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And Just How Good is the Air in YOUR House?

We sell a lot of indoor air quality test kits.  I wonder why?  Possibly because breathing is kind of important, and people generally prefer there air without bad stuff in it.   Hmmmmmmmmh.  Or maybe because they just want to tell their neighbor our air is better than your air.  Or throw the question back to their mother-in-law – you think my house is dirty?  Have you even HAD your air tested?  Whatever the reason, checking for any or all of:

Mold – identifies up to 50 types of species
Pollen – tests the pollen count in your home
Dust – tests for the most common allergens in the air
Dander – insect and pet dander are common allergens for humans
Bacteria – tests for all airborne bacteria
Carcinogenic Fibersfiberglass and asbestos
Full AnalysisMold, Dander, Carcinogenic Fibers, Pollen, Bacteria, Dust

Just seems to be popular.  So I was excited to hear about the inspirations of the people at Techtron behind the product.

Nancy Rymer’s take on why people care maybe be more professional than mine: She said that one of the reasons they felt the Jossam, Indoor Air Kit was beneficial is that more and more of the public are starting to make changes to their homes.  In the process of doing that, if they are removing any materials from their home they may be contaminating their indoor air; like rattling settled mold, carcinogenic fibers, dander, etc.    Jossam is a great tool to test their air to make sure that their home improvement will be beneficial. Another great benefit of Jossam is that the consumer is getting professional laboratory results, along with a report outlining the findings.

Name:  Nancy Rymer, Executive

Company:  Techtron Engineering, Inc.

What’s your personal definition of greening?

Clean, natural, re-use and non-toxic

How did you get started in green business?

Techtron Engineering developed a patented consumer product; Jossam, Indoor Air Kit.  We solicited Green Home.

Why did you choose to supply Greenhome.com?

Green Home was an established online Green Store that had a broad variety of products.

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

Be more environmentally conscientious.

What’s your personal favorite of your products that Greenhome.com carries?

JOSSAM the Indoor Air Quality Kit (Editor’s note, it runs anywhere from $24 to $185, depending on how comprehensive you want it).  FAQs here

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

The public has become more and more aware of using sustainable products.  Learning more about products and how many products can be not healthy and  toxic to their own health and environment.

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

We believe that there are products that are beneficial and some not.  Unfortunately, some products have been developed to jump on the “green bandwagon”

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

I believe the public is far more knowledgeable, but education is an ongoing process.

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

“NEVER use disposables! It will change your life.”

As you can see from the something like 399 organic cotton products we carry, it’s a huge item in greening your home and business.  I think it’s the passion in her view of her business that makes it so wonderful.   I just have to introduce Julie with two lines from her bio:

“Business Is Personal.”

I don’t think outside the box, at Fiberactive there is no box.”

Name: Julie Mullin, Alpha

Company: Fiberactive Organics, LLC

What’s your personal definition of greening?

I like to use the phrase “living more lightly on the earth”.   It includes everything from eating lower on the food chain to picking up liter then I go fishing or hiking.  It means not letting the water run while I’m washing my hands and it means never owning a dryer, never buying plates &  napkins or drinking bottled water.

How did you get started in green business?

My father raised our food organically all the time I was growing up. My life and business have always been as green as I could make them.

Why did you choose to supply Greenhome.com?

I wanted to sell my organic cotton linens and I knew Green Home would do a good job of reaching the public.

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

Our manufacturing studio is lit with sky lights so we use very little electricity.  I design products to use our scraps and anything that’s not usable goes into our compost for our community garden.  My workers can work at home so we cut down on driving.

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

NEVER use disposables!  It will change your life.

What’s your personal favorite of your products that Greenhome.com carries?

Hand dyed dinner napkins.  They’re so soft and absorbent they make every meal luxurious.

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

I’ve been organic for so long, there are a millions things that have changed over the years.  It’s been a very gradual process of educating he public. I guess the biggest recent change is how willing the public is to hear the truth and respond to it.

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

I know many products can make a huge difference!  If you consider how many paper towels will be replaced in the lifetime of one set of organic cotton napkins, a family of four will save tons of trees.

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

Consumers are much better educated now than ever before, but there are still many that haven’t heard and many more that don’t want to hear the truth.

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

Rather than inventing something new, I have a list of things that I would like to remove from existence:  Plastic wrappers, bottled water, pesticides, etc.

Wow Julie, it’s always good to see busines people as passionate about the world as you!

What Do an Old Farm, Recycled Plastic, and Cutting Boards Have in Common?

 

Stephen, it’s always amazed me what you can do with post consumer plastic.  Recycled, stylish clipboards and cutting boards?  But of course, why didn’t I think of that!

Name: Stephen W Yemm

Company: Yemm & Hart Ltd

What’s your personal definition of greening?

Doing as many things as possible to help our society be less wasteful, less polluting and less destructive in the extraction of our natural resources.

How did you get started in green business?

Upon realizing that furniture could be made from panels of recycled plastic, we decided to make the panels.

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

Our company makes and sells materials and products with recycled content. At home we are avid recyclers and use energy efficient lighting. We work from our home and thus do not commute and on the old farm we are stewards of, we have planted over 20,000 mixed variety native trees.

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

The best greening advice I can give to Greenhome.com customers is to do whatever you can afford to do and realize that everything helps and sets a good example for the next generation to follow and improve on.

What’s your personal favorite of your products that Greenhome.com carries?

I would have to say Organic Cotton products would be my favorite (Editor’s note, that’s a big favorite, we have like 399 different organic cotton products, thingamajigs, doodads, and wearables,!)

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

The biggest change in the green sector since we started in 1989 that I can think of is that the US Green Building Council is having a positive environmental effect on some new construction.

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

I think making, selling and purchasing green products, helps to keep alive a fledgling business whose time has not yet arrived. I do not think involvement with green products make a big difference besides setting a better example for the younger generation. As long as our society is dominated by giant business-as-usual producers, we will continue to be inundated with cheap import products. Cost conscience consumers can hardly be blamed for choosing the least expensive product.

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

I think most consumers are aware of green products but not ready to pay more than the least expensive import (Editor’s note:  ours obviously are!).

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

A cork tile that is made with whole recycled wine cork stoppers.

 

Thank you for your time- we are looking forward to many more years working with you!

Anna Marie Stauss – Creator of the Toockie Organic Cleaning Cloth – “Greening is a lifestyle choice”

I’m Anna Marie Stauss, founder and CEO of Sinko Corp.  I believe that greening is a lifestyle choice to do as little damage as possible to our world and humanity as a whole.  This sound big and possibly over whelming but as an individual one can create a ripple in the pond by making small changes in the choices made throughout the day to affect the ordinary.  For example, every time we buy something no matter how small we are voting for it and sending a message to the market place engine called “demand”, so choose products that speak your intentions. 

I got started on my green business after watching a TV program on how young woman in India are sold, used up and disposed of.   I had an idea for a green product I loved and a business model for production similar to the one my mother was part of in the Azores as a young woman, but did not act on it until that moment.  I decided I had to do something that would change the business as usual approach to product development.  Today, I’m working with a nonprofit in India that feeds over 200 children and am providing jobs to over 200 woman in the community. I believe that the products we purchase/use should benefit those who make, those who sell, and those who use them to create a positive change in humanity and to our planet. 

I choose to sell my product on Greenhome.com because I wanted to enter a retail space whose intentions aligned with mine.  In my home I have long since replaced plastic scrubs, microfiber, and sponges I used to clean.  Now, I use my Toockies to clean everything and everyone (6 kids) in my home, then I toss them in the wash with any color/temperature or add to the dish washer and reuse.   This one small greening step has saved me money, time, landfill space, and saved me from bringing more chemicals in to my family life. 

My company buys only organic cotton therefore reducing the amount of chemicals added to local soil, water, and air.  Further, our artisans work from home so we do not have to burn gasoline to fire up generators for factories like many of the other local industries.  The best green advise I can offer others is to start making the small choices when shopping; read the label and think about what you are voting on and what you are bringing into your life. 

Other products I really like from Greenhome.com are: Ecover (dishwasher tablets), Recycled Mixing Bowls, Nursery Gentle Cleaner and the Herbal Insect Repellent. The biggest change in this sector since I started is the “demand”  more people are choosing green products and the Market is responding.  I really do think green products make a difference because they improve our quality of life internally and externally.  I think there is a lot more that needs to be done in terms of making potential customers aware of the green products that now exist and to drive demand for more green products.  Many consumers fear that going green is an expensive effort or that green products don’t work as well.  They don’t see how they are in fact very economical and in many cases out perform competitors!!  Many green products are designed to be reused, or to be used in minimum quantities that save consumer’s time, money and health.  The green product that I would invent that does not yet exist is one that provides energy by transforming potential energy without waste.

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

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.