Tag Archives: Department of Energy

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

A Lesson on Power Outages and Growing Up

Power outage in San Diego County, September 8th, 2011 by Sean M. Haffey

It began at the office when us employees thought we were losing our minds, having a seizure, or both. The lights flickered, then poof, we were in the dark. Considering that it was already 3:30 PM, we thought this was a perfect opportunity to wrap things up for the day and head home early.  Lucky for us, nearly 5 million other people thought the same thing, which made the drive home thrilling as we inched along in traffic (It took around 2 hours to drive 16 miles).

Recap of the outage

While everyone was sitting in traffic pondering their day or the beautiful weather, we realized that we may be in for an extended blackout. The San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) news conference didn’t  provide any positive news as they still had no idea what had happened; all they could tell us initially is that it was triggered in Arizona, a terrorist attack was very unlikely, and it could be 24-48 hours before the power was restored. Most people weren’t too concerned, as work and school would most likely be canceled on Friday, making for two 3-day weekends in a row and an opportunity to stay up and have some fun in the dark!
Once we arrived safe and sound at home, our feelings went from the relief from being off the road and not having to work the next day, to anxiety and a feeling of being unprepared for what could be a long few days. I had no cash and ATMs would be down, the gas light was on in my car, and my cell phone battery was on its last leg (not to mention, I couldn’t watch the NFL season opener). We were down to our last few drinks from our large jugs of purified water and already hearing about boil alerts in parts of the county. We only had two candles, but luckily, we bought a handy LED camping lantern a few days prior. Coming from someone who sells the Emergency Power Kit and wrote a blog about being prepared weeks ago, I was drastically under-prepared and kicking myself for not keeping one of those kits in my car or utility closet.
This outage proves to me how reliant we are on electricity and how lucky we are to have steady sources of power here in the States. Now, I could go without TV, cell phones, internet, and video games for as long as needed (and I’m sure most people could as well) but I take for granted other things that electricity provides. Fresh water, sewage treatment, smooth traffic, street lights, lighting at home, emergency services, and food storage are all things I can say I would miss greatly.
With that said, I am going to make a conscious effort to be more prepared and responsible when it comes to emergencies; I think it’s about time I invest in a good flashlight, candles, some sort of water purification device, maybe a small reserve of cash, first aid kit, and the Emergency Power Kit sitting in my office.
I know this looks bad; my mother probably thinks I can’t take care of myself and would be better off back in my parent’s basement.
This relatively small inconvenience has proven that I have grown too comfortable; and it takes a potentially catastrophic event, like this blackout, to bring me back to Earth and realize that something like this can happen at any moment.
Luckily, our good friends and neighbors provided us with the essentials – candles, chips and salsa, beer, and wine got us through the night!
For the real essentials to get you out of the dark click here. 
-T
(A big thank you is in order for all of the power company workers, the police force, EMT staff, firefighters, and others for helping us through the outage and getting things back in order in no time!)

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Filed under Conservation, Department of Energy, Emergency, Energy Efficiency, Green Technology, Innovation, Natural disaster, Outdoor Adventure, Preparedness, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Uncategorized

Federal Weatherization Program Halfway Home

We were very excited when the Department of Energy (DOE) set the goal of weatherizing approximately 600,000 homes using upgrades like insulation, air-sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling systems.   Not only would  this program put people to work at home and save individual homeowners money every month, it would also set the national focus squarely on energy efficiency and those small steps we all can take.

Last week the DOE announced that the weatherization program has hit an important milestone, reaching the nationwide halfway point.  Through the month of November more than 300,000 homes have been weatherized, greatly reducing the impact of expensive home energy bills on low-income families and creating 15,000 jobs nationwide.

DOE’s Secretary Steven Chu says that the weatherization program will help grow our economy, keep the focus on energy efficiency, and help people save money.  DOE estimates that within a year of installation, the 300,000 homes will save a total of $161 million dollars in energy costs – an average of $400 per family!

Perhaps the best part about the national push toward weatherizing homes as a way to save both energy and money is that anyone can take steps to make their home more energy efficient and receive tax incentives for doing so.  The federal government, and many state and local governments, are offering financial assistance for every kind of upgrade from air conditioners to plantation shutters.  And while these tax incentives will not last forever, the long term energy conservation offered by something as simple as a set of plantation shutters is phenomenal.

We know that windows are a major source of heat transfer, releasing your cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter.  Many homes can lose 25% to 50% of their home’s generated heat through uncovered windows.   A set of wooden plantation shutters can greatly reduce the loss of warm or cool air because the material does not transfer heat like a pane of glass or metal blind.  A wooden shutter is also preferred by many home owners because, let’s face it, it looks a lot better than generic metal or plastic blinds.

At the risk of sounding like a shameless commercial… if you take the insulating properties of a shutter and add some PV cells, you put your personal energy efficiency goals on steroids!

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Filed under Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Solar, Weatherization, Window Coverings