Monday, December 8, 2008

Give Green to Save Green

Just in time to help the cash-strapped and eco-inclined this holiday season, offer an array of affordable, eco-friendly gifts, recommendations and helpful information.'s annual gift guide returns with "Give Green to Save Green," offering suggestions of more than 100 unique gift options designed to help the planet as well as bottom lines.

TreeHugger's "Give Green to Save Green" ( gift guide presents a broad range of affordable options for spreading holiday cheer which come with the added benefit of reducing impact to the environment. The average American's trash output is 25 percent higher between Thanksgiving and the New Year, and household expenses are on the rise this winter. TreeHugger's timely holiday guide shows that choosing sustainable gifts can help to lessen both waste and financial strain. The "Give Green to Save Green" gift guide contains gift solutions in easy to follow categories including: Green Geek, Foodie, Fashion Buff, Wee-Hugger, Outdoors Enthusiast, The Health Nut, and more.

With items ranging from DIY natural gum and candy kits (Glee, $13) and energy-efficient earthen cookware (La Bamba, $58) to body care products in 'plantable' packaging (Pangea Organics, $40) and great gifts for gadget junkies (home power monitor, $99), TreeHugger's gift selections are as thoughtful to their lucky recipients as they are to the earth.

View the Guide...

New ENERGY STAR Television Specifications

by Richard Harris

Flat screen televisions deliver dazzling pictures, but they also consume huge amounts of electricity. Some big TV sets can use more electricity than a refrigerator, even ones that meet the government's newly revised "Energy Star" efficiency standard.

If you're shopping for a new dishwasher, you can read that yellow "energy guide" label to figure out how much electricity it'll consume. No such luck if you're shopping for a new wide-screen TV. While certain TVs do have the Energy Star efficiency sticker, some experts say even that has been misleading.

"Energy Star was woefully behind on TVs. In order to earn the Energy Star label, it only dealt with how much power did the TV consume when it was off," says Noah Horowitz of the Natural Resource Defense Council.

New Energy Star Ratings

Now, for the first time, the Energy Star ratings measure the power that TVs use while they're actually on. But an Energy Star listing alone doesn't mean the TV uses less power. It only indicates that the TV is relatively efficient - within its class.

For example, when measured with a wattmeter, the high-end Pioneer Elite, a 50-inch plasma TV, idles at about 390 watts. That's like turning on 30 compact fluorescent light bulbs all at once. And if you assume that the set will be on for five hours a day, the set consumes a lot more electricity than a typical refrigerator. When the TV is in a slightly dimmer, energy-saving mode, it only uses 300 watts, which matches its Energy Star listing.

Still, your friendly neighborhood coal-burning power plant would emit a half-ton of carbon dioxide every year to keep this one TV on for five hours a day - and that's in energy-saving mode.

For comparison, the 32-inch LCD in its brightest setting pulled about 115 watts. That's the equivalent of about two incandescent light bulbs or nine or 10 compact fluorescent lights.

In part, this TV consumes less because it is smaller, but it also has an LCD screen - technology that is typically more efficient than a plasma screen, like the first set tested.

Article © NPR

Read complete article...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Eco-Friendly Holiday Cards

Have an eco-friendly holiday season and send your family, friends, business associates recycled greeting cards this year. Here are some of our favorites:

Grow-A-Note from a handmade paper made from post-consumer recycled paper with embedded with wildflower seeds you can plant once spring arrives.

Eco Imprints has a nice selection of recycled cards as well as other items you can personalize.

Good Cause Greeting Cards - Variety of holiday designs supporting many different charitable causes such as Amnesty International, Environmental Defense, Prevent Child Abuse America, National Alliance to End Homelessness, America's Second Harvest-Ending Hunger, and many more

Green Field Paper Company
- Has a selection of cards on hemp paper

Article © Lisa A. Swan. Picture ©

Green Power on the Rise

The Future of Renewable Energy Policy in the United States

By Bracken Hendricks and Benjamin Goldstein, Center for American Progress

On October 3, 2008, the 110th Congress finally passed the renewable energy tax package by attaching it to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the $700bn "bailout bill"). Despite the turmoil on Wall Street, U.S. clean energy and climate advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief when they finally saw these vital tax credits extended after an arduous journey that involved seven votes in the House of Representatives and 10 votes in the Senate.

Federal renewable energy policy in the United States has had a long and complex history. The struggle to pass the renewable energy tax package illustrated the diverse set of interests and actors that have battled over the government's role in supporting renewable energy ever since the creation of the Department of Energy in 1977. Unfortunately, with every political change in Washington came a new approach. Jimmy Carter installed the first solar panels on the White House roof in 1979, and Ronald Reagan took them down in 1986. In 1993, Bill Clinton initiated the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, a collaboration between government laboratories, universities, and automakers to increase fuel efficiency through practical technologies. Then, in 2001, George W. Bush scrapped the PNGV in favor of his FreedomCAR initiative, which initially focused on the far-off technology of hydrogen fuel-cells before shifting more recently to plug-in electric vehicles. Even within the same administration, renewable and "clean" energy research and development suffered the ebb and flow of the political tides and budget considerations. These irregularities in federal renewable energy policy over the past 30 years have prevented precisely the kind of long-term consistency every new technology needs in its formative years.

External factors have played a role as well. During the eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration, world oil prices hovered around or even below $20 per barrel (in 2006 dollars), and global supply was stable, giving little incentive to develop alternative fuels. Also, coal and natural gas for electricity generation have been cheap, domestic, secure, and politically popular, despite emerging concerns over the evidence of their contribution to global warming.

Times have changed. Enormous volatility in the world oil markets, which saw a barrel of crude reach over $140 per barrel this past summer, has spurred a national frenzy to diversify our liquid fuel supply and wean the transportation sector off of oil. Prices for coal and natural gas have skyrocketed. Furthermore, the role of anthropogenic emissions in causing global warming is no longer disputed, and politicians, influential thought leaders, and the American public are all now calling for deep emissions cuts to mitigate the most serious consequences.

Read Entire Article

Monday, October 13, 2008

LEED 2009

In order to remain relevant in a rapidly changing market, technology must evolve; LEED, as a market transformation instrument, is no different. The suite of LEED Green Building Rating Systems has enjoyed remarkable and unprecedented growth as the building industry has sought to engage with its concepts and technical criteria. LEED has been an incontrovertible success as a tool to promote market transformation and recognize buildings with exemplary green pedigrees. As of May 1, 2008, 3.5+ billion square feet of building projects (10,000+ individual projects) have registered intent to seek LEED certification with dozens more signing up every day. LEED's rapid success presents its stewards, the USGBC membership, with an opportunity to advance the system to ensure that future buildings certified under its criteria are even greener than the stock in the pipeline to date.

LEED has always existed and enjoyed unparalleled success, in part, due to its ability to operate in the dynamic tension between the pursuit of environmental excellence and the business realities of buildings industry. While the urgency of pending environmental crises that face the coming generations weighs heavily on all of us, there is recognition that LEED cannot completely forsake market uptake for environmental priorities. Issues like global climate change may be the most urgent and dire social equity issues that we have ever faced, and they demand immediate, effective action. In spite of this knowledge, we also acknowledge that no transformation is catalyzed if the bar set by LEED is unachievable in the context of existing technological and economic boundaries.

Continuing to strike the optimal balance between market uptake and technical advancement is one of the driving forces behind the LEED 2009 work. Additionally, much has been invested in the current LEED system and, as a direct result, a concerted effort has been made to ensure that LEED 2009 capitalizes on the existing market momentum.

Read complete summary (in PDF)...

Presidential Candidates on the Environment

The election is right around the corner. We thought we would take some time to outline each of the presidential candidates approach to the environment.

Barack Obama

When asked bout promoting green technologies and fuel efficiency standards, Obama said, "[For] this to happen, we've got to be courageous enough to not just talk about it in front of the Sierra Club or organizations already sympathetic to us. When I announced my proposal to increase fuel efficiency standards on cars, I went to Detroit in front of the automakers and said they had to change their ways..and I told them that when I am president, there will be no more excuses - we will help them retool their factories, but they will have to make cars that use less oil."

According to the Obama-Biden website, the Obama-Biden comprehensive New Energy for
America plan will:

  • Provide short-term relief to American families facing pain at the pump

  • Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.

  • Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.

  • Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America.

  • Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25
    percent by 2025.

  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Find out more on Barack Obama

John McCain

When asked about nuclear, wind, tide, solar, gas, coal, John McCain said, "We can work on nuclear power plants. Build a whole bunch of them, create millions of new jobs. We have to have all of the above, alternative fuels, wind, tide, solar, natural gas, clean coal technology. All of these things we can do as Americans and we can take on this mission and we can overcome it."

According to the McCain-Palin website, John McCain's Principles for Climate Policy are,

  • Climate Policy Should Be Built On Scientifically-Sound, Mandatory Emission
    Reduction Targets And Timetables.

  • Climate Policy Should Utilize A Market-Based Cap And Trade System.

  • Climate Policy Must Include Mechanisms To Minimize Costs And Work Effectively With Other Markets.

  • Climate Policy Must Spur The Development And Deployment Of Advanced Technology.

  • Climate Policy Must Facilitate International Efforts To Solve The Problem.

Find out more on John McCain

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Green School Supplies

It is that time again: Back to School. Students all over the US gear up for classes and with that come lots of new supplies. How can you make this year different? Are there good sources of green school supplies? We complied a few that offer a variety of earth-friendly office and school supplies.

One place you can start is GreenLine. They carry a large selection of paper items, notebooks, binders that are made from recycled products.

Red Apple School Supply has a line school and office supplies cleverly named Green Apple. These earth-friendly supplies are made of either recycled, reclaimed, or managed forest products. has a Back to School section with messenger bags made from recycled #1 PET water and soda bottles and organic cotton t-shirts.

TreeSmart pencils are made out of rolled up recycled newspaper - as you sharpen the pencil you will be able to see layers of newsprint at the tip.

And how about a stapler that doesn't use any staples. This handy staple-free stapler cuts out a sliver of paper and stitches the sheets together.

Article © Lisa A. Swan. Picture ©
For more tips on how to make this school year greener...

ThermaRock Energy-Saving Drywall

New ThermaRock XI (eXtreme Insulation) is the world's first wallboard that can reduce energy use and cost. ThermaRock provides an insulation R-value of up to R 4.1, compared to 0.5 for gypsum drywall. This substantially reduces heat transfer through un-insulated or insulated exterior walls, and reduces heating and cooling costs up to 30% as a result. Their models show potential savings of $1,700 per panel over the life of the product.

The use of high-performance drywall to add insulation uses much less floor space than other approaches, and makes it particularly valuable for retrofits. It can also be the only practical way to add insulation to masonry or cement walls. ThermaRock XI allows a much faster, simpler construction process than the alternative of building out an inner wall - which is especially helpful in owner-occupied situations for minimizing disruption, dust and hotel living expenses.

ThermaRock XI delivers its extreme performance by incorporating a 'blanket' of space-age aerogel, a low-density, high performance insulating material, into the panel itself. The product is used like standard drywall.

ThermaRock is available in a gypsum version, for use on wood or steel studs or over existing drywall, and a magnesium oxide version, for use on masonry or CMUs.

Article © Serious Materials

See PDF Data Sheet...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Olympics: Green or Brown?

Beijing's pollution isn't a secret. But as part of its bid to secure the Olympic contract, the world's 13th filthiest city (according to a World Bank study) embarked on a massive cleanup. But can China really claim the summer games are green?


Green: Beijing authorities have claimed five straight years of air-quality improvement since 2002. Last year, Beijing's average daily Air Pollution Index was 100.69. Hoping to keep the reading below that Index for the duration of the games, Beijing has spent billions to close factories, stop construction and pull millions of cars off the roads each day in the last couple of weeks.

Brown: A National Resources Defense Council analyst recently questioned Beijing's five-year record, noting that two of seven air-quality monitoring devices were moved to less polluted locales in the city, and less stringent standards were set for the most hazardous particulate matters. What's more, an air pollution score under 100--a "blue sky" day in Beijing parlance--isn't the World Health Organization's definition of healthy air, nor likely the average tourist's. The Friday before last, for instance, was a relatively good day in Beijing, with a pollution score of 69. But compare that against a random selection of other cities--New York (16), London (22), Tokyo (20) and even America's smog capital, Los Angeles (30), and it's no wonder why a white mask is a regular accessory in Beijing.


Green: In preparation for the
Olympics, Chinese authorities announced that
Beijing was the first city in the country
with potable water, after passing 106
cleanliness tests devised by the Chinese

Brown: Secondary pollution from the city's old pipes means the water often has a strong metallic taste, residents complain. While officials have assured visitors that drinking water in the Olympic Village will be safe, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges Americans not to drink any water in China--unless it's been bottled, canned or boiled. And watch those water coolers--last year, half of them were found filled with tap water or from unregulated mom-and-pop suppliers--and then labeled with bogus safety seals.
Article © Rachel King,

International Straw Bale Building Registry, The Last Straw Journal, The Straw Bale Association of Texas, and the Development Center for Appropriate Technology, along with a number of regional strawbale organizations, have put together an international straw bale registry to document the building throughout the world that have built from straw. The registry was started in 2001 and has almost 1,400 listings to date
The database is organized first by country and then by province or state. Homes and buildings open for visitors are listed for the public to view. Not all information is public. Visitors to the site can either register a building or search the public listings.