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


Green Custodial Services – things to be aware of if looking for a vendor December 19, 2010

Stephen Askin, who is often called the ‘Father of Green Cleaning’, refers to green cleaning as being ‘best thought of as a concept or thought process that focuses on creating a healthy, safe and attractive building while minimizing harmful impacts.’

Green cleaning is closely tied to the concept of sustainability and the triple bottom line. It is beneficial to the organization, the employees, and the planet, as well as the individuals using the products. Studies show increased staff productivity (up to 7%), decreased staff absenteeism, and decreased turnover of janitorial personnel as a result of using green cleaning products.

To date, there are four commonly accepted certifications in the commercial green cleaning sector, in North America and Europe:

  • Green Seal is the most recognized and more prevalent in the United States. Green Seal started out certifying products inthecommercialsector and now provides not only certification for green custodial products but also training on green cleaning procedures, among other services. It is also beginning to certify products in the residential sector.
  • EcoLogo is another environmental standard and certification mark, started in Canada, which is gaining ground in the United States andwhich also has rigorous standards for certification. Started by TerraChoice, EcoLogo focuses on the commercial as well as residential market.
  • Thirdly, the EPA’s Design for the Environment’s DfE label can be obtained by manufacturers for products that ‘meet stringent criteria for human and environmental health’.
  • Finally, Ecolabel is the commonly accepted certification standard in the European Union. Ecolabel addresses both commercial and residential products and services.

There are an increasing number of resources and companies offering green custodial services. Be sure to verify the products and processes that they use, ask them if these are certified by a third-party, and check in periodically with the cleaning crew to ensure that the products are being used as agreed.


Determining the legitimacy of a green certification November 5, 2010

If you’re looking to ‘green’ your building or operations and are confused about which products and services are truly ‘green’, you’re not alone. There are many certifications on the market today – some are legitimate, while others have a way to go. Companies can make self-reported claims or obtaina legitimate third-party certification to show that they are doing what they claim to be doing. However, not all third-party certifications are created equal.

To begin with, a legitimate third-party certification is not awarded through a for-profit company or obtained on the internet for a ‘small fee’. A legitimate third-party certification requires the company to provide data to prove its claims, and requires transparency and even on-site verification. The standards that the certification is based on should be publicly available and replicable, so that others can also obtain the certification.

While there is no government entity that regulates this at the present time, there are certain certifications that are commonly accepted as legitimate in the United States and have withstood scrutiny. Some examples of these include, of course, the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership inEnergy and Environmental Design) green building standard, Energy Star certification for buildings and electronics, and Green Seal for green custodial/cleaning services. Other certifications to be aware of include: Forest Stewardship Council for paper and wood products, Green Label for carpets and rugs, Green Guard for chemicals in products that affect indoor air quality, Green-e for renewable energy, and Cradle to Cradle for product lifecycle.

There are other US-based certifications that are not listed here and that are also legitimate, such as the USDA Organic, but we wanted to keep the focus of the discussion on building and operations and to highlight the most commonly recognized ones in that area. Further, there are competing certifications in some of these industries, such as Green Globes for buildings, and SFI for paper/wood products, which may also be considered though they are not the leading certification presently.

In general, if a company is making a green certification claim about its product or service, be sure to check the claim and the certification before purchasing.


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