the family blog

Are CFL lamps ready for prime time?

Posted by:

As we get closer to banning the use of incandescent lighting and mandating alternatives, such as CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamp), more data is being made available that should be cause for untethered public debate — in consideration that some of the information we are currently reviewing could be credible. Most everyone, whether or not they really understand why, agree we need to remain diligent in finding reasonable ways to curb our energy consumption and reduce emissions. We get that. However, we also get the fact that government intrusion and manipulation generally makes a travesty of otherwise promising green energy technology, such as wind turbines and electric vehicles. As sustainable professionals we do understand and are confident we’ll get there — with technology that considers human health as well as the environment. It may be that CFLs are ready for prime time… maybe not.

Many consumers in the dark about CFL bulbs

We’ll be following this story as it progresses and update as necessary. In the event you are not aware, regardless which side of the argument you support, it would be beneficial to read the EPA recommendations on how to clean up broken CFL bulbs. The agency urges Americans to use CFLs, arguing their energy savings outweigh the potential health hazard. Well, isn’t that reassuring? If it concerned fish I would likely be more inclined to believe it, but after dealing with the EPA over the years, I find little comfort in their claim.

Although there are those who will tell you the same concerns and cautions hold true for standard fluorescent lamps, just tell them they are, somewhat, correct… but until now, you’ve had the choice NOT to use them!

Social media history becomes a new job hurdle

Posted by:

Most novices launching websites labor through the perplexing task of trying to understand and implement procedures and techniques designed to increase site traffic. SEO, post titles, key words, tags, links, trackbacks, pings, commenting on other sites and forums, etc. are all important considerations. So when you read an article, post or other commentary, there was generally a great deal of behind-the-scenes prep work done before it was published.

Recently, I read a report where both Google and Bing agreed that social networking is now the Numero Uno – #1 – factor for delivering visitors to websites. Perhaps in support of this proclamation is the fact if you pay attention, you’ll notice the increase in companies linking to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sources. In consideration of this newly discovered revelation, I began my quest to connect with as many professionals and other sources as I could on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – with more to come as time permits.

We know that the content on LinkedIn, Facebook and other media sources we use to establish connections and communication is considered public domain. But were we aware that, like e-mail, our actions can, or will, rest somewhere in the heavens forever? Once you say it, it lives on forever.

Well now, who would have thought that a new cottage industry of Cyber Snoopers is seeing gold in them thar hills! The NYT has (disturbing) news where possible employers may look at everything you’ve said or done online in the past seven years. In their article Social media history becomes a new job hurdle: Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees. Now, some companies are requiring job candidates to also pass a social media background check.

A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years.

And what relevant unflattering information has led to job offers being withdrawn or not made? Mr. Drucker said that one prospective employee was found using Craigslist to look for OxyContin. A woman posing naked in photos she put up on an image-sharing site didn’t get the job offer she was seeking at a hospital.

Given complex “terms of service” agreements on most sites and Web applications, Mr. Rotenberg said people do not always realize that comments or content they generate are publicly available.

As one commenter stated:

Go ahead, search me. I don’t do drugs, my president sucks and since I don’t speak any ‘foreign’ languages I shouldn’t have to press one for English. NOW will you hire me?

After reading the entire NYT article, you may find yourself changing the way you communicate with colleagues and friends. Oh, you might also need to reconsider some of those other sites you frequent!

Environmental Release of Mercury from Broken Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Posted by:

WARNING: Mercury vapor released from broken compact fluorescent light bulbs can exceed safe exposure levels!

One of the websites I visit frequently is Watts Up with That? – commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology and recent news. The site is hosted by Anthony Watts, a former television meteorologist who spent 25 years on the air and also operates a weather technology and content business.

Perhaps it’s coincidence that I ran across his 06 July, 2011 article, Gee, ya think? Proof of what many have said for years, that provides his analysis of a study by Mary Ann Liebert reported in Environmental Engineering Science. Coincidence because I was recently challenged when I mentioned to several of my piers the potential health issues caused by mercury contained in Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs).

In summary, the study states:

However, the TCLP results do not fully reflect the potential hazards of CFLs because the CFLs continuously release Hg vapor once broken. The emission can last weeks even months and the total amount of Hg that can be released in vapor from new CFLs can often exceed 1.0 mg. Since vapor Hg can be readily inhaled by people, rapid removal of broken CFLs and sufficient ventilation of rooms by fresh air are critical to prevent people from potential harms. Effective packaging for preventing the breakage of CFLs and retaining the Hg vapor from broken CFLs is another way to reduce exposure to Hg in transportation, handling, and storage.

According to Domenico Grasso, PhD, Editor-in-Chief and Vice President for Research, Dean of the Graduate College, University of Vermont (Burlington):

This paper is a very nice holistic analysis of potential risks associated with mercury release from broken CFLs and points to potential human health threats that have not always been considered.

The Mother Nature Network has an article titled 5 Ways to dispose of old CFLs

Retailers, such as The Home Depot, offer a CFL recycling program.

And, as with most topics concerning environmental issues, you may find the reader commentary enlightening, if not amusing.

Top tips for planning and building a green home on a budget

Posted by:

Eco-friendly construction involves the use of materials and processes that are resource-efficient and environmentally responsible throughout the life cycle of a building. Long dismissed as being costly, green buildings have seen a surge in popularity thanks to the many advantages they have over non-green buildings that range from environmental to social and economic. Here are eight reasons why you shouldn’t shy away from using eco-friendly construction companies when building your facility.

1. Low Maintenance and Operation Cost
Green buildings incorporate unique construction features that ensure efficient use of resources such water and energy. For example, by using task lighting strategy and a lot of daylight, green buildings vastly reduce the amount of power used in lighting systems; This allows users to save as much as a third of their water and energy bills. Given that operating and maintenance costs can account for as much as 80% of the lifetime costs of a building, reducing such costs significantly increases the earnings of building owners who collect rent from their buildings. Even though constructing a green building may be slightly more expensive than their non-green counterparts, the reduced operation and maintenance costs of green buildings make them much cheaper in the long term.

2. Energy Efficiency
Designers of green buildings try as much as possible to reduce dependency on energy from non-renewable sources such as coal. To this end, they install solar panels to make use of energy from the sun, and design windows in a way that allows as much natural light as possible and, therefore, reduces the use of artificial light; these and other methods ensure that the building uses energy in an efficient manner. Energy efficiency is essential not only for the user but also for the entire world because non-renewable energy sources are expensive and pollute the environment.

3. Water Efficiency
Water efficiency involves using water resources in a manner that saves water and ensures that today and future generations enjoy a reliable supply of clean water. Green building allows for the use of alternative sources of water such as rainwater, reducing water waste through the installation of plumbing fixtures that are efficient and reducing the strain on shared water resources by installing systems that purify water and enable recycling.

4. Enhances Indoor Environment Quality
Indoor environment quality depends on conditions inside a building and how they affect the occupants of the building. These conditions include lighting, ergonomics, thermal conditions and air quality. Good indoor environment quality is one protects the health of the building’s occupants, reduces stress and improves their quality of life. Green buildings achieve this through the installation of operable windows that allow in as much sunlight as possible and reducing the use of materials that may emit elements that are dangerous to the health.

6. Material Efficiency
Material efficiency involves the use of physical process and materials in a manner that allows for the minimum use of materials without compromising the quality of the outcome; also, the processes should generate as little waste as possible. To achieve material efficiency, green building companies use materials that are long lasting, recycle and reuse some products, design buildings in a manner that allow for the use of fewer materials and employ processes that use less water, raw materials, and energy. All these help achieve material efficiency.

7. Better Environment
By reducing usage of energy sources that pollute the environment such as coal, green buildings contribute to keeping the environment clean. In addition, by reducing the levels of carbon (IV) oxide emitted to the atmosphere, they help to lessen the pace of climate change.

8. Reduces Strain on Local Resources
As population increases, local shared resources such as water and energy come under considerable pressure. Through the use of technologies and processes that increase water and energy efficiency, green buildings can reduce this strain.

As these benefits of green buildings show, it is possible for human beings to effectively meet all their present needs without depleting resources and endangering the environment in a manner that makes it difficult for future generations to survive comfortably. Eco-friendly buildings use unique construction techniques that ensure that resources are used efficiently and responsibly while not compromising on the user’s health and comfort.

When building a green home one chooses to do so to reduce the harmful impact on the environment. Careful thought and consideration must be placed on every aspect of this home design, from the roof to the foundation to everything in between – electrical work, air quality, and affordability. It is important to lessen one’s footprint and not to disrupt the existing ecosystem. With all the knowledge and resources available to us today there really is no excuse for not being environmentally conscientious.

ECOHOME: Efficient home design, or how to design a home to use less energy

ECOHOME: Top tips for planning and building a green home on a budget.

freshome: 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Green Home

Buildpedia: Top Green Roof Designs

NATIONWIDE CONSTRUCTION: Eco-friendly Construction: 8 Advantages of Green Building

How to Install a Branched-Drain Greywater System in a Green Home

Posted by:

Although many communities regulate and/or prohibit private treatment of wastewater, this installation may be a suitable option where public sewers are not available or on-site greywater treatment is permitted. From the Energy Vanguard blog, this is a very well documented installation, complete with photos and a downloadable greywater system proposal used to submit for permitting.

Energy Vanguard blog

What’s in a Green Building Product Label?

Posted by:

This recent article in Professional Remodeler, written by Michelle Desiderio, director of Green Building Programs, NAHB Research Center, provides an overview of the major green product certification programs for the home building industry. The following briefly outlines the various programs involved in green product certification.

What’s in a name?

In the residential construction industry, third parties test, certify or verify that a product meets the criteria of an established industry standard or code. For green product labeling specifically, third parties provide scientific expertise in testing, assessing and auditing a wide range of environmental attributes. While there are multiple legitimate third parties providing green product certifications within the construction industry, it would be impossible to be comprehensive in a brief article. The article provides a summary of some of the third-party product certifications that currently touch the broadest array or volume of building products, including who offers them and what they mean when you see them on products and materials.

ICC Evaluation Service Sustainable Attributes Verification and Evaluation
What it is: The ICC-ES SAVE Program provides independent verification of manufacturers’ claims about the sustainable attributes of their products.

Who runs it: The ICC-ES is a subsidiary of the International Code Council. ICC-ES is a non-profit company that evaluates building products, components, methods and materials for compliance with code.

How it works: ICC-ES provides verification in accordance with one or more of nine ICC-ES SAVE program guidelines.

NAHB Research Center Green Approved Products
What it is: Green Approved Products have been pre-approved by the NAHB Research Center as being eligible for specific points in the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard. The NGBS is the first green rating system to be approved as an ANSI consensus standard.

Who runs it: The NAHB Research Center is an independent subsidiary of the NAHB.

How it works: Manufacturers apply to have products pre-approved and labeled Green Approved for specific points in the NGBS.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Certified Forest Content & Certified Fiber Sourcing
What they are: The SFI labeling programs are designed to help buyers understand more about the origin of wood and wood-based products. An SFI Certified Content label indicates that some or all of the product’s fiber content comes from forests that are certified to one or more specific forest management standards — primarily standards from SFI, the Canadian Standards Association and American Tree Farm System.

Who runs them: SFI is an independent, charitable organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management.

How they work: All aspects of SFI are based on written criteria and standards, namely the SFI Forest Management Standard, SFI Responsibly Sourcing Standard and SFI Chain of Custody Standard.

UL Environmental Claims Validation & Sustainable Products Certification

What they are: UL’s Environmental Claims Validation (ECV) confirms a specific environmental attribute or performance element of a product. UL’s Sustainable Products Certification (SPC) means that a product has been tested and certified based on its overall sustainability characteristics as compared to a standard of reference.

Who runs them: UL Environment is an environmental evaluation company that provides independent testing, confirmation of claims, certification to standards, and development of standards across numerous industries and is part of the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) family of companies.

How they work: Manufacturers submit products to UL Environment for independent testing to validate their environmental claims. Once the product claims have been validated, details are posted on UL Environment’s online Database of Validated and Certified Products, a tool that allows users to identify labeled products by product category, company name, product name, or type of claim.

Energy Efficient Home Landscapes

Posted by:

Trees are being cut down to make way for new single-family homes, which then often sit on bare lots. These treeless lots not only have negative impacts on the climate, environment, and community health, but they also exacerbate the energy inefficient practices found within homes. This is a major problem given the average American home consumes 70 million BTUs annually. In fact, taken together, American homes account for 22 percent of total energy use as well as nearly 22 percent of carbon dioxide emissions (1.19 billion metric tons).

While homeowners can take low-cost steps to make the inside of their homes better insulated and therefore more energy efficient, the landscape isn’t often seen as a part of the problem… or the solution. Basic green technologies like smart tree placement and green roofs and walls can be used to dramatically reduce energy usage inside homes.

Weather, roof, and building size and location also have an impact on the amount of energy savings.

How to use the landscape to reduce the energy consumed by a typical suburban home. See how smart tree placement and green roofs and walls dramatically improve energy efficiency, visit this American Society of Landscape Architects website.

Demolition or Deconstruction?

Posted by:

Demolition and Deconstruction – aren’t they effectively the same? In a sense yes, as each requires the removal of a building and/or its contents. But this is where most similarities end – here one day and gone the next day (or two…). Demolition is the destructive removal and disposal of the building and/or contents with a total disregard for material salvage. Tear it down, toss the materials in a dumpster and transport everything to a landfill for disposal. On the other hand, Deconstruction selectively dismembers the materials that make up the building. Today Deconstruction is “green speak” for the removal of materials with the intent to reuse, recycle, or incorporate into a Waste Management Plan (WMP).

What are the issues to consider when determining whether to select Demolition or Deconstruction? There are 2 fundamental factors to consider – costs and the environmental benefits associated with Deconstruction. First is the cost factor, and this can be somewhat difficult to accurately assess. Some studies show the cost to be 2 to 3 times as much for Deconstruction as opposed to Demolition. However, with Deconstruction you can factor in adjustments such as the market value and after-tax benefits of the salvaged materials. The leading authority on Deconstruction and Reuse is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has recently focused a great deal of attention on Waste as it relates to Resource Conservation. Or as the EPA refers, the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Additional information relating to cost comparisons can be reviewed at these sites: The ReUse People and Building Abatement Demolition Company, Inc.

Builder Magazine has an article titled Picking Up the Pieces that exemplifies the many benefits of sustainable deconstruction. The article follows the process of clearing an urban infill lot for the New American Home 2011.

Energy 101: Wind Turbines

Posted by:

Developed for over a millennium, today’s wind turbines are manufactured in a range of vertical and horizontal axis types. The smallest turbines are used for applications such as battery charging or auxiliary power on sailing boats; while large grid-connected arrays of turbines are becoming an increasingly large source of commercial electric power. The use of wind turbines can be a great way to provide a source of clean and renewable energy for your home or business. There are a number of small wind energy devices that you can use to generate power and these can be very cost effective in providing a significant level of electricity. The demand for wind turbines for homes has been increasing over the past few years due to people wanting to seek alternative energy sources. Energy sources such as solar and wind power are being sought after as a way to cope with the ever increasing electricity bills.

As with solar systems, wind powered systems can be used in two ways: off-grid or on-grid. Off-grid is when your home or business is entirely disconnected from an electric utility company and you generate all of the electricity your home or business requires. An on-grid wind power system sends all of its electricity back into the public electrical network (grid) which the electric company gives you credits for. At the month, the electric company sums up your credits with how much your home or business has consumed, and issues rebates if you consumed less than you put into the grid.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s website ENERGY.GOV has a wealth of information as it relates to Science & Technology, Energy Sources, Energy Efficiency, the Environment and Prices & Trends. The EPA series of short videos related to Energy 101 topics are being posted on to present entry level information related to Home Energy Assessment, Cool Roofs, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar PVs and Wind Turbines.

Energy 101: Solar PV

Posted by:

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems can generate clean, cost-effective power anywhere the sun shines. PV panels convert the energy of the sun into renewable electricity to power homes and businesses. A small solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system can be a reliable and pollution-free producer of electricity for your home or business. And they’re becoming more affordable all the time. Small PV systems also provide a cost-effective power supply in locations where it is expensive or impossible to send electricity through conventional power lines.

As with wind powered systems, solar PV systems can be used in two ways: off-grid or on-grid. Off-grid is when your home or business is entirely disconnected from an electric utility company and you generate all of the electricity your home or business requires. An on-grid wind power system sends all of its electricity back into the public electrical network (grid) which the electric company gives you credits for. At the month, the electric company sums up your credits with how much your home or business has consumed, and issues rebates if you consumed less than you put into the grid.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s website ENERGY.GOV has a wealth of information as it relates to Science & Technology, Energy Sources, Energy Efficiency, the Environment and Prices & Trends. The EPA series of short videos related to Energy 101 topics are being posted on to present entry level information related to Home Energy Assessment, Cool Roofs, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar PVs and Wind Turbines.

Page 1 of 3123»