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Green is a Design Issue On a Lot of Levels
And don't forget the source and amount of energy used to run our homes and workplaces.
Design in the IT industry is leading the way with new approaches to “life cycle” design. Not only do electronic device designers look at how they can reduce the number and toxicity of materials they spec for a product, they look at packaging, the ease of transporting, how they can refurbish the equipment, and how they can recycle what is left at the end of the product’s useful life. Yes, design, has just gotten much more complex.
And that is why today’s high performance products might cost more during the early days of the product life cycle. R&D costs are higher and product life cycle is shorter – so costs have to be recuped more rapidly. The computer industry is just one among several that is making giant strides in innovation of greater productivity and lighter impact on limited resources.
Paper & WoodReduce, Reuse, Recycle – those staples of the environmental movement all apply to paper and wood.
We all use paper. The paperless office, needless to say, hasn’t happened. With desktop printers, we’re using more paper than ever! But we can reduce the impact of our paper usage on our natural forest systems that clean our air, filter our water, and provide habitat for biodiversity when we use “recycled content, non-bleached paper, and paper made with recycled water and alternative energy. The process matters as much as the final product!
New Leaf Paper, which sells non-bleach paper made from post-consumer waste and non-wood fibers, is proving that you can catalyze a major shift in a supplier industry without a huge amount of capital by being a smart partner in the supply chain. New Leaf owns no mills, but works cooperatively with producers. The company has also worked with nonprofits, publishers, and printers to create the demand for recycled paper. As a result, more mills now produce clean, bright, post-consumer papers.
In 2003, a tipping point in demand was reached when enough large companies joined the collaboration to create demand for recycled paper – and the movement took off. A collaboration of a nonprofit, New Leaf as a merchant/distributor, paper mills and publishers. The nonprofit organization led with a carrots only collaborative approach. Buying paper and wood products with a “FSC” certification is a vote for sustainable forestry around the world. This non-profit organization inspects forests, logging processes, even building supply and printer facilities to ensure good stewardship and sustainability.
The US Forest Stewardship Council website includes a directory of FSC certified producers: www.fscus.org
Greener Appliances and EquipmentThe EPA has found that its Energy Star system, which rates products on their energy efficiency, has made it easy for consumers to do the math on costs and savings, giving them an incentive to buy more environmentally responsible products. It has thereby stimulated the design of new, more energy efficient products on the part of producers.
Homeowners, property owners and businesses can significantly cut their own energy costs…as well as overall energy consumption when they upgrade old appliances with Energy Star rated replacements. The Energy Star program started in the 1970s, and continues to add new categories of products to their rating system.
Just look for the Energy Star logo to save from 10% to 50% on your future energy costs. Some of the Energy Star product categories include:
Online Energy Star Directory and Other Resources: http://www.energystar.gov/
Greener BuildingsBuilding supply niches are another innovative frontier. With recycled content, computer monitoring and control, built-in energy conservation and generation capabilities – a roof tile is not your grandfather’s model. Green building is catching on in the architectural world as these visionary creators of our built environment realize their profession’s role in the infrastructure that consumes 40% of our energy consumption! They are collaborating with interior designers, landscapers, equipment manufacturers and supply chains to move the very traditional building industry into a new phase of lean and green construction and retrofitting.
The US Green Building Coalition (USGBC) is an industry coalition of these building professionals who have created a standard rating system by which all products and strategies can be woven together in a LEED rating (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Only 2% of buildings are currently being built to LEED standards, but with the federal, state and local governments mandating green construction, the movement toward higher performance, lower-impact buildings is growing rapidly.
National benchmark LEED programs are being developed to green Neighborhood Development, Existing Buildings, Schools, New Construction, and Commercial Interiors.
More information about USGBC’s LEED programs: http://www.usgbc.org