14 December 2009

Pres. Obama wants you!

... to go shopping and save energy.

The president will speak at a Home Depot tomorrow to encourage homeowners to take steps to save energy. Addressing business leaders at the store, he will talk about legislation he plans to introduce that will give tax credits for projects that retrofit homes to become more energy-efficient.

Paint maker announces plan to reduce emissions

Sherwin-Williams, the biggest U.S. paint company, has announced that it will reduce greenhouse gas emmisions by 4 percent from 2007 to 2012.

01 December 2009

Myth debunked: Cap and trade does NOT require retrofits

According to Snopes.com, the famed Internet rumor fact-check site, e-mail gossip has it that "the 'Cap and Trade energy bill' requires that all existing real estate must meet new energy standards before it can be sold." And Snopes answers that rumor today with an emphatic "FALSE."
HR 2454 contains no provisions requiring that existing homes "must meet the new energy standards" before they can be re-sold. Likewise, the bill includes no requirements that an existing residential property undergo an energy usage-related audit or inspection and be assigned a "certificate of efficiency issued by a federal building efficiency inspector" before it can be re-sold or rented.

... the bill merely provides for federal funding to be offered as incentives for owners of existing properties to voluntarily improve the energy efficiency of their structures.

Now, all of this is good news for home improvement retailers. For one, even if the cap-and-trade aspect of the legislation is defeated in the Senate, laws requiring efficiency in new construction are still likely to reappear. And for another, the provisions encouraging retrofits -- but not requiring them -- will bring in new business, without alienating those who think the government is forcing action.

But first, your job is to educate your customers, so they won't believe every wild thing they read in their in-boxes.

25 November 2009

What's coming out of Copenhagen for the home improvement industry

Dec. 7 sees the start of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, the biggest gathering of world leaders addressing eco-issues since the meeting at Kyoto, Japan, 12 years ago.

Despite a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade bill that passed the House this summer, Senate heel-draggers have denied the president the signed legislation he had hoped to bring to Copenhagen. Resolved not to repeat Bill Clinton's mistakes in Kyoto (Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol but could not get it ratified by Congress), Obama has signalled that he does not expect a formal treaty to emerge out of Copenhagen -- he won't seek a treaty until he has a signed law in hand.

So what does that have to do with home improvement? Well, Obama won't want to leave Copenhagen empty-handed, so he'll focus on other areas of agreement. For example, check out this Nov. 17 Energy Department press release boasting of areas of agreement with China:
The two Presidents announced the launch of a new U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan.  Under the new plan, the two countries will work together to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, industrial facilities, and consumer appliances.
There's more here

So the government may soon be pushing tighter building standards and electricity-stingy appliances. The point is that as we see more emphasis on energy efficiency initiatives coming out of Copenhagen, like this one with China, there will be more opportunities for green retailers and builders.

Update: President Obama today confirmed that he will attend the Copenhagen meeting. I don't think he'd be going if he didn't think there was a reason to do so.

17 November 2009

Explosion of expos

The local home show has long been a staple of home improvement professionals at convention centers around the country. I bought my first ladder at a home show, myself. But there is a new, eco-friendly twist to the phenomenon: the green expo. More and more of these are popping up. Consider these events, to pick a few:
If you are thinking about exhibiting at one of these events, whether a trade show or a home show, your cred goes up if you keep your own booth as environmentally friendly as your product. To that end, here's some advice for attending green shows:
  • Make sure give-aways are actually likely to be useful, and make them from recycled materials. Use canvas bags, not plastic.
  • Give out information on CDs or flash drives. If you have to use paper, use recycled paper and avoid coatings that are hard to recycle.
  • Design your booth components to be reusable and recyclable.
And in the Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do Department, here's a Web page with the promising title, "Green tips for exhibitors" -- but the page offers only this:
For this years show National Funeral Exhibitions will be encouraging exhibitors and suppliers to improve environmental performance. An information sheet giving simple and practical green advice will be distributed to all exhibitors.
Translation: Nope, no info online, but we have eco-tips for you printed on dead trees. Epic Fail, as the kiddies say.

Photo hat tip: Alternative Consumer.

13 November 2009

Boulder, Colo., eco-home center changes hands

Ellie's Eco Home Store, formerly a subsidiary of Eco Products, has been acquired by Steve Savage, a former president of Eco-Products, according to a report in the Boulder County Business Report. Both companies are based in Boulder, Colo.

12 November 2009

Contractors emphasize construction waste management

A new survey of contractors reveals that managing construction waste is the second-most important green practice to these building pros. The report from McGraw Hill Construction, highlighted in a McGraw Hill press release, included these results:
  • By 2013, McGraw-Hill Construction projects that the green building market will be up to 25 percent of all new construction starts by value, equating to a $140 billion market.
  • 61 percent of contractors rate waste management plans as the second-most important aspect of green building, just behind energy efficiency.
  • The United States generated 143.5 million tons of building-related construction and demolition debris in 2008, but only 28 percent (40.2 million tons) was reused, recycled or sent to waste-to-energy facilities.
  • The biggest drivers behind sustainable construction waste management practices include client demand (82 percent) and government regulations (81 percent). Competitive advantage (77 percent) and increases in education and awareness (75 percent) are also cited as major influencing factors.   
McGraw Hill is in the business of producing research-driven papers that it then offers for sale. But the company releases choice factoids from the research to whet the appetite of potential customers.

10 November 2009

Denim: the last straw in insulation

I've blogged before about using straw as insulation, and straw construction is still in the news. But Habitat for Humanity is putting an even more unusual organic fiber to use in new houses: denim. The charitable organization has been recruiting college kids in drives to collect used jeans -- for example, in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Kentucky (see photo) -- which are then recycled into insulation. Check out this article on the program in Agweek, and the campaign's official site. And, surprise surprise, the denim drive is co-sponsored by the Cotton Inc. people: good press for cotton companies, and warm houses for the poor. The denim is made into insulation by Bonded Logic.

09 November 2009

The green wave breaks

When you look up from the individual grains of sand -- LEED certification, carbon offsets, Energy Star, recycling -- and you really see the wide beach, you can't help but notice the tide of changing attitudes coming in at last.

I remember when the only environmental issues in retail were those forced on business by activist groups such as PETA and the Rainforest Action Network. Ten years ago, the most controversial environmental issue in home improvement was sustainable forestry, and when Home Depot decided to source products made from certified wood, it was big news -- but retailers had to be harangued into it.

What a difference a recession makes. Businesses are looking for ways to cut costs, and suddenly everyone wants to save the planet, one utility bill at a time. Consumers are looking for ways to save, too, and when a green product offers that, it sells.

But deep in our hindbrains, a couple generations brought up in this post-Silent-Spring culture are not unwilling to look for other reasons to embrace eco-friendly products, now that they cost as much as traditional equivalents. The Lorax has made us more receptive to the idea of being more planet-friendly, and we feel good about our newfound acceptance of green practices and products. A number of research reports say consumers prefer green window cleaners, recycled carpet, and green bug spray -- products that don't save money on electric bills -- so long as they don't cost more at check-out.

And that evolving acceptance has wider ramifications. Take a look at a random sample of news out last week:
  • Information Management Online analyzed the agreement between the U.S. government and Wal-mart to both "start tracking the sustainability profile of their suppliers as well as their products and services." That's $800 billion in products that will now be scrutinized for environmental impact.
  • The Financial Times takes a look at ethical investing in retail and concludes, "What started out in 1984 as a quixotic experiment has now turned into a big business, as investors not only intensify their scrutiny of corporate practice, but step forward to exercise their voice and shape corporate behaviour."
  • Crain's Detroit Business reports on research revealing "80 percent of businesses have taken steps toward sustainability" in southeast Michigan. And if I may be so bold, as goes southeast Michigan, so goes the nation.
  • A commercial real estate company is bragging that its sustainability efforts are equivalent to planting 9 million trees or taking 4,500 cars off the road. For 108 properties, "the estimated total investment to optimize sustainability performance in these properties is about $59 million. Resulting annual savings from the investment will be about $19 million."
The sea change here is that alternative has become mainstream, that yesterday's Greenpeace activists are today's corporate sustainability officers and LEED accredited professionals. Tomorrow, the world.

Photo: green tide by Adamwithoutanyhands, used under a Creative Commons license.

07 November 2009

PPG paper pushes products for LEED points

Paint-maker PPG Industries just released a white paper to help architects, developers, and contractors specify PPG products when seeking LEED (and other green) certifications. Yes, it is basically a big eight-page ad, for example:
As a manufacturer of several national paint brands, PPG has products for all types of interior surfaces that comply with the VOC criteria of Green Seal GS-11, GC-03, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), Rule 1113.
When comparing proposed versus baseline energy consumption, fenestration types, u-factor, solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) and visual light transmittance (VLT) are key energy model inputs. PPG manufactures various architectural glasses that meet design objectives and contribute to the environmental performance of an integrated, energy-efficient building envelope.
Duranar and Superl II ULTRA-Cool coatings for roof and side wall metal assemblies are most applicable for this green building practice. ULTRA-Cool coatings contain IR-reflective pigments that reject solar energy and reduce surface temperatures in a palette of climate-appropriate colors.
But I can't sneer at "advertising" too much. There is actually good info here if you are looking for the right product for your green projects. Just make sure you look at the info from PPG's competitors, too.

06 November 2009

Gov't review of pesticides may hit L&G products

The EPA has ordered a new review of a slew of weed killers, some of which (including a widespread one, Atrazine) are used in lawn and garden products. For the science of the issue, check out Chemistry World's report. For two different opinions, there's EPA revisits atrazine - finally and Alarmists unfairly target crucial agricultural tool.

05 November 2009

EPA updates Top 20 Green Retailers list

The EPA has announced its updated Top 20 Retailer Partner Ranking for its Green Power Partnership program. First on the list is Kohl's, with Lowe's coming up in sixth place. According to the EPA:
Top Partner Rankings highlight the annual green power purchases of leading organizations within the United States and across individual industry sectors.
Here's the Reuters article, looking mainly at Kohls.

03 November 2009

Dollars from dachniks?

With housing starts still in the tank, maybe builders should set their sights a little lower ... at the market in dachas, small country homes, and cabins. If anyone has some disposable income in this economy, it may be the dachniks. You can take your inspiration from this survey of five modern cabins from Dwell.

29 October 2009

Green carpet news round-up

There's been a slew of news and features recently focussing on sustainable carpets:

InterfaceFlor has received certification to the NSF/ANSI 140: Sustainable Carpet standard for two products. A plant in Thailand has also been certified.

Two New Zealand wool makers are finding U.S. based partners -- including CCA Global -- to manufacture sustainable organic carpet.

A London-based investment firm has bought a minority stake in an Italian carpet-fiber maker in order to invest in recycled fiber.

Grist magazine has an interview with Ray Anderson, founder of carpet maker Interface, about sustainability in manufacturing.

Energy-efficient window line announced

Kolbe has a new series of windows out, the Windquest EP line, that the company says exceeds 2010 Energy Star criteria for all climate zones in the United States. The line is available as casement, awning and studio windows.

According to a Kolbe press release,
These windows achieve energy performance ratings that put them in the top tier in the industry with U-Values of 0.18/.19 and R-values of over 5, along with Solar Heat Gain Coefficient of .23. These insulating values are nearly twice as good as those currently required by Energy Star. Our units allow for a maximum air infiltration of only .01 cubic foot per minute, which is 30 times better than the industry standard.

Windquest EP windows come standard with a special combination of high-performance LoE coatings on the glass to optimize U-value, visible transmittance, solar heat gain coefficient, and external appearance.

In an interesting marketing note, I see that Kolbe is pushing this news on its Facebook page.

28 October 2009

Stimulus smart grid money heads into home channel

Last year the power companies were predicting new smart grid technology and hyper-efficient appliances. GE, for example, is pushing this tech, no surprise, seeing as the company stands to sell a lot of new smart meters. Well, the Obama administration is using $3.4 billion in stimulus money to help that trend along.

While most of the cash is going to a wide range of power companies, $19.3 million of that is going to the home channel's own Whirlpool Corp. to help spur the creation of smart appliances such as dryers. These machines will be able to read the electric grid in order to regulate power use and save money, for example, by turning on when electricity is cheaper.

Here's what Whirlpool exec VP Bracken Darrell said at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum & Exhibition in Paris last April:
By 2015 we are prepared to make ALL the electronically controlled appliances we produce, ANYWHERE in the world, capable of receiving and responding to a signal requesting curtailment of the appliance’s energy consumption. These products will also be capable of providing the consumer with contemporaneous information about their energy consumption. Whirlpool would also require any manufacturer that is licensed to use the Whirlpool brand to add similar capability to products bearing the Whirlpool brand.

I have to count myself unconvinced, though, so far. Are consumers going to be happy leaving their wet laundry in the drier until 3 am, when the electric rates go down? What if they have another two loads to dry after that? And will consumers want their clothes to sit in a ball in the drier getting wrinkled from 4:30 am until the consumer gets around to taking them out two or four hours later? I look forward to seeing how the engineers at Whirlpool tackle these problems. $19.3 million says they'll think of something.

19 October 2009

New LEED for Homes Provider in Florida

E3 Building Sciences, a company that helps certify houses under the LEED for Homes standard, was named last week as one of only 36 LEED for Homes Providers in the United States. Check out E3's green building Web site:
Green building is more than a trend, and we believe that “green building” represents a fundamental shift in awareness with regard to high-performance buildings — both in the commercial and residential sectors. ... Whether you're an architect, engineer, builder, or future home owner, we can walk you through the process of certifying your project green.

01 October 2009

Trade group lobbies Senate for clean energy

Efficiency First, a trade advocacy non-profit, is asking the Senate for prompt action on the American Clean Energy & Security Act.
As new energy business leaders from across the country, we fully support the legislation’s goals: to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.

The trade association includes contractors, energy companies, and building product vendors including BASF and Panasonic.

Hat tip: California Building Performance Contractors Association

30 September 2009

Renaissance Lighting earns Energy Star label

Renaissance Lighting, who I blogged about last year, has earned Energy Star qualification for its newest downlight LED fixtures. According to Renaissance, the new recessed downlight fixtures deliver at least 35 lumens per watt and meet other Energy Star requirements for efficiency, light levels, and color.

Making old homes more energy efficient

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has launched a Weatherization Guide for Older and Historic Buildings. The site includes some interesting advocacy for keeping historic windows in place:
Going green is about more than just energy performance. To determine real environmental impacts, one must take into account the embodied energy of the new and existing windows, the environmental impacts of manufacturing new products, and the expected lifecycle of the product. Embodied energy includes the energy required to extract the raw materials, transport them, make them into a new product, ship the product, and install it. Existing historic windows have all of this energy embodied in them. Tearing out historic windows for replacement units not only wastes embodied energy, it requires additional energy to remove and dispose them. This is on top of the energy required to create and install the new windows.

02 September 2009

Another place to get your green news fix

I can't believe I haven't linked to Chain Store Age's "Green 4 Retail News" page. And I've been the CSA managing editor for almost a year now! D'Oh! Well, check it out, and keep coming back for even more green retailing news. It's in my blogroll on the right if you forget.

01 September 2009

New green LBM dealer plans to launch 25-unit chain

California developer and entrepreneur Rich Rifkin is launching a chain of eco-friendly lumber and building material units in California. The chain, New Home, has started a Web site and gotten some press. The first store will open in Dublin, Calif., in January. Eventually, Rifkin plans to push the chain throughout California and eventually the United States, according to reports. The company Web site mentions plans to open 10 in the San Francisco Bay area alone.

31 August 2009

Building material vendor promotes tax credit angle

More and more manufacturers are pushing their green products, especially if those products can be used for tax credits. Thanks to the stimulus legislation recently passed -- specifically, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- manufacturers are looking for ways to raise consumer awareness.

So it is with building material maker Typar, with a sustainability page on the company Web site as well as a new press release (PDF format) featuring products like the company's "Weather Protection System," a building wrap that can reduce your tax load:
Through the ARRA, homeowners can receive tax credits amounting to 30 percent of the cost up to $1,500 of energy-efficient improvements made to an existing home. Home builders, too, can benefit, receiving $2,000 in tax credits for building a home that saves 50 percent of the heating and cooling energy used by the average home of similar size; manufactured home builders can receive $1,000 in tax credits for the same heating and cooling energy savings. And, commercial builders, designers and building owners can receive $1.80 per square foot of the structure in tax credits for building envelope improvements that reduce heating and cooling energy by at least 10 percent.

Webinar this fall will focus on solar energy for retailers

I'm the managing editor for two magazines on the business of retail, and one of them, Chain Store Age, is partnering with Schneider Electric to present a webinar on solar energy for retailers. The online event will feature speakers from Xantrex Technology, a Schneider subsidiary. To attend the free Oct. 15 webinar, please register online.

28 August 2009

Glass tile distributor to buy carbon offsets for all U.S. product shipments

Hakatai, a distributor of imported glass mosaic tile, will now use carbon-neutral shipping on FedEx Ground and Expedited orders within the United States. The company has partnered with GreenShipping.com to purchase carbon offsets through Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a non-profit organization.

I spoke with Amanda at Hakatai, and she told me that the company is using the partnership to buy carbon offsets for all product shipments in the United States -- and the company is absorbing the cost to do so. Hakatai will not increase prices or shipping cost to customers, she said.

26 August 2009

Report: Eco-attitudes are changing

New research from RSR and RILA concludes that attitudes towards green practices are evolving and that retailers are more and more inclined to put energy-saving, eco-conscious measures front and center, especially among green market leaders referred to as "Winners." From the PDF report:

25 August 2009

24 August 2009

A green checkered flag?

Laticrete is eager to boost its sponsorship of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup racing series, featuring cars that "run on clean biodiesel fuel." That's a photo of Laticrete-sponsored driver Taylor Broekemeier above.

But isn't green racing like the hot-dog-eating contest in which all the buns are whole wheat? That is, something inherently bad, but now somewhat less so? Well, far be it for me to be sanctimonious -- let he among us who has never ordered a diet soda along with a big steak cast the first stone. According to a Laticrete press release, "The racing season will offset 2,358 pounds of carbon emissions by running on clean biodiesel fuel as opposed to regular gasoline. In addition, the carbon footprint of the series is offset by VW and Carbonfund.org by new forestation projects in Northeast Louisiana."

Maybe you can can burn fossil fuels in the service of entertainment and still feel good about it.

17 July 2009

Silver linings in green pools

After a long cool damp June (at least here in the northeastern United States), at last we're getting some hot summery weather. Time for ball games, picnics, and swimming pools! And you can enjoy the beautiful blue water in your green pool, too.

The big problems with pools, eco-wise, are water loss, electricity used to run pumps, and chemicals. But each has a solution. Pool covers stop evaporation and are a good safety feature. Energy efficient pumps are now on the market. And there are alternatives to traditional chemical treatments as well. For a good round-up, check out these two articles. And here are five more eco-friendly solutions.

And for those seeking a recycled above-ground option, check out these swimming pools made from big recycled garbage dumpsters! That's them in the photo above.

15 July 2009

The art of recycling at retail

The paradox of making beautiful things from trash existed long before the green movement gained the momentum it has today. But as appreciation of the environment has grown, recycled art has become mainstream. So much so, in fact, that retailers are taking advantage of the trend in several ways.

Some retailers are selling recycled art. Home Depot offers a swing sculpted of used tires. Look at these lovely drawer and cabinet pulls made of recycled glass and pottery. Here's a directory with many recycled art product links.

Canadian home center Rona recycled an Apple iPod billboard to cleverly promote its paint recycling program (photo above).

And retailers are using recycled art in window displays. A Whole Foods in Hawaii offers a sea and surf theme. An English coffee shop window has a bug theme. And this blogger has two examples in Seattle.

For retailers seeking to wear their green cred on their sleeves, consider using art to make the case.

14 July 2009

Using software to manage LEED projects

Houston Neal sent me a link to a blog post he put together on software for tracking LEED certification of projects. He makes a good case for the utility of tech in keeping track of projects, and I like how he mentions two different software solutions.

13 July 2009

The lease you can do

Here's a detailed blog post on green leases in commercial real estate. I especially like how this essay combines practical info with a realistic mindset -- for example, giving examples of green tech gone wrong and stressing the importance of keeping on schedule and in budget -- while also pushing the most strict levels of certification, based on LEED standards and the 2008 BOMA Guide.
Green building is generally more costly and timely than the standard construction process. Landlords and tenants must realize this when determining the tenant improvement allowances detailed in the lease. Although having a green space is obviously an important issue, having a finished space ready in the necessary time period is generally a far more important issue. It is thus important for both parties to discuss these potential timing and cost issues with construction and design professionals that have green building experience that can provide advice in regard to both of these concerns.

10 July 2009

New association lobbies for greener building codes

A new alliance among home builders, manufacturers, and energy companies has formed the Building Energy Efficient Codes Network. The association is so new it does not seem to have a Web site, but here is an article about the new organization, and here are two other articles on BEECN and its agenda.
From the latter:
Basically, BEECN is lobbying for national legislation that would require a series of energy-efficiency improvements over 2006 International Energy Conservation Code: a 30% increase in energy efficiency for all new residential and commercial buildings starting in 2010, a 50% increase by 2014, and a net-zero-energy standard by 2030.

09 July 2009

Natural lighting boosts retail sales -- at least it did in 1999!

I was browsing the Web, following interesting links, and I came to a company -- Entech Solar -- that makes skylights for commercial businesses. And that led me to a link at the bottom of that page, on Skylighting and Retail Stores. (If you want to read the report, you have to go there and click on the link yourself, since I was unable to embed it.)

That research report, in PDF format, had some interesting results, including these:
Skylights were found to be positively and significantly correlated to higher sales. All other things being equal, an average non-skylit store in the chain would likely have 40% higher sales with the addition of skylights, with a probable range between 31% and 49%. This was found with 99% statistical certainty. After the number of hours open per week, the presence of skylights was the best predictor of the sales per store of all the variables that we considered.

and also
Informal interviews with shoppers repeatedly confirmed that the vast majority of shoppers were not aware of the skylights. The questioner, looking just like any other shopper, would approach a shopper and ask: “May I ask you a question?” The response was universally affirmative. We then asked, “What do you think of the skylights in this store?” The typical response was to look up, look puzzled, and then say, “That’s funny. I never noticed them before.” Out of 42 interviews in 10 skylit stores, only three shoppers could be found who were already aware of the skylights. Two of those volunteered that they had only noticed the skylights because their small child had pointed them out on an earlier trip, while looking up at a balloon or other bright object.

and also
A store with skylights is observed to have a sales index higher than an equivalent store without skylights. This is clearly the largest effect of any of the variables considered, (at B=+1.55). It is possible that there may be other reasons that the skylit stores are performing so well as a group. In our site visits, we made every effort to try to identify other characteristics of the skylit stores that might contribute to higher sales, but we did not find any obvious candidates. However, that possibility should always be kept in mind when examining these results.

and this
These results show that adding skylighting to the average non-skylit store within the chain would be likely to improve its performance by 40%, with a probable range somewhere between 31% and 49%. Thus, if this non-skylit store were averaging sales of $2/SF, then its sales might be expected to increase to between $2.61 and $2.98 with the addition of a skylighting system.

But here's the biggest caveat -- the study was conducted in 1999! Ugh. I have a call in to the research company, and I'll post any updates I hear about. The research was sponsored by the utility company PG&E, which encourages me, since a utility company would not, I think, preferentially seek out research that suggests decreasing electricity use. Food for thought.

08 July 2009

Reviewing eco-friendly bug repellents

Wenona Napolitano of Eco Childs Play reviews a range of green products designed to fend off the buggies. Interesting.

07 July 2009

Sustainability in the home

Mainstream attitudes toward sustainability -- especially in everyday living -- are getting greener and greener. Take this essay on Sustainability in the home. And as consumers look for eco-friendly solutions, retailers should not dismiss the opportunity of offering shoppers the products and services that let them do so economically and easily.

Incandescents: Reports of death greatly exaggerated

The New York Times has a very interesting article on new technology designed to make traditional incandescent bulbs more energy efficient -- enough so that they will likely meet government mandates on efficiency that otherwise would require switching to CFLs.
Normally, only a small portion of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is converted into light, while the rest is emitted as heat. Deposition Sciences applies special reflective coatings to gas-filled capsules that surround the bulb’s filament. The coatings act as a sort of heat mirror that bounces heat back to the filament, where it is transformed to light.

Indeed, the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation.

Philips Lighting’s Halogena Energy Savers is a line of bulbs now on the market that uses this technology. These are available now at Amazon and Home Depot, according to the Times, but evidently not yet on the Home Depot Web site.

Does vinyl flooring cause autism and defects in kids?

Darned if I know! But if you sell or make vinyl flooring, you should know that reports, like this one, reported in Treehugger, are linking product to genital deformities and autism.

30 June 2009

The DIY Spirit lives on

Reusing parts, making do with materials on hand, and can-do ingenuity -- surely these are the hallmarks of the true green home improvement spirit! In that vein, please enjoy this link to a blog devoted to fixing it yourself: There, I Fixed It.

Weatherization report tells how retailers use tax credits to drive sales

Here's a special report by the staff of Home Channel News on energizing sales at retail by making the most of the weatherization incentives in the recent stimulus package.
For many Americans, the new tax incen tives provi de the perfect justification they need to replace drafty windows and doors; add insulation to the attic; or install a new, energy-efficient water heater. These incentives are targeted to the retrofit market, providing remodelers — and their suppliers — some much-needed revenues.

Full disclosure: I'm the managing editor of Home Channel News.

25 June 2009

Green wood-like product extends reach

Lifetime Lumber makes a wood-like building product out of 65% recycled material, including fly ash. The composite boards can be used to score LEED certification points and are very fire resistant.

Anyway, the company just announced that it has reached an agreement with distributor Duraforce to offer the product in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

24 June 2009

Survey: 41% of retailers say sustainability is "key"

Prenova and Chain Store Age magazine have teamed up to produce a free report on sustainability and energy issues for retailers. You have to register with some basic data before you can download the PDF, but it's worth it. Here are a couple excerpts:
Without question, sustainability is a serious concern for retailers, regardless of the sales volume of the chain or the number of stores. In the survey, the largest percentage of retailers, 41.2%, said that sustainability is a “key component” of their strategy, and 38.6% said that sustainability is “important but not one of our top priorities.” Only 3% said “sustainability isn’t something we worry about.”

Why are the smaller-sized retailers slower to formalize their strategies? Is it simply that larger retailers have more resources to dedicate to the initiatives? Of those surveyed, only 13.9% of respondents — generally the larger-sized retailers — say that their sustainability strategies fall under the responsibility of an “energy management department,” whereas the majority of smaller retailers seem to parcel out the responsibilities to disparate groups, including facilities management, construction and finance.

Full disclosure: I'm the managing editor at Chain Store Age.

23 June 2009

Eco-news is good news at PCBC

Okay, sure, the housing market is still in the slumping doldrums (despite a little recent good news), and so the mood at PCBC, the West Coast builders show, may have been "gloomy" and "somber," but there were still some silver linings -- or should I say, green linings!

There was an interesting insulation product made partly of castor oil. (Hat tip to the Green Building Elements blog for that link, but note that the writer of the post could not resist snarking at the SFI booth.)

There were "Cool Products" that included recycled slate tiles, an energy efficient ventilation fan system, and a more-affordable rooftop solar power system.

There were "Smart Solutions" such as a wastewater system that filters water from the laundry, kitchen and shower and then reuses it for drip irrigation.

And in a report from HCN's Brae Canlen, with whom I work, Brae mentioned green-themed educational sessions as well as new products from Toto and GE. Toto's offerings included water-saving faucets and showerheads, including a motion-detecting faucet that used a turbine for energy, and needs no battery or connection to a power grid. GE's new Hybrid Electric Water Heater (pictured at the show above in a photo by Brae) uses half the energy of a standard heater by absorbing heat from the air and transferring it to water.

22 June 2009

Green flood of weatherization stimulus cash begins

News reports from all over say that federal stimulus funds for home weatherization are now really starting to flow to municipalities. Check out these articles from across the country:

Which begs the question: How are retailers taking advantage of this opportunity? Some are participating in teen job training programs. Some are just plain hiring. Some are selling more exterior doors. And some are stocking new products.

How about you? Comment here or e-mail me at malterio@lf.com.

19 June 2009

Energy on a hot solar roof

From Inhabitat, there's news of a new solar panel product built into roofing shingles.
Flexible rooftop solar panels - called building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPVs - could replace today's boxy solar panels ... The flexible solar shingles would be less expensive to install than current panels and made to last 25 years.

18 June 2009

Web site offers green tax incentive info

Check out the Tax Incentives Assistance Project, a Web site put out by a partnership of non-profits. The top news item includes a link to informational fliers in PDF format -- the site urges businesses to put their own logos on the fliers and hand them out.

17 June 2009

A novel use for old beverage bottles

Catch A Mouse is a humane mouse trap that you use to catch rodents in a recycled drink bottle. Here's a video, complete with Benny-Hill-style soundtrack.

16 June 2009

12-step program for LEED success

Hi! My name is Michael, and I'm a LEED-aholic.

If you are too, check out Environmental Building Strategies' blog series, "12 Steps to a Successful LEED Project." The first few steps include "Delegate or Hire a LEED Manager," "Evaluate compliance and strategies," and "Write down your Sustainability Goals." The series starts with this post.

15 June 2009


Royal Concrete Concepts, of West Palm Beach, Fla., has joined the U.S. Green Building Council, making it one of more than 15,000 affiliate-members. According to RCC,
RCC building products are designed and engineered to help project teams achieve LEED points, from both energy and environmental standpoints. In the educational sector, RCC's sustainable, economical and versatile method of construction can be applied to individual classrooms, additions or entire school complexes. The modular buildings are constructed at Royal Concrete's facilities and then assembled on site - complete with plumbing, wiring and interior design. Compared to traditional methods, fewer trucks are required to travel on site, site construction is minimized, safety is increased, and waste byproducts are reduced, saving time, money and the environment. The facilities are also energy-efficient and hurricane-resistant, making for more economical, safer learning environments.

But note that the choice of concrete as a greener option than other building materials is not at all certain.

15 April 2009

Research firm seeks retailers to participate in poll

RSR is a research company polling retailers about attitudes toward green issues. You can click here to participate in the poll. And if you want polling data right now, check out the similar survey conducted by Home Channel News earlier this year. Of course, I'm the managing editor of Home Channel News.

13 April 2009

Whirlpool touts EcoKitchen

Whirlpool is packaging many of its energy efficient and eco-friendly products into one Eco-Kitchen line. According to a company press release:
“There are definitely some kitchen appliances which are more ‘green’ than others,” said Tomas Diaz, Whirlpool brand marketing director. “We created the Eco Kitchen to help families minimize their energy and water consumption, offering consumers some simple ways to help the environment.”

The Eco Kitchen, which includes the Resource Saver refrigerator, Resource Saver dishwasher, Velos SpeedCook oven and Energy Save range, is the brand’s most energy-efficient kitchen ever, said Whirlpool.
You can read the Money Pit's take on it as well.

31 March 2009

Certified lumber product gains record high strength rating

LP Building Products has gained a record high strength rating for its LP SolidStart Laminated Strand Lumber product. According to an LP press release, the product has earned a 1.75E grade from APA – The Engineered Wood Association.

The engineered wood product, based on wood-strand technology, is created through a steam-injection press that cures adhesives for a strong bond and straight board with little swelling. As a result, the lumber product can be made in longer pieces than traditional lumber for faster installation and fewer callbacks, according to the company.

LP says that its environmentally efficient manufacturing process and the use of SFI-certified wood in LP SolidStart LSL gives builders points toward certification with some green building programs, including NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines, Green Point Rated, Built Green Built Better and Earth Craft House. The company did not mention the more rigorous LEED certification, which generally requires a more strict certification that than afforded by the SFI program.

According to Melissa Warren, product manager for LP's Engineered Wood Product business
The strength of LP SolidStart LSL means that builders can use this one product throughout the home, including garage door headers and floor beams, to reduce build-up time as well as provide longer spans and greater design flexibility.

30 March 2009

Panasonic releases four new green vent fans

Panasonic's building products division has launched four new vent fans in its WhisperGreen line. These models are energy efficient and feature multiple speeds; one version features a motion detector so that, according to a press release, "The motion sensor activates when someone enters the room to provide maximum airflow when the bathroom is in use. When the occupant leaves the room the fan automatically returns to the pre-set low speed. This autonomous feature makes it ideal for people with disabilities and assisted living environments such as nursing homes and retirement communities."

03 March 2009

Ore. development aims at highest LEED rating

Independence Station, a 57,000-square-foot mixed use building that will include residential units and businesses in the town of Independence, Ore., is planning to use solar power, vegetable oil, and rainwater to achieve the highest LEED rating anywhere, becoming the "world's greenest building." From a press release: "The current record holder, a Canadian project, has a score of 63 out of a possible 69 points. At its completion next year, Independence Station will likely earn between 64 and 66 points."

Developers say the now-40 percent-complete project will meet this goal with several tactics:
  • a unique 120 kilowatt installation of photovoltaic panels
  • a biodiesel-fueled cogeneration and thermal storage system, including a retired tug-boat engine
  • radiant floor heating and cooling, solar water heating, an ice-based cooling storage system, and a water-based ground source heat pump
  • day lighting design and extensive use of LEDs
  • stored winter rainwater to supply 100 percent of the building’s needs for laundry, toilet flushing and irrigation of the both the green roof and planned 40-foot interior vertical “urban garden”
Evidently the problem has met with delays, but the developer claims the project is now on course to completion.

02 March 2009

Pros and cons of greener waste systems

As an alternative to traditional septic tanks, new alternative septic systems offer green advantages:
Alternative systems add a step to the filtration process with materials like sand, peat moss, sponges, or textiles; aerobic treatment units, which use compressed air to break down organic matter; and other technologies that result in cleaner discharge, or effluent, being dispersed on the drain field. The result is less pollution leaching into the groundwater.
But they can be mixed blessings.
The problem is that these new systems are often quirky, demanding frequent inspections and maintenance to avoid leaching effluence into groundwater, which is typically the source of drinking water in these rural areas.

Here's a good article that offers many more details.

New green blog

Consultant Mark Johnson is launching a new green blog this week. Green Design Guide is focused, according to a press release,
on residential design, sustainable building products, online design tools for going green and tips on how to qualify for the latest national green certification programs. The blog will cater to a variety of design professionals, from the designers of custom and spec homes to the designers of home remodeling and addition projects. Material covered will offer something for everyone.

I'll be reading more going forward. The only downside -- Mark's business is called "Markitect," a term similar to one Scott Adams is mocking this week in his Dilbert comic.

20 February 2009

The saddest picture story ever told

Offered without comment, seeing as I just got my 401K statement.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Cave for sale

In this economy -- and by the way, news stories with the phrase "in this economy" now outnumber news stories that lack it -- more and more people are being forced out of their homes. Even if you live in a three-bedroom cave that was once a concert venue.

But if you are in the market and looking for a unique green home in Festus, Mo., note that, per the listing,
Geothermal and passive solar keep the home comfortable year-round without a furnace or air conditioning. In spite of the vast size of the home, our energy costs here run about the same as they did in our 800 square-foot starter home. The home naturally stays a little cooler than the average above-ground home, but we found that we acclimated quickly and easily.

If I were in Missouri, I'd ask them to show me.

19 February 2009

New expansion joint filler is 100% recycled

W. R. Meadows' new expansion joint filler is made of 100% recycled synthetic rubber. According to the company, its new Eco-Joint product can be used in "roadways, airport runways, sidewalks, pavement patch repair, driveways, flooring, parking lots, plazas, flatwork, patios, and curbs." And it can be used to satisfy the requirements for several LEED credits.

13 February 2009

You know you've hit the mainstream when ...

... they come out with a "For Dummies" book for you. You can buy "Green Business Practices For Dummies" from Amazon for $14.95, or, if you really are a dummy, from the publisher for $21.99.

Amazon also recommends to me "Green Building & Remodeling For Dummies."

06 February 2009

Insert your own 'soy' joke here

Fomo Products, a sealant and adhesive maker, has a new line of insulation made of 10 percent soy. According to a press release I got this week (there's no online version I can find, so sorry, no link), the eco-friendly plusses include:
  • Benefits the atmosphere by replacing one pound of petroleum-based polyol with one pound of soy-based polyol resulting in a 5.6 pound CO2 increase. [sic -- I think they mean "decrease"?]
  • Stops air infiltration to increase energy savings and decrease HVAC costs.
  • Blocks out allergens and pollutants from entering buildings, improving indoor air quality
  • Contributes to LEED credits and ENERGY STAR® certification.

The company is eager to brag about its green cred -- the graphic with this post came from the company's e-mail press release. But I have to say, the grammar purist in me wishes they had put in a comma and lowercased the 'R': "Soy, you want to start a revolution?" Or even better, give it the whole nine Beatles and go with "You soy you want a revolution!"

Although I suppose not, since too many people who got the reference would have responded, "Don't you know that you can count me out."

05 February 2009

New video for VOC-free wood restorers

Remember all those hours as a kid playing with Play-Doh? With my three-year-old often up to the elbows in it, I couldn't help but be reminded of modeling clay when I saw the video for WoodEpox, a wood reconstruction product that you can shape and carve to repair gaps and holes in damaged wood. The maker, Abatron, is promoting WoodEpox and its sister product, LiquidWood, a wood strengthener, with a new video.

The products are being touted as green because they contain no volatile organics and emit no foul smell. WoodEpox is kind of sticky, though, and not as easy for kids as Play-Doh -- the company recommends disposable gloves and rubbing alcohol to smooth it out. Here's the company's video.

If you want your own DVD of the video, just ask.

04 February 2009

Water-saving faucets to Moen for

Fixture maker Moen has launched a Web page focussing on water conservation, sustainability, and presenting a green face to the world. The site boasts of the company's green efforts, lists earth-friendly products, and includes industry associations and company policies.

There's also a video, but seeing as this is a family-friendly blog, I won't comment on its porno-style soundtrack or the sexy shower scenes. :-)

03 February 2009

Affordable housing org goes green in the Great White North

Habitat for Humanity Canada is teaming up with RenewAbility Energy to install energy-efficient hot water heaters in new homes built by the Canadian branch of the affordable housing organization in 2009. The system works by using outgoing hot waste water to heat incoming cold water. According to the company, the system can reduce energy costs by 20 percent to 40 percent.

Here's a video on the system:

23 January 2009

Huttig launches green workshop

Huttig Building Products is launching its first Greener Selections Workshop on 17 Feb 2009 in St. Louis at the St. Charles Convention Center. The program, which costs $20, covers "what “green” really means, summaries of key certification programs, resources you need to know, and best ways to sell green."

The full-day event will include several presentations, two keynote speakers, and giveaways and prizes.

22 January 2009

Bronx development marks milestone

The non-profit Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corp. celebrated the opening of a new milestone last week -- the largest affordable Energy Star certified building in the country, called Intervale Green. The non-profit says that the Bronx, N.Y., multi-family housing project is "thirty-three percent more energy-efficient than a standard building." The organization also has an online press kit available. The complex was built with eco-friendly materials and features energy-efficient appliances.

21 January 2009

Forest product co. hires new Northeast rep

Cikel America, a subsidiary of Brazilian forest products maker Cikel, has announced that it has hired a new regional sales manager for the New England and Upstate New York territory. Mark Kolbe, previously an outside sales representative for Hoboken Floors, said, "It’s exciting to represent an FSC certified company that owns and properly maintains a large portion of Brazilian forest."

By the way, Floor Daily posted the same item, and here is some more Cikel staff news from about a month ago.

For your browsing pleasure

I added the Shop Eco blog to my blogroll on the right side of the page. Enjoy.

20 January 2009

New safe-for-drinking hose saves water

Teknor Apex has two new hoses: the Healthy Habitat and the AquaPure Neverkink. The basic idea of both is that they are lead-free, so you can use them safely for drinking water. Also, both feature a reduced flow rate, which the company claims leads to water conservation -- presumably because less water spills out on the ground. Course, when I was a kid we drank from any old hose we could get. Lead, asbestos, Bosco -- that stuff was salt and pepper to us. And we liked it!

This blog in a nutshell. Or a word cloud.

It's a little self-indulgent, I know, but I plugged this blog's URL through the Wordle Web site and created the graphic above. It's a neat way to capture an essence of a Web site, or any block of text, for that matter. Click on the image for a closer look.

19 January 2009

Online training program for pro dealers signs two orgs

The Certified Green Dealer Program, an online training site for pro dealers and distributors, has signed on two new clients: the Construction Suppliers Association, serving dealers in Georgia and Alabama, and the Indiana Lumber and Builders' Supply Association. The folks running the program are also proud of their Web traffic.

Full disclosure: The Certified Green Dealer Program is run by LBM Journal, a competitor of my magazine, Home Channel News (I'm the managing editor).

16 January 2009

New cabinet underlight features LEDs

Juno Lighting is pushing its new Pro-LED under-cabinet fixtures. According to the company, the product uses only one-eighth the energy of an equivalent halogen- or xenon-based product.

15 January 2009

Stimulating the Home Channel

Congress and the incoming administration want to hit the ground running as it comes to the planned economic stimulus package. Brian Beutler has an excellent summary of the green provisions in one draft wending its way through the Washingtonian Halls of Power. A few highlights that target the home channel:
  • $2.5 billion for a new program to upgrade HUD sponsored low-income housing to increase energy efficiency, including new insulation, windows, and furnaces.
  • $6.2 billion to help low-income families reduce their energy costs by weatherizing their homes.
  • $300 million to provide consumers with rebates for buying energy efficient Energy Star products to replace old appliances, which will lower energy bills.
Looks like there may be opportunities coming up.

09 January 2009

How to select green furniture

Check out this article from Today GreenDay on selecting eco-friendly furniture:
Look for furniture made from reclaimed materials. Houses, kitchen tables, pianos, baseball bats — think of all the wood that is used to make things each day and then think about all the scraps left over from construction and manufacturing and the landfill waste from discarded wood items. Instead of using new wood to make dining room chairs and beds and bookshelves, some green designers are turning to wood that’s already in play.