Friday, October 29, 2010

Solar Power Going Going Gone

There is good news on the Solar Energy front a long awaited solar project in California is going ahead. There a few more slated for build in both California and Arizona by the end of the year. This is the first plants in over 20 years.

But they also may be the last as we have no idea what the future brings with regards to the industry, green jobs and clean energy as the GOP prepare for Defecit 2010 a plan to cut massive social fundings and programs in an attempt to reduce the federal defecit.

In another article the Times also points out that Wind power is on a decline. Despite the current Obama Administration's losing restrictions on green energy projects without funding and governmental support this is all for naught. And irony that somewhere along the way is the notion that all of this will get taken care of by the "free market." I don't know what market you shop at but nothing at mine is free.

When politics is all that matters at the sake of country of people of future there is little energy left for anything else.


Solar Power Projects Face Potential HurdlesBy TODD WOODY
Published: October 28, 2010

NIPTON, Calif. — The long-promised solar building boom in the desert Southwest is finally under way. Here in the Mojave Desert, a dice throw away from the Nevada border, giant road graders and a small army of laborers began turning the dirt for BrightSource Energy’s $2 billion Ivanpah project, the first large-scale solar thermal power plant to be built in the United States in two decades.

The Ivanpah plant is the first of nine multibillion-dollar solar farms in California and Arizona that are expected to begin construction before the end of the year as developers race to qualify for tens of billions of dollars in federal grants and loan guarantees that are about to expire. The new plants will generate nearly 4,000 megawatts of electricity if built — enough to power three million homes.

But this first wave may very well be the last for a long time, according to industry executives. Without continued government incentives that vastly reduce the risks to investors, solar companies planning another dozen or so plants say they may not be able to raise enough capital to proceed.
I think we’re going to see a burst of projects over the next two months and then you’re going to hear the sounds of silence for quite a while,” said David Crane, chief executive of NRG Energy, on Wednesday after he announced that his company would invest $300 million in the Ivanpah plant.

Solar developers depend on two federal programs to make their projects financially viable. The most crucial is a loan guarantee program, expiring next September, that allows them to borrow money on favorable terms to finance up to 80 percent of construction costs.

The other is the option to take a 30 percent tax credit in the form of a cash payment once a project is built. Although the tax credit does not expire until the end of 2016, the option to take it as a cash payment disappears this year, making it far less valuable to a start-up company that is just beginning to generate revenue.

With both Democrats and Republicans promising to rein in the federal budget, it is unclear whether lawmakers will extend the programs in any form. “That could stall a number of projects and even lead to the failure of some,” said Ted Sullivan, an analyst with Lux Research, a consulting firm in New York.

Yet no one in the desert here wants to think too much about those looming clouds.

“Ivanpah represents a transformational moment in our energy equation,” said John Woolard, BrightSource’s chief executive, who was joined Wednesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at Ivanpah’s groundbreaking. “It demonstrates that the U.S. can lead in the drive for renewable energy at scale by building the largest solar plant in the world with new technology.”

The eight California projects that are expected to break ground this year will turn 46 square miles of the desert into a futuristic landscape of mirrors, towers and solar dishes. State officials estimate the plants will create 8,000 jobs in a state with a 12.4 percent unemployment rate.

During its three years of construction, Ivanpah will employ as many as 1,000 laborers in a recession-scarred region.

“In the last year, I haven’t worked,” said Basilio Yniguez, a 36-year-old pipefitter and father of seven, as he helped build a holding pen last week for threatened desert tortoises on the Ivanpah site. “Thanks to the green thing going up, I’m working.”

The state is supporting the industry in part by mandating that California utilities get a third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

“When you look at the raw number of kilowatt-hours we need, I don’t see how you get there without large central station solar projects,” said Pedro Pizarro, a top executive with Southern California Edison, one of the state’s largest utilities.

Unlike the photovoltaic panel systems found on rooftops, most of the new solar plants will use thousands of large mirrors to heat liquids to generate steam that drives conventional electricity-generating turbines.

“Without the Department of Energy coming in to assume a lot of the risk, you might not find lenders willing to lend, particularly if you’re a start-up with untried technology,” said Nathaniel Bullard, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Other hurdles also stand in the way of the solar expansion. For some plants, multibillion-dollar transmission lines must be built to carry electricity from the desert to cities
Some environmentalists continue to oppose the projects’ impact on imperiled wildlife, like the desert tortoise, and may sue to stop construction.

The competitiveness of large-scale solar thermal plants in California also depends on the cost of natural gas, the state’s dominant source of electricity. According to Mr. Bullard, gas-fueled plants can produce electricity for about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour. After including the government subsidies, solar thermal plants are expected to generate power at 13 to 17 cents a kilowatt-hour, which the industry says is close enough in price to be competitive.

So far, Ivanpah is the only California solar thermal project to win a government loan guarantee, although other projects have applied and are awaiting decisions from the Energy Department.

“We are sensitive to the deadlines and are doing everything we can so that these projects can move forward,” said Jonathan Silver, the executive director of the department’s loan program. “There’s a significant demand for these funds.”

The uncertainty has left even some of the licensed solar projects in limbo.

Tessera Solar, based in Houston, has received federal approval to build two solar power plants that together would generate nearly 1,400 megawatts from 54,900 large solar dishes installed on 10,000 acres of government land. The company is seeking loan guarantees to help finance more than $4.6 billion in construction costs.

“This is a very significant amount of funding to secure in these tough markets,” Janette Coates, a Tessera spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “The actual start of construction will depend on progress with both the D.O.E. loan guarantee process and the project equity process.”

Last month, Tessera suspended a much smaller project in Texas when it could not obtain private financing to build the 27-megawatt Marfa solar power plant.

Solar Millennium, a German developer, is seeking a $1.9 billion loan guarantee to build the first two phases of a 1,000-megawatt solar power plant that received federal approval on Monday.

Uwe T. Schmidt, chairman and chief executive of Solar Trust of America, Solar Millennium’s American division, said he expected work to begin in November on the $6 billion Blythe project, which will cover 11 square miles of the Southern California desert with long rows of parabolic mirrors.

Mr. Schmidt said that while Solar Millennium had found investors interested in financing the Blythe plant, the looming expiration of the cash grants would make it more difficult to finance future projects. “We’re seeing that the loan guarantee is an absolute necessity for building some of these larger projects,” he said.

Assisted by deep-pocketed backers like Bechtel, Google and Morgan Stanley, BrightSource seems determined to press forward with its 370-megawatt Ivanpah plant no matter what happens on the policy front.

Last week, 30 biologists in green hard hats were methodically sweeping through the creosote bushes looking for desert tortoises. The animals must be relocated before the first of 347,000 mirrors the size of garage doors are installed around three 459-foot towers topped by water-filled boilers.

“Good projects will still move forward, but just not as many,” said Mr. Woolard.

Cleaning Up Austin Style

I am right now finishing a project on the advantages of using Modular Carpet Tiles as a flooring choice for a multi purpose build.

I love the easy of replacement but they also require less maintenance and cleaning that standard broadloom carpet.

With that I was chatting about my old stomping ground Austin, TX and found the

The SteamTeam is a rather large carpet repair services Austin that offers a multitude of services and options for residential and commercial projects.

They also offer everything from upholstery cleaning, pet odor removal and duct cleaning services. They are a one stop shop.

The biggest service they offer is cleaning and restoration services in Austin. Having been a flood victim more than once I cannot tell you how essential it is to have a top notch experienced team to handle flood remediation. This is not a Do-it-yourself project.

Having quality team clean after a fire understanding cleaning soot damage Austin is essential. The SteamTeam of Austin is such a firm.

The SteamTeam is also offer commercial services including ceramic tile cleaning solutions Austin. Verstality and affordability are their motto.

Feel free to review their website and learn the ins and outs of what it means to have proper cleaning and restoration services in your home be it in Austin or elsewhere. With winter coming you may be glad you did.

**This is brought to you by The Steam Team - An Austin Original****

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coffee Break

I drink coffee and I live in Seattle does more need to be said?

I began to change my coffee habits a few years ago after living in San Francisco ironically. Mostly because I discovered Peet's a personal favorite over my regional roaster here Starbucks. I have nothing against Starbucks corporately but frankly I just don't like the over roasted quality of their brew. But they are working hard on furthering free trade and organics and as a leader in the industry that is a good thing.

But that coffee "awakening" led me to seek out what it means to buy local build global. When you support a local roaster they are building their business globally on my behalf by finding free trade, organic plantations, encouraging small farmers to develop a business and grow an industry. That is the best way to really build a global economy. Letting the people who live there develop what is indigenous to their climate, allow for open competitiveness without exploitation and mass production.

Today in the Sierra Club newsletter they had a few tips on how to make your coffee "green"

1. French Press. Nothing new here been around forever and there are no extra filters required. Less waste. Better taste.

2. Look to the Label. USDA Organic means no chemicals were used in the production of the coffee; Shade grown means trees were not cut down which protects wildlife; Rainforest Alliance Certified which encourages safe harvesting techniques.

3. BYOC. Bring your own cup or mug. There are tons of these available at a variety of prices. Vessel a local company here makes amazing designs and styles for your latte to go.

4. Use a kettle or microwave to heat the water. Avoid the stove for less energy use.

5. Compost those coffee grounds. Again even Apartment dwellers can compost and use on your house or deck plants or even the building or public landscaping will do. A little gardening with the earth is a good thing.

6. Drink tea. The manufacturing of tea actually uses less water.

For more interesting news and information. Sign up for Sierra Club newsletters.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

She's a Bitch, She's a Lover, She's a.....

So this is the "Year of the Woman" At this rate I am submitting for a sex change.

I am embarrassed to be part of a culture that believes equality is women acting as men, getting assaulted by men and all the while still making 81 cents to the dollar. Fantastic. Add to this the assault on our reproductive choices, the pressure to care take not only children but the growing aging population that is finding fewer social services available to assist them in this process and all while often supporting an entire family.

I have frequently thought that given the current GOP platform they would prefer us dead as to living as we of the last phase of boomers are an immense drain on resources they wish to cut.

As a woman I have become exhausted trying to defend my positions while simultaneously excusing my feminism as some latent product of another age. I make no apologies for being a woman who has for years found sexism to be annoying but only in the last few years did I actually find it destructive. And funny the hammer that seems to be levied the hardest is by women in the Republican party.

The Women of the GOP seem intent on avoiding women's issues and instead seem very focused on what Sharron Angle says "Man Up" Something about that term on many levels is disturbing but I often think with these women "Man Overboard" when it comes to trying to rationalize with their positions.

Never have I seen more vitriol coming from these women who are mothers and primary wage earners in their homes. They have a seeming disconnect for issues that affect others who are not as privileged or as angry as they are. The "Bitch Factor" is running high and when called on these same women cry foul and sexism. Well you cannot have it both ways.. demanding an equal playing field while using your femininity to call out your detractors.

Two women have been brutally assaulted at varying campaign events this year. A woman at a Sharron Angle rally was punched in the face as she tried to leave and another woman brutally curb stomped by two men earlier this week at a Rand Paul debate. We've come a long way baby.

I understand the confusion. The Bitch Factor is the equivalent of the Angry White Man. The same maligned angry white guy epitomized by the crying histrionics of Glenn Beck and his ilk who are sure there is always someone trying to get, take or steal something of his. Be it the Government with taxes or some other illegal, minority, woman or the like taking his job security and livelihood.

I get the Bitch Factor I get the Angry White Male but somehow it has not robbed me of my empathy and compassion. I don't need to be a mother to understand the plight of a working mother or children; I don't need to have an aged sick parent or a husband out of work. I am not lucky by any means. I made choices years ago and they have not been of late one's that paid off. But its hard to know when the world collapses around you if you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But for the current crop of Bitch Women this seems to be very wrong indeed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

WalMart Local?

The sustainable food and buy local movement continues to gain traction but what does it mean when WalMart the antithesis is this concept makes another grand pronouncement in it entrance to the green movement.

I am always highly suspect when a company known for its hard handling of suppliers suddenly embracing the local farmer/vendor to acquire their local foodstuffs. The kind of farmers you see at the local farmer's markets don't have the labor, resources and product to meet the kind of demands that WalMart would require. That and the fact that many of these people are seasonal so the beautiful Heirloom tomatoes you see now would not be available in February. Are you ready to go tomato-less?

Local small farmers frankly work on minimal profit margins and while this would be a boon to their business they would need immense capital to generate the kind of demand a WalMart would require.

So this is where the quandary is what defines a "local" farm. This is like the current debate over what defines "small business". Most small businesses in reality nowhere near make the numbers/profit that you are lead to believe by the media. The Small Businesses they are speaking of are larger family run spin offs or privately held companies by the uber elite who use the concept of S-Corporations to make immense write offs and tax advantages. Your local farmer, dry cleaner and baker are nowhere near that kind of profit margin.

As you read below in the Salon article you will see that this is a name only idea and may benefit the larger farms and in turn get WalMart customers acquainted with better quality food and produce I am not sure they are willing to pay the premiums for it.


Will Walmart's locavore promises mean much?

The king of grocers is committed to sell $1B of local food from small farms, but not everyone is impressed
By Michelle Loayza

Last week, Walmart trumpeted a major new commitment to sustainable agriculture and supporting local small farms. Coupled with the enormous numbers -- training for 1 million farmers! Investing $1 billion to make its produce supply chain more efficient! -- there were nuggets of common-sense wisdom, the kind that is music to sustainability advocates' ears: In an interview with Food Safety News, Ron McCormick, senior director for Strategic Food Sourcing, said, "It made sense to us, that if we could revitalize [the] economies [of declining rural areas], it would let us buy fresher product for our customers and save food miles. At the same time, we would be supporting many rural communities that support our stores."

Reading further, we got to an impressive commitment to sell a billion dollars worth of food bought from small farmers. And, as if to keep the big numbers rolling, the release also boasted that that produce will come from a million farms. Great! But wait ... a billion dollars, a million farms: That comes out to $1,000 per farm. And so we started to wonder if there was really much good to be had from this policy.

Salon spoke to Linda Berlin, Director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Vermont, to get some perspective on Walmart's efforts.

What do you make of Walmart's initiative to become more sustainable? Is this an instance of "greenwashing" or is Walmart taking a step in the right direction?

I can't speak to their motives per se, although I can make a guess about them. They see the way the market is going. A large percentage of the American population at this time say that they at least occasionally buy produce in their local communities. Local food is sort of the new wave of people's interests, so I think that they're trying to capture market share probably. That seems like the most logical reason.

But it seems like there could be some positive outcomes, in particular outcomes that relate to environmental issues. The challenge for me is that initiatives that are supporting positive environmental causes simultaneously need to be supporting strong economy and doing things in a socially just and fair way. I don't want to just look exclusively at the potential environmental benefits.

Right. And Walmart plans to sell $1 billion in food from 1 million small-to-medium farmers. At an average of $1,000 per farmer, what will be the impact?

Well, that's a good question. Walmart defines small and medium farmer by some amount of acreage. And the technical definition from the USDA has to do with the amount of product sold -- it's not the amount of acreage because depending on what you sell, you can make a whole lot of money on a small acreage, or not. And my memory of the USDA's definition of small farmer is someone who grosses under 10 or 15 thousand dollars in a year.

You have to pay your own inputs out of that, so the amount that's really your profit is pretty minimal. It's a drop in a bucket. These days a lot of chains are requiring farmers to meet certain food safety requirements, and that often requires investing money in their systems. So if Walmart requires that -- and I guess they would -- then you would have to make an investment just to be able to sell to them. So it just depends on what kind of farmer you are whether it would be worth it to do it or not.

Do you suspect that these farmers who make business ties with Walmart will be able to sell through other markets? Will they be tied to Walmart exclusively?

$1,000 does not a living make, so we're not talking about exclusive contracts. The numbers are a little peculiar in terms of being able to add up to much. If it's their goal to keep prices low, to make some measure of profit off of this process, then it seems to me that it would be difficult for them to pay the farmers very highly. But I don't know that for a fact. I do know, just because it's Walmart, it doesn't necessarily mean money going in to the local economy. That seems a little more of a given.

But in doing this, will Walmart co-opt and thereby change the meaning of "local" and "sustainable?"

Maybe they'll somehow be trendsetting. For example, Walmart has done some good with bovine growth hormone, when they made a decision to disallow milk purchases that came from farms that were using BGH. That was really taking a lead role, and that meant that a lot of Vermont farmers stopped using it because that was a significant market for those farms. So their decision did reverberate through the farm community, and it did change the shape and nature of production methods.

And maybe it will give access to local food to people who rely on Walmart as a primary source for their food, if they price local products comparable to other products. People often shop at a place that they identify with, and there are people who identify with Walmart store and they're comfortable with that environment. I don't know if their goal is to try to bring in people who have not otherwise been to Walmart, and if that will it be successful.

Some of the reasons that people buy local, they can't get at Walmart. People enjoy going to farmers' markets. It's sort of a feel good experience -- they like getting to know their farmer and being able to talk to their farmer, and they won't likely be getting at that at Walmart. But will it be successful? It's hard to know.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Let the Lawsuits Begin

I have written on what I believe was only a matter of time before the USGBC and LEED would have to face a lawsuit regarding a buildings failure to perform to the standard as established by their ratings system.

Today I found this in my inbox:

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its founders have been named as defendants in a class action lawsuit filed in federal court. Filed on behalf of mechanical systems designer Henry Gifford, owner of Gifford Fuel Saving, the lawsuit was stamped on October 8, 2010 at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Among other allegations, the suit argues that USGBC is fraudulently misleading consumers and fraudulently misrepresenting energy performance of buildings certified under its LEED rating systems, and that LEED is harming the environment by leading consumers away from using proven energy-saving strategies.

I have written about Henry Gifford before. He is one of a few professionals who have taken issue with LEED in the past. I certainly have read his criticisms and there are others who are as knowledgeable (if not more so about the subject)who agree with Henry's assessments.

As a student of some respected figures in the Building Science industry, Henry has spoken about his resistence to LEED at their masters symposiums held in December. And neither Joseph Lstiburek nor John F. Straube been shy about their criticisms of the program.

While no one is against what LEED is and the purpose behind it there is a geniune concern that the quest for bells/whistles and extras are taking away from what should matter - good design and construction practices that focus on energy use, conservation and material waste.

The quest for 'points' becomes often the goal and extraneous things are added to the building that do not function well or take away from what matters. There is extra costs involved that could be used in better ways and the issue of long term maintenance and performance has to be measured.

I for one will be one to watch where this goes and I suspect the green community to of course divide and disagree as to what this can or will do to the future of green build.

Finding a Voice in a Storm

This blog is not one confined to simple "green building" issues. The blog may have began in that direction but as my business deteriorated in this economy it became a challenge to simply stay focused on what great innovation or design of a building as people around me (self included) are collapsing - quite the irony.

While I am unabashedly liberal, believing in concepts of Egalitarianism and Social Justice I have understanding with regards to the idea of smaller Government and careful spending its just how I support that that distinguishes me from my more conservative counterparts.

But this blog is not a political blog and not one that discusses individual parties or candidates on a regular basis. I am not pleased with the way the Republican party - the one of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt has become one so extremely involved with obstructionism, hostility and fringe groups whose ideas and concepts harken back to a time that was both regressive and oppressive. Taking the country back? How about taking it foward.

Be it on whatever end of the political spectrum I am a great advocate of finding what works.. what translates here as finding your right shade of green. We have to work together be it as it may in resolving our co-dependency on non-renewable resources, particularly foreign oil that funds dangerous military and oppressive regimes (including Terrorists) and in turn finding ways to live a more healthy green life at all levels.

This blog is about Sustainabilty. The sustainability of our Planet, our history, our people and our Country. There is no one who doesn't at some level share that.

And on that note we can debate the existence of Climate Change and what it means but there is no question we have finite resources that are altering our own communities that can be directly seen.

Today in the NY Times there was an article about Kansas and their approach to making their state a greener one. While conservative in their politics they realized that going green has wide reaching benefits that can be taken out of the larger debate.

I reprint this here to remind us all that we can compromise and work together if you want to. As the residents of Kansas agree it is about economy,patriotism and a spiritual conviction that we all share at some level.

In Kansas, Climate Skeptics Embrace Cleaner Energy
Steve Hebert for The New York Times

“Don’t mention global warming,” warned Nancy Jackson, chairwoman of the Climate and Energy Project, a small nonprofit group that aims to get people to rein in the fossil fuel emissions that contribute to climate change. “And don’t mention Al Gore. People out here just hate him.”

Saving energy, though, is another matter.

Last Halloween, schoolchildren here searched for “vampire” electric loads, or appliances that sap energy even when they seem to be off. Energy-efficient LED lights twinkled on the town’s Christmas tree. On Valentine’s Day, local restaurants left their dining room lights off and served meals by candlelight.

The fever for reducing dependence on fossil fuels has spread beyond this city of red-brick Eisenhower-era buildings to other towns on the Kansas plains. A Lutheran church in nearby Lindsborg was inspired to install geothermal heating. The principal of Mount Hope’s elementary school dressed up as an energy bandit at a student assembly on home-energy conservation. Hutchinson won a contract to become home to a $50 million wind turbine factory.

Town managers attribute the new resolve mostly to a yearlong competition sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project, which set out to extricate energy issues from the charged arena of climate politics.

Attempts by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gases are highly unpopular here because of opposition to large-scale government intervention. Some are skeptical that humans might fundamentally alter a world that was created by God.

If the heartland is to seriously reduce its dependence on coal and oil, Ms. Jackson and others decided, the issues must be separated. So the project ran an experiment to see if by focusing on thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction and economic prosperity, it could rally residents of six Kansas towns to take meaningful steps to conserve energy and consider renewable fuels.

Think of it as a green variation on “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Ms. Jackson suggested, referring to the 2004 book by Thomas Frank that contended that Republicans had come to dominate the state’s elections by exploiting social values.

The project’s strategy seems to have worked. In the course of the program, which ended last spring, energy use in the towns declined as much as 5 percent relative to other areas — a giant step in the world of energy conservation, where a program that yields a 1.5 percent decline is considered successful.

The towns were featured as a case study on changing behavior by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. And the Climate and Energy Project just received a grant from the Kansas Energy Office to coordinate a competition among 16 Kansas cities to cut energy use in 2011.

The energy experiment started as a kitchen-table challenge three years ago.

Over dinner, Wes Jackson, the president of the Land Institute, which promotes environmentally sustainable agriculture, complained to Ms. Jackson, his daughter-in-law, that even though many local farmers would suffer from climate change, few believed that it was happening or were willing to take steps to avoid it.

Why did the conversation have to be about climate change? Ms. Jackson countered. If the goal was to persuade people to reduce their use of fossil fuels, why not identify issues that motivated them instead of getting stuck on something that did not?

Only 48 percent of people in the Midwest agree with the statement that there is “solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer,” a poll conducted in the fall of 2009 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed — far fewer than in other regions of the country.

The Jacksons already knew firsthand that such skepticism was not just broad, but also deep. Like opposition to abortion or affirmations of religious faith, they felt, it was becoming a cultural marker that helped some Kansans define themselves.

Nevertheless, Ms. Jackson felt so strongly that this opposition could be overcome that she left a job as development director at the University of Kansas in Lawrence to start the Climate and Energy Project with a one-time grant from the Land Institute. (The project is now independent.)

At the outset she commissioned focus groups of independents and Republicans around Wichita and Kansas City to get a sense of where they stood. Many participants suggested that global warming could be explained mostly by natural earth cycles, and a vocal minority even asserted that it was a cynical hoax perpetrated by climate scientists who were greedy for grants.

Yet Ms. Jackson found plenty of openings. Many lamented the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. Some articulated an amorphous desire, often based in religious values, to protect the earth. Some even spoke of changes in the natural world — birds arriving weeks earlier in the spring than they had before — leading her to wonder whether, deep down, they might suspect that climate change was afoot.

Ms. Jackson settled on a three-pronged strategy. Invoking the notion of thrift, she set out to persuade towns to compete with one another to become more energy-efficient. She worked with civic leaders to embrace green jobs as a way of shoring up or rescuing their communities. And she spoke with local ministers about “creation care,” the obligation of Christians to act as stewards of the world that God gave them, even creating a sermon bank with talking points they could download.

Relatively little was said about climate.

“I don’t recall us being recruited under a climate change label at all,” said Stacy Huff, an executive for the Coronado Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which was enlisted to help the project. Mr. Huff describes himself as “somewhat skeptical” about global warming.

Mr. Huff said the project workers emphasized conservation for future generations when they recruited his group. The message resonated, and the scouts went door to door in low-income neighborhoods to deliver and install weatherization kits.

“It is in our DNA to leave a place better than we found it,” he said.

Elliot Lahn, a community development planner for Merriam, a city that reduced its energy use by 5 percent, said that when public meetings were held on the six-town competition to save energy, some residents offered their view that global warming was a hoax.

But they were very eager to hear about saving money, Mr. Lahn said. “That’s what really motivated them.”

Jerry Clasen, a grain farmer in Reno County, south of Salina, said he largely discounted global warming. “I believe we are going through a cycle and it is not a big deal,” he said. But his ears pricked up when project workers came to town to talk about harnessing wind power. “There is no sense in our dependency on foreign oil,” he said, “especially since we have got this resource here.”

Mr. Clasen helped organize a group of local leaders to lobby the electronics and energy giant Siemens to build a wind turbine factory in the area. When the company signed a deal in 2009 promising to create as many as 400 local jobs, it stirred a wave of excitement about the future of wind power.

Now, farmers expect to lease some of their land for turbines and rely on wind power as a stable source of income, he said, and land prices are rising as result.

“Whether or not the earth is getting warmer,” he said, “it feels good to be part of something that works for Kansas and for the nation.”

Tricks and No Treats

As we prepare for Halloween its time to ask yourself where that candy came from.

Hershey an American company that has been in existence for over 100 years has often been the predominant candy choice in many peoples homes. And rightly so. But then it was brought to my attention that as like many things in this global economy the way business does business is through the use of cheap foreign labor. Sadly this is not people working for pennies but in fact children working for nothing.

Thregh Green America's efforts it was brought to my attention about the practice of Hershey to use Child/Slave labor in their cocoa farms. It seems in direct opposition to what thier mission is as stated in their Corporate Social Responsibility Report issued last year. They continue the practice of using these children while making nearly 500 million last year. Their CEO was paid 8 million.

Hershey does not use third party certification for their farms or cocoa assuring that its Free Trade and non exploitatie nor they do use organic materials in the production of any of their chocolate products. Meanwhile a major competitor Cadbury UK has moved towards such practices and are committed to this globally but cannot do so in the US due to Hershey's control over production.

Green America asks for your help. Of course not buying or distrubting any of their products is a start. A boycott even just yours is a message when sales are affected as we approach the largest Holiday season for treats. But also giving candy to young children that was produced by the sacrafice of young children seems callous.

Green America has established some steps you can also take to advise Hershey that you as a consumer are aware and will be taking active steps to changing the way they do business. The link is to their site and provides you with the steps you can do.

So as Halloween approaches look to companies that support Free Trade and Organic chocolate; sign up for the campaign; buy local or make your own in these economic times opting out is okay too. As someone who has not participated in the Halloween candy-a-thon for many years I do so because I don't encourage poor eating and health issues that it represents but it doesn't mean I can't enjoy those things that are both fun and tasty. I just do so on my terms and my time. The money I have saved goes towards things I may need or to others in similar situations. I can eat chocolate any day and I like mine Free Trade and Organic.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Passive Solar/Passive House/Solar House

There is a lot of layman confusion as to what constitutes a Passive Solar home, a Passive House and a Solar House.

A Passive Solar house uses indirect sourcing of the sun's energy to heat and illuminate the house. Through design strategies and ideas the home is built to take advantage of natural sun patterns along with additional features - such as cement flooring, air passages, skylights and other means to harnass, hold and capitalize on the energy of the sun.

There is much critcism of late but to understand passive solar homes you have to understand specific design strategies unique to one's geographical location in the United States.

So that south face glazing that seems great at the time is a double edge sword emitting too much heat during the day and losing it at night. Again great windows, better use of insulation and having awnings or altered roof patterns and lengths can help. Its not something to be totally abandoned as the right design and construction can make this work well.

Passive House is the superinsulated house. It has a strict energy emission and measurement feature that takes into account the actual energy use of the entire home. A specialized design, insulation, mechanical needs are all part of how this home works. It does not rely on or use a secondary heat source of any kind just the natural flow and circulation of the air in the home as generated by its use. This is a very popular style of home in Europe taking off here but it too has issues and must have some regional considerations to make the design work well. But Passive House is really the leading contender to making a home "zero energy."

Finally Solar House. This is a home that its primary energy source is from the use of Solar Energy. As with all homes it requires quality and modern build design and construction but it should be measured on its successful payback and long term costs overall. Probably less expensive than construction of a new Passive House the costs and maintenance of solar homes have to be considered prior to its installation. Especially noteworth is their parasitic energy use; the electricity required to run pumps and blowers.

All of these are options with no one superior to the other when it comes to what you want in a home. Frankly quality insulation, great triple glazed windows, adequate optional heating - such as radiant or even pellet stoves, quality efficient lighting all can contribute to reducing energy costs to make your home the right fit.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Say Potato You Say Potato

It was brought to my attention that there is a new study saying that promoting Energy Efficiency retrofits can be bad for business. Apparently now calling it an Energy Efficiency "Upgrade" sends a better message for clients and is less negative.

I find that amusing that now as the White House is getting "retrofitted" for Solar Panels - again as they were installed in the 70s under President Carter and removed by Reagan as being unattractive - seems amusing if not another silly marketing idea.

But a recent study by Berkeley National Laboratory (clearly needing better things to study) found that the term "audits" or "retrofits" made people think negatively and instead suggested that business focuses on "Energy Assessments" and "Energy Upgrades" while also focusing on health, comfort or community pride.

I don't know what to make of this new branding. For many businesses struggling to keep going, for home owners stuck in between a rock and hard place when it comes to keeping let alone improving their homes I have to wonder how significant the semantics are when it comes to making a decision about energy efficiency.

This is also a challenge to businesses that have built their names, reputation, marketing programs and presence on offering "audits" or "retrofits". To have to change gears, language and perhaps even a name cost more than simple dollars it may mean literally rebuilding the business. I would wonder why suddenly a company started calling itself a different name because of image control.

While I agree getting people on board to making said improvements many such as solar installation are costly improvements there is nothing negative about the long term savings and gain for both the customer and the environment. And knowing what the tax credit are, the amount and how they work can assist in building customer confidence. Lately that is the number one of my calls is about how those credit work, who gets them and how much they are for. And while I shy away from detailed information on tax filing I do encourage them to review the IRS requirements for them or to see their Accountant; however it doesn't prevent me from reviewing the basics and limitations to them as well as finding other sources of credits and benefits from local utilities and municipalities.

The findings of the study which can be found here in a PDF file.

Or simply read the abridged summary of the report in the article below...

When Selling Energy Efficiency, Don't Say 'Retrofit,' Say 'Upgrade'

By JENNY MANDEL of Greenwire
Published: October 5, 2010

These are some of the common-sense recommendations featured in a new report that highlights just how unprepared many energy program designers are when it comes to selling efficiency to the public.

In a study of programs aimed at improving residential energy efficiency, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found much to learn from. The results, they say, should serve as a guide to the more than 2,000 towns, cities, states and regions with stimulus funding to spend on clean energy programs and with minimal experience to draw from.

For starters, the researchers said, don't offer "audits" or "retrofits" -- customers shy away from the negative connotations. Instead try offering "energy assessments" and "upgrades," but focus messaging on health benefits, improved comfort, community pride or other benefits that consumers tend to care more about.

Other suggestions included working with trusted local partners, minimizing the paperwork and hassles that customers face, and following the marketing rule of thumb that it takes three "touches" to convince most people that something is worth buying into.

A key partner for such programs should be the contractor workforce, the authors said, because contractors know the marketplace for residential construction work and will be the "face" that customers see when they interact with the program. Ensuring that contractors are well-trained, they added, can help to avoid problems and consumer backlash.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is fond of saying that his goal is to make people save money through energy efficiency. But the new report underscores the psychological components to energy consumption patterns that have historically proven difficult to change.

"Convincing millions of Americans to divert their time and resources into upgrading their homes to eliminate energy waste, avoid high utility bills and help stimulate the economy is one of the great challenges facing energy efficiency programs around the country," said Merrian Fuller, an author of the study and energy analyst in the Berkeley Lab's Electricity Markets and Policy group.

"Usually, when policymakers address the issue of energy efficiency benefits, they ... neglect the issue of how to motivate consumers to take advantage of home energy upgrade programs," she said. "This is often a missing element in policy discussions and a primary impetus for us in writing this report."

The study examined 14 home efficiency programs that the authors felt were successful, including one by the Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest and efforts in Houston, Minneapolis, Kansas, Boston, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Green Labels Not Always Green Product

The last few days have been awash with tales of "Greenwashing" This is when a product claims to be eco-friendly, chemical free and environmentally friendly.

In many cases they are as you can see and read the label and pretty much anytime you can't pronounce the ingredient its not eco-friendly.

The building industry is probably the number one perpetrator in "Greenwashing" products with many manufacturers exaggerating claims about the environmental performance of their products and some providing blatant misinformation.

The way to resolve the conundrum is by relying on qualified "third party" verification. That said there are many many businesses that are getting into this side of business so who do you trust there.

My guidelines are to look at some of the more well established verification systems backed by Treehugger, Green Building Advisor or Building Green website. They have been in the business of building and supporting green industries and can be considered reliable.

As for cleaning products they are predominant on the grocery shelve so how do you know which one works and which is the best "green" one. Well in reality no manufactured product is green. Cleaning products can be easily made at home with all eco friendly materials that are effective and non-toxic. I do use bleach but as with any toxic material its kept out of the house and in a plastic tub. I still have some chemical cleaning products but in reality a damp cloth is just as effective to dust as any Pledge, lemon or otherwise.

Thankfully the FTC is looking at tightening restrictions on what defines "green" and with regards to building products Alex Wilson is coming out with a Green Spec Guide to tighten what makes green build products green. Alex is the true advocate and specialist when it comes to environmental issues. His Environment news is a must read for any hard core greenie.

I reprint the NY Times below regarding cleaning green. But remember you can make many of these products at home at much less the cost and hassle. The American Lung Association has on their website links to improving indoor air quality and cleaning ideas.


Agency Seeks to Tighten Rules for ‘Green’ Labeling

Published: October 6, 2010

The commission’s revised “Green Guides,” last updated in 1998, warn marketers against using labels that make broad claims that cannot be substantiated, like “eco-friendly.” Marketers must qualify their claims on the product packaging and limit them to a specific benefit, such as how much of the product is recycled.

“This is really about trying to cut through the confusion that consumers have when they are buying a product and that businesses have when they are selling a product,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the commission.

One of the most notable updates to the guides concerns the use of environmental seals and certifications seen on many packages. According to the Ecolabel Index, there are currently 349 seals and certifications for marketing green products worldwide, with 88 used in North America alone. While the commission does not require the use of a specific label, it considers them endorsements that should be substantiated.

“No longer are you going to be able to make broad unqualified green claims,” said Christopher A. Cole, a partner at the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips who practices advertising law.

The revisions come at a time when green marketing is on the rise. According to a new study by the TerraChoice Group, now part of the Underwriters Laboratories, the number of advertisements with green messages in mainstream magazines has risen since 1987, and peaked in 2008 at 10.4 percent. In 2009, the number of ads dropped to 9 percent.

But while the number of advertisements may have dipped, there has been a “proliferation” of eco-labeling, according to Scott McDougall, the president of TerraChoice, who says there are both good and bad players in the eco-labeling game.

“Consumer demand for better green claims has grown, and this can also be blamed for the use of eco-labeling that may not offer the type of third-party verification that comes with legitimate eco-labeling,” Mr. McDougall said in an e-mail.

Mr. Leibowitz, referring to consumers, said: “In the last five years or so there’s been an explosion of green claims and environmental claims. It’s clear that they don’t always know what they are getting.”

In a news conference to announce the revisions, Mr. Leibowitz said the commission was expecting a lot of voluntary compliance from businesses and that the guidelines could be put in place as soon as the first half of next year.

In response to a question about how the commission plans to enforce the guidelines, Mr. Leibowitz said that he expected most businesses to comply, and added “for those companies that don’t, that fall on the wrong side of the final ‘Green Guides,’ we’re going to go after them.”

The commission has dedicated a new section in the guides specifically to handling issues surrounding certifications and seals of approval. Companies will be obliged to tell customers if the seals they use are certified by their own companies as opposed to being certified by a third party. Companies that are members of a trade organization that certifies their product must disclose that relationship to the consumer.

The new rules call on seals and certifications that connote general environmental claims to be more specific. A company would have to use a label like “Green Smart, Recyclable Certified” instead of just “Green Smart,” for example. And companies that use third-party certifications will also have to make sure they substantiate the claims they make.

“I think everybody that’s doing these claims now is going to have to take a fresh look at them,” Mr. Cole said. “I think that some claims will drop based on the fact that you’d have to do so much explanation to adequately qualify it in the F.T.C.’s eyes.”

A handful of lawsuits have been filed in recent years against companies accused of using misleading environmental labels. In 2008 and 2009, class-action lawsuits were filed against SC Johnson for using “Greenlist” labels on its Windex and Shout cleaning products. The lawsuits said that the label was misleading because it gave the impression that the product had been certified by a third party when the certification was the company’s own. The cases are pending.

“We are very proud of our accomplishments under the Greenlist system and we believe that we will prevail in these cases,” Christopher Beard, director of public affairs for SC Johnson, said in an e-mail, while acknowledging that “this has been an area that is difficult to navigate.”

Companies have also taken it upon themselves to contest each other’s green claims.

David G. Mallen, the associate director of the national advertising division of the Council of Better Business Bureau, said in the last two years the organization had seen an increase in the number of claims companies were bringing against each other for false or misleading environmental product claims. Some of the cases involve Clorox, Heartland Sweeteners, Apple and Seventh Generation.

In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission brought its first enforcement actions in 10 years against companies making environmental claims. In one case, the commission charged Kmart, Tender Corporation and Dyna-E International with making false claims that their paper products were biodegradable. In another case the commission charged clothing retailers with deceptively labeling products as being made from bamboo when they were made of rayon.

Much of the problem involves an abundance of seals and labels that assure environmental worthiness, experts say.

“About once a week, I have a client that will bring up a new certification I’ve never even heard of and I’m in this industry,” said Kevin Wilhelm, chief executive officer of Sustainable Business Consulting, a Washington-based company that helps businesses plan green marketing strategies. “It’s kind of a Wild West, anybody can claim themselves to be green.”

Mr. Wilhelm said the plethora of labels made it difficult for businesses and consumers to know which labels they should pay attention to. “There’s no way for the average consumer or even for a C.E.O. to know which ones to go for or what they should get,” he said.

The revised guides introduced on Wednesday also give marketers parameters for a number of other claims. Products that are labeled as degradable must decompose within a year. Products or packages that claim to be compostable must break down in the same time as the materials they were made with.

Marketers who make claims about renewable materials must explain how the materials are sourced and whether the item is made entirely by renewable materials or not. Products claiming to be nontoxic or “free of” something will have their own set of rules; for example, an item cannot claim to be “free of” a substance that it has never been associated with. Manufacturers will not be able to make “renewable energy” claims if the power used to manufacture any part of the product was derived from fossil fuels. Marketers will also have to be more specific in their promotion of carbon offsets and must disclose if the emission reductions funded by the purchase will not occur for two or more years, according to the new guides.

The Federal Trade Commission held a series of workshops in 2008 to discuss issues central to the guides’ revision, like green packaging, and also conducted surveys online with 3,700 consumers. The commission will accept public comment on the guides until Dec. 10, after which it will publish a final version.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

For the Love of Books

I am an avid reader and this time of year I get ready for the longer evenings by stocking up on the "big books"

EcoLibris is having their annual Green Books Campaign. 200 Bloggers are participating and reading books with a "green theme" The intent of the campaign is to use the power of the internet and social media to promote "green" books and increase the awareness of both readers and publishers to the way books can be printed printed in an eco-friendly manner.

For those interested check here: Ecolibris.Net for more information on the campaign.

And for those looking for a less lofty goal go to Love Reading. It is the ultimate reading guide for those into reading. They have newsletters, assistance and book guides and gifts for those looking to add to their library. Its the ultimate site for those looking for the next great read.

For the Car Lover

**this blog entry is brought to you by our sponsors**

I have written that despite our green bend we still use cars and again if you are using one auto maintenance is critical to using less energy.

If you are in the UK and have a high performance auto you need to take special care of your vehicle. Design 911 offers spare parts, accessories, wheels & tyres, exhaust, servicing, repairs & body shop. Their experience within the Porsche automotive industry ensures up-to date information and technical support for our customers.

Fimark is a company that specializes in automotive backlighting work but they also offer etching for kitchen and bath products to make a distinctive mark. This process offers EU compliant components that need CE marking; many components need traceability. Using a laser to mark this information gives a permanent, aesthetic and non-damaging solution.

So even what seems a non-green solution is in fact green.

Time to Party

**this blog entry is brought to you by your sponsors**

The Holidays are fast approaching so thinking about parties and gifts from those hostess ones to office mates you need to budget and find interesting ways of entertaining that still provides you and your guests with a memorable occasion.

Designer Crackers
a UK company has amazing party favors be they made for you custom or from their large assortment of holiday and special occasion crackers.

Another interesting idea is trampolines or outdoor activity toys that bring a unique flair to your home party and later something you can use to exercise or just have fun with. Try Outdoor Toy Company to review the interesting trampolines, outdoor toys and garden swings they have available.

If you are looking for a gift that makes an impact try Fabulous Collections. They offer designer jewellery from many contemporary recognised jewelers. If you are looking for something special for something special they have a bespoke line and if you simply need a simple but unique piece they have it as well.

Lastly for gifts for the hostess, friends and associates try the Travelling Souk for unique gift items for the individual or the home. They are an Eco friendly company with fair trade and distinctive gifts for anyone. They are donate a proceed of every purchase to local charities.

Traveling Is Here and There

***this blog was brought to you by our lovely sponsors**

If you are seeking traveling ideas or assistance look to Baltic Travel Company. they offer expert advice for traveling to the Baltic region, we use our in depth destination knowledge to tailor holidays in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Poland and Scandinavia. They have both package plans or can assist in designing something more specific to your own wishes and desires.

Another option equally exotic and interesting is try a private villa in Cape Town, South Africa or even Mauritius. Cape Portfolios is a site dedicated to finding the right accommodations for the discerning traveler. They also offer Property and Rental Management should you be seeking to use your holiday home as a means of generating income.

If you are interested in traveling now is the time to start planning as the time will pass quickly and you could miss out on a unique lifetime opportunity to experience a part of the world or way of relaxation that is distinctly special.

A Focus on Hearth and Home

This blog is brought to you by many of the following businesses who focus on design and home decor in the U.K.

Are you looking to make a small change for fall or winter and simply don't want to spend a lot of money but want high impact. Think of custom made window treatments from the Natural Curtain Company.
They can also do cushions or bedspreads using their amazing fabric selections or send them your own. I frequently switch my duvet covers and pillows to a heavier textiles this time of year. The Natural Curtain Company provides easy details on how to measure and more importantly free samples from which to peruse. From curtains, blinds, to roman or roller shades there are enough choices to make each window a picture of its own.

For those looking for simple elegant design in home furnishings and decor, try Also Home. Their items are inspired by nature and offer many hand made. Also Homeis a green company that cares about the environment, its customers and its suppliers. As well as all the products being ethically produced we use recycled or biodegradable packaging wherever possible.

Another source of elegant home accessories is Grand Illusions. They offer a wide range of items ade almost entirely by our artisans here in Europe, this is certainly the place for unusual gifts or stunningly simple ideas to decorate your home. They have simply gorgeous home items for both inside and outside the home. Additionally they have select seasonal items including a Christmas section.

Speaking of holidays looking for an usual gift or idea for the person who has "everything?" Try You Are Art. This is an amazingly unique site. There their artists Our artists create fabulous contemporary pop art portraits from your photos. They also can transform your photos onto canvas to make you improving the quality of the print to make sure you receive an amazing piece of custom art. Frankly my favorite is the Pet Warhol. What a great gift or way to commemorate a loving companion.

Other unique gift plans for holidays or special occasions or simply for yourself is My Family Silver. This amazing site allows you to look for any number of specific silver items for the home and connects you to varying auctions, sealers and cataloges worldwide. They also offer a great blog and care page that teaches you the ins and outs of how to maintain silver and care for its long term sustainability.

If you need home furniture or a special table built for that special occasion coming up now would be the time to look to Tom Faulkner to find the right design and materials to make that table and chairs in time for the holidays.

And if you still don't feel confident enough to DIY it then hire a professional service such a Greg Kinsella who can easily offer the valued expertise of one who understands the finding the right decor is not always an easy one.

Lastly something more in line with the hidden side of home improvement - plumbing. It is essential to use water wisely and more importantly healthily. In this case look into Scalewatcher to clean your water from hard minerals that can affect its overall quality. If you are unsure if this is a product you would need there is an excellent info tag that can assist you in determining if your water is high in mineral content.

Even if you aren't a UK resident don't be afraid to take a look at these sites they have great information and ideas worth borrowing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Women in Work

When we define what is "Women's work" that bar has changed and in light of the prior entry discussing where women are currently in business I found this article about a Woman who began in Construction when hard hats came in one size - male.

I liked her attitude and her general advice is well worth reprinting here. Of late hearing successes is a nice change of pace...

Building Towers, Razing Sexism

Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times
Published: September 18, 2010

IN 1981, when I began my construction company, it was a different world. Women in construction could only be found answering the telephone in the front office. When contractors called, and I told them I was the boss, they would ask for the other boss. They wanted to talk to a man.

Times have changed, but not everyone realizes it. I regularly receive e-mail from women in college who want to enter industries, like construction and engineering, that are dominated by men. But these women have been warned not to do so by their fathers and, sometimes, by their professors.

A young woman in the Midwest recently wrote to me, saying her father didn’t want her to go into construction management because, in his words, “A big, hairy man will never take orders from a small young girl.”

I wrote back to her, explaining that once a woman sets her boundaries, earns respect and proves herself, those “big, hairy men” will gladly take orders from her and smile while doing so. This woman printed out my answer and showed it to her father. She is now enrolled in a college that has an excellent construction management program.

In fact, there has never been a better time to be a woman in construction. Many traditional barriers are falling, leaving more opportunities for women. As older generations leave the work force, more women are gaining leadership positions in many industries. And men who are coming up in the business world are typically less sexist than those of previous generations.

When you demonstrate outstanding performance and communicate effectively, your male colleagues will admire you, and you are more likely to flourish. I learned that firsthand when I started out — in a much less favorable climate.

When I began bidding on contracts, I had no clue what should be included in a technical proposal. I still shudder to think about the first one I submitted. But I made it my business to learn the ins and outs of putting together superior proposals, and soon my fellow contractors were coming to me for advice.

I also focused on establishing solid relationships with male colleagues. Relationships are more important than ever in business, and women tend to fare better when relationships and relationship-building skills take a front seat.

While working with men I learned that, as a woman, I had strengths that complemented men’s strengths. Ever since high school, I had always compared myself to the other girls around me. When I simply focused on my performance, and not that of my colleagues, I became better at my job.

I learned to get my hands dirty. Nothing helps you succeed like knowing a company from the ground up. I took the time and made the effort to understand how my industry worked, and wasn’t afraid to be out there doing things that I never thought I would or could.

For example, one of our divisions cut and drilled concrete. One day early in my career, I had to deliver a blade for a riding saw to one of our job sites, which was on a busy highway.

The guy who operated the asphalt machine asked if I would like to operate the saw. I had on my hard hat, personal protective equipment and steel-toed boots, and I had gone through training on this piece of equipment. So I said O.K. The riding saw was similar to a riding lawn mower, but keep in mind that this was a busy highway. I can still feel the pride I felt as I operated that saw.

I developed a thick skin. When a woman works in a business dominated by men, a sense of humor is vital. Joking and teasing is often part of the culture, and I had to learn that unless I lightened up, working with guys was going to be difficult.

I also learned that when men get angry with one another at work, they often blow up but then blow it off. I used to tear up when a guy was loud or abrupt, but I eventually learned that it was nothing personal. My ability to share in the office humor — except the crude variety — served me well.

To defuse crude behavior, I nipped it in the bud. I would simply say, “That is unacceptable,” and move on. Typically, the person got the point. Fortunately, this behavior is not as common in the workplace as it was 30 years ago.

IF you are a woman hesitating to seek a desired career in a traditionally male-centric company, know that the current climate is in your favor. Management is starting to recognize that women can perform as well as men — and that we bring qualities to the table that men often lack. In addition, many male-dominated companies are actively looking to hire women because of pressure to become more diverse.

But remember that many traditions die hard and that prejudices linger in many industries and companies. Only if more women enter these fields will lasting change occur.

Roxanne Rivera is the chief executive of the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Mexico and the author of “There’s No Crying in Business.” E-mail:

Women's Work

This last week a study was released that showed some gains on Women and the workforce but there are many more strides if Women are truly going to be shown parity both Financially and Managerially.

The one thing to note is that Women are well represented and growing in the Construction fields. Currently I am back in school getting a Construction Management Degree and my class has several women at all varying levels and experience. The however is that still salaries are not commensurate with their male counterparts of similar status. So we are still behind and with current economic forces it will become even more skewed.

I reprint the findings from a recent NY Times article on the subject..

Still Few Women in Management, Report Says
Published: September 27, 2010

Women made little progress in climbing into management positions in this country even in the boom years before the financial crisis, according to a report to be released on Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.

As of 2007, the latest year for which comprehensive data on managers was available, women accounted for about 40 percent of managers in the United States work force. In 2000, women held 39 percent of management positions. Outside of management, women held 49 percent of the jobs in both years.

Across the work force, the gap between what men and women earn has shrunk over the last few decades. Full-time women workers closed the gap to 80.2 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2009, up from just 62.3 cents in 1979. Much of this persistent wage gap, however, can be explained by what kinds of jobs the sexes are drawn to, whether by choice or opportunity.

The new report, commissioned by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, tries to make a better comparison by looking at men versus women in a specific industry and in similar jobs, and also controlling for differences like education levels and age. On average, female managers had less education, were younger and were more likely to be working part time than their male counterparts.

In all but three of the 13 industries covered by the report, women had a smaller share of management positions than they did of that industry’s overall work force. The sectors where women were more heavily represented in management than outside of it were construction, public administration and transportation and utilities.

Across the industries, the gender gap in managers’ pay narrowed slightly over the last decade, even after adjusting for demographic differences. Female full-time managers earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by male full-time managers in 2007, compared with 79 cents in 2000.

This varied by industry, with the pay gap being the narrowest in public administration, where female managers earned 87 cents for every dollar paid to male managers. It was widest in construction and in financial services, where women earned 78 percent of what men were paid after adjustments.

Across the work force, the pay gap was also slightly wider for managers who had children.

Managers who were mothers earned 79 cents of every dollar paid to managers who were fathers, after adjusting for things like age and education. This gap has stayed the same since at least 2000.

The greater toll that parenthood appears to take on women’s paychecks may help explain why, generally speaking, female managers are less likely to have children than their male counterparts.

In 2007, 63 percent of female managers were childless, compared with just 57 percent of male managers. Of those managers who did have children, men on average had more children than their women counterparts.

Female managers were also less likely to be married than male managers, at rates of 59 percent versus 74 percent, respectively.

It is difficult to determine why a wage gap exists between female and male managers, and to what extent these differences might be because of discrimination or other factors, like hours clocked. The new G.A.O. report, for example, does not try to control for hours worked, beyond broad categories like full-time or part-time status.

The report was prepared at the request of Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, for a hearing on Tuesday on the gender gap in management jobs. The findings were based on an analysis of data from the American Community Survey of the Census Bureau.

“When working women have kids, they know it will change their lives, but they are stunned at how much it changes their paycheck,” Ms. Maloney said of the report. “In this economy, it is adding insult to injury, especially as families are increasingly relying on the wages of working moms.”

During the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in the summer of 2009 — generally after the data contained in this new report — men generally bore the brunt of job losses because of the types of industries. It is still unclear how management positions might have shifted or whether women were affected differently by that.

On a Personal Note

I have been of late been distracted and busy with life. As a result the blog was neglected and at times seem more a place with sponsored or guest posts.

Well the purpose of that is to generate income but also to keep the blog at least active.

On Monday, my beloved animal companion of 17 years, Emma, left me to a higher place. It was not surprising given her age but that it was nonetheless distressing. It began with a series of seizures that started last Tuesday and by Friday escalated despite drugs to paralyzing her lower limbs.

She thankfully was not in pain or in any lack of control of her bodily functions just the lack of movement sufficiently to support her hind body. But Emma was tough and we spent the weekend together, our last, just enjoying our memories, the park and massive treats. She loved life and was my greatest connection to humnanity. The last year she was finally showing signs of aging but she seemed oblivious to them. Like her mother we are tough broads and we don't go down easily.

On Monday, September 27, she went on her last trip to the Vet. She managed to get to the car almost unaided and we rode together in the car as we had done so many times in the past for our final journey.

Always classy to the end she kissed me and then she entered twilight. But her heart strong kept going so I assisted her to make the final crossing by telling her "I am going to be fine. I will miss you and one day we will be together forever but until then I will take care of myself so you can go now." And her heart stopped.

The void in my life from this vacant spot on my sofa, in my heart and head can never be replaced. But I was lucky to have such a loyal friend and loving companion these past 17 years. Emma you will be missed and honored all the rest of my life.

The Barrier Difference

A home in and of itself is a barrier from the elements. Its basic function is to provide shelter from the weather and keep the occupants dry and warm. It is that basic.

Over the years home building and design became a science expanding the ideas of what it means to shelter and live in a home. Our imaginations were only limited by our budgets and design grew as technology and products grew to meet that advancement.

But fundamental its still a very simple process. Foundation/Walls/Roof. However the way those are constructed and comprised have essential elements that provide energy savings, construction waste reduction and overall quality of life for the residents and long term sustainability for the home itself.

One thing I do see is a confusion about what is an "Air Barrier" vs "Vapor Barrier"

Air barriers control air leakage into and out of the building envelope. This allows for more durable buildings as moisture is kept out and also results in significant energy savings. Commonly these are your housewraps from tar paper to Tyvek and have many ways in which they are applied.

Vapor Barrier is often used to refer to any material, typically a plastic or foil sheet, that resists diffusion of moisture through wall, ceiling and floor assemblies of buildings and of packaging. Many of these materials are only vapor retarders as they have varying degrees of permeability.

And it is this issue of permeability that distinguishes the two and in turn affects the structure and air quality of the home.

Vapor barriers can be ripped and torn and full of holes because the amount of water vapor that passes through due to diffusion is very small compared to the amount of water that can go through a hole or a crack due to an air pressure difference.

Vapor barriers and some air barriers act as vapor retarders. Vapor retarders slow the rate of vapor diffusion into the thermal envelope of a structure. Keeping water out the basic goal of shelter.

An Air Barrier that is ripped or torn with larger holes allows moisture and water to infiltrate the home. That ultimately leads to a corruption in the building materias (as in the wood framing and siding) leading to mold and decay.

Some holes are good ones as it allows vapor diffusion. That is where it allows the transfer of moisture via pressure to move and ciculate and with the flow so a few small holes might reduce the effectiveness but not enough to lead to major problems.

Some Air Barriers are also Vapor Barriers. Its understanding how you want them to work and where.

Where do you want an air barrier vs a vapor barrier? Well I would always include some type of additional air barrier inside the home between garage and living areas. There you are securing any additional toxic air from leaking inside the home. A Vapor barrier however is essential regardless and is the critical comppnent to making sure your home breathes as well as you do. As it goes "air out always equals air in."

Building your home is building a shelter from the elements but they get in but how they stay or move within that shelter is the purpose of the varying kinds of barriers. Technology changes but the basics do not.

More Blogs/Sites of Note

Thankfully its been a busy week for others as I certainly have been neglecting my duties but once again my firends at Environmental Science Degrees sent me a list of their blogs of note.

25 Best Blogs at the Forefront of Sustainable Building list some that I just posted because let's face it some are that worthy of repeating but my personal favorite is their section on codes and laws. This is going to be, I believe, the most signficant issue we face as we move forward towards a universal green building code.