Unorthodox “Being Green” Tip #4 – Bring your own To-Go Container

Restaurants have their own ideas about portion sizes, often heaping plates with piles of nourishment that far exceed the recommended portion size for a typical adult (or a plow-wielding oxen for that matter). Unless you’re into gorging, taking leftovers home is a given. Sadly, most “Doggie Bags” are still of the murderous Styrofoam variety which cannot be recycled and 50 percent of the time, sit in the refrigerator, uneaten until tossed a week to a month later.

The thought of bringing Tupperware into a fine dining restaurant is tacky. Fortunately, the focus is more on quality  as opposed to quantity anyways so patrons are more inclined to eat everything they are served. However, a family visit to one of the glutton-friendly chains is the perfect opportunity to bust out a reusable container for leftovers, whether you scrape the plate yourself or ask the server to do it. It shouldn’t be a big deal since they are saving on overhead material costs.

Your best choice is obviously to dine at locally -owned restaurants that prepare locally grown food and prepare a meal that can be eaten in one sitting. Since that’s not always an option, bringing leftovers home in your own container is a positive step.

Fortunately, the concept is just as valuable for your morning cup’a’joe. Refill an insulated, reusable coffee mug on the way to work. Not only will you reduce waste but your caffeine fix will stay colder or hotter longer.

Abby’s Blog: Going Back to School? Go Back Green with Reusable Containers

Did you know that the average school-age child eating a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste  in a school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school! There are many great products that reduce lunch waste and save money too. I have learned that if you switch to using reusable containers rather than traditional baggies and pre-packaged food, you can save about $250 per kid.  You should also make sure you are using containers that are free of Bisphenol A or BPA.

posted by Abby age: 6

RI Deemed A Spot for Utility Scale Wind Harvesting

RI Wind Map courtesy Dept of Energy

RI Wind Map courtesy Dept of Energy

The Department of Energy’s Wind Program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published a new wind resource map for the state of Rhode Island . This resource map shows wind speed estimates at 50 meters above the ground and depicts the resource that could be used for utility-scale wind development. Future plans are to provide wind speed estimates at 30 meters, which are useful for identifying small wind turbine opportunities.

As a renewable resource, wind is classified according to wind power classes, which are based on typical wind speeds. These classes range from Class 1 (the lowest) to Class 7 (the highest). In general, at 50 meters, wind power Class 4 or higher can be useful for generating wind power with large turbines. Class 4 and above are considered good resources. Particular locations in the Class 3 areas could have higher wind power class values at 80 meters than shown on the 50 meter map because of possible high wind shear. Given the advances in technology, a number of locations in the Class 3 areas may suitable for utility-scale wind development.

This map indicates that Rhode Island has wind resources consistent with utility-scale production. The good wind resource area is located in extreme southeastern Rhode Island along Block Island Sound. Additional Class 3 areas are found along the coast in southwestern and south-central Rhode Island.

Time to get on board RI, this is our future. We’re talking jobs, industry, income, tax breaks. This state may think the answer is to rely on property taxes and budget cuts until there is nothing left, but it is time to invest. We are surrounded by energy and we choose to watch others capitalize.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter :  newscaster

Narragansett Still Waits for Its Recycling Program

When I first got to Rhode Island just over two years ago, I was stunned at the responses I’d get when I asked the simple question: “So how do I recycle here?”

I generally received blank stares or “Oh, we don’t recycle here” or “Oh, we just throw that stuff in the garbage.” It was like going back to the early 1990s in Philadelphia, our hometown. We had figured that since southern Rhode Island was so scenic and that the state was seemingly so liberally-inclined, it would be way ahead of the curve with recycling.

A typical scene in my native homeland: The Phillie Phanatic, recycling mascot Curby Bucket, Mayor Michael Nutter and the St. Joe's Hawk sign landmark legislation that moves the city to single-stream recycling. That's just how we roll.

A typical scene in my native homeland: The Phillie Phanatic, recycling mascot Curby Bucket, Mayor Michael Nutter and the St. Joe's Hawk sign landmark legislation that moves Philadelphia to single-stream recycling.

Flummoxed, my partner and I started looking for information on how to recycle (which is how we came to the scary conclusion that Rhode Island was way behind the curve when it came to the interwebs too). Finally, we found that if we wanted to recycle, we’d need to drive it to a transfer station about two miles away. We just leased a car after living for years on little more than walking and transit, so we figured, hey, when in Rome… And it was fine. We felt active about our recycling, but we felt a little ridiculous about burning fossil fuels to do so.

"Kids, remember: Always recycle: TO THE EXTREME!!!" -- Poochie the Dog

"Kids, remember: Always recycle... TO THE EXTREME!!!" -- Poochie the Dog

Last year, we were thrilled to learn that our town would introduce curbside recycling. We’re a little disappointed at some of the limitations of the program in terms of what we can recycle, but it’s ultra-convenient and the service (both recycling and trash pickup) is flawless, which is a definite, concrete, gigantic improvement over Philly’s notoriously bad/late/sloppy/surly garbage and recycling service, even though we need to pay a private company to do it here, rather than enjoy it as a municipal service as we did back home.

We’ve been in our happy curbside recycling state for over a year now, and we forgot that the next town over, Narragansett, STILL doesn’t have a mandatory recycling program, which is made even more egregious by the fact that a.) it’s an oceanside community and b.) it’s the home of the Green Life Smart Life project!

Perhaps Curby Bucket needs to take a trip to Narragansett and get this program moving!

Perhaps Curby Bucket needs to take a trip to Narragansett and get this program moving!

The will apparently is there to introduce a recycling program in Narragansett. Predictably, it’s a money issue. The grant money needed to start the program has dried up due to the global economic crash. According to the South County Independent article in the link above, my town submitted its grant application before the crash; Narragansett didn’t.

The town now is trying to decide how exactly to go forward with its recycling plan. Wait for a grant? Charge the residents for it? “No-bin, no-bag/barrel”? (Someone clue me in on that last one; I still don’t understand the description in the article.) We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, what’s the recycling program in your town like?

Posted by Joe Paone

Green Building Perspectives: Whirlpool

Continuing our blog series Green Building Perspectives, posts dedicated to highlighting our esteemed partners here at Green Life Smart Life, this week we feature Whirlpool Corporation.  Whirlpool will be providing the project with the latest in ENERGY STAR® rated appliances such as the refridgerator, washer and dryer and dishwasher. 

Whirlpool Brand Logo - for webWhat do you think of the Green Life Smart Life Project to date? What interested Whirlpool about participating in the project?

Green Life Smart Life is certainly a unique project, and Whirlpool is excited to be a part of it, especially since we have similar goals. Much like Green Life Smart Life, Whirlpool seeks to help families green their lifestyles with simple tips to help them be more efficient in the kitchen and laundry room. In a recent survey that Whirlpool conducted with Harris Interactive, 84 percent of consumers said that energy efficiency is most important to them in regards to appliances. And while Whirlpool manufactures energy-efficient appliances, the company also looks to help people use the products more efficiently, and aligning with this project is a great way to do so.

Where does Whirlpool see green living going in the next 5 years?  

Whirlpool always strives to develop products to meet consumer needs and consumers continue to clamor for eco-efficient products that can save money while making their daily lives just a little bit easier. The next step in this process is going to be smart grid technology. Whirlpool announced in May that all of the electronically controlled appliances the company manufactures will be smart grid compatible by 2015. This will enable two-way communication between appliances and the utility grid resulting in real-time monitoring, leading to a more efficient system. Whirlpool is continuing to form public-private partnerships to keep this initiative moving.

How is your company evolving to address green living and energy efficiency?

Our evolution can be seen in the products themselves. Whirlpool seeks to bring energy efficiency to products which match any lifestyle or value. For example, top-load laundry is still the preferred configuration among consumers, so Whirlpool developed the high-efficiency (HE) Cabrio washer so that they could also enjoy HE benefits. Similarly, conventional top-loading machines from Whirlpool are now ENERGY-STAR rated. Whirlpool is also developing products with enhanced design and features that are also some of the most efficient products on the market. For example, the Whirlpool brand Resource Saver refrigerator uses less energy than a 60-watt lightbulb making it the most energy efficient side-by-side refrigerator on the market. The best part about it is that it through advancements in technology; it is efficient and functional without sacrificing performance or capacity.

 What challenges do you see Whirlpool facing in the evolution of green living?

Whirlpool is constantly seeking new ways to help educate consumers about the latest energy-efficient laundry and kitchen products to help them save money, but it can be challenging. For example, in a recent survey, about 40 percent of consumers said they do not understand what high efficiency means with regards to laundry appliances. Additionally, few people realize that HE benefits are available in both front-load and top-load laundry configurations. Therefore, we find it essential to keep efficiency at the forefront of our conversations with consumers.

The same type of education is needed in the kitchen as well. For example, today’s ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators use 60 percent less energy than non ENERGY STAR models made just 10 years ago. That is a tremendous advancement, but in a recent survey, more than 50 percent of consumers still labeled the refrigerator as the appliance which uses the most energy on a day to day basis. Additionally, 20 percent of consumers revealed they own a refrigerator that is 10+ years old..

Do you think “green” will ever dominate your business?

Eco-efficiency is a significant focus for Whirlpool. In a recent survey, more than 80 percent of consumers said that energy is most important to them when it comes to appliance efficiency which tells us we’re on the right track. Whirlpool always keeps consumer insights in mind when developing new products, so we are constantly looking to develop products that will reduce energy bills and save consumers money. 

Anything else you would like to add about the green living market or the Green Life Smart Life project?

While it is important for consumers to take advantage of energy-efficient appliances, they need to keep in mind that lifestyle changes are essential as well. For example, consumers should remember that pre-rinsing dishes before loading the dishwasher can use up to 20 gallons of water. Instead of using that water, they should just scrape food off the dishes and load the dishwasher. Moreover, running the dishwasher late at night can avoid peak hours andlower utility bills. Whether it’s only washing a load of laundry while the washing machine is full, or making sure pans fit the burners on a range to efficiently utilize heat, there are numerous, simple ways that consumers can reduce their impact. Green Life Smart Life can certainly encourage these practices, and Whirlpool is excited to be a part of it.

CEDIA EXPO’s Green Initiatives

expo_right_imageThe Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) is holding its 20th annual CEDIA EXPO next month in Atlanta. Until recently, the focus of CEDIA was entirely on designing home entertainment and automation systems that delivered the highest level of audio and video quality possible. That’s still the case, but green principles are making their way throughout the CEDIA organization and its substantial membership.

For the second consecutive year, registering CEDIA EXPO attendees have the option of donating $5 to, which describes itself as the nation’s leading nonprofit provider of carbon offsets and climate solutions. The funds will offset emissions generated by attendees traveling to the show. Last year, CEDIA members’ donations went towards’s reforestation projects.

A gigantic component of CEDIA EXPO is education through CEDIA University. Dozens of courses are offered on-site to attendees who are looking to enhance their knowledge. In the past, lots of courses meant lots and lots and LOTS of paper was used to print course participant guides. CEDIA has been moving away from paper and towards electronic versions of course material. Once again this year, pre-registering attendees will have access to free electronic course participant guides. The printed versions will be available for a fee either before the show or on-site.

Finally, new this year will be two new elective courses as part of CEDIA University’s Electronic Systems Designer college. The first is a three-course on Thursday morning called “Getting into Green: Understanding LEED and Green Building Programs.” Describes CEDIA:

The one sector of the residential building industry that is currently experiencing solid growth is the design and construction of environmentally conscious homes. There are currently two programs that certify a home’s true environmental impact: The United States Green Building Council’s LEED certification and the National Association of Home Builders’ Green Building certification. This three-hour course will give a detailed discussion of each program and where ESCs can make a direct impact on the project. At the conclusion of this course, participants should be able to compare and contrast LEED and Green Building certification programs, identify areas within each certification program where their company can make an impact, and identify whether or not Green is a viable business opportunity within their company.

The second is a free, three-hour Thursday afternoon panel discussion with CEDIA’s Green Action Team that is available to all attendees. The panel is entitled “How to Make Money and a Difference in the Green Building Industry.” Again, in CEDIA’s words:

In the last year, the home construction market has nearly come to a screeching halt, with new home builds at 1945 levels. There are, however, opportunities within the electronic systems contractor industry, and many of them revolve around the building or remodeling of energy efficient homes. This three-hour panel will discuss these opportunities as well as the threats, from a well-rounded perspective. Participants in this discussion will come from various backgrounds, including architects, builders, and CEDIA member companies with extensive experience in this type of project.

In addition, numerous manufacturers on the show floor will be talking green, energy efficiency, and environmental consciousness.

While green is not top of mind yet in the general CEDIA community, it’s definitely getting there. See for yourself at CEDIA EXPO 2009!

Posted by Joe Paone

Countertops Made from Recycled Paper?

We have been working fast and furious on our interior finishes and one of the items I just selected is the countertop for our kitchen.

PaperStone is one of the ‘greenest’ architectural surface on the market today.

PaperStone is made from sustainable sources. It is manufactured in three versions. Original PaperStone contains 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard and PaperStone Certified is made from 100% recycled standard office paper. PaperStone made from virgin fiber is also available. All PaperStone products are made from Paneltech’s proprietary, petroleum-free resin that contains natural ingredients like cashew nut shell liquid. All PaperStone products are available in the same panel sizes, basic colors, and have identical mechanical properties.

Phenolic resins are used to make PaperStone. They have been around for nearly a century since Henry Baekland invented Bake-Lite, the familiar black thermoplastic case of the original, black rotary telephones. Cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL)-based resins are the type of phenolic resins used to make PaperStone. They have long been prized for their extremely high abrasion resistance. They are still preferred for high quality automotive brake pads. What sets PaperStone apart is the company’s highly-skilled and creative technical staff, the company’s own resin laboratory, resin plant and commitment to the cleanest and ‘greenest’ products and processes that are technically and economically possible. PaperStone resins have also been specially designed to produce a hardwood-like, highly workable and not brittle composite panel.

Paper fiber is the other major component of PaperStone. The source of paper for the company’s Certified product is Grays Harbor Paper Company, a small, independent, paper mill that is located adjacent to where PaperStone is made. Both Grays Harbor Paper Company and Paneltech International, LLC (the makers of PaperStone) are chain-of-custody companies,certified by the Smartwood program of the RainForest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council standards.

PaperStone becomes a composite product when specially-produced sheets of paper are saturated with the company’s proprietary resins and pressed under heat and pressure. This cross-links the resin polymer in all three dimensions producing a dense, homogeneous and essentially non-porous composite product that doesn’t delaminate. PaperStone has been tested under the most stringent testing protocols and has no detectable formaldehyde. Depending upon the project, the use of PaperStone may contribute up to nine LEED points, but we’re only looking at a half point and it contiruting to our overall percentage of recycled materials.

PaperStone looks very similar to honed Soapstone. We’ll post photos during both the templating process (after the cabinets are in the week of September 15th – September 30th) and during installation which we expect to be around October 15th.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster