Category Archives: Water conservation

Volume 6!

  1. Chicago is set to build the biggest urban park in the country. “This park is said to be bigger than Central Park (843 acres) and 10 times bigger than Manhattan itself.”

    The new park will be built on 140,000 acres on the southern rim of the city.

  2. To keep you hip to the technology innovations in the industry I bring you paint-on solar cells. That’s right, the next coat of paint you put on your house could produce electricity. Researchers at Notre Dame University are working on a spreadable compound using power producing nanoparticles. Right now they are only seeing an energy conversion efficiency of 1% compared to the 15% seen in traditional cells so it may be some time before we start painting our walls with solar cells.
  3. The Summer Olympic Games are taking place this summer in London and the host city is leading by example as they become the first host to focus on sustainability throughout the planning process. Education seems to be an important part of this plan as they are involving the community and emphasizing the importance of living within the World’s resources. You can read more about the sustainably built Velodrome here.

    The London 2012 Velodrome

  4.  And finally I leave you with this alarming, very well done video recapping the Gulf oil spill in 2010. Puts into perspective just how much oil we consume in the United States (spoiler alert: we use too much).

Oil’d from Chris Harmon on Vimeo.

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Cycling, Energy Efficiency, Green Building, Renewable Energy, Solar, Water conservation

Oil’d

Check out this great video we found. It shows some alarming statistics about the Gulf oil spill of 2010. FYI, a co-worker pointed out today that there have been 66 oil spills since 2000! About 66 too many…

Oil’d from Chris Harmon on Vimeo.

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Filed under Beach clean-up, Environment, Water conservation

The Big “Green” Apple

My recent trip to the Big Apple led to some very unexpected discoveries along the way. Having never visited New York I had no idea what to expect and frankly, I was not expecting good things in the realm of sustainability. I immediately think of mass consumption, millions of cars, old inefficient buildings, and a mindset of profit over the good of the surroundings.
Just to let you know, I was not seeking out the so-called “green” places in the city nor did I do any research prior to my visit. I also know and have learned that New York and the Northeast is leading the way when it comes to sustainability. I was just a plain old tourist checking out the city. Here are some things I found that impressed me along the way.
First off, the public transportation system is in a class of its own. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority “MTA subways, buses, and railroads provide 2.6 billion trips each year to New Yorkers.” You can get wherever you want in the city without ever needing a car.
Another thing I noticed was the importance of public green space and the unique way some people have created a beautiful landscape out of a so-called concrete jungle. Everyone knows about Central Park but we discovered a relatively new creation called the High Line.

High Line water feature

It’s a stunningly designed piece of art/urban park. Basically, it is an old elevated rain line that has been inoperable since 1980. In 2009, Friends of the High Line in a partnership with the City of New York opened the elevated public park. They have preserved the sense of the old rail line by keeping much of the old track and designing the landscape around it. “It features an integrated landscape, designed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings. Fixed and movable seating, lighting, and
special features are also included in the park.”

High Line

I also ran across a few businesses that seem to be leading their peers by making their surrounding environment a priority. We stopped in the  Brooklyn Brewery for some tastings and a tour. They recently expanded their brewing operations and were operating a very impressive business in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. We tried a few different beers and even though I am turned off by odd flavors in beer I was very happy with the Pumpkin Ale. During our tasting I noticed that they advertised these cool compostable cups. This lead me to do some more research and I also found out that “the company’s brewery and headquarters in Brooklyn are 100% powered by Newwind Energy.”

Cool Cups at the Brewery

Brooklyn Brewery New Expansion

Finally, we went to a very cool burger joint called Shake Shack. I had a burger and shake and they were excellent but what really stood out was a wall explaining their history and dedication to “going green.” They purchase wind power credits to offset 100% of their electricity and they also practice on-site composting and they recycle used cooking oil. In the construction of the building they used a plethora of sustainable building materials: walls made of fiberboard, wheat board tabletops and trash cans, ceiling tiles made from renewable wood, LED low voltage light fixtures, and they “introduced a green wall(recyclable modular unit and pre-grown living system) that will remain in bloom year round.”
Overall, I was very impressed with the dedication to sustainability shown by the people of New York – keep up the good work!

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Filed under Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Gardening, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Outdoor Adventure, Parks, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Sustainable Businiess, Uncategorized, USGBC, Water conservation

Small Scale Homebuilding

My interest in modular eco-friendly homes grew when I ran across some modular home companies at West Coast Green last year in San Francisco. That interest was pushed to the back of my mind until I ran across this story of a 16 year old building a self-contained “tiny green home” in his parents backyard because he, like most teenagers, “wanted to move out.”

That is not his only reason however. In this short video showcasing his house, the young man sites all sorts of economical and environmental reasons behind starting his project. 

He was happy about owning a home but not worrying about paying a mortgage. The small size also limits the amount of electricity and other utilities, saving money in the process. He was able to greatly reduce the amount of waste produced during construction due to the small scale of construction(he only had two trash cans of waste from one year of construction). Almost all of the materials used in construction have been reclaimed from salvage yards or donated from friends, the framing lumber was the only material purchased new as it was needed for the structure of the house. He estimates the total project costing $12,000.

This led me to asking the question: who is doing this on a larger scale? I rummaged through the internet and discovered many cool companies involved in the modular home business, and nearly all of them are focused on making their homes as efficient and eco-friendly as possible while keeping the associated costs for the consumer down(sections of the home are built in factories and loaded on a truck then assembled in a few days at the site – this allows the builder to reduce the cost of construction). Keywords and phrases that keep popping up when I search modular homes include: smart design, passive solar, simplify, healthy, water conservation, cheaper, solar, wind, thermal, easier, and flexible just to name a few. All of these terms are related to conservation and efficiency; Everyday we are told to be conservative with our resources in order to be more sustainable so why not become more conservative, economical, and efficient while building our homes. Here are some of the companies I discovered that are doing just that:

  • Alchemy Architects have designed the Weehouse using an ultra modern modular home that can be constructed fast and easy. They just developed a “net-zero” WeeHouse in Moab, Utah that will produce as much energy as it uses.
  • The modular homes featured at tinygreencabins.comcan be built on a trailer bed so that if you would like to take your home with you, you could hitch up the trailer and be on your way. They also offer non-toxic options, organic certified material, locally harvested lumber, steel framing, and recycled products. The cabins can also be customized with solar panels and solar hot water heaters.

    Wildfire Tiny House

  • Green Pod Development builds compact custom modular homes built for energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and sustainability. The SoloPod “features innovative designs and artful furnishings.”
  • And finally, Bluhomes, they claim that their “highly efficient, innovative steel-framed homes cost on average 50-70 percent less to operate on a monthly basis than conventional homes.”

    My personal favorite - The Glidehouse Bluhome

-T

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Filed under Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Sustainable Businiess, Uncategorized, USGBC, Water conservation, Weatherization, Window Coverings

Save Water

Water conservation will not only protect our most valuable natural resource, but it will save some money too. Out of the whole solar system, we are the lucky ones that are dubbed the ‘blue planet’, thats pretty sweet. Living by the ocean can leave you disillusioned about the amount of water we have available. I see vast amounts of water everyday, but when you consider the freshwater we use for everything from drinking, cooking, washing our cars, ourselves, our dogs, the numbers are pretty crazy to actually think about. Good old Wikipedia will tell you just about everything you need to know, well for our general purposes. “Out of all the water on Earth, only 2.75 percent is fresh water, including 2.05 percent frozen in glaciers, 0.68 percent as groundwater and 0.011 percent of it as surface water in lakes and rivers.”

A great way to start this would be with some new fixtures. There are countless new products available that can cut down your usage without even really doing anything else. Aside from the installation, the appliance does all the work for you. Easy changes, thats what I’m talking about. Treehugger.com has a bunch of cool articles on water conservation and a lot of other subjects for that matter. “Spending about $30 on low-flow showerheads and faucets is estimated to save 45 gallons of that 260 gallons of water, almost 18% of your usage.” Those numbers seem pretty outrageous, but I guess thats what the average household uses daily? Nuts.

On the Clock

But since I wont be installing any new appliances, I am going to try some quick and easy approaches. First we turned off the sprinklers in our lawn. The grass is soaked in dew every morning and the ground itself  is soggy before the sprinklers even turn on. If the lawn goes brown, I’ll consider turning them back on. I’ve also been water my garden in the evenings, just to prevent some evaporation during the day. Inside the house I’m working on two of the easiest things I could immediately think of; full loads of laundry, and shorter showers. I am going to wash on cold-cold to save some energy, and only put in full loads. I am also going to watch the clock when I’m taking my showers. I want to keep them under 5 minutes. I enjoy my nice hot showers as much as the next person. So I guess this means my next project is to look for a good new way to wind down at the end of the day.

Let’s try and save some of this water stuff for later, we might get thirsty.

-Dan Conroy

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Conservation, Responsible Materials, Surfrider Foundation, Water conservation