Archive for the ‘Office Greening’ Category

Local water supply in rural India

Local water supply in rural India from the New York Times

  • Dr. Nocera at MIT is reserching the ability to capture energy through photosynthesis, so that we can harness solar energy at night
  • A cap and trade system for carbon emissions is looking like it is gaining consensus as the best option for  accounting for externalities of pollution, but how much will it cost our society?
  • More on green schools, this time talking about “the halo” system that enables natural light to shine into the classroom even on cloudy days at Da Vinci Arts Middle School in Portland, Oregon
  • Design your own graywater capture system!
  • Google tackles office greening in London. Best way to increase recycling? Take away trash cans at individual desks.
  • How can a hotel go green but still cater to visitor needs? Take a hole out of the soap bar…
  • A new analysis report was released recently, showing that India could face a severe water supply problem if they do not change their usage patterns soon

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Contributed by John Leys and Mike Amodeo

Sherwood Design Engineers has taken another big step to becoming a truly carbon neutral firm. Sherwood as a company has spent quite a bit of time over the past few years greening up operations at all levels. This has included certification as a San Francisco Green Business, and the 50% reduction of solid waste generated by the SF office. Now, the New York office has gone so far as to offset the carbon emitted due to office electricity use and travel for the past year. After totaling up the miles traveled by office members by plane, train, and automobile, and assuming a standard rate of electricity use per square foot of office space (we don’t pay an individual energy bill in NY, typical of large buildings), we were able to estimate our carbon dioxide emissions with the aid of Renewable Choice Energy. We then purchased equivalent carbon offsets and wind power renewable energy certificates.

In total our New York office offset 23.2 metric tons of CO2 using ERT Certified Choice Carbon and 14,040 kWh of electricity using Green-e Certified American WindTM. This is equivalent to NOT driving 76,735 miles or planting 289 trees.

For 2008, we plan to move beyond tracking just electricity and travel. While we will continue to track our miles and estimated carbon emissions, we also plan to account for other environmental impacts such as paper use and waste generation. In addition, as a firm we will work harder to make design choices that require less energy during the short term in the form of materials and construction practices as well as during the long term in longevity and operations.

Photo of windmills take by Dan Chusid

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Adventures in Office Greening, Vol 1, Issue13

The Suit Makes the Man

The Problem:

85% of the 35,000 dry cleaning businesses in the U.S. still use the toxic solvent perchloroethylene (perc), which is known to cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and has been linked to reproductive problems, including miscarriage and infertility in men, as well as disorders of the central nervous system. The EPA and the International Agency for Research in Cancer have labeled perc a probable human carcinogen.

The Solution:

1) Don’t buy “dry clean only” garments (this is very difficult)

2) Wetcleaning, which is recommended by multiple “green” consumer advocacy groups including the Green Guide

3) On the legislative front, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to ban the purchase of new perc machines as of 2008 and to phase out the use of perc by 2023. At the national level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected a proposal in July 2007 to phase out all perc machines, choosing instead to phase them out only at dry cleaners in residential buildings. The Sierra Club has a pending federal court lawsuit against EPA over this.

Caveat emptor: as we have all noticed, it is very trendy to claim you are “green”, and some dry cleaners are labeling themselves as such while still using perc or other toxic solvents, so make sure you ask the vendor specifically if they are using wetcleaning technology.


  • no chemical smell
  • whiter whites
  • easier to remove water-based stains
  • some items come out cleaner
  • significant environmental benefits
  • no hazardous chemical use
  • no air pollution
  • no water or soil contamination


  • may cause shrinkage or color change in some garments
  • is more difficult to remove grease-based stains
  • most cleaners charge more because of the increased labor in pressing and finishing
  • increased use of water

OK to wetclean:

  • cottons
  • wools
  • silks
  • leathers
  • suedes
  • wedding gowns
  • beaded and sequined garments

Not OK to wetclean:

  • some acetate linings and highly tailored garments
  • antique satins
  • gabardines

If you are really interested and want to read all about it, the EPA has an extensive article here.

Click here for previous “Adventures in Office Greening”

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Adventures in Office Greening, Vol 1, Issue 11

Sure, we’ve already lost 50.

In July, before we started composting, recycling correctly, or separating electronic and hazardous waste, we threw away an average of 100 pounds per month (four 5-day weeks).

In November we averaged 50 pounds per month.

Zero waste would be an ultimate goal. But let’s take another baby step, and try to get to 25 pounds per month by the end of March, 2008.

At this point, it seems like we’re doing everything right, and that it wouldn’t be possible to cut down anymore…

So our options now are making more environmentally conscious shopping choices.

For San Francisco, that means avoid buying items, such as food, that comes in plastic that can’t be recycled: tubs and containers numbered 1, 3, and 6. You’ll see an example above.

Remember that bottles (defined as neck smaller than body) numbered 1-7 are still ok to recycle. But isn’t it better to buy one nice travel bottle to reuse?

Basically, the less we take in, the less we have to deal with. Another good reason to take your own bag to the store!

Click here for previous “Adventures in Office Greening”

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Adventures in Office Greening, Vol 1, Issue 10

Here is what I found on phantom energy use, which is caused by appliances that consume power even when they are turned “off”:

There is a device called the Kill-A-Watt that measures the rate of electricity consumption by various devices. This device was used to test common “vampire” appliances that continue to suck energy when they are turned off.

For reference, an average compact fluorescent light bulb uses around 11 W. Watts are a measure of the rate of energy consumption. The standard unit for total quantity of consumption is kW-hr. For example, if an 11-W bulb burned for 2 hours, it would consume 0.022 kW-hrs of energy.

1. Cell phones and other small electronic device chargers = 1.2-2.4 W

2. Computer = 7 W

3. TV/VCR unit = 5 W

4. Microwave oven = 1.2 W

1 kilowatt-hour = 1.0 lb of coal, 0.40 lb of natural gas, or 0.58 lb of oil.

We are not in the office for ~120 hrs/wk, and there are ~20 people in the office.

Vampire consumption when “off”, but not unplugged, of computers in this office results the consumption of 885 lbs of coal or 355 lbs of natural gas every year.

Solutions include:

Turning off your power strip at the end of each work day.

Get a Wattstopper or Smart Strip Power Strip, which are intelligent enough to cut the phantom power to your electronics when they’re not in use.

Click here for previous “Adventures in Office Greening”

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Adventures in Office Greening,  Vol 1, Issue 9

Toilet Paper Holder

If you work in a large office building like we do in the New York building, that you probably have a janitorial staff that handles cleaning the bathroom, and most importantly, loading the toilet paper holder. Its a very tricky job when you have a large roll of toilet paper to judge how low you can go before it will run out in the middle of the day.  And prior to the installation of the beautiful holder you see above, the small roll would get placed on the floor for people to finish off – in reality it just made a mess unraveling on the floor.

A few weeks ago, the ones above appeared.  Now, there is a space for the extra roll, thereby extending the life of a roll of toilet paper to the very end.  Sometimes the solution is that easy.

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Adventures in Office Greening, Vol 1, Issue 8

More and more I’ve been thinking about bags.

That’s kind of sad, I know. But now I’ve been making an extra effort to bring my two bags with me to the grocery store. I even have a little fold up one. It’s actually made things easier, because a nicely designed reusable bag is more comfortable to carry than plastic or paper.

At the office, our drawer for collecting the thin plastic bags fills up quickly, and then it’s time to take it to a nearby grocery store for disposal. I’m not sure what happens to them after that…

…they may just end up incinerated in India. Check out this article breaking down the “Paper vs. Plastic” debate, recently also mentioned in our “Green News You Can Use”.

Now you can tell them to hold more than just the mayo on your next lunch run.

Food for thought.

Click here for previous “Adventures in Office Greening”

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