Pixels Versus Paper

An old friend back at the Forest Society brought an interesting subject to my attention last week…he asked if I’d seen any research lately on which is greener – eBooks or printed books…or as he called it the carbon footprints of paper versus pixels. The majority of the info that he’d found actually came from the paper industry…so as you can imagine of course they claim their research shows that paper has a smaller carbon footprint than pixels—this prompted me to go online and do a little digging just to see what those whom are interested in the subject have to say.

In literature put out by International Paper titled Are Pixles Greener than Paper? they state Electric Data Centers (EDC) that power internet servers use 1.5% (enough to power 5.72 million homes) of the total energy purchased in the United States while the pulp and paper industry uses .7% (enough to power 2.76 million homes). They also say that the paper and pulp industry is one of the largest consumers of low-carbon and renewable energy with sixty percent of their energy coming from carbon-neutral sources, while the electronics industry purchases more than ninety percent of its energy off the grid and from fossil fueled sources. The consumption rate of data centers doubled in the U.S. from 2000 to 2006 and it is estimated that it will double again by 2011.

I took this report with a grain of salt since it was published by an international paper manufacturer, but they do bring up some good points when it comes to statistics on paper recycling versus electronics recycling…how many of you have wrapped something naughty up and stuck it in the trash because it’s just easier than taking said item to your local transfer station or waiting for the hazardous waste recycling days that seem to only come around once a year and of course the weekend that you are out of town—D’oh!

We all know paper is biodegradable, recyclable and reusable…but did you know that an estimated sixty percent of paper is recycled while only eighteen percent of electronics are e-cycled…with 1.84 million tons of electronic wast shipped to landfills in 2006 alone…I didn’t…YIKES!

On the other hand, according to Kris Kiler, the Founder and President of TypeLabs another way of looking at things from an eBook versus paper point of view is that 37 million pieces of paper thrown away each year do not get recycled, many retailers will even rip the cover off paperbacks to obtain credit for not selling the book—the rest goes in the garbage. There is also the gasoline used to get to the bookstore, for each gallon of fuel we use, we create 22 pounds of greenhouse gases and that doesn’t include modes of transportation that get the printed book to the retail outlet…

eBooks do need energy in order for you to read them, and yes there is an environmental impact of creating the device, driving to the store to pick it up—but you can use it over and over…the reuse of the device will most likely consume minimal energy when compared to the production and purchase of the paper book—and if you are able to purchase green energy from your local utility, you aren’t using an extreme amount of fossil fueled power to begin with. Those that are lucky enough to live within walking distance of the library (like me) have a lesser impact by borrowing books—but I’m sure my fellow bookworms like myself also own plenty of traditional dead tree books. The concept of Eco-Libraries is neat, but I’m not sure if I would really be jazzed about living in a world without the smell of old books…

So which do you prefer…pixels or paper…??

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

Save your desktop some energy!

Mac users as well as any other PC user out there, needs to know the truth.  That computer of yours is an energy sucking piece of machinery.  We all love our computer’s, they are an extension of ourselves, almost like a removable limb.  It is almost impossible to imagine functioning in our everyday lives without one by our side! 

90% of desktops do not run efficiently.  It is a real simple fix and it’s rather silly if you don’t opt to save yourself money and your computer some more generous time as your extra limb.  Doing this is free and simple and in the end you will thank yourself and so will your computer.  EZ Wizard is a great tool on the Energy Star Website that can help you out!

For Mac users this is really simple and frankly if you already own a Mac following the steps is easy as 1-2-3.  However for all you PC users, this is not hard as long as you follow directions fairly well.  For Mac users simply go to the apple pull down menu and select “system preference” and then click on “energy saver” You can figure it out from there. 

Now for the rest of you, begin on the “start” menu and from there navigate yourself to “settings” and then head to the “control panel”, now click on “power management” then “power schemes.” From there you can set the settings to your liking.  Each list will allow you to set how long you want to wait before your computer goes into “energy saving mode.”

Another great way to save on energy and rack up some extra money in energy savings would be to switch to a new energy efficient LCD monitor.  You could easily get a 24” monitor and it will save you more money than your tiny 13” that isn’t set properly. Remember nothing will save you more money than shutting of your computer when not in use.  But for those who don’t see this as an option follow these steps and make your computer a greener piece of machinery in your home. 

Posted by: Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter

A green resolution for 2010

For the past few years I have not had your typical resolution on New Years, instead I have decided on picking one way to go green and switch to it, permanently .  I find that the peer pressure involved with my going green New Year’s resolution is much harder than the resolution itself.   

Last year on January 1st 2009 I made it a point to use strictly cloth napkins when in my home.  I had to modify it to my home because it was going a bit far to be a guest at someone’s house and demand a linen napkin. 

I did my best and have to say that 8 out of 10 times I would use a cloth napkin and even get my fiancé who rarely uses napkins as it is, to join me.  He sometimes would get annoyed with this but for the ladder part of the year has stopped complaining and jumped on the bandwagon realizing that complying is much easier than having an entire conversation about why I am forcing him to do this. 

I have been thinking a lot lately about this year’s green resolution and besides my bizarre issue of recycling used foil, I think I am as green as I can get.  Now that I am a homeowner with my very own backyard, I have decided this year to invest in a clothes line.  I am hoping to dry all of my laundry if not at least 50% of it via clothesline this spring and summer! 

I have compiled a small list for those of you who need some ideas for having a greener resolution this year!

  • Wash all your laundry in cold water.
  • Switch to cloth napkins.
  • Walk instead of drive.
  • Invest in a clothes line.
  • Set your thermostat 3 degrees lower than you usually do.
  • Shut your lights off as you leave a room.
  • Install sensor lights outside.
  • Unplug all unnecessary electrical items (lamps, coffee pot ect.)

I hope you all have a truly GREEN New Year!

Posted by: Kate Kiselka, Follow me on Twitter

LEED for Homes Point by Point – Awareness and Education

Awareness and Education – 2 points achieved out of 3 points available::

So if you’ve been following our project then you know what we’ve done for both education and awareness. But we did go through extensive trainings with each of our key subcontractors like Newport Geothermal for our HVAC system and Robert Saglio Audio Video for our home, lighting, entertainment, irrigation and energy systems. I spent hours with John Carter understanding what it would take to keep our lawn healthy by minimizing water, eliminating chemicals and using organic fertilizers and treatments.

Our homeowners manual is more than 6” thick and covers every system and subsystem in our house, outlines the warranties and maintenance programs and lets us know who to call for help.

Our public awareness, well, you be the judge. We have blogged about the project or a topic relating to green building every single day since October 2008. We have had more than 60,000 people to our blog during that time and even earned an AllTop rating for best green blogs. We’ve been covered in local, regional and national media. We’ve always had signage on the home, and on December 12th we hosted our fourth and final open house on the project.

With a final rating of LEED-H GOLD, with a score of 92.5, I am proud of what we accomplished. I hope you enjoyed our project as much as we did and know that our goal now is to follow and find other projects, cover other case studies and help homeowners find the best products for their project. Feel free to submit your ideas!

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

LEED for Homes Point by Point – Indoor Environmental Quality

Indoor Environmental Quality :: 13 points achieved out of 21 points available ::

We followed the prescriptive path for Indoor Air Quality and I have to say of all the section I actually thought this was the toughest.  IEQ measures the moisture control, outdoor air ventilation, distribution heating and cooling, use of low emitting materials, air filtering and contaminant control during construction.

We achieved 2 points for installation and the performance of our dual environmental recovery systems (ERVs). Our enhanced local exhaust which was based on occupancy sensors that exhaust air to the outdoors as well as the continuous operation of one of the ERVs, achieved an additional two for the points.

We also achieved additional points by installing a Vacuflo central vacuum system (which is awesome and so easy to use!), designing and installing a gorgeous and uber efficient mudroom to store shoes, reducing household contaminants and installing filters with a MRV 10 rating. We did really well in minimizing pollutants from the garage through our spray foam insulation, CO2 detectors, and painting of the garage walls, as well as the installation of an exhaust fan which turns on based on an occupancy sensor installed in the garage.

With the goal of really improving our home’s indoor air quality to keep our house free of allergens, contaminants and VOCs, I’m pleased with performance of the systems we’ve installed.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

LEED for Homes Point by Point – Materials & Resources

Materials and Resources ::  12.5 points achieved out of 16 points available::

With the intent of designing durable buildings and limiting waste, MR 1 addresses the framing order waste factor, of which we achieved less than 10%.  We also used framing efficiencies which included extensive pre-cut framing packages sizing headers for loads, blocking for the installation of drywall and cabinetry, and other high performance building techniques. We did not get points for our detailed framing documents because we did not have detailed designs for every wall including interiors and due to this, we forfeited 1.3 which is detailed cut lists and lumber orders – although I have to give a call out to Dave Pearson of Pearson Woodworking, Jay Smith of Smith Ingram and Mike Anderson of Anderson Woodfloors for their incredible use of materials. Dave and Jay achieved a less than 2% waste on interior finish wood work, creative using extra boards to build custom closets, shelves, and even cubbies for my kids’ rooms. Mike did an amazing job with managing waste from our Carlisle wood floor installation. We had so little waste, that we were able to install wood floors in the mud room, wine cellar and AV equipment use with assumed waste factor. Amazing and it brought my cost per sq/ft down incredibly!

MR 2.2 addresses Environmentally Preferable Products (EPP) which in addition to FSC certified products, really addresses product certifications, VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) content and local production or products used inside the home.  This following is the breakdown of what we applied for, surpassing the maximum of 8 points in this section.

  1. Exterior wall: framing — FSC Wood 92% from National Lumber, COC listed on orders – ½ pt EPP
  2. Exterior wall: siding – 100% FSC White CEDAR shingles from Liberty Cedar, COC supplied — ½ pt EPP
  3. Flooring: Carlisle, reclaimed hardwood floors of 3150 sq/ft plus 100 sq ft, for 71 % of floor, finished with low VOC compliant umber stain and Tung oil finish, factory applied. Additional ½ point for all LOW VOC for all flooring including Fireclay Debris tile (50% recycled materials), Marmoleum which is SCS FloorScore certified. – ½ pt EPP  and – ½ pt low emission
  4. Carpet: Mohawk CSI Green Label Plus Certified “green” low VOC, recycled content, BiOH Low VOC eco pad, recycled content – ½ pt low emission
  5. Floor Framing: Engineering floor system from Boise Wood – see VOC reports – ½ pt low emission
  6. Foundation: Cement with up to 30% flyash for all poured foundation, footings produced by Richmond Ready Mix in Wyoming, RI. – ½ pt EPP and ½ pt local
  7. Interior Wall Framing: 100% of interior 2x4s used were FSC certified from National Lumber -– ½ pt EPP
  8. Interior wall, ceiling, millwork: paint — All interior surface coatings for primer and paint were Sherwin Williams ZERO VOC Harmony paint — – ½ pt low emission
  9. Landscape: 100% of front and rear porch and decking is made from Accoya FSC certified wood – – ½ pt EPP
  10. Cabinets: Cabinets locally made by Crownpoint cabinetry using locally harvested 100% FSC maple, zero UREA formaldehyde (Kitchen and bath) — – ½ pt EPP; – ½ pt low emission and – ½ pt local production
  11. Counters: Paperstone kitchen counters made from 100% recycled content, ZERO urea formaldehyde. EcoTop bathroom counters with recycled content and ZERO urea formaldehyde, reclaimed hardwood countertop with ZERO urea formaldehyde, bathrooms counters with integral sinks are Kohler cast iron made of 93% recycled iron with no urea formaldehyde — – ½ pt EPP
  12. Doors – Installed all Masonite FSC– certified 2 panel interior doors – ½ pt EPP
  13. Trim – 100% of millwork and wood trim was FSC-certified pine, also used FSC certified Centurion for board and batten and beadboard, and wood ceiling in media room — – ½ pt EPP
  14. Adhesives and sealants – 100% of all adhesives and sealants on the project from wood floor glue to calk, to putty to mastic to sealers were require by the subcontractor to meet the LOW VOC requirements. Support documents included. (We would spot check materials regularly) — – ½ pt low emission
  15. Window Framing – All window framing was built using FSC certified framing lumber with COC. — – ½ pt EPP
  16. Insulation — Western GacoGreen 052 Wall Foam with VOC of 30.4 g/L — – ½ pt low emission
  17. Sheathing: 100% of our sheathing was Advantech which SFI certified (competitive to FSC and same exacting standards) –should count. – but no points because it’s not FSC, but I thought Advantech deserved it.

The last portion of materials and resources included our construction waste reduction program. We had a fairly intense waste program onsite include, at all times a wood recycling and mixed waste bin. Throughout the job we also brought in metal recycling (during HVAC) and cardboard which we would bring to the site when we needed it, stacking and storing cardboard in the garage to minimize the dumpsters onsite and the soil compaction. Over the building period of 14 months, we only sent two 15-yard mixed waste dumpsters to the landfill, in total diverting 87% of our construction debris to recycling. This totaled just 1.2 lbs of waste per finished area (average is 4.5 lbs).

Had we not achieved all of our Innovation & Design points, we could have applied for an additional 1.5 point for Exemplary performance in MR 2.2, but we only applied for .5.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

LEED for Homes Point by Point – Energy & Atmosphere

Energy and Atmosphere: 21.5 points achieved out of 36 points available::

The overall goal of EA is to optimize energy performance of the building. We opted to follow the performance path which meant our world be rated according to the ENERGY STAR for home standards (the document can be found here). ENERGY STAR was simply the pre-requisite which everyone in LEED-H is required to meet; your points only begin to accumulate for exceptional energy performance. HERS stands for Home Energy Rating Standard and is based on a performance scale of 100. Based on a 100 point scale which is an average home, a home achieving HERS 85 is 15% more efficient. If you are familiar to the term NET ZERO, it is a similar scale, where NET ZERO means the home consumes zero percent more energy than it produces annually.

In our case, our preliminary HERS rating based on our building envelope leakage rate of less than 4%, our windows, our solar gain, our roof’s solar reflective index (SRI), our sprayfoam insulation, our geothermal HVAC system, and all of the design elements placed us at a HERS of 58, making our home 42% more efficient than an average home. This achieved us 19.5 points under EA 1. In addition we achieved 2 points for the efficient design of our hot water system which included compact plumbing runs achieved thorugh back-to-back bathrooms and a superheater added to our hot water tanks.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster