Green your life at home, work & play

Washington, DC Truly LEEDs the Nation! January 26, 2012

Washington, DC has been announced as the leader in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)! In the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual list of the top 10 states with the most square feet per capita of LEED certified buildings (which actually has 11 entries since DC isn’t a state), the district came out on top with 31.5 square feet per person, bringing it to a total of almost 19 million square feet. That is an increase of 6.35 square feet per person from DC’s 2010 numbers, when it also led the nation. Colorado came in second with 2.74 ft2 and Virginia and Maryland also did well, coming in at 4th and 6th, with 2.42 and 2.07 square feet per person, respectively. Interestingly, neither Nevada nor New Mexico are on the 2011 list, even though they were 2nd and 3rd in 2010. It is important to note that some other states have a greater total number of square feet that is LEED certified, including Illinois (#3) with 34.5 million ft2, Texas (#8) with 50 million ft2, and New York (#10) with 36.5 million ft2.

DC has a large number of green buildings per capita due to efforts by the federal government (it owns or uses 30% of LEED certified buildings) and because many buildings host workers who do not live in the district, but rather commute from Virginia or Maryland. Since the Executive Order issued in 1999 on “Greening the Government through Efficient Energy Management”, many federal agencies have developed sustainability plans involving LEED for their buildings and facilities. The General Services Administration was the first government agency to adapt aim for LEED certification in their buildings (2003), and now aim for LEED Gold, and the U.S. Navy was the first government agency to certify a LEED building. 2006 was a big year for LEED, when the USDA, the EPA, NASA, and the Smithsonian all implemented policies that required LEED Silver or LEED certification for new construction and large renovations. Since then, other agencies like Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, the Department of State, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Air Force and Army have all created policies requiring LEED Silver, certification or their equivalent as well.

In addition to the federal government guidelines, the district has a few policies of its own. Since 2006, all non-residential, public commercial buildings must be LEED Silver. Since 2007, all public schools and renovations on commercial buildings larger than 30,000 square feet must be LEED certified. All new or renovations of non-residential, private buildings over 50,000 square feet must develop and implement a green building checklist and next year all non-residential buildings and institutions of higher learning must receive LEED certification. Additionally, since 2008 all new and renovated metro (WMATA) facilities must be LEED certified.

LEED, pioneered by the U.S. Green Building Council headquartered in DC, has certified projects in all 50 states and 120 countries.

Photo courtesy of: The U.S. Green Building Council


Energy conservation or energy efficiency? Or both? January 20, 2012

Saatchi & Saatchi’s  Strategy for Sustainability winter 2012 newsletter featured a recent article featured from the Guardian  that highlighted the fact that we now use 15 times more energy than we did prior to the industrial revolution. That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that fossil fuels are involved in most activities – from growth and transportation of the food we eat, to the hot water for our shower, the fuel for our transportation (unless you walk or bike), and the power for our computers, phones, printers, etc… The article points out that although the majority of conversations are focused on finding alternative forms of energy supply, reducing energy demand is largely overlooked and should be something that is incentivized and regulated.

Speaking as someone who spends a lot of her time educating and encouraging organizations and individuals to reduce, reuse, repurpose and really, rethink, their energy, water, waste and product use, I agree that conservation is important. Regardless of whether you believe in Peak Oil or not, the fact remains that the earth’s population is increasing at an exponential pace – in the 1950’s, there were about 2.5 billion people on the planet, and now, a mere 60 years later, there are 7 billion. We are utilizing a finite resource and our needs are growing exponentially. Conservation is certainly important, as are finding alternative energy solutions.

Although it would be great for energy to be considered as a public good, as the article states, this will likely not happen in the near future, so energy conservation is one of the ways to stem the growth of energy use, at least for the short term.  Energy efficiency, of course, is a great first step in that discussion. Energy efficiency can reduce direct energy consumption by as much as 20-30%. Steps for this are more or less widely known – for commercial buildings, they range from switching to more energy efficient lighting, installing occupancy sensors and installing an energy management system, to looking at more holistic smart building solutions.

Once these measures are in place, it is time to look at energy conservation. This involves getting people on board – and this can be a tougher proposition, one that requires not only education but ongoing cheerleading, for lack of a better term. I have had CEOs and COOs tell me that their staff will ‘do as they are told’. Even if this is the case (which in most cases, it is not), obedience to mandated rules will be short-lived and will cause ill-will. I recently went to a Sustainable DC Energy Workgroup, one of nine workgroups convened with the end goal of providing an innovative plan to ‘make DC the greenest, healthiest, and most livable city in the nation’. The question was raised there as well –  ‘how can we get people to change their behavior – why is it so hard to do?’

That is a great question, and one that I find many organizations struggle with – once they realize the importance of it. Behavior change can add another 10-15% , if not more, in energy conservation, so it is certainly something that should not be ignored.  There are no easy solutions to successful behavior change.  Answers range from educating and incentivizing to recognizing to challenging individuals to conserve energy. It all depends on the organization’s culture –whether it is hierarchical or flat, its size, and its vision. These, among others, are all ingredients to the recipe that will, ideally, result in reduced energy consumption.

Another way to conserve energy, indirectly, is to look at the embodied energy from all the products that are used in a regular office environment or at home. This is a tougher one to measure, but, as a starting point, it can be addressed by following a couple of basic rules: simplify and buy ‘green’ products.

Simplifying means less stuff in your life – whether that is at your office or your home. It means thinking twice about whether something is really needed before you hit the ‘Buy’ button or put in a purchase order.  It means reusing items and again, rethinking.

As for buying ‘green’, this means what I’m sure many of you have already guessed – purchasing items that are made of 100% recycled content, that are sustainably harvested and produced, and that can be reused or repurposed.  The energy required to recycle a product is less than the energy required to make a new one.

So, conserving starts with getting people on board and simplifying processes and your life. And, although it sounds simple, it is tougher to do than installing energy efficient mechanical equipment, but it is just as important – if not more.


Green Office Pioneers in the DC Metro Area: Part 2 November 28, 2011

The second installment in our series on green offices in the DC metro area is the new East Coast headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Fort Belvoir, VA. The building received a LEED Gold rating, the second highest LEED rating and the largest federal government building to receive such a high rating (2.2 million square-feet). The office focused on three areas: water, energy and transportation. By collecting 

rainwater and using low-flow fixtures, NGA saves about 3 million gallons of water a month. It also reduces energy use by 30% with efficient lighting w

ith motion sensors and transparent ETFE roofing to provide more natural daylight. Carbon dioxide emissions from cars are reduced by NGA encouraging their employees to use public transportation.

NGA also included healthier materials in their building, including ones with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contain chemicals that can cause headaches, nausea, and eye, nose and throat irritation, among other things. Chilled beams are also incorporated into the building to further reduce energy use associated with heating and air conditioning, since these reduce the power used by the fans.

Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense


Green Office Pioneers in the DC Metro Area: Part 1 November 21, 2011

When you are younger and trying to find your way in the world, it sometimes helps to have a role model. I think the same is true if you are trying to green your office and don’t know where to start or what options are available. To help you in this endeavor, we are going to have a multiple part series on green offices in the Washington DC metro area.

What better place to start than the headquarters of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the inventors of the leading green building certification: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Their office has the highest rating LEED offers: Platinum, in the Commercial Interiors category.
Energy and water efficiency are key in the corporate yet fashionable USGBC office. Water use is 40% less than in conventional offices and energy use is 50% less. In order to increase heating and cooling efficiency, the “eco-corridor” nearest the outside windows is slightly warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter than the inner cubicles.  Individualized temperature controls are available inside the cubicles, allowing for a more comfortable environment where workers are during most of the day, without having to make the less-used corridors just as comfortable. There are also plenty of indoor plants to increase indoor air quality.

Natural daylight is another important aspect in the USBGC’s headquarters. It significantly decreases the need to use electricity to power lights, but also helps improve employees’ moods with views of nature. The floor to ceiling windows provide plenty of light, while the automatic window shades decrease glare. An automated system also helps coordinate the need for lighting by sensing how much natural light is available and adjusting the artificial lights accordingly.

The USGBC also makes use of a lot of reclaimed materials. Much of the wood that adorns the walls were reclaimed from 500-year old gumwood trees that had fallen off of logging boats and were preserved in the Tennessee River. Trees that were cut down hundreds of years ago emit no additional carbon to the atmosphere and provide a great story for guests! There are many other great aspects to the USGBC headquarters that can be found in their press release or website that makes it a chic yet environmental office.

Photo Courtesy of McGraw Hill Construction Continuing Education Center


Sports and Sustainability June 1, 2011

When people talk about sustainability they rarely think about how sports teams can implement sustainable measures. Sport entities are usually associated with entertainment and their objectives are generally to outperform other teams when in fact, sports and certain aspects of sustainability are directly linked. Sports teams are rewarded for their performance. Performance relates to sustainability because teams need to protect and develop the well-being of their players. In order to excel, players have to be in excellent health through proper diet and consistent exercise, which is directly related to one of the objectives of sustainability: nurturing human health. Basically, sports teams are already implementing some ‘people’ related sustainable measures without giving much thought to the benefits that can be obtained. Sports teams can further benefit from these practices by integrating sustainable initiatives throughout the entire organization.

Office of Sustainability

Some sports teams have started departments that focus their efforts on sustainability. Unfortunately, effects from the economic crisis have caused some of these teams to curtail their sustainability efforts. A survey conducted in 2009 of 50 professional sports teams suggests that only 25% of the teams currently have full-time employee dedicated to their green program or are actively considering adding a full-time green employee. Sports teams are recognizing the potential benefits of environmentally sustainable initiatives and this number is expected to grow. The same survey suggests that 80% of teams have formed or are actively considering forming an internal green team. Internal green teams would provide sports teams with the necessary expertise to address social and environmental issues.

Sustainable Advertising

Advertising agencies are taking initiatives to make their line of work as clean and sustainable as possible. EcoMedia, an environmentally friendly advertising firm, created the EcoAd, an innovative way to provide green funding for sustainable projects nationwide. The EcoAd provides organizations with the option to sponsor environmentally friendly projects. These organizations are recognized through an EcoAd leaf that would appear on the advertisement. Through sponsoring these projects, organizations can demonstrate their vested interest in environmental initiatives while providing funding where it is needed.

As teams worldwide sold their jerseys as billboards to gambling websites, some take an alternative route. One example is FC Barcelona, who offered UNICEF their jersey to promote their organization while agreeing to donate at least €1.5 million ($2.1 million) over five years to support their programs for children worldwide. Additionally, with FCB’s partnership with IDB, the sports team will provide their knowledge and experience in sports for children and young people as well as their Barça trademark. This joint effort aims to “help prevent violence, promote social inclusion, and to complete their education and improve employment opportunities.”

Sustainable Facilities and Equipment

All sports entities have facilities and sports equipment to manage and maintain. Facilities have a longer lifespan than sports equipment, which is more consumable and renewed on a constant basis. Constant renewal of sports equipment creates large amounts of waste. Initiatives carried out by sports teams worldwide include recycling used sports material by donating it to developing countries and children in need. Alternatively, sports equipment itself can be derived from recycled material. Although sustainable initiatives regarding sports equipment rely mostly on the team’s sponsor, sports teams can use their position to require that sponsors deliver equipment that meets sustainable benchmarks. In the case of FCB, their sponsor, Nike,  has been carrying out sustainable initiatives on their own. The FCB jersey is fabricated out of polyester created out of plastic bottles and each jersey is made out of exactly eight bottles. Additionally, the energy consumption in producing these jerseys is 30% less that the energy needed in producing a convention shirt. According to Nike, the jerseys they supplied during the World Cup in South Africa used a total of 13 million plastic bottles picked up from landfills in Japan and Taiwan.

FC Barcelona has reached out to Ecoembes, a non-profit organization aiming at reducing waste in sports arenas, to reduce waste in their sports facilities. FC Barcelona owns several facilities, including a stadium that can seat 99,354, a Sports City, basketball court, and an ice rink. Integrating 435 recycling points for paper and plastic containers throughout their facilities resulted in over 171,000 kg (380,000 lbs) of waste being recycled during the first year that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

Future of Sports Sustainability

Although initial implementation of sustainable solutions is generally expensive in the short run, results in the long term can be profitable, saving on waste and energy consumption. Benefits from implementing sustainable initiatives in sports teams are becoming more accessible to all sporting organizations, but there are sport entities that are more will to take the lead.  If the most prestigious teams carry out sustainable initiatives, other will follow, creating a domino effect. Already there are some sports organizations in the USA that have started to implement various sustainable measures.

The Philips Arena, home to the Atlanta Thrashers, and the American Airlines Arena, home to the Miami Heat, meet the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Additionally the Verizon Center, home to the Washington Capitals, and Rose Garden, home to the Portland Trail Blazers, have implemented energy conservation systems that save them thousands of dollars per month. 



Sustainable Companies Achieve 200% ROI per Bloomberg May 19, 2011

Earlier this month, media company Bloomberg announced that they have achieved a 200% return on investments. The financial software, media and data company has an estimated revenue of $6.9 billion and makes up one third of the global financial data market (Source: NYT). The company was founded in 1981 by Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor of New York City.

Bloomberg first launched their public ESG (environmental, social and governance) data service in 2009. The program evolved from what was primarily an employee engagement platform to a unique source of innovation and opportunity. The company’s first publicly released sustainability report states that for every $1 spent on sustainability, it saves $2 in operating costs. Overall this has resulted in a net savings of $25 million since 2008.

In their report, Bloomberg found that most of the targets it hit resulted from management decisions. For example, all new data equipment that they shipped to clients complied with Energy Star efficiency standards. That being said, individual employees still play a crucial role in any company’s sustainability strategy and can add to the savings resulting from mechanical, equipment and purchasing changes.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Nearly half of Bloomberg’s 13,000+ employees will be in a LEED-certified office space by 2012
  • Emissions have been reduced by 20% over the 2007 baseline (measured as core emissions normalized by revenue)
  • Bloomberg diverted 59% of its waste from landfills through recycling and composting programs
  • All new PCs and flat panels shipped to customers are Energy Star certified
  • Bloomberg has initiated over 300 sustainability projects in 24 countries over the past three years
  • Over 5,000 users in 29 countries have accessed 50 million sustainability data sets through the Bloomberg Professional service
  • carried 1,976 stories on clean energy and environmental issues in 2010

“It is not only important for companies to develop sustainability strategies, but also to report on their results,” said Peter Grauer, Chairman of Bloomberg. “Disclosure, transparency and access to information are critical drivers of shared knowledge surrounding sustainability. As members of the global business community, it is our responsibility to ensure this information is made available – and to elevate the conversation.”

Bloomberg’s full report is available online. For more information, visit the following articles:

Image source: Bloomberg


Eco-Friendly Hotels and Where to Find Them April 8, 2011

At a recent Hampton Inn stay, I noticed that the coffee cups were marked with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative logo. According to their website , this label is applied to wood and paper products that are from a certified source according to third-party certification audits. The goal is to promote sustainable forest management, supported by professional foresters, conservationists, and scientists, and the program addresses key environmental, social and economic forest values (e.g. water quality, biodiversity, regeneration). That being said, Forest Stewardship Council is another organization with the same goals and is arguably a better known and more accepted program.

It turns out that a lot of hotels are taking the initiative to make their establishments more “eco-friendly”, addressing a wide range of issues from overall energy-saving measures to water conservation to reducing the use of paper products such as telephone books (and going above and beyond the ‘leave your towel on the hook if you don’t want it washed, which most hotels are doing). But how do you know if the hotel you’ve selected is actually committed to sustainability and conservation?

There are several different resources that you can use as a resource for planning your next personal or business trip. The Travelocity Green Hotel Directory is a great place to start. Travelocity works with second- and third-party green hotel certification programs whose standards align with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC). Some of the certification partners include Green Seal, EPA’s Energy Star, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Rainforest Alliance. To find a hotel that fits this criteria, search through their directory and look for the “Eco-Friendly Hotel” symbol next to a listing. Some examples of eco-friendly hotels in the Washington, D.C. area include the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, Sofitel Lafayette Square, and Embassy Suites. The Kimpton hotels are also known for their efforts in sustainability, as is Marriott.

Hotels achieve a high level of credibility if they are certified by an independent organization. There are several different types of certification, but some of the most common are listed below.

  • Green Seal hotels and lodging properties: Green Seal focuses on hotel operations rather than building structure. They have set standards for lodging facilities, but they allow a range of solutions for many of those standards. Properties are listed by state.
  • Energy Star for hospitality: Part of the U.S. EPA, Energy Star facilities must be certified by a Professional Engineer (PE) and certification can be renewed on an annual basis. Properties can be searched by location or label year. Their website also has some excellent resources for property owners including strategies, online training sessions, success stories, and energy information services.
  • LEED certification: Part of the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. View their certification process or browse the directory for more information. The directory includes all properties, not just hotels and lodging, but can be searched by project name, location, and level of certification.

There are many more resources that don’t involve certification. The iStayGreen website includes a wide range of properties, including some that claim themselves as “green” without independent certification. Their search results indicate whether a property has completed the iStayGreen Environmental Self-Audit and gives a “green eco-leaf rating” on a scale of 1 to 5. Properties include lodging and hotels both in the United States and in other countries around the world. That being said, a self-certification does not bear nearly as much weight as one that is verified by a recognized third-party non-profit. Other programs include the Green Hotels Association and EarthCheck.

Here are a few eco-friendly hotels in the United States that you can keep in mind for your next trip to San Jose, Seattle, or New York. To find more lists like this, check out Out Traveler’s Top 5, Travel and Leisure’s Top 20, and Via Magazine (AAA)’s Top 10.

Fairmont — San Jose, California
Features: Replaced 5,900 incandescent bulbs with CFLs, recycled 8,600 pounds of old telephone books, offers free overnight parking to guests with hybrid vehicles

Hilton — Vancouver, Washington
Features: Water-efficient landscaping, a heat-reflecting roofs, CO2 sensors that adjust temperature and light when rooms are vacant

Hotel Monaco — Seattle, Washington
Features: Includes an eco-friendly kitchen with recycling, composting food, using local organic foods and sustainable seafood, and switched to recyclable to-go containers

Marriott — Bethesda, Maryland
Features: First hotel and conference center in the United States to win LEED certification for its environmental design

70 Park Avenue — New York, New York
Features: Part of the Kimpton Hotels’ EarthCare eco-program; Repurposes kitchen oil in biodiesel, provides discounts for hybrid drivers, offers an eco-concierge


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