Greener Product – a green building resource

One of the most challenging things about working on a LEED or other green building project can be sourcing materials and specifying products that will not only gain points in a certification program but also represent the level of sustainability desired.  If there are limited LEED experts in a given area, that challenge only grows for builders, architects, homeowners and contractors.  That’s why when I first stumbled across Greener Product, I thought it was a perfect solution for these resource problems.   Greener Product’s online provides architects, builders and the public a quick and easy online platform for searching and evaluating “green” products according to the Internationally recognized United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The database can search by location and determine if the product meets the 500 miles radius requirement that LEED often provides for products used in a project. It will also give the user a checklist of the products in each search, letting them know if the product has recycled content, low VOCs, certified wood and if it’s rapidly renewable.  Maybe one of the most useful features, Greener Product shows the number of points that can be achieved by using a product.

From the Greener Product website:

Greener Product, LLC identified this problem and over the past year has developed a “game changing” web based platform designed specifically for LEED AP’s, architects and builders to identify green building products. This free service platform allows for the building specifiers to quickly search for green building products and then once identified evaluate those product against the LEED standards.

The online service is a platform for manufacturers to “tell their green story” directly to the largest group of American building specifiers. The products are registered on the Greener Product, LLC web site and presented to the LEED community for final consideration. Then the products are evaluated (against the LEED standards) and  the information is prepared in a report supported by copies of independent 3rd party certificates (FSC, CARB, Greenguard, Blue Angel, etc), laboratory testing reports, product environmental attributes, LEED credit and inserted into a comprehensive report ready for submission into the architects project file.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

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Greening up your Spring Cleaning

A couple of years ago after being fed up buying bottles of “green” window cleaner that never offered a larger sized re-fill version–I started making a few of my own cleaning products for everyday use around the house. Since then I have enjoyed a home free of that stinky cleaning product smell-which absolutely nauseates me just thinking about it, and keeps my lean budget a little meatier. I also get a great sense of satisfaction making something that works just as well and sometimes even better than some chemically engineered toxic compound.

I’m not saying to dump all your cleaning products down the sink—that would be insane and it could actually come back to haunt you by ending up in your water supply in diluted form! Use up what you have and then if you can try to reuse the spray bottle container. If you can’t reuse what you have a simple trip to your local hardware store or janitorial supply store will do the trick.

Here are some of my favorite solutions that are easy to make—and more importantly…they smell great and are effective!

Here is what you’ll need to pick up to start making your own cleaners:

Baking Soda

Lemon Juice (bottled works-fresh is best!)

White Vinegar (I buy it by the gallon)

Kosher Salt

Pure Castile Soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap)

Tea Tree Oil (Try your natural food store)

1. Great abrasive cleaner *works fantastic in the bathroom and kitchen

In the tubsprinkle surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a stiff bristled brush or scrubber sponge. To tackle soap scum, sprinkle on some kosher salt w, and work up some elbow grease.

You can also make a paste out of baking soda and water for tough stains or really grimy areas like the oven—even letting it sit overnight …spray on little white vinegar let the chemical reaction happen and watch that stainless steel sink, stove top, or refrigerator shelves and bins sparkle!!

Mold or mildew in the shower or on the curtain? Try spraying white vinegar or even lemon juice—let it sit for a few minutes then hit it with a stiff bristled brush or a hard toothbrush in between grout lines.

2. Disinfectant that smells fabulous *great bleach alternative.

Mix 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 25 drops of tea tree oil. This works great in the bathroom in the sink and around/in the toilet! You can adjust the fragrance by selecting a scented castile soap…I like eucalyptus and peppermint!

3. Windows with a streak free finish

Combine 4 tablespoons of white vinegar per gallon of warm water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray solution on windows or any glass surface (coffee tables, bathroom mirrors etc.) and use one of Dad’s old undershirts or even newspapers to produce the cleanest windows you’ve ever seen.

*If you don’t like the smell of white vinegar you can use a mixture of lemon juice and club soda.

4. Floor cleaner *can be used on hardwood, tile or linoleum

You can keep your floors clean by combining 3 ¾ cups of warm water and ¼ cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle or a bucket, mop floor as you usually would. If you need some grit for hard to clean areas try using kosher salt for a scratch free abrasive floor cleaner that is safe.

Use caution when washing walls—this solution did discolor a piece of painted wall when I became a little over zealous in my cleaning efforts…try a test area first in a very unnoticeable spot!

5. Drain Cleaner *works for slow moving drains—untested on a blocked one

Drain cleaner is probably the most dangerous chemical I have ever brought into my house…recently I had a slowly draining bathroom sink and tried a non lethal remedy…guess what—it actually worked!

Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain (unscrew the stopper if you can for better access) pour an entire tea kettle or if you are using a nuker about 4 cups of boiling water into the drain.

If that still doesn’t do the trick—replace the sink stopper and add more baking soda then pour ½ cup of white vinegar into the drain. Cover tightly by closing the stopper, allowing the fizzies created by the chemical reaction to break down the greasy grimy clog. Flush with another tea kettle of boiling water.

Happy cleaning!!

Posted by Amanda | Follow me on twitter

Some no-no’s of taking it to go

The other night while sorting through the mounds of bills and junk-mail one glassine window in an envelope sparked a discussion about how such things including to-go containers can now be recycled and composted thanks to companies developing materials from plant fibers, sugar cane waste, and corn.

It dawned on me that since I eat, breathe, and live as green as I possibly can maybe it’s not as common knowledge as I thought that there have been great advances in the worlds to-go options.

I am always amazed when eating out when my leftovers are brought to me in some kind of awful Styrofoam container…in fact many U.S. cities like Seattle and Oakland have begun to ban the use of Styrofoam in restaurants and grocery stores. It’s like come on people it’s time to get with it and use an environmentally friendly package, it not only becomes a permanent part of our universe, but according to the EPA it’s a hazard to your health! It makes me think twice about bringing my own container with me the next time I visit that restaurant, or asking them to just wrap my leftovers in foil—if it won’t make a huge mess on the ride or walk home.

I’ll admit that it does slip my mind quite often to ask what kind of containers they package to-go items in, but it’s something I’m trying to get better at and be more conscious of. It’s being more away of little things like this that can help you reduce your footprint and tread a little lighter.

Posted by Amanda | follow me on Twitter

Single Coat, Zero VOC Floor Finish

Monocoat all-natural oil wood floor finishes are plant-based, VOC-free and completely non-toxic oil finishes of extraordinary durability. Available in clear finish and more than 30 color finishes, all apply evenly in a single coating. All Monocoat finishes are easily maintained, and provide a subtle lustre that reveals and complements, rather than covers, the natural grain and patina of the wood.

Monocoat adheres with the first microns of wood by molecular bonding. As a result, Monocoat Natural Oil can cover an average 400 sq. ft. of floor per liter. And because of molecular bonding, no surface film can form, and no variable saturation can occur. Not only is a second coat not required, the finished wood will not accept a second coat. The same action protects against overlaps and color variance and causes the process to complete in one coat.

Monocoat Natural Oil finish bonding technology allows local touch up of damaged areas or scratches, because only the free wood fibers will take the touchup coating. The finished margins next to the scratched or damaged area will not accept new Monocoat. After 10 minutes, just wipe away superfluous oil.

Having just installed 200 year old floors, this woudl have ben na intersting option for us btu I am thrilled with the number of new products that come online very day.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter

Being Green Isn’t Always Easy

As the office manager, I am in charge of keeping all of the paper products, cleaning supplies and any other supply you can think of stocked.  I have been trying to switch to “green” products wherever I can in my efforts to be a better friend to the environment. 

Sometimes this is easy – I have switched over to the HP Office Recycled paper.  This might not be the greenest option there is – it is 30% recycled fiber – but it is a step in the right direction.  I have switched over to GreenSense or Seventh Generation cleaning products and office trash bags. These changes happened with little to no hiccups and are just as effective as their non-green counterparts.

Sometimes it is a little more of a trial and error process – i.e. the toilet paper.  Like almost everything that changes in this office we put whatever we are changing to a test (see previous post of changing our water).  For a week we had one side of the toilet paper dispenser sporting the Seventh Generation brand and the other side had the CVS recycled brand Earth Essentials.  Neither was winning anyone over and some people were downright annoyed at my little product “wipe-off”.  I ended up just switching back to Scott for the time being and would have a couple of rolls of the Seventh Generation to swap in every now and again to see if anyone would notice….they did.  Just as I was about to give up on “greening” that area of the office, Seventh Generation must have realized that their recycled toilet paper option wasn’t much of an option unless you were soooo into being green that you didn’t care that your private areas were slowly being sandpapered away.  They had come out with another version with an “improved softness” shout out on the front.  I gave them another shot – and FABULOUS – I won’t go as far as to say that it is as soft as Cottenelle or Charmin but I think it holds its own against Scott, so we have officially made that change.

And then sometimes it just isn’t happening no matter how much I want it to.  I have not been able to find a recycled paper towel to even come close to being good enough to switch over to.  I have tried Marcal, Seventh Generation and Earth Essentials.  It is almost like trying to dry your hands with a sandwich bag – and not even a paper bag but sometimes it is closer to a Ziploc bag.  They have a low level of absorbency so drying your hands or wiping up the counters become difficult tasks. You end up using 3-4 paper towels to do the job of one Bounty.  That kind of defeats the point in switching in the first place, right? So back to Bounty I go. I can’t support switching over to a product that doesn’t really work – then it just seems like a waste of money.

So please consider this a plea to all paper towel companies – give the customers what they want.  We are trying to get behind your products and will gladly support a recycled paper towel – it just needs to be able to dry your hands or wipe up spills – I don’t think that is so much to ask.  If anyone out there has found a great paper towel I am open to suggestions and will go out to the store tomorrow and start the ever popular office product testing.

Posted by: Becca

Going Green with Terrene

Terrene Sustainable Building Supply sells high-quality, environmentally responsible, “green” building products. Terrene’s goal is to expand the availability and use of green building products throughout New England. The products that you’ll find at Terrene  were selected because they are better for the environment, perform well, and contribute to healthier living.

With three locations in Massachusetts, including Acton, Newton and their location that just opened in South Yarmouth on the Cape, Terrene is looking to fulfil the promise that green building means retail access to designs you can see and touch. They are offering franchises to interested qualified parties.

I selected them to source a number of products including Fireclay 3×6 white matte tiles for Abby’s bathroom floor, EcoTop countertops (also in white) for my master bath and laundry room, Paperstone for my kitchen counters and we’re still looking at flooring including marmoleum and carpets.

Check them out or visit a location near you.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Did you know…you could shop for the Earth?

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Just a heads up to all you Rhode Islanders! If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, there is a new store offering eco friendly alternatives for shopaholics in Wakefield and East Greenwich. It’s called THE Did You Know? STORE. Here is their mission:

  1. To give consumers an environmentally conscious alternative to everyday products
  2. To support recycling and reuse, organic farming, fair trade, and less waste
  3. To allow consumers to be able to choose affordable eco-friendly products without sacrificing quality and without having to completely change the way he or she lives.

 It has some great apparel (really cute t-shirts), and stuff for your pets babies and kids, among other things. The founder, Claire Hall (a URI graduate) is quoted on her website saying “I want a store that is about more than just selling green products. I want to provide people with information that will help them make eco-friendly choices in their everyday lives.” You can take a look at THE Did You Know? STORE here, or check our their blog here. Happy Shopping!!

Posted by: Ashley (intern)