Recycle Revolution – More Than Meets the Eye

Our cohort group made our way to Dallas on Wednesday night for a tour of Recycle Revolution.  What a stark contrast to Tuesday night’s tour of BRIT! Compared to the $70,000,000 LEED Platinum building that demonstrates the best that money can buy related to sustainability, Recycle Revolution is a humble start-up. The mission of Recycle Revolution is to “foster a culture of recycling in North Texas, provide outstanding service to businesses that care, and use our success to rally for the causes of good neighborhoodship and environmental awareness.” The company was founded in the spring of 2008 and serves the entire North Texas area, but most of their business is located in Dallas. They service commercial properties and some apartments/condos because these properties do not have services through the city.

Eddie Lott, Founder and Executive Director, led our tour of the facility and described the process for receiving and sorting the materials as well as the recycling process in general.  Maria Lott, Director of Growth & Customer Experience, was also present and helped with the tour. The recycle items that they accept are: paper, plastic, aluminum and tin, cardboard, glass, e-waste, light bulbs & fixtures, styrofoam, batteries, organics and more. The services they provide are: collection, project management, LEED and zero waste, material recovery and community drop-off. One of the most poignant statements that Eddie made during the tour was the fact that people are disconnected from their waste and never seem to think about where their stuff goes when they throw it away. Connecting people to their trash through education might help convince more people to recycle and might even factor into their decision to purchase some items.

Eddie is a passionate and energetic ecopreneur who has a strong desire to operate an environmentally friendly business within a local community.  He chose Deep Ellum for the location of Recycle Revolution because of the progressive initiatives that are taking place there. See deepellumfoundation.org for more information about the efforts underway in the neighborhood.  Even though the LLC is in its first years of business, they are already thinking of ways of expanding. The company is joining forces with like-minded businesses in the Lake Highlands community to form an eco coop that will offer a variety of sustainable services for the community.  See http://greensourcedfw.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=4ca9128333a24b7ae824429fc&id=16fce977e2&e=fdde0fcc9a for more information.

Source: Photos and charts from http://www.recyclerevolutiondallas.com

 

 

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A Visit to the BRIT

On Tuesday, January 10, our cohort group traveled to the Botanical Research Institute of Texas located at 1700 University Drive in Fort Worth.  BRIT is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1991.  They opened their new, LEED Platinum, facility in February of 2011.  The cost of the capital campaign was $70,000,000. The facility is one of eight LEED Platinum buildings in Texas at this time. It has a variety of sustainable features such as; solar panels, a living roof, bioswales in the parking lot to reduce storm water runoff (see ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/MT/www/technical/water/Bioswale.pdf for more information), wool carpet, pocket prairies, native Texas landscaping, water catchment, dual flush toilets, natural lighting, and geothermal units.

According to BRIT’s website, its mission is “to conserve our natural heritage by deepening our natural heritage by deepening our knowledge of the plant world and achieving public understanding of the value plants bring to life.” (See http://www.brit.org/about)

What I found most impressive about this tour is how the facility provides a tangible example of sustainability.  It is an educational facility that is open to the public and features a wide variety of initiatives that citizens, institutions, and businesses can replicate. From a botanical perspective, BRIT’s research of plant species and especially their work with reintroduction of the Fort Worth Prairie Barrens and mid-grass prairies is so important for preserving our native ecosystems.  With the increasing scarcity of water, native landscaping will be critical in minimizing water use for irrigation.

Education is key to BRIT and I’m happy to learn that they have a number of programs for children and professional development for teachers. The Teacher Resource Center has teaching guides, lesson plans and science kits that teachers can borrow for a small deposit and use in their classroom.  BRIT also offers educational tours of the facility.  Schools can visit for $8 per child.  A tour of BRIT, combined with a tour of the Botanic Gardens, would be a wonderful field trip for any age of student and one that I will recommend at my school.

Data and photos from: http://www.brit.org

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Sustainable Saturday in Tarrant County

The Dallas/Fort Worth sustainability tour continued this Saturday in Tarrant County.  We began the day “at home” where we had the opportunity to listen to two guest speakers, and then we hit the road for some wonderful tours.

Our first speaker was Mr. Jim Johnson, Director for Downtown Fort Worth Inc. Mr. Johnson posed a relevant question. How do public policies encourage and support sustainability? We discussed a number of examples such as transportation, zoning, and building codes.  I learned that TIFs are Tax Increment Finance Systems and PIDs are Public Improvement Districts.  Based on the conversation between Mr. Johnson and my fellow cohorts who have experience with city planning and operations, it seems that public policy that promotes sustainability can be a difficult and slow process.  There appears to be so many conflicting interests in public policy and I wonder how anything significant gets accomplished at times.  One thing is for certain, I believe that those involved in public policy must have strong diplomatic and negotiation skills in order to reach consensus on these important topics. As a citizen, I’m also painfully aware of my shortcomings. If I want to see change in my community, I need to be more engaged in the process – even it is messy sometimes. I look forward to reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities that was recommended.  I’m also curious about the website, www.walkscore.com to find learn about the walkability of my community.

The next speaker was Mr. Jackson Murphy, MBA, LEED AP who spoke to us about the economics of green buildings.  We had the pleasure of listening to Mr. Jackson during our introduction class, but I found that his discussion this time made much more sense now that I’m further along in the program.  I enjoyed the entire presentation, but the following points stand out:

  • Green building provides the same service as traditional buildings but uses as few resources as possible – not just in design but also in use, maintenance, and the full life cycle.
  • Green buildings can reduce energy use from 24 – 50%, CO2 emissions by 33 – 39%, water use by 40% and solid waste by 70%.
  • Social Investment Forum estimates indicate that there are approximately 3 trillion dollars worth of investments today that focus on environmental, social and governance and those numbers are growing.
  • As of September 2011, LEED had certified 1.8 billion sq. ft. of properties and is certifying approximately 1 million sq. ft. per day.
  • The advantage of green buildings are: lower operating costs, improved indoor air quality, increased value, reduced liability, improved risk management, enhanced productivity, enhanced recruitment and retention, reduced absenteeism, governmental incentives, and reduced demand on electric grid and water utility.
  • 98% of Generation Y want to work in a green office or company.
  • According to USGBC, the green premium is 3.8%. See www.gbig.org.

Based on the information presented, commercial green building is gaining momentum and this gives me great hope for the future.  I’m proud to know that the Dallas/Fort Worth area is leading the way in green building in Texas. I wonder if there will soon come a time when all public schools will be green schools?  I can only hope so, as it will make such a difference for children – and teachers!

After our speakers, we began the travel portion of our day.  Thanks to our fellow cohort, Jeff, we were able to tour the City of Bedford Public Library.  I’ve driven by the library on several occasions, but had no idea how many sustainable features were incorporated into the construction of the library in the old Food Lion building.

Library Manager, Maria Redburn, led our tour and gave a comprehensive overview of the entire project from start to finish.  As Ms. Redburn began her talk, she confided that when she began the process of constructing a new library, she was skeptical about green building because she felt that it would be cost prohibitive.  She explained how, after attending a design institute for green libraries (see www.greenlibraries.org), she realized that there were resources and incentives that would allow provide the financial assistance needed. She says that she is now a supporter of green building because she can see how it makes sense financially, socially, and environmentally. Initial funds for the project were acquired through a Distributed Renewal Grant program.  More funds were obtained through a formula grant from the Department of Energy.  A 1.98 million dollar grant from the State Energy and Conservation Office paid for solar panels that are located on the roof. Some of the features of the library include:

  • Adaptive use building
  • Reflective white roof
  • Geothermal heat pump system
  • Water-saving fixtures and landscaping
  • Natural light
  • LED high-efficiency light fixtures
  • Motion sensors
  • Added wall and roof insulation
  • Solar panels

I believe that the City of Bedford should be very proud of their new library.  It is encouraging to see an adaptive use project that is serving the public!

Our final leg of the day’s tour was Rahr & Son’s Brewing Company.  The brewery is located in an old Coca Cola warehouse just south of in Fort Worth.  The readaptive use of the property and reuse of water for cooling and brewing are key sustainable features of the brewery.  The true value of this brewery seems to be in the social factor.  This brewery serves as a place where people from various social and economic backgrounds can come together and enjoy community.  I was very impressed with the volunteers who collect tickets, run the gift shop, and are committed to supporting this local business.  I think Rahr’s has a good thing going in Fort Worth!

Thanks, Amari Roskelly, for the photo!

Ode to Rahr & Sons Brewery

(To the tune of the Cheers theme song)

Making good beer sustainably takes more than just some hops.

Having a roof that won’t cave in sure does help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to drink some beer?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody stands in line.

And even some bring their own steins.

You wanna be where you can taste,

Beers with crazy names.

Your wanna be where everybody loves

Rahr’s name.

You wanna go where people know,

People are all the same.

You wanna go where everybody loves

Rahr’s name.

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Two Homes, Two Possibilities for Sustainable Living

On Thursday, January 5th, our cohort group had the opportunity to visit two very different green homes.  Both residences were Ferrier Custom Home projects and demonstrate creative sustainable solutions that can be implemented at different price levels.

    4232 Lovell, Fort Worth, Texas

  • Tankless Seisco water heater
  • Icynene spray foam insulation in attic & wall cavities
  • Replace 100% windows with Maritech triple Low-E coating, Energy Star windows
  • Energy Star doors
  • Energy Star appliances
  • Restoring original hardwoods & door hardware
  • Removing & reusing lumbers, siding, etc.
  • All low or no VOC content paints, stains & adhesives
  • Open front porch back up to assist with ventilation & delay the use of AC
  • Daikin mini split AC system downstairs; Mitsubishi unit & blowers for upstairs
  • Programmable thermostats
  • PEX plumbing
  • Low flow showers, faucets & toilets
  • Energy Star lighting
  • Native landscaping
  • Donating unused items to Habit to Humanity (doors, plumbing & electrical fixtures)

The first home we visited was recently renovated.  The owner, Heather Ferrier, stated on the company website, “We want to use this project as a model of how green building & cost effectiveness can coexist, all the while restoring the original charm of this 1938 home. 
” Heather and her husband had a budget and the final cost of the project was approximately $80,000 plus the purchase of the property.   Heather explained that their approach to the remodel was to determine what was most important, deduct the cost from the budget, and work their way down the list of priorities.  When asked about appraisals of this type of project, she mentioned that some appraisers are not familiar with green building and that it is important to educate the appraiser on features that they might not be familiar with.

The feature that most stood out to me on this property was the Daikin mini split AC unit.  I have never seen one of these systems in a home and it seems to be a cost-effective and simple way to heat and cool the home. This link describes the system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCbmuyUXDqg&feature=player_detailpage

 I especially liked visiting this home, because I agree that existing homes can benefit from green remodels that will lower energy bills, improve indoor air quality, and help reduce carbon emissions.  I’m looking forward to my own green remodel and hope to be able to use Ferrier Builders on my project. I’m happy to know that I will be able to do an affordable remodel that meets my financial bottom line and helps the planet!

Source: http://ferriercustomhomes.com

 

718 N. Bailey, Fort Worth, Texas

  • Passive solar design
  • Infill lot
  • Designed home around existing trees
  • Spray foam insulation in walls & roof
  • Reflective TPO roof on house, galvalume metal roof on garage
  • Low-E Hurd windows
  • All low or no VOC paints, stains & adhesives
  • On site recycling of construction debris (scrap lumber & sheetrock ground into landscaping mulch)
  • Ductless Mitsubishi AC with mini-split LG wall units
  • Programmable thermostats
  • PEX plumbing
  • Low flow toilets & shower heads
  • ENERGY STAR appliances
  • Tankless water heater
  • Native landscaping
  • Non-toxic pest control
  • Detached garage

The second home that we visited was a modern new construction infill project that was completed in 2010. Charlotte and Thomas De La Pena were gracious hosts as we asked a number of questions regarding all phases of their construction. The 1730 square foot home was built for approximately $150 sq. ft. and the lot was purchased for 110,000.  The price of this new home might be cost prohibitive for many couples, but the couple now has a healthy, energy-efficient home that will be perfect for starting a family.  Thomas indicated that their average utility bill is $65 monthly. The savings is due to the many energy-efficient features of the home.  Charlotte mentioned that they went with a TPO roof that reflects sunlight.  I had never heard of TPO roofs, but a quick search on the Internet provided the information I was seeking.  Thermoplastic polyolefin roofing membrane is white. It is particularly popular in southern states where its reflective properties reduce energy costs. When a fellow cohort inquired about the possibility of the flat roof leaking, Charlotte stated that the installation and design of the system prohibits leaking.

Source: What Is TPO Roofing? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_5631174_tpo-roofing_.html#ixzz1iuqM1094

It was a privilege to visit these homes and meet the owners. I’m encouraged that there are builders like Ferrier who are committed to green homes that address the triple bottom line and I’m even more pleased that young professional couples are embracing green building.

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Sustainable Initiatives at D/FW

On Tuesday night, the UTA Sustainability Cohort group began our local wintermester tour at D/FW.  Our first speaker was Mr. Jerry Burbridge who works the Department of Homeland Security in the Customs and Border Patrol division. He has worked for a number of years as a Leasing and Construction Project Manager. His discussion was focused on real estate and LEED issues. There were a number of concepts and terms that Mr. Burbridge mentioned that I am unfamiliar with at this time.  I’m looking forward to learning more about life cycle costing, environmental site assessments, and safety material data sheets in future classes.

As I review my notes I notice that Mr. Burbridge mentioned 7 categories of LEED certification and I am wondering how they relate to my current teaching profession, personal life, and my future career plans.  The categories that he mentioned are:

  1. Sustainable Sites
  2. Water Efficiency
  3. Energy & Atmosphere
  4. Materials & Resources
  5. Indoor Environmental Quality
  6. Innovation & Design
  7. Regional Priorities

These categories illuminate the challenges we face in our aging public schools.  I’ve long believed that every building (public and private) should be carefully constructed and maintained for the health and well being of humans and the environment.  When Mr. Burbridge first asked us about our interest in LEED for our upcoming Maymester, I responded that I wasn’t really that interested in pursuing the topic in great depth.  Now that I’ve had time to consider the information, I look forward to learning more about LEED certification, as the built environment is critical to sustainability.

Our next speaker was Mr. Rusty Hodapp, P.E., CEM, LEED AP who is the Vice President and Sustainability for Energy and Transportation Management at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Mr. Hodapp provided us with an overview of operations and sustainability initiatives at D/FW. The airport is joint owned by Dallas and Fort Worth and employs approximately 300,000 people (based on 2005 data). There are 19 passenger carriers and 14 cargo carriers. It is the second lowest cost hub in the United States.

The tag line for D/FW’s sustainability initiatives is “Trusted with Tomorrow”.  Focusing on the triple bottom line, there are programs for health and wellness for employees, energy efficiency and renewable energy, supplier diversity, and much more.  D/FW is guided by these Principles in Sustainability:

  • Systems Thinking
  • Top to Bottom Engagement
  • Integrated Management
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Life Cycle Analysis
  • Community Partnerships

Based on data presented in the presentation, it is clear that the Terminal Renewal and Improvement Project will be a great success when it is completed. The airport’s efficiency is improving and it is impressive to see what is possible in sustainability when leadership is committed to making changes. As I reflect on the visit to D/FW, I have only one concern. How sustainable is air travel? Can the efforts made at airports offset the emissions from all of the planes in the air? A report titled “Sustainable Education: Future Air Transportation and the Environment” provided some interesting facts that lead me to believe that it might be wise to consider limiting travel, or at least purchase carbon offsets, if travel is necessary or desired.

Source: Kroo, Ilan (2008, May). Sustainable Education: Future Air Transportation and the Environment. Retrieved Janaury 7, 2011, from http://aa.stanford.edu/events/50thAnniversary/media/Kroo.pdf

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A Crash Course in Composting and Composting Q&A’s

While there are many variations on composting the basic approach is quite simple. All composting ingredients usually fall into the categories of “browns” or “greens”.   Browns are dry materials like wood chips, dried leaves, grass, and other plants.  Greens are fresh, moist materials like grass cuttings and food scraps (no meats, fats, or grease allowed!) To make compost complete the following steps:

  1. Collect as many browns and greens as you can and start a pile.  Larger piles hold moisture better and decompose faster.
  2. Place equal amounts of browns and greens in a heap, bin, or container. Always cover food scraps with other materials to keep pests away and reduce odor.
  3. Soak well with water to create even dampness (damp like a wrung-out sponge is what you are after). cover pile with tarp or other material to keep moisture in and prevent oversoaking from rain.

For quicker composting (1-3) months:

  • Chop materials into smaller pieces and moisten.
  • Alternate 3″ to 6″ layers of greens and browns.
  • Mix the pile by turning and stirring.
  • Soak the pile once a week.

Troubleshooting:

  • Odors? Turn and add brown materials.
  • Dry pile? Add water, greens and mix.
  • Fruit flies? Stir and add leaves or grass.

 

Composting Q & A’s

What is composting? Composting is the natural process of decomposition and recycling of organic material into a humus-rich soil amendment known as compost.

Is composting considered recycling? Yes. Composting is nature’s way of recycling.

Are yard clippings waste? No. Grass, leaves, food scraps, and paper towels are organic materials that can and should be converted into compost.

How does compost benefit the soil? Compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration. it increases its water-holding capacity, loosens clay soil, and helps sandy soils retain water. Adding compost to soil aids in erosion control, promotes soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development in plants. Plants grown in compost-rich soils are stronger and more resistant to disease and insects.

Can compost replace petroleum-based fertilizers? Yes. Generous amounts of rich compost can supply the nutrients needed for healthy plant growth. In addition to compost, planting green cover crops such as clover or vetch can significantly boost nitrogen levels in the soil.

Do I need a bin to make compost? No. Compost can be made in open piles. Bins do help keep piles neat, retain heat and moisture and are more appropriate for many urban situations.

Source:

Harmonious Technologies (1997) Backyard Composting. Sebastopol: Harmonious Press

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Residential Energy Management Systems

With the rising costs of energy, some homeowners are installing energy monitoring and management systems in an effort to reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills.  These systems provide feedback that homeowners can use to maximize a house’s energy and resource efficiency, and help their homes live up to performance expectations. Some manufacturers are adding even more advanced features that will help them monitor and control the sources and use of resources.

 The most basic level, energy monitors provide a simple readout of the total amount of energy the home is using, often by attaching a sensor to the electric meter that sends a wireless signal to the in-home display. The monitors may show the dollar cost of the electricity based on electric rates that the user enters or may let users monitor energy usage by day or time. This type of systems is known as “direct feedback”.  In a 2006 report, “The Effectiveness of Feedback on Energy Consumption” for the University of Oxford, Sarah Darby wrote, “Estimates show that utilization of such devices can yield between 5% – 15%”.

Homeowners who desire greater feedback, or who wish to fine tune their energy savings can install systems such as Agilewaves and EcoView which provide specific information on gas and water use as well as electric loads for rooms or floors in a home.  Other options include  home control systems and intelligent HVAC controllers that not only monitor the energy a system uses, but also control settings based on occupancy, temperatures, or the cost of energy at a given time.

Homeowners can now operate and manage control and monitoring systems in a variety of formats, from the traditional wall-mounted touchscreen to a web application to mobile phones or devices. Most companies offer e-mail or text alerts when certain energy or carbon footprint thresholds are met and can automatically take action, such as setting back the temperature, to decrease the load.

The return on investment for the a number of  these devices is still an obstacle for some home owners.  Prices range from $500 for basic feedback systems to several thousand dollars for a full home control system. According to Eric Smith, chief technology officer of Control4, payback at current energy prices is six to eight years though he adds, “the company is working on a basic package that would cost less than $250”. Agilewaves’ typical whole-house gas and electric monitoring system with details on seven circuits retails for $7,500, and prices can range higher or lower depending on capabilities.

Note: One of this year’s MacArthur Foundation Fellows (Genius Award) recipient is Shwetak Patel, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. His work as centered primarily on development of low-cost and easy to deploy devices to measure energy and consumption without expensive instruments. To learn more about his work click the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv_D3YauYPE&feature=player_embedded

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