iPhone applications helping you Go Green

If you don’t own an iPhone yourself, more than likely you know someone who does. I personally am one of the many people who do, along with some of my friends. As an iPhone user you are constantly going into your “App store” to see what there is for cool new apps to put on your phone. Recently, a good friend of mine mentioned that there are tons of eco-friendly apps to help you go green. After hearing this I went and did some research about these apps.

Applications for your iPhone are broken into two groups, ones you have to pay for and others that are free. Some of the paid for apps I found are called Eco Footprint and GreenTips, they cost .99 cents each. Eco Footprint is a program that allows you to calculate your ecological footprint based on your eating and travel habits. Once you find out your ecological footprint you can then share the results with your friends through email or Facebook.

The GreenTips application gives you easy ways to go green, save money, and save the planet. The tips they give you range from topics about being green at your school or dorm, how to save money on your energy bill, being a green pet owner, helping your community become greener, and many more.

As for the free apps, two I found are ClimateCounts and GreenLocals. ClimateCounts is an app that analyzes companies and based on their ranking scale you can see how well a company is addressing climate change. They rank companies in sectors on food products, apparel, airlines, hotels, toys, furniture, and more. This can help you make many daily purchasing decisions and support companies that are highly ranked when it comes to them addressing the climate change.

GreenLocals is an app that helps you find local green and sustainable businesses easy using your phones GPS to locate certified businesses near you. You can browse by different categories to find a certain business and it will also give you directions on how to get to this location. You can also submit your own business or rate and review one you found.

I only named two from each category but there are many more to choose from, so enjoy and go find an app that helps you go green!

Posted by Megan/ Follow me on Twitter

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

Home Entertainment’s Take on the Green Life Project

Read more: http://www.hemagazine.com/Green_Living_Smart_Living#ixzz0aSCNvSPt

Reducing and Centralizing Wiring for a LEED Home

When Kimberly and Joe Hageman approached me to work on their Green Life Smart Life project, they told me their goal was to show how green lifestyles and digital lifestyles could happily coexist. Immediately, my mind focused on lighting control and HVAC control, which together account for around 90 percent of the energy consumption in an average home.

Leviton structured wiring boxes

Leviton structured wiring boxes

Traditionally, custom integrators have focused on the ease-of-use and convenience that lighting and HVAC control systems can provide. My thoughts turned to shifting the focus of these subsystems towards enabling energy-efficient operation of lights and climate control.

Kim and Joe agreed, but they wanted to go further: They wanted a green infrastructure, too.

Now here was something I’d never encountered. But it made me realize for the first time that installing a system in a green home isn’t started by making “green” product choices. It starts with the home systems’ design. It requires careful planning and coordination with the homeowner, the architect, the interior designer, and the other trades before a single wire is run.

With full knowledge that a possibly arduous path lay before us, the Hagemans and I set out to devise a green wiring solution.

These were new criteria that I hadn’t worked with before. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the custom business, it’s that you need to be versatile, able to make changes on the fly and, most importantly, be willing to accommodate each project and its unique requirements. This was just another in a long line of curveballs I’d encountered throughout my career, and it’s always rewarding to put the barrel on the ball.

We examined our traditional solution approach, and determined the environmental impacts. This was a highly useful exercise in and of itself, because going forward now I’ll know what impact my most commonly used products and materials would have in a green installation.

We investigated “green” cabling, which uses halogen-free plastic jackets that are still not terribly earth-friendly, but a bit less hostile to the earth all the same. Turns out, the Europeans like it, but you can’t get it in America. Believe me, we looked, and no warehouse we could find carries it.

So our attention turned to another requirement: using as little cable as possible. That meant both fewer cables and the shortest possible runs.

“Fewer cables”, of course, runs counter to the time-honored custom integration strategy of installing more wire than is necessary in order to ostensibly future-proof a system (and to cover your bases in case an unexpected change in the installation arises after the cabling has already been installed). I was lucky in this instance; unlike many clients, Kim and Joe, not only no strangers to tech but also passionate about it, knew pretty well before construction started what they wanted in each room and location. We just ran whatever the expected hardware in each location would require, and nothing more.

Centralized wire runs

Centralized wire runs

We also had another trick up our sleeve: conduit. We ran Carlon® Resi-Gard® to our critical locations and just enough cable through the conduit as we thought we needed. And if we needed to run more cable later, we wouldn’t need to tear open the walls. We could just snake it through the conduit. Essentially, the conduit makes the system inherently future-proof and cuts down on unnecessary use of cable. Additionally, you’re not going to be in a position where you need to cut into drywall later to add wiring. An empty (or semi-empty) pipe is as good as it gets.

Which brings me to my next point about green wiring (and, in fact, any wiring job): Establish your cabling pathways as far ahead of actual construction as you can. In a green home, chances are your client will be thinking about these things further out, since every amount and type of material used in the home can positively or negatively impact its LEED® for Homes (or competitive equivalent) rating. The other tradespeople will appreciate it as well, and you can build more solid relationships and channels of communication with them.

This was especially key in the Green Life Smart Life house in terms of assuring the shortest possible cable runs. Because we were involved so early in the process, we got preferential treatment for locating the head-end of the system. After evaluating the placement of the entertainment systems, we figured out a spot in the basement that would be the shortest distance from all points. As a result, our racks are located directly below the main entertainment area, which is directly below the master bedroom and adjacent to the main utility room where all of the electrical boxes and lighting control system would be housed. Everything shares a common wall.

Usually, we’re the last ones in, we run our cables after all the other trades’ wiring, venting and pipes are installed, and we have to take what we can get in terms of placing our gear. In this case, however: paradise. Because we are professionals and try to be as courteous to the other trades as possible, we made sure our impact was manageable for the other trades.

Another happy circumstance from both a green and an interior design perspective is that we don’t have any local entertainment equipment aside from displays. We centralized content and control in our head-end equipment room. This cuts down on the cabling required and eliminates excess heat generated from typical AV equipment into a finished room (which has dual benefits since we are directing the heat into the generally cool, unfinished utility space and the living spaces do not have to compensate with cooling for the equipment heat).

Lutron lighting control panels, centralized to hub

Lutron lighting control panels, centralized to hub

I was intrigued to find that the most significant impact we were able to make on this project in its course toward a more sustainable guide, was in the planning.  I was truly amazed that when we tallied the completed wire runs, and compared it to both similarly sized homes and similarly sized projects with home control and entertainment systems, we reduced the amount of wire installed on the project by 52%. By thinking about how we could take the most conservative approach, the application of a well thought plan was the most powerful thing we could do.  I was inspired to learn more about the principles of “green” design.  The project itself exposed me to the application process for LEED® accreditation, and through it, the instrumentation and measurement of the gains realized by good design.  Myself, I’ve taken an interest in the process, and l am beginning to appreciate the value that could be held as a building and energy analyst. 

My involvement in the Green Life Smart Life project was a terrific experience because it allowed me to reexamine the way in which we make decisions and re-value the criteria on which our projects and process are based. It’s certainly affected our typical project. Going forward, what I learned on this project will inform all of my future installations—and not just the green ones. This was a highly rewarding exercise and I’m happy to share what I learned with the custom integration community. Our last step, we are going to submit this plan for a LEED-H Innovation and Design point. This has no precedent so it has to be evaluated, but we will let you know the findings.

By Jeff Mitchell, Robert Saglio Audio Video and Lead Integrator for Green Life Smart Life. Jeff is a CEDIA certified installer and a member of the CEA TechHome. He has been with Robert Saglio AV for more than ten years.  Follow Jeff on Twitter : @audiojeff


Which Utilities Top the Smart Grid Deployment List?

Rick Nicholson and H. Christine Richards of IDC Energy Insights published an article in the July/August edition of Intelligent Utility detailing their assessment of which utilities are leading the pack towards a Smart Grid.

 Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), Austin Energy, Edison International (NYSE: EIX), Oncor, PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) and CenterPoint Energy (NYSE: CNP), all of whom are based in either California or Texas, top the list of utilitites leading the way. I personally thinked they missed Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative who aren’t just at the forefront of grid transformation but also leading the charge in consumer education.

Locally, National Grid (LSE:NG;NYSE:NGG), the nation’s second-largest utility, has applied to the U.S. Department of Energy for $200 million in stimulus funding to develop an “end-to-end” smart grid deployment that will include approximately 200,000 customers in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to National Grid, the project will demonstrate the benefits of combining “smart” and “green” technologies from end-to-end (transmission to consumer) including demonstrations of clean energy technologies such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and solar and wind power as well as energy storage technology. The result will be one of the most technologically advanced smart grid deployments in the U.S. This initiative will provide an increased understanding of the interface between the next generation of green energy supply and the smart grid to pave the way for the broader roll out of these technologies in the states where National Grid operates.

Regardless of whether they get the grant money or not, I hope National Grid stays in the game; they have a chance to lead this initiative and really make a difference.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Green Building Perspectives: Consumer Electronics Association

PrintFor this week’s Green Building Perspectives, we spoke with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the $173 billion U.S. consumer technology industry through legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA represents more than 2,200 corporate members involved in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and integration of audio, video, mobile electronics, wireless and landline communications, information technology, home networking, multimedia and accessory products, as well as related services that are sold through consumer channels. The CEA TechHome division will be launching their new TechHome Rating System, which is being created to provide a model and associated rating program that will allow builders, integrators and consumers to demonstrate what technology products can be installed in a home. With a focus on energy management, whole-home connectivity and entertainment, the Green Life Smart Life project will be the first case study of the program.

 1. What do you think of the Green Life Smart Life Project? What interested CEA in the GLSL project?
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is excited to support the Green Life Smart Life program as platinum sponsor to highlight how installed home technologies and consumer electronics can help homeowners become more environmentally sustainable. CEA is committed to increasing awareness of environmentally-friendly products and programs within the consumer electronics industry, as well as working with lawmakers and government officials to develop public policy solutions that protect innovation and consumer choice while promoting energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. The GLSL project gives CEA a great platform to show that you can live a high-tech and energy efficient lifestyle without having to sacrifice any of the design and entertainment features of a high-tech home.

The Green Life Smart Life demonstrates not only to consumers, but Electronic Systems Contractors (ESC), builders and architects how installed home technologies can help minimize a home’s environmental impact through smart home design that incorporates technology. Through CEA’s involvement with GLSL, we hope to spur the building community into thinking about how they can incorporate consumer electronics into their projects to help homeowners become better environmental stewards. 

The Green Life Smart is one of the first homes in the country to use CEA’s TechHome Rating System (THRS), a nationally-recognized build-to specification for residential technology infrastructure. THRS removes the complexity of adding home technology by explaining at a glance the level of structured wiring that is present or needed within a home. In addition to providing the infrastructure needed for entertainment features like Multi-Room Audio, THRS can enhance a home’s green lifestyle by providing for the infrastructure needed for energy monitoring, energy management and home control systems. 

2. Where does your company/organization see green building going in the next 5 years?  
As green building grows, so will the number of technology offerings included in those projects. CEA has several member companies that are on the forefront of energy efficient and energy management technology.  Consumers are looking to make informed decision about their home energy consumption. Home automation systems that help manage and control energy consumption will give them those resources. It is not just homeowners looking to make more informed decisions. Utility companies are building Smart Grids to have a better handle on how energy is being distributed and used. By using these grids to show peak load times and reducing demand through time of day pricing, utilities companies will give homeowners even more tools to better understand their energy consumption. The Obama administration’s commitment to building Smart Grids will only help build consumer’s understanding of installed home technology that tracks a home’s energy use. ESC will need to take a leading role in educating consumers about the options available to them and can be instrumental in incorporating those options into homes.

3. Do you think green practices/manufacturing will ever dominate the CE industry?
Yes. The environment is increasingly taken into account as CE companies make materials and components, design, manufacture and distribute produces, and sell them in retail stores and online. CE companies are changing their design process to create products that need less packaging, contain fewer harmful chemicals and allow for reusability and recycling. CEA recently examined the environmental data from the largest CE companies and found that most were looking for ways to reduce waste, conserve resources and shrink product size (CEA’s Environmental Sustainability and Innovation in the Consumer Electronics Industry, October 2008).

Highlights of the study include:      

  • Decreased electricity use: Among companies that reported reduced electricity consumption, electricity usage declined by as much as 25 percent during the past three to four years. 
  • Relative greenhouse gas reduction: Among the major CE companies that reported greenhouse gas emissions from 2004-2007, seven of the 10 have achieved a reduction per one million dollars revenue.
  • Strong recycling commitment Among 64 electronics companies surveyed, more than two-thirds — 69 percent — report that they are actively recycling electronic products and components, and 38 percent report reuse of the electronics products they make or use. Together, these actions have helped to recycle nearly 800,000 tons of electronic waste.
  • Improved energy efficiency: Continuous improvement across the industry in nearly every product. The widespread shift from CRT to LCD monitors that occurred earlier this decade reduced average energy use per monitor by about 30 percent.

 4. What do you think custom CE installers need to do or prepare to do to take full advantage of the green movement?
Join CEA! Becoming an active participant in CEA helps custom installers stay up-to-date on key industry trends and gives them a variety of opportunities to hear from other ESCs and manufactures about what is happening in the market place. Belonging to a trade association like CEA supplies you the relevant tools needed to help you succeed in the custom integration channel.  

 If you’re looking for a way to become more involved within CEA while learning more about how you can incorporate sustainability practices into you business, consider joining the new CEA-CEDIA Green Certification Work Group. CEA and CEDIA have joined forces to compile a reference guide of green certifications relevant to the custom installation industry. This new CEA-CEDIA work group is looking for custom installers to share their knowledge. Get more information or participate on this work group!

Who is Getting the Green Money

I’m sure a lot of us have been wondering what part of this $787.2 billion dollar stimulus plan will be going towards green initiatives and incentives. Propublica.org did all the hard work and put together two pretty detailed lists of where the all that money is going (there is a spending list and a tax list), so I went through and plucked out the “green areas” to make it a bit easier..

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $6,000,000
  • Department of Energy: $15,000,000
  • Environmental Protection Agency: $20,000,000
  • Department of Transportation: $20,000,000
  • Energy all together is getting about $42 billion, check out the list for a detailed breakdown. Little Rhody is getting about $59 million to work on energy issues (did you know the we use the least energy per person, and pay the most out of any state?) To find out how much your state is getting towards energy check here and scroll untill you see the map.
  • Small Business Administration salaries and expenses, microloan program and improvements to technology systems: $69,000,000 (improvements to technology can mean higher energy efficiency)
  • Non-Defense environmental cleanup: $483,000,000
  • Defense Environmental cleanup: $5,127,000,000
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintenance and construction on wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries and for habitat restoration: $165,000,000
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service roads, bridges and facilities, including energy efficient retrofits: $115,000,000
  • Public transportation discretionary grants: $100,000,000 
  • Grants and loans for green investment in section 8 properties: $250,000,000
  • Advanced Energy Investment Credit: $1,647,000,000
  • Renewable Energy Tax Credits: $19,968,000,000 (for a further break down click here)

There are a lot of sites trying to break down the Stimulus plan and they aren’t all exactly the same. From what I can see there is more money being spent on things like highways than on saving the planet, but hey who needs a planet if you can’t drive on a 14 lane highway?