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Hello! I have a guest post from Sam Marquit, an independent ‘green’ contractor and co-author of Fair Marquit Value. Sam has seen firsthand the implementation of new innovative sustainable practices in the corporate world and on a smaller scale, at the home front. He’s written a great essay on some sustainable projects as it applies to businesses and homes. Read and enjoy…thanks Sam!!

 

The Green Remodeling Trend isn’t Just for Homes

Many homeowners have found that they can make significant changes to how a home runs in order to save on energy and waste. They choose green materials like solar panels, eco-friendly light bulbs and reused products. Businesses have also been signing on for green changes. On a much larger scale, they can save tons of waste every year just by making a few tweaks, adding recycling programs and even utilizing advanced technology like solar power.

Going to Las Vegas is a trip that almost everyone has planned. You want to see the beautiful sights, watch a famous show and even gamble at a world-renowned casino. However, this city also has a lot of eco-friendly businesses to offer. For instance, the Las Vegas Palazzo Resort and Hotel has been called the “Most Eco-Friendly Hotel in America.” The hotel uses a combination of different materials and programs to save on energy, waste and hazardous materials. For example, they use drip irrigation systems to water their landscapes. They also replaced some of their outdoor areas with artificial turf grass.

Residential areas can take some of the same actions. Drip irrigation systems can be rather easy to install and work just as well for small landscapes and gardens. Homes can also create water reuse systems such as using gray water from washers and showers to water gardens and flower beds in your landscape. Even reusing old or warn out materials through a process of up cycling can be beneficial.

Businesses in the travel industry have made eco-friendly vacations into a real money saver that also benefits the planet. Outdoor rooms have become more popular as people see the benefits of natural light. It cuts down on energy waste and even provides a heated, insulated area for those cold nights. In addition, solar panels can be used to create solar heated swimming pools.

Homeowners can also use some of these ideas when remodeling their houses. They can try out products like Powerhouse Solar Shingles, which actually go on your roof and generate energy from the sun. You can install bigger windows, skylights or even build a sunroom or porch. When you combine all of these ideas, you have a home that is well heated and lit without any stress on the environment. The costs of solar energy have also come down in recent years. Solar shingles can definitely be a great remodeling project.

Remodeling a home takes a lot of planning, but don’t forget to increase your home’s potential for energy and water saving. By making green choices, you’re helping the planet and also making the world a better place for future generations. From businesses and homes in the desert to apartments and hotels in one of the most populated cities in the world. More and more places are embracing a sustainable lifestyle.

IKEA is truly the epitome of a global company that focuses on the triple bottom line. It sure is profitable, with 2012 profits of over $4 billion. And it absolutely cares about the 139,000 people who work for the Swedish company. Most amazingly, IKEA cares deeply about the planet. IKEA has set a goal to get all of its energy from renewable power sources by 2020, and will invest $1.8 billion in solar and wind power to produce at least 70 percent of the group’s energy by 2015. Just a few of the bijillion things IKEA has done for a more sustainable planet include installing solar panels to its own stores, installing electric vehicle charging stations to some stores, and planning to sell ONLY LED bulbs and lamps by 2016.

Last week, I learned that IKEA will now be selling solar panels in all 17 of its stores in the UK in the next 10 months. According to IKEA, these solar panels will cost around $9,200 for a three-bedroom home. These systems are from the Chinese manufacturer Hanergy Solar Group. With the help of British government subsidies, panel purchasers should be able to see returns within seven years. And, unlike IKEA furniture that you have to install yourself, IKEA will have their people install these panels for you.

Umm…what??? That’s amazing! It’s so wonderful to see large companies who can make a difference actually do make a difference. This is a great opportunity for home owners to make their homes more eco-friendly. And yes, it’s a hefty up front cost, but if you plan on staying in your house for more than 7 years, it’s going to be worth it.

Too bad IKEA doesn’t have plans to sell solar in the United States. They’re going to do a test run in Europe, and if solar panels sell, then they might think about moving it over to the states. I’m hoping that happens sooner rather than later!

IKEA can very easily just be a company that sells affordable furniture. But it’s more than just that. It’s a company that is dedicated to making our planet a more sustainable place to live. And that is just so inspirational.

For years, I’ve been bothering my roommates about the intricate rules of plastic recycling in NYC. The only plastics that are recyclable are bottles and jugs! Well, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, not anymore. Now we can finally recycle ALL hard plastics! Yes, that means those yogurt cups and food clamshells! And I can finally stop yelling at my boyfriend for trying to do good, but not knowing the rules. This is expected to save taxpayers $600,000 a year in costs associated with shipping the 50,000 tons of plastic waste out of town. Win-win for all of us! Hey Bloomberg, good job! Next, can you please ban plastic bags?

Here’s the new poster explaining what plastics can be recycled:

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World Water Day

Happy World Water Day!!!

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Every year since 1993, the world has observed World Water Day, calling for action to end the crisis of 2.5 billion people around the world not having access to clean water. According to the UN, 783 million people lack access to clean or safe water and 37 percent of the world’s population doesn’t have access to sanitation facilities.

This year’s World Water Day has been dedicated to the theme of “cooperation”. The UN Water website discusses how cooperation and water go hand-in-hand:

Rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threaten the resource while demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy the needs of a growing world population, now at over seven billion people, for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses. Water is a shared resource and its management needs to take into account a wide variety of conflicting interests. This provides opportunities for cooperation among users.

Cooperation is essential to strike a balance between the different needs and priorities and share this precious resource equitably, using water as an instrument of peace.

But there’s actually so much more to the international water crisis than just the issue of increasing demand and stagnant supply. The water crisis affects women, children, hunger, education, and health:

WOMEN: In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Women and children usually bear this burden, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely to make them sick. Time spent walking and resulting diseases keep them from school, work and taking care of their families. Along their long walk, they’re subjected to a greater risk of harassment and sexual assault.

CHILDREN: Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of kids globally — an issue that is completely preventable. Lack of clean water is the primary reason why more than 3,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from diarrhea and other water-related illnesses.

HUNGER: Water scarcity could cause major food shortages in the foreseeable future. We’re using more than our sustainable supply of water, which will cause shortfalls in crop production. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events in the coming year.

HEALTH AND EDUCATION: One in three people don’t have a toilet, the UN reports. Lack of clean water for sanitation will keep people sick and away from school or work. 

Pretty crazy stuff, right? I’ve always took clean water for granted, but knowing these facts makes me feel lucky that I have access to clean water. But plenty of people in the world do not. So how do we help? Here are a few organizations for which you can volunteer and to which you can donate:

Founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, water.org is working to end the worldwide water and sanitation crisis. 

Charity:water brings clean drinking water to people in developing nations through several different technologies, including hand-dug wells, drilled wells, and rain catchments.

WASH Advocates aims to solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene crises by raising awareness and increasing the amount and effectiveness of resources.

UNICEF provides potable drinking water and sanitation to schools and communities, and places a special emphasis on hygiene.

I have been a recycling volunteer for GrowNYC since 2009, so I am pretty well versed what can and cannot be recycled in NYC. Throughout these years of educating New Yorkers on how to recycle, I’ve realized that there is a huge misconception of what types of plastic can be recycled. I’ll say it one more time, people – The only plastics that can be recycled in NYC are BOTTLES and JUGS! Yogurt cups and plastic food containers ARE NOT recyclable in NYC. And neither are those plastic foam containers you see in delis and take out places. I always cringe when I have to use them, because they are not biodegradable. Yup, that means they will stay in our landfills FOREVER!

But, as I learned from this NYTimes article today, Mayor Bloomberg will be proposing a citywide ban on plastic-foam food packaging during his State of the City address this coming Thursday. The ban will require approval by the City Council, but his proposal does have some traction among voters. Quoted from the article,

Officials at City Hall said a plastic-foam ban could save millions of dollars a year. Plastic foam, which is not biodegradable, can add up to $20 per ton in recycling costs when the city processes recyclable materials. The city handles about 1.2 million tons of food waste each year; the mayor’s office estimated that the city’s annual waste stream included about 20,000 tons of plastic foam.

Saving $400,000 a year is a good chunk of change for city. Now, I know not everyone will agree with Bloomberg’s proposal. Plastic foam containers are cheap, so restaurant costs may go up. Habits will have to be changed.

I may not agree with Bloomberg on his soda ban, but I do endorse his plastic foam container ban. I think that this is just something restaurants will have to get used to. A few years back, restaurants had to innovate when trans-fats were banned. And we’ve all gotten used to that. And now, they may have to restock their supplies, but this is just another opportunity to innovate. If Whole Foods can do it, so can other restaurants. As for most consumers, I don’t think they’ll notice the difference between a paper container and a plastic container. But the environment will thank us for it!

The Ban on Plastic Bags

I’ve been working out in northern California (around Santa Cruz) for the past two months, and as much as I love being a New Yorker, I gotta say, Cali is SO NICE. The weather here is perfect, the people are very nice, the lifestyle is more laid-back, and there is definitely a strong focus on sustainability. So many environmentally friendly companies are based out in Northern California. Even though the company I’m currently working for isn’t selling products or services in the green space, it definitely has a strong focus on incorporating sustainable practices and approaches into its everyday operations. Not only is it really cool to be in a corporation like that, but it’s also really nice just being surrounded by people and things that really care about the environment. For example, look what I found at the Target parking lot this morning!

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I was pleasantly surprised, and this definitely warranted some more research. So here’s what I found out: The ban on plastic bags started in Watsonville, CA last Friday, and Watsonville was the first city in Santa Cruz County to ban plastic bags.

 A number of places have already banned plastic bags, such as China, Ireland, and Mexico City. And in the states, we’ve already seen Portland, Seattle, Washington DC, Hawaii, and even Los Angeles taking steps to ban plastic bags at stores. San Francisco was actually the first city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets and pharmacies in March 2007. And starting October 1st, all retail establishments in San Francisco will be banned from providing single-use, non-compostable plastic bags. That means clothing stores as well! And then in October 2013, restaurants will be included in this ordinance.

Right now you might be thinking, who cares? Why is banning plastic bags a good thing for the environment? The answer is that plastic bags are made out of oil, and it takes millions of barrels of oil to produce the plastic bags that are being distributed at stores each year. It will also limit pollution because plenty of bags blow away everywhere and end up onto streets, trees, and waterways.

I’m definitely a supporter  of the plastic bag ban. As a society, we’ve become very dependent on plastic bags. Yes, they are extremely convenient, but I think that with a few easy lifestyle adjustments, we will do just fine without plastic bags. If China can do it, so can we. We can also purchase a paper bag for 10 cents each if we forget to bring a bag. I definitely think it’s one step closer to decreasing the amount of waste generated. Now I’m just waiting for New York City to pass a ban on plastic bags!

From 2008 to 2010, I ate a completely vegetarian and then I became vegan. But because I started to travel so much (both for work and leisure), it was very difficult to maintain a healthy routine on the road. In many places I visited vegetarianism wasn’t even a term, so I ended up eating a lot of bread, pasta, noodles, and rice. After putting on some pounds and feeling pretty pooped out all the time, I decided to revert back to being an omnivore. After a few weeks my boss actually said to me, “Yvonne, you finally have some color in your face!” It was then that I realized that veganism is not for everyone. In the past two years, I’ve still tried to eat my vegetables, but my love for food has increased exponentially. I’ve gained a true appreciation for cooking, baking, and seeking out delicious foods wherever I go.

However, very recently, I’ve come to the realization I may be loving food a little too much (not possible, but hear me out here…). What I mean is that I’ve lost sight of eating healthy. Now that an entire menu is available to me, of course I’ll choose the duck confit entree instead of having a vegetarian dish. But I realized that I’ve been skipping out on my fruits and vegetables. Even though my energy levels in general have gotten better, I’ve felt my immune system getting weaker. Recently I’ve found myself getting colds pretty frequently. Yes, I can attribute that to the stale air on the airplanes that I go on every week, but I truly do believe that my diet has a lot to do with it, too. I’ve been slacking on those veggies, and it’s time to get back into eating a more plant-based diet, because plant-based foods are known to strengthen the immune system. According to the USDA Agriculture Research Center,

A diet high in plant-based foods has been shown to protect against many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and birth defects. It can also contribute significantly to reducing obesity, preventing cataracts and lowering cholesterol. Plant-based diets are, for the most part, rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

No, I won’t be giving up those pork soup dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai or the pizza from Luzzo’s, but they will become a once-in-a-while treat instead of a typical Saturday night. I am definitely going to be making more of a conscious effort to include whole foods into my diet, which means lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. I’ll be monitoring how I feel, and we’ll see if the frequency of my colds will improve throughout the next few months!