Seriously fun floors….naturally

Prior to the start of this project, I had no idea what marmoleum was nor I did I realize how cool its backstory really is.  (But I did know not to end a sentence with a preposition….some things never change…) 

Marmoleum is a clean, durable and allergen-free linoleum floor covering that is neither carpet nor plastic.  It’s a natural product that starts with completely natural ingredients.  Linseed oil is pressed from the seeds of the flax plant and wood flour is obtained from  lumber industry waste (also know as sawdust!) and sustainably harvested forests.  The roisons in marmoleum are harvested from pine trees and the colors comes from environmentally responsible pigments with natural jute fibers woven on the back. 

As if that isn’t sustainable enough, marmoleum has a an earth-to-earth lifecycle – it is completely biodegradable, right up the solvent-free adhesives used in installation.  There is no lead, no formaldehyde, to plasticizers and no chlorine. 

The very best part – is so very, very affordable.  Affordable and easy to clean.  Its natural anti-static properties (for a natural product it seems extremely advanced) mean that dirt doesn’t stick very well and bacteria has a tough time breeding.  There’s no need to use harsh chemicals for cleaning, any dust is easily removed by a damp mop. 

We are using marmoleum in the Green Life Smart Life house – it’s safe, affordable, kid friendly, what’s not to love?  Check out www.themarmoleumstore.com to see colors & designs in action.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Serenbe – The community bringing sustainability and “buy local” to a new level

In Rhode Island it’s easy to buy local. In a state that is approximately 1045 square miles and takes, at most, two hours to drive from the Northeast to the Southwest borders with traffic, you are essentially staying and buying “local” regardless of where you travel in the state. The eco-conscious can roam freely through South County and beyond with the peace of mind that you are putting your green money where your mouth is.

 Earlier this week, I was completely intrigued while reading an article on Serenbe (http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/03/18/serenbe.green.community/index.html).

Serenbe is a small high-end, rural community in Georgia (I have been unable to track down exactly how big it is). It was founded and subsequently designed to reflect the traditional principles of environmental sustainability – “Where the principles of sustainability touched everything from your home’s methods of construction to the organic produce on your table that was grown by one of your neighbors”. The community was founded by Marie and Steve Nygren in 1991 (the date of their home purchase) with a vision of an eco-community. Though the residential housing development itself is only four year old, Serenbe has welcomed more than 160 residents who have chosen to embrace the village’s sustainable standards of living and features over 100 newly built, environmentally friendly homes and business spaces. And while the rest of the country has seen a sharp decline in home prices, Serenbe residences boast a starting price of $350,000, well above Georgia’s median home price fluctuating around $200,000. 

Serenbe is a high-end, high-tech eco-village that is thriving.

Check out the community’s site that reads “the best reason to live here is the life here”. If you are not hooked immediately than you are probably crying “cult”, however the tranquil music had me at hello. With one click beyond the landing page, I was hooked; I was planning a visit, visiting the farmhouse, and planning my wedding (no, I’m not even engaged!).

Serenbe, (appears to be) the green Utopia.

Posted by: Katie

Abby’s Blog: Kids Helping the Earth – Spring Clean Up

I live in RI and when Spring comes so do the days of my mom taking us for walks on the beach. My mom always brings a garbage bag with her so she can pick up trash that has piled up over the winter.  We’ve picked up everything from piles of rope to plastic bottles to broken toys and even a lunchbox! Our town always has a big beach clean up day and we’ve gone a number of times but my mom says if everybody picked up trash that they saw at the beach, even if its not theirs, our beaches and oceans would be so much cleaner. My mom hates trash on the beach but the things she hates the most are plastic bags; she says that seals, fish, dolphins and other wildlife can try and eat them because they look like food but can get really hurt if they swallow a plastic bag.  I want to swim in the ocean for a long time and I promise I will pick up trash everyday when I go to the beach. Can you make that promise too?

Posted by Abby: age 5 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days…and counting

Getting Paid for Gas Guzzlers

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So I’m jealous. Over in Germany citizens are getting paid to get rid of their cars so they’ll go out and buy some new fuel efficient ones. LUCKY! I would hand over my tin can in a heart beat if Obama was handing over the sweet mulah!

But lets think about this…because its actually pretty genius. People scrap their hunk-o-junk polluters, and they get money, (across the pond they are getting 2,500 euros). That takes more gas guzzlers off the road. Then the people take said money either keep it and ride a bike or use it as their down payment on a shiny, new, more feul efficient car. Now the economy is happier because people are spending and the car factories will need to keep up so nobody is losing their job. Auto sales went up 21% in Germany for February while sales in the UK dropped 22% according to Ecogeek, and apparently its been an all around success.

So they are getting paid to scrap crappy cars, helping the planet, and boosting the economy! I’m in! Its worth a shot.

Need to get away? Green tips for vacationers

It’s about that time. Time for snow to end, the temperature to spike, and say “bye” to winter. Who’s with me?

As our trusty office manager heads off to a tropical location this week, I thought I’d ask my good friend, Google, about some vacation ideas for the green-friendly. Found some great ideas on “Top 10 Green Vacation Ideas“, more like tips and tricks, but you get the idea.

“How can you reconcile that with the desire to take a well-deserved honeymoon, romantic getaway, or annual vacation? Below are 10 green vacation ideas that can make a difference without requiring a huge sacrifice. (So don’t worry; I’m not going to tell you to go camping instead of checking into a real hotel!)”

Some of my favorites from the article:

Using public transportation and the Swiss Train System. Actually, I think I’ll put that trot on the burner until I need to escape from 80 degrees and sun rather than the cold. But, great idea!

Volunteer vacation – I am completely intrigued and have put it on my “To Do” list. I’m sure I can find a destination to combine my vacation and new year’s resolution to revive my Spanish somewhere… and, more importantly, help.

“Put your money where your beliefs are” by seeking out eco-friendly hotels. No, we are not talking hostels (not that there’s anything wrong with that), we are talking beautiful, comfortable properties that put more than a little extra thought into the resources and materials it uses. Nantucket is on my list of places to go and just found a beautiful little hotel near “downtown” Nantucket.

Last, but not least, remember that it is just as important where you don’t go. Be aware of and respect fragile environments, particularly rainforests and remote beaches. They are exotic and wild for a reason.

…now speaking of beaches, where’s the sun?

Posted by:: Cold in Rhody, Katie

Green Building Perspectives: H-P Products, Inc.

h-p-products-logoContinuing with our Green Building Perspective series, this week Amy Wesely, Floorcare Marketing Manger of H-P Products, did us the honor of answering some questions about green building and the market.

H-P Products manufacturers the central vacuum systems VACUFLO and Dirt Devil. Even before the term “green” was just a color, central vacuums have been aiding in helping homeowners create a healthy indoor air quality. Numerous studies have shown that installing a central vacuum system can reduce the amount of allergens within the home by a significant amount. Central vacuum systems are such an important part of the home, that installing one can get you points in both the LEED and NAHB Green rating systems.

What do you think of the Green Life Smart Life Project?
The Green Life Smart Life Project provides an in-depth look at the ins and outs of building a Green Certified Home. Currently, I believe consumers like the idea of building a green home, but the “how to” can be a barrier. GLSL provides a valuable, first-person perspective that’s highly valuable to those who in the trenches, or are about to enter them. Simple things like how to recycle job site waste, decisions about energy sources… for example, solar would seem the most green, but you might reconsider that assumption based on GLSL Blog 1/18/09.

The GLSL Project provides resources and alternatives for homeowners and builders working towards these green standards.  Real-life decisions and products are highlighted from a green home-owner’s perspective.  

What interested H-P Products in the GLSL project?
H-P became interested in the project because we are a supplier of Dirt Devil and VACUFLO Central Vacuum Systems, which are a no-brainer for any green home. With a central vacuum, 100 percent of vacuumed dirt is removed from the living area; odors or dust are never recirculated throughout the home, as they are with portable vacuums. The improved indoor air quality central vacuums provide is recognized by both the LEED-H and NAHB Green standards, so we were happy to work with Kim and Joe on this project. Our Dirt Devil Central vacuum qualifies their home for one LEED-H Point in the indoor air quality section of the standard.

Where does H-P Products see green building going in the next five years? 
We believe green building will continue to grow in popularity as consumers get better educated and the demand grows for green-certified homes. Projects like GLSL help educate the public and pave the road to make understanding and building to these standards easier for everyone. We believe green building will become a common building method, as we all want to preserve resources and make responsible decisions in our consumption of those resources. Our government will also play a key role in the consumer green movement by implementing credits like the energy tax credit we have recently seen.

How do you see your business evolving to address green building? 
Central vacuums are inherently green for a couple reasons. In addition to providing better indoor air quality, they also reduce waste. A typical portable vacuum will last one to three years, depending on its quality. When the portable is done, the consumer typically tosses it with his or her weekly garbage and buys a new one. So there are millions of portable vacuums in landfills right now. A residential central vacuum, on the other hand, has a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years.

At our manufacturing facility, we are looking at ways to reduce packaging materials to reduce job waste at each home site. We also actively recycle and reuse packaging and other materials from our production facility.  

What do you think installers need to do or prepare to do to take full advantage of the green movement?
We believe installers need to educate themselves on the green building standards and practices. Awareness and understanding of the specifics in the standards can help integrators better explain the benefits of the green products they offer.

Installers can also look at their own businesses and analyze areas that can have immediate impact, such as recycling packaging materials, using energy-efficient vehicles and energy efficient lighting, reducing paper use, and so on.

Step by Step: Rubbersidewalks Are The New Path

When one thinks of rubber floors, one usually thinks of playgrounds…the soft and spongy mat at the local jungle gym. But what about sidewalks? In the past decade, rubber sidewalks have been growing in popularity due to their clever re-use of tires and protection of trees. Rubbersidewalks Inc., based in California, is the pioneer and leading supplier of alternative sidewalks. Their modular sidewalks consist of ultra-durable, rubber paving tiles (known as pavers) made of 100 percent recycled California tires. Rubbersidewalks are now found in more than 90 cities in North America including hundreds of installations in residential neighborhoods, universities, retirement homes, dsc00327and government facilities.

Dan Joyce, Rubbersidewalks VP Sales and Marketing, told me that the company was formed in 2001 by Lindsay Smith who “rose to the defense of two dozen shade trees in her neighborhood that were scheduled for removal by the County of Los Angeles. The city claimed they were breaking the adjacent concrete sidewalks. “Seeking a solution, Ms. Smith discovered that the City of Santa Monica had conducted experiments with rubberized sidewalk pavers in the late 1990s. While the prototypes were successful, the manufacturer, a sports flooring company, had no intention of mass producing rubber pavers,” he said. “Ms. Smith lobbied the County of Los Angeles to consider the alternate system and successfully gained their attention.” 

Ms. Smith subsequently approached other municipalities within southern California and soon generated enough interest to consider a business venture that could supply rubberized pavers to local municipalities. A $250,000 grant from the California Integrated Waste Management Board of Recycled Tire Product was Ms. Smiths’ seed capital to start her business. 

Rubbersidewalks have numerous advantages that are easy to quantify. Trees are first on the list. Unlike concrete, Rubbersidewalks can be lifted for tree root maintenance, then replaced. Tree roots can be trimmed and maintained while roots are still in the “offshoot stage,” protecting the health and lifespan of the tree. And, as the company believes, “every tree matters.” From purifying the air to keeping water from the waste stream to beautifying neighborhoods, trees improve our quality of life.

Waste re-use is another comparable advantage over the status quo. Every year, Californians dispose of 34 million tires-408 million pounds of waste rubber. According to the company, each square foot of Rubbersidewalks uses the rubber of one conventional car tire. Each five square foot paver keeps five tires out of landfills.rubbersidewalks-new-rochelle

In 2007, Michigan State University became the first university client when it installed 720 square feet of rubber sidewalks outside of the Brody Hall Student Center at their East Lansing, Michigan, main campus. Last year, in Hamilton, Ohio, a grant from The Ohio Department of Natural Resources allowed consumers to purchase Rubbersidewalks. While grants of this ilk become more available as the Stimulus and Recovery Act reaches Main Street, “green grants” are a natural evolution for Californians. Ever since the California Recycling Tire Act of 1989, local agencies offered rebates for users of recycled rubber. In fact, the company is promoting its next-gen interlocking pavement, Terrewalks, as an ideal product to include in city funding proposals during the Obama administration.

“Why Terrewalks are ideal for infrastructure funding,” the company believes, because they are an “old fashioned public works project, they directly benefit every person in your community, and offer multiple green and LEED features.”

I hail from coal country, Scranton, Pennsylvania, where winters are serious business. December through March is a blur of snowstorms, de-icing salt, paving trucks, and expletives about the constant need to shovel. So I was curious how non-concrete pavement fared in colder climates. Would they crack or disintegrate under the pressure? Jim Maxwell, Former Commissioner in New Rochelle, New York, said that his Rubbersidewalks have weathered the glacial season: “they have stood up well to the second winter with no discoloration from de-icers or gouging from shovels/equipment.” In the commercial markets, which are mostly new walking surfaces, installation of Rubbersidewalks Products is easier, cleaner, quieter and more cost effective than either poured concrete, or concrete pavers because of reduced labor in handling. The product is lighter weight than concrete pavers and there is no breakage.

img_8280They can withstand an arctic wallop, but do they feel like a trampoline? Or walking on pillows? Dan Joyce said the rubber pavers are just like conventional sidewalks: “Most people think that they are softer, which not the case. There are soft enough to prevent injuries but hard enough to satisfy all ADA requirements. Most people think our products are colorized concrete and don’t believe that they walked on a sidewalk made from recycled materials.”

To get a quote for RubberSidewalks in your city or property, or access a list of certified installers, visit www.rubbersidewalks.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Margot Douaihy