September 28, 2009
If you build it – will the public come?
The Consumer Electronics Association conducted a study to determine consumer interest in energy-efficient technology. They found consumers are very interested – but only if there is a really good reason.
“Home Technologies and Energy Efficiency: A Look At Behaviors, Issues and Solutions” reveals consumers will tolerate an increase of 31 per cent in bills before taking action and independently investing in technology.
Slightly more than half said behavioral adjustments, combined with new technology, will reduce their home energy costs. Consumers are interested in do-it-yourself solutions as much as professionally-installed ones. Frequently, home improvement stores are the first places they turn when they feel like making a change.
They are also more likely than ever to take energy efficiency into consideration when making everyday purchasing decisions. Consumers have been shown to be aware of things like the Energy Star designation, and are using it to make smarter purchases.
Additionally, the study determined that while consumers need an incentive (i.e. increased utility bills), the demand for energy-efficient technology is on the rise overall. One-tenth of homes have had an energy audit. Of those who had, 61% replaced their old electronics and appliances with more energy efficient ones.
With conventional energy becoming ever more costly, the CEA is certain that more and more consumers will be turned on to possibly investing in energy-efficient technology.
September 26, 2009
Chicago’s most iconic landmark is going green – and spending big bucks to get there.
In an attempt to gain LEED status, the Sears Tower is undergoing $350 million renovations. This remodeling effort will include green features such as solar panels, wind turbines and a roof garden. The whole project will take approximately five years to complete.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council to buildings and communities with sustainable, eco-friendly design. Criteria include reduced CO2 emissions, water efficiency, improved indoor environment, sensitivity to resource use, and the impact of such use.
The plan for the Sears Tower should reduce its electricity use by 80 per cent and save 24 million gallons of water annually. Additionally, updates will be made to the restrooms, windows, elevators, lights, and mechanical systems – to make them all more efficient.
The hope is if an iconic building makes the effort to retrofit with green technology, others will follow. Corporate buildings are the world’s largest contributor to carbon emissions. The Sears Tower is using this as an opportunity to demonstrate their position as world leaders.
The renovations are not the only major change the Sears Tower has in store. The 110-story skyscraper was renamed the Willis Tower this summer, after London-based Willis Group Holdings, who will lease a large portion of the tower upon completion.
The Sears company has moved its headquarters to a suburban location, but remains in Chicago.
September 23, 2009
West-facing, 32nd floor, and green; sustainability and eco-friendly are becoming a major selling qualities for commercial leases.
In order to make spaces more attractive, many buildings are undergoing green retrofits. This trend has become popular, not only because of positive effects on the environment, but also because it saves tenants money.
Hey, times are tight – why not look for ways to save?
In Toronto, the TD Centre will undergo renovations that will eventually help them apply for LEED status. They’re doing this not for philanthropy; they believe this will make them more competitive in the leasing market. In a city with an 8.4% vacancy rate, that makes sense.
This isn’t an isolated case. Avison Young reports that most tenants are looking to reduce costs in any way they can. Rather than constructing new buildings, a lot of the focus in Toronto is to retrofit older buildings with more efficient features.
As a result, spaces in green buildings rarely stay vacant for long. The tenant is happy to save money; the owner is happy to be making money again, and the environment is “happy” too; everybody wins.
In British Columbia, a partnership between B.C. Hydro, the Ministry of Energy and BOMA are prepared to make 17,000 commercial buildings more energy efficient. B.C. wants to see a 1/3 reduction of greenhouse gasses by 2020.
Projects like this are a cornerstone of the plan. Because commercial buildings make up about 5% of B.C.’s emissions, the goal is to reduce energy demand by 9% per square meter of commercial space.
Trends don’t always last, but wanting to spend less and make more money is hardly a “trend.” The green retrofit trend is expected to gain momentum as those with buying and leasing power demand lower costs and thus, more eco-friendly action.
September 8, 2009
You’ve heard the jingles. For retailers, back to school season is the second most wonderful time of the year.
According to a Retail Council of Canada survey, Canadians planned on spending about $350 on back to school items from pencils, to lunch boxes, to laptop computers. That’s a lot of coin, especially if you are feeling the financial pinch.
It could be less – and better for the environment. This back to school season, by thinking green, you might just save some cash as well as resources and, yes, the environment. Eco expert and writer Lauren Maris has some advice to share.
Before you go back to school shopping, think before you spend. Make a list of items you need; then check it twice: make sure you really do need them before buying them brand-new. Many items purchased for the previous school year can be used again.
Forget about brown bags. Pack lunches in reusable lunch boxes, along with reusable cutlery and containers. Don’t worry, your kids will remember to bring them back home. Try buying food in bulk; it’s cheaper and uses less packaging.
A new back to school wardrobe can be the most important thing to kids. Try hosting a clothes swap, or hunting down bargains at consignment shops. If brand-new is the only thing that will do, try to limit them to a single new and versatile outfit.
If at all possible, walk your kids to school and back; organize a large group of your community’s kids to do a “walking school bus.” If the school is too far for walking to be an option, see if car pooling works. Remember not to idle when dropping them off or picking them up.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle this back to school season. It’s elementary!
August 21, 2009
Well…prepacked goods dispensed from brightly illuminated appliances is miles away from a truly green food source, but thanks to a new proposal from the U.S.’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, vending machines are gearing up to go green.
Currently the purveyors of pop guzzle approximately 1,900 kwh to 2,600 kwh per year. The proposed measures would cut energy use of glass- or polymer-front machines by as much as 42 percent and about 15 percent in the more traditional solid-front vending machines.
Each machine manufactured under the new standards would save about $320 per year in energy costs. With 3 million beverage vending machines in the United States, the energy savings would literally be pouring in.
And in the long-term, the savings are even more…er…juicy. Over a 30-year period, as much as 10 billion kwh of electricity could be saved.
How much is that? About enough electricity to heat roughly 800,000 homes for a year. The cost savings to the vending machine property owners would be in the $250 million range and CO2 emissions eliminated could be as much as 5 million metric tons, according to the Department of Energy.
Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fizzy?
August 20, 2009
Summer roads trips and spontaneous outings may get a whole lot cheaper.
In April, Mitsubishi unveiled the i-MiEV, its new zero-emission electric car, which could be speeding onto Canadian streets in 2010. Well, Vancouver streets to start as Mitsubishi admits they have yet to cold-weather test the vehicle. The company estimates that the i-MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) emits just 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide of a similarly sized internal combustion car.
The i-MiEV contains a 330-volt, 16-kilowatt, 63-horsepower electric motor with 22 lithium-ion batteries. So how does it recharge? Easy! Just plug it in next to your hair dryer. It can be recharged overnight using an average 120-volt or 220-volt household plug, but will take anywhere from 7 to 14 hours depending on the voltage.
If you’re away from home, Mitsubishi plans to eventually have little kiosks known as quick-charge systems, which will be able to restore the battery power to up to 80 per cent in about 30 minutes. Can’t find a kiosk? The i-MiEV also has a “limp-home” mode that will give you a few more kilometres if you drain the system completely.
And if you’re thinking that you are going to have to compromise speed for sustainability, guess again. This little racer can reach speeds an estimated second and a half faster than its gas-fuelled counterpart. In actuality, the car’s top speed is a little over 130 km/h, so although it may not be the number 1 choice for the Autobon, it might become the number 1 choice for eco-conscious consumers.
July 15, 2009
Sometimes an idea comes along that is so obvious, you wonder why it took so long to happen. Try marrying the social media explosion with promoting green-friendly lifestyles. How more eco-friendly can you get then meeting virtually to exchange ideas on non-motorized transit?
That’s World Commute in a nutshell. WorldCommute.com is a non-profit, social media site that promotes clean, non-motorized transit. Users create a profile and record all of their non-motorized trips – whether to work, or just around the corner for some gum. In addition, user record recreational and fitness activities scoring “health points”.
Each time a member logs a trip, the real time distance traveled, money and gas saved, pollution off-set and health points are displayed. Yeah, it’s basically just peer pressure, but the positive kind. Remember being told to eat your vegetables because they’re good for you? Same idea.
Peer pressure only gets you so far. World Commute offers encouragement to site users. The site includes resources for starting commuting programs, as well as general information on walking and biking programs. Veteran commuters are offered the roles of “ambassadors” or mentors to that end.
World Commute aims to be a one-stop resource for calculating and tracking transportation statistics. This means local trips, global tours, and everything in between.
Now why didn’t I think of that?
July 10, 2009
Smart meters can provide real-time readings of energy use, providing more detailed information than conventional meters. Many energy companies throughout North America and Europe are in the process of replacing manual meter readings with these instant, automated systems.
If consumers know the time-of-use prices for its energy consumption, the hope is that they will think twice before doing a load of laundry or running the dishwasher during peak evening hours. The long-term goal will be to reduce overall electricity demand, therefore requiring less generating capacity.
Smart meters can cost anywhere from $250 to $500 depending on features. Critics argue that the cost of installing the new smart meters does not justify the expense, especially when used by low energy consumers, such as homeowners.
The cost of managing old meters is about 50 cents per unit, compared to the nearly $5 per unit for the smart meters. Although expensive to install, the idea is that meters will save money by eliminating the process of sending paid employees on-site to manually read or manage the meters.
Energy savings are expected to be around 10 percent per household, but in order for the system to be truly effective, the smart meters need to be coupled with a sliding pricing rate and data feedback to consumers.
With cooperation and ingenuity, smart meters can be another effective step towards reducing energy consumption.
July 8, 2009
Though it is as much of an oxymoron as dry cleaning, dry washing technology is here. The Sanyo Aqua AWD-AQ1 can clean clothes without water by converting oxygen in the air to ozone. Ozone has a strong oxidation action, which when sprayed on clothing eliminates bacteria, odors and dirt. It almost makes doing laundry…cool?
There are other simple ways to reduce your energy consumption and clean up your laundering ways.
- Use cold water: Nearly 90 per cent of the energy used for washing clothes goes to heating the water.
- Energy Star and front-load washers will save enough energy to pay for themselves in utility savings.
- Try eco-friendly detergents which are phosphate and bleach-free.
- Re-usable softener and anti-static balls don’t have the chemicals and toxins found in many conventional dryer sheets. You can also make your own softener sheets by misting a moist washcloth with a dab of liquid fabric softener and tossing it into the dryer.
- Look for moisture sensor clothes dryers, which automatically shut off when your clothes are dry. Not only will this save energy, it will save the wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.
- Lay it on the line: Hang dry clothes. Electric dryers emit approximately one ton of carbon dioxide per household per year and they are the 2nd biggest energy suckers in American homes.
So make a clean start. By changing one simple thing, you can make a difference.
June 23, 2009
MicroPro Computers have a biodegradable PC named iameco, pronounced “I am eco”. With bodies, keyboard casings and mice out of recycled wood, the computers are praised for their environmental friendliness. The company also designs the zero-waste computers so that they can be easily upgraded rather than replaced.
The popular iMac desktop is another good example. It supplies the same service using one-tenth of the materials and energy required. The current iMacs weigh half as much as their colourful originals and use one-sixteenth of the power of the first model, just 2.2 watts when asleep. Happily, it contains only 0.6 grams of lead as opposed to the 484 grams of the bulky original.
Apple’s new line of Macbooks are also one of the most energy efficient models on the market. In all, it now uses one-quarter the power of a single light bulb. The computer is free from mercury, arsenic, PVC and brominated flame retardant and almost completely recyclable.
Not to be out-done by Apple, Dell has unveiled a bamboo computer. The Dell is around 80 percent smaller than a standard mini-tower desktop, and consumes 70 percent less energy.
Want to know if your computer measures up? Check out EPEAT’s online assessment tool. EPEAT (short for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) allows consumers to compare computers based on their environmental friendliness.