Green Life Smart Life Founder On Panel At Greener Gadgets Conference

Kimberly Lancaster, Founder of the Green Life Smart Life (GLSL) project, will be a speaker at this year’s Greener Gadget’s Conference on Feb. 25th in New York City.  Speaking on the “Green Living Begins at Home” panel, she and four other industry experts will discuss sustainable design strategies and tips for creating plans for a home that is both high-tech and green.

The GLSL project was designed to demonstrate the implementation of green building techniques and smart home technologies to achieve LEED® for Homes certification. Not only did the project achieve LEED® for Homes certification, but was rated by the US Green Building Council as Gold certified. The Narragansett, RI 4529 sq/ft home scored 92.5 out of 136 points and is the first LEED-H Gold home in RI and only the second completed LEED-H project in the entire state.

“Every day we make choices about what we are going to reuse, recharge and recycle in our home. By being aware of the impact of the choices you make, whether it is the amount of energy a device consumes or where it ends up at end of life, we can all minimize our environmental footprint,” stated Lancaster.

Lancaster is also the founder of Caster Communications, a full service public relations firm specializing in consumer electronics, clean technology and sustainable design. Caster Communications was the development and marketing team for the Green Life Smart Life project.

The Greener Gadgets Conference, sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) will cover issues on energy efficiency and sustainable design, along with innovative advances in packaging and product manufacturing to end-of-life recycling solutions. It will emphasize ways in which electronics make a major impact by utilizing renewable energy in developing nations.

2009 Solar Decathalon Lights Up Washington, D.C.

With all of the big media outlets stationed in our nation’s capital day in and day out, you’d think they wouldn’t miss a beat when something extraordinary happens.  Especially when that something is happening right on the National Mall (which, according to the National Park Service, receives 24 million visitors per year).   From October 8-18, 20 teams of university [student and faculty] architects and engineers had convened on the Mall to compete in a program sponsored by the Department of Energy, showcasing projects which took 2 years to complete.  The contestants submitted their proposals and designs 2 years ago, and of the 40 initial entries, 20 were selected for this years’ competition.  Each of the contest entries were designed and built in the home state of the design teams.  A week before the start of the competition, the homes were sent to Washington, D.C. where they were reconstructed on the National Mall.

These projects are state-of-the-art homes (up to 800 sq. ft.), which are self-sustaining, energy efficient and eco-friendly.  During the competition, the homes were judged on 10 criteria, including architecture, engineering, lighting and home entertainment.  Wait, “home entertainment”?  According to the official website, during the competition each team hosted 2 dinner parties at their home.  During the dinner party, they were awarded points based on the quality of the meal, lighting in the home and the overall experience.  Additionally,  the teams were required to host a “movie night” for their guests with judging based on the quality and design of their home theater system, and the guests’ overall experience.  If that isn’t enough,  the teams were also required to operate certain electronic appliances (TVs, computers) during specific time periods, as well as keeping the home lit during specified hours.

This year, Team Germany won the competition, with their cube-shaped design which was almost completely covered in solar panels.  Team Illinois came in second, and Team California came in third.

The entries were judged from October 8 – October 16,  and were open to the public on select dates for tours through October 18.


Department of Energy – Solar Decathlon Official Website

YouTube Showcase of Competition Entries

Posted by Courtney | Follow me on Twitter

Sustainable Furniture: Will We Pay for It?

From The New York Times: Once a laggard in the green scene, the $8.3 billion furniture industry is catching up. From individual furniture makers to national retailers, green furnishing options are popping up in many stores and price ranges to appeal to eco-friendly consumers and conform to stricter environmental laws.

The Sustainable Furnishings Council, a nonprofit that promotes green practices in the furniture industry, has grown to over 300 members since it was created three years ago. And green trends were highlighted at the two largest furniture shows in High Point, N.C., and Las Vegas this year.

There’s good reason: Half of U.S. consumers said they would pay 5 percent or more for green products, according to a recent survey from The Boston Consulting Group. And almost three-fourths of those surveyed said it’s important for companies to have good environmental track records.

On top of that, Congress last year banned the import, export and sale of illegally harvested timber and wood, holding the furniture business accountable for its wood sourcing.

The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of furniture products, said Linda Kramme, manager of the Global Forest & Trade Network, but there are no estimates showing how much furniture specifically is made from illegal wood. A recent Environmental Investigation Agency report estimated 10 percent of furniture, pulp and paper used in the U.S. are at high risk of coming from illegal sources — an officially protected rain forest, for example.

”We, in the home furnishings industry, are shockingly responsible for illegal logging,” said Susan Inglis, the executive director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

PROS: The No. 1 reason to buy green furniture is its healthier for the planet. But it may also be healthier for you. Many green furniture pieces are treated with natural, nontoxic finishes, sealants, stains and paints that won’t emit harmful chemicals into the air you breathe.

Some eco-conscious companies are also socially conscious, including Harden Furniture and Lee Industries. So the furniture you buy might be made in a developing country, but the employees work for fair wages and in safe conditions.

CONS: The selection of green furniture isn’t as wide as standard pieces, especially at lower prices, but that’s changing. Also, buying green furniture and getting rid of your old stuff creates more waste.

COSTS: If you’re used to decorating with ready-to-assemble furniture, expect to pay more for green designs, in general. However, national retailers like Williams-Sonoma Home, Pottery Barn, West Elm or Crate & Barrel offer eco-friendly furniture for the same price as their standard lines.

Higher-end green lines, like those found in ABC Carpet & Home, will also run about the same as standard upscale options.

”There is a little bit of a premium if you want to do everything to the highest level,” says Annette Stelmack, an interior designer in Denver.

Price tags on the unique, artisan pieces can easily run from the thousands to the tens of thousands of dollars.

TIPS: Buy furniture made of wood that comes from forests that are harvested to reduce the negative impacts of logging and to encourage forest growth. Consider furniture made of wood from salvaged sources such as old barns, factories or warehouses.

Look for certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council, Tropical Trust Fund, American Tree Farm System, Canadian Standards Association-Sustainable Forest Management, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. These organizations monitor how wood is grown, logged and transported.

Consumers should also consider buying furniture made from recycled or organic materials. Look for sofas made from recycled polyester or coffee tables created out of recycled metal. Or, choose a chair with wool or soy-based upholstery fillings.

Buy local. Pieces that are transported over long distances add to energy consumption and air pollution.

Take care of the furniture you have. Cheap and easy-to-assemble furniture is easily thrown away, creating more waste. Buying second-hand and antique furniture or accepting hand-me-downs are ways to save the planet and keep furniture from ending up in landfills.

You can find a green manufacturer, retailer or interior designer near you on the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s Web site at

Kim’s note:

In New England you can go to Circle Furniture, who carries great brands like Lee and Maine Cottage (personal favorite) among many others in their eco line of furniture products.  I am working on the interior design of the house with them right now and am really impressed by their knowledge and their commitment to living clean on the inside of your home. I am working on a series on hidden VOCs in furniture and the impact on indoor air quality and your family’s health in a LEED home, so check back for that and of course furniture pictures!

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter :  newscaster

Sustainable Design Embodied in Our Stair Rail

Building the perfect stairwell is an investment in time, design, patience and yes, money. This part of our building project is heavy on design and detail but has an incredible element of sustainable design. Every piece of our stairwell rail, newells and posts are made from 200 year old pine harvested from a barn found in Wisconsin and milled by local artisans Hardwood Design. Liek teh stair bodies and treads, the wood captures the character we were looking for in reclaimed materials in our Narragansett LEED home.

Here are some photos of the installation from start to finish.

8.12.09 - Stairs

9.3.09 -  Stairwell

9.3.09 - Stairwell (7)

9.3.09 - Stairwell (13)


posted by KDL | follow meon Twitter :  newscaster


Inhabitat, one of my favorite green design blogs, has officially launched its online shop.   With a great collection of eco-friendly goods, the store has something for everyone.  Choose from categories like clothing, kids, home, furniture, gadgets and accessories to find green and safe products for your whole family.

As I browsed the shop, I found myself coveting one item in particular.  I am a huge fan of organic cotton, especially in sheets and bedding.  There is nothing better than soft, natural materials to rest your head on every night and I’ll be the first to admit that I have about three sets.  My duvet cover, however cute, is not organic which is why when I saw the “Cove Duvet Cover” in the Home/Bedroom section of, I started drooling. 


The beautiful cream, green and gray blue design is printed and sewn domestically and it is made from 320-thread count organic cotton.  It also comes in a darker print and in both Queen and King sizes.  Retail: $330

Check out that and more at’s new online store.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Seriously fun floors….naturally

Prior to the start of this project, I had no idea what marmoleum was nor I did I realize how cool its backstory really is.  (But I did know not to end a sentence with a preposition….some things never change…) 

Marmoleum is a clean, durable and allergen-free linoleum floor covering that is neither carpet nor plastic.  It’s a natural product that starts with completely natural ingredients.  Linseed oil is pressed from the seeds of the flax plant and wood flour is obtained from  lumber industry waste (also know as sawdust!) and sustainably harvested forests.  The roisons in marmoleum are harvested from pine trees and the colors comes from environmentally responsible pigments with natural jute fibers woven on the back. 

As if that isn’t sustainable enough, marmoleum has a an earth-to-earth lifecycle – it is completely biodegradable, right up the solvent-free adhesives used in installation.  There is no lead, no formaldehyde, to plasticizers and no chlorine. 

The very best part – is so very, very affordable.  Affordable and easy to clean.  Its natural anti-static properties (for a natural product it seems extremely advanced) mean that dirt doesn’t stick very well and bacteria has a tough time breeding.  There’s no need to use harsh chemicals for cleaning, any dust is easily removed by a damp mop. 

We are using marmoleum in the Green Life Smart Life house – it’s safe, affordable, kid friendly, what’s not to love?  Check out to see colors & designs in action.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

Serenbe – The community bringing sustainability and “buy local” to a new level

In Rhode Island it’s easy to buy local. In a state that is approximately 1045 square miles and takes, at most, two hours to drive from the Northeast to the Southwest borders with traffic, you are essentially staying and buying “local” regardless of where you travel in the state. The eco-conscious can roam freely through South County and beyond with the peace of mind that you are putting your green money where your mouth is.

 Earlier this week, I was completely intrigued while reading an article on Serenbe (

Serenbe is a small high-end, rural community in Georgia (I have been unable to track down exactly how big it is). It was founded and subsequently designed to reflect the traditional principles of environmental sustainability – “Where the principles of sustainability touched everything from your home’s methods of construction to the organic produce on your table that was grown by one of your neighbors”. The community was founded by Marie and Steve Nygren in 1991 (the date of their home purchase) with a vision of an eco-community. Though the residential housing development itself is only four year old, Serenbe has welcomed more than 160 residents who have chosen to embrace the village’s sustainable standards of living and features over 100 newly built, environmentally friendly homes and business spaces. And while the rest of the country has seen a sharp decline in home prices, Serenbe residences boast a starting price of $350,000, well above Georgia’s median home price fluctuating around $200,000. 

Serenbe is a high-end, high-tech eco-village that is thriving.

Check out the community’s site that reads “the best reason to live here is the life here”. If you are not hooked immediately than you are probably crying “cult”, however the tranquil music had me at hello. With one click beyond the landing page, I was hooked; I was planning a visit, visiting the farmhouse, and planning my wedding (no, I’m not even engaged!).

Serenbe, (appears to be) the green Utopia.

Posted by: Katie