You can have a “weedless” organic garden

Very interesting “alternative” gardening article at Mother Earth News.

… Well, my gardens may not be 100 percent weed-free, but they are 100 percent free of weed problems.

I’ve achieved this happy state in four ways: 1) never tilling or otherwise disturbing the soil, so dormant weed seeds stay asleep, away from light and air; 2) designating permanent areas for walking and for planting to avoid compaction and the need for tillage; 3) maintaining a thin mulch of weed-free organic material to snuff out any weed seeds that blow in or are dropped into the garden by birds; 4) using drip irrigation whenever watering is called for to avoid promoting weed growth in paths and between widely spaced plants. Those are the basics of keeping my garden free of weed problems.

Green Search Engine aims to make “going green” mainstream

Looking for dedicated green search and research tools? Look no further than Green Maven, billed as the “world’s most comprehensive” green search engine.  The site has earned Kudos from Time.com as #9 on it’s 2006 year end Website Top Ten Best List.

What is Green Maven?
Green Maven is your gateway to the Green Web. We’re a search engine that emphasizes green, conscious, and sustainable websites.

Just be warned, the site looks a lot better in Firefox 2 than it does in IE6.
Read the most recent press release: Green Search Engine makes “going green” easy

http://www.greenmaven.com/

Mike Holmes Green Building Initiative

Mike Holmes, the crusading contractor / star of Holmes on Homes is in talks with home builders about forming a new building company to construct “eco-friendly homes that meet standards above the building code basics” across Canada.

If you’ve watched his show (on the Discovery Home channel in the US and HGTV in Canada), you know he likes to rail about the declining quality of new homes and the shoddy workmanship he finds. Now he’s trying to do something about it. And going green to boot.

“We’re in negotiations and talks now about building communities,” Holmes said. “We’ll start out West and then move right across the country.”

The concept is to build homes that are designed and inspected by Holmes, using eco-products that have the Holmes seal of approval.

Can it get any better??

Read more: Holmes to build with eco-friendly edge.

Teeny Tiny Energy Efficient Homes

Weebee model tiny home from Tumbleweeds Tiny House Company

Could you live in a 100 sq ft home? 10 X 10? I know what my response would be – much laughter. But there is a guy out there building such exotic items and making a living at it too.

Jay Shafer of Tumbleweeds Tiny Homes located in the Bay Area has built them for customers all over the world. Make no mistake, they are complete homes – with a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom / shower, great room, and tons of creative storage solutions “many large home owners would envy”. And you can put them on wheels! Have tiny house, will travel.

My thoughts? Yes, something only a single man would come up with. Schafer actually makes them up to 700 sq ft to accommodate more people, but still very small by conventional standards.

The people who buy them are often interested in “downsizing their lives”. Others put them in the backyard as a “retreat” or use them as cabins.

But seriously, why so small?

Jay Shafer: “The average American house these days is pretty big and it’s consuming a lot of resources and it’s producing a lot of greenhouse gases.”

The energy savings are real. Jay’s own tiny home only takes 5 minutes to warm up or cool down. He says he’s using about $3 worth of energy per month.

An interesting trend that will hopefully make a bigger impact in the housing market.

See the Tiny Home Photo Gallery – not a dwarf in sight.

Read the story and see the video on ABC7News.com.

See another video on alternative housing featuring Tumbleweeds Tiny Homes on CBS5.com.

Green Homeowners are spreading the word

The green home market is now a 2 billion dollar industry, according to McGraw-Hill Construction in market research presented at the recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) National Green Building Conference.

85% of green home owners are happier and more satisfied with their new green homes than they were with their old non-green homes. And the “green buzz” is strong – 28% of surveyed homeowners reported first hearing about the green home concept through friends and acquaintances.

The research also found that:

  • The new green homeowner is affluent and well educated, in his/her mid forties and married, and also more likely to be from the Southern or Western states. Women are also more likely to be green homeowners.
  • Home operating costs matter. 63% report lower operating and maintenance costs as the key motivation behind buying a green home. Additionally, nearly 50% report environmental concerns and family health as motivators.
  • Lack of awareness, higher costs, and scarcity lead obstacles. The top three obstacles, all hovering over 60% of respondents, were oriented around education, additional costs involved in green homes and the availability of the homes. However, when looking at the “biggest” obstacles, green homeowners view education as the biggest hurdle to overcome.

The research also indicated that homeowners have also been very active in green remodeling and renovating. 40% of actively renovating homeowners are doing so using green products or technologies, such as energy efficient windows.

McGraw Hill Construction Press Release.

NAHB Press Release.

When Green Products & Green Design Don’t Measure Up

Came across a post on AbbeyK’s on interior design blog that referred to this Interior Design Magazine article When Green Products Don’t Perform.

Non- or under-performing green product alternatives are a concern for every designer and specifier. I posed the issue to some of my colleagues and heard horror stories—bamboo flooring that comes apart in high traffic zones only after a couple of years, low odor and fast drying concrete sealers that do not adhere well and chip, scratch or stain easily, cork that fades relatively quickly under UV rays.

Failures such as these sour both the designer and client on green products and green design in general … we have found that it is incredibly important when a building is beginning its ‘journey’ towards sustainability that the first green products are successful.

My thought isn’t that this isn’t just a problem for designers, it’s a challenge for anyone interested in “going green” and promoting environmentally friendly alternatives. The green product is supposed to be “the good guy” – you want green products and green design to succeed. After all, you have to go out of your way to find and research green products, buy them, and usually pay more for them. Maybe you even tell your friends about them. To have them turn out to be a bust, well, it’s disillusioning.

So how do you prevent Green product failure?

The Interior Design article recommends you

  • Use green products in established categories and that have a track record
  • get “word of mouth” recommendations
  • request product testimonials from manufacturers
  • ensure proper installation & maintenance
  • try before you buy – ask for product samples
  • find a forum where green products are discussed, such as list serve Big Green

From personal experience and other research:

  • don’t use green alternatives where they won’t perform well
  • don’t go low end – “you get what you pay for”.

I would also suggest look for ratings and reviews on green products. If you are interested in trying green products, you are probably an early adopter and may well be the one writing these reviews … but they are out there if you look …

Do Blog Searches for products you want to try

You may stumble on a houseblogger who has tried it out and learned from the experience. Keywords to use would be the brand name and type of product. Then ask questions on the blog posts.

Visit Green Review Sites

The Green Home Guide offers editorial reviews on green products & services – “unbiased reviews and advice from professionals and homeowners like you”.

Five Limes – community / consumer reviews and ratings on green products and local stores and services.

Finally, back to the blog post that got me on this topic, AbbeyK makes a good point: if your green design product ends up in a landfill before it’s time, it “can end up not being green in the long run”.

Solar Powered Air Conditioner – the new Millenia

SolCool Millennia Air Conditioner thumbnail

SolCool has a new solar-powered air conditioner, the Millenia, to be released next month. Unlike some of its earlier “full system” two-ton offerings, the Millenia is a good replacement for a conventional window or portable unit for spot cooling.

Practical considerations. The Millenia It can run on power grids in either the US or UK. It weighs about 200 pounds and can be mounted on wheels for portability. It has both cooling and heating functions. It comes with a remote control and a 5 yr warranty.

Green considerations: It’s solar powered so it’s an energy saver. It does require some electricity but will keep going in a blackout, day or night: it can run on solar-charged battery power for up to 24 hours. It’s also a “water saver”: the condensate from the air conditioner can be routed to another SolCool product, the Aquacell, to produce filtered drinking water. What will they think of next?

From the SolCool website:

The version four SolCool has two DC compressors, (one DC compressor will be a heat pump) with on board batteries that will last up to 24 hours between charge cycles. The version four is a 1.5 ton package unit that has a three speed blower and is operated by temperature activated remote control. A two gallon, on board condensate management tank will temporarily hold unit condensation with the ability to pump the condensate to a detached reservoir, drain or an Aquacell bottled water cooler system for filtered drinking water.

The SolCool footprint is 24”x 24” at the base and 48” vertical. Vertical height can be reduced to 36” if the battery bank is remotely located. Weight with standard on board battery back up is approximately 200 pounds. The maximum draw at full engagement is less than 500 watts.

So it’s an energy saver – but at what cost? About $3000 + $500 for installation according to published reports.

What were zey sinking? SinkPositive for Water Conservation

SinkPositive

SinkPositive is a new kind of “multipurpose accessory sink” for your bathroom that helps you save & recycle water, promote hand washing, and more. It lives on your toilet bowl as pictured left. It’s also an easy DIY & green project because it works with your existing toilet and plumbing and you don’t have to be a plumber or engineer to install.

So it’s on the toilet eh? Where’s the water coming from? Rest assured the water is clean and comes directly from the water supply line. Flushing the toilet triggers water flow from the sink faucet so you can wash your hands. From there, the water drains into the toilet bowl (not the tank), if properly installed.

As noted, it starts and stops automatically after each flush. So no faucets to touch ( a features that germophobic TV detective Adrian Monk would love). Coming from a family of compulsive hand washers (both parents in the health professions) this is a big plus … well in other peoples homes anyway (kidding!).

Think different. Think green. Think clean. SinkPositive.

Found on the freshhome blog. Who found it on the Core 77 Design blog.

Going Green at the Beach – Leading Edge Green Home

Can a “mortgage banker and green advocate” find happiness by giving up a life of luxury to go green? This news article says yes. Going Green at the Beach documents Dave & Anna Porter’s quest to build a cutting edge “Craftsman” green home in Snohomish County, Washington.

The Porters aim to meet the requirements of not one but all five existing residential green building certification programs:

thus making it a record setting and hopefully trend setting green home.

How is this home greener than the rest?

  • Original home deconstructed, saving 80% of original material from going to landfills
  • Doors, kitchen cabinets recycled from original home
  • Geothermal heat
  • Radiant floor heating system
  • Rainwater collection system
  • Tankless hot water with recirculation system

… among many other features. The full list is quite lengthy: they’ve obviously put a lot of thought and effort into the design.

One of the things that jumped out from the list is that it is a “modest-sized home on a small lot”. How is that special? Well for people who used to drive a “gas-gulping Jaguar” and have a “4,000-square-foot home”, this is progress. As noted in my previous post, buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US – small(er) is beautiful.

The demonstration home is an expensive proposition but lucky for the Porters, they’re not “going it alone”. They are being assisted in their quest by a team of professionals, have sponsors and a marketing team.

When the beach house is finished in the fall, the Porters plan to report on how efficiently it performs, right down to the utility bills. They also will open their doors for tours.

The site seems new, much of the content is under construction but looks promising. My only disappointment with the site: they promised green tips from the family dog and I couldn’t find any. Skipper, the “recycled dog”, looks really cute in his hard hat and tool belt. Maybe that’s coming later …

EcoManor – the first certifiably green mansion

Take a look at “the first home over 5,000 square feet ever to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council”. Features?

  • wheat-core doors,
  • elegant wallpaper made from recycled newspaper,
  • floors made from “fallen” oak,
  • soy-based cellulose insulation, and
  • an energy-use monitor in the kitchen.

Read more and take the video tour – Fortune online.

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