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Category Archives: Go Green

  • Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink….
    Californians hope to avoid a desolate future with the development of desalination systems across the state. Photo by Bruce Rolff.

    Californians hope to avoid a desolate future with the development of desalination systems across the state. Photo by Bruce Rolff.

    SANTA BARBARA, CA — And so goes the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, the iconic tome by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Of course, it refers to a seaman who is adrift with no supplies. How fitting, then, that we apply this life lesson to the current situation in Santa Barbara, if not the entire Southwestern U.S.

    The media has finally awakened to what many of us have been banging the drum about for months – to borrow from the 1972 Albert Hammond pop tune, “It Never Rains In Southern California.” In essence, this has caused a drought we have not seen in decades, as detailed in my previous articles, Red, White, and Waterless and Squeezing Water From a Rock. So let’s look at Santa Barbara as a microcosm of what could happen in many cities throughout the country if we don’t do something about it, and quickly.

    From a variety of research and interviews I conducted with experts on weather patterns and climate trends, one central theme emerges: we as a society need to prepare now for the possibility that this drought will continue indefinitely. While not probable, at least we hope not, it is most definitely a possibility. Life must go on, and to sustain it we need clean water for everyone. Regardless of whether it rains.

    “I have been here since 1964, and the climate today is very different than it was in those days,” explained Tom Mosby, General Manager of the Montecito Water District. “The succession used to be two weeks of fog, then four or five days of warm, sunny conditions. Now, it seems that the inverse is true. No rain is a huge problem for us.” Montecito is the tiny, toney town that lies adjacent to Santa Barbara, populated mostly by wealthy retirees and those escaping L.A. in search of solitude and open space. Oprah’s famous $50 million estate lies within the Montecito city limits. “Our water conservation plan now includes water rationing which has been very successful. We believe the majority of our customers are checking their water meters daily to track allocation,” Mosby said.

    Montecito has very limited groundwater, equivalent to less than 7% of its annual water supply which has compounded its water shortage problem. The District’s reliance on surface water reservoirs, coupled with below average rainfall led to the declaration of a water shortage emergency on February 11. If it doesn’t rain during fall/winter 2014-15, a stage 4 (they are currently in stage 3) state of emergency could be declared which would mean little to no water for outdoor landscaping.

    The Santa Barbara area has been a leader in water conservation, as its residents have been very responsible about decreasing water consumption in recent years. So much so, in fact, that in an ironic twist, the local water districts may have to raise their rates again – this time by 100 percent – because revenues are down dramatically. A vicious cycle? Perhaps yes, and one that could be repeated in any geographic area that is short on water but successful in persuading homeowners to cut usage. Thus, we face yet another quandary in going green which only frustrates the consumer trying to do the right thing.

    The City of Santa Barbara did have the foresight to plan, design and break ground on a desalination plant back in 1991. Fortunately or unfortunately, plans to complete the plant were scrapped as the 1986-91 drought came to a dramatic end. Just recently, the City Council initiated reactivation proceedings to get the plant construction going once again. This will cost just under $30 million, and will provide enough clean water for about half of the Santa Barbara Water District’s customers.

    The Carlsbad Desalination Project, seen here, is set to deliver clean drinking water to 300,000 San Diego county residents by 2016.

    The Carlsbad Desalination Project, seen here, is set to deliver clean drinking water to 300,000 San Diego county residents by 2016.

    While the City of Santa Barbara wants to cooperate with Montecito to allow its residents to purchase water produced by the plant, a complicated situation related to approval and permitting process due to the infamous Coastal Commission may well prevent this. “We have to get desal now,” declared Darlene Bierig, President of the Montecito Water Board. Recycling wastewater is also an option but realistically, this is more suited for agricultural, landscape, golf course and cemetery water than for drinking. The conventional wisdom seems to be moving toward desal and rapidly. This, in my opinion, is one of the better arrows in our quiver if we no longer enjoy the benefits of consistent, bountiful rainfall.

    With the challenges Santa Barbara’s original desalination plant faces, setting up a small-scale desalination plant is an alternative possibility in Montecito. I consulted an Israeli expert in water management, Clive Lipchin, to see if it is possible to enable Montecito to provide water for its citizens in a stand alone, self-sufficient manner. As with all new desal development, Lipchin notes, “There are infrastructure questions such as the state of the water grid and the possibility of easily inserting the desalination plant into the grid. Other issues include the best site for such a plant and its proximity to the coast, the location of the brine outfall, the current cost of water and electricity, and environmental regulations.” Considering the factors, Lipchin suggests a small-scale desalination plant could be built faster and cheaper than waiting for City of Santa Barbara. “There are options to build a desal plant in a modular configuration with construction costs ranging from $5-10 million. Israel has done this successfully for small communities in Cyprus and Malta.”

    The Carlsbad, CA desalination plant will closely resemble Ashkelon, Israel's 3rd generation desalination plant, seen here.

    The Carlsbad, CA desalination plant will closely resemble Ashkelon, Israel’s 3rd generation desalination plant, seen here.

    “Water banking” is another idea that Santa Barbara has cooked up to deal with the current shortages, according to Santa Barbara Acting Water Resources Manager, Joshua Haggmark. “Water banking is the practice of foregoing water deliveries during certain periods, and banking either the right to use the unused water in the future, or saving it for someone else to use in exchange for a fee or delivery in-kind,” explains Jasper Womach, Agricultural Policy Specialist for the Congressional Research Service. “It is best used where there is significant storage capacity to facilitate such transfers of water.”

    In my view, that could be helpful but will not solve the water shortage. A massive, ongoing source of clean water to replace Mother Nature’s downpours is desperately needed. Just last month, the L.A. Times and USC’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences conducted a poll of 1,500 registered voters. Results showed that 89 percent of respondents agree that the drought is a major problem or even a crisis. An encouraging 75 percent believe the state should invest in desalination of ocean water for household use. This support was consistent across demographic groups, with 48 percent strongly in favor and 26 percent somewhat in favor.

    Let’s head about 200 miles south, to the beach town of Carlsbad which is located in North County San Diego. As we speak, SoCal’s only large desal plant is being constructed. The plant will create enough fresh water to serve 300,000 area residents. “We are developers and owners of the project,” said Peter MacLaggan, Senior VP of Poseidon Water, the contractor who is building the plant which is projected to come online in 2016. “The project has been in development for 12 years, as the approval process began in 2003 and ended in 2009. Six long years. After the permits, we worked with the San Diego County Water Authority to get the contracts in place, and then we raised $734 million through a bond issue, along with $167 million in private equity,” explained MacLaggan. This is probably typical of what a large desal plant would require – about a billion dollars, and about 10 years if not longer.

    The Carlsbad desalination plant will be able to produce 1 gallon of freshwater for every 2 gallons of seawater it intakes.

    The Carlsbad desalination plant will be able to produce 1 gallon of freshwater for every 2 gallons of seawater it intakes.

    Key environmental issues associated with desal plants are first and foremost, the intake portion of the process and its effect upon larval fish eggs, and secondly, expulsion of the brine or salt back into the ocean. While larger fish will be able to swim away from the intake ducts, microscopic fish and plankton that are vital to the underwater food chain can be damaged by the desal process. In addition, a tremendous amount of power is required to run the plant, thus use of fossil fuels vs. renewable energy is a critical discussion. Oceana’s California Campaign Director, Dr. Geoff Shester, stresses, “Turning seawater into drinking water requires massive amounts of energy and poses risks to an already stressed ocean ecosystem, as the salty brine byproducts fundamentally disrupt the ocean’s delicate chemical balance. Relying on desalination as an alternative water source fails to solve the underlying problem that California’s inefficient use of water is outstripping our water supply, while creating a wide suite of new risks to our ocean which we don’t yet fully comprehend.”

    Desal plants cannot be built offshore because the efficiency of production becomes significantly lower. Another issue is this: land, extremely valuable coastal land at that, will be needed to build more desal plants. Thus years of lawsuits and ultimately, use of eminent domain by the state may be required to secure key sites for a network of desal plants that can produce enough water to support highly populated Southern California. “The next desalination project will be easier because decisions and precedents are already set,” added MacLaggan. Hopefully he is right about this.

    As you can probably tell, I am a huge proponent of desalination as part of the answer to our water problems. As I sit here in my hotel room in Tel Aviv, I quaff a tasty glass of desal water. Not to mention, I washed my hair this morning and noticed the sheen and texture is actually better than washing my hair with Nevada or SoCal water. While admittedly there are environmental issues to deal with, this reminds me of the debate about wind power generated by turbines located in the desert. Some of our leading environmental watchdog NGOs are constantly banging the drum about the need for renewable energy, but then they question wind farms because they are visually unattractive and might affect the mating patterns of the snail darter. Similarly, ocean preservation advocates need to get real about the need for desal plants as a partial fix for inadequate rainfall. Fortunately, we’re quickly witnessing an advancement of technology to minimize environmental impacts, as showcased in Damian Palin’s TED Talk, Mining Minerals From Seawater. Palin proposes an innovative solution using bacteria to extract heavy metals from the toxic brine, thus minimizing pollutants that reenter the seawater and creating what Palin describes as “a new mining industry that is in harmony with nature.”

    Given the lead time required to plan, approve, design and build these plants, we are already way behind and crisis may occur before enough of them come on stream – not only in Southern California but anywhere with a coastline that is short of fresh water. Let’s take a cue from Israel, which has developed a network of desal plants that produce enough water to keep the admittedly tiny desert nation supplied indefinitely with zero rainfall. It is time right now to move past the conversation, debates and wishful thinking. Oceans make up 71 percent of the earth’s surface, so we know there IS enough salt water to meet our desal needs. We need to be building desal plants yesterday, throughout the world, to ensure fresh drinking water for all. Please help the cause by explaining this to your family, friends, legislators, and the media.

    As always, thanks for reading and considering My Inner Green viewpoint.

    by Jennifer Schwab - June 23, 2014
  • Squeezing Water From A Rock

    If orange is the new black, then water is the new oil. That said, the stakes are much higher than even a prison sentence. Some may recall my piece in honor of the 4th of July, 2013 entitled “Red, White and Waterless.” In it, I expressed deep concerns about the extended drought in the Western U.S. Some readers critiqued me for stating the obvious. I think those naysayers were part of the small but mighty choir that most of us environmental do-gooders preach to. The challenge at hand is to convince the greater population that water should be as highly prized as gasoline, if not more so. After all, you won’t find fossil fuels on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

    The reason I call this column “Squeezing Water From a Rock” is that I recently returned from a place that comes just short of this ultimate alchemy — Israel, a small strip of desert, with no water or oil. Not an ideal place to build an agricultural oasis. But that is exactly what the Israeli water conservationists have accomplished.

    I lived in Israel this past winter, working on my Fulbright Grant at Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. My assignment was to teach sessions on “The Economics of Water as a Basic Human Right” and “The Feasibility of Small Sustainable Solutions for Marginalized People.” The latter focused on the plentiful, small waste water solutions found throughout the Negev desert and the West Bank. The Israeli Foreign Ministry funds a program called MASHAV which hosts environmental professionals from all over the developing world — including Myanmar, Thailand, Cameroon, Ghana, Guyana, Bolivia, Nepal, Serbia, Bosnia and China, among others — to learn about best practices in water management. Representatives from these varied nations descend upon Kibbutz Qetura to learn the “secret sauce” that turned Israel from water scarce to a desert oasis.

    Before I delve into a “Water 101″ discourse, just a word about the Kibbutz. This was my first experience in Israel and I think the Kibbutz represents their success as a people — based on a utopian model of living, Kibbutz’s are agricultural communes (many have industry too, as in Qetura) in which everyone pitches in their fair share to keep the community tidy and pool everyone’s income for the greater good. I also had opportunity to learn from leading experts in the world about water conservation and options to deal with scarcity. Israeli scientists and engineers use a very sophisticated blend of desalinization plants, wastewater recycling, drip water irrigation (the Israelis invented this technology which is now used worldwide), leak detection technologies and other pioneering techniques to bring a Garden of Eden to this dry, hot, arid piece of desert. As former Israeli Ambassador to France and Board Member of Arava Institute, Daniel Shek, so eloquently stated, “Israel can live without rain. It is better if it does rain but it doesn’t have to.”

    The Israelis desalinate over 500 million cubic meters (one cubic meter equals 264 gallons) of fresh water per year, or 60,000 cubic meter per hour. Over 30 percent of Israel’s drinking water comes from desalinization plants that transform salty Mediterranean Sea water to fresh, drinkable final product that rivals New York City’s prized tap water in taste, purity and smoothness. The desalination process from intake to completion requires only 20 minutes. I visited Ashkelon, Israel’s $300 million plus desalination plant which produces clean drinking water for 50 cents U.S. per cubic meter — the lowest cost in the world for desalinated water. Israel has centralized its wastewater and desalination distribution systems, which are managed by public-private partnerships overseen by the government. I was fortunate to catch up with Abraham Tenne, Head of Desalination for the Israeli Water Ministry and he stated,

    As long as you have an ocean and you treat the saltwater, you can use it. Desalination is the answer everywhere. Population is growing, over seven billion people on this planet now and nine billion expected by 2050. Existing water resources are tapped. Desalination combined with waste water treatment and conservation are no longer optional.

    Of course, desalinization is not necessarily a be-all-end-all solution. It requires massive amounts of electricity and/or fossil fuels to run the plants. Another conundrum of using desalination for irrigation is that farmers don’t like water that has been cleansed of all its minerals including the salt. Also, boron is present in desalination, which can inhibit plant growth.

    Exporting this knowhow and expertise could potentially spread goodwill throughout the world for Israel. Larry Gross, a Venture Capitalist in Southern California who is also an expert on native Israeli technology, commented on this concept. “Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the (U.S.) West Coast this past March. This was the first time in eight years the Israeli Prime Minister has visited California, and when he met with Governor Jerry Brown, the subject matter at hand was adjusting to long-standing drought conditions.” This is but one example of how Israel might help itself in the court of public opinion through its knowledge of water conservation.

    Israel’s fresh water challenges — actually the entire Mideast except Lebanon is considered water scarce — are many. Supply erodes while demand grows. Climate change has impacted water supply: since 1997, water availability has dropped from 1.17B cubic meters to 870M cubic meters, according to Arava Institute’s water management specialist, Clive Lipchin.

    Admittedly, Israel is thimble-sized at only 263 miles long and 71 miles at its widest point. Thus managing a nationalized grid system, and building the infrastructure needed to process and transport the water there is far simpler than it would be in the U.S. And it should be noted, there are virtually no private water rights in Israel. That said, we can still learn from the example set by Israel. Water is treated as a truly precious resource, and the clear and strong national policy makes it possible to provide water at low, low prices even in the midst of a desert.

    Abraham Tenne astutely observed,

    This year was the driest winter ever in Israel — same with California; however, Israel had foresight and prepared for these conditions by optimizing desalination, wastewater, and conservation practices. California was busy for 15 years contemplating whether desalination was a viable option, they lost valuable time. They are finally addressing desalination at a meaningful level in Carlsbad, California. Although, they will need 10X this amount of desalinized water to meet demand. California was late to the party.

    I also observed firsthand an almost rabid devotion to wastewater recycling and reuse. Nearly 90 percent of Israel’s domestic sewage is treated, mostly at monolithic facilities in the Dan region just south of Tel Aviv. Wastewater is processed, treated, and reused for irrigation. I think we Californians and Nevadans can learn something from this. Israel is gradually replacing fresh water with treated wastewater for agricultural purposes (today around 50 percent of water for irrigation is fresh water, whereas in most parts of the world, including in the U.S. it is 70 percent and above). It would be wise for us to pursue this practice here in the U.S. not to mention other countries facing similar realities. It is hard to comprehend that more countries do not embrace this practice. Spain is a distant second with recycling 18 percent of their wastewater; the U.S. is at one percent.

    Water efficiency is also high in Israel, only 10 percent lost through pipes; neighbors like Syria and Lebanon lose around 50 percent through pipes; the U.S. loses 15 percent through old infrastructure. London also loses around 50 percent due to outdated infrastructure although Israeli companies like TaKaDu, a company that specializes in identifying existing and future leaks in infrastructure, are helping to resolve this age old problem.

    So we and others could use some help from Israel. But would we and other water scarce countries be willing to accept their patronage? Does the nature of water, our very life source, transcend the polarizing politics of the Middle East? Is it possible that this life and death issue can supersede politics and prejudice? While this remains to be seen, all I know is that without viable solutions to this problem, the next century could be ripe for military conflict around water rights. This is why i say that water is the new oil, the only difference being it takes a lot of water to process a barrel of oil. Perhaps we are in store for a new type of peace process, one that considers transfer of knowledge regarding water practices? Shek concurred, “this is already occurring but mostly behind closed doors, countries asking for help may not publicize their relationship with Israel, however, we are hopeful that through sharing best practices, water can become a tool for peace, after all, our lives depend on it.”

    As always, we welcome your comments!

    by Jennifer Schwab - June 20, 2014
  • The Best Ways to Prevent Bathroom Water Damage

    Keeping your bathroom beautiful means more than just grabbing the disinfectant and a sponge. It also requires routine maintenance to prevent water damage from occurring.

    Not only is water damage expensive to repair, it’s downright ugly. Mold, mildew, and rot that lurks in corners, surrounds faucet bases, and covers walls and tiles looks dirty. Can you really feel clean taking a bath or shower surrounded by the symptoms of water damage?

    Toilets

    To prevent water damage from a faulty or overflowing toilet, it’s important to routinely check your toilet’s functionality every six months. The things you should check look for are…

    The flushing mechanism: The fill valve should shut off when the float reaches the appropriate water level. If, however, the tank runs when not in use, you need to replace the flapper, fill valve, or both.

    The supply line: Make sure the valve is working properly by operating it to make sure the water supply shuts off. If not, replace it. If your toilet ever overflows, you’ll want to be able to shut off the water immediately.

    Showers

    If your bathroom hasn’t been updated in the last twenty years, you’re 37% more likely to suffer water damage in your shower.

    The most common offender? A faulty shower pan.

    A shower pan is placed under your shower’s tiles to prevent leaking. To make sure it’s doing its job, test the shower pan each year.

    Start by blocking the shower’s drain. Next, fill the shower with about an inch of water. Mark the water’s line using a pencil and let it sit for 8 hours. If the water stays at the marked line, your shower pan is working fine. However, if the water level decreases, you’ll need to call a plumber. Otherwise, you’ll eventually suffer water damage under your shower floor and it probably won’t be covered by insurance.

    Keep in mind that homeowners insurance doesn’t cover water damage that has occurred over time. This is because it is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain their homes in order to prevent water damage in the first place.

    It’s also important to inspect the grout and tile around your shower and immediately repair it if you find cracks in your tile or grout coming loose.

    Sinks

    While a leaky faucet is a waste of money and annoying, it can easily be fixed by replacing the washer and doesn’t necessarily cause water damage. Faulty plumbing under the sink, however, is a common culprit of water damage.

    Be sure to inspect the plumbing under your sink every 6 months. Look for secured and unsecured connections as well as corrosion and kinks on the plumbing’s surface. Also, inspect the shut off valve by running the sink’s faucet and then shutting off the valve to make sure the water stops. Replace if needed.

    By following this simple guide and inspecting these three main areas of your bathroom from one to two times per year, chances are you’ll not only prevent water damage, but you’ll also keep your bathroom looking beautiful.

    by SCGH - May 07, 2014
  • An Unexpected Hero for California Salmon

    By Neila Columbo
    4/28/2014

    In recent decades, the monumental cause of conservation and global economic growth have seemed, at times, incompatible. Important, philosophical debates have characterized these discussions, and now beckon the attention of every facet of society—private industry, government institutions, environmental NGOs, and the public. Emerging from these discussions is the overarching discipline known as Corporate Social Responsibility, and it, too, still seems to be exploring its proper place in the whole of the complex conservation-sustainability-economic development model.

    The California Redwood Company (CRC), a subsidiary of the Green Diamond Resource Company, serves as one case example for its approach and effort to strike a balance between environmental stewardship and corporate practice.  Green Diamond Resource Company (GDRCo) owns and manages primarily redwood lands in California that supply CRC with logs to produce lumber.  As a purveyor of redwood lumber products, CRC shared with SCGH that Green Diamond has 30 full-time staff in California dedicated to conservation planning to ensure its operations provide habitat across the landscape for the species that reside there. This team studies and monitors a variety of terrestrial (land-based) and aquatic (water-based) species and their habitats across the property.  One portion of the team’s studies focus on the freshwater streams of the property also called the aquatic program. Set on the North Coast of California, the forest streams on the property are the spawning ‘homes’ for various salmonid species, which have seen its hatch rates and populations decline in the Pacific Northwest during the past century.

    Matt House, Aquatic Biologist for the company clearly loves his job, “We have some of the most productive salmonid streams on the North Coast of California.  Studying these species, and the streams they live in, is interesting not only for the conservation department employees of the company but also to the countless other scientists that we get to work with.”

    The majority of salmonid species in GDRCo’s streams are defined as anadromous, meaning they return from the ocean as adults to spawn in freshwater environments, such as the Coho, Chinook, and Steelhead salmonid species–thus their life cycle as fish mostly occurs in the ocean.  Consequently, it can be challenging for researchers to comprehensively study what is affecting changes in salmonid population levels, and, as well, to determine if the freshwater spawning habitat is adequate to maintain viable salmonid populations. However, GDRCo believes it can have an important influence on its surrounding freshwater environment, and its conservation planning group is extending significant effort to ensure its practices do not negatively impact the spawning and rearing habitat for these salmonid species.

    Currently, GDRCo’s conservation team is closely monitoring fish on four tributaries in the Little River watershed involving several stages throughout annual spawning cycles. First, trained fisheries biologists survey and observe the primary fish-bearing streams during the winter to count the number and species of adult fish that are seen actively spawning, as well as indicating where there is evidence of salmonid redds (nests), where eggs are deposited. These indicate that fish have already spawned in the stream. These data have been valuable to determine the relative distribution and number of adults in a watershed.

    In the final research stages, population levels are estimated using traps to capture and then release smolts—juvenile fish that have become physically ready to enter the ocean environment—as they move downstream toward the ocean from their freshwater habitat. These surveys, although labor intensive and expensive to conduct, provide GDRCo’s research team valuable information for how many smolts are being produced in the freshwater environment. Comparing the survival rates between summer populations and smolts migrating to the ocean also helps determine the limiting factors for smolt survival.

    Matt House sums it up like this, “These are challenging species to study because the fish spend a few years as young in the streams on our property.  There we have some idea what is happening with the population and then they swim out to sea for a couple of years.  That is the big unknown while they are in the ocean.  A few years later they return from the ocean to spawn in the stream where they hatched and we can gather some numbers on that cohort again. In between though very little is known about what happens while they are out in the ocean.”

    These monitoring efforts are part of 50-year contract with federal agencies, which took 10 years to develop to ensure protection of aquatic resources on the property.  In June 2007, Green Diamond, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, signed the Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan, a 50-year contract, to enhance habitat for six cold-water fish and amphibian species.

    “The company has a comprehensive monitoring program in place to study salmonid and other aquatic species on the property that was crafted with state and federal agencies.  It has been a great collaboration coordinating with the agencies on these projects,” says Keith Hamm, Conservation Planning Manager for Green Diamond.

    To read further about Green Diamond’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan, as well as all of its California management plans and monitoring reports, go to — http://www.greendiamond.com/responsible-forestry/california/

    by Neila Columbo - April 28, 2014
  • How Its Made: Zero Waste, Sustainable Wood

    By Neila Columbo
    4/28/2014

    The ubiquitous phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” has made an important leap in recent years from formal dictum by environmental advocates to an engaging pop culture movement that can be viewed as inspiration for the zero-waste concept.  A number of industries are beginning to connect the dots between recycling of its materials and the dividends of sustainability initiatives. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, industrial facilities in the United States generate 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste in land disposal units annually, thus as individuals begin to find ways to “reduce, reuse, recycle” in their daily lives, consumers are now looking to companies to contribute their part as well.

    Zero waste programs are in a state of evolution as new technologies and start-ups emerge to address the needs of recycling large-scale waste, and such programs will likely need to be designed according to industry-specific needs. To illustrate, in the architecture and building community, the U.S. Green Building Council issues guidelines for LEED rating systems in environmental building design, yet what about the recycling efforts of companies which source building materials?

    While reduce, reuse, recycle is a new concept to some companies, it has been a long-standing practice with The California Redwood Company (CRC), a subsidiary of the Green Diamond Resource Company, which provides such materials to architects and developers.  CRC has invested time in training on quality control and improving preventive and predictive maintenance planning activities. These methods have been used to improve efficiency and performance as part of its sustainability program. “This approach improves equipment reliability and reduces manufacturing defects that result in having more on-grade, shippable lumber available to customers and less going to waste as chips” according to Bill Highsmith, VP of Manufacturing.

    In the mill, CRC has laser-scanning systems that are melded with computer optimization to precisely measure the logs and lumber to ten thousandths of an inch. This allows CRC to quickly decide how to edge and trim the boards into narrower pieces and shorter lengths. This helps to minimize the amount of waste CRC has on the boards and to gain more boards per volume of logs that come into the mill.

    The process is such that approximately 60 percent of a log will be made into lumber because logs are round, truncated cones and lumber is square –thus unfortunately a portion of the lob will be waste, so about 32 percent will become chips and generally another seven percent of the log becomes sawdust. The bark is removed from the outside of the log and is then sold to other manufacturing companies. What chips and bark aren’t reused in CRC’s landscaping will then be transferred to a biomass electric generator. As for the sawdust, it is used as an amendment to soil enhancers and shavings in the generation of steam for drying the lumber.

    CRC considers itself a zero waste manufacturer—in addition to lumber, the company states it utilizes every part of its logs for biomass electric generation, landscaping, soil amendment, heating, as well as boilers to generate steam for drying.

    “We are proud to supply a product that is not only renewable and sustainable, but is also produced in a zero-waste facility. It really doesn’t get any greener than that,” Highsmith says.

    by Neila Columbo - April 28, 2014
  • DIY Home Guide: Top 3 Types of Insulation

    By Chris Miller
    3/17/2014

    A savvy do-it-yourselfer can come up with a dozen unconventional uses for insulation (spray foam as packing material, anyone?), which makes it tricky to find basic information online when you’re just dipping your toes in to the DIY pool. Here is an introduction to the three basic types of insulation and their most common uses.

    1. Blown-in insulation

    Blown-in insulation, also called cellulose or natural fiber insulation, is often made from recycled newspaper that has been treated with fire-retardant chemicals. This type of insulation is loose and fluffy, and is blown into spaces using a wide hose.

    This kind of insulation is most often used when updating old homes. It’s usually blown in to holes drilled in the tops of walls or blown across the attic floor – as long as the attic is vacant, not used as a living space. Blown-in insulation is great for adding extra insulation after a home has been built, because it will fit around pipes and wiring within the walls.

    Blown-in insulation will eventually settle in the space, but is still very good for preventing heat loss or gain within a home, providing heat retention better than or equal to fiberglass batting.

    2. Spray foam insulation

    Spray foam insulation is made from polyurethane, which is also the basis of other foams found in furniture, car seats, and footwear. It is piped into a space, where it expands as it dries.

    Spray foam insulation comes in two types: open cell and closed cell. Open cell insulation is less dense because the cells of polyurethane are still open. It’s often used in interior walls because it provides an air barrier, but not a water vapor barrier. Closed cell insulation is much denser than open cell, and acts as a barrier against water vapor in addition to air.

    Spray foam insulation is most often used to seal gaps in walls during the building process, because it provides an airtight seal. It can also be used to seal around window and door frames, but can get a bit messy if you’re not careful.

    Spray foam is the most efficient form of insulation, but also the most expensive, so use it wisely. Look for soy foam insulation for the healthiest, non-toxic, and eco-friendly option.

    3. Batt or blanket insulation

    Batt and blanket insulation is made of spun fiberglass packed together in a mat, much like the cotton batting inside a quilt. The fiberglass is flame-resistant, though the insulation may have a facing made of paper. The difference between batts and blankets is that batts are precut and blankets are continuous rolls that will need to be cut to fit a space.

    Fiberglass insulation is most often used between the studs of a wall, and is installed before the drywall goes up during the building process. It’s important that the insulation fills the space completely, because even small gaps can cause significant reductions in energy efficiency.

    Of the three main types of insulation, fiberglass batts are the cheapest, but they can also be the trickiest to install and are the most toxic insulation option. The cost of formaldehyde-free fiberglass batts and conventional fiberglass bats is roughly equal so be sure to ask for the formaldehyde-free product when shopping. We recommend looking for alterative insulation options other than fiberglass. If you must use fiberglass, find a contractor that specializes in installing insulation in Toronto, or wherever you live, if you need help with the installation process.

    Important Considerations

    No matter which type of insulation you choose, it’s important that you’re prepared to handle it. You should use gloves, goggles, and a face mask to protect yourself. Some insulation types may require additional protective measures, so be sure to do your research before attempting any do-it-yourself project.

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    No Leaks Allowed 

    About the author:
    Chris Miller is a professional writer, blogger, and English grammar enthusiast. Chris enjoys learning about new products, procedures, and ideas from various industries. He finds helpful information for his articles from companies like Reitzel Insulation.

    by SCGH - March 17, 2014
  • Malaysia Flight 370: A Movie In The Making, or, Is This The Titanic of the 21st Century?

     

    In case you are wondering why the “My Inner Green” girl is writing about the disappearance of a commercial jetliner, allow me to explain. First, my hobby is flying (I’m working on my twin engine license, in fact). Second, I am a student of the Mideast, both its history and the current conflict. It is certainly possible that the mysterious goings-on surrounding the disappearance of Flight 370 can be traced back to something other than a mechanical failure. And third, you have to assume that there are scriptwriters in L.A. feverishly developing storylines for the next great blockbuster on flights in distress and its consequences as we speak.

    Let’s begin with why I think this may well be a terrorist act. Two guys, an Italian and an Austrian both in their 30s, have their passports stolen, one in 2012 and the other in 2013, respectively. They do not know each other and are not linked, just coincidence that they were both in Thailand and got their passports stolen. Then the passports surface in Pattaya, a city in Thailand that you don’t go to for the thread count. Let’s just say I doubt if these two gentlemen are very happy with being publicly linked to a place that some refer to as the Dante’s inferno of the modern world.

    So if you are still with me, the passports are used by a Mr. Ali to buy one-way plane tickets for two men who are not present at the time. This occurred only last Thursday at Grand Horizon travel agency in Pattaya. So the tickets were from Kuala Lumpur (nobody seems to know how they got from Pattaya, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur) to Beijing to Amsterdam to Copenhagen and Frankfurt. Quite a circuitous route to put it mildly.

    On top of this, five men checked in for the flight, including baggage…then mysteriously were able to reclaim their bags and did not board the flight. This has been kind of buried in the news coverage. Why aren’t the authorities combing the face of the earth to identify these guys (perhaps they are but can’t find them?). The fact that this was not a red flag to Malaysian Air officials, nor did Malaysian passport control catch the fact that the two stolen passports – which are flagged on Interpol – were not detected is nothing short of shocking. It would seem to me that even our own much-maligned TSA agents would have been alerted by the five guys and/or the phony passports.

    Meanwhile, some news agencies, including Reuters, seem to think this was not an act of terrorism because there are indications that the plane had turned back and was headed for Kuala Lumpur at the time of its disappearance. If that was the case, riddle me this: why would the pilots not have sent some sort of distress signal back to the tower in K-L? What if terrorists had commandeered the plane and intentionally turned it around, heading back to K-L to perhaps fly into the Petronas Towers – the world’s tallest and most famous twin towers remaining? Or possibly the terrorists were heading to Beijing to crash into the Chinese city’s downtown? Maybe the pilot is an unrecognized hero for refusing to follow those plans and instead ditched Flight 370 into the drink, nose first? After all, he was 53 years old and had over 18,000 hours of experience. Not an amateur, to be sure. The weather was good so no solace there.

    In any event, why has no wreckage been located? So where art thou, oh jetliner? Again, Hollywood and alien interference comes to mind. Not being a sci-fi enthusiast, I quickly discount that concept. I am not a professional aerodynamicist or ocean scientist, but it would seem that if the pilot intentionally nosed the plane into the water on a friendly angle, it may not have been blown to smithereens and thus it could be resting on the ocean floor a la Titanic, making it much harder to locate. (Bear in mind that the Titanic rests more than 12.000 feet below surface.) This just might explain why 34 airplanes and 40 ships from multiple countries can’t find even a scrap of the Boeing 777-200 — which has a near perfect safety record.

    This is truly an international incident. Countries participating in the search range from the U.S. to Australia, Philippines, Vietnam, China, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, and others. A total of 239 people are assumed dead, of which 154 were Chinese or Taiwanese. Thirty-eight were from Malaysia. Three Americans were also on the list, two children and one adult, an employee of IBM. All totally MIA (Missing In Action), at least at this time.

    So was it a mechanical failure? Pilot actions? Terrorism? Too many pieces of the puzzle just don’t add up. Given the facts and theories, I am voting for number three until proven otherwise. For now, the saga continues and as we pray for the families that have lost loved ones, Hollywood is sharpening their pencils. If this is anything like the disappearance of the Titanic, it may be 2087 (it took 83 years to find the Titanic) and a blockbuster feature film or two before we get to the bottom of this one?

    by Jennifer Schwab - March 11, 2014
  • Redefining Sustainability: 6 Steps for Happiness & Well-Being

    Guest blog post by Jerry Meunier of Creating Your Desired Life.
    2/13/13

    The definition of sustainability by the United Nations Brundtland Commission is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.”  There are many examples of this definition in today’s world; i.e., wind & solar energy, water conservation, recycling and environmentally-friendly building materials.

    For me, the definition of sustainability as it relates to our emotional happiness and well-being is “personal and professional goals and desires that are achieved and the ability for them to continue forever.”  There are many common goals and desires we humans share; relationships, careers and finances to name a few. I believe we are all responsible for creating and sustaining our desired life.  I also believe that what we think, say, do and feel is a direct reflection of the life we are living.  These are my life learnings that have allowed me the ability to sustain my goals and desires.

    Belief – Beliefs (positive or negative) are simply thoughts that have been acquired from various sources.  Your family, friends and environment have all contributed to your beliefs.  You will know when a limiting belief is not serving you because you will feel the uncomfortable feeling within yourself.  When this happens, look at the belief that is causing the uncomfortable feeling and challenge where that belief originated.  If it was from a person or situation in your past or present that you don’t agree with, then change that belief into one that is positive and will serve you well. If you’re thinking right now, “sure, that’s easier said than done”…that’s a belief and you can change it to one that will bring you positive reinforcement and well-being.

    Perception – Perception is a key ingredient to sustaining a feeling of well-being.  Perceptions are a direct reflection of our beliefs.  You always have the option of perceiving any situation as a lesson, gift or positive momentum towards something good.  Remember you always have the choice. You can choose to see the gray clouds or the blue skies and sunshine in any situation.  Which perception makes you feel good?

    Appreciation – Having and showing appreciation for the way your life is now allows for sustained happiness.  Giving thanks to yourself, people, the Universe or to your God is very powerful.  Showing appreciation can be done in many ways, and by doing so, you are telling the Universe, “more please!” Be specific about what you are appreciating from yesterday, today or tomorrow.  For tomorrow, always visualize what you want and feel the feeling of the end result of what you want. From there, you allow it to manifest at the right time.  Feeling the appreciation of having received your desire before it has appeared in the present is powerfully sustaining.  I inspire you to keep a written list daily, weekly or monthly of what you appreciate in your life.

    Unconditional Love – Having unconditional love for yourself first is very empowering.  Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.  Remember, you can’t give to someone else what you can’t give to yourself.  This will build confidence and will rid the desire to judge yourself and others.  Always being the person you want to be with (whether it’s a romantic partner, boss/employee, family or friend) is a true achievement.  This is emotional sustainability at its best! 

    Self-Worth – Having a strong foundation of self-worth is a key ingredient in emotional sustainability.  The environment you grew up in, the conditioning and learning you’ve experienced since day one have both contributed to the person you are today.  If there’s anything in your life that has threatened or is threatening your foundation of self-worth, change it. You have the power and control!  There are new ingredients (tools/processes) and emotional well-being recipes I’ve created that you can learn and begin practicing today.  All of these ingredients are accessible to you in abundance, they simply take practice….and practice makes permanent! 

    Awareness – Be aware, conscious and truthful about the actions you are taking daily to sustain your desired life achievements.  When you continue to positively nurture your relationships and connections, there will be no end.  They may change in some way, but they will not end.

    Achieving sustainability as it relates to our environment and our personal emotional happiness and well-being will result in the continuation of all that is good and wanted in our lives and on earth. These two types of sustainability go hand in hand and we can do it together!  The energy, creativity and collaborative efforts of ten like-minded people are more powerful than a million that are not.

    Mastering the ability to sustain your emotional health and well-being is a win-win in every area of your life. If you need any additional proof of sustainable well-being in business, look no further than the #1 New York Times bestseller, “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh.  Tony brilliantly describes how building and sustaining a happy and joy-filled work environment produces amazing employee engagement and satisfaction, which results in excellent and exciting productivity and profits.

    From the day we are born, we all are emotionally programmed for the wanting of love and belonging.  One of my daily intentions is to give and receive love and peace, both within myself and externally.  This can be done in many forms and shapes. I want to inspire you to do this for one day. From the moment you wake up until the time you go to sleep, show yourself and everyone and everything around you love and peace.  You’ll be amazed at the fun, joy, peace and beauty you experience all day. This is emotional happiness & well-being sustainability at its best! Remember, practice makes permanent!

    If you’d like to learn more about the topics in this article and others, along with “Emotional Happiness & Well-Being Recipes”, please contact Jerry “The Life Coach Chef” at [email protected] or www.creatingyourdesiredlife.com.

    Related Articles
    Dalai Lama on Global Warming: ‘Take Care of Our Home’
    Being Green…It’s More Than Just Buying Trendy Products
    Feng Shui and Sustainable Living for Happy, Healthy Home
    by SCGH - February 13, 2014
  • Solving Office Temperature Wars

    By Julie Curnow
    February 3, 2014

    It may seem comical, but office air conditioning wars are a serious business. What can start as a playful, sneaky adjusting of the temperature can very quickly turn into a full blown conflict and, believe it or not, every now and then Air and Water Residential are called in to be the official umpire of air conditioning office wars! So how can you solve the ongoing office temperature battles? Here are some tips I give people when I’m the official umpire.

    Understand the temperature disagreement between men and women

    You may notice that more often than not, women complain about it being too cold while men complain they are too hot. The reason is – men and women are different. Firstly, men tend to have more body mass than women, making them that little bit more resistant to the cold. Men are also usually required to wear long pants, covered in shoes, vests and jackets in the workplace, while women tend to wear skirts, open shoes and lighter material. To add to the dilemma, research shows that women are more susceptible to frostbite and hyperthermia than men and hence they feel the cold on their fingers and toes more. Understanding these differences can help you solve the constant air conditioning battles in the office and be empathetic.

    Take a poll

    Although offices may shy away from this because they think it’s a waste of time, taking a poll can help reduce the amount of time spent battling over the temperature. Get everybody in the office to write down what temperature they are comfortable with and what temperature is too cold/hot for them. Use this poll to determine what the majority are comfortable with and share this information with everyone so they understand the fairness of the temperature chosen.

    Decide on a temperature and stick with it

    In my experience, conflict often arises over air conditioners when someone keeps taking it upon themselves to adjust the temperature to a level that is comfortable for them. This then causes other people to become uncomfortable and they switch it back. To stop this from happening the boss needs to find out what temperature the majority is comfortable at (through a poll) and make it clear that no one is to touch the thermostat. In summer, a temperature of 74-78 ºF is energy efficient and is usually comfortable for most people while in winter 69-75 ºF is more appropriate because people are generally dressed in warmer clothes.

    Adjust the vents

    Once you have a poll in place but the odd person is still disgruntled, the easiest solution is to redirect or shut off part of the air flow from one outlet (where the air comes out). If you choose to do this, make sure you don’t upset the person next to you because let’s face it, you don’t want any more battles. If the outlet in your office has biscuit style vents you can re-orientate the airflow or close one or two biscuits (one of the quarters in the vent pictured). Simply lift up the biscuit and rotate it 90 or 180 degrees and carefully drop it back into place. Alternately you can carefully tilt the vanes on the biscuit so they shut. A word or warning: if lots of people close vents then this will affect air flow.

    Get the airflow rebalanced

    If you can’t adjust the vents or it starts more disagreements, you can get the air flow re-balanced. Within the duct (used to distribute air from a ducted reverse cycle to the outlet) are dampers which affect the airflow to each outlet. If someone has too much air coming out of their outlet and someone else doesn’t have enough air, an air conditioning technician can further open or close the dampers to re-direct the airflow to where it is wanted. The design of the air conditioning may limit how much air flow can be re-directed.

    Adjust workspaces

    One reason some people are too cold while the majority is comfortable may be because of their desk location. If someone is constantly complaining that they are too cold, move them further away from the air conditioner and allow someone who is comfortable with the temperature to move closer.

    Give staff somewhere to store warm clothes

    At the end of the day it is easier to put on layers than to take off layers (such as suit jackets and cardigans). If there are people who are still too cold at the set temperature, offer them a safe place to store a warm jacket or let them hang their cardigan over the back of their chair. This means they won’t have to carry it in to work everyday and risk forgetting it.

    Temperature affects productivity, and at the end of the day you want productive, happy staff. Taking some time to solve the air conditioning disagreements in the workplace can help create a more pleasant and profitable work environment where time isn’t wasted adjusting thermostats. I hope these tips are helpful and that they result in a cease fire at your office!

    Related Articles
    Air Conditioning, the Energy Efficient Way
    Be the Office Eco-Hero!
    Air Purifier Systems

    by SCGH - February 03, 2014
  • Maintaining Healthy Habitats — The California Redwood Company

    Advertorial by SCGH
    1/28/14

    The health of forests is among the top considerations for many homeowners when choosing natural wood products for home improvements such as decks and fences. While some studies have shown that sustainably harvested wood can be more environmentally friendly than man-made composites or plastics, consumers want to make sure that the integrity of our forests will remain intact for centuries to come. Beyond the trees alone, the health of a forest is largely determined by  the wildlife species that inhabit them.

    For The California Redwood Company (CRC), the health of its redwood forests is not only important for its business, but also a responsibility they take seriously. Recently, both CRC and its parent company, Green Diamond Resource Company, were certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards  across all of its operations and timberlands in California as evidence of this dedication.  Both companies have been certified to Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standards since 2001.

    The North Coast of California offers unique wildlife habitats, which require special attention. In 1990, Green Diamond hired a wildlife biologist to study the impact of timber operations on wildlife in their forests, particularly the Northern Spotted Owl. This scientific research and monitoring program led to the development of effective programs and practices to sustain populations of spotted owls during timber operations. The wildlife and fisheries crew has now grown to a group of 30-40 employees, depending on the season.

    In addition, Green Diamond’s timberlands became the first privately owned timberlands in the nation to be awarded a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Northern Spotted Owl by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An HCP is a voluntary forest management plan developed in cooperation with the landowner and numerous governmental agencies.

    Green Diamond’s employees use precautionary harvesting technology and methods to reduce the disruption to the environment. The harvests are carefully planned, taking into account a host of factors including:

    • tree species and age, and special environmental conditions;
    • locating roads and landings to reduce the disruption to streams and wetlands; and
    • maintaining wildlife trees as well as buffers around streams and wetlands to provide habitat and to protect water quality.

    For decades, Green Diamond’s natural resource professionals have continued to assess and guide forest management and sustainable production, understanding that no one harvesting method is appropriate for all areas and forest types. Through their studies, Green Diamond’s scientists have found that wildlife, like the Northern Spotted Owls, thrive in areas that include a mosaic of habitats across the landscape. Taking this into account, Green Diamond and CRC are conscious of the mixture of tree sizes and ages, stream buffers, and other habitat set-asides needed to maintain a healthy, complex landscape.

    Green Diamond and CRC have communicated their long-term commitment to the land, and it is encouraging to see this promise put into practice. We hope that the great work done by Green Diamond’s scientists, registered professional foresters, wildlife biologists, and other experts continue to help evolve the company’s forest management practices, ensuring that its forests remain healthy and productive. And, as forest lovers know, the health and diversity of fish and wildlife populations are  inextricably linked to the health of the forests in which they dwell.

    By incorporating sound science and sustainable resource management techniques, Green Diamond has taken a leadership role in responsibly managing lands on a landscape scale. That means purchasing redwood lumber from The California Redwood Company is more than beautification of your own backyard – it’s directly supporting the sustainable forestry practices we’d like to see all lumber companies embrace.

    For related articles, see:
    Environmentally Friendly Lumber and Panel Products
    Environmentally Friendly Wood Floors
    Environmentally Friendly Decks

    by SCGH - January 28, 2014
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