Thursday, September 18, 2008


Much like Greenwashing where a company takes on the mantle of being "green" as a way of capitalizing on a trend (such as IKEA) I think of individuals who do so as "Greentaggers." You know them, they tote the latest in Green wear, their cars are hybrids, their homes "green", every word out of their mouths has something to do with being "green" or "organic" and "sustainable". They are currently employed in some "green" profession or they somehow manage to convert their occupation into being green. They are members of every green group and organization and they are up on all what it means to be green. They email every individual, they have links on all the appropriate networks to everyone and everything green and they are the PERFECT GREENIES.

Except when it comes to actually seeing them or hearing from them in anything remotely associated outside of a "social" network where they are labeled green you wonder just how green they are.

Part of being green is practicing what you preach. Yes that means participating in recycling, composting, energy efficiency or whatever you do to make the world and your life sustainable. But it also means community. It is stressed over and over again in almost all the green guides (and yes there are those) about building community and embracing the whole picture. Part of the movement includes corporations and businesses actively involved in larger community or volunteer activities. So in that respect I would expect to see my Greentagger friends at every event or at least volunteering at something even remotely connected to being "green"

For me that is becoming a Healthy Home Evaluator or Master Home Evaluator with the Lung Association. I also am participating in Green Jobs Now the Green Day on 9/27 encouraging those in less advantaged neighborhoods to participate in energy efficient lifestyles both for affordability and sustainability. Both of these are in line with my passion for education (I was a former teacher and still substitute to make ends meet - that may also double qualify me for further community activism) and for the goals of advocating green as affordable.

I do go to almost all my local society meet and greets, participate in the green social events on a monthly basis and try to make efforts to network and take courses in varying green educational programs. I have yet to see any Greentaggers there. How do I know they aren't.. believe me its a small community and you do see familiar faces over time and when someone is linking to you on varying sites you know them even when you don't so you would expect to see them.. but alas you don't.

Ah the life of a Greentagger is a busy one... responding to blogs, linking to networks and signing up for societies and groups takes time.. too much time to actually do or go to anything green.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Jolly Green Giant

I often find myself at odds with my fellow "greenies" as their is always a slight competitive edge of who is more "green." I have commented on this numerous times to the point even I get sick of it but again of all things this should be the least competitive of ideals, professions and concepts. But again in this world everything is at some level a competition.

Being an "expert" in any field is actually a tough challenge. I sure as hell have NO desire to be an expert in Green Build.. I will leave that to those who are passionate and committed. I would like to be an expert in my field of finding the appropriate trade offs and compromises in the Green Build arena that allows for accessibility, approachability and more importantly AFFORDABILITY for ALL... business or consumer.

I may have bitten a great deal of green with that mission or pledge but a girl has got to dream big to do big.

I had a "discussion" with another green consultant who felt I was slamming him for his elitism. That had not occurred to me but what I was saying that while having facts and figures and mandates are great it often puts the accessibility and affordability out of reach of the everyman... again the small business or individual who has an interest or inclination but then sees such things as ISO 3378 or LEED v2.2 and go "HUH?" And then they just give up or don't see the forest for the trees. My goal is take that and condense to reality. Those books for "Dummies" and "Idiots" exist for a reason but I would like to think no one is really a dummy or idiot when it comes to embracing a more sustainable and healthier life and world.

But if we don't bring the language to the people be it the top down or bottom up the message will become the possession of those who either have the money, the inclination or the understanding exclusively. As I have said before nothing I know is hidden or secret.. I just spend a great deal of time digesting it, looking at as much as I can and asking questions. That is my job and I do it with the idea to help those who simply cannot. Not because they are incapable but they have better things to do such as work on their lives or businesses making it difficult to keep apprised of all what is going on in the green community.

Do I think my colleague was an elitist.. no just someone overly sensitive to someone who doesn't drink the green kool aid in the same way and as a result like many of the committed cannot always see the green forest for the trees.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Green Eyed Lady Passions Lady

I thought a lot about this old song today when I was discussing with someone my plans for my "green" business. And in this case Green is the operative word. Going from a Partnership and different business model altogether was oddly freeing and yet the most scary thing one could do. Talk about being green.

I realized that having someone share your passion and enthusiasm is well a little hard to find. There are those who gravitate to you and others who are as repelled.

Passion for green build for me is not something I went into from either a monetary or in fact necessary hippie embrace inconvenient truth stage either. It just made sense. Some of it doesn't but that is why I am passionate about it. I see the trade offs and I have legitimate questions and concerns none of which daunt me. I keep searching for further knowledge with the belief that no one has ALL the answers but the hope that the questions will generate further knowledge and interest.

Green build is exciting and new and not new.. some of it is rooted in innovations over 30 years old.. not very "green" but definitely in the spirit of resource and energy conservation. And I would hope in that spirit we remain passionate about Green Build and its growth to the point all build is green build and that label becomes moot.

Being passionate is a good thing it brings about a thirst and quest for knowledge, innovation and more importantly change that benefits the greater good.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Making Green in the Economy off Green

I started Vida Verde initially as a Construction Company focusing on providing affordable and GREEN options for home remodeling. Well a few months in and not one client who even cared for or wanted green I changed my focus. I realized that no one was really helping and educating the Home Owner about Green products and what it means to go green. And while I found a lot of contractors who were excited and impassioned and about green build I also see some who used it to thwart competition and had no interest in sharing their knowledge only capitalizing on it.

Well as I have written many times I find it unethical to hold information that is beneficial for the greater good and I find that if anything the green movement is encouraging collaboration and cooperation as a means of furthering innovation and ultimately growing the use and ideals and in turn reducing costs. So I do not see myself benefiting from hoarding and withholding information I also see that my efforts of time and financial commitment should be of course compensated as there is nothing wrong with that.

I get a lot of people excited about my business but they seem to think of it as more a resource than a business. I think the idea of paying me to help them further their knowledge seems in contradiction to what I preach. Well attaining all this knowledge, building my skills takes immense amount of time and resources. Someone has to do it and if I can condense it down, bring it to an approachable level and help others grasp onto the ideas then I see nothing wrong in charging a service fee. And I try to keep those fees and charges in line with my mission to make Green affordable.

My fees are reasonable and posted on my website I have no reason to not disclose them as I have no agenda in hiding or charging different rates for different clients. I have one for Home Owners which is in line with what I charged hourly as a Contractor and another for Trade Professionals as my work with them is a little more specialized and tailored to their business needs. But certainly well within reach of one another.

And so when I am "networking" with other like minded professionals I would hope they would refer my services in the same manner as I do theirs... I am always careful when I have not personally utilized a service but if I find the individual representing the company to be a capable and qualified professional I have no hesitation to recommending them with the qualifier that I may not have used them but I think they are worthy of a look. I do not take monies or anything in exchange for that and if I was sent a bottle of wine I would not refuse it.. I am not a politician but it has no bearing on that professional recommendation. Their work is what interests me and if the feedback is good I will continue to refer those to them but I also have no problem in giving other names with similar services as that is also fair.

I truly question again the ethics of anyone who pays or accepts payment for referrals. It seems questionable and is not truly fair and level for those not willing to make the payment. I have seen our government officials being questioned for this similar behavior with regards to lobbyists and that should be no different in any field.

And it that vein while I am all about getting a good value, remember there is no such thing as a free lunch and you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Interesting Read on LEED

As we go into the decade where LEED has had significant input on the design and construction of commercial builds it is still in the nascent stages of home building. But there are issues and trade offs that relate to both types of construction and should be considered when you are pursuing that challenging and potentially expensive certification.

I found an article from an heating and engineering specialist who has issues with LEED, the link I will put at the bottom for those interested but I think he makes some good points that regardless of what type of build there is much testing, trade offs and issues to be resolved. Nothing is perfect and should be considered a work in progress.

Some points he makes..

A Better Way to Rate Green Buildings By Henry Gifford

LEED sets the standard for green buildings, but do green buildings actually save any energy?

However, exactly what is meant by “green” is not easily defined. The promotional materials for green buildings might list features such as recycled and or less toxic materials, water saving systems, and planted roofs. Energy saving technologies are usually included, which can include energy efficient appliances, lighting, and heating and cooling equipment. As the lists of features have gotten longer, and harder for consumers to sort out, rating systems have been developed.

Many green building rating systems exist in the US, and more are being created all the time, but the green building rating system that has come to dominate is the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED program, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED has probably contributed more to the current popularity of green buildings in the public’s eye than anything else. It is such a valuable selling point that it is featured prominently in advertisements for buildings that achieve it. LEED certified buildings make headlines, attract tenants1, and command higher prices.

..........For many years, the USGBC claimed that green buildings saved energy. But,
incredibly, the LEED certification process for new buildings does not require energy
use to be reported, or even kept track of So nobody knew until recently how much
energy LEED buildings used.

He goes on to say the study that finally measured LEED performance was not all encompassing and that the final results were not all perfect.

This shocking failure raises the question of what could go so wrong in buildings to produce results opposite to what so many people are trying to achieve.

Even the study commissioned by the USGBC admits that predictions are problematic when it says that “In other words, the accuracy of individual energy use predictions is very inconsistent.

He believes that measuring and holding buildings accountable long after the award is essential to maintaining integrity and earning their ratings.

There is only one realistic way to rate the energy efficiency of a building: by how much energy it actually uses after it is occupied. For any green building rating system to be truly effective it must require public scrutiny of utility bills for all rated buildings, not just a few selected examples. Any building or rating system that does not make all energy use data public, and show substantial savings relative to comparable buildings, does not deserve to be called environmentally friendly, regardless of how many supposed “green” features are included.

It was already noted here in the local paper about our current city office using more energy than the previous building so it has to be of some concern that if this program is to encourage energy efficiency than monitoring it and upholding that commitment should be done and if not lose the rating.

Perhaps I am being extreme and while I think Henry Gifford makes valid arguments and points I do not want the spirit lost by those who think that this is folly and is not a valid construction process worthy of pursuing.

But as in anything we have much to learn and if we are going to grow we must put in systems,checks, balances and adequate testing to make sure we are doing things that work as well as they should.