Tag Archives: energy

How to Go Green: Back To Basics : TreeHugger

http://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-back-to-basics.html

How to Go Green: Back To Basics

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The future is green, and you just found it. These days you probably feel flooded by dire-sounding environmental news (“the Earth is set to deflate by 2011”) and endless suggestions for greener living (“algae cold-fusion reactors for your shoes”). But fret not. We’re here to help sort things out and get your eco show on the road. Here, we bring it back to basics and break it down into bite sized chunks of simple, everyday ways to live a greener, healthier, more ethical (and ultimately more fun) life. So read on. And remember, if you have a friend, relative, or colleague who needs a little help on the green front, send them this way.

Top Back to Basics Tips Further Reading on Getting Back to Basics
Back to Basics: By the Numbers Back to Basics: Getting Techie
Where to Get the Basics for Green How to Go Green: Index
Back to Basics: From the Archives

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Top Back to Basics Tips

  1. Educate yourselfHow can you solve the problem if you don’t know what the problem is? Luckily, fun, accessible information on green thinking, environmentalism and sustainable living is everywhere these days. Why not start with online sources like our very own guide for How to Go Green. Other websites like Grist, Ideal Bite or Worldchanging also offer great advice and different perspectives. If you prefer the print media, check out magazines like Plenty, Good, or UTNE http://www.utne.com/. And if you’re not much of a reader, documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth, Who Killed the Electric Car?, or the BBC’s Planet Earth are also a good place to start.
  2. TransportHaving got a little reading under your belt, you’re probably itching to get started. One of the biggest impacts we have on the planet is a direct result of the way we move ourselves around. Fortunately, for many of us, this is also easy to do something about. You might consider walking, biking or using mass transit, at least a few days a week. Maybe you can convince your boss to let you work from home? Maybe you can carpool with a friend? If nothing else, you should certainly consider fuel consumption as a major factor in your choice of next vehicle. And when it comes to longer trips, flying is notoriously carbon intensive – so let the train take the strain wherever possible. Find a greener route from A to B with How to Green Your Car, and our Cars and Transportation section.
  3. EnergyWith all the talk of solar panels, fuel cells, building-integrated wind turbines, and flux capacitors, it can be easy to think you need a million bucks to go green at home. Not so. Many of the most effective ways to cut carbon emissions are also the cheapest. Turn lights off when you go out, install energy efficient bulbs and appliances, insulate your home, and keep an eye on consumption. Once you’ve done all that, why not investigate if you can buy green energy from your local utility? Check out our guides on How to Green Your Heating and How to Green Your Electricity for a more detailed plunge.
  4. WaterThis is where the folks in Seattle or the UK start switching off, but stay with us, please! Even if you live in areas of abundant rainfall, water is still a major ecological issue. Clean, drinkable water is precious and needs to be used most efficiently. Every drop of tap water we use also requires energy to filter, purify and transport, and that means fossil fuel emissions. And for those of you in dryer areas, you know only too well that water is becoming an ever-scarcer resource. Fortunately it’s pretty easy to do something about–install water-saving shower heads and aerators, turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth, switch to more efficient appliances, or collect rainwater for use in the garden. All this and more can be found in our guide, How to Green Your Water. For those wanting to go a little more hardcore, the Navy Shower, or the “selective flush” are worth a try–if the comments on these posts are anything to go by, you’ll be in good company!
  5. FoodWe’ve all got to eat, and most of us do it every day. It stands to reason that our collective food choices have a huge impact on the planet, and with the global food industry shipping products further and further around the world, and with farming becoming ever more intensive, this impact is only getting bigger. Fortunately, there is a resistance underway. More and more people are getting interested in sustainable food systems. To bring it back to basics, there are four principles that can help guide you to greener meals: eat local, eat seasonal, eat organic, and finally, eat less meat. For a comprehensive guide to a more sustainable diet, check out How to Green Your Meals and the Food and Health category.
  6. WasteNot so many years ago, waste was THE environmental issue. If you recycled, you were green. If you didn’t, you weren’t. With so many topics on the environmental agenda these days, things aren’t so simple. But waste is still a big deal. Every item thrown away has taken energy and resources to manufacture and transport, and it will take even more energy and resources to process and dispose of, whether through landfill or recycling. So the old adage still rings true: reduce, reuse, recycle. And don’t forget to compost! Of course we have a guide on How to Green Your Recycling, and you can find it here. Online resources like Freecycle or Ebay can also help you find a happy home your unwanted goods.
  7. ThreadsMost folks understand that food, energy, water, and transport are major environmental factors, but what about clothing? Even consumers who always eat organic may happily be wearing garments that were liberally sprayed with noxious chemicals. Cotton is, in fact, one of the most heavily sprayed crops on the planet, so it stands to reason that our choice of clothing can have a major ecological impact. Fortunately, solutions are out there. Organic cotton, and other alternative fabrics like hemp, flax or bamboo are becoming increasingly common, as are high-end fashion items from recycled materials. And then, of course, there are the trusty vintage and thrift stores so beloved by students everywhere–style never goes out of fashion. More digging through the racks can be found in our Fashion and Beauty and How to Green Your Wardrobe.
  8. Personal careEver since The Body Shop first hit the high street in the Eighties, there’s been an increased awareness about the impacts of personal care products on both the environment and on our health. Fortunately, there has also been a huge increase in the number of companies providing more sustainable alternatives. Check out our guide to women’s personal care and the Fashion and Beauty section, and stay tuned for a guide for the fellas. But remember, less is almost always more when it comes to green living–that hemp-based, yak’s milk lip blusher may be the greenest product of its kind on the market, but going ‘au natural’ takes you one step further!
  9. Furniture & décorMany of us spend staggering amounts of money on furniture during our lifetime. Now most TreeHugger’s will be aware that buying tropical hardwoods from Amazonian clear-cuts is a poor way to look after our natural heritage, but what are the alternatives? Fortunately, the industry is responding to concerns about its sourcing practices, and stylish furniture from certified, sustainably harvested and/or recycled and salvaged materials is becoming increasingly common. More details can be found in our furniture guide and in the Design and Architecture category.
  10. Keep it cleanNow you’ve spent all this time putting your house in order with organic clothing and chemical-free furniture, why douse it in chemicals to keep it clean? Many everyday cleaning products are made up of pretty nasty constituents, yet there are natural alternatives that work just as well. Take a look at our How to Green Your Cleaning.

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Back to Basics: By the Numbers

  • Five: Number of planets we would need if everyone lived like the average North American. If everyone lived like the average European, we’d need three. Unfortunately, we only have one.
  • 500 billion to 1 trillion: Plastic bags used by shoppers each year. This translates to about 150 bags a year for every person on earth. Remember to bring your own!
  • 83 percent: Percentage of Americans who now say global warming is a “serious” problem. This is up from 70 percent in 2004.
  • 941 and 1,023: Pounds of greenhouse gases added each year from one person eating three burgers per week.
  • 2.5 to 1:The ecological footprint of the average American, compared to that of the average Italian.

Sources: World Wildlife Fund, Algalita, WebWire, Footprint NetworkBack To Top Λ

Back to Basics: Getting Techie

What is “sustainability”?Sustainability has many definitions, but it is most commonly described as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” according to Wikipedia.

LOHASis an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, a term used to describe the market segment interested in green and natural living products, organics, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and socially responsible investing. According to Wikipedia, it is a market worth $227 billion in the United States alone.

Emerging TechnologiesFor those wanting more in-depth reading on environmentalism and/or the emerging technologies and industries that are taking us towards sustainability, check out the works of eco-icons like William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken, to name but a few. The Worldchanging book: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century is also an excellent source of inspiration.

Climate Science

If the “hot glacier on glacier action” in An Inconvenient whet your appetite for the complicated, often confusing world of climate science, there can be no better place to start than Real Climate–it’s much more stimulating than you might think.

Techie WizardryEqually, if you want to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in thin-film solar, hydrogen fuel cells, wind energy, heat pumps, or any other techie wizardry, look no further than our friends at Renewable Energy Access.

Where to Get the Basics for Green

Green Publishers

Magazines

Bikes

Solar Chargers

Energy Efficient Bulbs

Local Food

Eco Clothing

Green Furniture

Personal Care

Cleaning and Household Products

Feminine Hygiene

Back to Basics: From the Archives

Dig deeper into these articles on getting back to basics from the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.

TreeHugger’s Green Basics series breaks it down, including topics like local food, carbon footprints and much more.

Learn all you want to know (and more) about going green from the guides for How to Go Green.

If you’re thinking of eating more locally, you could do a lot worse than checking out our picks of local food resources, or green restaurants and the best in green drinks.

For those not ready or able to install solar in their homes, we help pick out some solar chargers that can help you get at least a little juice from the sun.

Getting married? What better time to cement your eco-convictions? Check out our top five picks on green weddings, or the comprehensive How to Green Your Wedding.

TreeHugger reveals why swapping is the new shopping.

And as you reading this screen, you should probably start thinking of ways to reduce your computer’s energy use. We’ll help. While you’re at it, take a look at our advice on energy efficient televisions too.

Not sure you can free yourself from car culture? If these folks can do it in LA, we can all take steps in the right direction at least. Even if you don’t feel you can go cold turkey, take a look at our guide on how to green your car for easy steps in the right direction.

Wanting to grown your own food? Why not explore the concept of permaculture? Check out our posts here, here, and here.

And for those who still think eco is all about nuts and berries,take a look at our legendary and very naughty guide to greening your sex life.

And when you reach the end of your long, green life, TreeHugger helps you go out as you lived-in green style. Check out our top tips for eco-friendly burials.

Further Reading on Getting Back to Basics

Get even more info on getting back to basics from these other worthwhile sources.How to Go Green offers accessible daily posts, hints and advice on how to green your life. You’d also do well to check out the drilldown in TreeHugger Picks.

Similarly, Ideal Bite is known for good, green info that’s easy to assimilate.

For a more philosophical angle, check out Tao of Change. [Full disclosure: This TreeHugger also works with, and occasionally posts on, the Tao of Change].

Worsted Witch and Green La Girl are always excellent sources of information on all things fab and green, especially relating to Fair Trade.

National Geographic’s Green Guide offers useful hints and advice for simple eco-actions – particularly family oriented stuff.

Health.com offers a list of resources for starting out on the road to green living–no mention of TreeHugger though! Oh well, we can’t be everywhere…

The Solar Living Institute offers practical environmental education on all aspects of sustainability.

Check out the spread of energy efficient light bulbs in your area via 18seconds.org

For those interested in permaculture, Permaculture Magazine and Permaculture Activist are fertile resources.

Green Car Congress provides up-to-date information on moves towards a more sustainable automotive industry, and for more consumer oriented reports, check out ACEEE’s GreenerCars.comNatural Resources Defense Council offers up a selection of articles on green living, from cloth diapers, through fighting global warming, to greening your business.

Jim Gramata
The Gramata Realty Group
2214 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60614
www.GramataRealtyGroup.com

Top Ten Green Products of the Year Are Not Sexy, But They Will Make A Difference. : TreeHugger

http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/buildinggreens-top-ten-green-products-year-are-not-sexy-they-will-make-difference.html

BuildingGreen’s Top Ten Green Products of the Year Are Not Sexy, But They Will Make A Difference.

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Proglaze ETA Engineered Transition Assemblies/Promo image

The BuildingGreen Top Ten Products awards remind me of the Oscars. Everybody watches them and talks about them, and pretty much ignores the Scientific and Technical awards given out two weeks earlier. The BuildingGreen awards are like that; they are scientific and technical, are generally not particularly photogenic. I mean, Proglaze ETA Engineered Transition Assemblies from Tremco are not exactly the George Clooney of green building, even if they reduce heating loads and prevent moisture or air quality problems. Others show better on the red carpet.

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Haiku/Promo image

Much sexier is the Haiku Fan. BuildingGreen writes:

Most ceiling fans use low-cost, AC motors that offer poor energy efficiency; the fans themselves are often poorly made, loud, and unattractive. Haiku ceiling fans, manufactured by Big Ass Fans, have brushless, electronically commutated DC motors for increased energy efficiency. Designed for both residential and commercial applications, Haiku ceiling fans use 2-30 watts, significantly exceeding Energy Star requirements.

The Haiku is from Big Ass Fans. When I first wrote about them, I titled my post Great idea, Dumb Name and thought that architects wouldn’t specify a product with such a name. Everyone called me a prude and the company sent me a rubber donkey. Interestingly, two websites covering the BuildingGreen products of the year call it Big A** and the Haiku has its own website that downplays Big Ass. Is America getting even more prudish than it was six years ago?

Amorim expanded-cork boardstock insulation

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Amorim expanded-cork boardstock insulation/Promo image

Perhaps these awards are sexier than I gave them credit for. We are big fans of cork for so many reasons; it’s a renewable resource (bark is harvested every nine years), maintaining cork production protects the natural habitat of the short-toed eagle and the Iberian lynx, it employs 62,000 workers in a country seriously hit by the Euro-recession and protects an area half the size of Switzerland from more mindless real estate development.

BuildingGreen also notes that cork insulation is made without harmful blowing agents or halogenated fire retardants.

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Fram/Public Domain

Fridtjof Nansen lined the interior of the Fram with seven inches of cork; it kept him warm for years in the Arctic and kept Amundsen toasty in the south. 120 years later, it still insulates the boat on display in Oslo.

More on cork in TreeHugger:
Yes To Cork — Save Forests, Jobs and the Iberian Lynx
Cork vs Plastic: How Real Cork is Harvested and Why It Matters
Inside the Cork Wars
Corticeira Amorim, Portugese Cork Supplier’s Sustainability Report

Atlas CMU block with CarbonCure

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Atlas Block/Promo image

Wait a second, this is getting sexier by the moment. I have spent years complaining about concrete and how 5% of CO2 emissions come from making the stuff. Now Canadian block manufacturer Atlas Block (which we wrote about earlier for their use of Poraver glass beads) is using CarbonCure technology to actually inject CO2 into the concrete.

[Atlas Block takes] CO2 supplied from local industrial sources and injects it directly into concrete masonry units (CMUs) during production using a specially designed mold. Atlas Block is using the CarbonCure system primarily to reduce the carbon footprint of its products, but injecting CO2 into CMUs during manufacture also improves their strength, reduces the amount of portland cement required, and speeds curing. Atlas Block also offers products with post-consumer recycled glass. Atlas Block / CarbonCure is the first product brought to market that sequesters CO2 without requiring a dramatic change in current manufacturing processes.

That’s a very big deal. I won’t get to the point where I call concrete green, but this is certainly better. See:
Concrete: Can it be Green?
BuildingGreen Tells You Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Concrete

Viridian reclaimed wood

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Viridian Flooring/Promo image

No, science fiction author Bruce Sterling has not gone into the flooring business. But some of his Viridian Design principles certainly apply to Viridian Reclaimed Wood:

Huge quantities of wooden pallets, crates, and packing materials used to ship goods to the U.S. are discarded daily, wasting a valuable resource and clogging our landfills. In its Oregon facility, Viridian Reclaimed Wood processes these materials from the Port of Portland and then creates flooring, tabletops, paneling, veneers, and other products for use in commercial and residential buildings.

Lets just hope that the flooring doesn’t include the Viridian principle of “Planned Evanescence”: “the product and all its physical traces should gracefully disintegrate and vanish entirely.”

GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater from GE

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GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater from GE/Promo image

This isn’t just an efficient water heater (although it is that, being a heat pump that is twice as efficient as a conventional electrical resistance water heater) but it is also at the forefront of a manufacturing revolution in the USA. Charles Fishman wrote a terrific article in the Atlantic Monthly that discusses it:

This year, something curious and hopeful has begun to happen, something that cannot be explained merely by the ebbing of the Great Recession, and with it the cyclical return of recently laid-off workers. On February 10, Appliance Park opened an all-new assembly line in Building 2—largely dormant for 14 years—to make cutting-edge, low-energy water heaters. It was the first new assembly line at Appliance Park in 55 years—and the water heaters it began making had previously been made for GE in a Chinese contract factory.

BuildingGreen doesn’t explain why anyone would want a 50 US gallon water heater, that seems huge to me.

Other Best Products:

OK I take back my introduction. It may be hard to get excited about WUFI software from Fraunhofer IBP and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cyber Rain smart irrigation controllers, (who needs lawns, anyways?) but there are some seriously sexy products in this year’s list after all.

Tags: Awards | Green Building