The Cool House: environment
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Olivia's Birds Event

A big crowd turned out at The Book Revue for the presentation of Olivia's Birds Saving the Gulf.

After her talk Olivia took questions and drew a Chickadee

Then she signed every copy in the store. SOLD OUT! That's my copy (I pre-ordered!)

We left with instructions to build a bird feeder and plant more trees to Save the Birds in our own backyard. Thanks Olivia!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

11-Year-Old Draws for Gulf Relief

11-Year-Old Draws for Gulf Relief.
Anyone who doubts the impact that ordinary people can have should click the above link to see the interview with Olivia Bouler and her family that aired last night on the Assignment America segment of the CBS news with Katie Couric.

Visit Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations to help too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sustainable Energy vs Fossil Fuels

Just over a year ago I wrote this post about a sustainable beach house in the process of being constructed on Long Island's beautiful south shore. With the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on everybody's mind right now it seemed the most appropriate time to re-visit the project and ask what measures we can take - and by "we" I mean residents, homeowners, architects and designers - to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while continuing to enjoy abundant heat, light and electricity.

Built by Bouler Architecture, the house at Oak Beach received the highest energy rating on Long Island. With its geothermal system, photovoltaic solar panels, white EPDM roofing material and use of passive solar techniques - basically careful placement of windows and roof-lines to shade the sun in summer and heat it in winter - it has been performing at a far more efficient level than predicted. Even in the short, sunless winter days the house was producing electricity.

For the moment these "green" technologies incur a greater initial cost than power derived from carbon but they have irrefutable and overriding benefits. Using renewable energy sources, wind or solar, means less pollution of the air and water, and as we have experienced since April, when a disaster occurs in the extraction of oil or gas, the cost to wildlife and the local economy can be devastating.

For more on this sustainable project click on over to Bouler Design's blog where I guest-blogged today.

To help the wildlife affected by the BP oil spill visit Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations

Monday, May 11, 2009

Green Beach House

The first full day of summer 2009 is the date homeowner Jill Kornman has set to be lounging on the porch of her newly-built green beach house. The determination she shows to finish construction in the next six weeks is a tribute to her vision, the design plan of architects Bouler Design Group and the skill and dedication of her team of builders.

Situated on a strip of land where the Atlantic Ocean meets Long Island's Great South Bay, the house with its geo-thermal heat pump, solar panels, extra insulation, and use of green building materials, is a premier example of sustainable architecture. I've been following its progress since I first heard that BDG was building a modern house with a zero carbon footprint in Oak Beach, NY. I was lucky enough to be invited by Creative Advisor Nadine Bouler (seen here on the right with Jill on the left) to see the house at 90% complete.

BDG worked with the owner to create an energy-efficient beach house that fits the scale of the surrounding properties on this barrier beach. Although the house has a unique design, traces of the original cottage can still be seen in the north side of the building - in the remains of the screened-in porch, the arches and of course the ubiquitous shingles.


Superimposed upon the original footprint are two soaring towers. One of these, with its tapered walls and clerestory windows, gives the playroom/library/zen retreat (the purpose hasn't yet been finalised) the feel of a monastery within and a lighthouse outside - and superb views of the bay to the south, east and west.

Facing south the angled roofs are covered in EPDM, a non-polluting synthetic rubber roof that will support enough solar panels to provide for all the electrical needs of the 2000 sq ft house. Naturally the design of the house takes full advantage of the beautiful site. Huge sliding glass doors with transoms above allow 180 degree views of the ocean to the south, while to the east a wall of windows will flood the house with light at sunrise. But Jill goes that extra mile: mindful of the aesthetics of the building and the surrounding shore, she is having the power lines seen in this photo re-routed underground.

Although most of the finishes are chosen: polished concrete floors with inset stone though out the house; reclaimed white oak treads on the staircase and bamboo on the barrel ceiling in the living room, some have yet to be finalized, including the kitchen cabinets and guest bath. All are sustainable, but perhaps the best examples of environmentally-friendly fixtures are the banister posts made from reclaimed pilings.

Jill has been hands-on throughout the process. She interviewed several architects before finding one she believed truly shared her dream of building green and she's been able to keep a close watch on the construction, renting the house next door while her dream house is built. She chose BDG because they believe in efficient design; building smarter, not necessarily bigger, houses. For more information on the Oak Beach house and other sustainable designs visit the Bouler Design Group website.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Refresh Your Stinky Room

Dutch Boy paints introduce Refresh, the first premium quality paint with Arm & Hammer Odor Eliminating Technology and zero VOC.

It's talking a big talk with GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality and Green Cert certification and the website has a cool interactive video but as my mac doesn't come with sense-o-smell I don't know how well it really works. All I can say is that Sadie the dog had an "accident" a week or so back and even Nature's Miracle couldn't get the smell out. I eventually poured a packet of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda over the stain and left it overnight. Result: Smell completely vanished. If Refresh has the same effect as an open container of baking powder at neutralising odours I would definitely try it. And if Dutch Boy throws in a competition whereby I could win paint AND big bucks, I'm intrigued. What about you?

Here's what you do: Go to My House Stinks and submit a photo of your horrible room (there are a few examples up already so you can see what the competition is like). The winner of the most "annihilated-looking" room wins $5,000 and 50 gallons of Refresh to help rejuvenate their living space! Second prize: $2,500 and 25 gallons of Refresh; 3rd prize: $1,000 and 10 gallons of Refresh! Voters are eligible to win gallons of paint too, when they rate the rooms. Drawings monthly until October 2009.

If you win (or you decide to try the paint anyway) come back here and tell the interwebs what you think. Deal?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thermal Imaging Maps

This is the last hot day of the mini heatwave and, I thought, an appropriate time to post this neat interactive imaging map of heat loss from buildings in Brussels.

Search by locality and street to see how much energy literally disappears into thin air. The map allows residents to see how efficient (or not) a building is and links within the site (French or Dutch only) suggest improvements such as insulating the attic or turning down the thermostat; a separate section directs home owners to grants that help offset the costs of making the building more economic to heat and more environmentally friendly.
This type of mapping was also undertaken a couple of years ago in the UK but I haven't seen a similar US thermal map. I'd be very interested to see how much we are heating the neighborhood on a cold December night. What do you think: An invasion of privacy or a useful tool to fight climate change?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

From Donuts to Solar Power

Empty calories? No, with the aid of a powdered sugar donut, Everclear,Tazo Passion Tea and a pencil you too can save the environment

... oh, a laboratory will come in handy, too. Enjoy!
via Very Short List

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kohler Save Water America

Do you know how many gallons of water you use every time you flush the toilet? Take the quick quiz on the Kohler website and they will donate $1 in water-saving products to Habitat for Humanity for every household that enters. Save water, build America.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Recycle, reuse, resent and refuse

A little gem from the local market.
As I handed the cashier my cloth bag he said he knew it was Earth Day because a lot of shoppers had been using their bags today. "Everyone's saving the planet" he said.
Everyone it would seem except the adjoining cashier who whined "But I like plastic bags"..........
"Why?" I asked "because you can use them to line wastepaper baskets at home? Or because you can re-use them?"
"I just like them"
Rather than bang my head against the wall, I'm off to throw this morning's coffee grounds under the rhododendron bushes. Micro-composting, good for the planet, good for my yard.
But here's some environmental information for anyone else still clinging to their bright, new, shiny plastic bags.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An environmental dilemma

Redwood trees versus solar panels: Which is the more environmentally-friendly?
I caught this cautionary tale and moral dilemma about a neighbor dispute and a supposedly "green" law in California on story on NPR's Morning Edition. Listen to the podcast here.

I have a gut reaction to this. I'm on the side of the trees. Perhaps I'm biased, after all my house has redwood siding, a redwood ceiling and landing and this wood is now protected. I really appreciate the beauty and strength of the sequoia, all the more so because it's really difficult to get any if we have a siding disaster at any time.
Trees are inherently more eco-friendly than solar panels. They are, after all, living things not "public nuisance hazards". Imagine the global warming effect if every person with solar panels on their roof decided to use this law to force their neighbor to remove their trees. If we chop down all the trees to allow more sun to reach the solar panels we choke and die on the smog they absorb for us. Then there's the useful shade they provide, the habitat for birds and animals and the seeds...
Dr Seuss said it best
I'm the Lorax who speaks for the trees
which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.
But I'm also in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots
who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits
and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.
NOW...thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there's not enough Truffula Fruit to go 'round.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not that I'm cheap

But it's been so mild this October, and I had to run the air conditioning at the start of the month (that nearly killed me), that I'm trying to get into November before we put the heating on. It hasn't been a problem until today when the temperature inside dropped to 64F. The weather is set to get warmer again on Halloween so I'm just going to tough it out. After all, we didn't have central heating when we were kids and we survived. And it's environmentally friendly. Right?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Our environmental impact

Today is Blog Action Day, the day when bloggers worldwide blog on a single topic and this year it's the environment.
We're still trying to do our part to save the planet but I have to say that since we moved from Europe I feel that we've become a lot less environmentally conscious.
For example, in Belgium we sorted all our garbage. We had to as the law changed to mandate it. We were forced to buy separate garbage sacks for household rubbish, bottles, cans and cartons, paper and vegetable matter. Everyone grumbled because the sacks weren't cheap and the price varied from commune to commune but there were fines for non-compliance and eventually people got with the programme.
When we moved to the US in 2000 we attempted to keep up this regime but there was no separate collection and thus no incentive to sort. Then when we moved to this house in a different district we found that we could recycle our bottles and cans (but not cartons) one week and our paper the next. We can also put out bundles of twigs and grass clippings but not kitchen compost. So we sort of recycle. But the garden waste goes into the same truck as the ordinary household waste so I guess even if we sort, the garbage collection guys don't. Doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose?
We have replaced all the outdoor lights and most of the indoor bulbs with the compact fluorescents but once again in Europe we would have done all of them by now because they are more readily available and we know everyone else does it.
Further than that I can say that today I'm running neither the air conditioning system nor the heating, which has to be good news both for my wallet and the environment but that's a matter of climate and not a conscious decision on my part. When we do run these system I keep the airco at 78F and heat at 65F. We strip off in summer and wear layers in winter.
Outside we don't do too well either. We have a pool, although we don't heat it and a sprinkler system that uses a lot of water, although I do use a landscaping firm that has "Environmental" in its name and the tree spraying firm I employ only uses environmentally friendly products (hot oil). That's still a big environmental impact.
On the renovation front we try to be as green as possible - bamboo floors and silestone for example, and re-purposing the previous owners' furniture but I'd like to do a lot more, including solar panels. But we have a long way to go to renovate in a truly sustainable manner.
I also try to ensure that all the products and furnishings we use are made in factories that comply with International Labour Standards.
The sad truth is when we were forced by the government to do our part, we did it, and while I like to think we are environmentally aware we are not coming close to do all the things we could do to ensure that we are impacting the environment in a positive way.