other items would bring "respite" to the elephant and tortoise because it would 'no longer be necessary to ransack the earth in pursuit of substances which are constantly growing scarcer.
Freinkel goes on to comment that the problem is not in fact plastic itself, but how we make and use it today. We make it into disposable products and then throw these products away within 24 hours of use. I couldn't agree more. It is true that much of the focus of environmental efforts is on recycling rather than reduction. We feel we can justify buying lots of "stuff" and packaging if we just dispose of it correctly. Truth be told, I'm absolutely one of those people. I get all self-righteous that I'm putting things in the right bin before I take ownership of the fact that I shouldn't have bought all that stuff in the first place.

So I guess I need to revise previous statements I've made about plastic. I'm not against ALL plastic, just the stuff made to be tossed that leeches away in our garbage dumps like one-time-use bottles and bags. I LIKE plastic in solar panels, lighter cars and planes (reducing fossil fuel use) and medical devices that keep people alive. I also like the plastic that helps my clothes last longer, prevents my 5 year old from breaking glass (thank goodness for reusable cups and plates) and makes lots of things affordable.

Image: Flickr galessa's plastics' photostream

Friday, March 18, 2011

Let there be (more energy efficient) light!

For those of you who follow Washington politics, a somewhat frightening change is afoot. Just under 4 years ago Congress passed a law requiring more efficient lightbulbs as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007- kind of like Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for automobiles, but for lightbulbs. Specifically, the act called for roughly 25 percent greater efficiency for light bulbs, phased in from 2012 through 2014.

Republicans in Congress are trying to repeal it. Senator Mike Enzi (R) from Wyoming is pushing a bill to repeal law and give consumers the choice to buy any light bulbs they want. He is joined by 27 Republican Senators.

Enzi claims, "Government doesn't need to be in the business of telling people what light bulb they have to use. If left alone, the best bulb will win its rightful standing in the marketplace."

While I generally applaud choice in the market, I think we can safely say that companies will not produce more energy efficient ANYTHING withough a little regulatory push. To use the lightbulb example, it has only been in the last few years that the flouresent lightbulb has even become a viable option. Before then, we depended on incandescent bulbs - the same technology invented in 1879. That's 114 years of relatively minor improvements in energy efficiency.

Enzi's bill, and related measures in the House, "would push aside innovation, derail plans for new job-creating lighting factories and eliminate an estimated $10 billion in annual energy costs savings – taking as much as $200 per year out of the checkbooks of every U.S. household," said Bob Keefe, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that backs the 2007 law.

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