It’s not easy being green.

I have been dying to write those words ever since we launched this site. Now that it’s out of my system, on with the post.

Remember when simply replacing your halogen lightbulbs with compact flourescents (CFLs) was going to save the earth? Many publications, including Wired, jumped on the little ice-cream-cone-shaped-lightbulb-that-could story and for a few brief moments it seemed as if all of our global warming issues were solved. Hell, even Wal-Mart was doing its part to ensure CFLs were affordable for all. (Wal-Mart’s onboard! NOW it mainstream!) Not so fast – it seems those halcyon days (six months ago) are gone. LEDs have already replaced CFLs as the new lightbulb de-rigueur. Plus, simply replacing your lightbulbs isn’t enough – not even close. Watching programs like Living With Ed my eyes tend to glaze over a bit and I wonder if this whole inititative hasn’t gone a bit overboard. Look; I appreciate wanting to save the planet, or at the very least, not contribute further to its ecological demise. But when I read and/or see people building entire houses out of recycled materials I gotta wonder where do these people live and how do they find these things? More importantly, how much are they spending on these materials? I recently read about a house project where the builder went through great lengths to recycle materials during a remodel. They recycled old doors, lumber, hardwood floors, lighting fixtures, etc. All great things. The project even ended up garnering LEED Platinum Certification. Wow – they must have saved a bundle recycling all of those materials, right? Wrong. The house cost $2 million dollars to remodel and it’s currently on the market for $1.3 million Say what? We’re not talking some 6,000 sq. ft. monolith. The house is a two level ranch-style home that’s 2300 sq. ft. Holy *#$% – that’s $869 a sq. ft. to remodel! Who has that kind of money? Not me. If these green initiatives are going to take root it’s going to have to be more affordable for the rest of us. I’m all for going green but not up to the point where it puts me in the red.

So I don’t always sound like the negative nilly here, here are some postive, affordable things we can all do to be more green. Much like replacing even one measly lightbulb in our home with a CFL (or LED) bulb, if enough people adopt even a few of these practices that will go along way towards reducing green house gases repairing the planet. Isn’t that what this whole green movement is all about?

  • Lower your heat by a degree or two during the winter. Conversly, raise the temp by a degree or two in the summer.
  • Stop drinking bottled water; tap is cheaper.
  • Dim your lights 20% (this returns a 40% cost savings on electricity).
  • Flush # 1 every other time (my favorite).
  • Cover your water heater with an insulating jacket for the winter.
  • Grow your own veggies.
  • Walk, bike or carpool to work.

Trust me; I know some of these sound arbitrary, but just think how many cars we could take off the road on a given day if just 1% of the commuting population decided to carpool or walk/bike to work. It doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference. Remember; there’s strength in numbers.

Posted by: JMH

Feeling some love: Radio Shack Launches Recycling and Trade-In Program for CE Devices

So as you know, we have been looking for smart ways to recycle consumer electronics and have been quite baffled by the lack of programs. Today we came across RadioShack’s new initiative in which the electronics retailer will offer store credit in exchange for used laptops, cameras, phones, and other technology gear. Cool huh! The RadioShack Online Trade-In Program will accept products from certain suppliers and in return consumers will receive a RadioShack gift card for the amount agreed on for the trade-in. In the program, consumers are led through a series of menus on the RadioShack home page. The companies participating in the program include Apple, Archos, Creative, Dell, iRiver, Microsoft, Philips, RCA, Samsung, SanDisk, Sony, and Toshiba.

Radio Shack’s program is incredibly easy to use and it takes only seconds.

As Kim blogged about earlier, the Toshiba Free Electronic Program allows consumers to recycle their old electronics regardless of the brand and at no cost – they also provide a trade in option to trade in your used products for cash.

posted by: Lauren

What can Brown do for you?

I know you’ve all heard the commercials – now the shipping giant is adding to the list. In addition to getting your packages to their destination safely, on time and with minimal hassle to you, UPS is taking steps to help the environment.

I was very excited to read this article from CNN yesterday. UPS in conjunction with the EPA, announced a joint venture to get you your packages in a environmentally conscious manner. UPS has ordered a handful of hybrid delivery trucks. The trucks combine a diesel engine with a unique hydraulic propulsion system that replaces the conventional drivetrain and transmission. Using hydraulic pumps and storage tanks, the vehicle captures and stores energy the way a battery does on an electric car.

The design is made to specifically reduce emissions during braking – which comes in very handy when your daily route can have over 100 stops. This new truck will consume 40-50% less gas then the big brown trucks on the road today.

The initial order from UPS is for 7 trucks, but the hope is to have 2,100 alternative-fuel vehicles that run on electricity, compressed natural gas or other forms of energy by next year.

So next time your TV asks you, “What can Brown do for you?”, you have your answer.

Posted by: Lauren

NAHB Green Has No Program in RI; What the?

I’ve now spent the past week going through “NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines” (by the way, the program is officially called the NAHB National Green Building Program (with a TM) … catchy don’t you think?

The NAHB National Green Building Program (herein dubbed NAHB Green) guidelines document is a whopping 170 pages long. But despite that, I decided to go ahead. I started with their “Green Scoring Tool”, which I admit when I first started I was infatuated with. But as soon as I registered my project I got this message:

Currently, there is no local program in the area of your project; continuing with the National Green Building Program Guidelines is appropriate for scoring your project.  However, there may be local programs in development, so you are encouraged to contact your local home builders association to see if there may be programs in your area in the near future.

Look, I realize I live in RI. We’re small. Hell, we only get 4 electoral college votes and they’re all blue. We have a little over 1 million people and 7% of them are unemployed, but really, no NAHB Green Program? I have a LEED Platinum Certified home down the street from me. I have found a LEED Certified Home Builder and a LEED Certified landscape architect all within a 1 mile radius of this project. But I actually like most of NAHB’s Green program. So I trudge forward.  

I went to their list of Verifiers (and as of July they just passed 100 (ouch, they put out a press release on this like it was a good thing)), and though there are six that verify in RI, not one of them live here. Of the six, they represent two firms, one in Maine and one in New Jersey. No one even resides in MA who is verifying the NAHB Green program and that even includes the Cape and Islands which has numerous LEED applications in process.

So, once again, I hit a crossroad. Despite how hard both programs are, after a lot of studying, NAHB Green actually provides more comprehensive tools and information to the homeowner on how to green your home, the steps, the methodologies, the tips and all of the documentation.

Yet no matter how cool I think the Green Scoring Tool (seriously make up a project and give it a try just to see how hard this process is. ) I may be stuck with LEED simply because  we may have no one to verify it.

Maybe I can take the test.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Toshiba Offers Cash or Free Recycling of Electronics

This is the coolest thing I’ve come across in a day riddled with disappointment and frustration.

Last week at the CEA Forum (see this post), there were extensive discussions about green electronics and recycling. Best Buy touted their Beta program but with the caveat that they have to figure out how to make money at it too. A colleague shared this with me today. The Toshiba Free Electronic Program allows consumers to recycle their old electronics regardless of the brand and at no cost.

They also provide a trade in option to trade in your used products for cash. I tried my Canon DC 220 camcorder. I noted it was in good condition, still had the box, the manual, the AC adapter and no memory card and it was still worth $105. I thought that was so cool. It’s faster than eBay, more money than a Tag Sale and it was wicked easy.

Get Started

I was impressed with the range of products they would recycle or give you cash for. They ranged from receivers and cell phones to PC and gaming devices. The only thing I didn’t see on the list was speakers or TVs; both of which can be very large, hence very heavy.

At least someone out theere is pyaing attention. I like their motto, “caring for the earth has never been so easy.” Yup, I’d have to agree.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Green Technology…an Oxymoron?

I have spent the past year and a half working with CE manufacturers who are making their products environmentally conscious. Much like every new initiative, we have been met with mixed reviews…being embraced by the CE industry – “AH! Finally companies are taking responsibility for the major footprint technology leaves in its wake”. We were shunned by the extreme environmentalists – “this product is not green”. So I ask you, where is the common ground?

Through much research and debating, I have found that there really is one. Truth: technology accounts for a large portion of a home’s energy consumption. Just look at that big TV in your living room that puts out just as much energy when it is in “standby” as it does when it is in use. Computers are notorious for being a drain on recourses. But in the past several years, prominently in the past 12 months, CE manufacturers are starting to step up to the plate and provide products that are energy conscious. They are not green, but they are not energy suck monsters they once were; they have reached a middle ground where they aren’t necessarily helping by eliminating their energy usage, but are no longer using enough to power a small car. Slowly but surely, more and more manufacturers are thinking of the ENERGY STAR rating as a must-have, no longer a value proposition.

Until regulations are passed to require all manufacturers to meet a specific standard, this debate will rage on and on. While consumer electronics are most likely never going to make your energy costs go down, know that there are options that will not cause your bills to go through the roof.