Category Archives: Overview

What eco-issue should McGinn concentrate on in the new year?

Well, everyone, it’s (almost) a new year. Looking back, 2009 has certainly been…. interesting.

Summing up: the U.S. got a new president, Seattle got a new mayor, energy efficiency got a lot more attention and the economy continued to move along on its (very) bumpy path.

Now, looking on to 2010, there are a number of things on the horizon. Both nationally and locally, it looks like existing buildings will be getting a lot more attention. It also seems like 2010 will be the year that Living Buildings really start to pop up, both in the Puget Sound and nationally.

And then, there’s the wildcard that is Seattle’s mayor-elect, Mike McGinn. What will he do? Where will he stand on environmental issues? What will be his pet issues (other than the viaduct)?

Before McGinn was mayor, I spent a lot of time listening to him introduce Great City events. Based on that, I suspect density, green buildings and transit will be seeing some interesting changes in the next few years, though only time will tell.

In the mean time, answer my poll at right and tell me what one thing you would have McGinn concentrate on in terms of the environment. In a perfect world, what should be the hot button issue? Living buildings? Density? Congestion pricing? Only you can tell me (and maybe McGinn if he stops by) what you’re most interested in.

Other than that, happy holidays to one and all! Also, please feel free to share with me your reflections of the past year from an eco-standpoint, or to tell me what other eco-issues you want McGinn to focus on. Remember, you never know who could be reading…..!

………………..happy holidays!

National News: Copenhagen and the regulation of greenhouse gases

It’s a big day in the environment for the U.S.

First, the long-awaited climate talks have begun in Copenhagen. Second, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formally determined that greenhouse gas pollution is dangerous, setting the stage for the U.S. to regulate emissions through the Clean Air Act.

Though I know about these issues, I’m not a national news reporter, so let me point you to some great resources regarding these two very important events:

Copenhagen. The New York Times has a team of reporters covering the two-week talks. The NYT staff will also be keeping the public up to date via very informative video posts here.

If you’re looking for a local perspective, nonprofit Climate Solutions’ eco guru K.C. Golden is attending the talks. He’ll be posting periodically on the CS Journal.

There’s also this resource for journalists that I’m sharing with you (shhh, don’t tell).

On a bit of a side note, there is an excellent look at how green Denmark really is, reported by Henry Chu of the Los Angeles Times and carried in today’s Seattle Times. The article points out that Danes throw out more waste than Americans and eat more meat than we do (whodathunkit?) However, what struck me most was although Danish people throw out more waste than we do, only 5 percent of that waste ends up in a landfill, compared with 54 percent in the U.S. (Washington’s recycling rate was 55 percent in 2008. Seattle recycles 50 percent of its waste).

On the EPA side, there’s the NYT’s Green Inc. blog with the story, the general AP story is here, and a (somewhat) local version of it is here at Natural

24,000 attendees, 1,800 booths: Critical Mass at Greenbuild?

Austin, Pittsburgh, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Boston…now Phoenix! Greenbuild has grown by leaps and bounds from the first year I was inspired by this movement, at my first Greenbuild in Pittsburgh. As I look around at all of the people, booths, products, educational sessions – a plethora and flurry of excitement washes over me.

Have we finally reached the critical mass to ‘main street green’ as USGBC suggests?

As usual, it’s great to touch in with practitioners from around the country who helped launch this movement over a decade ago, and to be reminded of just how much Pacific Northwest is infused in the spirit of this movement. The Lucia Athens, the Jim Goldman’s, the Lynne Barker’s and the Tom Paladino’s of the world are beaming in the glow of the energy of this place.

While we celebrate Turner’s 100th LEED building and a clinking of glasses, we recognize our job is far from done. This is just the beginning. Now is not the time to rest. Now is not the time to congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

We need to continuously pull the movement forward with hope and optimism and I’m proud to stand by the International Living Building Institute as Jason McLennan, Eden Brukman and others roll out the evolution in the way we redefine our buildings within the context of our current paradigm.

This morning I heard ‘Re-membering: the Patterns of Living Systems’ from Bill Reed, Penny Bonda, Jon Boecker, Dayna Baumeister and am reminded that again, the key to transformation is all about an evolutionary mindset. I recognize the complete mindset shift that needs to take place if we are going to save our planet from ourselves.

The messages are compelling, and I wonder, are the masses getting the right message? Let’s see what Rick Fedrizzi, Al Gore and Sheryl Crow (?!!??!) have to say tonight.  Stay tuned!

Marni Jade Evans, the Living Project

True Green Home – a National Geograhic book

Recently, I received a book in the mail called, ‘True Green Home – 100 inspirational ideas for creating a green environment at home.’ The book, by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin, was released by National Geographic this month.

The book is a handy little thing that does exactly what its title says in outlining inspirational ideas than range from Number 1 – choose an eco-friendly location for your house – to number 100 – dry your clothes by sun.

Being an environmental reporter, most of the ideas in this book don’t surprise me. I already knew building orientation mattered, as does placement and type of windows, building material and design. But I was surprised by a few things I didn’t know. For example, Number 30 advises me to invest in a bag-less vacuum cleaner. Call me crazy, but I had no idea such a thing even existed! Number 76, regarding natural cleaning of kitchens and utensils, advises me to clean copper with equal parts ketchup and Worchestershire sauce. Really?! I almost want to go burnish my mom’s copper pots and pans just to test it out.

Every idea comes with glossy, pretty pictures. Case studies from William McDonough + Partners, Whole Foods, the USGBC and others also punctuate the pages.

For those people who live, breathe and eat green, this book will be old news. But for those who are just looking to learn about green building or are considering a home remodel, this could be a helpful source of information.

The book is available online. For more information, visit National Geographic here.

What gets ignored in green building?

This week, I wrote a story in the DJC about the Sustainable Sites Initiative. The initiative has been in the works since 2002 and is geared to be a comprehensive certification similar to LEED but focused on landscape, rather than efficiency.

I spoke to Deb Guenther of Mithun about the initiative, as she’s been working on it since the beginning. When I asked her whether site treatment was just touched on or ignored in green building certifications, she said “a little bit of both.”

The idea that green building certifications ignore critical development considerations is a constant complaint. Here are some of the most cited aspects of what people say green building ignores:

  • The historic value of a site or building
  • The value of keeping a building – and recognizing its embodied energy, rather than demolishing a structure to build a new one
  • Accurately measuring how well the building works
  • Indoor air quality
  • Beauty and aesthetic value

(For more information on what your colleagues think is most ignored, check out my poll at right.)

But a green building certification cannot be all things to all people. And LEED has a great track record of appealing to different projects in different regions, states, climates and cities. How then, should new certifications that deal with in depth, important topics only touched on by LEED – like the Sustainable Sites Initiative – be dealt with? The initiative, by the way, will be considered in future versions of LEED, though it is unclear how it will be incorporated.

Should this initiative – and future ones like it – become a part of LEED or be developed as separate certifications?

A single certificaiton might be easier, but would force those who don’t care about things like sites or historic value to consider those aspects, and would also likely raise the certification’s cost. 

But if new certification’s aren’t incorporated into LEED, they might never get off the ground or gain market value.  And would developers really want to go get multiple certifications for multiple things, just to prove they have a green project?

What do you think?