Tag Archives: Home and Garden

Is Green Just a Fad?


An article on the ABC News website with the provocative title "Going Green: Fad or the Future?" suggests that while right now "green is the new black," the long term-prospects for the green movement are less certain to remain as strong and as much a part of public awareness as they currently are.

But are Americans experiencing "green fatigue"? The ratings for Live Earth, which was billed as a must-see event, were dismal. The American broadcast drew just 2.7 million viewers, making it the least-watched U.S. program on Saturday night. Despite its undeniable entrenchment in pop culture and media, some experts say that the current incarnation of the green movement is just another "We Are the World" moment that consumers and businesses won’t be able to sustain over the long term.

Of course, this perspective is coming from a media outlet (ABC News) for whom the number of viewers are the most significant measure of importance. But that may not be a reliable indicator of how influential the green movement is. There is a wide gulf between public enthusiasm for a green-oriented rally like Live Earth, and public participation in actual green practice in their daily lives. Small steps, in many cases, but a lot of people have started taking at least a few steps to green their lives.

My perspective lies with the building and construction industry. I see increasing numbers of ads and new product announcements from hundreds of manufacturers. I can’t begin to count the number of trade magazine editorials I’ve seen that begin along the lines of this one: "These days, it seems everyone is jumping on the "green" bandwagon — including many companies in [your industry here]." Green awareness has permeated the building industry from top to bottom. And, while not every new building is a new model of sustainability, green building practice is here to stay.

Green Building Tour: FCNL Building

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<img src="http://www.fcnl.org/images/building/building_lg1.jpg" alt="FCNL" width="333" height="222" align="right" />Although there is a growing push for incresing sustainability for buildings, our nation's capital is lagging behind other cities when it comes to green buildings. Though there are over <a href="http://www.usgbc.org/LEED/Project/CertifiedProjectList.aspx?CMSPageID=244&amp;CategoryID=19&amp;">600 LEED certified buildings nationwide</a>, only 6 of them are in Washington DC.
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The <a href="http://www.fcnl.org/index.htm">Friends Committee on National Legislation</a> is a Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC. Their building is the first &quot;green&quot; building on Capitol Hill. The building received <a href="http://www.fcnl.org/press/releases/green_building071307.htm">bipartisan congressional recognition</a> at an event last week. They are anticipating LEED certification (which normally takes a few months after the building is substantially completed), and the building has already received other accolades, including the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarding a presidential Citation for Sustainable Design.
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Green Building Elements: Decking

It's full-blown summer now, and people are spending more time outdoors on their patios and decks. So let me offer a summertime question for discussion. Which is better to use for an outdoor deck: wood, or a manufactured product (like Trex, Timber Tech, etc.)?

This is no more a black and white issue than most other green building questions. This can depend on the particular situation and the specific needs of a particular project. I'm not going to give you a definitive answer, because I don't think that there is one, any more than I do for most green building topics (other than greener is better).

First, there is the issue of material content. On the one hand, the manufactured products often use some combination of wood fiber (which is often sawdust and other scrap that would otherwise go to waste) and plastic (sometimes incorporating post consumer recycled material). On the other hand, wood is a natural material. It is sustainable, in that wood can be grown and harvested. There are some deck materials that have natural rot-resistant properties, but these tend to be more expensive. There is also the question of whether or not they are sustainably harvested, as well as the issue of shipping these materials.

Weekly DIY: Pedal-Powered Clothes Washer

<p><img src="/files/images/saladspinner.jpg" border="0" alt="Homeless Dave" width="240" height="195" />Image Credit: Homeless DaveSome people looking to reduce their home power use may be interested in alternatives to the typical clothes washer and dryer. While the washer and dryer aren't the appliance with the biggest energy budget in the typical household (that distinction belongs to the refrigerator), an opportunity to save energy here may be something to consider. </p><p>The dryer is the easy part. A clothesline is about the simplest, cheapest alternative to a clothes dryer you can find. But the washer is harder. Hand-washing clothes is a difficult task. And wringer washers are a hand-operated option, but they aren't very efficient. A bicycle powered clothes washer is a more efficient, and much more ambitious project. While it's not likely that most of you will rush out to build one of these for yourselves, it offers a wonderful insight into how far you can take DIY if you are inclined to.</p><p>The pedal-powered washer was designed and built by <a href="http://www.homelessdave.com/abouttt.htm">Homeless Dave</a> (who is not really homeless, but whose real name <em>is</em> Dave), a local advocate for community and for human-powered tools in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His website, <a href="http://www.homelessdave.com/totterhome.htm">Teeter Talk</a>, features interviews with &quot;folks from Ann Arbor … Detroit … and beyond&quot; which are conducted on a teeter-totter in his back yard.</p>

Weekly DIY: Copper Garden Trellis

<p><img src="/files/images/rosetrellis_0.png" border="0" width="198" height="198" />A few years ago, when we started getting our garden together my wife wanted to have a trellis for some roses to climb on. We looked at various options. There are pre-built or kit trellises, but those are expensive. We could build one with wood, but it would need to be treated with preservatives (nasty chemicals) and would need maintenance. We ended up deciding to build one using simple copper pipe.</p>

Weekly DIY: Cold Frame

<p><img src="/files/images/coldframe-b.png" border="0" width="230" height="217" />This weekend we got the first tantalizing taste of spring as the weather was clear and bright and temperatures rose well above freezing for the first time in months. Snow melted (though not entirely yet), and started the <a href="/blog/2007/03/13/lets_talk_about_it_sustainable_gardening_tips">thoughts of summer gardens</a> in mind. But nighttime temperatures are still falling below freezing, and it's far too early to put plants in the ground, unless you provide a little assistance.<br /><br />If your garden has a spot with good access to the sun throughout the day, you can use a cold frame to start your plants earlier in the year than you would otherwise. A cold frame is a very simple item. It is really just a small greenhouse. Daytime sun will warm the air and the ground inside, making it easier for plants to start growing. Nighttime temperatures inside the cold frame may fall back close to outdoor ambient temperature, but the extra heat gained during the day and the wind protection the encosure provides will help keep the plants alive even if there is an overnight frost.<br /></p>