Category Archives: Sustainability

Greengrade Helps Canadian Projects Get the Green Grade

greengradeDuring the LEED® certification process, there are numerous guidelines, regulations and requirements that need to be addressed before the final LEED® stamp of approval is achieved.  LEED® stands for Leadership in Energy and Design, and is an internationally recognized environmental program that verifies projects were built in such a way to promote energy savings, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and CO2 emissions reductions to the fullest extent.

With the help of Textura Corporation’s Greengrade-LEED® Management Software, this process has been made easier. Project teams in Canada can now achieve LEED® certification via the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in a much more efficient and streamlined process by using Greengrade LEED® Management Software designed for the Canadian market.

In the United States, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) is the certification entity that issues all LEED® certifications, but many design firms have projects in both the U.S. and in Canada.  That being the case, it was important to have a certification system in place that kept the same basic guidelines and requirements as those of the USGBC, but adapted them for the Canadian market.  Differences in Canadian construction practices, climates and regulations use to mean that U.S. firms working on projects in the Canadian sustainable design market had to have two separate systems in place to get LEED® certification.  Now, by adding CaGBC Rating Systems to their Greengrade-LEED® Management software, Textura has helped those firms cut the cost involved in the certification process and achieve new levels of profitability while saving time and resources.  For builders and designers who are feeling the hit from the downturn in the global economy, this will go along was to relieve their stress and encourage environmentally-friendly building practices.

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The Green Teen Movement

green teens

Many studies show that by teaching kids about conservationism and sustainability at an early age we create much more environmentally aware and responsible adults.  When Judy Shils included her young daughter, Erin Schrode, in her environmental protection efforts as part of their daily lives living in Northern California, she proved these studies correct.  Erin grew up with positive environmental stewardship as a well-worked family value, so it is no wonder that she grew up to develop the organization called “Teens Turning Green:  A Way of Life,” a collaborative youth-led movement to change the world.

Originally called Teens for Safe Cosmetics, Erin launched the campaign in 2005 in an effort to ban toxic substances such as lead, mercury and other harmful chemicals from cosmetics.  Erin and her mom, soon to be joined by other teens from local middle and high schools, identified common cosmetics used by teens, and then went to work with scientists and chemists to develop safe, green alternatives to the toxic make-up currently on the market.  It wasn’t long before Erin and her team travelled to Sacramento to testify before the legislature and ban poisonous ingredients in cosmetics.  Their mission was successful and with a desire to widen their sphere of influence into other areas of environmentalism, sustainability, and protection of the earth and its resources, Teens Turning Green was born.

They soon moved into the educational field, launching a school awareness program called Project Green Dorm on such things as food service, janitorial supplies, landscaping and classroom products.  They held a public rally in San Francisco during prom season to highlight the ease, functionality, and availability of eco beauty, fashion, décor and transportation options, and named their efforts Project Green Prom.   They also launched Project Lunch, a movement to make quality food affordable and available to everyone.

green dorm

Today, Teens Turning Green makes and distributes their own line of skin and body care products through trusted companies, and founded the first Project Green Challenge in October 2011, that challenged students and schools across the world to participate in eco-awareness and conservation efforts across the board.

Teens Turning Green started from one small spark that became a catalyst for positive change in the world, and Erin and her group promise to keep forging ahead, inspiring young people to know, care, act, dream and do.

For more information on Teens Turning Green, click here.

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DIY – Make your own cleaning products

While traditional cleaners may get the job done, such chemicals can be detrimental to the environment and your health. Instead, try making your own green cleaning products with these basic household items:

Baking Soda and Water:
Uses: porcelain tiles, kitchen counters, oven tops, stainless steel sinks, refrigerators, cutting boards and plastic storage containers.

Simply sprinkle the dirty surface with baking soda and scrub with a sponge.  For particularly tough stains, create a paste and let sit for a while before scrubbing.  Need a little more abrasion? Add a little kosher salt to the mixture to really cut the grime.

Lemon Juice or Vinegar:
Uses: stain removal, grease streaks or mold/fungus.

The acidic qualities in both products make them natural degreasers.  Lemon juice is a natural bleach when used in the sun, so be careful! Vinegar is also a great fabric softener when a little is added during the rinse cycle. When combined with baking soda, it makes an excellent toilet cleanser.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Uses: disinfectant and stain remover.

In addition to cleaning scrapes and wounds, hydrogen peroxide has a long standing reputation for being able to remove tough stains (such as grass or blood).

Tea Tree Oiltea tree oil
Uses: disinfectant.
Combine two cups or liquid soap and 20-30 drops or tea tree oil to make an excellent disinfectant that is non-harmful to the environment.  It smells great too!

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“Green” your home for $100 or less!

One of the most common misconceptions about green living is that it’s expensive to get started. In reality, there are many ways to green your home that are cost effective and can be done in as little as one weekend. Most importantly, these four DIY projects are easy for anyone to complete – regardless of skill-level.

1)      Replace standard lights with motion-detecting modelsthermostat
How many times have you walked out of a room and forgot to turn off the light? Probably more often than you think. This habit wastes energy, creates heat and increases utility bills due solely to the fact that someone forgot to flip the switch. While most homeowners will just try to kick the habit, some may turn to an increasingly affordable technology and install motion detecting sensors to household lights. Whether they’re installed indoors or out, these sensors typically cost no more than $20 and they’re as easy to install as changing a standard light switch.

2)      Replace old thermostats with programmable models
As one of the best ways to save energy and lower utility bills, programmable thermostats have internal clocks that can be set to heat or cool your home to different temperatures throughout the day—such as automatically turning off when everyone is at work or school, and turning back on shortly before you return.

3)      Find and fix leaks throughout your home
When we say leaks, most assume faucets or sinks. However, doors and windows should also be regularly checked as they can dramatically decrease the effectiveness or heating and cooling your home. By using weather stripping, caulk and tape, you can save a bundle on your utility bills.

4)      Wrap the water heater in an insulated blanketwater heater
Water heaters are necessary for keeping your home’s water ready for showers and dishwashers, but they also pose the threat of wasted energy as they are constantly heating water to a suitable temperature. While it’s important to ensure your water heater isn’t heating past 120° F, it’s also important to make sure the unit is not releasing heat and wasting energy. A thermal blanket can help keep the water’s heat from escaping through the heater’s metal or fiberglass exterior, thus using less energy on the water’s temperature.

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100 Days of Real Food

familyProcessed food is an integral part of American culture – we’re too busy with work, school, errands, appointments and everything else that gets in the way, we don’t have time to eat healthy well-balanced meals, right? Wrong.

What started as a simple 100-day pledge from one family to cut out processed foods has turned into a social movement rapidly spreading to a neighborhood near you.  In 2010, Lisa Leake made a drastic change to her families eating habits and completely cut out processed food and replaced it with “real food.” So what does this mean? According to her rules, it means no refined grains or sweeteners, no deep fried foods, no “fast foods,” and the most challenging—nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label.

So what does that leave? Wholesome natural goodness! Lisa recommends a plethora of fruits and veggies from your local farmers’ market, dairy products like milk, eggs and cheese, 100% whole-wheat and whole grains, locally raised meats, and natural sweeteners such as honey and 100% maple syrup.

After the 100-day challenge, Leake has since created an easy plan that any family could follow—including tips, tricks and recipe ideas, along with a “budget-friendly” plan to help us out in these hard economic times. She also has easy 10-day pledges for all you “non-committal” types. The best part is that once you sign up on her website and complete the pledge, you will receive a complimentary bracelet congratulating your healthy step in the right direction. So what are you waiting for? Visit 100daysofrealfood.com today to get started for free!

real food

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Taking the Water Out of Showering

waterless bathInspired by a friend who was “too-lazy” to take a shower, 22-year old South African university student Ludwick Marishane has invented a revolutionary new product suggested to be the end of hygiene problems within developing countries.

After only a few short months of research on the Internet, the University of Cape Town student has developed DryBath, a clear gel that can be applied to skin to clean without the use of soap or water. The new product contains a blend of biocide, bioflavinoids and moisturizers that kill germs and leaves the user smelling fresh.

This product has won Marishane the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and is creating quite a buzz in the international healthcare field due to its widespread applications in Africa and other parts of the developing world.  Because clean water and suitable soap are basic necessities that are hard to come by in these countries, DryBath may change the lives of millions. Marishane hopes to have his product available to these areas to help curb the spread of easily treatable diseases such as trachoma and diarrhea plaguing these areas.

Differing from traditional anti-bacterial hand soap, this product eliminates the heavy alcohol odor and creates an odorless, biodegradable cleansing film that also moisturizes and protects.  It is labeled as non-toxic, hypo-allergenic, non sticky/greasy and long-lasting. Now that it is patented and trademarked, Marishane told Innovation News Daily that he normally charges 50 cents a packet, except to corporate consumers such as airlines, who are charged $1.50 per packet. The product has also attracted attention from charities, which will be able to distribute his product to regions and communities in need.

For more information, visit headboy.org/drybath.

waterless bath

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New Solar Technology a Game Changer in the Industry

When many people think of solar technology they imagine the large bulky panels on rooftops of homes and buildings, but researchers at UCLA have announced a breakthrough in the way solar energy can be absorbed. They have developed a nearly transparent film, created from an organic polymer that is more durable and malleable than silicon. This means that not only windows on building can use the film but also imagine car windows, even airplane windows capturing solar energy along the ride. The film may even be used on cell phones and laptops, a way that technology we use can grab the energy it needs to run.

UCLA  Solar film

The new transparent solar film developed by UCLA researchers.

“I think that solar has to take a different attitude,” explains Professor Yang Yang at UCLA’s California Nanosystems Institute, who has headed up the research on the new photovoltaic polymer.  “Whenever people think about solar, they think about the big silicon panels that they put on their roof, or the big solar farms that SoCal Edison builds out in the desert. But for the future of energy use, we must think about how to harvest energy whenever and wherever it is possible. If we can change the concept that energy has to come from one source, which is the power company, that the supply should not be subject to the limitations of the power grid, a lot of new things can happen.”

The applications of this new technology are a game changer in the solar industry. The polymer could even be sprayed on, meaning that solar technology could become even more cost effective, cheaper to apply.

“[A solar film] harvests light and turns it into electricity. In our case, we harvest only the infrared part,” says Yang. The material doesn’t have to be dark or black or blue, like most silicon photovoltaic panels. “We have developed a material that absorbs infrared and is all transparent to the visible light.”

Yang and his team see a bright future in the possibilities with this new technology and many see how it will help in developing countries around the world.

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Save 1,000,000 Trees!

In one year, an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven up to 8700 miles (www.treesaregood.com).

One large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people (www.ncsu.edu).

The shade and wind buffering provided by trees reduces annual heating and cooling costs by 2.1 billion dollars (www.savatree.com).

These are just a few of the many reasons why trees are important for our health and the health of our planet.

The non-profit Save A Million Trees was founded in 2010 with a mission to not only reduce deforestation and rebuild our tree population, but to reduce the enormous waste of all of our natural resources.

For example, one part of the organization’s crusade is to rid America of junk mail. The organization’s website says that 44 percent of junk mail ends up in landfills – most of which isn’t even opened.  That is a scary number, as is the estimated 41 pounds of junk mail that is generated per person each year.

Save A Million Trees has set a goal to help 300,000 people stop their 41 pounds of junk mail – the equivalent of saving one million trees.  For anyone who has ever almost drowned in a sea of unsolicited flyers, requests and special offers, this movement probably seems like a win-win situation – especially when you consider the estimated 70 hours of time you’d save each year by eliminating the task of sorting and trashing junk mail.

Another Save A Million Trees initiatives involves giving preschools and elementary schools classroom recycling bins  as part of their Kids Go Green Campaign. According to the organization, one properly and well-used recycling bin in one classroom saves 27 trees in one school year.

To learn more about Save A Million trees and the non-profits many initiatives, visit save1000000trees.org.

Save a tree

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San Diego Contractor Tapped for County Conservation Services

Green Schoolhouse Series Partner, Reno Contracting has been selected to provide energy and water conservation services to the County of San Diego under its energy and water sustainability program.

building efficient sustainable practicesReno Contracting, a leader in the green building industry, will have their Efficient Sustainable Practices (ESP) division work with the County of San Diego Department of General Services to help lower energy and operational costs, drive down greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce water consumption.

“Through Reno Contracting’s Efficient Sustainable Practices division, we help local government agencies and private companies achieve operational efficiencies and reduce costs through promotion of alternative energy and the strategic deployment of high performance building systems,” explains  Eric Scheidlinger, LEED AP and Division Manager of Efficient Sustainable Practices at Reno Contracting.

Reno ESP also designed a strategic leadership relationship with Brummitt Energy Associates and Environmental Building Strategies. The wider team of specialty subconsultants also includes Redhorse Corp., Advanced Onsite Systems and the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

The areas in the county that will be assessed by the collaboration include over 1,100 facilities, such as offices, community centers, health service centers, libraries, jails, parks, and fleet garages totaling 7.3 million sq ft.

The services that Reno ESP will provide include LEED consulting, whole building energy assessments, building energy/water usage analysis, distributed generation development and building commissioning services to formulate sustainability recommendations for detailed energy and water conservation projects.

“We are excited to be a part of this initiative with the County of San Diego, providing leadership to the team on their program to create healthier living, learning and working environments,” says Scheidlinger.

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How Green is Your City?

Popular Science published a list of America’s 50 Greenest Cities, using a scoring method that assigned numerical values to categories such as electricity, transportation, green living and recycling.  According to its calculations, Portland, Oregon is the greenest city in America, scoring big in areas of energy, transportation and green living.

Portland gets half of its generated energy by renewable resources and a quarter of the city’s workforce carpools, rides the bus or rides their bike to work.  The city also has a higher than average amount of LEED® certified buildings, meaning the U.S. Green Building Council has recognized the buildings as exceptional in terms of Energy and Environmental Design.

Other cities that made the top of the list have come up with some interesting ways to go green. The city of Boston, Massachusetts for example, has thought up a way to put all the fallen leaves that a New England fall creates to good use. The city uses the methane generated by the anaerobic bacteria feeding on the organic waste to power upwards of 1.5 megawatts’ worth of generators.  In addition to energy harvesting, the compost created by the breakdown of the leaves is used to enrich the city’s soil.

Another example is Oakland, California. Oakland has turned its transit system into a fleet powered by hydrogen-based energy – meaning zero emission buses driving down its city streets instead of the toxic, petroleum-based buses too many cities still use.

Oakland Bus

The East Bay cuts pollution with hydrogen-powered transit.

Here is a list of the top 10 cities in order of “greenness” according to the website’s scores:

1. Portland, Ore. 23.1

2. San Francisco, Calif. 23.0

3. Boston, Mass. 22.7

4. Oakland, Calif. 22.5

5. Eugene, Ore. 22.4

6. Cambridge, Mass. 22.2

7. Berkeley, Calif. 22.2

8. Seattle, Wash. 22.1

9. Chicago, Ill. 21.3

10. Austin, Tex. 21.0

It’s encouraging to see big cities take steps toward a greener, healthier world.  If more cities start getting on the “green” bandwagon, there is the very real possibility that some of the devastating effects of pollution and toxic waste might be reversed and we can begin healing our world and our environment.

Visit the Popular Science website to read the full list of the Top 50 Green Cities and see how your city ranks.

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