Greening is a Term That’s Tough to Define

Greening is a term that’s tough to define, and it’s getting more confusing for buyers every day.  I try to keep it simple: being “green” means making decisions that are better: making decisions that have a positive environmental impact, no matter how big or small that impact is.

How did you get started in green business?

When I first moved to Boulder at age 25, I started seeing a few “corn cups” around town (disposable cups that are compostable, and made from corn, rather than regular petroleum-plastic cups) from a local manufacturer called Eco-Products.  When my dad was out for a visit from Oregon, I was raving to him about the cups while we were enjoying a coffee in the afternoon.  He said he’d never seen me so excited about a product before, and told me I should really look at working there.  The next day, I jumped online to research positions, and four weeks later I started with Eco-Products as their local sales rep!

Why did you choose to supply Greenhome.com?

At National Eco Wholesale (NEW), we pride ourselves on finding products that are good for the planet, and easy for consumers to switch to, whether that’s a reusable lunch box to replace a paper sack, or an organic fertilizer to help keep our streams and families safe.  Greenhome.com seems to share these values: make it easy, and make it better.  That’s why we chose to support and supply Green Home.

What do you and your company do in your own life and operations to walk the walk?

I believe that it’s most important for business and companies to take small steps that are easy to stick with, and that’s what I encourage at NEW and in my home.  In the office, we are a zero-waste facility, which means that we recycle and compost as much as possible, and try to send the least amount of waste to the landfills.  Whenever new employees come on board, I take it upon myself to educate them about their trash, and despite them thinking that I’m crazy for digging through waste, they recognize that our goals and our actions are in line with our mission.  We are also led by example, and are fortunate to have a President who gets around town by his hybrid Prius, or on his electric scooter.

In my home, I am focused on recycling, and using natural and organic products when it makes sense, both for the environment, and for my wallet.  I stopped eating meat, and try to purchase only locally grown produce from my neighborhood farmers market.  I tried my own gardening too, but have decided that it’s best left to the professionals!   My husband and I drive rarely, carpool frequently, and do our part to preserve the environment and the nature around us that we love.  We also volunteer to pick up litter, build trails, and encourage recycling at Red Rocks, the most beautiful, natural music venue in Colorado!

What is the best greening advice you can give our customers?

The best greening advice that I can provide a customer is to make small steps that you can stick with.  The changes that you make in your life must be easy for you to implement and must be financially feasible, in order to stick with them.  And, if everyone makes small changes, we’ll start to see a big impact!  Explore your local farmers markets, plant some trees, volunteer to help clean up your neighborhood park, ride a bike to work once a week, and make smart purchasing choices when it’s time to buy something new!

What’s your personal favorite of your products that Greenhome.com carries?
Preserve
I love kitchen- and tableware products from Preserve!  The products are brightly colored, incredibly durable and work great!  Best of all, they are manufactured in the US, are created from 100% recycled plastic, and are priced the same or better than their non-green counterparts.  Preserve is the perfect example of a company producing green products in a sustainable way, providing value to consumers, and protecting the environment.

What’s been the biggest change in the green sector since you got started?

Growth and awareness!  “Green” is a booming industry, and consumers are definitely recognizing that their dollars speak.  Consumers are also becoming more knowledgeable about what constitutes a “green” product, and what may be a green product in disguise (which I refer to as “greenwashing”).  The abundance of products and services available to this conscious consumer base has grown dramatically over the last five years.

Do you really think green products make a big difference and why?

I absolutely believe that green products make a difference, particularly those that save resources, provide for waste diversion, or reduce a carbon footprint.  But, consumers must recognize that it’s not just green products that will save our planet; it’s also the decisions that we make on a daily basis.  It’s important to recognize that simply buying a new green product isn’t always going to be the best option; for example, if you’re doing a makeover on a room in your home, don’t go out and buy all new furniture made of eco-friendly bamboo, but rather look at what you can reuse and repurpose from your existing set.

Do you think consumers now are aware green products exist, or is there still a lot more education to do?

Many consumers are aware of green products, but there will always be a need for more education.  New technologies, challenges and solutions arise, and it’s up to sellers and educators to keep consumers informed.

If you could invent a green product that doesn’t exist, what would it be?

Teleportation!

Melissa Hauser, National Eco Wholesale

Water, Water, Why Don’t You Save Yourself?

Water saving devices are often the unsung hero, forgotten solider, forlorn hope, and every other bad war cliche you can think of.  But it really is important to do our part in the fight for water conservation.  That’s one reason we started carrying the Instant Off Water Saver, (a pack of 3 is only $20 as of this posting).  And why we’re really excited to profile the President and founder of Instant Off.

And how can you go wrong with a product that pays for itself in 2-3 months!?

Name: Steve Gordon, President
Company: INSTANT OFF, INC.Instant Off

Greening to me means making the choice to be the type of person who respects the world’s natural resources and make an effort to conserve and protect them. Greening means being concerned with the state of all of our natural resources including the air we breath, the water we drink, natural habitat, rivers and streams and open space.

I got started in green business in 1991 because I wanted to make a difference. Water conservation has always been my passion.  I was lucky enough to design a product that can do so much for so many people. After 19 years I still get excited telling people about the INSTANT-OFF. I like things that don’t break and that attitude has led me on an ongoing quest for ever increasing durability and quality.

We are constantly searching for environmental companies that are committed to selling innovative products that make a difference. We found Green Home while doing research on the internet. I was impressed with their selection of products and their website.  We chose Greenhome.com as a marketing-partner to increase our sales and public awareness of our products.

Of course we have the INSTANT-OFF installed in our facility.  Our assembly plant and corporate offices share the same building space to reduce power consumption.   We have reduced the amount we print and are trying to become virtually paperless.  We also recycle all bottles and cans. At home I do my best to conserve, turning the thermostat up, using the cold water from the shower to water the plants, recycling more and turning off lights that aren’t being used.

The best greening advice we can give people who want to start “greening their home”  is to start with installing the INSTANT-OFF on all their faucets.  Start with a product that is easy to install, easy to use,  inexpensive and is made in the USA.  If half the homes in America installed the INSTANT-OFF we would save Tens of Billions of gallons of water every year.

Other than my biased answer that the INSTANT-OFF is the best product GreenHome.com carries, I would have to say that the AQUS Grey Water System (Editor’s note only $295 as of this writing saving 10-20 gallons per day) is a very cool addition that homes should have.

I think the biggest change in the green sector is that it’s now popular to be “green”.   Since the Presidential election in 2008, corporate America has finally embraced environmental responsibility.  I’ve been in water conservation for 19 years and its great to never hear your people tell me that I’m ahead of my time.

Green products make a difference because they help get consumers involved in the environmental movement. One small change leads to another small change that leads to more positive changes. Green products facilitate positive change toward environmental responsibility.

I think consumers are aware, but there is a lot more education that is needed.  I feel most average consumers think that being “green” involves too much work and requires changing habits that are tough to break. It is important for environmental companies to carry a wide range of different products and to have a tool on their website that sorts by price. Providing price sorting encourages people to start “greening” even though they may be on a budget and makes giving environmental gifts easy.

Actually I am already working on the perfect green invention. Can’t go into many details but I will say that’s it a new way to save power in your home and it will be the perfect expansion of the INSTANT-OFF product line.

Thanks Steve!  Keep up the world greening.

Ionize Away Them Thar Spots and Stains

We’ve carried a wide range of San Francisco based Orbeco’s Ion based cleaning supplies for a long time, and are just about the only place on the web you can get them!  It’s a long time favorite of our hospitality small business customers.

Name: Guy de Lacrose, COO

Company: Orbeco, Inc.

The Orbeco Story

The story of Orbeco Inc. began in the early 90’s in the heart of France, a region called Puy de Dome where a brilliant inventor and chemist was retired from years in the pharmaceutical and cosmetology industries. He became very concerned with the number of harmful or dangerous chemicals becoming more and more part of the products we use daily. His strong personal convictions and his creativity made him look for natural alternatives.
He developed several processes for different industries but always with the same ulterior purpose: to improve the capability of a product while making it healthier for the consumers and cleaner for the environment. His research was an instant success.
His inventions has since been adopted by some of the largest corporations who saw in his creations new ways to decrease waste and help our surroundings.

Today, the headquarters of our company, Orbeco Inc., are still located in the original site, the Puy de Dome. While staying a family business, Orbeco Inc. implemented its US headquarters in San Francisco in September 2005 to offer a complete line of products that respond to US officials’ concerns regarding the lack of true environmental products. Since its inception, Orbeco Inc. has already supplied to their utmost satisfaction clients as diverse as the most prestigious hotels and casinos as well as convention centers, airports, restaurants…

A few of the advantages of ionization based cleaners:

• Safe
• Instant results: no rinsing, vacuuming or waiting to see results
• Odor-free: no emission of odor
• Non-toxic: non irritating to normal skin
• Non-flammable: does not contain any solvent
• No testing on animals
Woolsafe certified
• pH Neutral

What’s your personal definition of greening? Using natural products, harmless to humans and the environment.

How did you get started in green business? In 2005, by looking at green alternatives to cleaning.

Why did you choose to supply Greenhome.com? Greenhome specialized in online sales of green products.

What do you and your company do in your own life and operations to walk the walk? Recycling, saving and using natural products.

What is the best greening advice you can give our customers? Look at labels carefully and check the certifications

What’s your personal favorite of your products that Greenhome.com carries? Our Ionization based wool safe carpet cleaner, of course!

What’s been the biggest change in the green sector since you got started? Growing awareness of customers

Do you really think green products make a big difference and why? Yes they do, especially with the increasing number of chemicals we are immersed in.

Do you think consumers now are aware green products exist, or is there still a lot more education to do? Yes they do and a lot more education is needed.

If you could invent a green product that doesn’t exist, what would it be? A green disinfectant and we just patented it. (Editor’s note:  We’re looking forward to carrying it!)

Thanks Guy!

A Cleantech Blogger’s Home Energy Audit – The Results Are In

Reprinted from CleantechBlog.com

A few weeks ago I blogged a very bad experience trying to get an energy audit done on my home.  The vendor, Standard Renewable Energy, part of Gridpoint, just didn’t do the job.  After our blog article, the company came back to do the audit right for me, complete with a IR camera looking for hotspots, blower door test, and duct test.

I just got my report, and wanted to share the experience.  Consider it kind of like our cleantech blogger CSR report.  I’ve posted the full energy audit report on our Cleantech.org Yahoo! Group for your reading pleasure. 

For those of you who want to blog your own home energy audit, I’d love for you to join the Cleantech.org Yahoo! Group and send in a message with your experience or report in attachment.

If you’re looking to sort through what kinds of products are available, our sister site www.greenhome.com/ has a ton of them including:

as well as hundreds of articles on the how to side of things, for everything from energy efficiency to general greening.

My personal scorecard:

The results were mixed, not bad over all, but a lot of room for improvement.

I apparently have a pretty low energy rate house, at 23 kBTUs/Sq Ft, apparently a little over half the average.  Not bad for a 55 year old ranch house. This despite very little insulation in the attic, none in walls, and not particularly efficient appliances.  But for better or worse, with our total summer energy bill in the $125/month range ($8.9/kwh) plus gas bill for hot water at less than $20/month, not much makes economic sense to do.  I think we may just be very boring in our energy use! 

We didn’t do so hot on the blower and duct tests (that’s where they pull a light vacuum and measure how leaky your house envelope and duct work is.  The combination is a measure of how much your system is air conditioning things other than your home).  We are about double the recommended levels of leakage, and that’s after redoing the windows.

And we haven’t insulated the attic (current R value is estimated at 13, something like R 38 is desirable).  The nearly $1800 attic insulation quote I had gotten previously was looking like a 5-7 year payback, and unfortunately paying to seal the ducts and replace the air return looks like it would be marginal as well.  Sealing the ducts probably would pay off, however, we have an old house whose air return is way undersized and very poorly sealed, probably a vestige of the original heat only return pre air conditioning, meaning I’d need to tear up my hallway and put a new one in the ceiling to do it right.  The other big move would be to do some sort of an attic fan to do active attic ventilation, and keep my cooling load down.

One bathroom is basically an energy black hole, sucking my energy straight out to somewhere, but except for attic insulation they didn’t have a lot of good suggestions for this one. Since it’s my bathroom not hers, my wife just didn’t seem as concerned as I was.

The big contributor to be honest is likely not even in the house – we bought a very well shaded moderately sized house with 4 huge oak trees and 1 magnolia shading it, and keep the AC in high 70s in favor of a lot of ceiling fans.

And apparently, despite having big pretty windows and lots of light, we don’t have a high window area/square foot ratio, and all but one are pretty shaded. We did replace them with energy efficient double paned windows this summer, which besides an Energy Star washer/dryer was our only major energy efficiency move so far. Even more than the energy, replacing the windows made a huge difference in comfort, while still keeping the AC temperature fairly high.

On the negative side, I added 26 recessed can lights to the ceiling (I can’t help it, I like light!), about doubling the lighting capacity of the house to 5kW with very few CFLs.  But each room has multiple lighting systems (eg, ceiling fixture plus recessed or recessed plus lamps) on different switches, and we are pretty good about keeping on only what we need, so it really didn’t drive up the usage.

We’ve got a couple of small, cheap items that definitely make economic sense.   Only 1 of the 4 outside doors is weatherstripped (and one has a huge south facing single paned window that failed the IR test badly), and caulking along the base boards/sealing the various light switches (they make basically soft gaskets you can put on yourself that do the trick) and attic stairs would help seal the living area a bit (maybe just offsetting all those lighting cans!).

The south facing roof is mostly shaded by trees, and that plus our low electricity and hot water usage and low electric rates means solar is pretty much out.

We’ve done nothing about “vampires” or phantom loads, but we also don’t have a huge number of electronics, so it’s not too bad.

The one thing I was really excited about which the auditor just didn’t seem to think was worthwhile was an attic radiant barrier.  They recommended simply attic better ventilation as a first step.

In any case I’ll blog the results in a couple of months and give the blow by blow on whatever we end up doing.

 

My conclusions:

It’s hard to really find a lot things that were economic and environmental no brainers.  Most of the big items looked to be “on the bubble.”  Lots of little things from CFLs to those little light socket gaskets and weatherstripping need to get done.   And I do need to bite the bullet on some big items like the insulation.

Part of me really wants to see how far down I could get my energy usage. Is 300 kWh/month possible without self generating?  I’m going to have to do some calculations.

One of the problems with a house like ours is that when you start with moderately low usage, and plan on doing all the small cheap items, your bill gets so low you can’t payback any of the big ones.  So maybe energy efficiency retrofits is only really the province of the true energy hog or those who just believe.

 

 

Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC, chief blogger of CleantechBlog.com, and is responsible for starting companies in carbon, superconductors, solar and fuel cells, as well as launching Cleantech.org.  He is a Texas Aggie, and his grandfather and great grandfather were both refrigeration and air conditioning engineers.

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Greenhome.com is one of the most comprehensive online resources for greening your home, event or business. Our company is on a mission to green the world, one person at a time. Before Green Home, there was no easy place for people to find environmentally friendly products all under one roof.

Since our beginning in 1998, we’ve grown to become one of the most trusted online suppliers of environmentally friendly products. The only green store to be nominated for a Webby Award, we pride ourselves on our unique Product Approval Policy, which we developed in partnership with Scientific Certification Systems of Oakland. There’s also an article on our policy in Green Money Journal.

The Green Home Blog gives us another way to bring you ideas, interviews, what fors and how tos on greening your life, home and business.