Green Kitchen Details

As the heart of the home, the kitchen is a space where many homeowners are deciding to incorporate green elements. Since there are a variety of details involved in a kitchen, homeowners have the opportunity to make eco-friendly choices in a variety of areas.

The countertops in a kitchen play a very large role in the space, and a recent post on Twitter linked to an article that discussed ways for homeowners to get creative with kitchen countertop materials. The article discussed laminate, natural stone and ceramic tile as options for homeowners. But there are several other kitchen countertop materials that are both attractive and eco-friendly that homeowners should know about.

  • Concrete countertops can be made from recycled aggregate. They are extremely durable, can be dyed to almost any color imaginable and can be formed into custom shapes.
  • Terrazzo countertops are a long-lasting green option, with a lifespan of over 40 years. These are also knows as recycled glass countertops, made of crushed stone and glass.
  • Wood or butcher block countertops that are salvaged or left untreated are another environmentally friendly option for the kitchen.

Regardless of the style of your kitchen remodeling project, green countertop options are available.

To incorporate other eco-friendly elements, consider low VOC paint, replacement windows or energy efficient lighting.

The Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Effect

Flip The CF Switch

If you’re looking for a simple switch you can make to save a little bit on energy bills and get more out of your lighting, replacing the incandescent light bulbs around the house with their superior CF counterparts is an easy move to make and one that energy providers, the government, and environmentalists have been encouraging since at least 2001 despite their existence on the market for more than 25 years.

The cold hard facts are that by replacing just one incandescent light bulb in each American home with a certified CF light bulb, the amount of energy saved would light more than three million homes for a year saving $600 million and significantly reducing the amount of greenhouse gases produced.

Why are CF light bulbs so effective? Compact fluorescent lights use less energy and have a longer life span than incandescent bulbs and have also made great technological strides improving their light color and consistent lighting performance. Thanks to the combination of a gas-filled tube and an electronic ballast, CF light bulbs emit ultraviolet light which creates a phosphor coating inside the tube which then radiates visible light. Their efficient technology uses about 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs so by replacing a typical 75W bulb with a 20W CF bulb 1,300 lbs. of carbon can be saved.

Though CF bulbs have a higher initial price tag than incandescent, they can outlast an incandescent from anywhere between 5,000 and 14,000 hours saving plenty of money over the years on replacement bulbs. One energy aficionado’s calculations predict that a single Litetronics 5W 300 lumen bulb that cost $10 will last for 96 years. With a bit more initial investment in more efficient light bulbs, estimations are that home owners could save anywhere from $400 to $1500 in light bulbs over the bulb’s lifespan and up to $22 in energy usage per year. Understandably, it could be hard to justify replacing a perfectly good incandescent bulb with a new CF bulb so start with the rooms you light up the most to start seeing the effects of making the switch.

Early versions of the CF light bulbs were reminiscent of flickering, buzzing back room fluorescent fixtures with a harsh light output, but new technology and advances in energy efficiency have produced new CF bulbs that meet the silent and white light expectations of incandescent bulbs. There are also a range of sizes and light fixture adapters now available that allow replacing incandescent bulbs with CF to be a hassle-free process.

New technology will continue to make it easier to integrate efficient and sustainable products into the home, but it is the home owner’s responsibility to make the green change. Switching out a few light bulbs is a good place to start.

Composting 101

Household Composting

Reduce Your Curbside Trash

Making the home a greener place to live does not need to be accomplished by eco-friendly construction materials and sustainable resources alone. In addition to standard reuse and recycling practices, composting is an ideal way to make the most of your waste, and you don’t need to live on a farm to do it.

Compost is the result of the decomposition of organic matter and can be used as fertilizer and soil conditioner in landscaping, in gardens, on farms, and in any horticultural practice that requires nutrients to flourish. The act of composting household waste means there is less trash accumulated that must be managed at landfills thereby making even the smallest difference in reducing the amount of landfill space needed to hold our trash.

Composting is a natural process that involves the circulation of air, heat, water, and food that support microbial life allowing organic waste to decompose. A balanced proportion of carbon-rich materials often referred to as “browns” and nitrogen-rich materials, called “greens” will create the best environment for decomposition. A good rule of thumb is 25 parts brown to one part green for speediest composting and minimal odor. There are a few basic components required for successful composting and multiple variations to the system.

Since the majority of what you will compost at home will come from kitchen scraps and yard waste, it’s important to have a bin separate from your trash can in which you deposit waste intended for the compost pile. However, because you can also compost things like hair, dryer lint, and cardboard you may want additional separate trash cans or bins in the house to collect the most amount of compostable materials for your pile. Make sure the bins have air tight lids to prevent bugs from gathering and to reduce any smell the waste might generate.

Selecting a location for the outdoor compost pile is relatively simple so choose a spot that is convenient for you, preferably on a lawn or soil to invite worms and other decomposers. A contained three-foot by three-foot space is sufficient for your compost pile and this larger size will allow the maximum amount of heat to build up in the pile. There are myriad bins you can buy or you can certainly make your own reusing any extra wood or plastic scraps on your property; ensure there is an aerating lid to trap heat and allow for air circulation. Create a bottom layer of grass clippings for your greens and add dried leaves, cardboard, straw, or shredded cotton clothing for the browns. Begin adding waste materials from your indoor containers as often as possible keeping the main pile moist and enclosed. Stir the main pile once or twice a week to encourage aeration and help reduce aerobic bacteria. With proper attention, most compost piles will not smell unless meat scraps and high-fat foods are introduced to the pile which have a stronger smell and are more likely to attract insects.

The combination of the materials composted, the level of involvement of you as the composter, and environmental factors like temperature will all affect the time it takes for your pile to become usable compost. When you have a layer that is dark, earth-smelling, and can sift through your fingers, separate this layer for use in your garden and stir up the rest of the pile to continue decomposing. Your roses will thank you!

Green Hotels For Eco-Savvy Travelers

How to Select A LEED-Certified Hotel

The influence of greener building practices is a widespread initiative among architects, contractors, and suppliers. Integrating eco-friendly building techniques into the home can be a little expensive but because it increases savings in expenses down the road is a realistic choice for home builders and owners to make.

When owners of commercial buildings and public properties choose to go green, there is no doubt they are taking on a costly project but it’s worth it to achieve green building goals. For eco-savvy travelers, it’s nice to have accommodation options that take the environment into consideration.

By following the guidelines and criteria set forth by the USGBC, hoteliers are able to build green hotels to high standards and also enhance the traveler’s experience. A new Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott-Inner Harbor that is set to open in Baltimore in spring 2009 will be Baltimore’s first LEED-certified hotel and the features that have been integrated into its design promote environmentally friendly building practices as well as green and healthy lifestyles. Owners and builders of the new hotel took its location into consideration and ensured that it will have good access to public transportation as well as bicycle storage and changing rooms so that employees and guests are able to reduce their carbon footprint. The hotel is in the historic Jonestown District, on Baltimore’s Heritage Walk, and on the site of the former Baltimore Brewing Company at Brewer’s Park. Builders will be reusing materials from the original brewery such as beer storage tanks that will be used to collect rainwater; hardware; bricks; and the original Baltimore Brewery sign, which meets the goals to be both environment-conscious as well as supportive of local history.

Many of the green building practices that the new hotel will represent are standard among other LEED-certified buildings and should set the traveler’s mind at ease. For the Baltimore hotel in particular, no deforestation is required to build it as it’s all part of an urban redevelopment plan and because of the urban location, construction will be done in such a way to minimize environmental impact, pollution, and waste.

LEED designs integrate storm water management, light pollution reduction, enhanced fresh air intake and use of natural light, the use of recycled construction materials, and sustainable refrigerants to operate more efficient HVAC systems. Simple things like making recycling storage containers available for guests will make traveling routines similar to those at home by allowing people to continue their green lifestyles on the go.

Though the new Baltimore hotel is a $23 million project, Bill Marriott announced at the groundbreaking ceremony that the Marriott group is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons, a goal that was set in 2000.

If you’re used to your green habits at home, seek out a LEED-certified hotel when you travel; it’s guaranteed they share your same awareness for the environment. At least you know where to find one in Baltimore.

Green Building Standards

Building green homes and facilities is supported by more than 15,000 organizations nationwide that are all a part of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC and its members are focused on promoting the construction of structures that are built and operated in environmentally responsible ways, contribute to minimizing operation expenses, and are healthy places to live and work. The USGBC supports the efforts and financial success of the U.S. market’s green building products and services through a variety of programs which provide critical resources and education for successful green building projects.

Programs provided by the USGBC include Chapter Programs which allows individual communities to draw on the resources and education of a USGBC chapter in their area; education in the form of courses on green design, construction, and operation; an Emerging Green Builders program that offers education and resources in green building techniques future builders; and perhaps the most influential program is the execution of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

The LEED rating system is one that when adhered to ensures that a facility has been built to the highest standards possible with regard to sustainable buildings. There are five main areas for the LEED rating criteria: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. Developed by USGBC, the LEED certification is actually through a third-party who provides the tools and resources necessary for all involved in green facility projects from lending to design to construction to landscape and the owners and operators.

The intention and goal of the LEED rating system is to advance the development and implementation of green building practices on a global scale and offers criteria and resources that can be used in homes, neighborhoods, schools, commercial facilities, and more. It is through the combined efforts of the USGBC, their affiliate programs, and eco-aware developers, owners, and operators that sustainable building practices will continue to succeed in construction projects on every level.