The case for green retrofits in 2009 – A call to action

For almost 30 years homeowners have been remodeling their homes to improve the aesthetics, increase space, make the home more kid-friendly or to just raise their quality of life. The 1970s were a wake up call that the US was becoming too dependent on foreign oil. As long as the oil embargo lasted Americans were interested in reducing their energy use and retrofitting their homes. The US Department of Energy created a solar program and researched how to reduce building energy use. I was privileged to be part of that process. We knew then how to reduce energy in homes to the extent that if we had kept building more energy efficient and solar homes we would have saved the equivalent of the amount of oil we import from the middle east by today.

Alas, as oil prices came down and life returned to “normal” the interest in energy efficient homes went away. In 1985 the tax credits for solar expired and the solar industry withered on the vine. The Europeans and the Japanese took up the cause and continued to reduce energy use in all sectors and are the global leaders today. We are just waking up again.

Posted: 2009-06-25 16:42:33

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New LEED Registered Projects Will Use LEED v3

The LEED green building certification program’s greatest strength lies in its consensus-based, transparent, ongoing development cycle. The next version of LEED is here! On April 27, 2009, USGBC launched LEED v3. The ability to be flexible allows LEED to evolve, taking advantage of new technologies and advancements in building science while prioritizing energy efficiency and CO2 emissions reductions.

Education, resources and tools: USGBC remains your source
» Education: The LEED core curriculum is responding to the new version of LEED and helping professionals prepare for the LEED professional credentials.
» LEED v3 webcasts: USGBC members are invited to join us live for a series of free weekly webcasts on LEED v3. Members will also have the opportunity to ask questions during these live online sessions.
» Reference guides: LEED 2009 reference guides are now available.
» Learn how LEED v3 and GBCI’s new credentials will affect you.

Posted: 2009-06-25 16:41:59

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6 Upsides of the Down Economy

Note: Check out Jeff Yeager talking about saving money on ABC News Now

calculator and check

My father-in-law had a saying: “If you don’t have a good time, you usually learn a good lesson.” I’m reminded of that a lot these days during the current economic recession.

I’m not saying that the economic downturn is a good thing, particularly for people who have lost jobs or their homes. But fortunately that’s not most Americans. For the rest of us, some involuntary belt tightening might have some silver linings. In other words, I think the current market corrections we’re going through might just trigger some long overdue — and ultimately very positive — lifestyle corrections for many Americans.

Consider:

* We’re borrowing less and putting more into savings. We’ve truly learned a lesson — albeit the hard way — about living beyond our means. In 2008, savings rates rose to 1.7%, coming off the lowest savings rates since the Great Depression. And figures recently released for April 2009 are even more impressive, showing the personal savings rate for the month at a 14-year-high of 5.7%.

* We’re wasting less. AKA Using it up, making it last, doing without. This is clear from the increase in thrift store and re-sale store sales. Goodwill Store revenues in February were up 7.2% over last year, and for the first time in generations, many thrift stores are selling their wares faster than additional merchandise is being donated.

* We’re building smaller homes. It’s bad for your bank account and bad for the environment to construct, heat, cool, electrify, decorate, maintain and pay taxes and insurance on unnecessary square footage. For the first time in more than 10 years, the average size of new homes being built dropped by nearly 300 square feet, or 11%. Studies show that we, as humans, are inherently uncomfortable living in too large of spaces, and the recent economy has shown that we’re definitely uncomfortable trying to pay for them. In with “Not So Big” and “Little Boxes“!

* We’re driving less and staying around home more. When gas was at $4 a gallon, two-thirds of Americans said they changed their habits and drove less…and nothing awful happened because of it. It save resources, generates less pollution, and, because we’re spending more time closer to home, it stands to bring our families and communities closer together. That’s why I still continue to pay $4 a gallon at the pump, or, rather, pay myself the difference in my “$4 a Gallon Savings Club.”

* We’re eating lower on the food chain, which is usually healthier. Sales of poultry are up, red meat are down. We’re buying more staples, and fewer processed foods. We’re eating more fruits and vegetables, and raising a lot more of those ourselves: Home vegetable gardens are projected to be up 40% this year compared to 2007. If these trends continue, the next dire headline out of the recession might just be “American Obesity Epidemic Declines!”

* Hard times might help to revitalize local businesses/economies. In the long run, it stands to reason that the current recession might actually help to revitalize long struggling local businesses and economies. Consider these factors: * Transporting products from far away becomes less cost effective, making the produce at local farmers’ markets, for example, more cost competitive. * Big national chains are going under in record numbers, opening the door to local/independent businesses. * Local businesses are more responsive to changing demands and have fewer, if any, demands by shareholders for higher returns on investment. * And many local communities, like those in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts, are taking matters into their own hands and finding creative ways to help local business not just survive, but thrive.

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The Lazy Environmentalist’s Green Tips for Slackers

Josh Dorfman‘s great green epiphany struck while he was in China selling Kryptonite bike locks to the masses.

It was 1996 and Dorfman realized that his sales beat was on the cusp of a consumer explosion. The country was developing at breakneck speed and very soon, millions of bicyclists could very well be driving cars instead. Dorfman could hear mama nature weeping.

Inspired by his reckoning, Dorfman returned to the United States, earned an MBA in international business at Arizona’s prestigious Thunderbird and set a goal: To find a balance between preserving nature and our insatiable desire to shop, shop, shop. No small task.

“I realized the one thing we do every day is consume,” Dorfman says. “And rather than guilt trip or moralize, why not find a way to make the alternatives attractive enough so people will be drawn to it?”

So Dorfman began with shelter, selling eco-friendly furniture and home furnishings through his newly created company Vivavi. Eventually he became a highly successful eco entrepreneur and spokesperson for environmental change, appearing on Martha Stewart’s show, writing columns and giving talks.

Someone close to Dorfman, however, felt he was more talk than walk. “Are you really an environmentalist?” she challenged. “You talk like one but you don’t behave like one.” She felt Dorman’s personal habits, like taking long showers, did not line up with those of a true environmentalist. “She really ripped into me about this,” he remembers.

“So two days later I wrote a blog called ‘The Lazy Environmentalist.’ I realized, like so many people, there are some areas in my life I’m not giving up. I still take long showers because I do my best thinking in the shower. And I don’t want to drive a Prius; I’d rather have an Audi convertible, if I can afford one. It came down to this: What can I do to help people have the quality of life they want without ruining the planet? Guilt tripping does not move us to action.

“So I set out to find ways to take environmental action that also appeals to our self interest. We want to save money and we want to find the alternatives that are convenient.”

Thus “The Lazy Environmentalist” boom began. The blog led to a Sirius radio show, more speaking engagements, a commentator gig on Sundance Channel’s “Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” and two books: The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide To Easy, Stylish, Green Living and The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget: Save Money. Save Time. Save The Planet.

Premiering June 16, Dorfman hosts The Lazy Environmentalist series on the Sundance Channel. If you want to follow Dorfman on twitter, he’s Lazy-E, or check out lazyenvironmentalist.com, a hub for greensters, offering up advice and product reviews.

thedailygreen: What are the best ways to be green and save money?

Josh Dorfman: The Internet is a great way to start. Sites like chegg.com rent college books to students, saving 65-85% of what textbooks cost, while reducing environmental impact. They even include a prepaid shipping box to send books back when done. We’re starting to see this model extend to a lot of businesses: trading and swapping sites like swapstyle.com, where you can update your wardrobe without buying anything new; paperbackswap.com, and CD/DVD trading sites. Or Zipcar, a car sharing service that makes it possible to never own a car.

TDG: Any favorite sites?

JD: Goozex.com for gamers where you can trade games for a dollar. It’s all about consuming less, reducing your impact, but still having the things you want.

TDG: Wow, that’s helpful … what else?

JD: Digitization is big. Like zinio.com, which offers magazines in digital format, but they do it right, they have cool features and archives. The subscriptions are usually more affordable without the paper or shipping costs involved.

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