27 June 2008

Back-up energy system designed for off-grid use

Gaia Power Tech has debuted a new energy back-up system with green energy devotees in mind. The idea is that if you rely on wind or sun, what happens when it is still and dark? The PowerTower stores energy when it is available and then keeps the lights on when alternative sources flicker.

24 June 2008

A practical look at eco-friendly home construction

Homebuilder Nick DiCosola takes a look at the "very achievable functional green building methods people can employ." Not to set the bar too low, he considers a practical approach to the doable. DiCosola covers insulation, furnaces, hot water heaters, low-flow toilets and washing machines, low-E and argon-filled windows, and more.

The most eco-friendly barbecue fuel

Here's a fun article in Slate on whether gas or charcoal grills are better for the environment. Money quote:
If you're concerned solely with the carbon dioxide that wafts off your grill, then gas is the easy choice. But if you step back and consider the whole production cycle, then certain types of charcoal may well be the greener cooking fuel. The real trick, as is so often the case, is to select a product that's been created conscientiously—a tough assignment, given how little information manufacturers typically provide.

Hat tip: My lovely wife.

New LED flashlights released

Klein Tools has debuted a new line of LED flashlights. The line ranges from a penlight to a spotlight and a "Remote Area Lighting System." I think it is interesting that the company makes no mention in its press release of the energy efficiency or other green features of LED products. I have a call in to the company, so maybe I'll get a comment in a day or two.

23 June 2008

Next step in the arcology

In his column in today's New York Times, Paul Krugman extols the virtues of renting over home-ownership. Certainly, when you look at land-use issues, commute-distances, and eco-impact, multi-family housing is a greener choice than single-family buildings. With that in mind, maybe it is time to revisit our old dream of the arcology. And what could be better than a building that's home to many, generates its own energy, and feeds its inhabitants? Obviously, a floating building that's home to many, generates its own energy, and feeds its inhabitants!

The Lilypad is a design for housing climate change refugees in offshore floating towns that would offer homes to 50,000 people. The design is entirely theoretical for now, but if I'm lucky, when New York finally sinks and I move into my new Lilypad, at last all those hours of my youth spent playing Frogger will finally pay off.

Hat tip: Inhabitat.

20 June 2008

Using ozone to make a cleanser

Tersano is offering a new, "beyond the typical 'green' " appliance that turns water into a cleaning fluid "50% stronger than bleach, yet it is 100% chemical free. Plus it’s so safe, if you or your child happened to drink it, there are no emergency procedures to follow."

Using ozone to "supercharge" water, the product is available at Home Depot and a range of other chains. Here is a press release (PDF) and a Web page for more information.

Let's just hope Tersano is doing a better job with this product than with its water filtration product, reviewed by Consumer Reports last year.

New paint makes aluminum components more energy efficient

Paint maker Valspar yesterday announced a new paint line that is intended to be applied to aluminum windows, shutters, awnings, and so forth. The paint reflects heat, making buildings cooler in hot weather. One of the innovations of this paint -- "Flurospar SR" -- is the wide array of colors available. Here's a link to a PDF about the product, from this page.

The paint itself is not a low VOC product, but according to Valspar's Mary Ann Johnson, it is only applied in manufacturing plants, where 90 percent of the VOCs are typically recovered, and dries before delivery, so it does not affect household air quality at all.

18 June 2008

The bad science behind new fears on vinyl shower curtains

The Internet has been buzzing with blog posts and news articles about the dangers posed by new vinyl shower curtains -- that they release dangerous fumes when first opened. The reports suggest that "new shower curtain smell" may be a health hazard. Check out reports in U.S. News & World, WPTV in Florida, the Kansas City Star, AOL News, and the L.A. Times, among many others.

The original report was issued June 12 by the Virginia-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

The effect on retailers remains unclear. But as ammunition for those faced with fearful customers, you can't do better than this statement I got from Information and Public Affairs Director Julie Vallese at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

CPSC staff scientists did a cursory review of the study and found many problems with the testing methodology that call into question the credibility of the science used for the study. This is a case where a group is sounding a false and misleading alarm.

The CPSC mission is to protect the American public from the unreasonable risk of injury from consumer products. We take this responsibility very seriously and work to reduce the risk of death and injury from consumer products every day. In our busy lives there are so many things that we should be focused on for improving our personal safety -- a shower curtain is not one of them.

Many thanks to Julie for her response!

Creating the urban jungle

Rooftop gardens are a nifty (and increasingly popular) way to put empty urban spaces to good use, but this is not a simple DIY project. As Audrey Tempelsman at the Dwell Blog explains, you have to be careful about weight load, drainage, soil mix, and plants grown. Check out her post for more detail and great links.

17 June 2008

Propane delivers it all

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is jumping on the green bandwagon, offering courses on how builders can sell consumers on using propane as a green energy source. Evidently, propane has been green all along, but we just didn't know it! Here's a link to two free online, AIA-certified courses, part of this series of courses. Three more courses will be available in July. Per a PERC press release, "In addition to delivering imaginative, economical, and practical floor plans, builders must provide their customers with energy sources that are cost-effective, efficient, and comfortable for the life of the home. Propane delivers it all."

New line of water-saving toilets

If you hate flushing too much water down the toilet, but you're not quite ready for in-home composting, you might want to look at Briggs' new line of water-saving toilets. The first in the series -- a dual-flush model -- has been released, and two more will be coming in future months, according to the company. The upcoming toilets will be single-flush, 1.28 gallons per flush models.

16 June 2008

Janitorial services company offers eco-friendly options

Laro, a janitorial company that has a segment specializing in retail locations, has a new Web site and is touting its green options.

Building Green in Greensburg

The new Planet Green cable TV channel has a series on the town of Greensburg, Kan., which was hit by a record-strength tornado in May 2007. The folks there are reconstructing the community to green building standards, with some help from Habitat for Humanity and several corporate donations. Here's an episode schedule.

Plumbing show to feature green seminar track

ISH North America 2008 is a trade show for kitchen, bath, plumbing, and HVAC professionals, coming up Oct. 1 to 3 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The event will include several green-centered seminars:
  • “The Research Required for Successful Implementation of New Water Efficient Technologies” -- upgrading plumbing systems for improved efficiency.
  • “Water Reuse and Water Reclamation” -- moving toward a “greener” plumbing design.
  • “An Introduction to the GreenPlumbers Program” -- helping plumbers use green strategies in their work.
  • “Why Hydronic Distribution Systems are a Deep Shade of Green Technology” -- on the use of hydronic heating.
Here's a list of all the seminars being held at the event.

09 June 2008

No business like mow business

There's nothing greener than muscle power, as this article on push mowers makes clear.

04 June 2008

Major appliances are trending greener

According to this $50 report from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, major appliances are getting more and more water and energy efficient.
Refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers account for a 43% combined decrease in energy consumption since 2000. From a global climate change perspective, the energy savings realized in 2007 shipments of refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers would offset the CO2 emissions of more than 698 million gallons of gasoline consumed or the annual CO2 emissions from 1.3 coal fired power plants.

Clothes washer energy consumption has decreased by 63% since 2000 while tub capacity has grown by 8%. Dishwasher energy consumption has dropped nearly 30% and water consumption has declined 29% since 2000. Refrigerator energy consumption has also decreased 30% since 2000 and efficiency, measured by a unit’s energy factor has increased 39%. The average refrigerator sold today consumes less energy than a 60-watt light bulb left on 24 hours a day.

03 June 2008

Think global, swatch local

Combining LEED certification with interior decorating, Alison Shoemaker of Alison Design is now offering green interior design services.

USGBC takes to the Hill

Here's an interesting report from Greensage on the May 15 testimony by the U.S. Green Building Council on the importance of environmentally friendly construction. Here's a PDF of the USGBC's take on the testimony.

02 June 2008

Free e-conference on energy issues

The Virtual Energy Forum takes place June 10 to 11 in cyberspace. It's a series of online seminars and virtual booths, just like a trade show. I have to say, kudos on the concept. What's the carbon footprint on sitting in your chair at work instead of flying to Las Vegas or Chicago for a trade show! (We won't talk about the folks with laptops sitting on their sofas at home in pajamas -- though I guess they save gas by not driving in to the office!)

The topics, though, are not particularly retail or home-improvement focussed. The keynote by Newt Gingrich might be interesting, on the other hand, and if you deal much with the Man, some of it may be valuable to you -- a number of speakers come from government.

And since registration is free, your cost to attend, including airfare and accommodations, is zero! But remember, what happens on the Web does NOT stay on the Web! Hmmm ... maybe Las Vegas has a few advantages left.

Three interesting thoughts

Renovation Advice is a blog that's been around since last December, but it's updated pretty infrequently. Still, here are three very interesting recent posts I thought I would share.
  • First, a cautionary note on greenwashing. Money quote: "I’ve been a skeptic about many aspects of the green building movement. My eyebrow arches when, for example, someone uses bamboo flooring (which is held together with lots and lots of glue, often containing formaldehyde, and is shipped to the US on bunker-oil-burning ships) to floor a new “green” 11,000 sq. ft. house."
  • Second, three green LBM retailers he recommends: F.D. Sterritt Lumber, Green Depot, GreenSource Supply and Design.
  • Third, two hot products: pavers and underlayment.
Let's hope for more Renovation Advice soon!