Archive for the ‘Green’ Category


Green building professionals from across the nation will converge at Fort Mason Center on October 2nd during the West Coast Green Conference to brainstorm design strategies and practical ideas for the continued evolution of Fort Mason Center as a leading environmentally sustainable destination. As part of a planned rehabilitation of Pier 2, Fort Mason Center plans to adopt LEED Silver standards and install a large-scale solar array, which will provide for 80% of energy consumption. The Slam will provide a medium for development of a solar conversion plan by the leading solar engineers in the Bay Area.

This ‘meeting of the minds’ is an opportunity for Fort Mason Center to benefit from the design leaders assembled at West Coast Green and to harvest the intellectual capital of its visionary participants. The Slam is set to involve West Coast Green participants and advisors, including Eric Corey Freed, Gil Friend, David Johnston, Sim Van der Ryn, Bill Reed, The education director from PG&E, and several team members at Sherwood Design Engineers.

The collaboration with West Coast Green will strengthen Fort Mason Center’s role as a model of sustainability and help to generate additional synergy with other partners including Long Now Foundation, the National Park Service, San Francisco Conservation Corps, Zip Car, Eat Well, LMS Architects, and Presidio School of Management.

Read Full Post »

There was much excitement last summer with the passage of Senate Bill 1258 (Lowenthal) in July of 2008. The bill called for the California Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to draft new standards for graywater use (note that the spelling is generally “gray” in the US and “grey” in the UK)  in CA that will probably take effect in 2011. Of particular excitement was the explicit mention of “indoor and outdoor uses”.

For close to 2 decades, graywater reuse has been regulated by Appendix G in the CA Plumbing Code with the California State Water Resources Control Board having ultimate administrative authority. The only express reuse application noted in the UPC is an underground irrigation distribution field, which is configured in an eerily similar fashion to a septic leach field. While there is an ‘alternative methods and means’ section in Appendix G, the permitting process proved so cumbersome and expensive that there are only a few permitted graywater systems in all of California, while there are hundreds and likely thousands of unpermitted systems.

The DHCD is in the process of developing and adopting new code to govern the reuse of graywater in California. SB 1258 calls for stakeholder input, which is critical because the DHCD has limited experience dealing with this issue. Unfortunately, the DHCD chose the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ (IAPMO) Chapter 16, which is more restrictive than Appendix G, as the starting point for this new legislation.

However, the stakeholder input process has met with some success in evolving IAPMO’s standards. Lara Allen of the advocacy group Greywater Guerillas summarized the following highlights of the new draft:

1. Washing machines are exempt from permits for residential use as long as they follow specified guidelines.
2. Mulch basins are a legal way to infiltrate greywater (before gravel was specified that is mined from river beds – mulch is wood chips and can be sustainably generated locally)
3. “Simple systems” are defined in the new code and there is language that could lead to local interpretation of exempting these systems from a permit. We still urge HCD to go further and exempt “simple systems” from permitting.

The legislation is still in draft form, and the code writers could make it either better or worse, so interested parties can participate in the ongoing stakeholder input process to encourage the DHCD officials to write an even more user-friendly code. Check out this web site for opportunities to become involved.

There is a critical paradigm shift that needs to occur among graywater regulators so that application systems are not seen as close cousins to leach fields, but rather as efficient irrigation distribution systems.

There are a lot of interesting web sites tracking these developments. Art Ludwig of Oasis maintains a great web site that tracks the history of graywater legislation in California. Check it out here.

Read Full Post »

Auto-Free NY’s Plan for Improving the City through Better Transit

Come hear how it works this week.
Tuesday, Oct 28. 6-8pm
Auto-Free NY presents an open forum on key transportation issues. Moderated by Jeffrey Gold, Vice-President, Institute for Rational Urban Mobility.

More info on Sustainable Streets in New York City in SF this week from SPUR:
Wednesday, Oct 29. 12:30 – 1:30pm. SPUR Office, 312 Sutter St. (at Grant), 5th Floor. Close to the Powell St. BART station and several Muni lines. Feel free to bring a lunch. SPUR Forums are open to the public, free for members and $5 for non-members.

New York’s Department of Transportation has transformed in recent years into one of the country’s leading advocates for sustainable streets. Jon Orcutt, the agency’s Director of Policy, will discuss the agency’s strategic plan, released in April 2008, and the variety of projects and initiatives designed to align the department with the goals and challenges of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 sustainability initiative

What’s “Humanure”??
Thursday, Oct 30. 7:30 – 9:00pm. 6th Street Community Center
638 East 6th St (btw Aves B and C), in Manhattan

Permaculture Solutions Lecture Series presents: “Humanure” Humanure – the odorous excretions of human beings – can be recycled using natural processes without creating environmental pollution. And it can be done in your own backyard. Joseph Jenkins will cover this topic at least a couple inches deep. Joseph Jenkins, a businessman, organic gardener and author of three books, is perhaps best known for the award-winning Humanure Handbook – A Guide to Composting Human Manure, which is making its way to various United Nations and international development networks, and has been translated into Korean, Hebrew, Spanish, Norwegian and Mongolian.  From the Green NYC Events calendar.

Have a Great Week!

Read Full Post »

  • Delta goes green by eliminating their paper newsletter. Not so impressive, but they already have an on-board recycling program and have many options to allow customers to purchase carbon offsets. Jet Blue is going green too, attempting to do energy saving things like using one engine instead of two during taxiing, using ground power instead of engines for power at the gate, and eliminating paper tickets.
  • There is some improvement in sulfur dioxide emissions and water quality measures in China, but overall, pollution has increased over last year.
  • Climate bill dies in the Senate – we’ll have to wait until next administration for any kind of movement on the cap and trade issue.
  • Alain Robert scaled the NY Times Building in NYC as a protest against global warming for World Environment Day. He was detained by police on the 52nd floor. I was alerted to the action by swarming helicopters since our office is across town.  Another man climbed the building later that afternoon.
  • Adnam’s brewing company is creating “East Green”, a carbon neutral beer available in the UK only. Among the carbon saving features are using locally grown barley and reusing steam from the brewing process for the next batch.
  • If you have to have a lawnmower (that isn’t a push model), follow these instructions to convert it to solar powered.
  • A portion of Times Square got turned into a park on Thursday in honor of World Environment Day.
  • It is more efficient to turn off your car than to idle if you are going to be idling more than 10 seconds.
  • Guerrilla gardening greens up pockets around New York City.
  • GM is closing four of its truck and SUV plants due to rising gas prices. And they may cancel production of the Hummer.
  • Some major American corporations have been meeting regularly with environmental groups for the past couple of years to develop proposals for federal limits on carbon emissions.
  • Best Buy is testing an electronics disposal program at their stores.
  • Fiji Water is trying to green their image, despite being criticized for promoting bottled water, from Fiji at that.
  • Price does matter, and as a result, driving miles have gone down an estimated 4.3% nationally over this time last year.

Photo of a successful guerrilla gardening effort in London from The Guerrilla Gardening Homepage

Read Full Post »

  • LA looks into recycling treated wastewater for use as drinking water, via an aquifer, like Orange County just started doing.
  • USGBC rolls out their new LEED 2009 rating system for public comment on Monday.
  • PlaNYC 2030 may involve legislation to require large commercial buildings to provide secure bike parking on or near the premises.
  • A DOE study thinks its possible to increase wind generated electricity from 1% of total energy production to 20% by 2020.
  • Talk of the Nation covers the Great Lakes, and the protection efforts going into preserving 1/5th of the world’s surface fresh water.
  • The NYC Department of Environmental Protection is installing a stop gap measure to deal with combined sewer overflow to the East River by installing a balloon in the sewer pipe to hold sewage during an intense rain event to prevent it from flowing into the East River and the New York Harbor.
  • The Bust administration has listed polar bears as threatened species, due to decline in Arctic sea ice from global warming. It will be very interesting to see what law suits pop up because of this. The World Wildlife Foundation could be suing coal plants for causing global warming.
  • Going green is the next big thing for restaurants, as the Green Restaurant Association drums up a lot of participants.
  • Spain is building two 50 MW solar thermal power plants. Solar power makes a lot of sense for Spain where most of the power demand is proportional to air conditioning needs, so the sunnier it gets, the more power is generated.
  • Some facts about European sprawl show that sprawl isn’t necessarily an unavoidable byproduct of affluence, so there is hope for American cities as well.
  • Rising gas prices are leading to significant increases in public transportation ridership in the US, particularly in the west and south.

A photo of a crowded NYC subway train from Saw Lady’s Blog

Read Full Post »

  • Front lawns need a lot of water and light to look pretty, but what about a moss lawn? It doesn’t need nearly as much water and grows well in shade so no need to cut down a lot of trees.
  • New York State will start purchasing green office products, namely 100% recycled paper for both office use and for publications.
  • In an odd turn of events, endangered seals in the Seattle area are eating endangered salmon, which may be even more endangered than the seals. Who do you protect?
  • Keeping a portion of ones farmland fallow each year is important to restoring nutrients to the soil and help protect wildlife habitats. With economic pressures, though, farmers are keeping less and less land fallow. What effect is this having?
  • Really want to do your part to save the planet? Stop eating red meat and dairy.  A new study shows that cutting red meat and dairy out of your diet has a much larger effect on the environment than eating local produce.
  • Do you have something to say about Art and the Environment? Orlo has a call for proposals, submissions and recommendations for their Fall 2008 Contemporary Art Issue for visual artists, curators, gallery directors and writers.
  • San Francisco diverts the highest percentage of waste away from landfills, 70%, of any city in the country, but Mayor Newsom thinks they can do even more. And he’s looking to reach 75% by requiring all residents to compost, instead of doing it voluntarily.  Apparently Newsom has some other ideas in mind for the city as well, including stations where you can exchange your dead battery for your electric car with a charged one, negating the need to wait around to charge it, and changing from a payroll tax to a carbon tax.
  • Quebec is planning on building 2,004 MW worth of wind farms by 2015, which can be used in tandem with they’re already large hydropower program to generate hydropower more optimally. And if there’s energy left over, export power to the Northeast US.
  • LEED’s standards are a good first step, but there is a lot of criticism for the standards, such as why the same standards apply to Las Vegas as New York City, or that the points aren’t necesarily awarded based on difficulty to implement or green impact.
  • New York City and the EPA are building up to have the third New York City Green Building Competition.  This year’s theme is Integration.  The due date is May 30th for submissions, so get integrated! (via New York EcoSpaces)

Image from Washington State Department of Ecology

Read Full Post »

  • Foreign born Indians are returning to India with their western university degrees and hopes to instill environmental ethics into the Indian public before its too late.
  • Washington D.C. will become first U.S. city to introduce automated bicycle-sharing program. Transportation officials hope the program will reduce stress on transit systems.
  • Bidets could be a solution for people in the US to reduce their toilet paper use. While they are very popular in other parts of the world, bidets haven’t caught on here in the states. Treehugger looks at an economical one that can be attached to your to toilet at home without need for a separate unit.
  • In one county in Georgia, there is no problem with drought due to the use of a wetland wastewater treatment system in use that eventually discharges water into the drinking water reservoir for the county.
  • The New York Times has a discussion surrounding greenhouse gas emissions associated with air travel and whether or not biofuels should be pursued to supplement kerosene as a jet fuel.
  • Chinese automakers are gearing up to make (relatively) affordable hybrid cars, around $10,000 a pop, which is approximately the going rate for regular automobiles in China. Could these make it to the US?
  • Is global warming really happening? The EPA must think so because it is looking at how to manage water supplies with the onset of climate change and a warming planet.
  • United Arab Emirates may have one of the largest oil reserves in the world, but they realize that it won’t be around forever, so part of the motivation for building a carbon neutral city is to have a leg up on the alternative energy field in the future.
  • Could superconductors help combat global warming? A huge amount of power generated at power plants are lost during the transmission process, but superconductors lose almost no energy and don’t emit EMF, so they could be worth the cost.

Photo of a wastewater treatment wetland in Clayton County, Georgia from NPR.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »