Well, the Natural Resource Defense Counsel (NRDC) walked its talk and over the last couple of decades has either built or renovated its offices “with the goal of putting our environmental principles into practice.”
The results have been astounding. The self-described “action group,” has offices in four U.S. cities, Santa Monica, CA; New York, NY; Washington, DC; and San Francisco, CA.
Using their San Francisco location as an example, they state on the website that the remodel of the San Francisco facility “began with a commitment to create an airy, energy-efficient and healthy environment without paying higher than market-rate construction costs. The resulting office is a showcase of renewable materials and energy-efficient solutions. What's more, nearly 75 percent of the waste generated by demolition and construction was kept out of landfills, either through re-use or recycling. And we met our goal: the project didn't cost any more than a traditional renovation.”
(NRDC's San Francisco office)
Overall, just in cost savings, their green practice resulted in:
• current annual operating cost savings of $65,000
• savings in operating costs of $650,000 in ten years energy savings
• energy savings of more than $1 per square foot from 1993 to 2003
But here’s the kicker. If all “commercial buildings were as efficient as NRDC’s offices,” they say, “ we could reduce annual energy consumption nationally by over 100,000 megawatts -- enough to power the cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Dallas, and Houston. This would avoid the need for almost 300 large power plants.” [Emphasis by us.]
This boggles us with the possibilities. We hope it excites you, too.
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Greenguard Certified manufacturers .
You’ve gone a lovely shade of green at your office. You truly have.
“But,” some of you may be saying, “we are but one office. Of millions. Surely what we do here has no impact on the planet’s environmental health. Can these little things we do add up? Really add up?”
In a (biodegradable) nutshell – yes .
Perhaps not directly, the article states. But,
“Small behaviors are important not only for the direct environmental impact they have, but because they often lead to more and more pro-environmental behaviors over time.”
“Numerous psychological studies have shown that people are more likely to agree to take a big action if they've previously agreed to smaller, similar actions. Thus, changing a light bulb may lead to higher impact behaviors like giving up plastic water bottles, insulating one's house, living closer to work, reducing meat consumption, and actively supporting legislation that will likely require personal sacrifice. When ExxonMobil hears about people changing lightbulbs and buying Priuses, they should expect public policy changes to follow.”
We think the folks at Grist are on to something. After all, look at the power of a few small steps in other historical happenings even over recent times. Smoking in restaurants and airplanes and even in offices? Just a few years ago you were a pariah for asking someone to step outside with their “cancer stick.” Now who’s the outcast (literally, as smokers now must get their fix outside the office building.
Remember when it was just old fogies and MADD mothers who wanted people to stop drinking and driving? And don’t forget driving while on a cell phone. The devices have been in widespread use less than a decade and already a few cities and states ban their (handheld) use while driving.
How did those changes come about? By one person – and then another and then one more and then several more, hundreds more, thousands more, millions - taking a stand and taking action: Writing their legislators. Asking the sm oker to setp outside. Deciding to be the designated driver for the evening.
One step. One person.
One sheet of copy paper recycled.
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Not so fast. Many of our products are perfect for a home office (wouldn’t you just love to sink your pajama-clad tush into this lushness?).
That said, you gotta love this great overview of the joys, wherewithals with a roundup of why working from home makes more and more sense.
Their number one reason: “it’s better for the atmosphere.”
Despite slow growth in jobs and travel, traffic congestion continues to worsen, researchers say, costing Americans $63.1 billion a year. The 2005 Urban Mobility Report measures traffic congestion trends from 1982 to 2003, reflecting the most recent data available. If today’s higher fuel prices are factored in, the cost jumps another $1.7 billion. It's even worse than that because the UMS report doesn't seem to count the many health costs associated with stress, air pollution, etc.
The Treehugger.com overview cites this nifty finding from Sun Microsystems, via Planet Green.com :
Employees saved more than $1,700 per year in gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles by working at home an average of 2.5 days a week.
Office equipment energy consumption rate at a Sun office was two times that of home office equipment energy consumption, from approximately 64 watts per hour at home to 130 watts per hour at a Sun office.
Commuting was more than 98 percent of each employee's carbon footprint for work, compared to less than 1.7 percent of total carbon emissions to power office equipment.
By eliminating commuting just 2.5 days per week, an employee reduces energy used for work by the equivalent of 5,400 Kilowatt hours/year.
Working from home 2.5 days per week saved the employees in the study an average of 2.5 weeks of commute time (8 hours/day, 5 days/week
The study showed how good telecommuting was for the environment, but didn’t delve into productivity of the at-home workers. Did they work more? Harder? Smarter? Don’t know.
Still, how cool would it be to call the Big Guy and say “Boss, I’m feeling green this morning and so I’m working at home.
How well would that go over, we wonder....
And, lastly, we leave you with this: a little ditty about dirty diesel engines becoming clean , sung by no other than Garrison Keiller, a man who’s voice can make even the worst poem sound weighty and important. There’s a video, too (we especially love the bunnies in their noise ear muffs). Watch and listen. Then just try – try – not to sing along.
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furnish your office?
Live plants filter an office’s air of pollutants and other toxins. Don’t believe us? None other than the good folks at NASA actually did a few tests and found it to be true:
NASA built what it called a BioHome, “a tightly sealed building constructed entirely of synthetic materials….anyone entering the newly constructed facility would experience burning eyes and respiratory difficulties.”
Then they added houseplants and, voila!
“Once the plants were introduced to the environment, analysis of the air quality indicated that most of the VOCs [volatile organic compounds] had been removed, and the symptoms disappeared.”
Some other nifty findings:
“…people actually recover from illness faster in the presence of plants.”
“…the more that is allowed to circulate through the roots of the plants, the more effective they are at cleaning polluted air.”
“Using high-efficiency carbon filters and a root-level circulation system, the [EcoPlanter] pot allows the plant to remove approximately 200 times more VOCs than a single traditionally-potted plant can remove.”
Finally, thinking of going greener than green with your space? Why not install dried grass on your office walls? We kid you not.
(Photo courtesy Martin Kurtenbach – exept Next und Steps)
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What will architects think of next?
Savannah, Georgia architect Ming Tang came up with the idea of “folded bamboo and paper” shelters after the 7.9 earthquake that struck China in May. The quake killed tens of thousands, injured hundreds of thousands and left millions of people homeless. Which meant the Chinese government needed to find 1.5 million temporary homes.
Enter Tang, who wanted to development a”temporary shelter for the homeless people, a kinetic structure htat exhibits characteristics of umbrella and folded fans, the potential of arranging themselves into various contexts and dwelling requirements.”
If you’re wondering about covering the “roofs” of the shelters (that bamboo frame doesn’t look as if it would keep the elements our), the shelters are to be covered by using “post and pre-consumer recycled paper.”
The shelters are easy to product, relatively inexpensive and environmentally friendly.
Tang designed the shelters for a contest sponsored by San Francisco’s Urban Re:Vision.
There’s no word on whether China has asked for a shipment….
We find them beautiful. They also look like daddy long leg spiders, friendly little fellows (they eat insects) that are quite common here in Southern California.
Which brings us to The Walking House, created by N55, Danish artists and activists.
The idea is that, should the homeowner wishes to move, no need to move into a different house. Instead, move the house to a different spot.
The Walking House requires no permanent use of land and thereby challenges ownership of land and suggests that all
land should be accessible for all persons.
Interesting thought. But we have one question. Does The Walking House come with The Walking Fence, so that we may keep our neighbor’s dog from using our – temporary – front lawn as a toilet?
How Green is Your Toner?
Yes, yes, yes! We all know that a good step in creating a greener office environment is to cut back on the amount of the paper we use and throw away.
But your toner also contributes to your carbon footprint, because toner powder is derived from oil. And producing oil and using oil places carbon into our atmosphere, thus contributing to greenhouse gases and the rise of global temperatures.
But Soyprint.net believes it has a solution for the office that wishes to go greener: Soy-based toner.
From the company’s website:
Industry leaders report it takes about 2 liters of oil to make the one pound of toner powder required for each oil-based
cartridge. Currently, U.S. businesses, institutions and governmental bodies consume more than 100 million cartridges per
year. That equates to 100 million pounds or 50,000 tons of material we currently use petroleum to produce. Now every
office has a choice – they can print black or they can print “green."
They have a nifty tagline, too: "Everyone prints black...Now we can print "Green."
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