New Photos and Video!

We had a big DaVinci photo shoot yesterday. Cape Code Roofing is making great progress on the roof – it should be done in a few days, providing the weather holds out.  Be sure to check our Photo Gallery for the photos and video of DaVinci’s new synthetic slate tiles being installed!

Green Building Perspectives: Kohler

kohler-logoGrowing up, I never considered how much water toilets used, let alone their brands. In fact, the more water, the better, right?

It wasn’t until recently, particularly as the economy started to slow down, that I began to think about all of that water. How much does a toilet really need to operate effectively, anyway? How much water am I wasting every time I flush? I’d already become more conscious about letting sinks run unnecessarily, but there didn’t seem to be much I could do with a toilet to cut down on water usage. I’m not quite ready to move into a world where you don’t flush after each use.

Not surprisingly, Kohler Co., which makes toilets, sinks, faucets and all kinds of kitchen and bath products, has water conservation high on its list of priorities. Founded way back in 1873 and headquartered in its namesake of Kohler, Wis., Kohler is also, interestingly, one of America’s oldest and largest privately-held companies.

Kohler spokesperson Mark Mahoney said the company is excited about its participation in the Green Life Smart Life project because it’s a good opportunity to educate homeowners about water conservation and the solutions that are out there. With Kohler products, he said, “You can help the environment and save money along the way, without sacrificing performance.”

Mahoney shares some interesting stats about those flushes we all take for granted. It turns out that toilets have already become much more efficient than they were in the past. This fascinated me. Thanks to the U.S. Government’s Energy Policy Act (EPACT), all toilets installed after 1994 use 1.6 gallons per flush. To get a handle on just how revolutionary that is, consider this: Toilets installed before 1993 used 3.5 gallons per flush. Toilets installed before 1980 used five gallons per flush. And toilets installed before 1950 used seven gallons per flush!

As you can see, we’ve come a long way, but Kohler thinks it (and we) can do better. It sees demand for high-efficiency toilets increasing, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because water shortages are expected to spread across the United States over the next five years. “Water conservation is still a regional issue, but we expect that to change,” said Mahoney. “Traditionally, the trouble areas are the Southwest/Southern California, but water shortage has spread to the Southeast, particularly the Atlanta area, as well at the Northwest U.S. We expect almost all of America will be touched by this problem in the coming years.” And depending on the locale and the severity of the shortage, water bills could rise rather quickly; it’s already happening in Southern California, said Mahoney.

Kohler’s products are directly helping consumers cut down on water consumption. Its dual flush toilets offer you the option of a 1.6-gallon flush or a 0.8-gallon flush. It also offers toilets that use only 1.28 gallons per flush with the help of its High-Performance Gravity technology. Kohler also offers faucets, shower heads and other products that save water while not sacrificing performance.

Kohler is a proud partner of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, which promotes water-efficient products and practices nationwide. Toilets like Kohler’s that carry the WaterSense label use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than their less efficient counterparts. Kohler is such an advocate for the program that it was named the one and only 2008 WaterSense Manufacturer Partner of the Year.

Kohler has various videos on its site that describe its products. You can see a run-down of its water conservation program here and its environmental philosophy here. It has even started a site called, which features water-saving ideas; Kohler even donates $1 in water-conserving products to Habitat for Humanity’s sustainable building efforts for ever visitor who takes a brief quiz. Kohler distributors are taking water conservation ideas directly to consumers, setting up tents and educating users on how they can save money, conserve water, and make the switch to more efficient water consumption.

Kohler is also doing its part internally to contribute to the greening of the planet. “It’s not just the right thing to do, but from a cost perspective, we can examine our processes and eliminate waste, which is good for business and for the environment,” said Mahoney.

Posted by Joe Paone


URI teaches the basics: REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE


Are you a master composter and recycler? Would you like to be? Well if youre a Rhode Islander you should check out URI’s Master Composter and Recycler Program. It not only teaches you how to compost and recycle in RI, but also the ins and outs of Rhode Islands trash systems. The class takes place in a green house at Roger Williams Park, and includes 30 hours of Volunteer work and field trips to landfills, and the Earth Care Farm in Charlestown. The basic goal of the class is to teach you the many ways to reduce what is making it into the landfill. This class is perfect for those of you who, like myself, want to recycle and compost but dont quite have the hang of it or arent sure where to start. I talked with a super cool dude and Master Composter and Recycler student, Mr. Robert Redinger, about his experience with the class and I found what he said about the trip to Earth Care Farms to be especially interesting…

 “The trip to Earth Care farm was fascinating and Mike, the owner was very happy to teach, show and explain to the class.  All of the zoo waste along with local landscapers waste is taken, then a couple times a week, all of the fish waste and clam waste from Point Judith is shipped to the farm and buried for compost.  Every three weeks the pile is turned in on itself and the pile reaches 160 degrees and kills all seeds, weeds, and almost anything other than micro-organisms.  Eventually after 6 months or so, the compost can be screened and sold to the public and to landscapers at $60 and cubic yard.  Katherine Hepburn bought some and the owner had just shipped 3 semi trucks full to NY.  All of the organic stuff can be turned into fine fertile compost, mixed with our poor RI soil and we can all have lush lawns and gardens, healthy plants without chemicals, and we can all reduce the waste stream. “

That’s just from one farm, composting at home is alot less effort that composting on a farm. Imagine if we all did this kind of thing in our own yards? No more money on fertilizers, beatiful lawns, no chemicals, less trash in the landfill, and no more guessing what to toss in the recycling… its WIN WIN people!! Click to check out more about the class, Earth Care Farms, and the landfill. Thanks for the heads up Rob!

Posted by: Ashley (intern)

The Opposite of Being Green : An Optimist’s Anger

This past weekend in New England brought record-breaking temperatures and had many of us coastal folks beach bound.  It was 85 degrees a few miles from the water, which, for April, is absolutely unheard of in Rhode Island.   But the problem with early beach days is that the lockers, pavilions and bathrooms are all closed until mid-May.  It also means no beach patrol or lifeguards on duty and this generally translates to complete anarchy on normal beach rules.  Dogs running amuck, people carrying cases of Corona from the trunks of their cars and Frisbees and footballs being tossed all down the beach. 

None of these seem inherently wrong (well, except public drinking which I think is always illegal except in Vegas) but the aftermath of this unseasonably gorgeous day was an inordinate amount of trash on the beach.  The town beach that many of us (including myself and Kim and Joe and their kids) visit all summer long has very few trash barrels that are left out on the off season.   We decided to pack up and head home around 4:30 or so and were horrified to discover the mounds of garbage piled up not only in and on but next to the actual trash barrel.  The one in the parking lot and the one in front of the pavilion were simply covered, drowned in beer bottles and empty McDonalds bags and Styrofoam coolers.  It was unreal – people had just decided that instead of carrying their trash back to their cars and disposing it at home, it was a much better idea to place it in the massive pile that had formed NEXT to the trash can.  It’s proximity to an actual trash receptacle, they felt, was enough to justify leaving their trash there.  On the ground. 

Kim and I were both disgusted – not only because this was our beach, a place we all spend so much time on in the summer months but also because, ironically enough, this past week was Earth Day and beach clean-ups had taken place across the state.  Hah.   

We decided to go back home, grab trash bags and boxes and come back to the beach to sort through the recycling and the garbage and to at least ensure the trash was secure and wouldn’t blow all over the beach later that night.  Because the beaches are closed, no one is around to provide daily maintenance and therefore, the whole proximity to trash plan would have resulted in a giant ENVIRONMENT FAIL. 

It was interesting, as we sifted through the mess and tried to remedy at least part of the situation, how people reacted.  Some passersby thanked us, or pointed out to their kids how we were helping to clean up people’s irresponsible mess.  But others?  Others rolled their eyes and a few even came up to us with their trash in hand and asked “Uh, where can I leave this?”   YOU CAN BRING IT HOME!  I wanted to scream.  Bring it home – that’s where it came from, I presume?  Why is it ok to simply discard it on the sand?  Do you think there is a trash fairy that visits the beach each night to clean up after you? 

Look, in most cases in life, I’m a realist.  I understand that the lifestyle I have adopted – the lifestyle that everyone here at Green Life Smart Life tries to embody, is not necessarily going to come easy to everyone.  I am not surprised when I see people using plastic bags at the grocery store or buying plastic water bottles and throwing them in the trash.  I’m saddened, but not surprised.  But littering is another story.  Littering is something we as a society have accepted is unacceptable.  We’ve made laws, charged fines, listened to numerous marketing campaigns on not trashing our Earth.  If you were to toss your Styrofoam cooler out the window while cruising down I-95 and a law enforcement official saw you, you could expect to be pulled over and fined a minimum of $500.  But there were no cops on the beach on Sunday.  No patrol, no lifeguards. 

But should that matter?  How can it possibly be ok to simply place your trash on the ground and walk away?  Would it be ok if I came to your yard and tossed my candy wrappers onto your lawn?   The beach might not be my yard, but it is certainly mine, at least a piece of it.  It’s yours too.  And my kids, and their kids, and every person who will live after us. 

It was the complete and utter disregard for the environment – not just in some far off place in the world that seems intangibly unimportant, but our town beach, in our backyard – that got me.  How everyone so thoroughly enjoyed said environment all day long and then as a thank you for such a nice, warm, pleasant spring day, threw their crap on the ground and walked away.  I’m as much of an optimist as I am a realist but Sunday…..Sunday, I felt extremely defeated.

End note: After we left our pavilion, Kim visited the one located on the south part of the beach and what she found was even more disturbing.  Not just piles of trash near trash cans but scattered on the sand, like one giant landfill.  The pictures speak for themselves.



Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Real FSC Wood Decking is Green and Good for 50 Years

accoya-wood1The wood for our FSC deck was milled this week and we started the front porch installation while Titan Woods was in town to make sure everything with the project went as smoothly as possible.

Accoya® wood by Titan Wood is a proven “new wood species” that is made only from FSC-certified sustainably sourced wood. Once the sustainable wood is harvested, it undergoes an acetylation process that alters its actual cell structure by transforming free hydroxyl groups into acetyl groups. Because this “modified” wood absorbs 80 percent less water than does conventional wood, the wood is substantially more stable, lasts much longer and requires far less maintenance. Additionally, the acetylation process makes the wood indigestible to fungi and pests, which don’t even recognize it as a food source. The use of Accoya wood will help the project gain half of a LEED-H point in the category of Materials & Resources, exterior decking and contribute to the overall percentage of FSC wood used in the home.

Locally-owned Liberty Cedar is milling the wood decking. They will be dressing this to a normal deck board profile (dressed 4 sides with eased edges) for use with tiger claws, rather than slotted for use with Eb-tys, in order for us to have a hidden fastener system, which is way better for little toes and overall style.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Abby’s Blog: Kids Helping the Earth – My Earth Week

Earth Day was this week and we got to do a bunch of fun projects for school. My two favorites are my Earth Book and our recycling craft.

For my Earth Book (See my picture) we cut out construction paper. Our book had seven pages, and each page was a different color. The first page had a big cicrle and you can see all of our cut out designs. The first page is a tree cut out, the second page was a wave, the third page was the sun, the fourth was mountains and the fifth page was the sky. Our teacher then asked us to list ways I can save the earth. This is what I put on my list:

1. Recycle

2. Plant seeds

3. Don’t waste

4. Re-use

5. Tell people to recycle

Recyled Castle and PrincessMy second project was really fun. My teacher asked us to create anything we wanted out of our recycling. I made a castle and a princess. I used a strawberry container, a plastic cup, a soap dispenser, a straw, a vitamin water bottle and scraps of paper to decorate them. I love putting the pieces together like a puzzle and being proud of myself that I did it. See what you can make from your recycling container this week and then give it to someone you love or someone who needs to smile.

Recyled Castle and Princess

 Posted by Abby: age 5 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days…and counting

Tourism Season is Here: Look to Tourism Associations for Green-Friendly Trip Planning

Tourist season is (almost) upon us here in little Rhody. When the hot weather arrives, so will (hopefully) beach-goers and vacationers looking for an affordable, convenient Northeast location (a mere 3 hour drive from NYC, 1.5 from Boston, and easily accessible by plane, train or automobile) here in South County to dish some much-needed green stuff back into local businesses. For a region that is graced with so much natural beauty, which the tourism industry subsequently depends on, I’m amazed that there is not more of a local push through our tourism association to protect our natural resources by encouraging sustainable practices. With that being said, before you book your summer getaway, check out these other resources who are well on their way in helping the eco-conscious plan for their (business and pleasure) getaways…Good news – the RI Hospitality & Tourism Association, in partnership with the RI Department of Environmental Management, have taken baby steps through the introduction of the RI Hospitality Green Certification Program. This self-certification program helps businesses within the hospitality and tourism industry attain green performance standards like energy and water conservation (if you’ve never worked in a restaurant, believe me, this is a HUGE feat!), waste minimization, recycling (finally!), and other sustainable operating practices. If you are planning a visit to RI, check out the (currently small, but hopefully growing) list of certified restaurants and hotels (members of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau).

For a quick day trip (consider the hour+ drive quality time with the family) see our neighbor city to the North’s green tourism program. Boston Green Tourism is still in fledgling stages, but America’s Walking City is working hard to establish Boston as “a preeminent destination for environmentally-minded visitors by complementing the area’s beauty, natural resources, and outdoor recreation opportunities”. They’ve assembled a quick hit list of green-friendly hotels and restaurants and other resources for tourists and convention visitors here.

And of course, if you need any delicious recommendations, just ask.