Category Archives: Environmental Efforts

Great New Series – e2 series – Greening Economies

I don't know how I found about this PBS special – e2 Series -  but it is absolutely awesome. It is a series about economies becoming green. Each of the segments is available both on PBS and also as a free webcast or podcast for a limited amount of time. I have seen two so far: one about London and the other about Paris and both blew me away.

We call them "old Europe" (really, it was Donald Rumsfeld, who lobbed that comment)  but the innovative and somewhat courageous ways of reducing car use, encouraging bicycle use and promoting mass transit are really inspiring. Perhaps, not every solution works but they are trying different techniques and are convinced and convincing that cities should be designed for people and not for cars. Really great stuff. If you have some time and a good connection, you must check these out. And Brad Pitt is the narrator. 🙂


Initial feedback on our house energy audit

The guy from LightlyTreading emailed our energy audit report yesterday. I haven’t read the entire report, just glanced through a few things. I kinda got hung up on the “Your house is leaky“… feedback and didn’t get much further. I’ll print it out later this weekend and read through the whole thing. In the meantime, I’ll sit in my leaky house and drink a glass of wine.

image source

Energy Audit – A Blower Door Test

A few weeks ago, we had a guy out here from Lightly Treading to do an energy audit. He poked around our house, looked at windows, the level of insulation in the attic and what was going on in the garage. I fully expected him to say “you know, you should really think about moving” but instead he had a number of really good ideas, things we could do now to help our home become more energy efficient. He also punctured a few preconceived bubbles I had, which was a good thing. He said good blinds, the kind that have tracks along the inside of a window well, can be really great for keeping cold air out. If your windows are trash, like ours are in the basement, you may still have to replace them but before spending gobs of cash look at the type of blinds you have.

In the attic, make sure you have the appropriate amount of insulation for your area and that your doors  have a good seal. He is sending us a report but it seemed like there are a number of “smallish” things we can do now before really having to dig into our wallets.

The picture above is the equipment that is used during the blower test. I almost forgot to clean out the fireplace, which would have meant the entire house coated in fine ash during test, but the fine folks at LightlyTreading reminded me.  All the windows and door have to be closed during the test so that the tester can wave a wand of smoke around various openings to see how much escapes. I am fairly certain our home probably looked like it was emitting some sort of distressed smoke signal. Unfortunately, the poor guy had to come back and retest the house as he was getting some odd numbers during the reporting. I’m not entirely looking forward to the results from those tests but I should get the final report-out this week. So, I’ll post the report once I get it if I haven’t used it to better insulate a window.

We Can Solve It…

I just signed up at the  We Can Solve It Web site…a project from the The Alliance for Climate Protection –to find out more about what I can do to address climate change. What I like about the site or the theme is that it has moved beyond, "Oh crap, the world is imploding" to "we can change this". The site has some great information on things each person can do that doesn’t cost extra money and might even save you some. They also have some videos, one of which I thought was great.

Another great feature of the site is the listing of contacts you can use to send letters to encourage the press and our leaders to take more of an active role in the discussion.  There was an analysis on the site of the number of climate questions asked of the candidates by the press:

"A League of Conservation Voters’ study found that ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked presidential candidates more than 767 questions — only 5 of which were related to global warming. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked more than 402 questions — only 5 were about global warming. Sadly, other political commentators and reporters have shown a similar disregard for this key issue."

But I am fairly certain our press discussed why Hillary cried, why Obama is wonderful and isn’t McCain’s mother great for being out on the campaign trail.

OpenEco & Sun Microsystems

Look at this interesting site co-sponsored by my company Sun Microsystems called OpenEco. The site combines the ideas of corporate responsibility, community and environmental measurement into one site. The other sponsors of the site are:

  • Ceres – this looks like a company that can help you invest responsibly
  • Inspiring Green Leadership – helps corporation go on energy diet for 6 months
  • Natural Logic – looks like they are sustainability consultants that provides the tracking tools available on the site

To get started, you need to register your company and then you can calculate your greenhouse gases and compare them with other organizations. There are other tools that allow you to track, there are faqs to read and discussion forums to review and post responses. The most interesting point of all this is the community aspect to the site. It’ll take a brave organization to honestly calculate their greenhouse gases knowing that other comparable orgs will do the same but therein lies the biggest benefit – organizations working together to address a common problem.

I couldn’t get to far into the site as I don’t really know our organizational details and I don’t think it would be too friendly to plug in bogus information. The event in March sounds great – Carbon Disclosure Project Spring Workshop 

I was wrong about Nike & Corporate Responsibility

I was talking with the owner of Teko socks several weeks ago and he brought up the great work Nike has done for the industry, specifically in regards to sustainable development. I was surprised, to say the least, but then I realized that Nike probably endures more scrutiny than most other companies regarding their business practices. I was also surprised because it didn’t fit with my pre-conceived notions of a large, corporate behemoth swaggering the globe in search of cheap resources and cheaper labor. But that was my misconception because it turns out the Nike is committed to the ideas of environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility.

I spent a part of this evening reading through their Considered Design and the Environment  (141.3K) and my entire impression of Nike has changed.  They have an entire site dedicated to this idea of  "Innovate for a Better World", which doesn’t itemize the challenges of working towards a sustainable business model but embraces the possibilities for innovation and improvement both in their products and in the way they do business. Here are some of their FY11 goals:

  • 17% reduction in footwear waste
  • 31% reduction in packaging and point of purchase waste
  • All Nike footwear will meet or exceed standards set in their sustainability index
  • All Nike brand facilities and business travel will be climate neutral

They have created a new design ethos called Considered Line and from their "Considered Design and the Environment" here is a definition of that design:

"…with goals to to fuel constant improvements in our design and production processes that lessen our impact on the environment and society, using sustainability as a source of innovation ad a way to inspire new thinking and deliver tangible results"

One of the best lines from this document is about not just delivering green products but rather "the extent to which the company is committed to greening its entire supply chain." How often have you felt that this whole green trend is just another marketing or selling angle and really Nike’s statements goes to the heart of the matter.

Because of their size, Nike can influence suppliers, manufacturing processes and standards and be an industry leader in promoting the rights of their workers – they aim to improve conditions in their contract factories. In fact, their Web site has a whole section devoted to workers and factories.

One of the requirements of blogging is that I feel compelled to actually research some of the ideas I yanter on about, but one of the unexpected benefits is that I read about companies or individuals, who are already working within a new paradigm, a new business model. Sometimes, my reading forces me to reevaluate, as in the case of Nike, but I come out richer for it.

Eagle County has Eco Programs

Colorado is a beautiful state. Let’s get that out of the way, right off the bat. Dramatic canyons, inspiring peaks, bubbly and refreshing creeks and sweeping plains. It also has pretty damn hot summers. My husband and I were up around White River National Forest, where we stayed at the Coffee Cup Campground. Very cute camp area on the Flat Top area with lots of wonderful amazing views. Of course, the 16-mile, breath-holding, no guard-rails, dramatic plunges to depths below was not relaxing. However, that is not the point of this posting.

While my husband was learning how to white water raft, I took the dogs swimming and then I decided to head to Eagle to see if there was a park, where we could escape the scorched-earth policy of the day. I found a great park, with a great play area for the kids, a few couples lounging in the wedges of shade they could find beneath very young trees. The dogs were passed out in the back of the Subaru. With the windows rolled down and the back open, I settled into a camp chair to read. That’s when I noticed this car:Img_0428
Eagle County has Green Programs.  Isn’t that great!!? From their Web site, it looks like they have two program: Eco Transit and Eco Trails. The trails effort is for multi-use, non-motorized urban trail system. The Transit program is an environmentally-sensitive transit system. I didn’t find out anything about these cars, though. So, I have no idea what they are used for but what a great way to promote their efforts. I mean, I noticed after all.