22 November 2010

Lowe's jumps on the LED bulb bandwagon

I've already mentioned Home Depot's adoption of the LED light bulb. Now comes word that Home Depot wanna-be Lowe's is doing the same. Cnet's Green Tech reports that the number two home improvement giant will be carrying a new Osram Sylvania 60-watt LED bulb. That's 60-watt equivalent, of course. The whole point is that the light only draws 12 watts of energy to produce the same illumination as a traditional incandescent bulb.

20 November 2010

Colin Powell says State Dept. is pushing LEED certification

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke at the recent Greenbuild conference in Chicago. He talked about the importance of green architecture as the State Dept. continues to renovate and build embassies:

"The United States government has done a lot of innovative things with respect to energy conservation, with respect to green building,” he said. “All of the services are now focusing on getting LEED certification for their existing buildings and for new buildings.”

Thanks to Home Channel News for the link.

17 November 2010

In a down economy, fewer are willing to spend on green furnishings

Furniture shoppers are less willing to spend on eco-friendly furniture, says Furniture Today, reporting on the Sustainable Furnishings Council's 2010 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study. Evidently, big ticket spenders are harder to find these days, and only 4 percent of consumers say they are looking to buy green home furnishings. The survey suggests that educating shoppers about green home furnishings should be a priority, given the current low levels of consumer knowledge.

While in the past about 10 percent of respondents have said they would be willing to spend more on eco-friendly products in general, now that's dropped to just 5 percent.

06 November 2010

National Weatherization Day

A community activist in
Alabama helped weatherize
area homes.
At the White House blog, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu is celebrating National Weatherization Day. Money quote: “As a result of the Recovery Act weatherization program, more than 245,000 low-income families have had their homes upgraded, which means these families are paying lower energy bills every month.”

The Sierra Club is happy with the government’s efforts: “Across the country, federal recovery funds are helping people weatherize their homes for winter, creating jobs and reducing energy waste.”

Meanwhile, Rhode Island and Arkansas just got more stimulus money for weatherization efforts. And in Alabama, one charitable group visited local homes on Weatherization Day and made a range of energy-saving fixes.

Photo courtesy The Huntsville Times, with thanks.

02 November 2010

A house with no furnace

An environmental lawyer and a partner at a design firm are building a house that will require no active energy inputs — no oil, gas, or electric heating. In chilly Massachusetts, it will rely exclusively on insulation and architectural design. Check out the details, with video and slide show, at the New York Times’ report.

24 October 2010

New plastic holds promise of cheaper solar panels

Solar panels for use in long-term applications (generating energy for decades on roofs, say) are both stiff and heavy because they use glass to admit light but keep out water. But word comes now that a new plastic has the durability of glass but is lighter and flexible. The new plastic, from 3M, should last 20 to 25 years, the company says, according to a great report in MIT's Technology Review. The clear implication is that solar panels may soon be cheaper and require less energy to deliver.

18 October 2010

California looks to regulate toxic ingredients in consumer products

There's an initiative in California to "mandate new regulations limiting toxic ingredients in a wide variety of consumer products," according to a news release sent to me. The new regs are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, and there's a public meeting for comments from stakeholders set for Nov. 1.

California's Department of Toxic Substances Control new "Green Chemistry" regs will "require companies to analyze the raw materials of their products and their potential toxicity through their entire life cycle.  The regulations, which reflect an entire movement, seek to minimize a product’s impact on human health, the environment and natural resources."

And as is often the case, as goes California, so goes the country. That is, the wider impact of the regulations will likely be felt in markets and by manufacturers far outside state lines. For more information, the news release recommends Peter Hsiao, an environmental and clean tech attorney in Los Angeles with Morrison & Foerster. (You might recognize Morrison & Foerster as the wild and crazy law firm that likes to be known as MoFo.com.)

10 October 2010

Lowe's: Three green steps forward, one step back

In September, number two home improvement giant Lowe's announced it was rolling out its Energy Center concept nationwide, and putting recycling centers in every store as well. The Energy Centers are an  in-store gathering of energy-efficient products, while the recylcing centers let customers bring in rechargeable batteries, cell phones, compact fluorescent lights, and plastic bags. 

And this month, the EPA named Lowe's its WaterSense Partner of the Year for the second year in a row; Lowe's is the first retailer to be tapped two years running.

But in Salem, Mass., environmentalists are attacking the company's plans for a new store.

06 October 2010

Skyscraper retrofit

Very interesting details on the greening of the Empire State Building:
A sweeping $13.4 million energy retrofit is slashing the Empire State Building’s energy consumption by nearly 40 percent and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 105,000 metric tons over the next 15 years while trimming $4.4 million from annual energy costs.

02 October 2010

Farmers markets for friend and faux

Local farm markets are eco-friendly on several fronts. They generally use less pesticide, so they are less polluting. They bring food to consumers over tens or hundred of miles, not thousands — that decreases the carbon impact of shipping produce from other states and continents. Indie farmers are more likely to grow heirloom varieties, not monocultures bred for transport and consistency of appearance over taste — that increases biodiversity and resistance to plant disease.

More to the point, customer awareness of these issues is rising, and consumer demand for organic produce is on the rise. So, attracted to the higher prices that organics can now demand, farmers' markets are on the upswing. And so are con artists hoping to cash in on the trend.

NBC News' LA team took a look at farmers markets recently, and found that some farm market vendors are buying wholesale non-organic produce and reselling it as "organic." In some cases, the "farm" in question were just fields of weeds. NBC offered three tips for identifying true farmers at your local market:
  • Try to get to know a few vendors really well. Ask where their farm is located, how long they've been farming, how they handle pest and disease issues. See if they're listed on sites like LocalHarvest -- not all farmers are, but it doesn't hurt to check. Ask them the specific variety of whatever produce they're selling. If they really grew it, they should be able to tell you that those are 'Emerite' filet beans, not just "green beans."
  • Look over the display. Really look. This is a great tip from Homegrown Evolution. Are all of the tomatoes the exact same shape and size? Do the apples have that waxy supermarket look? Are the cucumbers all perfectly uniform? Are they selling "local" watermelon in Detroit during the first week of May? If so, they probably went to the warehouse club and bought produce to sell at a premium at the farmer's market. Steer clear.
  • Know what's in season! If you see watermelon in April or peppers in December in Minnesota or Michigan, chances are good that they have not been grown locally. While some farmers have large heated greenhouses to grow produce year-round, not all do, and it pays to ask questions if the vendor is displaying a lot of out-of-season produce.
And here's another sign that there's a buck to be made selling faux organic produce: Supermarkets are setting up "Farmers Markets" in their parking lots!

30 September 2010

You know that LED products have arrived ...

... when spammers put adverts for LED lanterns in your in-box!
LED lantern e-mail spam. (click to enlarge)

13 September 2010

More media attention for new LED bulbs

Now that LED bulbs are coming on the market at something like reasonable prices, as I posted last month, everyone is jumping on the trend. A New York Times article, To Go Where Compact Fluorescents Cannot, reports that both general purpose and specialty bulbs are coming to Home Depot.
But by the end of this month, the 2,200 Home Depot stores around the United States will stock seven types, including two substitutes for the classic incandescent bulb.
And on cnet’s Green Tech blog, Martin LaMonica is ready to try something new. “I more or less ditched incandescent bulbs for more-efficient compact fluorescents in my house years ago,” he writes. “But at this point, I'm awfully close to ditching CFLs for the latest in lighting technology: LEDs.” LaMonica goes on to say that the biggest problem in LEDs — they heretofore only offered illumination in one direction — has been just about solved:
In the past year, though, lighting manufacturers have introduced LED bulbs in a shape Edison would recognize that put out a decent amount of good-quality light. They still don't give off light from all sides as incumbent technologies do, but this latest generation of LEDs does a better job dispersing light, which means that you could use one (or a few) for overhead lighting.
With Home Depot stocking these bulbs now, soon they’ll be in stores everywhere.

Sept. 30 Update: On ZD Net, a columnist notes that these new LED bulbs are now available in Home Depot at an under $20 retail price.

04 September 2010

The locavore trend, reductio ad absurdum edition

It may be the ultimate in vertical green retailing: a grocery store that grows its own produce on site. That's the idea behind a Danish proposal, reported in Discovery News:
The do-it-yourself grocery store concept called Agropolis combines hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic farming to grow vegetables without soil ... Shoppers will come in and see all the produce growing on-site and point to what they want. Nutrients from fish in aquaculture tanks goes to feed the plants, and the whole place becomes an ecosystem.

And you can eat the food where it is grown, at a restaurant at the store — talk about a start-to-finish concept!

30 August 2010

Eco Choice Awards tap three green gifts

The Eco Choice Awards were announced this month at the New York International Gift Fair. Three new products were singled out:

Most Innovative: Emerson House by Brinca Dada. A dollhouse with 23 LED lights powered by solar panels.

Most Sensitive Use of Materials: On The Rocks by Sea Stones. Stone “ice” cubes keep drinks cold without diluting them, and are made of repurposed stone and FSC-certified wood.

Most Sellable: Kitchen Basics by Bambu. Kitchen tools made of renewable, certified organic bamboo.

This dollhouse features LED lights powered by solar panels.

28 August 2010

LEDs are the new CFLs

Good news for people who hate CFLs, like my wife (too dim, she says). New low(er) cost LED bilbs are finally making their way onto the market. Check out this article from Reuters and Sustainable Business: Home Depot to Sell LED Bulbs for Surprisingly Cheap. According to the article, two years ago, a 60W LED-based bulb cost $90. In April, a GE model was announced in the $40 to $50 range. Now Home Depot is selling at a $19.97 price point.

13 August 2010

Retailers continue to push green practices

Momentum continues to build for environmentally friendly practices in retail settings. The U.S. Green Building Council is expected to release its LEED for Retail standards later this year; in the meantime, many retailers are pursuing other forms of certification under LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Since 2000, 2,600 retail projects have been registered with the USGBC, and half of those were approved last year.
And retailers achieving certification include not only big chains but also independent retailers. For example. JCPenney won kudos for recycling, installing energy-efficient lighting, and motion sensor faucets. Office Depot got LEED credits for skylights, Energy Star rated HVAC equipment, ands low-flow urinals. Even a small retailer like a Goodwill store in Macedon, N.Y., was recognized for adding carbon dioxide sensors to control air quality and a white roof design to reduce heat.
These retailers are not just looking for environmental cred or good public relations. They are moving to green practices to add to the bottom line. For example, consider Wal-Mart. According to the USGBC, studies show that daylight has a significant potential to boost retail sales. “Skylights incorporated into Wal-Mart’s prototype Eco-Mart in Lawrence, Kansas yielded a surprising discovery,” reads a USGBC report. “To cut costs, skylights were installed over only half the store. Sales per square foot was significantly higher for those departments with access to natural light. Wal-Mart subsequently mandated daylighting in all new stores.”
Online, there are many suggestions for increasing a store’s eco-friendliness; here are a few:

  • Eliminate waste: reuse shopping bags, and encourage shoppers to use canvas rather than paper or plastic.
  • Use sustainable materials: certified wood can be used for interior construction, and durable recycled carpet is now available.
  • Sell green products: Do the research necessary to source and offer green products to your customers.
  • Save energy: Reduce a store’s carbon footprint with smart thermostats, lighting on timers, and energy efficient bulbs. There are even ways to reduce the energy wasted by electronic cash registers and computers.

There may be a side benefit for retailers in going green as well: a more motivated work force that feels a sense of accomplishment.

31 July 2010

Green in office

Check out GigaOm's roundup of green options for furnishing the workplace:
Desks, shelves and chairs can do more damage to the environment than simply using up energy and natural resources when they’re manufactured. They can also introduce toxic chemicals into the environment, both during their manufacture and after their disposal.

The article offers solid recommendations for office chairs and desks, with an eye for good design.

15 June 2010

28 February 2010

Store design can be beautiful and eco-friendly

Check out this blog post with clever ideas on using recycled materials in store interior design.

27 February 2010

Cash-for-clunkers programs to reward appliance shoppers in March

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 set aside $300 million to fund rebate programs encouraging consumers to upgrade their old appliances. Each state was given a slice of that pie to make its own program, and a number of states are rolling out these programs in March. For example, check out these stimulus-funded initiatives in Missouri, New York, Connecticut, Georgia, and Texas.

26 February 2010

Retailers recognized for green efforts

I've noticed a slew of recent articles discussing green trends and surveying green stores. Here are a few links.

From Triplepundit, Are Big Box Stores Advancing or Detracting Sustainability Efforts? Yes.: "Over the past five years, big box stores have recognized that mitigating their environmental impacts and those of the products they sell can be important marketing tools."

In the Seattle Times, 'Green' is the new black: "Even during the recession, shoppers have increasingly asked for more clothing, shoes and accessories made from sustainable and organic materials. Manufacturers and retailers are responding."

On MNN, 10 eco-friendly retailers: "Every greenie loves to hate Walmart. But the retail giant has been making huge strides in providing average people with eco-friendly options by filling its more than 8,000 retail stores worldwide with green living items like Energy Star appliances, non-toxic cookware and organic-certified groceries."

From Refinery29, Green Mile: Our Guide To Eco-Friendly Shopping In NYC: "From borough to borough, more and more businesses are taking extra steps to introduce green options."

23 February 2010

Office Depot to seek LEED certification for all new stores

The office supplies giant announced that it will pursue LEED certification for all new stores it opens, starting June 2010. The chain has been a leader in green retailing for some time now, joining the USGBC in 2007 and opening its first LEED-certified store in June 2008. With the success of that unit, the chain has decided to go green with all future stores.

Although the prototype store in Austin, Texas -- pictured here at its groundbreaking in the photo, courtesy Office Depot -- has achieved LEED Gold certification, the chain did not commit to that level for future stores, simply saying, "the company will pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Commercial Interiors (CI) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for all new Office Depot retail stores."

Also noteworthy: The company cited "impressive energy and monetary savings" as part of its expectations for the planned green stores.

09 February 2010

Canadian big-box retailers to meet at eco-summit

Wal-Mart Canada has invited its competitors and other companies to a green business conclave to be held just before the Winter Olympics. Companies who have agreed to attend include Coca-Cola Canada, Colgate-Palmolive Canada, and McDonald's Canada, as well as rivals Canadian Tire and Home Depot Canada. Altogether, 300 executives from business, government, and non-profits will be there.

Here's what Wal-Mart Canada CEO David Cheesewright in a Vancouver Sun op-ed:
Wal-Mart Canada will host some of Canada's top business executives, non-profits and government leaders at the Wal-Mart Green Business Summit in Vancouver. There are two concepts driving the summit. The first is that by demonstrating the business case for more environmentally sustainable business practices, whether lower costs because of greater efficiencies or greater sales because of increased green product, we can show business that green should not be seen as a new set of restrictions: It is a world of opportunity. This will move business to change faster than any regulations can. The second concept is that collaboration is a must. The planet does not have time for all of us to work in silos, wasting time and money recreating more sustainable business practices. We must share green knowledge.

The event, timed to build on publicity from the winter games, seems to be equal parts marketing hoopla and serious summit. Check out the statement from Canadian Tire, as cited in the Environmental Leader:
Competitor Canadian Tire said it viewed its participation in the summit as a platform to discuss its “leadership position” in sustainability.

A little combative, sure. But if big companies are jockeying to be king of the green retail mountain, that's progress, right?

06 January 2010

Stimulus money funds energy generation at door maker plant

Door maker CMI has received a grant of $1.3 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The company will use the money to install a steam turbine at its Towanda, Pa., facility. According to the company, "the new system will use existing excess steam to generate up to 1,000 kilowatts of electricity." The press release continued:
Governor Edward G. Rendell said CMI’s steam turbine project is one of nine new large-scale combined heat and power projects being supported by the state. Together, it is estimated these projects will create enough energy to power 180,000 homes for one year and slash carbon dioxide emissions equal to 180,000 passenger vehicles, while creating jobs and stabilizing power distribution networks.