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Category Archives: Success Stories

  • Maintaining Healthy Habitats — The California Redwood Company

    Advertorial by SCGH

    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
  • Top 5 New Smart Home Technologies

    By Heather Logan

    TOKYO, JAPAN – I’ve recently returned from an explorative journey to Japan as part of Panasonic’s eco press tour to discover the latest and greatest innovations to make your home easy to care for. Below are the top 5 technologies to come from Panasonic’s showcase center and Eco Ideas Home. This zero-emission smart house combines science and nature’s elements to make an intelligently designed home that is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

    Hydroponic Kitchen Counter Herb and Veggie Garden

    From one side, it looks like a modern kitchen counter. On the other side, you can feed your family from your own hydroponic garden. Vegetable cultivation conditions are monitored on a 24-hour basis with smartphones or computers fitted with network cameras. This monitoring even allows growth records to be shared. Now everyone can have a green thumb.

    Color Changing Rooms

    This groundbreaking innovation from Panasonic uses LED technology to allow you to extract color from one object and impart it in another object instantly. With the use of color extraction tubes, you can change the look of a LED-equipped wall or furniture piece at a whim. The company is keeping mum as this technology is in development, but from what we’ve seen so far, this is painting of the future.

    ECO NAVI Ventilation System and Air Conditioning

    This hybrid air-conditioning system uses both natural and mechanical ventilation to maximize air temperature control and energy efficiency. The system detects people’s movements throughout the home to direct air where it is needed most.

    The Wind Passage Tower can measure the differences in temperature between indoor and outdoor air to bring in cooler ground air in the summer and warmer air in the winter through an underground duct.

    With sensors to detect any wastage of energy, now you don’t have to stress about a light being left on. Did I mention this works in harmony with their floor heating system? I’m feeling comfortable already.

    Smart Home Energy Management System (SMARTHEMS)

    Panasonic’s Smart Home Energy Management System (SMARTHEMS) will make you feel like you’re living in a smartphone app. It links all appliances and energy supplies into one central network. The program, which can be accessed by a TV or smart device, visualizes the energy, gas, and water consumption throughout the home. It acts as your personal energy consultant, displaying the progress made towards energy-saving targets and providing advice to support energy-saving activities.

    If you live in a community with other smart homes, you can link your system to the Community Energy Management System (CEMS) for the town, as seen in the Fujisawa Smart Town in Japan. With CEMS, residents can share excess energy, respond to energy needs, and track community usage trends in an effort towards electricity conservation.

    Energy Storage Cell for SMARTHEMS

    This small, easy on the eyes energy storage cell from Panasonic uses high-capacity lithium-ion batteries to store electricity. It provides electricity at night from energy created from the home’s solar panels during the day and offers up to 3 days of energy independence during natural disasters.

    These smart home technologies are demonstrative of a world where beauty, creativity, and innovation are bringing us back into balance with nature and a higher quality of living. To learn about more smart home technologies, follow my posts as I explore how sustainability and technology converge.

    Related Posts by Heather Logan
    Save the Seas with Your Diet
    Shrimp Cocktail with a Side of Snared Endangered Species
    How Religious Sites Are Using Eco-Technologies To Reflect Their Values 

    by Heather-Leigh Logan - December 26, 2013
  • How Religious Sites Are Using Eco-Technologies To Reflect Their Values

    By Heather Logan

    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
  • Closet Sanctuary

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    By Hannah Malan


    LOS ANGELES — For eco-friendly closet designer Lisa Adams, making a living is all about making a difference. “What can I do to improve people’s lives?” Adams asks. “That question always remained important.” From indoor-outdoor living in Hawaii to the PhD path at UC Berkeley and beyond, Adams developed a desire to make a difference in both her industry and her environment. After finding her passion and transitioning from hard science to home improvements, she made a commitment to revolutionizing the way we do closets. Her LA Closet Design company tagline reads: LUXURY. CALM. SANCTUARY. And her work embodies all that and more.

    On a warm, sunny afternoon, Adams met Sierra Club Green Home photographer Ashley Tittle and me at one of her celebrity client’s homes on a quaint, quiet street in Los Feliz, Los Angeles. Obviously trusted by her client, Adams led us through the gate and upstairs to see her work in finished—and working—form. Compared to the otherwise modest home, the closet stood out as an element of just what Adams promises: luxury, calm, sanctuary. Designed to be not only beautiful, but also functional and eco-friendly, the closet embodies a certain goodness—built with sustainable Walnut wood, accessorized with sustainably harvested woven rattan baskets, painted with low-VOC paint, and lit with low voltage bulbs. Even the hangers add to the eco-friendliness—they’re bamboo.

    Adams explains that the closet is where we often spend the first and last moments of our days. “I want to create a space people feel good in,” she says. “How do I do that?” It’s about creating organization, utilizing space, and choosing products that make an impact. “Whenever I can use [eco-friendly] products or do it inherently, that’s what I do.” At times, she’s taking the lead on green building and telling her clients, “I’m getting these woods from here, and here are the options.” But while some clients “need the education,” she says, “others are driving the process.”

    When reflecting on the role of green building in her industry, Adams adds, “It’s amazing how mainstream it has become. It’s not so expensive. It’s something people are constantly thinking about. Now for people to not choose that option, well, they don’t.” In terms of revolutionizing closets, it seems Adams is achieving her goal. When she started LA Closet Design in 2007, she felt closets were in the “dark ages.” Now, she can say she’s proud of where the industry is going. “People were so content with rods and shelves, but now they understand they can have the space designed for their needs. The future is all about education and raising people’s expectations.”

    As for giving your own closet an organizational and eco-friendly makeover, Adams suggests invoking your personality in terms of materials. It’s not about buying new, but rather, about making your closet a space you’re proud of. “Repurpose things, recycle things. Even knobs. Paint [an old knob] or make it decorative,” she says. With creative inspiration from resources like Pinterest, green home blogs, and experts like Adams, we can all find eco-friendly ways to add a little luxury, calm, and sanctuary to our closets.

    Other green closet tips:

    For related articles, see:
    Environmentally Friendly Clothes
    Energy Efficient Light Bulbs: (CFLs)
    Bamboo Floors, An Environmentally Friendly Floor Option
    Paints, Adhesives, and Other Finishes

     © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by Hannah Malan - August 01, 2013
  • 9 Simple Steps to a Carbon Neutral Home

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    Blog Post by SCGH

    Brandon Cheshire, Owner & Chief Technical Officer at Arizona-based SunHarvest Solar, recently spoke with SCGH about the benefits of going solar. During the interview, we discovered that his home is not only solar powered, it’s carbon neutral. This means it’s completely energy independent and emissions-free. Here’s how he did it.

    Besides installing your solar system, what other upgrades did you make? 

    1.       LED light bulbs. First thing I did was decrease my lighting demand by switching all my high-use lights to LED. That reduced my lighting energy demand by about 35% since I previously had CFLs installed (replacing incandescent light bulbs would have resulted in 95% savings). This is a great investment because the LED lamps last over 20 years! SunHarvest can provide this service for our customers if it is not something they are comfortable doing themselves.

    2.       Insulation. I hired a contractor to install radiant barrier and extra insulation in my attic. This process was not very expensive, and a difference was noticeable immediately. My home remains 15-25 degrees cooler/warmer than the outside temperature without A/C or heating! Installing these products saved me another 30% on my cooling and heating costs.

    3.       Energy controller. I installed a KVAR Energy Controller which optimizes the way all the motors (fridge, dishwasher, etc.) operate in my home. The manufacturer guarantees a 6-12% savings in energy and backs the product with a 90-day money back warranty. You can actually see it work by looking at your utility meter, it’s pretty cool! We are a distributor for KVAR and can also provide this service for customers.

    4.       Tankless water heater. Just after I installed the KVAR, my water heater started leaking, damaged the drywall, and provided me with the fine opportunity to install an EcoSmart tankless water heater. It has a lifetime warranty on the entire product, is very simple to install, and eliminates any wasted energy. It turns on as soon as you want hot water, on demand. This has saved me an additional 20% in energy costs, and SunHarvest offers this installation service.

    5.       Sun screens. I also installed solar sun screens which block up to 90% of the sun’s heat. This also keeps my house cooler during the summer, saving 10% on additional cooling expenses. SunHarvest is certified to offer this service with a local Aluminum Screen Manufacturer and Phifer Suntex heavy duty shading fabric.

    6.       Smartcool compressor optimization. Next, I installed a Smartcool system outside by my air conditioner. This is an amazing product! It truly is smarter than I am. It works by maximizing the efficiency of your air conditioning system, making it cycle less. It runs longer at times and shorter at times, but it reduces the overall run-time of your air conditioner. This product saved me an additional 15% on my cooling and heating energy use. SunHarvest also provides this service.

    7.       IceCOLD technology. I coupled the Smartcool installation with another product that is actually injected into your cooling system. This product is called IceCOLD, and it changes the molecular composition of your coolant, broadening the surface area, acting as a catalyst, and making your air 3-4 degrees cooler! I am no scientist, but the math shows I am saving an average of 10-30% energy usage, depending on the outside temperature. We work with an IceCOLD rep to install this product, since it is a very difficult material to transport. That being said, we would be happy to facilitate for any customer who wants it.

    8.       No brainers. Otherwise, we just turn lights off when we’re not using them, eliminate vampire loads through plug strips, and keep our home comfortable at 79-80 degrees during the summer. We have a solar panel salt water chlorinator that just floats in the pool, reducing our pool pump run-time. We compost everything we can, recycle 98% of our waste, and ride bikes or use public transportation whenever possible. We also save money driving a hybrid, averaging 51.5 mpg. We planted shade trees, and installed low flow water fixtures to conserve water also. We love living green!

    9.       Reciprocity. Making our home carbon neutral has been a process to say, but not an expensive one. There los of rebates and tax credits to take advantage of, and I just started a cycle of reciprocity with the government. I try to take the tax returns that I achieve through renewables or conservation, and recycle them into more renewable or conservation home improvement projects. It has been working well for me since 2011.

    If you’re local to Arizona and are interested in making upgrades to your home, get in touch with Brandon and learn more about SunHarvest Solar here.

    For related articles, see:
    Four Steps to Becoming a Renewable Energy Resident
    Renewable Energy at Home
    Wind Turbines: Not the Perfect Fit for Your Home
    Is Solar Energy Right for You? 

    © 2013 SCGH, LLC.

    by SCGH - May 21, 2013
  • Environmental Education Goes Social with Practically Green

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    By SCGH.com

    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
  • Curbside Food Waste Collection – A Growing Trend

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    By Debra Atlas

    Almost half of the nearly 250 million tons of garbage that winds up in landfills in the U.S. each year could be composted.  An average single-family household throws away about 45 pounds of food scraps and food-soiled paper every month—around 25% of total trashed materials! SCGH explores a growing trend that creates a viable alternative to this: curbside food waste collection.

    Already over 160 communities in 16 states have implemented curbside food waste collection programs. “The growth trajectory [for these programs] has been increasing by about 50 percent for the past three years,” said Rhodes Yepsen, an organics recycling expert from biodegradable and compostable materials developer Novamont North America. “The number of food waste facilities in the U.S. is growing, and many yard trimming [compost] facilities are applying for new permitting to make the switch to food waste collection.”

    Composting organic waste—like kitchen scraps and yard trimmings—can be recycled into valuable compost used to enrich soil in landscaping and road construction projects. It also helps reduce the amount of methane, a by-product of landfill and food waste, that’s released into the air. A report issued by the EPA in 2011 noted that composting all the food scraps in California, for example, would cut emissions by 5.8 million metric tons each year.

    Supermarkets and restaurants can also make a difference by participating in these programs. “Supermarkets generate large volumes of organic [waste],” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “And, combined with recycling programs for cardboard and shrink wrap, [they] can recycle more than 70 percent of the waste they generate.”

    Leading the trend since 1996, San Francisco’s programs have helped to divert 80 percent of waste from its landfills, explained Robert Reed of San Francisco’s Recology, a resource recovery center in the city.  Over the past four years, Recology has seen an increase of green bin tonnage from 350 tons to 600 tons each day day! Reed noted that, over an eleven year period, San Francisco has reduced the tonnage going to landfills by 49 percent. “It’s the highest [percentage of diversion] in North America.”

    Along with increased diversion, these programs produce a cost savings. With consumers reducing their garbage through food scrap programs, landfill waste collectors can reduce their weekly collections. In places like Portland, Oregon; King County, Washington; and several counties in Minnesota; composting programs have allowed a cut in weekly garbage collections to every other week.

    Many towns provide kitchen scrap pails and encourage the use of approved compostable bags for collecting food waste. Some programs are “pay-as-you-throw”; others offer varied rates to customers.

    So what counts as “food waste”?

    • Food scraps such as fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and bones, bread, pasta and baked goods, egg shells, dairy products, and coffee grounds
    • Food-soiled paper goods such as paper towels and napkins, paper plates and cups, and pizza boxes
    • Milk and juice cartons
    • Egg cartons
    • Boxes from frozen and refrigerated foods
    • Waxed paper and paper containers
    • Coffee filters and tea bags
    • And other compostable items such as full vacuum cleaner bags, dryer lint, tissues,  cotton balls, floral trimmings, and house plants

    Before launching curbside food waste collection programs, though, communities must take four crucial steps. First, they must create the necessary infrastructure, including establishing a composting facility. Second is mandated city-wide participation. Third, the program must offer convenience—the easier it is, the more likely consumers will achieve satisfactory participation. Lastly, a broad outreach program must be put in place to educate consumers about the benefits of participating, including how they’ll save money.

    “People have a hard time understanding what food waste is—it’s the next step after conventional recycling,” Yepsen said. “But it’s solving a lot of problems,” he added.  “We have a topsoil problem. We have a water problem. We don’t want to put chemicals [on things]. Compost helps with [all] that.”

    As cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City, and Boulder are embracing curbside food waste collection programs, they’re seeing real benefits to both the communities and the planet.

    Don’t have curbside food waste collection in your neighborhood? You’ve still got options:

    • Talk with your local politicians to see if this is a program you can get. Work with your neighbors to draft a letter to your city. Or, contact your waste hauler directly.
    • Waste Management offers food waste collection [services],” Yepsen said. “They might be willing to offer this to [your] neighborhood.”

    What do you think about this trend? Comment below.

    For related articles, see:
    City-Wide Program Composts 1 Million Tons
    Top 10 Reasons to Compost
    San Francisco vs. Seattle: America’s Greenest City

    Read more articles by Debra Atlas.

    © 2013 SCGH, LLC.

    by Debra Atlas - February 05, 2013
  • Eco-Friendly Sunglasses Make Waves

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    By Hannah Malan

    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
  • Crowdfunding for Green

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    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
  • Solar: Powered by Community

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    Guest post and photos by Solarize CT
    November 2, 2012

    FAIRFIELD, CONNECTICUT — When Stephanie Weiner, CEO of New England Smart Energy Group, found out that her town was selected to participate in the Solarize Connecticut pilot program, she could not have been more excited by the opportunity to help engage the rest of her local community in solar.

    Stephanie immediately got on board, finding ways to communicate the benefits of the special discount solar program to friends, neighbors, and other Fairfield residents. “This is exactly the kind of program that will help us expand solar in our community and offer an excellent investment opportunity for our residents,” Stephanie said. “By tabling at local events, hosting Solarize Fairfield Workshops at the library, and putting up yard signs across town, we are helping Fairfield residents understand all that this program has to offer.”

    Fairfield joined Durham, Portland, and Westport as the four pilot towns to launch Solarize Connecticut in partnership with the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), The John Merck Fund, and SmartPower. The goal of the residential solar program is to bring together homeowners across a community to offer deep discounted prices for residential solar power.

    Solarize does this by addressing many of the traditional barriers that homeowners face in going solar, the main one being high out-of-pocket costs. The program’s tiered pricing structure means that the total cost of solar comes down as the number of residents who sign up increases. In addition to this pricing structure, each town assumes responsibility for outreach, thereby reducing the marketing costs incurred by the installer. By selecting a preferred installer to do all installations for one community, the price has the potential to be substantially discounted to all participants. The program’s end date also requires and encourages homeowners to sign up if they want to take advantage of the program’s limited time discounts.

    The four towns participating in the first phase of the Solarize Connecticut program were selected based on an ability to execute an effective outreach and community-based campaign. Eight weeks into the program, the towns have helped the program generate more than 40 signed solar contracts. Each of these signed contracts represents one more home reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and reducing its environmental impact. A Solarize Scoreboard on the program Web site breaks these contracts down by town and kW.

    Durham currently leads the four towns in terms of signed solar contracts, thanks in large part to their effective grassroots marketing strategy. The town engaged the local High School’s Eco Club to build a Solarize Durham Thermometer that reflects the growth in town solar signups since the Solarize program began. The thermometer was put on display at the Town Green for the Durham Fair.

    In addition, Durham hosted an information night welcoming local residents to learn more about the program and ask the town’s selected solar installer, BeFree Solar, any questions about the process of installing solar. The other three pilot towns have been just as proactive in hosting and tabling at a variety of events, all helping to drive solar signups and reduce the cost.

    “This program builds on our efforts to drive down costs in the residential PV market here in Connecticut,” said Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of CEFIA. “Through our Clean Energy Communities, we will aggregate customer demand and continue to work toward developing a sustainable market that attracts private capital investment.”

    The best practices and lessons learned from the four pilot towns will soon be applied to a second phase of the program in early 2013. Similarly modeled programs in Oregon and Massachusetts have also successfully delivered a lower cost to consumers. For more information about how you can reduce your environmental impact and save on solar, visit Sierra Club Green Home’s Solar Center.

    For related articles, see:
    Community Solar: Bringing People Together for Clean Energy
    Clean, Renewable Energy Could Power U.S. by 2050
    Sunny Forecast for Solar Power
    Video: Affordable Solar Panels Can Save You Money

    About Solarize CT: Solarize Connecticut (CT) is a program sponsored by the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) in partnership with SmartPower and The John Merck Fund with the goal of increasing residential solar power by making it more affordable throughout Connecticut and New England.  For more information about Solarize CT, click here.

    © 2012 SCGH, LLC.

    by SCGH - November 02, 2012

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