Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Slow Home: An alternative to suburban sprawl

An excellent 10 step guide to sustainable living.

Avoid homes by big developers and large production builders. They are designed for profit not people. Work with independent designers and building contractors instead.

Avoid home finishing products from big box retailers. The standardized solutions they provide cannot fit the unique conditions of your home. Use local retailers, craftspeople, and manufacturers to get a locally appropriate response and support your community.

Stop the conversion of nature into sprawl. Don’t buy in a new suburb. The environmental cost can no longer be justified. Re-invest in existing communities and use sustainable materials and technologies to reduce your environmental footprint.

Reduce your commute. Driving is a waste of time and the new roads and services required to support low density development is a big contributor to climate change. Live close to where you work and play.

Avoid the real estate game of bigger is always better. A properly designed smaller home can feel larger AND work better than a poorly designed big one. Spend your money on quality instead of quantity.

Stop living in houses filled with little rooms. They are dark, inefficient, and don’t fit the complexity of our daily lives. Live in a flexible and adaptive open plan living space with great light and a connection to outdoors.

Don’t buy a home that has space you won’t use and things you don’t need. Good design can reduce the clutter and confusion in your life. Create a home that fits the way you really want to live.

Avoid fake materials and the re-creation of false historical styles. They are like advertising images and have little real depth. Create a home in which character comes from the quality of space, natural light and the careful use of good, sustainable materials.

Avoid living in a public health concern. Houses built with cheap materials off gas noxious chemicals. Suburbs promote obesity because driving is the only option. Use natural, healthy home materials and building techniques. Live where you can walk to shop, school and work.

Stop procrastinating. The most important, and difficult, step in the slow home process is the first one that you take. Get informed and then get involved with your home. Every change, no matter how small, is important.

Slow Home Principles [via TreeHugger]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Xerox Creates Cheap, Eco-Friendly Printer Paper

"Xerox, one of the world's largest purveyors of copy machines and printing supplies, has made a new environmentally friendly copy paper. Xerox says the paper requires half as many trees to make and less than other green papers before it. But it's not clear whether consumers will go for it."

NPR : Xerox Creates Cheap, Eco-Friendly Printer Paper

Spain Powers Homes with First Solar-Thermal Plant

Why can't they do this in the United States?
"A company in Spain has started producing household electricity from a solar power plant near Seville. The technology is called concentrated solar thermal energy, which means it uses heat from the sun to run steam turbine generators. And running it doesn't generate any greenhouse gases."

NPR : Spain Powers Homes with First Solar-Thermal Plant

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How to Run a Green Office

"'Greening' your computing equipment, though, is a low-risk way for your business to not only help the environment but also reduce costs. It's also one of the hottest trends in business today."

PC World - How to Run a Green Office

Saturday, August 18, 2007

GoodCleanTech - The Independent Guide to Ecotechnology

Good site for info on the latest in Eco technology.
GoodCleanTech aims to provide you with news, tips, advice, and ideas about how to do more with less. With the help of the editors and analysts at PC Magazine, we'll praise those companies that have committed to better ecotechnologies and hold to the fire the polluters and resource hogs. And we'll keep you informed about the latest environmentally friendly developments in the worlds of computers, automobiles, fuel, power, and more.

GoodCleanTech - The Independent Guide to Ecotechnology

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Green & Gorgeous Video Podcasts

TreeHugger has teamed up House & Garden magazine and Teragren (maker of sustainable bamboo flooring) to produce a series of video podcasts, all about the fabulous world of green. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wozniak's New Goal is Efficient Housing

Interesting interview with Apple co-founder and legendary hacker Steve Wozniak where he talks about building an energy efficient home using Southern Yellow Pine which has a natural property of heating and cooling homes, eliminating the need for A/C and heating. He also takes about a company called Enertia that has kit houses made of Southern Yellow Pine, ready to assemble without using any nails. This is a really intriguing idea!
You build a home out of a type of wood that keeps the temperature constant without air conditioning or heaters. The miracle wood in this category is Southern Yellow Pine. As for renewable resources, more Southern Yellow Pine trees are planted each year than are used. I'm told this is the only tree with this benefit. The Southern Yellow Pine has a resin inside that melts and freezes at 71 degrees F., a very comfortable temperature for humans. The chemical actions of melting and freezing work to balance the temperature. If it's a hot day, some small amount of the resin melts (it takes a huge amount of energy to melt a tiny amount) and the melting process pulls heat from the surroundings, from the home. When it gets colder at night, the resin-wood emits heat as it freezes.

In high school chemistry we had the latent heat of fusion concept. You let ice settle in water. You can measure the temperatures. The ice and water are both 32 degrees F. It seems like the tiniest amount of energy would cause the ice to melt. After all, you only have to change it maybe a hundredth or less of a degree. But it takes a huge amount of energy to accomplish melting. This represents the difference in energy between the solid and liquid states. In this way, large amounts of energy can be stored. In the case of Southern Yellow Pine, energy from the summer can even be stored in the wood until a later season in some cases.

This company Enertia prepares blocks of this Southern Yellow Pine with grooves and sells the pieces as kit homes that you build yourself. The only tool you need is a power drill. No nails are used in the construction. I suspect that's because the metal of nails helps outside temperature conduct to the inside. The homes are also designed in an envelope fashion with 2 layers of wood and a space between them for natural air circulation around the home. The Southern side is all glass to collect sunlight. The homes are designed for more sunlight getting in during the Winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, than during summer, when the sun is higher in the sky.

All of these simple principles wind up with a very attractive house that is as normal and livable as any other, but without insulation or air conditioning or heating. The typical energy bill might be as low as $30 a month, depending on where you live. The outside temperature can be 50 degrees hotter or colder than the inside temperature of 71 degrees.

Recently I bumped into the builder of my first home. We reminisced and I told him of my plans to build one of these Enertia homes. He had built many homes with the efficient ram-dirt process and for one of them he used the resin-wood (presumably Southern Yellow Pine) for the roof. With only the roof being of this resin-wood the temperature inside never varied more than 5 degrees he told me. So the combination of approaches is one thing I'm considering too.

Wozniak's New Goal is Efficient Housing

Leonardo DiCaprio's "The 11th Hour"

Rebuilding Greensburg as "green'' town

The tornado flattened town of Greensburg, Kansas, is thinking Green as it rebuilds itself. The news was featured on Good Morning America, reported by Bob Woodruff. Greensburg plans to be the first green town, in the United States, built from ground up. The biggest challenge seems to be the other kind of "green - money." So they are looking to funding from being part of "Eco-Town," a 13-part reality series on cable television being considered by Discovery Communications. Leonardo DiCaprio is executive producer of the series.
"The task of rebuilding Greensburg is presenting the supporters of so-called 'green' design with an opportunity to display the environmental-friendly philosophy on a community-wide scale.

But determining what a green Greensburg will look like will require careful maneuvering around issues of politics, financing and even reality television in the town devastated by a May 4 tornado .

For starters, there isn't another 'green town' in the United States on which to base Greensburg's redevelopment, said Stephen Hardy, a city planner with a Kansas City, Mo., architecture firm brought in by the state to do consulting work. That gives planned 'an endless list of opportunities,' Hardy said."

Rebuilding Greensburg as "green'' town will be a challenge - AOL News

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How To Heal A Sick Office

Read this BusinessWeek article for ideas on how the moral and health of an office and its employees can be improved by changing the environment within it's walls.
"Ever since cubicles sprouted up in office buildings 40 years ago, inhabitants have been under assault. Chemicals in carpet glue, cleaning supplies, and printer cartridges can cause headaches, dizziness, lethargy, rashes, nausea, and respiratory irritation. This could be solved by pumping in lots of fresh air, but the windows in most modern office buildings are sealed shut. Then there's the space allocation: A typical office worker gets about 40 sq. ft.—less than a third as much as in the 1970s. Dozens of studies have documented the toll all this takes on body and mind. How are we ever going to blossom into globally networked, branded superstars while trapped in shrinking cubicle farms bathed in foul fumes?"

How To Heal A Sick Office

Monday, August 13, 2007

Why is New Housing so Big and Lousy?

TreeHugger has a different take on the recent housing crash, it's worth a read.

I am amazed at the amount of space, resources and energy wasted in building and maintaining large mega-mansions. How much space and "stuff" do we need in order to live comfortably? Not very much. Hopefully the housing crash will make us all think harder about what our real needs are, how we are negatively impacting the environment, and lead to more sustainable, smaller, energy efficient, and affordable homes being built.
"Developers don't borrow money to build, they build to borrow money. All a house is to them is a way to use leverage to turn a cornfield into a more valuable crop, turning dirt into gold. It takes a huge amount of cash and without lenders it doesn't happen. Now the mortgage lenders are going broke, the hedge funds are shaking, and the quants, the rocket scientists, are proving to be like every other genius who makes money in a rising market but folds in the turn. As families see their houses sink in value and their subdivisions unfinished they will toss their keys to the lender and walk away; this is 1992 all over again, a speculative bubble has just burst and a lot of people who got caught in it are going to get hurt."

Dumb Question Dept : "Why is New Housing so Big and Lousy?" (TreeHugger)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Yahoo! Green Icon Contest

Yahoo! has a contest to design a Green icon for use on all their green relates sites. Designers, here's your chance to make your mark.
"At Yahoo!, we're flagging simple, eco-friendly things you can do on our network, and letting YOU design the icon. The Bix community will vote and and choose..."

Yahoo! Green Icon Contest

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Eco-friendly Countertops

"The EnviroSLAB from EnviroGLAS is made from 100% recycled glass, and this glass comprises 75% of the total countertop. An ‘agricultural-based epoxy resin binder’ bonds the materials together and makes up the remaining ingredients. The countertop requires no sealing. When no sealing is required then there is less effort at installation, and less maintenance over the life of the product. EnviroGLAS in manufactured in Texas, and recycled materials the U.S. The EnviroGLAS team has done an independent assessment of their products, and you can the read the LEED report here. EnviroGLAS’s EnviroSLAB retails for $50 per square ft. for the materials, and installation varies depending on your local contractor rates."

green remodeling-green products-build green-eco-friendly

Monday, August 6, 2007

147 Tiny Tips to Live Healthier, Happier, Greener and Better

"The following 147 tips, broken down into ways you can improve your life through your job, around the house, in financial matters, in your goals and beliefs, in romance, in your social life, and through your health and diet, will lead you to a healthier, happier, greener, and better lifestyle."

Frugalist » The Frugality Cheat Sheet: 147 Tiny Tips to Live Healthier, Happier, Greener and Better

Sunday, August 5, 2007

How to Trash an Old Computer

Here's some good advice on disposing of old computer equipment peoperly.
"Disposing of a PC takes some legwork. Ensuring your hard drive is void of company info before it leaves your hands, though, is a snap..."

How to Trash an Old Computer

Thursday, August 2, 2007