30 December 2008

A tree grows in Brooklyn ... and in Harlem, and in Times Square

Even though the news is mostly bleak in the retail environment -- heck, through the entire monetary ecosystem -- it is heartening to see some sparks of encouraging life at home here in New York City

Here's a little neighborhood shop just opened to cater to a green customer base in Brooklyn.

Here's a big multi-family housing and retail project going up in Harlem -- to be LEED Silver certified.

There's a push to power the giant billboards in Times Square with wind and solar energy.

And Inhabitat says the city has a plan to roll out super-efficient LED street lamps.

You go, Big Apple!

Home center certified in Calif. green biz program

Friedman’s Home Improvement has been certified by the Sonoma Green Business Program for completing requirements to become a Sonoma County Green Business. The retailer's green efforts include passing audits that showed conservation of water, energy, and waste.

The photo above, courtesy of Friedman's, is from the certification ceremony. Pictured: Barry Friedman (Friedman’s Home Improvement), Ben Stone (Sonoma County Economic Development Board), and Jim Lynch (Sonoma Index-Tribune) .

Blogger blunders; BioBag bothered

In a recent post I made on Perf GoGreen's new products, I used the word "bio-bag" in the headline. I meant that as a generic term, not knowing that a competitor exists called "BioBag." I got a comment to the original post asking me to please not confuse the products. That seems fair enough to me.

So let me apologize to BioBag. I didn't mean to muddy the waters or mix up products. Sorry for the confusion.

22 December 2008

USGBC lauds green homebuilders

The U.S. Green Building Council sent me an e-mail message featuring the winners of its first-ever Green Homebuilder’s Day, which was an event at the 2008 Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Boston. There's a video link on this page, too. It included an awards ceremony, and while I would have linked to a list of winners, the only list I have came in the e-mail. Here they are:

Outstanding Multi-Family Project: Avesta Housing’s Pearl Place Development in Portland, Maine. Pearl Place provides 60 LEED-certified affordable housing rental units.

Innovative Project: Bazzani Associates for the innovative water efficiency efforts at its project at 4057 Ronalds Road in Dorr, Michigan.

Outstanding Custom Project (Single Family): Live Green, Live Smart's Sustainable House, built in Minnetonka, Minn. The project transformed an existing 1940s era single family home into a model of sustainability.

Outstanding Production Builder: Artistic Homes in New Mexico. The builder is committed to certifying 100 percent of its projects through LEED for Homes, and has already certified 89 projects to date.

Outstanding Affordable Project: Gish Apartments, built by First Community Housing in San Jose, Calif., a 35-unit, transit-oriented family apartment complex, with 13 of the units set aside for residents with developmental disabilities. Residents have access to a computer learning center and are provided with services tailored to support low income families, such as financial literacy training, computer literacy and after-school programs. 

Pilot Builder Award: Taggart Construction of Freeport, Maine, contributed greatly to the development of the LEED for Homes Pilot program. The firm's work included the first LEED for Homes project certified in the country. Additionally, Taggart Construction president Peter Taggart has been instrumental in promoting the LEED for Homes program, not only as a builder but also as a local advocate.

Outstanding Program Contribution: Habitat for Humanity International was recognized this year for its commitment to the LEED for Homes program. Along with its affiliates, Habitat has brought more than 40 affordable LEED certified homes to families nationwide. As of today, over 80 Habitat homes are registered for LEED certification.

18 December 2008

New professional association launched

The new Institute of Green Professionals launched a Web site on Dec. 2. According to the site,
The Institute of Green Professionals (IGP) is an independent, professional, education, credentialing, research and philanthropic “social enterprise” organization for sustainable development professionals and academics.

The association is offering several categories of designations for members and associates, as well as courses in Sustainable Development Literacy; Sustainable Architecture; Best Practices in Managing and Measuring Corporate Social, Environmental, and Economic Impacts; and more. The president is Grant Austin, an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University.

Green products link

Green Building News just e-mailed me their new products page. Some halfway interesting items there.

Shopping cart handle guards: Recyclable health aid or greenwashed paper waster?

I got a press release about a new recyclable biodegradable protector for shopping cart handles. The "Kart-Smart" is a barrier that claims to protect from bacteria and viruses. It goes on and off at the store, and it can be printed with advertising messages.

The idea is that shopping carts are way too dirty and unhealthy, and you need to protect your customers. But is it really true? Are shopping carts so dirty that you should take special measures to not touch them? I was not convinced by Kart-Smart's link to this 2002 TV news story about shopping carts used by homeless people being mixed back into general usage without cleaning. I mean, come on, what's the chance that the cart I use at my local store was used last by a homeless person? And never cleaned?

But this link, to Snopes.com, is more convincing. I actually trust Snopes to give me the real truth. And Snopes says:
Claim: Handles of shopping carts are laden with germs. Status: True. ... The very folks that fuss with disposable toilet seat covers often won't think twice about manhandling a grocery cart around a store for half an hour, even though the surface they're hanging onto so fiercely for that interval has likely been coughed on, sneezed on, and grasped by shoppers who'd just finished handling packages of raw chicken and meat, or who just weren't the sort to wash their hands all that often. As for the fold-out child's seat found in most carts, even though it is routinely graced by the diapered bottoms of infants, it remains the cart's transport region of choice for fruits and vegetables, items that are often eaten uncooked or unwashed.

So what's a retailer to do? Maybe this disposable handle cover is a good solution. But that does nothing to protect the seat, which, like Snopes says, is home to both poopy baby butts and delicate produce. Consumers have recourse to products like this, this, and this. But what are retailers to do?

Some states require retailers to offer sanitizing wipes. Some stores use cart-washing systems -- some are even somewhat green.

Then again, I could not help but feel myself side with the doctor in this USA Today article who said, "We're too overzealous about avoiding all forms of bacteria as a society today."

17 December 2008

Remodeling association launches green Web site

NARI has launched a new green remodeling site called, appropriately enough, NARI Green. Check it out at greenremodeling.org. Featured articles include Hiring a Green Building Professional, Let the Sun Shine In, and Green Remodeling 101.

Perf offers new bio-bag products

I've blogged about Perf Go Green and its biodegradable shopping bags before. Now the company is offering a wider range of plastic bag products, including kitchen garbage bags, "doggie duty" bags, and more.

According to the company, the new bags are available at Walgreens, CVS, Amazon.com and Drugstore.com. Its bags are now FDA food-contact compliant, and the company will launch food storage and checkout bags beginning in 2009.

New online tool cuts catalog waste

I got an interesting e-mail message from Betsy Scherzer, a public relations person, commenting on catalog waste. She writes, "Michael, in the past two weeks I’ve received five duplicate catalogs from Crate Barrel – not to mention dozens of other duplicate catalogs from other major retailers. While I actually enjoy receiving some catalogs, I HATE seeing the WASTE by sending two in the same day or dozens of duplicates all in a given month."

She suggests an online tool to help ensure that you don't get duplicate copies of catalogs. Retailers can use a new IT solution to prevent duplicate mailings, mis-addressed mailings, and bogus online requests. This tool is Melissa Data's NCOALink SmartMover. This Web service tool lets businesses and mail houses keep customer lists current by matching them to the weekly updated USPS NCOALink change-of-address file.

Betsy also offers some factoids to help keep you awake at night worrying about catalog waste:
  • Over eight million tons of trees are consumed each year in the production of paper catalogs.
  • Nearly half of the planet’s original forest cover is gone today. Forests have effectively disappeared in 25 countries, and another 29 have lost more than 90 percent of their forest cover.
  • Deforestation contributes 20 percent to 25 percent of all carbon pollution, causing global climate change.
  • More than one billion people living in extreme poverty around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods.
  • There are other significant environmental effects from the catalog cycle. The production and disposal of direct mail alone consumes more energy than three million cars.
  • The manufacturing, distribution, collection and disposal of catalogs generates global warming gases as well as air and water pollution. Reducing the number of unwanted catalogs that are mailed will help the environment.
Food for thought as we lug pounds and pounds of paper mail from our mailboxes to our homes.

05 December 2008

Is it green? - revisited

I've blogged about the argument over whether eco-friendy McMansions built a long car-commute from work can be called green at all. Here's a great article from Sustainable Industries that takes a look at the different sides in the debate. In regard to the new LEED and NAHB standards, the article says:
LEED-ND awards as many as 10 points for building in “preferred locations” such as on infill sites; another eight points for encouraging less use of cars; and points for bike networks, proximity to jobs, schools and other services. ... The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is also developing a green building standard. According to Kevin Morrow, program manager for green building standards there, saying that a home constructed on a cul-de-sac is not green is a specious argument. ... Much like LEED-ND, NAHB’s standard offers points for building on infill, for repurposing abandoned or decaying suburban developments such as failing malls or so-called “greyfields,” or building on brownfield sites. There are also points for adding walkways, bike paths and other urban-focused development patterns.

Check out the entire article.

03 December 2008

How will the recession hit the home channel?

Well, seems that we are officially in a recession -- and have been for about a year -- something that's not news to us in the home channel, from retail mom-and-pop hardware stores to large tract builders. But where do we go from here?

Leanne Tobias of GreenBiz.com thinks that the government can spend us out of the recession, and if the Feds are going shopping, might as well get them to buy green. I think that may be a help, sure, but compared to the billions and trillions of greenbacks being juggled and dropped all over Wall Street, I have to wonder if requiring the government to put Energy Star fridges and air conditioners in office buildings is really going to solve our problems.

Besides, what about housing?

If money is short and you always wanted to live in a hobbit-hole, there's a $5,000 option for you (photo, above right). This earth-sheltered house, designed by an artist in Wales, England, "was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature." All for about "1000-1500 man hours and £3000."

If you do not want to build-it-yourself, the optimism of the folks behind the $100K house is refreshing. This is an effort to create affordable green housing in urban Philadephia, and the brains behind the work, Nic Darling, sees reason to keep hope alive:
I may be crazy, overly optimistic or both, but I don’t think we are screwed. In fact, I think we are in one of the best positions possible at this time and place. The real estate market in Philly, while down, has remained fairly strong compared to the smoking craters that have replaced housing markets in many other parts of the country. It has been particularly good for houses selling under $300,000 and that is right in our wheelhouse. ... In addition, we have seen an increase in consumer knowledge regarding the real costs of home ownership. Maintenance, taxes and utilities have finally (we hope) become a part of a home buyer’s consideration. Rather than simply looking at the monthly payment, people are starting to consider the total expense of home ownership, and this bodes well for homes like ours. Our houses will require less maintenance, use half of the utilities (compared to a code built home) and offer a ten year tax abatement (can you say $75 a year in taxes?). They are simply less expensive homes to own. ... People also seem more and more willing to pay for green.

The 100K house may not be as elfin and fey as the 5K earth-sheltered house, but the former is LEED Platinum rated, and it features indoor plumbing and a bathroom, so it has that going for it. Which is nice.

But what about that recession? The conventional wisdom holds that luxury properties will still do well -- and my cousin, who sells and installs very high-end millwork in upstate New York, says he's doing okay. That seems to give anecdotal weight to what the conventionally wise think. To the extent that the wealthy also are looking for green products, there may well be a sweet spot there.

And if Nic Darling is on to something, there's another opportunity for affordable green housing, in addition to the high-end projects. I hope he's right.

02 December 2008

New chemical ingredient will make paint greener

Chemical and coatings company Rohm and Haas has a new binder on the market. This product, Rhoplex™ VSR-2015 Versatile Sheen Resin, offers several eco-friendly acvantages:
Rhoplex™ VSR-2015 resin is low-solvent capable, contains no APEO (alkyl phenol ethoxylate) surfactants, and is low in ammonia odor. It provides excellent flow, leveling, and applications properties as well as excellent scrub, alkali, and efflorescence resistance.

01 December 2008

Dreamin' of a Green Christmas

The Money Pit has a good article on energy efficient outdoor lights. LED decorations and fiber-optic trees feature prominently in the article's advice.


Update 4 Dec 08: A reader -- okay, my wife! -- sends in a link to the Better Business Bureau's tips for a greener Christmas. Thanks, sweetie!

25 November 2008

Vinyl window and door recycling paper offered

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association's Vinyl Material Council and the Vinyl Institute have issued a white paper on recycling vinyl windows and doors.

The paper includes lots of facts on the green qualities of vinyl, the ease with which it is recycled, case studies, and an effort to put some funding behind encouraging post-consumer recycling. As one would expect, given the sources of the paper, there is nothing here about the disadvantages or challenges posed by vinyl use. But if you can edit out the propaganda and posturing, there is a lot of good info in this free report and the associated docs. Check it out.

20 November 2008

Pres-elect keeps talking the talk

President-elect Barack Obama released a video message online addressing climate change issues, including the new green economy. A text account at the New Energy World Network summed up his remarks this way: "Obama reiterated his pre-election New Energy plan to invest $150bn over the next ten years to catalyse private efforts to build a clean energy future."

The president-elect himself said:
This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure, and will not only help us bring about a clean energy future saving the planet, but it also will help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.

"Transform our industries." Well, it will be very interesting to watch Obama put his plan into action, and to see how it affects the home channel industry.

19 November 2008

Green construction may triple in next five years

McGraw-Hill Construction has released survey results that paint a rosy picture of the future of the green building industry. "The value of green building construction starts was up five-fold from 2005 to 2008 (from $10 billion to $36-$49 billion), and could triple by 2013, reaching $96-$140 billion," according to a press release from the info services company, which also said:
McGraw-Hill Construction attributes green building’s rapid expansion to growing public awareness, an increase in government regulations, and recognition of bottom-line advantages. Since 2005, the perceived benefits of green building have increased and differentiated as people become more knowledgeable about green building. The decrease in operating costs is the most often cited benefit (13.6%, up from 8-9% in 2005), followed by the increase in building values (10.9%, up from 7.5% in 2005).

The 40-page survey report, Green Outlook 2009: Trends Driving Change, is available in a $250 PDF. Or you can just keep reading Home Channel News' Green Central and this blog for free. :-)

18 November 2008

The product you've all been waiting for

Sure, you're a gardener and a dog lover. And of course, an environmentalist. And you've been waiting for such a long time. Now, at last, you can have the perfect match-up for your two loves: the doghouse with a planter on top! Sure, you've seen the other guy's offering. But the makers of this one also have a real concern for the environment -- the "carbon pawprint," as they say, LOL! It's a little more than somewhat expensive -- but aren't your pets and plants worth it?

Women are more likely to buy eco-friendly products

The latest from NPD is its "Green 2008: Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors" study. The market research company says that more than half of consumers surveyed consider themselves extremely or very interested in environmentally-friendly products. The kicker -- women are more interested than men, by 57 percent to 47 percent. And NPD says that women are the ones who are doing the shopping, and who don't mind higher prices as much. According to Mark Delaney, director of NPD Group’s Home division:
In either scenario, manufacturers and retailers need to drive marketing and education efforts that will help the less-involved consumer understand the benefits of ‘green’ and what makes a product ‘green’.

Another key finding: green shoppers want energy-efficient items that save money. So make sure you market to women shoppers, and let them know which products are most cost-effective.
In a struggling economy, those products marketed as being environmentally-friendly and saving consumers money will be the products that stand the best chance of growth in the long run.

There's a lot more info in the press release (link to study, above), so check it out.

17 November 2008

New mold-resistant wallboard

Wallboard maker National Gypsum and seed company Syngenta have partnered to produce a new mold-resistant wallboard. Syngenta's Sporgard, a chemical product, is embedded in the XP Gypsum Board drywall line.
XP Gypsum Board panels consist of a specially treated, fire resistant, mold and moisture resistant gypsum core encased in heavy mold/mildew/moisture resistant, 100% recycled purple paper on the face and mold/mildew/moisture resistant paper on the back side.

For those looking to improve indoor air quality -- especially in a damp environment -- this might be something to consider.

Green retailer builds community with film night

Canadian green retailer ShopEco continues its "Film Night" series of eco-themed short movies and animations a week from this Thursday -- admission is free and there will be "light refreshments." According to the e-mail I got about the event and the films, "some are funny, others poignant, and all are informative." It's Thursday night, 27 Nov. 08 -- Thanksgiving to the Yanks, but a fun movie night to our neighbors in the Great White North.

I mention this not to tempt my readers in nearby Detroit and Grosse Pointe away from their pumpkin pie, but as a fantastic example of a retailer building up a loyal customer base -- while fostering a mindset disposed to buy the very products that the retailer sells. Yup, that's a cynical way to look at it; after all, some would call it "giving back to the community," and leave it there. But I think that this is a terrific example of how education and activism are important parts of a green business model.

14 November 2008

Editorial: Ho! Ho! Ho! This Green Giant is laughing all the way to the bank

Here's an editorial I wrote for a supplement to Home Channel News this week.

Home Depot is emerging as a leader in the environmental movement -- not as a crusader, but as a money-maker. And with the right strategy, vendors can make money selling green products to Home Depot customers, too.

On the operations side, Home Depot is using green initiatives to cut costs. Installing LEDs and new HVAC systems, Home Depot has cut energy consumption in its stores by 12 percent. The company has joined the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, pledging ito implement clean truck technologies. Measures such as these are putting more dollars on the bottom line.

And the company's Eco Options program, in which environmentally friendly products get singled out for promotion and labelling, is putting more on the top line. In its first year, sales of Eco Options products totalled more than $2 billion. As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of Home Depot's few sales bright spots has been in basic maintenance supplies, especially environmentally friendly products. With more than 3,000 Eco Options products -- and with vendors doing their best to get their own products into the program -- Home Depot is positioning itself to last out the downturn.

But how do you sell your green product into Home Depot?

Jim Weaver, operations manager for BioLet USA, told me that getting his product -- composting toilets -- into the biggest box was "such a long process." But his persistence has paid off, and his story offers some insights for others trying to sell green products to Big Orange.

Biolet first approached Home Depot in the late ’90s, but the company wasn't ready for the product. Composting toilets were then too unknown. The eco-friendly system uses no water and needs to be emptied every two months under normal daily usage.

"It's an unusual product. Most people had not heard about it," said Weaver.

But by 2002, Home Depot called back -- the company was interested. Even then, it took five years -- including a successful test in Alaska -- to really roll out the product. Eventually Depot set up a drop-ship program, added the toilets to catalogs and the Web site, and now is adding them to charts of products in the plumbing aisles in stores.

Weaver said that getting into the Eco Options program was tough too -- because the toilets did not fit into any existing categories. Not energy efficient, not low-flush but no-flush, yet among the greenest products in the catalog.

"They did not know what to do with us, so eventually they created a category for us," said Weaver.
He has a few suggestions for vendors trying to sell green into Home Depot. "Be persistant. Remember they change buyers frequently. A buyer down the road may say yes. Get a track record on your product. Show you can sell through other venues. It is real hard to come in with a brand new product."

MaxLite's new "Faux Can" is another green product that's selling in Home Depot. The product is a fixture that looks like a recessed light but which uses a 25-watt CFL bulb to mimic a 75-watt traditional fixture, according to inventor and MaxLite vp David Shiller.

Getting into Home Depot took a contact and the right pitch, according to Shiller. "Our vp for consumer sales had previously worked for Cooper Lighting. He and I had a meeting with the recessed lighting buyer at Home Depot and showed him the product and reviewed the value proposition. In short, we convinced the buyer it was new, different and worth a test."

Home Depot put the lights into the Eco Options program, but the vendors didn't push that in the sell. "Eco-Options was not discussed," said Shiller, "but Energy Star, utility rebate programs and California Title 24 (the California building energy code) were discussed as drivers and target markets."

But with so many vendors seeing the green light, how do you stand out? I do suggest that greenwashing your product will not work. Being able to recycle the box your product came in is not enough. Reports say that some paint brush makers are touting their plastic handle brushes -- because they don’t use wood. But the wood-handle brush makers are proud that their handles are not made from plastic, a petrochemical. Those "approaches" are not going to work. But bring a true green product to Home Depot, one that stands out in the market and really offers environmental value, and with persistance, you might get somewhere.

13 November 2008

So long, Sheetrock?

Ecolect has an interesting post on a new green product that may replace gypsum board.

Dec 1 Update: Inhabitat has an article on this too.

I'm not fat! I'm just big-boned!

I missed this Shelton Group survey when it came out a couple weeks ago, but it brings the funny, so I don't feel bad mentioning it late (that's a link to a PDF).

Seems that although the government has documented more people using more electricity, when you ask folks if their energy usage is up, they say no! Here's the funny part: "Most consumers either blamed kids in the home for increased electricity usage or said they did not think they used more electricity because they now had no kids in the home." LOL! As the Shelton people put it, "Those Darn Kids!"

By the way, I blogged about another Shelton survey a couple weeks ago.

10 November 2008

New Web site offers articles, product advice

Eco Home Resource is a new Web site offering products, articles, news, and more. It is aimed at the consumer, not toward businesses. According to founder Karen Moore,
We’re beginning to see people taking a holistic view of their home, from a physical, psychological and emotional point of view, and a connection to the environment is an integral part of this. Eco Home Resource is your one-stop shop for relevant and helpful information on how you can improve the health of your home as well as that of your planet.

Interesting site, with lots of info. A little heavy on the product pushing, but I guess that's kind of the point. Check it out.

07 November 2008

Greenbuild 2008 preview

I blogged about Greenbuild 2008 two months ago, but a few more news items on the conference have crossed my desk since then.

And per the event's Web page, South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate, will be the keynote speaker. The event runs Nov. 19 to 21 in Boston.

04 November 2008

Windmills you won't mind

Seems like one of the big problems in wind turbines for energy generation is that they are loud and tend to shake anything on which they are mounted. Well, Cascade Engineering has announced its new quiet and vibration-free Swift Wind Turbine, for use on houses and commercial buildings. It's not for everybody -- the company suggests renting equipment to measure the wind force in your area -- but it runs at only 35 decibels. A quick search on Wikipedia tells us that normal talking is 40 to 60 decibels, and a car operates at 60 to 80.

According to the company's release, the product is UL-certified for safety and can pay for itself within three years.

"Faux" fixture mimics recessed lighting

MaxLite's new "Faux Can" is a fixture that looks like a recessed light but which uses a 25-watt CFL bulb to mimic a 75-watt traditional fixture, according to inventor and MaxLite vp David Shiller. Other green features: it doesn't punch a hole through the ceiling, for better HVAC efficiency, and it requires fewer materials compared with traditional recessed light.

The product has garnered several awards, and is on sale at 250 Home Depots.

30 October 2008

Congress and energy credits

I just got an e-mail message from my rep in congress, John Hall, boasting about how the recently passed Wall Street bail-out legislation included "a significant expansion of solar tax credits available for both investors in and consumers of solar energy technology." Previously, a cap on deductions for solar energy installations had been set at $2,000; now that's been lifted. If the Democrats take control of government, it seems likely that tax credits like this will become more common.

If the man who would be president has his way, there are five million "green collar" jobs coming down the pike. Some of those jobs will be in making, selling, installing, and servicing solar energy systems for homes.

The photo above is from Rep. Hall's e-mail message.

Survey: consumer knowledge on energy questions is muddled

In survey results released Oct. 28, Shelton Group reveals that consumers are more muddled about basic energy questions than ever, with deep pockets of ignorance interspersed with growing awareness of how to conserve energy.

The bad news:
Fewer consumers in 2008 than in 2007 accurately responded when asked, “How is most electricity generated nationally?” with 30 percent citing “burning coal,” as opposed to 33 percent in 2007. ... One third erroneously think cars and trucks are the No. 1 cause of global warming, while only 4 percent cite the actual primary culprit of greenhouse emissions: coal-fired electric plants.

And the good:
In 2005, only 20 percent of consumers could name one source of renewable energy unaided. In 2007, 48 percent could, and in 2008, accurate responses rose to 59 percent. ... When it comes to saving energy dollars in the home, consumers were relatively accurate about the top ways that most homes can curb energy use.

Shelton Group is an ad agency entirely focused on energy efficiency and sustainability. Its Energy Pulse study has been conducted since 2005.

28 October 2008

Home Depot to help New Englanders spread it thick

Home Depot will be carrying organic fertilizer in 64 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York this coming spring. The product is made by Converted Organics. According to the press release,
Converted Organics produces organic liquid and solid fertilizers and soil amendment products through the Company's proprietary High Temperature Liquid Composting (HTLC) process. The HTLC system is a proven, state-of-the-art microbial digestion technology that processes various biodegradable food waste products into liquid and solid organic-based fertilizer.

But I find myself a little too squeamish to ponder "biodegradable food waste products" for very long.

27 October 2008


Eureka, the vacuum maker, has a new Web site, and while I'm happy to link to any Web site that features WALL-E on its home page -- given my three-year-old's love of the "tidy robot kitty" -- there's something there for readers of this blog who are older than three.

What I'd really like to draw to your attention, though, is the multi-page subsection of the site that boasts of Eureka's concern for the environment. From the new "envirovac" to decreasing packaging waste to recycling and saving energy in the workplace, the company seems to be making the environment a high priority.

24 October 2008

Retailer in the LEED

From sister publication Retailing Today, here's a news item on JCPenney breaking ground on a future LEED store.

23 October 2008

Heating water can be a tankless job

The common answer for those seeking more efficient hot water heating is to install a tankless system. These use electricity or natural gas to heat water as it is needed, rather than to keep a big tank of water hot through the day.

I just got a press release from Bosch; its appliance division and its hot water products division are going to work more closely to sell builders tankless systems. Good for Bosch, I suppose, and certainly good for the environment, since it seems clear that tankless systems are more energy efficient than traditional hot water tanks.

Or are they? According to the L.A. Times, tankless systems hit wallets harder than regular systems do if the heater is far from the faucet, or if it is improperly installed, or if your house is so darned big that you need secondary pumps to move the water correctly. But all this is just to say that your installer has to do the job right.

Still, some experts are not fans of tankless systems on fundamental grounds. Thomas W. Reddoch, a director at the Electric Power Research Institute, thinks that heat pump water heaters are the coming thing. These geothermal or air-based systems use a tank that keeps water hot by moving heat from one place to another, not by creating heat. However, these heat-pump systems are rare at the present. (Scroll down to "heat pump water heaters" on that last link for more info and vendors.)

22 October 2008

Size matters

Building material dealers and home builders looking for hope in a down housing market often talk about the market for luxury homes, because the rich are still building, and the market for green homes, because homeowners want to save on fuel costs while helping the environment. The sweet spot there is the Green McMansion, an exceptional creature known for its geothermal heating, solar panels, certified wood, and large footprint. But can a large home be a green home?

Opinion columnist Monique Cole says, well, not really:
Big homes ... often are built far from urban centers. The rulers of these prairie castles must therefore burn fuel to get to work or an airport. Bigger homes also require more upkeep -- think of the landscapers, housekeepers, window cleaners and dog walkers who have to commute to service the home and its occupants. Adding solar panels and cork floors to one of these mansions is a nice touch, but is this going green, or is it green-washing?

The Socratic Gadfly adds, Heck No!
Throwing some recycled materials into a house that size sounds like it’s being done for the reason many jetsetter elites buy carbon offset credits — It’s the modern equivalent of indulgences.

But Low Impact Living says a LEED Platinum McMansion is better than any other kind.
Eco-mansion haters sometimes ignore an inconvenient truth: Huge homes are constantly getting built, and most of these are anything but green.

On the other hand, the 100K House has a different take:
Perhaps, instead of thinking of how large a house should or should not be, we should consider how much space each individual needs, a sort of square feet per capita idea.

I think that's an idea worth pondering.

21 October 2008

Results of adopting green tech are uncertain, but we should still do it

in my recent editorial, I made a big deal about how new technologies in energy production and conservation represent an economic opportunity for someone -- maybe for the LBM trades and those who supply them. Lately, both presidential campaigns have been making similar points, especially that green tech means new jobs.

McCain says: "A rough estimate is that 45 new nuclear power plants will create roughly 700,000 jobs - jobs in construction, engineering, operation and maintenance."

Obama says: "Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future."

But I read an interesting post by Brian Beutler that threw some cold water on that whole idea:
Are liberals and environmentalists being honest when they say green jobs will offset the jobs lost when the fossil fuel industry is forced to downsize, and, if so, why are labor leaders so reluctant to support climate change policies? My own view on this is that it's an extremely narrow, hazy, and unanswerable question. Nobody really knows what sorts of advancements investment in alternative energy projects will yield in the coming years, or how labor intensive the production of a kilowatt-hour will prove to be a decade or five from now.

I think that's a good point -- we really don't know what the effect of switching away from dirty energy will be. But that is still no reason to shirk from embracing it, since we can be sure that the costs of inaction will be too high. Beutler goes on to say much the same thing -- that there may also be secondary benefits to the economy at large in a switchover, as evidenced by the smaller scale transitions already underway:
But by the same token it's also hard to imagine, in a national sense, that the beneficial primary and secondary economic effects of, say, a comprehensive climate change policy, won't be on the same order as (and largely opposite to) the negative consequences.

Free coffee, free tips for saving energy

Citizen group Climate Change Action Brookline will hold a Green Tools Coffee Hour involving three local hardware stores in Brookline, Mass. -- Connelly Hardware, Aborn True Value, and Economy Hardware (none of the stores have Web sites that I could find, so no links, sorry). The event, according to co-chair David Lowe, will take place Oct. 25 at Connelly Hardware, and it is intended to help consumers reduce their energy use; energy experts will be on hand to help consumers find energy efficient solutions for their homes.

20 October 2008

Fixing a hole

Cement maker Sakrete has an eco-friendly pothole filler out, called Cold Patch. According to the company, it's
a ready-to-use, recycled asphalt product used to permanently repair potholes, depressions or cracks in any asphalt or concrete surface. It meets the strictest California emissions standards and can be applied year-round in all regions of the country which are subject to cutback asphalt restrictions as part of an effort to reduce VOCs and ground-level ozone pollution.

Sakrete says that the product is almost 60 percent recycled and reduces VOCs by 60 percent to 70 percent (depending on what you're comparing it to).

17 October 2008

Think locally, laugh globally

A few links to eco-humor on the Web:

16 October 2008

NARI offers green remodeling tips

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers a range of green remodeling tips, seeing that it is Energy Awareness Month and all.

First tip, according to the remodeling association: Consult with a remodeler. Why am I not surprised? But there are some good tips in there too, like "using modifications such as energy-efficient appliances, programmable thermostats and airtight, low-emissivity windows." Check it out, and don't forget to ask your remodeler for an opinion.

15 October 2008

Editorial: The way we do business now

Here's an editorial I wrote for a supplement to Home Channel News last month.

There can really be no doubt any longer. "Energy efficiency" is not a buzzword or a fad. It's the way we do business.

Take appliances. According to NPD Group energy efficient dishwasher sales are up 3 percent, while non-efficient washers are down 12 percent. For refrigerators, efficient ones are up 15 percent; non-efficient, down 11 percent.

A study from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers recently said that major appliances are getting more and more water and energy efficient. Refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers account for a 43 percent combined decrease in energy consumption since 2000.

And according to a survey by the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence, 10 percent of homeowners refused to remodel their kitchens with products that harm the environment, and another 36 percent felt strongly about the eco-impact of their purchases.

Consumer attitudes are changing, and homeowners are adding new factors to their buying decisions, factors like carbon footprint, harm to the environment and, most of all, the money they can save by conserving energy. As consumers change the way they look at purchasing decisions, it may pay retailers and suppliers to be open to new options.

One of those options is solar. According to Energy Business Reports, from 1999 to 2007, solar power capacity grew by 962 percent; just from 2006 to 2007, 45 percent. Granted, the total contribution from solar is still very low, but the growth potential is huge. Don't take my word for it ...

• IKEA is researching solar panels for homeowner purchase, and expects to have products in store in three to four years. The Swedish home decor giant is putting $77 million into research and development for solar products.

• Utah-based Woodside Homes, a Utah-based home builder, will be building 1,487 new solar-powered homes in Sacramento, Calif. And that's just one of ten similar deals the municipality has put together.

• Another home builder, Cambridge, Mass.-based S+H Construction, has opened a Renewable Energy Division to sell and install solar and geothermal systems. They also handle all the paperwork needed to get the customer rebates Massachusetts is offering those who install the systems.

It's not a sure thing, but if energy prices stay high, if Congress keeps giving tax breaks to green home improvements, and if the technology keeps improving, then solar will be for tomorrow what low VOC paint and certified lumber is for today. That new business offers an opportunity: Someone is going to be selling solar energy systems to builder customers.

Now, I'm not saying that energy efficiency only applies to big-ticket items, like major appliances and solar panels. There are other profitable ways to piggy-back on the trend, one small-ticket item at a time.

For examples, check out any number of energy saving tips online. These lists aimed at consumers, but many of the tips lead shoppers right into their local hardware store or home center. Here are a few tips that I found on both the DOE's Energy Savers site and on the Sierra Club's Smart Energy Solutions Web page: Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights. Replace old appliances with more efficient models. Buy solar-powered and motion-detection outdoor lights. Each of these tips — and many others — is a selling opportunity.

But energy efficiency can help home channel dealers closer to home, or closer to store, anyway. Bottom-line boosts can come from the operations side as well as from the sales side. Paint company Dunn-Edwards is building a LEED-certified coatings technology center in Los Angeles. Ace Hardware is limiting the top speed on its trucks to 67 miles per hour -- and has saved about $1 million just so far this year. Installing LEDs and new HVAC systems, Home Depot has cut energy consumption in its stores by 12 percent. Lowe's has cut its energy costs by 40 percent with upgraded lighting and skylights.

The debates over the energy crisis and the environment are playing out in the voting booth and the courts of law, science, and public opinion. But some facts are beyond debate: Big and small players in the home channel are not going green because they want to save the whales or the polar bears or the planet. They see greenbacks in the green market, and cost efficiencies in energy efficiency.

14 October 2008

How to avoid greenwashers

An old post -- but new to me -- on FacilitiesNet talks about deceptive "green" marketing and how to avoid it:
So how do you sort out the greenwash from the pure and clean? One way is third-party certifications like Greenguard, Green Seal or Energy Star. These ensure that a product has met some criteria for greenness. But it’s still important to find out what those criteria are and how they were established.

13 October 2008

Lists of links

Here are two recent posts -- and an older one from June -- from other blogs with lists of green links for you to enjoy. This one has tons of green links relating to Minnesota. And the second has a handful of green home improvement links. Finally, here are a series of links to green e-newsletters, if you prefer to get your green news through your in-box.

10 October 2008

Eco-friendly tax credits become law when tied to bailout

In an article published earlier today, the Orlando Business Journal explains how Congress passed solar energy tax credits by linking them to the $700B bailout bill.
The tax credit for producing electricity from wind would be extended for one year, while the credit for other renewable sources would be extended for two years. The tax breaks for solar energy would be extended for eight years.

09 October 2008

"You kids get off my green lawn!"

Charles, Prince of Wales, rolled his eyes, shook his cane, and yelled at the young whippersnappers of the high-tech green movement yesterday, condemning architects who add geegaws and gadgets like wind turbines and solar panels to modern buildings instead of making better use of traditional building materials. According to the Prince ...
Why, I must ask, does being 'green' mean building with glass and steel and concrete and then adding wind turbines, solar panels, water heaters, glass atria -- all the paraphernalia of a new "green building industry" -- to offset buildings that are inefficient in the first place?

That many of these add-ons are mere gestures, at best, is now clear, as their impacts on home energy consumption can now be measured and usually offer scant justification for the radical nature of the design.

We must act now by using traditional methods and materials to work with Nature rather than against Her.

In related news, Shamu, Prince of Killer Whales, yesterday called for the Navy to stop using its newfangled sonar technology.
Turn that noisy racket down! I don't even see how they can call it music these days!

San Jose adopts green building standards

According to this San Jose Mercury News article, the city will require that all new construction over 25,000 square feet meet LEED Silver certification standards. As for new homes, "Residential projects of 10 or more units would have to be LEED certified or meet the minimum 50 points on another standard, Build It Green's GreenPoint Rated system."

08 October 2008

What makes it green?

A very interesting post on the Eco-Logikal blog talks about how to tell if a building product is green. From the post:
Integrated design – thinking about how a building works as a system and designing that system to be environmentally-friendly – is a key part of green building. Certain products, particularly those that deal with energy, are not inherently green but can used in ways that enhance the environmental performance of a building. For example, a dual-pane, low-E window may not be green in terms of its material components or manufacturing process, but if used strategically it can reduce energy use by maximizing the collection of winter sunlight and blocking out the summer sun.

Another eco-pod for you!

I've already blogged about pod-treehouses, but here's another option for those who love Elves and Ewoks, or just want to live like them.

Here's the latest in treehouse living from a German firm, Baumraum. Thanks to Dwell for the tip.

07 October 2008

Biodegradable bags are booming

I got a press release and then talked with Mike Passaglia at Perf Go Green, a maker of biodegradable plastic bags and drop cloths. Now, this is just his side of the story, and a sales rep is bound to put a positive spin on things, but he says that his product is taking off. Perf is currently selling into distributors including Orgill, Do it Best, True Value, United Hardware, Pro Hardware, Reliable, and supermarkets. Retailers may be interested in Perf's "tee-shirt" bags for bagging sold merchandise at check-out. And Mike says Perf is planning to release new products in the fourth quarter. Give Mike a call at 888-478-7144 if you are interested, or e-mail him at mike@grandsales.net.

Since the company is publicly held, though, there are journalists besides me writing about it. Take a look here and here and here.

06 October 2008

The gift of green

Tile and flooring maker Laticrete has donated a pallet of Greenguard certified materials last July to the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity to install porcelain tiled floors in the kitchens and bathrooms of six two-story townhouses in the Sylvan Hills section of Atlanta.

Yeah, this qualifies as old news, but their agency only just sent me the press release, and it is in a good cause -- I'm glad to see an example of a donation that keeps the ecosystem in mind.

03 October 2008

West Coast Green show highlights

You might enjoy Inhabitat's post mortem. That's Al Gore giving his keynote in front of a "living wall."

30 September 2008

Canadian recycling show set for November

The Canadian Waste & Recycling Expo will be held Nov. 5 to 6 in Toronto. It's run by the same folks who do the International Hardware Show in Cologne, Germany. I enjoyed the site's tips on how to be a green exhibitor. The seminar on "how to market compost and related products" might be interesting.

29 September 2008

Building an eco-community around your store

I'm on a mailing list for a green retailer, so I got some promotional e-mail the company is sending out. The key is that the store is going above and beyond to build a community of green-thinking, and most of all, loyal, customers.

From that e-mail message, let me list the many ways the company is offering entry-points for customers.
  • yoga and reflexology sessions
  • new full house line of inexpensive green cleaners and refills
  • store visit by local Green Party candidate
  • free product samples
  • 20 percent off sale
  • tone in e-mail is personal, friendly, and engaging

For a change, I'm not linking to anything. I just want to make the point that if you can build your customers into a community, that's a real competitive advantage.

26 September 2008

David Meyers is happy about being certified

Tile and stone product maker Laticrete sent me a press release about one of its senior architectural specialist, David Meyers, who has been certified by the USGBC as a LEED accredited professional. A quote from Meyers in the press release:
It’s a lot about access. It adds a little more credibility to my role with Laticrete. It gives me a better idea of how we fit into the process and what the requirements are for green building projects. I can better articulate how Laticrete can be utilized and how we can help solve issues when a green projects decides to utilize tile, stone or allied products.

And it's nice to see someone so pleased with his accomplishment! :-)

25 September 2008

Container homes in the news

I've read three recent green blog posts on prefab housing made from recycled shipping containers, and who am I to buck a trend? Inhabitat and Greener Buildings both posted about the SG Blocks version, one of which is the showcase home at the currently running West Coast Green show.

The other post, in Ecolect, is a multifamily urban development in Salt Lake City, pictured to the left. The development, City Center Lofts, features ...
  • Constructed from 50% recycled materials by weight
  • High-efficiency air-to-air heat exchanger and HEPA filtration
  • No- or low-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives
  • Green planted roof
  • Natural ventilation
  • Low-E, high performance insulated windows
  • Demand (instantaneous) hot water heaters
  • Secure bicycle storage at street level

24 September 2008

Nutrifacts for homes

Designer and architect Michelle Kaufmann has written a white paper (pdf) on "nutrition labels" for homes (see photo above from her blog).

By using the typography and style of food nutrition labels, she immediately communicates the essentials of her intention: that in buying a home, as in buying food, you should consider whether your choice is healthy and good for you. That message would have a lot less impact in a different design! Clever.

23 September 2008

Bloggers think highly of Home Depot's eco-initiatives

When a blogger reports on what researchers say about bloggers, are we dropping just a bit too deep into our own naval-gazing? Nonetheless, I have to mention that according to J.D. Power, bloggers and Web commenters have been giving online props to, first of all, organic supermarket Whole Foods and, following right after, Home Depot. From these stats, the research report summary goes on to conclude that "consumers expect retailers to not only stock eco-friendly products, but also to follow policies and procedures that support environmental sustainability."

Well, I'm not all that surprised, myself, that the random typing of an infinite number of bloggers eventually came up with something nice about Home Depot. :-)

22 September 2008

New soaker hose saves water

Dramm's new ColorStorm premium soaker hose features thicker walls -- and that, according to the maker, prevents wasteful sprays of water. And of course, the whole idea of a watering hose is that driblets of water go right where they are needed, unlike traditional profligate sprinkler systems. The hose itself is made of recycled materials.

18 September 2008

Depot's Duke dorm declared dutifully dandy

The Home Depot Smart Home at Duke University -- a small dorm and "living laboratory" -- has earned LEED Platinum certification.

The environmentally conscious experiment in student living has solar panels, a roof covered with plants, uses rain water for irrigation, and more. The structure earned 59 points on the LEED scorecard, seven above the required minimum for Platinum certification.

16 September 2008

Your dream "green" vacation (redux)

One of the first posts I put up on this blog was for a green vacation hub that offered a chance to win a trip to a Mexican eco-tourism resort.

In my first post, I teased that jetting off to Mexico is not very eco-friendly, given the jet fuel used, no matter how many carbon offsets paid the way. But the good folk at RezHub.com didn't seem to mind (or more likely, didn't read the blog), since they just sent me another press release announcing a new "Dream Green Giveaway." Who says you cannot care about the environment of the Yucatan peninsula while enjoying the luxury spa, Tai Chi sessions, in-room Jacuzzi, and free mini-bar?

15 September 2008

New glass tiles are 70 percent recycled

Hakatai has announced a new Tivoli series of glass tiles made from bottles and waste glass. The company says that 70 percent of the product comes from post-consumer recycled material. It's available in Indigo Blend and Black Gold Blend.

High-end builder offers free solar roof

Shea Homes, which offers a line of "Shea Green Certified" homes, is offering free solar panel roofs with new homes. Sold through its high-end Trilogy brand, the builder claims that the panels can reduce energy bills by 60 percent. The deal is part of a partnership with BP Solar.

Compare to my previous items: Ikea selling solar panels, back-up system for solar power users, builder opens solar division, and solar homes in California. Seems clear to me that solar energy is an up and coming trend throughout the home channel.

12 September 2008

Have a ball with this prefab house

Here's a European prefab house that's formed in the shape of a truncated icosahedron -- that's the same shape as a soccer ball. Made by Easy Domes, the units are built of sustainable and recycled materials. And yes, that's grass growing on top. From the Web site, it looks like the company will ship overseas, so it's an option for American homeowners who want an energy-efficient prefab green house, or who want a funny looking round house, or who really really like soccer. Thanks to Inhabitat for the tip, and there's more info here.

11 September 2008

Toronto considers strict limits on packaging

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, here's a report today that the city of Toronto may tax plastic bags (to the tune of 20 cents each), and even ban some kinds of packaging. Toronto wants to divert 70 percent of waste from landfill by 2010, up from 42 percent today.

Survey: Seniors are early adopters

ICOM Information & Communications, a marketing solutions company that conducts consumer surveys, reports that older consumers are the ones most likely to be buying green products.
Both male and female groups 55 years and over reported above average usage of environmentally friendly home goods. Leading the way was the 55-59 year-old female demographic, who was more than twice as likely as the average consumer to use green products. Males 65-69 years old were second, more than 1.7 times as likely to use than the average American.

In total, 62 percent of respondents said that they use some kind of environmentally friendly product. Now, you have to figure that some of those polled said they did even if they don't, seeing as these days some people feel a certain level of cultural pressure to be eco-aware. But that's still a pretty huge number of folks who are voting with their wallets to go green.

Visit the ICOM Web site for more on the survey.

10 September 2008

Marketing to race fans -- green race fans

So Volkswagen is sponsoring a race series, and all the cars are running on carbon-zero diesel fuel. The home channel angle is that one of the cars is being sponsored by flooring maker Laticrete (that's the car right there).

So the moral of the story? That a building materials maker is seeing the value of marketing to race car fans who also are concerned about the environment. It costs money to sponsor a car, and I'm sure that Laticrete doesn't think it's throwing its money away. Further evidence of the mainstreaming of eco-friendly attitudes.

09 September 2008

North Pac, RoyOMartin in deal to distribute certified OSB

LBM distributor North Pacific has partnered with building products maker RoyOMartin to sell FSC-certified oriented strand board through North Pac's Napa, Calif., distribution center. A RoyOMartin spokeperson told me that all the company's certified OSB products will be available through to NorthPac customers. According to a press release:
These products contain no urea formaldehyde and are categorized as Low-Emitting Materials – Composite Wood under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. North Pacific’s distribution center will be stocking RoyOMartin’s FSC-certified Tuff Strand, StrucWall, StructWall XL and The Grid brands, ready for next-day delivery to dealers and distributors in the Northern California region. RoyOMartin’s fully-automated OSB mill is one of the largest in the world, and one of the only mills producing FSC-certified OSB.

Consumer Reports offers tips to save energy

The nonprofit organization is offering advice on getting the most out of your appliances, as well as 25 tips for saving energy.

08 September 2008

Greenbuild 2008 to take place Nov. 19-21

I've mentioned the U.S. Green Building Council from time to time here on the blog. The Council oversees the LEED certifications system, sponsors research, and is active on Capitol Hill, to name a few highlights. Well, today I learned that the Council also holds a Greenbuild Conference and Expo -- this year's event is set for Nov. 19 to 21, in Boston.

The event Web site suggests that the following kinds of people will attend: "Architects, Building Owners, Code Officials, Contractors, Developers, Educators, Engineers, Facility Managers, Financial Services Providers, Government Agencies, Green Power Providers, Home Builders, Interior Designers, Landscape Architects, Nonprofit Organizations, Product Manufacturers, Schools and Universities, and Students." Yup, kinda seems like they are not expecting any retailers or pro dealers, more's the pity. But don't let that stop you from going if you see anything interesting on the event schedule.

04 September 2008

Polished cement gains ground as eco-friendly floorcovering

The U.S. Green Building Council has ruled that FGS/PermaShine's industrial/commercial Polished Concrete Floor System can be counted toward LEED certification. Naturally, the Permashine folks are very happy about that:
"We have known the FGS/PermaShine Process represents a very sustainable floor system and this new Credit Interpretation Ruling by the USGBC adds further credibility to our claim that polished concrete is green," said Greg Schwietz, president of L Construction Chemicals, which makes the FGS/PermaShine family of products.

According to Permashine, the concrete floor is shiny, thus reducing lighting needs, and it also captures and releases heat, reducing peak energy needs by keeping temperature level throughout the day. Might be a good option for home channel retailers trying to get LEED certification for their stores.

29 August 2008

Sierra Club to help build green homes for injured vets

The Sierra Club is partnering with Homes for Our Troops to include eco-friendly materials and processes when making new houses for severely injured vets. The partnership includes a grant from the Sierra Club Foundation of up to $1 million over the next three years. According to a press release,
The grant will be used to explore new technologies and products designed with environmental and energy conservation concerns in mind, include a higher degree of green building into its homes, and fully participate in the Energy Star Program and the LEED Program that was recently established by the US Green Building Council. These energy efficient homes will provide long-term economic and environmental benefits to these veterans and their families.

28 August 2008

New green tile site launched

Italian tile maker GranitiFiandre has launched a new Legacy of Green Web site to tout its efforts on behalf of the environment.

KCMA opens certification to cabinet suppliers

The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association has announced that it will now allow non-cabinet-manufacturers to be certified under its Environmental Stewardship Program. The program, in operation since 2006, will allow companies that supply product to cabinet makers to join the program and be certified. According to the association press release,
In order to become ESP certified, cabinet manufacturers and suppliers must meet requirements in the categories of air quality, product resource management, process resource management, environmental stewardship and community relations. This holistic approach to environmental certification examines the manufacturing process from the raw materials supplied all the way to the end product, versus other certification programs that only look at the product.

Green Depot opens new store in New York

Green Depot is opening a new location today, Aug. 28, out on the northeastern tip of Long Island (pictured above). With the currently under-construction store in Manhattan (due for completion this fall), that makes a total of six locations for the green home channel dealer to be open by the end of the year, up from four at the end of last year. A seventh location is planned for Albany, N.Y., in 2009.

The new unit, in Greenport, N.Y., features a showroom and design center. The opening ceremonies are being celebrated with festivities including local wine, hors d’ouvres, and a prize gift basket.

27 August 2008

Party platforms built of eco-friendly materials

While we're on the topic of politics, I thought I would follow up yesterday's post on political conventions with a couple links on where the candidates stand.

The Boston Globe asks if there will be A green gold rush under Obama? The Democratic candidate himself has this and this to say. Not too much on the green retailing front, but this position was interesting:

Weatherize One Million Homes Annually: Obama will make a national commitment to weatherize at least one million low-income homes each year for the next decade, which can reduce energy usage across the economy and help moderate energy prices for all.

That might be a retailing opportunity for whoever sells those weatherizing products.

Meanwhile, John McCain is also getting the word out on the environment. Here's an article on his policy, and here is the official word from his campaign site. Nothing directly relevant to green retailing or construction, I would say, although the Republican's emphasis on "market solutions" suggests a very business-friendly orientation.

I also saw this article on Joe Biden's environmental record, and as soon as McCain picks a veep candidate, I'll see what I can dig up on him or her.

26 August 2008

Throwing a green party. Or two.

The Democratic National Convention started yesterday, and it's a green party that the Dems are throwing, if not the Green Party. That is, organizers of the event are working hard to minimize the environmental impact of the convention, using solar power, carbon offsets, a biofuel bus fleet, and even an Official Recycling Provider (Coke is it, actually). For a wrap-up, check out this report from Plenty, as well as the official convention green page.

But don't feel left out, red-staters! Turns out the Republicans are tree-huggers, too! Here's a letter at the Republican National Convention site that mentions the convention's green efforts (scroll down) -- also note this GOP press release and this news report from the Tennessee Journalist.

25 August 2008

News reports suggest green building is gaining steam

From across the country, green builders are being quoted in news reports. Here are a few that leapt out at me while Web surfing today ...

Lone Star used to get one or two calls a month from consumers interested in building green homes. Now, it's a few calls a week. (paraphrase) John Brooks, owner, Lone Star Custom Homes, Central Indiana.

More and more home builders, suppliers and contractors are building green in Southwestern Illinois. The member-driven Home Builders Association of Greater Southwest Illinois held its sixth program on green building since February 2007 to talk about how and why to build green. ... Since the Home Builders Association of Southwest Illinois' first green building program, attended by only two industry people, 100 industry insiders showed up July 30 ... "I build green because of my kids," said speaker Matt Belcher, owner of Belcher Homes, Custom Sustainable Homebuilding, based in Wildwood, Mo.

"People say that you've got to have geothermal and solar energy," said Court Airhart, president of Airhart Construction, which is building homes priced from $500,000 to $1 million in the western suburbs of Chicago.

"Everyone wants to be green today. Green practices are being introduced into every aspect of life. It's what people want, it's what the planet needs, and building manufacturers and builders are responding," said Brian Harlan, Harlan Corp., Eastern Pennsylvania.

"There's just so much growing in the green market. It's a growth area for our members, and it's our future," said Bob Filka, chief executive, Michigan Association of Home Builders.

Also emblematic of the trend: articles on How to sell your house as green and How to avoid eco-fatigue.

22 August 2008

Energy-efficient appliances are selling better than traditional models

I got a press release from the NPD Group. They track sales trend data for a wide range of products, and they share info with us at Home Channel News on a pretty regular basis. This press release was on energy-efficient appliances, sales for which are doing quite well these days. I can't link to the data, which is not online, but let me quote from the press release.
Refrigerators: From April to June 2008, sales of Energy Star refrigerators increased 15 percent in dollars and 13 percent in units, versus one year ago. This is compared to the 11 percent declines non-Energy Star rated models are showing. Average selling prices of Energy Star refrigerators models have been more than double the price of regular models, but have leveled off in the last two years.

Washing Machines: Unit sales of Energy Star washing machines grew 3 percent, whereas, non-energy efficient models have declined by 12 percent in April-June 2008, compared to the same time last year. While energy efficient models garner a bigger dollar share (55%) than less efficient models, they only represent 40 percent of units sold.

Let me say that again: Green fridges, up 15 percent; non-green, down 11 percent. Green washers, up 3 percent; non-green, down 12 percent. That is impressive.

NPD didn't give me the Energy Star vs non-Energy Star comparisons for dishwashers and air conditioners, but they say that the former are up 5 percent and the latter are up a whopping 50 percent!

Thanks to NPD's Dora Brunette for help with the data.

21 August 2008

Whirlpool boasts its first two Certified Green Professionals

The appliance maker has announced that senior account managers Lanny Tillery and Richie Heumann are the first in the company to earn Certified Green Professional designations from the National Association of Home Builders.“They represent the first of many Whirlpool Corporation sales professionals who are working closely with the building industry to help set the pace for sustainable construction,” said Whirlpool senior contract marketing manager Tracy Frye, in a press release.

20 August 2008

Emery-Waterhouse announces green initiatives

The building materials and hardlines distributor says that it is pushing a number of programs to save energy, cut costs, and decrease the damage it does to the environment. To save fuel, Emery-Waterhouse is reducing the top speed of its trucks from from 69 mph to 65 mph, checking tire pressure twice a day, and using software to make its routes as efficient as possible. According to a press release, "as a result of these initiatives, the company estimates it will save more than 23,000 gallons of fuel in 2008."

Also part of the company's plan: a green task force to identify areas for improvement, an expanded recycling program, and adding more green products and merchandising programs.

Based in Portland, Maine, Emery-Waterhouse reported annual wholesale sales of $142 million in 2007, placing the company 68th on Home Channel News' Top 150 Distributors Scoreboard.

18 August 2008

Kitchen remodelers: A glass half empty or half green?

The Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI) surveys 600 homeowners who remodeled their kitchens in the past 12 months. For the 2008 survey (they run it every two years), the organization asked this interesting question:
Q: Which of the following statements best describes your decisions about your kitchen remodeling purchases?
  • I only purchased products I felt did not have a negative impact on the environment. -- 10%
  • I strongly considered environmental impact on my purchases. -- 36%
  • Other considerations were more pressing this time than the environmental impact of my purchases. -- 54%
RICKI spun the results this way: "Environmental Impact of Products Not Top Priority for Most Kitchen Remodelers." I had to laugh. If you told me that 46 percent of homeowners refused to buy products that harm the environment, or felt strongly about the eco-impact of their purchases, I'd consider that an amazingly high percent! That's a huge market of people to sell, and if you, the retailer or vendor, can make 46 percent of customers give you a second glance because of your green or energy efficient products, then that's a real leg up on the competition.

I wish RICKI had asked that two years ago; seeing how those numbers change over time would be pretty interesting. Anyway, for more info, there's a bit more online, on this page detailing all RICKI's research projects, and in this brief excerpt (PDF) of the actual research report.