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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

  • 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
  • How Religious Sites Are Using Eco-Technologies To Reflect Their Values

    By Heather Logan
    12/25/13

    KYOTO, JAPAN – On Friday, November 15th, the Kiyomizu Buddhist Temple unveiled a stunning new lighting display. Thanks to a generous donation from Panasonic, this historic Japanese site is now illuminated entirely by LED lighting. Hundreds of people waited in line for the anticipated “fall illumination” unveiling event, which allowed visitors to tour the grounds after sunset. SCGH journalist Heather Logan sat down with one of temple’s monks to learn why they decided to make the switch to Panasonic’s energy-efficient lighting.

    The Kiyomizu Temple, meaning Temple of Pure Water, has its origins in environmental preservation. “LED has the symbolic meaning of protecting the environment. This is a temple that people come to visit from all over the world. We want the people who are visiting this place to see the message behind our lighting change. We are very concerned about the future of the temple and its people. This consideration has been part of our tradition for 1,200 years. There is a saying in Japanese, “Tradition is a continuous reconfirmation.” By making the switch to LEDs, we are reconfirming our Buddhist values.”

    Since its inception in 778,  the temple grounds have experienced ten fires in its history. The grounds house over 30 Buddhist structures, built primarily out of wood, making it particularly susceptible to fires. One of the biggest draws towards LED lighting is that the bulbs produce less heat, protecting the structures from fire damage.

    Why else did the Kiyomizu Buddhist Temple make the switch to LEDs?

    • Better quality
    • Longer lasting
    • Increased energy savings
    • Lowered utility costs
    • Wide range of natural lighting schemes

    “This temple has been crystalized into what it is today because of the contributions people have made to the temple over the centuries. Panasonic is one of these donors. We will have to consider solar panels and other clean energy projects for our future and we look forward to working with Panasonic in those efforts.”

    Visiting the Temple

    Visiting this historic temple is an easy 15 minute bus ride from Kyoto Station. After departing Kyoto Station on bus 100 or 206, you can exit at either the Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka bus stops. From there, you will make a 15 minute uphill walk through the Higashiyama District, a quaint shopping street with local restaurants and souvenir shops. The temple hours of operations are from 6 am – 6 pm daily and reopen from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm during spring and fall illumination (mid March to mid April and mid November to early December). The cost of admission is $4 USD.

    Related Posts by Heather Logan
    Save the Seas with Your Diet
    Shrimp Cocktail with a Side of Snared Endangered Species

    by Heather-Leigh Logan - December 24, 2013
  • Planning an Eco-Friendly Wedding

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    Blog Post and Photos by Leah Deitz & David’s Bridal
    8/28/2013 

    Weddings are a symbolic time to celebrate a couple’s union. However, this celebration does not need to be at the expense of the environment. Today’s modern couples are making strides and designing weddings that suit their lifestyle—and their values. As the eco-friendly wedding increases in popularity, so do the options. SCGH covers some key planning considerations, so couples can feel good about entering marital bliss with a beautiful, memorable, and environmentally responsible celebration.

    The Location
    First things first: Location, location, location. This commonly used expression holds true for eco-friendly weddings as well as real estate. When it comes to planning your big day, location is a key consideration.

    According to The Green Guide, the main focus of an eco-friendly wedding is to conserve both electricity and water; large hotels and resorts often use a considerable amount of both. Therefore, choose either an outside location or an indoor facility that donates a portion of the deposit towards a charity—like many art museums and theatres.

    Another consideration is driving—or even flying—distance for your guests. Extended travel ups the eco-impact through the burning of fossil fuels. Try to choose a location that’s close to the vast majority of guests, and you’ll be saving the environment by saving fuel!

    The Rings
    Rings are the ultimate symbol of commitment, and it goes without saying that your choice of bling has a major environmental impact. There is no denying that the diamond trade is riddled with controversy. This commonly used symbol of marital bliss has also come to represent revolution and bloodshed as the market grows more and more competitive. For this reason, websites such as Inhabit.com suggest that couples should reflect on the possibility of seeking out a “conflict free” diamond or going with another gem altogether.

    Increasing numbers of modern brides are opting for alternative stones, as well as utilizing recycled jewelry to create their own rings. Using pieces from the couple’s family allows for the most eco-friendly option (as well as perhaps the most sentimental). If the design isn’t quite what is desired, couples can have metals melted to create new wedding bands.

    “Custom pieces are a great way to incorporate personality and heritage into your wedding,” says Daniel Eaves, Master Jeweler for Dansfield Jewelers in Richmond, Virginia. Many small jewelers can utilize old jewelry to create something entirely unique for both the bride and groom. This saves on new resources while allowing the couple to have more traditional wedding rings.

    The Dress
    No matter how eco-conscious you are, every bride wants and deserves a beautiful dress. And that dress need not come at the expense of the earth. National Geographic explains that many retailers now offer dresses made from sustainable materials such as silk, organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo. However, if a crisp white dress is what you are truly after, shop around for the vintage dress of your dreams. Other ways to green your dress includes opting for a dress that can be worn more than once, or donate it after your big day.

    The Invitations
    One of the biggest ways a couple sets the tone for their upcoming wedding is through the invitations. The paper, style, font, and theme tell the guest what kind of wedding to expect. Therefore, a green wedding must have environmentally conscious invitations.

    This doesn’t mean that you have to make your own invites from grass and pressed flowers. Well known retailers such as David’s Bridal offer wedding invitations made from recycled and eco-friendly materials. If you want to be rid of paper entirely, Paperless Post enables you to craft and send email-based invitations to guests.

    The Flowers
    When it comes to flower arrangements for the eco-friendly wedding, the possibilities are endless.  Today’s modern bride can choose from local wildflowers that don’t have to be shipped overseas, or opt to feature organically raised blooms. Other options include fruit and fruit blossoms, as well as even more unique paper or recycled art bouquets. Florists can even fashion the bouquet with cuttings that can be rooted after the ceremony and grown into houseplants for the new couple to enjoy for years to come.

    The Honeymoon
    Finally, once all the festivities are over, the happy couple embarks on their honeymoon! While there are plenty of green resorts in exotic locations, newlyweds can lessen their carbon footprint by vacationing close to home.

    Wherever you decide to stay, always inquire about what specific practices your hotel is taking to limit their impact on the environment. Asking these questions lets businesses know that protecting the natural world is important to their customers, and that any additional measures they take will be rewarded.

    To a life of love, happiness, and natural beauty—happy wedding planning!

    For related articles, see:
    Green Wedding Guide
    Send the Write Message
    The Natural Beauty

    © 2013 SCGH, LLC.

     

    by SCGH - August 28, 2013
  • Feng Shui and Sustainable Living for Happy, Healthy Home

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    By Janice Zaltman

    Creating an indoor space that reflects who you are and makes you thrive does not have to be expensive or complicated. On average, we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, where the environmental risk to human health has been highlighted in numerous reports. Yet, how about the effect of our home’s indoor environment on our emotional and mental health?

    Debra Duneier, founder of EcoChi and a feng shui practitioner, poses this question to our SCGH community, “How do we take control and regain our best selves, so that our environment works for us and not against us?” The following is from a recent interview  on her new book, EcoChi, Designing the Human Experience.

    Here are some easy tips to get started:

    GET RID OF THE CLUTTER. Clutter prevents us from creating what we want in our life, according to Duneier: “Clutter, from a feng shui perspective, is like having clogged arteries in your body and is a heart attack in the making. When you clear it out, it opens up your veins and arteries and allows wonderful things to happen.”

    BRING THE FIVE ELEMENTS INTO YOUR HOME: FIRE, WATER, EARTH, WOOD, METAL. “Classical feng shui teaches that heaven, earth, and humanity energies need to be balanced to attain health and prosperity,” says Duneier. “These energies are called the three gifts of prosperity.” By bringing in each of the above elements you can help bring balance to your environment. Examples of this include:

    • Fire: The colors of fire are red and orange. To create this in your space, place candles or a fireplace in your home. Have hot foods in your pantry, or showcase in your kitchen jars red- and orange-colored peppers.
    • Earth: The color which represents earth is yellow. The earth is what grounds, supports and nourishes us. “You can bring the outside in by having terracotta pots,” Duneier advises. “Grow some herbs in organic soil near your window.”
    • Wood: The wood energy is represented by the color green. Wood energy symbolizes rebirth and growth. You can achieve this in your home by having photos or artwork with trees, or better yet, a live tree in your home.
    • Metal: The color of the metal energy is white and all metallic shades (gold, silver, brass, chrome, and bronze). The metal energy symbolizes wealth and protection. This can be brought into your space with silver candlesticks, an area in your home painted white, or a soft oval-shaped sculpture, rather than something with sharp edges.
    • Water: The color of water energy is black. It is the element most closely tied to prosperity. Place a water feature, such as a fountain or a miniature waterfall, in the southwest corner of your property, and watch greater abundance enter your life.

    Reducing clutter and utilizing the five elements is the first step to mental well-being. Using sustainable products can bring your space to an even higher level.

    Sustainable choices include the following: Buying wood objects from sustainably managed forests which include the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) symbol or furniture from secondhand stores. Using natural daylight as much as you can in your home. Utilizing natural fabrics for your bedding, curtains, towels, area rugs, and furniture. Cleaning your home with green, nontoxic products. Updating your lighting to include LED lighting. Buying organic food and buying locally whenever possible. Considering solar shades and solar water heaters. Using filtered, not bottled, water. Recycling whenever possible.

    By incorporating these practices into your life, you can begin to breathe new vitality into your indoor environment—creating a peaceful, happier, and more vibrant YOU.

    © 2011 SCGH, LLC.


    by Janice Zaltman - August 05, 2013
  • The NEXT Wave of Environmental News: EnvironmentNEXT.org

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    Advertorial by SCGH
    4/10/2013 

    There’s a new environmental news publication stepping up to the plate, and this one aims to connect you to the big picture. A subsidiary of the Carbonfund.org Foundation and aptly named EnvironmentNEXT, the site focuses on improving tomorrow’s future with today’s solutions. With topics including environmental news, policy insight, and new technology overviews, EnvironmentNEXT brings a fresh discussion to the table about the interconnectedness of environmental issues and the practical solutions addressing the fight against climate change. SCGH got a first look at the new site set to launch in April, 2013.

    EnvironmentNEXT will feature solutions that we believe our readership should learn about and support, through their power of the vote and their own personal activism,” says Eric Carlson, president of the Carbonfund.org Foundation. The publication will include blogs written by Carlson himself, as well as Carbonfund.org staff members and other opinion leaders, including environmental activists and experts.

    In addition to posting blogs on the site, EnvironmentNEXT is pursuing a mission to create and cultivate a community of highly engaged environmental leaders, readers, and activists.  “We will use the full range of social media in order to provide timely and worthwhile articles and information, including email alerts to our subscriber base and regular social media posts and interactions,” explains Carlson. By following and interacting with EnvironmentNEXT online, Carlson adds, you will “join a community dedicated to sharing environmental news and furthering efforts to find and implement solutions to address the negative impact of climate change on our world.”

    If you’re looking for a site that informs and inspires, take a look at EnvironmentNEXT. You can even take a shortcut to the “Solutions” tab on the site where you can read about the projects in place or being proposed around the world that have the greatest ability to make strides against the damaging effects of climate change. Here’s to the next wave of environmental news—and being part of the solution.

    About the Carbonfund.org Foundation
    As North America’s leading nonprofit climate services and carbon reduction provider, Carbonfund.org is pioneering solutions to the negative effects of climate change through our mission toward a ZeroCarbon™ world. We support projects that fight global warming today, lead to market transformation tomorrow, and benefit local communities now and into the future. EnvironmentNEXT will serve to further the mission of the Carbonfund.org Foundation in the areas of climate change education and public outreach.

    For related articles, see:
    Los Angeles Interactive Online
    Environmental Education Goes Social With Practically Green
    Top Ten Smartphone Apps for an Eco-Friendly Home & Lifestyle

    © 2013 SCGH, LLC.

     

    by SCGH - April 10, 2013
  • Environmental Education Goes Social with Practically Green

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    By SCGH.com
    2/12/2013 

    In 2006, Susan Hunt Stevens embarked on a healthy green lifestyle makeover but couldn’t find the resources she needed. After lots of digging, reading, and blogging—and taking on a graduate program in Sustainable Design—she created Practically Green to help people who want to live healthy, sustainable lives…but aren’t sure where to start. SCGH.com interviewed Susan to learn more about how Practically Green brings environmental education to the interactive social space—and beyond.

    Where did YOU start? What resources did you pull together, and how did you go about developing this solution for “greening people”?

    I began as a mother with an almost two-year-old diagnosed with serious food and environmental allergies. I started reading labels and researching ingredients I didn’t know, and was frankly shocked at what I was finding. Then I started reading anything I could, including books and magazines. I found that blogs were the most helpful, which gave me the idea to start blogging about the changes we were making in our own family.

    About half way through a major “green renovation” of a historic home, I enrolled in a graduate program in Sustainable Design. In my third course, we were exposed to the LEED system and I kept thinking, “Why isn’t there a LEED for daily living?” That was the original vision for Practically Green. However, given my background in digital technology, I also knew it would never work if it didn’t leverage great content, real science, and the power of social and game mechanics to drive real-life behavior change.

    Your approach utilizes gamification, social media, and interactive technology as a vehicle for sharing sustainability knowledge. Can you explain this approach?

    We use game mechanics to create a shared framework for people to share, compare, compete and collaborate because unlike weight loss or fitness, there is no shared scale or national guidelines for sustainability.  The game framework provides that scale and then encourages ongoing participation and motivation.

    The social mechanics are equally powerful because they address the issue of visibility. Most sustainable choices are invisible.  My colleagues and friends likely have no idea if I’ve turned down my power settings on my computer, switched to an LED light, or signed up for eBills or green power.  By bringing visibility to who in your social network has done these things, it can leverage the power of social norms to drive change.  If I see that 85% of my colleagues have switched to eBilling, I’m likely to switch too.

    How is it unique to other forms of “environmental education”?

    It’s similar to the changes occurring in all education, not just environmental. It’s moving it online and going from one-way transmission of information to an interactive, engaging, social experience that is more effective.  What we also believe we’ve done well is taking what can oftentimes be hard (and even guilt-inducing) information and making it more accessible and solution-oriented.

    For many of us, sustainability isn’t something that we grew up learning about in school. So there is a huge population that really would like to do something, but they are busy, have other priorities, and no idea where to start or the time to figure it out. We use the power of discovery and social recognition to inspire that first step.  When people see both positive reinforcement from peers and the real time impact they are making, they are more likely to take another steps—and another.

    You work with companies all over the world to engage and educate their employees, members, and customers. Can you disclose the names of any of your clients?

    We have more than 17 global clients, including Fortune 500 companies, as well as sustainability leaders like Seventh Generation. Our clients range from companies that want to start a sustainability program, to others that want to enhance an existing program.

    Please share one of your greatest success stories.

    I think one of our biggest successes to date has been the growth of our employee engagement platform. Having CSOs and business executives tell us that they love what we are doing and want to make it available to their employees or customers wasn’t something I expected at the outset. But companies are really the pioneers in sustainability and it’s been amazing to see how our solution is helping them achieve their sustainability goals.

    How does your success directly relate to your mission to make healthy green living the conventional way of life?

    If you had told me ten years ago that I would be a big time tree-hugger, I would have laughed out loud. What I realized after making many of these changes personally is that sustainable, healthy living is just smarter living for the 21st century. It saves money, but I also honestly believe many of these choices can make people and families happier and healthier. Companies have figured this out too.

    However, I truly understand that it is really hard for people to change. It’s so NOT easy being green when you first get started.  The challenges can feel daunting because it touches everything: your food, your transportation, your home, and anything you purchase. If we can provide a solution that makes these choices simpler, faster, and way more fun—and people get access and encouragement to participate at work—I think that will reach more people more quickly.

    How does the social element come into play with colleagues at a workplace?

    Social is a huge part of the success of Practically Green. The people you work with often become influencers in your life, mostly because you spend so much time together. So when someone finds a new coffee shop around the corner that gives a ten-cent discount for brining in a reusable mug and they share that information as part of an action they take, it is adding to your overall arsenal of sustainability knowledge.

    For businesses, what are the advantages of Practically Green compared to an in-person seminar or workshop?

    The biggest advantage is that you can participate in Practically Green 24×7, 365 days a year, from any digital device. As a result, every employee can participate at a time and place that works for him or her, from any office location you have.  We also cover a wide variety of topics, and employees can choose what they are most interested in versus having one topic that may or may not excite people. It is customized to the goals of the company, as well as the individual, and allows both the company and employee to see the real-time metrics of the actions that they are taking. It finally gives context to the age-old sustainability question: “Does it even matter if I do this?” Because individuals and companies can see that yes, it does actually make a difference if you carpool to work one day a week, or shut down your computer each night before leaving the office.

    For individuals who decide to join (independent of a businesses or invitation from a friend), what advice can you give for making the most of Practically Green?

    We have a saying that Practically Green without friends is NO fun. Get your friends to join, set goals, and take some actions. Remember: you don’t have to do everything all at once. We also have a great product directory that is something that we vet and curate on an ongoing basis. It’s a way to help you navigate the world of green products, which can oftentimes be confusing.

    How many people now work at Practically Green full-time?

    We have 16 full time and 3 part time employees. It’s amazing for me to see our company, which literally started at my kitchen table, move into a beautiful new office space in Boston and quadruple in size!

    Can you disclose your revenue numbers?

    I can say that last year was our most successful year to date. We continue to see an influx of businesses looking to engage employees in a real and measurable way, and that is what they are able to achieve with our program.

    Since starting Practically Green, how has your experience influenced/inspired/changed your dreams about sustainable living?  

    For me, it’s a journey that has no defined end. I have been creating goals for myself for over five years now and still have so much to do! The innovations in this space are truly remarkable, and I think will give all of us plenty to do for years to come. That said, I think I respect even more the need for people, companies and governments to work together to make it easier for people.

    Visit PracticallyGreen.com.

    For related articles, see:

    Los Angeles Interactive Sustainability
    Teaching Kids Environmentalism with Edible Schoolyards
    Being Green…It’s More Than Just Buying Trendy Products
    Opportunity Green Start-up: Practically Green

    © 2013 SCGH, LLC.

    by SCGH - February 12, 2013
  • Eco-Friendly Sunglasses Make Waves

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    By Hannah Malan
    1/30/2013

    When the package arrived at the SCGH office, I was stoked: I was about to get my hands on the newly released Taylor Jensen – World Champion Eco-Friendly Sunglasses. A new line from Kurtis USA, the surfer shades are designed with handcrafted bamboo frames and polarized mutating lenses (they auto adjust based on UV exposure) made from a natural tree pulp base. Ripping open the package and unwrapping the biodegradable bubble wrap, I found more than a pair of cool sunglasses—it was an experience, a statement, and a chance to be part of a movement.

    The company’s mantra says it all, “No Fried Eyes and No Fried Earth.” Not only is Kurtis a savior for surfers whose eyes suffer from overexposure to the sun, but the company is also a champion for the environment. In addition to the innovative sunglasses, sweet bamboo sunglasses case, and artsy micro fiber cleaning cloth, the package includes an eco tips guide (printed on recycled paper). The guide explains the environmental benefits of the materials used and reminds the new owner that for every pair purchased, Kurtis funds the planting of 10 trees in endangered forests of Nicaragua with their partner, Trees for the Future.

    Throughout the surf community and beyond, Kurtis is leading by example and spreading the green message loud and proud. “One of the coolest things about Kurtis Bamboo Sunglasses is that conversations are started by wearing them,” says Kurtis Shipcott, Founder and CEO. “Many people have strong views about the environment, but are unable to convey their message because it seems invasive in certain settings.  When we launched, the immediate feedback was, ‘I’ve never been asked so much about my sunglasses.’  This leads to ‘show and tell’ and initiates conversations about the environment and the future possibilities for environmentally focused construction.”

    Designer, spokesperson, and World Surfing Champion Taylor Jensen is definitely on board with that. “I’m all about supporting companies because they are doing the right thing for the planet and because they share the same beliefs as me,” Jensen says. “My signature [Kurtis Eyewear] design is handcrafted, eco-friendly and beautiful… epic sunglasses.”

    Considered to be wearable art, these shades hold a list price of about $200. “Not all sunglasses are created equally,” explains Shipcott. “Most sunglasses are made from plastic injection molds and hinges are plugged by a machine with very little human interaction. Quality handcrafted eyewear spends many hours in the hands of quality artisans through dozens of stages of development. Kurtis Eco-Friendly Eyewear is created with passion and made of natural, sustainable bamboo.”

    SCGH confirms: The passion is evident and the result inspiring. Kurtis and Jensen have developed a truly innovative product that achieves much more than its promise to protect your eyes from the sun—it’s an experience, a statement, and a chance to be part of a movement.

    “These [sunglasses] were created for individuals that want to save their eyes from UV rays and to lower their carbon footprint in style,” says Shipcott. “We have great supporters … but until your neighbor that doesn’t recycle takes an active approach, we must all do what we can and lead by example.”

    For related articles, see:
    Environmentally Friendly Clothes
    Khmu Craftswomen Create Earth’s Greenest Bag
    Be an Activist in Your Everyday Life

    © 2013 SCGH, LLC.

    by SCGH - January 30, 2013
  • Biochar Initiative Restores Hillside at Former Silver Mine in Colorado

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    By Neila Columbo
    1/29/2013

    ASPEN, CO — Once an active silver mine in the early 19th century, Hope Mine recently transformed from a barren, abandoned plot into a verdant, restored landscape. SCGH explores the innovative biochar initiative led by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) that made it possible.

    Following the devaluation of silver and the Silver Panic of 1893, Hope Mine became a largely forgotten, desolate knoll.  In 2003, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) assumed ownership of the mine and began to assess the mine waste that had formed at the site in large piles of toxic rock.  Although the Aspen Water Department found no evidence of danger at the time, the site’s proximity to Castle Creek raised concern: If a storm or other event propelled the slope-like layers of mine waste to erode, Aspen’s water supply could be contaminated.

    In response to this concern, USFS and ACES formed a partnership to explore solutions for restoring the site’s landscape to benefit the community and surrounding forest environment. Among their considerations, cost-effectiveness was paramount; a traditional mine restoration could cost over a million dollars.  After several brainstorming sessions, they began to consider an experimental idea burgeoning in the green energy field—biochar.

    A byproduct of charcoal, biochar is created by burning wood products in the absence of oxygen. The substance not only holds the capacity to improve soil vitality, but it also acts as a carbon “sponge,” sequestering atmospheric carbon and thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While archeological studies indicate that the origin of biochar traces back over 2,000 years to the South American Amazon basin, scientists are now studying how biochar technologies can produce green energy and address global warming.

    Realizing that the feasibility of biochar as a large-scale green technology remained in its early stages, ACES and USFS  teamed up with a young Colorado-based environmental entrepreneur, Morgan Williams. At the time, Williams’ start-up non-profit organization, Biochar Solutions, was exploring the use of biochar for local projects. In 2010, Williams, ACES and USFS launched the Hope Mine Reclamation Project together.

    The first and largest biochar mine reclamation initiative in the U.S. by any measure, the project was extraordinarily successful. Within the first year, the barren land flourished into a green hillside, new soil began to regenerate, and living plants began to spring.

    Jamie Cundiff, Forest Health Program Director at ACES, observed, “It was quite extraordinary to see the transformation at the site of the mine, and the possibility for re-establishing vegetation and biodiversity to an area that once seemed so damaged.”

    Cundiff added that the multitude of positive developments resulting from the restoration was inspiring. In the technical process of creating biochar, Williams’ organization was able to harvest and burn dead trees that have been associated with the growing problem of mountain pine beetles in forests throughout Colorado and the U.S.

    “Mountain pine beetles are a complicated issue in the U.S.,” Cundiff explained. “While they are a natural presence in forests, their population has increased due to changes in climate, intensifying the possibility of forest fires. When trees are under greater stress, they are more likely to be attacked by the pine beetles and die. Unfortunately, the influence of human-induced climate change is affecting this balance.”

    While the cost of transporting the dead trees prevented the Hope Mine Project from harvesting all their materials from the forests, Cundiff notes this as an area for progress. Researchers are currently developing biochar ‘blankets’ to lay directly on scrap piles of dead wood as a method of creating biochar.

    Following the success of the Hope Mine Project, Williams’ Biochar Solutions grew from a non-profit start-up to a growing for-profit green tech business. In addition, ACES has begun developing its own small-scale biochar production system for use at its own sites. This system will enhance restoration effects by returning wood products back to the site in the form of biochar.

    In a stirring speech at the Aspen Environment Forum in June 2012, Williams shared his experience with the Hope Mine Project and his vision for the potential of biochar. He recalls his early conversations with ACES and USFS, and how the possibility of reclaiming the mine seemed as far-fetched as the first moon landing in the 1960s. He pondered at the time, “Could we do this, could we turn the biomass from the mountain pine beetle into this biochar and put it into this mine site and regrow it?”

    Given the triumphant restoration of the Hope Mine, the answer Williams, Cundiff, and their colleagues discovered … is a resounding “yes.”

    •  Read further about the Hope Mine Biochar Project and the work of ACES here.
    •  Watch an animated short film by ACES on forest health that includes biochar here.

    For related articles, see:
    Climate Change Affects National Park 
    Clean, Renewable Energy Could Power the U.S. by 2050
    Turning Trash Into Renewable Energy
    Restoring the Gulf Beyond Deepwater Horizon

    © 2013 SCGH, LLC.

    by Neila Columbo - January 29, 2013
  • Conscious Design: Green Building Using Mathematical Archetypes

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    Guest Blog Post by Travis Moe & Ruby Laurelle Staley
    January 9, 2013 

    Just over a decade into the twenty-first century, the defining concept of our time is sustainability. In the field of architecture and green building, SCGH explores an emergent movement known as ‘conscious design.’  This comes largely as a reaction to the twentieth century in which the Industrial Revolution reached its zenith in an aesthetic of bigger-as-better building, promoting the construction of enormous, mostly inefficient buildings to facilitate mass consumption. The consequences of this design have included crises of food and water, widespread pollution, climate change, and an ever-growing sense of human alienation from each other and from the Earth.

    Traditional wisdom holds that immediate human needs and comforts come first. The by-products of this attitude, though, have returned us to the understanding that maintaining the health of our planet is essential to supporting human needs. The solutions to these compounding crises seem to be two-fold: dramatically reduce our excesses, while simultaneously shifting our techniques away from monumentalism and toward new ideas that promote balance, efficiency, and collaboration with the natural landscape. For many, the source of inspiration for these ideas has been the landscape itself.

    In contrast to the industrial approach that has viewed society as essentially separate from nature, conscious design aims to integrate our homes and buildings into our natural environment, utilizing the strength and resilience of local materials, as well as instilling a sense of natural order into the constructed world we inhabit.

    One hallmark of conscious design is the usage of mathematical archetypes that appear commonly in the natural world—like the hexagon, a six-sided figure with angles adding up to 720 degrees. Hexagons can be found in the plates of a turtle’s shell; the structures of molecules, crystals, and snowflakes; and in the honeycombs of beehives. They also appear as the byproduct of the rapid cooling of magma in famous natural wonders the Devil’s Postpile in California and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

    As one of the strongest and most efficient shapes known to engineers, the hexagon inspires design and construction in many ways. When used in a grid—like in a honeycomb—hexagons create a large central area supported by walls of a minimal length. This means hexagon-shaped structures require less material to build, offer more open floor plans, and can self-reinforce under pressure. As part of his mission to contribute to a more harmonious, enlightened society, Frank Lloyd Wright utilized this innovative hexagonal design to integrate his groundbreaking Hanna-Honeycomb House into its sloping topography.

    The hexagon also offers a unique aesthetic value due to its impeccable symmetry, providing a sense of balance that conscious design strives to achieve. The benefits of experiencing this sort of balance in our environments include a strong placating effect on the human mind. Throughout history, symmetrical archetypes like the hexagon have been used in art and religious imagery to create this effect, appearing everywhere from Buddhist mandalas to the symbol of Judaism, the Star of David.

    While engineering has always taken some inspiration from observing naturally occurring forms, the current shift to conscious design benefits from a deeper philosophical vision. Instead of borrowing ideas solely for the sake of better engineering, architects and engineers are now designing homes and other buildings with the conscious intention of natural reintegration. What’s more, they’re actively working to restore balance to a planet widely seen as out of balance as a result of human recklessness.

    Today, sustainability means more than building in a way that enables our species to thrive for many generations to come. On a deeper level, it’s a movement focused on co-existing with nature—rather than conquering it. Sustainability and, more specifically, conscious design, is a process of humility, whereby human designers and builders look to nature not only as a resource, but also as a source of inspiration. Learn more from SCGH.com about how to make your home healthier, more efficient, and more sustainable.

    About the Author: Travis Moe is a writer currently living and writing in Oaxaca, Mexico.

    For related articles, please see:
    Los Angeles Decorator Does Interior Design from the Outdoors In
    Environmentally Friendly Architects
    Feng Shui and Sustainable Living

    © 2013 SCGH, LLC.

     

    by SCGH - January 09, 2013
  • Crowdfunding for Green

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    12/3/2012

    Companies seeking to expand or launch new projects have a tough time of it, particularly green-based companies. Sierra Club Green Home explores why more green entrepreneurs are turning to crowdfunding as a viable financial option to help them grow.

    Crowdfunding is a financial vehicle that helps entrepreneurs, start-ups, small businesses, and even musicians and artists to raise much needed funds by pitching their ideas directly to the general public via the internet and asking for pledges.  It lets them bypass the lengthy, often grueling process of seeking venture capitalists or “angels.” However, a crowdfunding campaign offers no guarantees. Success or failure rests on the efforts of the entrepreneur and the response from the public.

    Many crowdfunding websites have gained prominence over the past few years. Perhaps the best known are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Launched in 2009, Kickstarter has seen over $250 million pledged to more than 24,000 creative projects backed by two million people. Projects encompass a panorama of topics and industries, covering innovative products, books, movies, technology, and much more.

    Kickstarter has helped to successfully fund green business campaigns including the WindowFarms Project—a vertical hydroponic “farm” that allows urban folks to grow fresh veggies year round in almost any window—and ANI (As Nature Intended) shoes—stylish, vegan, eco-friendly “Barefoot” shoes made with 100% organic canvas and recycled packaging. Examples of active green Kickstarter campaigns include the following projects:

    • Lean, Mean & Green—an exciting documentary focused on what residents of urban areas are doing to turn urban blight into something extraordinary and useful to their communities. This campaign closes December 9th, 2012.
    • Urban Air—a project to convert conventional advertising billboards in Los Angeles into above-ground living bamboo gardens. The campaign ends December 11th, 2012.

    Project organizers run everything on Kickstarter campaigns. They build their web page; shoot and upload pictures and video clips; set their minimum funding goal timelines (the “by when” the project must be funded or end); and  come up with tiered incentives to entice donor participation. From there, it’s all about promotion—casting as wide a net as possible to publicize their campaigns, create excitement, and elicit oodles of donations to turn the dream campaign into reality.

    An added benefit is Kickstarter’s focus on building a community around its projects/campaigns. Running a campaign is a way to connect with potential customers, build word-of-mouth, and generate enthusiasm about a forthcoming project.

    Yanna Sharifi, founder of ANI, was surprised at the number of people contacting ANI to sell the shoes in their stores after learning about ANI on Kickstarter. “I think being eco-friendly is a plus [with crowdfunding] and definitely helps,” said Sharifi.

    Like Kickstarter, Indiegogo provides a platform where passionate people with creative projects can tell their story to the public and inspire others to get involved. While Kickstarter campaign fundraising is “all or nothing,” Indiegogo takes a different approach. It offers two funding options: Flexible Funding and Fixed Funding.

    Both funding options charge four percent of monies raised when a campaign meets or surpasses its goal, but the entrepreneur can choose what happens should the campaign fall short: 1) Flexible Funding lets campaigns keep the money they’ve raised, but collects nine percent; or 2) Fixed Funding simply refunds the money back to the contributors, with no fees required.

    Some of the exciting green projects currently listed on Indiegogo include the following:

    • The GreenG Network—its first project will be to help eliminate invasive, allergy-causing forest species in Oklahoma and turn them into biobased chemicals and products. This campaign closes December 7th, 2012.
    • Tenderloin Vertical Garden—a project to transform a blank wall in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district into a thriving produce-filled green wall. This campaign, if successful, will increase green produce availability in an area of San Francisco which currently has limited access. The campaign closes January 6, 2013.

    Though not a crowdfunding platform, LivingSocial is a new venture launched in May 2012 that’s helping fund some green-related businesses. Mission Small BusinessSM, a partnership between Chase Bank and LivingSocial, funds individual grants of $250,000 each to twelve small businesses. To date, the grant program has awarded up to $3 million to small business owners nationwide.

    This funding program was designed “to increase awareness of the important role small businesses play in local communities and to help small businesses grow.” Companies and entrepreneurs submit applications, along with a 500 word essay detailing why their business is unique, a plan for how they’ll utilize the grant to grow their business, and how the business is involved with its community.

    In addition to receiving the grant, winners work with LivingSocial and its social media staff to design a LivingSocial promotion for their business.  This opportunity allows recipients to expand and/or grow their small business by adding locations, equipment, products, or distribution.

    The public votes for their favorite project via their Facebook, and winners must accrue at least 250 votes. Finalists in 2012’s inaugural competition were chosen by a distinguished panel of industry experts:

    • Steve Case, Chairman/CEO of American Online (AOL)
    • David Chavern, EVP & COO of  U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    • Jason Calacanis, Founder and CEO, Mahalo.com, a knowledge sharing web service
    • Candace Nelson, Founder, Sprinkles Cupcakes (the first nationwide cupcake bakery)
    • Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO and Co-Founder, LivingSocial
    • Richard Quigley, President, Business Card and Innovation, Chase

    The winners of this funding competition were announced on August 21st, 2012. Among the 12 winners is EcoScraps, a Utah-based company that creates nutrient-enriched soil from recycled fruits and vegetables to grow healthy plants. Another green winner, PlanetReuse, is a consulting and brokering company that matches materials with designers, builders, and owners to serve LEED projects while cutting costs.

    “What led us to participate in the Chase-Living Social competition,” said Nathan Benjamin, PlanetReuse’s Principal + Founder, “was the opportunity to make reused materials simple, top-of-mind, and easy to access.”

    “If we could reuse 25 percent more construction and demolition materials that are currently headed for the landfill by the year 2020, and put those materials back to good use,” said Nathan, “it would be like salvaging sixty-eight Empire State Buildings each year!”

    These exciting platforms provide opportunities for green entrepreneurs to not only source much needed funding, but to also gauge consumer interest, build a brand, and expand their reach to make a difference. Success or failure primarily rests on how resourceful and connected they are. It’s real twenty-first century American-style innovation, and we’re definitely going to see more of it.

    For related article, see:
    ECOnomics — Creating Environmental Capital
    Sustainable Brands Save the Environment with Creativity
    Environmentalism and Innovation at Sierra Nevada Competition
    Eco-Entrepreneurs Inspire at Opportunity Green

     © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Debra Atlas - December 03, 2012
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