Greening Up Your Holidays

ChristmasTree1It is the holiday season, the season of giving and receiving, time for family, friends, and fun.  One of the side effects of all of these festivities is extra trash.  In fact, as Americans, we produce 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Years than we do any other time of the year.  Americans send enough Christmas cards to family and friends each year to fill a football field – 10 stories high.   We go through enough ribbon during the season to wrap our planet in a bow.  Not to mention all of the wrapping and extra packaging that comes along with gift giving.   So, in keeping with the theme of the season, here are a few tips to give back to our environment this holiday season by creating less trash and recycling more.

  • Use LED lights on your tree and home and set them up on a timer
  • Donate unwanted ornaments or purchase new to you ornaments from a thrift store
  • Consider purchasing a tree to decorate in your home that can be planted in the future
  • Purchase wrapping paper made from recycled materials or paper than can be recycled
  • Use old paper bags for wrapping paper, let your kids (or you) decorate with wrapping paper scraps or last year’s Christmas cards
  • Be creative with your wrapping – wrap in a reusable shopping bag so your recipient can be green all year long
  • Purchase gifts locally
  • Recycle any cardboard or plastic packaging that is accepted
  • Give more time instead and less things (for example:  offers to make dinner, rake leaves, wash their car)
  • Carefully prepare meals to avoid leftovers, or send leftovers you will not eat home with guests.  You can also donate leftover food to shelters.
  • Recycle your old and non-working Christmas lights.  In St. Louis you can drop off your holiday lights at many locations thanks to the St. Louis Green Holiday Lights Drive, find a location here
  • Don’t throw away your Scotch tape dispensers, recycle them through Terracycle here
  • Was your packaging full of peanuts instead of popping bubbles?  Bummer,  but you can find a place that will reuse your packing peanuts by entering your location at this site

We hope you have a joyous holiday season and may these tips help make your holidays merry, green and light!

Rise Above Plastics – 10 Helpful Tips

image courtesy of kangshutters/freedigitalimages.net

image courtesy of kangshutters/freedigitalimages.net

October seems to be a popular month for causes, such as Breast Cancer Awareness and Bully Prevention.  It’s also Rise Above Plastics Month. The Surfrider Foundation created the Rise Above Plastics Program to educate the public on the dangers of plastic waste in our oceans while encouraging the practice of recycling all plastic and eliminating our uses of single use plastic products. For Rise Above Plastics Month, everyone is encouraged to reduce their use of plastics by taking the Rise Above Plastics Challenge.

We can’t escape plastics in our world, they are all around us. Plastic is used to package our food, carry our groceries, and deliver our daily doses of caffeine. Plastics are found in many items around our homes and offices. Plastic has made many things easier but once it is created, it is nearly impossible to get rid of. Plastics are not biodegradable, instead it photodegrades, or breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces as it is exposed to the sun. It never fully disappears and eventually seeps  into our waterways and ends up in our streams, rivers and oceans. These particles are killing marine life and finding their way into our food supply.

It’s our turn to help our oceans and ourselves. Join me during the month of October by taking the challenge to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint. Here are a few tips to help us eliminate plastics from our lives. Pick one or pick all, try it for one month and you may create a habit that sticks.

  1. Purchase (and remember to use) reusable shopping bags.  It is estimated that Americans alone use enough plastic bags in one year to wrap the Equator 773 times.
  2. Purchase reusable water bottles.
  3. Carry your own utensils in your purse or backpack instead of using disposable table ware when eating away from home – you may raise an eyebrow when you pull out your own dishes at your friend’s BBQ or local fast food restaurant, but you might also start a conversation and convince someone else to jump on board for the challenge!
  4. Purchase fresh produce from your local farmer, farmer’s market, or produce stand.
  5. Replace your single use lunch bags and juice boxes with sandwich containers and a thermos.
  6. Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, gas station, or any restaurant that will allow it. When you must use their cup, refuse the lid and straw.
  7. Visit Pinterest or browse the internet for DIY recipes for all kinds of staples. I make salads on the weekend and store in Mason Jars for a grab and go lunch all week long. I also make chocolate syrup that I store in a reusable Mason Jar – both taste better than the prepackaged items from the store and they save us money too.
  8. Look for items that come in packaging other than plastic.
  9. Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE) which are the most commonly recycled plastics.
  10. Buy and sell secondhand.  No packaging equals no waste.

Good Luck and let us know how you do with the challenge.

For more information on how plastics effect the environment and how you can help reduce your plastic footprint, visit www.rapmonth.org, www.surfriderfoundation.org, and www.riseaboveplasticsprogram.org.

~ Meilissa

A Sustainable Future: How Attitudes are Changing to Green.

In an effort to continue to provide our readers with credible, valuable information, we are excited to be featuring another Guest Blogger. Each Guest Blogger we have invited to contribute to the site is an expert in their line of work, and will give you the most current information available. As always, if there is a certain topic you would like us to cover, please send us an email at info@provensustainable.com.

Let us introduce today’s Guest Blogger, Same Marquit. Sam is an entrepreneurial independent contractor and home renovation/remodeling expert in New York. He has made it a point to share with his readers a day in the life of sustainable building. Forecasting the possible application and implementation of new green buidling materials and technologies is just one small part of his effort to reduce everyone’s carbon footprint. For more on Sam and Fair Marquit Value, visit http://fmarquitv.tumblr.com.

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Image Courtesy of winnod and freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of winnod and freedigitalphotos.net

Living in today’s world can be difficult when you want to live eco-friendly. It’s a consumer-driven lifestyle with a variety of products, companies, services and buildings that just add to the environmental problem every day. There are a lot of things that people can do as a whole to combat this destruction. It’s not just individuals either. As a commercial contractor, I’ve seen businesses change major policies and buildings in order to be more sustainable and eco-friendly.

In Las Vegas, you’ll find over 100,000 hotel rooms ready for your stay. There are all sorts of luxury hotels and entertainment hot spots. One of the hotels in this desert oasis is the Las Vegas Palazzo Hotel and Resort. With their environmentally friendly policies and sustainable systems, they’ve managed to save on waste and water. One of their policies changed towards their landscaping and water usage. The hotel now uses a combination of drip irrigation, artificial turf grass and moisture sensors. The hotel was even recently named the “Most Eco Friendly Hotel in America”.

At home, people can make a lot of changes to be greener with their landscaping as well. Drip irrigation is a great idea for dry areas, but to save on water, limit your sprinkler system to the right time of day to get the most moisture and don’t over water your lawn. You can also reuse gray water from showers and washer machines to water gardens.

The ARIA hotel was recently recognized for its efforts to reduce waste as well. As another big hotel in Vegas, the ARIA created a sorting center to eliminate 47 percent of its waste from going to a landfill. As part of the three Rs, recycling is just one way you can help the planet. There’s also reusing plastic goods and reducing the amount of toxic or non-biodegradable materials that you keep around the home. The ARIA also sends its food scraps to local farms. Many homeowners have created compost bins to reuse their food waste and fertilize their lawns in a natural way. Another new trend that is gaining momentum is “up cycling”. People are finding new uses for old worn out items.

Everyone can pitch in to help change the planet. As it is, the green materials market has grown to $116 billion and will likely grow to $254 billion in 2020. As the innovation continues, especially within the hotel industry more specifically Las Vegas, newer and more efficient products will come to market.

Ending With EcoDistricts.

Image courtesy of feelart and freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of feelart and freedigitalphotos.net

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
–  Margaret Mead

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks discussing our urban areas and how they already contain many green components simply by design, but it’s no secret that many of these concrete jungles have a long way to go before they can earn the title of Green City, USA. For many, it’s not for a lack of trying.  For years, cities across the nation have been setting lofty carbon emission reduction goals.  However, many of the cities are discovering, whether it’s due to finances, support, or practicality, that these policies are difficult to put into place on such a large scale. At the same time, great successes have been seen in the green building and technology fields. Unfortunately, many of those benefits weren’t being fully optimized outside the walls of that building. The Portland Sustainability Institute – now appropriately named EcoDistricts – has stepped in to devise a plan for creating eco-districts to help municipalities create sustainable cities from the neighborhood up.

An EcoDistrict is a neighborhood or defined urban area where residents, property developers, utility providers, community institutions, and municipalities work together on sustainable development initiatives. This diverse group of stakeholders creates ambitious goals for their area, executes development projects, and documents the results. EcoDistricts create a large enough space to see meaningful results quickly, yet are small enough to manage effectively.

EcoDistrict projects can take on many forms, depending on specific needs of a neighborhood. Each district develops plans for green infrastructure, mobility, recycling, water conservation, energy, material management, and habitat protection. While districts can choose which projects they would like to concentrate on, the projects need to be both feasible and create a significant environmental impact.

EcoDistricts are successful for two primary reasons; their manageable size and leadership structure. EcoDistricts operate under policies and procedures developed by stakeholders within the community rather than city planners or government leaders. EcoDistricts bring together a group of like-minded citizens, city planners, and government leaders who work together toward a common goal. By including all parties in the planning and implementation phases, everyone feels a sense of responsibility and ownership in the community. Throughout the process, each project is carefully documented. EcoDistricts are essentially an experiment in sustainable living.  All knowledge that is gained from one neighborhood can be used to help another neighborhood build future sustainability plans.

EcoDistricts are popping up all over the nation and throughout the world, cities such as Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, and Austin, TX are just a few of the cities that have created EcoDistricts within their boundaries.  Just as green buildings laid the groundwork for EcoDistrics, it is the hope of many that these districts will eventually spread out to produce entire EcoCities.

For more information on EcoDistricts, please visit www.EcoDistricts.org.

~Melissa

In With the Old, Not So Quick With the New.

Image courtesy of mpics and freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of mpics and freedigitalphotos.net

Often when we think of a green building, we think of a new structure, designed with green in mind.  It is LEED certified and updated with all of the latest green technology.  In some cases, old buildings have been torn down to make room for these new green structures.  Odd, isn’t it? In the quest to be sustainable, the first instinct is to go against the very first green principle we ever learned – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

 

Last week, we discussed the return of downtown. Preserving old and/or historic buildings is a big part of that renovation. Today we are going to address how restoring our historic buildings brings us back to the original green triangle – Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling.

Reduce.

  • By restoring an old building instead of tearing it down, the amount of waste thrown into a landfill is reduced.  The EPA estimates that nearly one third of all waste generated in the U.S. comes from construction debris.
  • Most historic buildings are made from brick, wood, plaster, or concrete, which are very strong materials that withstand the course of time. By reusing them, you reduce the amount of new materials; most new structures are made from plastic, steel, vinyl, and aluminum.  All materials require energy to produce and transport (embodied energy) so we should do our best to minimize the amount of new materials used.
  • Preserving a historic building reduces the amount of undeveloped land used on new projects.

Reuse.

  • Reusing an older building or its’ parts instead of replacing it can often prove to be the more environmentally friendly choice when you look at it from more than one angle.  For instance, replacing windows seems to be an easy fix in making a home or building more energy efficient.  Yet studies have indicated that we wouldn’t see the payback in energy savings in our lifetime, or our children’s, or their children’s either.   Historic windows are likely made of timber, restoring that timber saves almost 40 times the amount of energy it would take to replace them with vinyl.  And again, we’re keeping them out of the landfill.
  • Greenfield developments require new infrastructure such as streets, sewer systems and where appropriate, mass transit.  Downtowns already possess the necessary infrastructure and may only need to be upgraded.

Recycle.

  • All buildings contain embodied energy – the energy required to manufacture all of the pieces within it, the energy required to install all of those pieces, and all other elements maintained within the building. When you tear down a historic building, you are wasting all of the embodied energy.   More energy is then exhausted to construct a new building.  While new green buildings cut down on annual energy use, it can take decades for a new building to compensate for the carbon emissions during its’ construction.
  • An historic building can be recycled over and over for different uses as needs of a community change.  Such as a former second story office space turned into condos, or former downtown homes turned into restaurants or boutiques.
  • Building a new building is typically half materials and half labor, while rehabbing a building is closer to 30% materials and 70% labor.  While money spent on materials may be spent in other communities, states, or even countries; money spent on labor is often returned right back to the community – the worker eats lunch there, stops at the store, or gets a hair cut on his way home.  You’re essentially recycling money within the community.

Protecting our historic buildings has long been considered important for preserving our culture and history.  More recently, it has been recognized as a sustainable practice.  Placing a priority on preserving our current buildings doesn’t mean there isn’t room for all of the new advancements that have been made in green technology.  Older buildings can benefit greatly from many of these advancements without taking anything away from the integrity of the building.   However, when considering the best way for a building to go green, one should consider the environmental consequences of tossing the old before deciding that completely new is better.

~Melissa