Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Green Graduation Gowns

WATCH: Sierra Club Green Home's Director of Sustainability, Jennifer Schwab, is interviewed on Fox about Green Graduation Gowns!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Composting Tips: Warm, Hot or Cold

From Garbage to Garden

Composting is nature’s way of recycling organic materials like fallen trees, yard waste, and even kitchen scraps. Home composting kits are now widely available so you can make good use of kitchen scraps in the yard or garden.

We know what you’re thinking. “If nature can recycle organics, why should I compost at home instead of putting my waste out for the landfill to decompose?” Well, the answer is simple. The process of composting occurs most effectively in specific conditions which landfills cannot provide due to the presence of other waste including plastics, metals, and textiles. These materials halt the process and inhibit the compost from forming. Thus composting at home will provide you with great satisfaction knowing that you are diverting trash from landfills and will save you money on fertilizers.

Under correct conditions, the end product is like black gold, a rich soil full of organic nutrients that can be added to your yard or houseplants. By making the decision to compost your scraps year round, you can reduce your contribution to the 30% of yard and kitchen waste collected in landfills. Composting is easy but even the experts get stumped about the composting process during the change of seasons. It is important to understand that composting requires various components and no matter the temperature change, it can continue successfully, if modified accordingly.

Heat, drought, desert, and… composting?

Composting in a hot, dry climate sounds like a contradiction, but despite the limited moisture it is possible. Many dedicated composters who live in the desert or experience hot summers find that their heap dries out significantly during immense heat. There are numerous steps you can take to prevent dry compost or to rejuvenate a “pile in progress”:

  • Compost should be as moist as a wrung out rag; thus, if your heap is drier add water or move the bin into a shady area.

  • Keep a lid on your compost pile to reduce evaporation; dry compost does not decay.

  • Compost forms best with a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30:1. Materials that contain carbon are generally brown and include dry leaves, wood chips, and cardboard. Nitrogen waste is green and includes things like lettuce, grass and fresh leaves. Arid climates are limited in carbon yard waste, so add debris like fallen pine needles, wood chips, ashes, corn stalks, shredded newspaper, shredded cardboard, sawdust, straw, and peanut shells.

  • If you live in a dry climate or are experiencing a drought, you need to build your compost pile in a container that retains water. Using a plastic barrel or drum is a great idea. You do not want to use screening, widely-spaced slats, or chicken wire because this will promote evaporation.

  • Every time you add another layer to the organic compost, use the hose to soak the material until it is about as damp as a wrung out rag. Make the layers of compost thinner when conditions are dry; you can accomplish this by increasing the surface area.

  • When it does rain in your dry climate you’ll want to utilize the rainwater. Make the top of the compost indented like a bowl or dish. You can even create a water tube to hydrate the inside of the compost pile. Simply drill holes around a one to two inch PVC pipe connected to the water bowl and place it into the center of the pile.

Brr… it’s compost outside!

Composting during winter time or in cold climates is not unheard of. Despite the cold trips outdoors to their receptacles, many composters say that come spring, their compost is better than ever. Since worm and bacteria activity decreases in cold temperatures, your compost will slow down in decay and possibly overflow.

  • If you have harsh winters, move your compost pile to a warmer area (close to an outside wall, alongside the garage, or other sheltered area) during cold months.

  • If the compost pile is cold, try adding more nitrogen (green waste). Remember to maintain a well balanced ratio of carbon to nitrogen.

  • Adding some insulation (cardboard, wood, old home insulation) to your compost bin will help keep the heat in and continue composting during harsh winters.

  • The earth can be a great source of insulation, you can dig a trench and dump water into it. Simply cover with a tarp when not in use and bury when full.

  • If you live in a cold climate, keep your compost in a sunny area or indoors (shed, garage).

  • Worms are an important part of composting, come winter and they’re nowhere to be found. You can purchase starter worms to add to your cold compost.

  • Breaking down waste into smaller pieces during the winter will keep the composting process from slowing down excessively.

  • To keep your system working during the winter you will need to continue adding materials all winter. Most people don’t like to take frequent trips through their backyard tundra, so keep a small composting bin under the sink for scraps. When it fills, empty it into the outdoor composting bin (if you did not move it indoors).

Temperate Climate

Composting is most popular in areas with temperate climates. The weather provides the necessary temperature and moisture for the composting process. However, despite the favorable climate any heap can be ruined if you add meats, fish, citruses, oily foods (which are likely to attract unwanted pests), milk products, and pet manures. Keep in mind that manure from pets that are herbivores such as rabbits, gerbils, sheep, cows, and chickens is a great supplement because their manure is a great source of nitrogen. In addition to such helpful tips, there are also general rules to composting in a temperate region:

  • If it is too wet, remove the lid of your composting bin for one/two days or elevate the compost pile so that the excess liquid can drain from the bottom. Too much liquid can halt the process.

  • Sometimes composting can be a challenge in temperate climates due to the unexpected amount of rainwater or temperature. Balance the wetness of your heap by adding things like hay, sawdust, or leaves.

  • Since the location’s soil is likely to be rich and full of worms, position your compost pile over soil rather than concrete. Worms will aid in the process and will produce excellent vermicompost (you can purchase additional worms).

For more information

Sierra Club Composting Video

Trash Compactors

Garbage Disposals

Healthy Lawns and Gardens


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Composting, the next recycling?

NBC's Jinah Kim reports on Home Composting.... Featuring Sierra Club Green Home's Director of Sustainability, Jennifer Schwab! Watch the video!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jennifer Schwab on ABC Good Morning America

“Green Eggs and Ham”

Sam Champion, of Good Morning America, discusses eco-friendly approaches to cookware with Sierra Club Green Home’s Director of Sustainability, Jennifer Schwab.

Jennifer recommends investing in a classic kitchen essential – a cast iron pan, while avoiding cookware which may be leaching chemicals into your food. Watch the video to learn more about sustainable types of cookware and storage containers for your leftovers.

View the video here:

Learn More with SCGH:

* Food Gone Frankenstein
* A Vegetarian Test Drive
* Eat A Low Carbon Diet
* Safe Water Bottles and Containers

Friday, April 23, 2010

SCGH Earth Week Newsletter

Happy Earth Week from Sierra Club Green Home! We are pleased to present to you our SCGH Earth Week Newsletter which we hope you find informative, helpful and enlightening! Let us know what you think! We hope you enjoy!

Go To This Link To View The Newsletter:

Happy Earth Week!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fight the Foam: Join the Packaging Police

Check out the latest Huffington Post blog from SCGH's Jennifer Schwab

" The large box looked too heavy for my 115 pound frame to carry. "Jennifer Schwab, Sierra Club Green Home" on the label, yep, it was for me, but I hadn't ordered anything large like this??

After cutting open the yards of plastic packing tape, I was appalled to find acres of bubble wrap, then those absolutely impossible Styrofoam "peanuts" which will still be in the landfill 200 years from now. After all this, a nice glass vase from a relative who shall remain unnamed. She means well, and this lovely object d'art did survive the trip, but what do I do with this pile of unsustainable, non-green, mostly not recyclable, plastic and Styrofoam packing materials?

And so it goes for millions and millions of packages, not to mention one of the biggest culprits in this assault on the environment, electronics products. Think about all those big, dense pieces of Styrofoam that are used in almost every electronic product package to secure the ends of the item. Admittedly, they help keep the DVDs, TVs, stereos and computers in one piece. And what about moving? Most of the cardboard boxes can be recycled, but the reams of tapes, peanuts, foam and other packing material usually cannot.

What's a consumer, and for that matter a manufacturer, to do? The answer can be found in some relatively new products and services that entrepreneurs are developing to address these problems."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Eva Longoria: A Green Celeb

Jennifer Schwab of SCGH recently got to catch up with the Desperate Housewives star at the opening of Las Vegas's City Center.

Excerpt from the Huffington Post article:
"These days it's fashionable for celebrities to hitch their stars to the green movement. Many of them claim to be green, but in my experience, only a few are really doing substantive things to back up the PR flackery. Ed Begley Jr. rides a stationary bike each morning to power his coffee-maker, admittedly on the lunatic fringe. He is certainly the trendsetter in Hollywood, having made a second career out of going green. But a number of others who shall remain nameless don't have much on their resumes beyond a couple of PSAs or donations. I recently found a celebrity who is not only adjusting her personal lifestyle but has embraced the business of going green. Enter Eva Longoria Parker, the not so desperate housewife.

While attending the launch of Las Vegas' City Center project for SierraClubGreenHome and the Huffington Post a few weeks ago, I had a chance to catch up with the stunning actress. She is owner of Beso, a new Las Vegas restaurant/nightclub which occupies a very prominent spot in the Crystals retail center, across the bridge from the Mandarin Oriental.

Longoria Parker explains how she became an environmentalist: "Growing up on a ranch with lots of land and animals, I came to appreciate the beauty of nature and the simplicity of life. It is because of this that I have an intense love for the earth and mother nature..."

For the full article go to

Friday, January 29, 2010

Green Valentine's Day

For the Love of Green

How to show you care in an eco-friendly way


Instead of buying your significant other an overpriced, unrecyclable box of chocolates from the drugstore 30 minutes before your date, why not prepare ahead of time for Valentine’s Day with these eco-friendly gift ideas?

Top Tips

  • Friendly Flowers. Look for fresh, organic flowers from your local farmers market or at your favorite store. Flowers are often imported from other countries that may not have pesticide regulation which can translate to one dangerous bouquet.

  • Fair Trade Chocolate. Buy organically grown, fair trade chocolate; this ensures that companies practice responsible work ethics as well as sustainable production.

Other Considerations

  • Keep them Growing. Instead of buying your Valentine a bouquet of flowers, consider buying potted ones that will last for more than just a week.

  • Dine-In Date. Save some gas and forget about going out to eat. Treat your Valentine to a homemade organic dinner- it’s a little more personal, saves you some money and the Earth.

  • Green Greetings. Instead of buying a Valentine’s Day card, make your own. And if you do end up buying a card, make sure that it is made from recycled material.


…to your health

Buying responsibly grown products means less exposure to potentially harmful pesticides like DDT for and the people that grow them.

…to your wallet

A potted plant that will last many years can cost you less than a dozen red roses. Dining in can also save you since you won’t be spending money on transportation, dinner itself and tips.

…to the Earth

Responsible and sustainable farming of flowers and cacao mean significantly less pesticide run off and contamination of our water, wildlife and ecosystem damage which ultimately gets back to you.

Further Reading


Eco-Friendly Thanks

Send the Write Message

Go Green and Give Green…

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to Be Green When Washing Dishes


Convenient and green

Energy Star Dishwasher

Washing dishes at the sink can be a Zen-like ritual–or at least a way to get your hands warm and your fingernails clean. But automatic dishwashers have their benefits, too, and not just for the busy and the lazy. Used wisely, modern automatics consume less water and energy than washing dishes by hand.

Today’s best energy-efficient dishwashers have soil sensors that automatically adjust power and water use based on how yucky your dishes are. Most offer an internal booster heater that raises the water temperature inside the dishwasher to about 140°F. This allows you to save energy and money by reducing your home’s water heater temperature to 120°F or so. So sit back, enjoy your friends and family, and–for a few blissful minutes–let your dishwasher help you save the planet.

Top Tips

At home

  • Wash smart. Don’t pre-rinse your dishes. Just scrape off the biggest food scraps into your compost bucket. Modern dishwashers and detergents can take care of the rest. Pre-rinsing can waste as much as 20 gallons of water, according to Energy Star. If your dirty dishes sit overnight, use the dishwasher’s rinse feature–it uses much less water than hand rinsing. In addition, always run your dishwasher with full loads and use the water-saver setting.

  • Air dry. The “air-dry” setting just uses a fan rather than the electric heating element for the “heat-dry” setting. It takes a bit longer but saves you money.

  • Wash light. If your dishwasher doesn’t have soil-sensing technology, use the “light wash” or “china/light” setting unless you have a very dirty load.

  • Turn down the heat. If your dishwasher has an internal booster heater, turn down your home’s main water heater temperature to 120°F.

When shopping, look for

  • Energy efficiency. Dishwashers that have earned the government’s Energy Star label use energy at least 41% more efficiently than dishwashers that only meet the federal government’s minimum energy standards. But even among Energy Star dishwashers, energy consumption varies widely. When shopping, look for the yellow and black EnergyGuide label required by the federal government. It will tell you how much energy that particular model will use in kilowatt-hours per year (kWh/yr), allowing you to do an apples-to-apples comparison of different dishwashers. Or you can compare dishwashers’ Energy Factor (EF), another measurement of the dishwasher’s energy efficiency. A higher EF is better. The federal minimum EF for dishwashers is 0.46. Energy Star qualified models currently must have an EF of at least 0.65.

  • Low water use. Energy Star dishwashers use about one-third less water than other dishwashers–averaging 4 gallons a cycle, compared to 6 gallons for other new dishwashers and 8 to 14 gallons for older models.

Other Considerations

When you buy a new dishwasher, be sure to recycle your old one rather than trashing it. Dishwashers contain a lot of steel that’s recyclable. To find out where to recycle your old dishwasher, contact your city’s recycling department or go to Earth 911.


to you, your wallet, and the Earth

Assuming you don’t pre-rinse the dishes, using an Energy Star dishwasher instead of hand washing will save you 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility bills, and 230 hours of your time-every year! If your dishwasher was manufactured before 1994, replacing it with an Energy Star model can save you more than $30 per year in utility costs and more than 1,000 gallons of water. So, if you have an older model that requires you to do some pre-washing, shop away knowing a new model can save you $70 per year and a whole lot of time!

Common Mistakes

  • Supersizing. Don’t buy a supersized dishwasher. If you don’t cook much and rarely fill up the dishwasher, consider buying a compact model (18″ instead of the standard 24″) or a dishwasher drawer–you’ll save energy and water. But if you use the dishwasher often, you’ll save energy and water with a standard-size dishwasher rather than running a compact model more frequently.

  • Location. If you’re remodeling your kitchen, try not to place the dishwasher too close to the refrigerator. Dishwashers produce heat, which can make a nearby refrigerator work harder to stay cold.

Getting Started

  • Check with your local energy and water utility companies–some offer rebates for purchasing energy- and water-efficient appliances.

  • The Energy Star website also provides a list of Energy Star dishwashers and their energy

Friday, January 22, 2010

How to Make Your Garden Green

Garden Green

Location, location, location.

Climate-appropriate Planting

Temperatures, rainfall, soils, and altitudes vary tremendously in the United States. What grows well in the California’s dry summers and Mediterranean climate might be completely lost in Colorado’s mountains, or on the damp coastal plain of Louisiana. Even within a given area, there are microclimates. When most people think of cacti, for example, they picture Arizona or New Mexico. But some cacti are native to the upper Midwest. They’ve found a desert-like niche in dry, rocky slopes that get lots of sun.

On a website called Colorado Gardening, Sally Codgill describes the mistakes commonly made in her state: “Too often plants that require mild winters, cool summers, ample rainfall, a humid environment, or loamy, acid soil end up in gardens here. Doomed from the start, these misfits die an early death.”

Fortunately, it’s simple to avoid this kind of doom. Just get to know the plants that grow best in your area, and the microclimates of your own yard. You’ll be spared the grief of having raised a bunch of sickly plants and you’ll save time, effort, water, and fossil fuels. Next thing you know, your house will be on the garden tour.

Top Tips

At home

  • Know your climate zone. This zone information will quickly lead to the facts about what plants grow best where you live. To see which plants can survive your winters, check the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s maps. To see what plants will thrive year-round, check out Sunset magazine’s website.

  • Know your neighborhood. A walk around your community will give you an idea of which plants do best.

  • Talk to gardeners. Some of the best experts you’ll find are people who have gardened in your area for many years, and have learned what works and what doesn’t. If you see people working in interesting-looking yards, strike up a conversation. They may be more than eager to share their experiences. Generally, gardeners like to see things grow, including other people’s knowledge. Joining a garden club is the fastest way.

  • Go native. More and more gardeners are turning to plants that have been growing wild in their area for thousands of years. These plants have learned how to survive in their homelands, and will usually require a lot less attention than species that are imported from places with totally different weather and soils.

  • Try groundcovers instead of lawns. There are several hundred types of low-growing groundcovers, most of which require no mowing and need far less water and other care than grass. They are especially helpful in tough-to-mow spots. In some areas where grass won’t grow, they will thrive and add color, like a thick carpet of moss under a big shade tree.

When shopping, look for

  • Healthy plants. Even if a plant is perfectly suited to your area, it might not do well if it’s not healthy. Don’t go for something on sale if it’s not in good condition.

  • Younger plants. You’ll save money if you buy a smaller, younger plant rather than a larger, more mature one. And in the end you’ll have a plant that’s just as big and beautiful.

Other Considerations

  • If you really want plants that can’t make it through cold weather, consider planting them in a container and bringing it in during the cold season. This way, you can even grow semitropical fruits in the far north. If the container is heavy, put it on wheels. We even know of a fellow in New Jersey who rolled his lemon tree into the house on rails he installed for the purpose.

  • Shade trees are nature’s air conditioners. Where it gets hot in the summer, plant deciduous shade trees as close to the house as is safe. In winter, after their leaves have dropped, they will let in sunlight to help warm the house. In colder areas, choose evergreens on the windiest sides of your yard.

  • Fruit trees can be a beautiful addition to a garden, and low-cost source of food. But be careful to purchase trees that are right for your area.

  • Garden catalog companies often have plants that you might not find at a local supplier, and they may be cheaper. But make sure the plant is right for your yard.


…to you

For most of us, being surrounded by plants is a joy.

…to your wallet

Climate-appropriate plants can save tons of money on maintenance. From the grass in your lawn, to your shade trees, to the ornamentals in the front of your house, you’ll spend a lot less money on water, fertilizer, fighting bugs and weeds, and even heating and cooling costs if you make the right choices.

…to the Earth

Smart plant selection is as good for the Earth as it is for you. It minimizes fertilizer runoff and pesticide pollution. It saves water. Shade trees and wind barriers can reduce energy use. And once your garden is thriving, it can provide food and shelter for birds and butterflies whose natural habitat has been diminished by development.

Common Mistakes

  • Overwatering. For many plants, overwatering can do as much or more damage as underwatering because excess moisture suffocates the roots of the plant and can cause disease.

  • Thirsty plants. Choosing plants that demand lots of water can dramatically increase your water consumption.

  • Doing too much at once. You may have seen folks at a garden shop pile up cartloads of plants. They often do so without enough preparation, either in knowing the plants or in tilling the soil. It is much better to develop a garden gradually, carefully mastering small parts of it with well-worked and properly amended soil.

  • Putting plants in the wrong place. Plants have different requirements for sun and water. Put a poppy in the shade or a rhododendron in the sun, and you will likely be disappointed.

Getting Started

  • Try perusing some of the wonderful books and magazines about gardening, from national publications like the venerable Organic Gardening to regional publications like Sunset, which covers the West. One good tip from such sources can be worth the cost of years of subscriptions.

  • One of the best-kept landscape and gardening secrets is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service. These offices are staffed by experts with a detailed knowledge of a region, what plants will do best there, and how to take care of them. The Extension also has volunteers known as “master gardeners,” who are eager to share years of experience in landscape and gardening in specific regions.

Related Products & Services

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Green Roofs: More than Meets the Eye

Green Roofs: More than Meets the Eye

The grass isn’t always greener in your front lawn. With the growing awareness of global warming Americans are becoming increasingly ecological, and breathing new life into the term eco-friendly. Environmentally conscious consumers are finding more creative ways to go green – and now they’ve found a way to raise green turf to new heights.

A green roof is much more than, well…green. A green or vegetated roof refers to a roof that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium that is planted over a water proof membrane. It often includes additional layers like root barriers, drainage, and irrigation systems…OK, it’s a lawn. That’s right, a lawn that can lower your energy bill, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce storm-water runoff, lower your stress level, and provide a habitat for surrounding wildlife.

green-roof-1We can give Germany credit for giving us more than just good beer and Beethoven. They also modernized green roofs, which have actually been around for centuries in Northern Scandinavia. Now, about 10% of all German roofs have been “greenified” and the trend has spread throughout Europe. Although vegetated roofs aren’t nearly as common in America as they are in Europe, it is becoming a more and more popular way for people to green their homes – literally.

Top Tips

· Choose the right roof - There are two main types of green roofs. Which you choose is dependent upon many factors such as the intended purpose of the roof, the type of building, your budget, etc.

green-roof-2· Intensive (garden-style) - Intensive roofs resemble gardens or parks. They are often used on flat roof-tops in large cities where park space is limited. Intensive roofs usually require about 6-24 inches of soil that is able to grow shrubs, small trees, lawns, even vegetable gardens. These garden-style rooftops may raise the bar when it comes to backyard barbeques and prove to be the lawn of the future. Consult a green roof specialist before considering installation of an intensive roof because they may require more sophisticated structural support and irrigation.

green-roof-3· Extensive (lawn-style) - Extensive roofs are the most common type of vegetated roof for a home because they require low to no-maintenance. An extensive green roof only requires a very thin layer of soil (1-6 inches), and can sustain many different types of grass. It is virtually self-sustaining and only requires weeding about once a year. There is usually no access to an extensive roof except for what is necessary for maintenance. That means no roof-top barbeques. Since extensive roofs support drought-resistant, shallow-rooted plants, and grass which generally grows no higher than a few inches (which means no mowing) they are ideal for homeowners looking for an easy way to save on energy consumption and make their homes more eco-friendly.

Other Considerations

· Cost – Green roofs can cost around $10 – $15/sq. ft. for extensive green roofs and anywhere between $25 – $100/sq. ft. for intensive roofs. Of course the price depends on the geographic location, type and intent of the roof, installer, etc. A park complete with trees, walkways, and vegetable gardens is going to cost quite a bit more than a simple grass lawn. Either choice, however, will prove to be an economical and ecological benefit in the long run. Below are a few areas where a green roof can save you money.

· Maintenance – The sun can break down roofing materials over time requiring costly replacement and rebuilding. It is recommended that a conventional asphalt roof receive maintenance every 2 years, which could total up to $1,300 for a 2,500/sq. ft. roof that is about 1-5 years old (older roofs would cost more). The vegetation on a green roof acts as a barrier protecting the roof from harsh solar rays and protecting your wallet from the expense of constantly replacing worn roofing materials.

· Heating – You can save energy in cooler months with green roofs because they provide excellent insulation and retain 18% more heat than conventional roofs.

· Cooling – The temperature of a conventional roof membrane on a 95º F day can rise up to 158° F. The temperature of a green roof on the same day is about 77° F. A cooler roof means lower cooling costs in the summer.

· Structure – Because of their weight, green roofs require more demanding structural standards than regular roofs. Depending on your house, roof, and the type of vegetation you plan to install, structural reinforcements may be needed. Choose a quality service provider who will inspect your home properly before installing a green roof. Check your local listings or visit the Green Pages at for a list of reputable green roof installers.


…to you

· Grass, shrubbery, and flowers obviously make vegetated roofs more aesthetically pleasing; and if your home is a little bare when it comes to front yard space, a green roof is a great way to show off your gardening skills.

· Studies show that visual and physical contact with natural greenery provides both mental and physical health benefits such as: lower blood-pressure, lower heart rate, reduced stress or mental fatigue, assistance in quicker recovery from physical illness, and they provide long-term overall improvement in health. The health advantages of vegetated roofs are beginning to grow on many hospitals and health facilities, who are installing them for the benefit of recovering patients. For more information on studies regarding the health benefits of green surroundings visit

…to your wallet

· A 2006 study by the University of Michigan comparing expected costs of conventional and green roofs revealed that, on average, installing a green roof costs about $22.10/sq. ft. versus $15.95/sq. ft. for a conventional roof. In its life, however, the green roof saves over $200,000 with two-thirds of that coming from reduced energy needs. Taking into consideration the added savings, the average cost of this topnotch turf would be about $12.57/sq. ft. – meaning you could save $3.38/sq. ft. by choosing a green roof.

…to the earth

· Green roofs are able to make much better use of rainwater than conventional roofs. A green roof can capture precipitation and influence it in 3 ways:

1) Taken up by the plants

2) Absorbed into pore spaces

3) Stored and retained by the drainage system of the roof

If the water is not absorbed by the vegetation, it is stored in other layers of the roof, and can be released back into the atmosphere rather than simply running off into a drainage system. Basically, green roofs reduce the amount of water that is wasted when it ends up in drainage systems.

· Lowering air-conditioning demand decreases the associated air pollution and greenhouse emissions. The vegetation can also remove air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions through dry deposition and carbon sequestration and storage. According to one website, a square foot of vegetation absorbs about 0.33 ounces of air pollution per year, so a mere 1,500 sq./ft. vegetated roof could absorb over 40 pounds of air pollution each year and almost 2,000 pounds in its lifetime. The impact of green roofs on large commercial buildings is obviously even greater.

Getting Started

green-roof-1· The first step to installing a green roof is contacting a roofing specialist or architect to ensure your roof is sufficiently structurally sound. Use this link to guide you in selecting the proper professional: “What to Ask Your Contractor” .

Further Reading

Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls by Nigel Dunnett and Noel Kingsbury

Solar Myths Revealed

Busting Solar Myths

Only a few Earth Days ago, people felt there was relatively little they could do to combat climate change. But today more and more homeowners are finding their slice of energy independence by installing solar energy at home. This Earth Day, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is celebrating by busting the top five myths about solar power.

Myth #1: “Solar is beyond my budget!”

Lyndon Rive: Solar has never been more affordable, and a solar roof can cut the typical household’s electric bill in half. Moreover, federal, state and city governments are offering unprecedented incentives for homeowners to go solar. Today an investment in solar typically delivers greater than 10 percent annual return over its 30-year lifetime. Now that’s a solid investment no matter what shape the economy is in!

Myth #2: “I will lose power when the sun goes down.”

Lyndon Rive: Because you’re still connected to the grid, you won’t have any problem keeping the lights on at night. A solar roof will dramatically reduce your electric bill by turning abundant sunlight into clean power during the day, when electricity rates are highest. When the sun goes down, you draw energy from the utility grid at low, night-time rates.

Myth #3: “It’s too much of a hassle.”

Lyndon Rive: Homeowners should look for an established solar installer that puts special emphasis on simplifying the process for going solar. A good solar installer will take care of all the red tape and guide you through the entire process.

Myth #4: “But these panels will look terrible on my beautiful roof!”

Lyndon Rive
: Solar roofs have come a long way in both appearance and performance. The exposed steel frames and black checkerboard panels are out. These days it’s all about sleek, ultra-thin, reflective-black panels that lay flat against the roof surface.

Myth #5: “I’m only one person with one roof. How can I do anything to stop global climate change?”

Lyndon Rive
: By going solar, you will be saving money while joining a broad movement fighting climate change. We estimate that over the next 15 years, each solar roof on a typical 3-bedroom home will remove approximately 82,000 lbs of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – equivalent to driving an average car 100,000 miles. And with the typical household saving thousands of dollars on the electric bill over the years, that’s money that can go into the bank, toward your kid’s college tuition, or toward that much-needed family vacation.

Interested in learning more about Solar? Visit Sierra Club Green Home’s Solar Center or click to request a free home solar installation quote.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Green Pictures

Picture Perfect…

Tips on how to preserve your keepsakes in a more eco-friendly way.

pictureFor decades photos have been the best way for people to preserve and share life experiences with loved ones and posterity. A quick snapshot can allow you to create a memory that lasts a lifetime. If you’re an eco-conscious person, however, the last thing you want is to create an environmental impact that also lasts a lifetime. Photo paper and photo albums are usually made of non-recycled paper, plastic, and tons of toxins. The plastic in photo albums actually contains photovoltaic compounds (PVCs) which are toxic can and even ruin pictures over time. With just a few eco-conscious and creative choices you can make less of an impact without compromising your precious memories!


Top Tips

  • Go digital. Instant-print photos and disposable cameras are so last millennium! Get with the times; this is the digital age. Digital cameras allow you to take as many pictures as you want without having to develop all of them. You can delete the ones you don’t like, which saves tons of unwanted pictures from being printed that you would end up throwing out anyway.

  • Another wonderful thing about digital cameras is that you never even have to print pictures. You can store them in your computer, e-mail them, and post them on social sites for friends and family to see without ever having to waste a single piece of non-recyclable photo paper…not to mention the money you’ll save!

  • Look before you print. It’s often nice to print out hard copies of pictures, especially those of special occasions like birthdays, wedding, etc. Just make sure you look through the digital copies of the pictures on your computer before developing them. It will save you money on pictures you don’t like as well as unwanted photos ending up in landfills.

  • picture2Photo albums. Photo albums are a fantastic way to keep all of your pictures organized and in tact. Most photo albums, however, are extremely wasteful…I’m sure you’re familiar with those sticky plastic photo “protectors”? Unfortunately, the PVCs in the plastic will actually ruin the photos over time and turn them yellow. There are several options for photo albums made of natural and sustainable material like bamboo, banana leaves, pressed leaves and seeds, and even elephant poop! Many companies are now making odorless albums, stationary, and journals out of this extremely sustainable material. Why cut down a tree and use toxins when you can get a beautiful, ornate handmade album made from natural, renewable sources?

  • picture3Picture frames. There are many creative options for picture frames that allow you to display your memories without having to contribute more waste. There are frames made of materials like used bike chains, recycled wood, recycled magazine, and yes…elephant poop!

  • Solar-powered digital picture frames are a great way to display lots of different photos using one device, and you don’t even have to print a picture!

  • Scrapbooking. Scrapbooking has become increasingly popular within the last few years. It’s a great way to preserve pictures, but it can be exceedingly wasteful. If you scrapbook, try to buy as many recycled materials as possible. Use as much product as you can to reduce waste, and recycle any scraps.

  • Buy your materials in bulk to reduce packaging waste, and make sure any stickers, adhesives, etc are non-toxic.



…to you

  • Using a digital camera makes it easier for you to share pictures online and keep in touch with friends and family. It also helps you choose only the photos you like so you can print only the best of the best to preserve as keepsakes!

…to your wallet

  • Purchasing a digital camera may seem costly upfront, but think about how much money is wasted every time you throw away a picture that didn’t turn out or that you simply didn’t like. Printing unwanted pictures and disposable photos wastes so much money, and digitally picking and printing your pictures allows you to print only your favorite photos for less money.

…to the earth

  • Printing unwanted pictures wastes paper, the chemicals to print the pictures, and the energy required to develop them. Simply by printing only the pictures you need or really want, you are reducing energy used as well your impact on the environment.

  • Can you imagine how much waste is created by continually buying and throwing away disposable cameras? A reusable camera – especially a digital camera – that is durable can be used for years and years and then recycled at the end of usable life.

  • Choosing natural products reduces the amount of PVCs and other toxic chemicals used that can be harmful to your health.

  • Purchasing albums made of natural, organic renewable materials is not only ornate and original, it is much more sustainable. It reduces the amount of trees that are cut down to be used as new material. Materials like bamboo, leaves, and other materials grow and replace themselves much quicker than full-grown trees that are chopped down, so you will be purchasing products with far less of an impact than generic products bought in most stores.


Further Reading


50 Green Gadgets

Home Recycling Advice

Photo Credits



Eclectic Gallery

10 Green Trends for 2010

2010’s 10 Green Trends for the Home

SCGH LogoHere are the top 10 trends in green building for 2010 and beyond, according to research by The Earth Advantage Institute, a nonprofit green building organization:

1. Smart grid for the home

A smart grid allows electricity suppliers and customers to monitor and control their home energy footprint. With the development of web-based display panels that show total energy usage in a home, homeowners will be more conscious of and hopefully change the way they use energy.

2. Energy labeling

Accurate energy ratings for homes will be more important this year than before, as homeowners become more concerned with saving energy. Energy labeling will differentiate homes from each other, add monetary value, and alert homeowners about energy improvements need to be made.

3. BIM software

Building information modeling software is a tool to create accurate, detailed building designs that increase efficiency and performance in the construction process. BIM software is currently being modified for use by homeowners and small building owners.

4. Approval from the financial community

This year it might be easier to finance and insure a green home as lenders and insurers see green homeowners as more responsible than regular homeowners. Those who own a green home are more likely to regularly invest in maintenance and less likely to miss payments.

5. Smaller-sized homes

Are huge mansions going extinct in the near future to make way for smaller, modest homes? Highly doubtful, but as energy prices and interest rates continue to rise and consumers become more price-sensitive, homeowners will be more interested in buying smaller homes or “right-sizing” to fit their needs.

6. Eco-Communities

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a neighborhood where everyone recycles, everything is in walking or cycling distance, and all homes have Energy Star appliances? Across the United States, sustainable communities are forming that are low-impact and green.

7. Water Conservation

Water is an important resource for homeowners, so much so that residential water use constitutes over half of the water publicly supplied in the US. The EPA’s WaterSense label, similar to the Energy Star label, is available for new homes that effectively reduce water usage by 20% compared to a standard home.

8. Carbon Calculation

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings account for about half the greenhouse gas emissions released in the U.S. To decrease the amount of carbon emissions produced, the green building industry is focusing on the materials and processes used to create buildings. Homeowners can estimate their home’s CO2 emission levels with a home carbon calculator.

9. Net Zero Buildings

Net zero buildings, usually smaller in size, generate more energy than they use in a year through eco-friendly features and onsite renewable energy sources.

10. Sustainable Building Education

As the green building industry continues to grow, professionals, including designers, architects, and insurance agents, outside the green industry will want to join in the action. There are many ways people can learn about sustainable building, including the Internet, classes, and even college programs.


…to your wallet

A green home not only saves you money in utility bills, but also is less subject to depreciation in the housing market over time.

…to the Earth

As more eco-friendly homes are built this year, energy and water consumption will decrease, and so will carbon emissions, leading to a greener world.

For more information

Earth Advantage Institute

SCGH’s CO2 Center

Graduate with Your Green Gown On

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Green to Go

Ways to stay green while dining out


organicmealYou may already carry your own reusable shopping bag to refrain from panic at the register as the cashier reaches for a plastic one. And if you have stopped going out to eat for fear of Styrofoam take-home boxes or eating all 5 courses to keep the plastic to-go bags away, fear no more. Green living covers almost every aspect of life, even ridding the need of those pesky containers.


Top Tips

  • Bring your own. When dining out, consider bringing your own BPA and lead free take-out containers and cutlery made of plant based materials (such as the starch based utensils bellow) or even a container of your own from home. Check your local stores for eco-friendly take-out containers or search online.

  • utensils2Other options. Before having your food packaged, ask for other containers besides Styrofoam ones. Chances are they may have biodegradable/compostable containers. If in San Francisco don’t bother asking, Styrofoam was banned almost two years ago.

  • Do as you must. In the case that you have to have something put away in a Styrofoam/plastic container; ask that extra napkins/plastic cutlery not be included as this just becomes more waste.

  • Drink up. When filling up your drink at the soda fountain avoid using a plastic lid or straw as this also just becomes waste.


Common Mistakes

  • Lies! If someone claims to have recyclable Styrofoam chances are they don’t; Styrofoam is not commonly recycled because it is very difficult to do so.

  • If plastic. If you do end up taking home a plastic container, check if it is recyclable and make sure that it gets recycled once you get home.



…to your health

Using BPA/lead free containers is safe to use as those components have been found to cause harm to normal human function.

…to your wallet

Sometimes bringing your own take-out containers can save you money. Some coffee shops offer discounts for those who bring their own coffee mugs.

…to the Earth

Fewer take-out containers leaving restaurants means fewer garbage in landfills and less harm to the environment, humans and animals.


Further Reading

Side Effect of Plastic: Aggressive Kids

Raising Healthy Children

Safe and Healthy Water Bottles and Other Containers

Bottles and Sippy Cups

The “Rubber Ducky” Chemical

Friday, January 8, 2010

Eco-Friendly Thanks

Eco-Friendly Thanks

DIY Ideas for green stationery, letters and more

lettersAs the holidays have come to an end and all of your presents have been received, it’s time to put ink to paper for a thank you card. Since 90% of American households purchase paper greeting cards, this time around consider these greener options for stationery and send your message with a low carbon footprint.

Top Tips

  • Make your own paper. Gather up various household fibers such as denim, other papers, and even plants. Rip your gathered materials into small pieces and mix in some warm water until it is about the consistency of pancake batter. After you have made the paper mixture, spread it over a framed screen or even a small strainer which can easily be made with an old window or door screen. Once it has been spread, squeeze any water out and then let it dry. For more detailed instructions just try a quick search online, or improvise- there is no wrong way.

  • Buy Green. Look for stationery made of recycled paper. Many paper card companies supply cards made of partially recycled paper to even 100% post-consumer content.

  • Not just junk in the trunk. Some paper card companies such as PooPooPaper actually make cards out of naturally dried elephant dung from elephant conservation parks. The paper is completely clean and safe for use and yes, odorless.

Other Considerations

  • The greenest alternative. What’s greener than recycled paper? Why, no paper at all. Consider sending an e-card instead of paper cards. Save money, and trees.

  • Signed, sealed, delivered. Try making your own envelopes out of paper found at home such as wrapping paper, magazine pages, newspaper or anything else you can think of. To seal it, use some candle wax.

Common Mistakes

  • Watch out for fraudulent emails from unnamed sources claiming to be an e-card. Recently phishing scams have been prevalent so if you receive an e-card without a specific name of someone you know, do not open it as it could contain a virus.


…to your wallet

Making your own stationery from materials you already have will save you money since you’re not buying more, just reusing.

…to the Earth

Reusing things you already have means fewer raw materials need to be made which means fewer carbon emissions in its manufacturing, fewer resources need to be used and less harm to you and the planet. Also, stationery usually comes in large packs which are most likely wrapped in plastic. The less you buy, the less plastic ends up in landfills.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's Greener than You Think Down Under

From Huffington Post

Jennifer Schwab, " I found the folks Down Under are ahead of us in a number of ways when it comes to going green. I stayed in the City Centre area of downtown, which is noticeably clean and tidy. Strange looking "Go Green" passenger-carrying bicycles with full canopies, kind of like the pedi-cabs in Central Park, periodically troll by. A natural gas powered fleet of city buses circulates regularly. Dual-flush toilets are very common in public places. Separate recycling containers are inconsistent but available. Apparently most residential neighborhoods are given three separate bins, for bottles and cans, compost, and regular trash. And unlike many U.S. downtowns, many building lights and signs are turned off at night to conserve power.

What's most impressive are the strict new rules - in an economy at least as compromised as ours - pertaining to energy efficient new construction. All homes must meet stringent energy efficiency standards to receive building permits; each home must also have a rainwater collection system which supplies the toilets. There seemed to be a high level of awareness and support for these policies, at least among the various citizens I encountered."

For the full article go to