Whole Foods creates Green Household Product Standards

April 25th, 2011

 By Joseph Tarnowski

Whole Foods Market has launched its Eco-Scale Rating System – a set of tiered, green household cleaning standards – to help shoppers make smarter, greener choices for their homes and the planet.

“Shoppers have a right to know what’s actually in the products they use to clean their homes,” said Jim Speirs, global VP of procurement for Whole Foods. “We’ve always carefully monitored ingredients. Now, with Eco-Scale, we’re able to help shoppers buy eco-friendly products with confidence and provide safer alternatives for their households and for the planet as a whole.”

Whole Foods Market is the first national retailer to provide its own comprehensive, color-coded rating system for household cleaners (think of a “Guiding Stars” programs for household cleaners.). Under the new evaluation system, products will be rated—red, orange, yellow or green—based on the specific set of environmental and sourcing standards each product meets.

The company is committed to working with vendors to evaluate and independently audit every product in its cleaning category. Each product will be required to meet – at the very minimum – the new baseline orange standard by Earth Day, 2012. Red-rated products do not meet the Eco-Scale standards and will be reformulated or phased out of Whole Foods.

Currently, the U.S. government does not mandate full disclosure of ingredients on cleaning products. Under the Eco-Scale Rating System, Whole Foods’ household cleaning vendors will be required to list every single ingredient on product packaging. To ensure compliance of the company’s strict standards, all products will be audited through an independent third-party for verification before they are color-rated and labeled on shelves.

According to a Whole Foods survey conducted online in April among 2,483 U.S. adults aged 18+ on its behalf by Harris Interactive, almost three out of four (73 percent) adults falsely believe that the government requires household cleaning products to provide a list of ingredients on the label. Another two-thirds (64 percent) believe that many household cleaning brands opt to disclose the full list of ingredients on packaging, when, in fact, few provide this information on product labels.

The survey also confirmed that many adults understand that there are risks involved with common household cleaning products. When asked if they agree or disagree that common household cleaning products are not harmful to the environment, two-thirds (66 percent) disagreed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the chemicals found in some cleaning products can cause health problems, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as headaches. Using green cleaning products and practices may avoid these health effects.

“With Eco-Scale, we’ll be able to offer more solutions for eco-conscious shoppers, and those with sensitive skin and allergy concerns who often reach for natural cleaners first,” said Speirs. “Now parents and pet owners can also rest assured that they know exactly what ingredients they are using in the company of their loved ones.”

Several national cleaning products have already been rated – from liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener to all purpose, glass and toilet bowl cleaners. The lineup includes 14 of Whole Foods’ store brand cleaning products, as well as a total of 34 products from natural cleaning brands Better for Life, Ecover, Greenshield and Method.

Shoppers will ultimately, be able to easily identify products’ environmental impact and safety based on the red-orange-yellow-green color scale. The orange rating represents the baseline of acceptable standards that the yellow and green standards build on, with green labeled products topping the tier.

All orange-rated products must be third-party verified to meet the following criteria:

* No ingredients with significant environmental or safety concerns, such as phosphates**, chlorine***, or preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde.
* No artificial colors
* No animal testing

In addition to the criteria above, yellow-rated products must also meet the following requirements:

* No ingredients with moderate environmental or safety concerns, such as DEA, TEA or MEA surfactants (surface acting agents that can act as foaming agents) that have the potential to contain nitrosamines and other impurities
* No synthetic thickeners made from non-renewable petroleum-derived sources
* 100 percent natural fragrances

Green-rated products represent the highest level of Whole Foods Market’s new standards and meet all the requirements of the orange and yellow products, but also contain only 100 percent natural ingredients and contain no petroleum-derived ingredients at all.

For more information on Whole Foods Market’s Eco-Scale including prohibited ingredients for
each tier, visit: wholefoodsmarket.com/eco-scale.

Source: Progressive Grocer

Green Living Videos

April 7th, 2010

Watch some great Green Living videos to learn more about the eco-conscious movement.

Solar Kits – Understand What You are Buying

September 2nd, 2009

Republished from http://www.doityourself.com

Solar kits are ideal for those of us who are looking to save money on our electric bills. You can buy solar kits for things such as your home or even your RV.
Home Solar Kits Can Be Complicated
You will first need to decide what size kit to buy. You will need to consider how much you plan to power with your solar kit. The more you want to power, the more expensive it will be. Your kit will come with all of the equipment you will need as well as step by step directions. When you have decided that you are going to buy a solar kit, you have many other things to consider before you can install it. You may be required to get permits from the city; in fact in most all cases you will need a permit or even multiple permits.

Once you have taken all of those steps, you will then be ready for solar installation. Keep in mind that installing a solar kit can be a complicated process. You may want to consider getting some help from a local company. Assuming that you have already purchased a kit, they will only charge you for labor. Installing a solar kit can be a do it yourself kind of job, however the home installation kits are a bit too complicated for the average Joe.
RV Solar Kits Are Easier to Install
Solar installation kits for recreational vehicles are a much easier project to complete that the home installation kit. You will again need to research the amount of wattage you will need, but after that it can be an easy task. The kits come with the panel, converter and battery attachments and can be installed in less than a day. You can find them at multiple online stores and they usually run between two thousand and three thousand dollars. After a few years of use, you will make your initial investment back.
Purchase and Warranty from Reliable Company
When purchasing your solar kit you need to make sure you purchase from a reliable company and preferably one that has been in this business since day one. You can do enough research to know whether or not you are buying from a quality company. Solar kits can be expensive; you may want to consider whether you can afford one, before doing all the research and investing the time it takes to research thoroughly.

Find stores that are reputable and watch their website patiently. You may be able to catch a deal that is unbeatable. If you do come across that deal, your next step is to ask for a warranty, always ask for a warranty. Warranties may cost extra but you will be glad to have it should your system ever fail.

Toyota Unleashes Giant Solar-Powered Daisies On Random Cities

July 24th, 2009

 Toyota sets out giant solar powered daisies

In an effort to remind you that the new 2010 Prius was created from the loins of Mother Nature herself, Toyota is rolling out an unusual, but highly effective form of brand advertising: giant solar-powered flowers that can charge your laptop and give you free WiFi.

According to the company, these  high-tech Daisies represent the Prius theme of “Harmony between Man, Nature, and Machine.” Boston is the first to witness the promotion followed soon by New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

5 Simple Steps to Start Greening Your Life

July 17th, 2009

There are very simple steps you can take to start turning your life green. I will try to break some of those simple steps below.

  1. Start recycling – This may seem like a no-brainer but I am always amazed at how many people say they are interested in being green but don’t know where to start. Start with recycling at home and then carry it to your office and onward.
  2. Grow some vegetables – When you grow your own vegetables you cut down on the carbon emissions from harvesters, packing plants and trucks shipping the veggies to the store. I have a 20’x10′ garden that produces a few cucumbers, a few zucchini, 10 or so tomatoes and peppers each week.
  3. Get a 55 gallon drum to store rain water for your garden – You can find drums for as low as $20 on ebay or other shopping sites (will be available on GreenHomesGalore.com shortly) which you can put a valve on which will allow you to run a hose to your garden.
  4. Get a few cloth bags for groceries – I found several free bags at convention/seminars and other sources like promotions which I use to haul my groceries in. Once I bring them inside I set the bags by the door for me to remember to put back in my vehicle. Even if you are using paper bags to cut down plastic you still have one more step to go as paper bags still need to be produced (emissions thing again) and then recycled (emissions thing again) which could be completely eliminated.
  5. Donate unused or unwanted clothing – Not only are you helping others by donating old clothes but you are keeping the clothes out of the landfill.

Now these are by no means the only way to start greening your lifestyle but they are 5 easy steps to introduce the practice of implementing green practice in your life.

Green Moving Tips

June 6th, 2009

 Make relocating to your next home even more eco-friendly

By FrontDoor.com | Published: 3/27/2008

Choose a moving company that will help you make your relocation as eco-friendly as possible.

If you’re one of the 40 million Americans who move every year, here are some solutions to make your next move more eco-friendly.

Plan ahead

Choose a moving company that will help you make your relocation as eco-friendly as possible.Have you ever waited until the last minute to pack for a trip, only to take half of your wardrobe along for the ride? Well, packing up to move at the last minute is like that, but to the extreme. You’ll discover things you haven’t seen since your last moving day, so don’t wait until the van is on the way to address your excess stuff.

If you start packing a few weeks in advance, you’ll have time to get rid of things you really don’t need. Be realistic: If you haven’t worn a pair of jeans since the summer after college graduation, it’s probably time to part with them. Have a yard sale or donate extra belongings to a charity. You’ll use less fuel if you transport only the things you actually use.

Hire an eco-friendly moving company

While you’re searching for a reputable company to help with your move, look at their environmental credentials, too. Does the company use gas-guzzling trucks or biodiesel rigs? Does it sell recycled boxes? Will the movers help you pack and organize to use the fewest possible boxes?

You’ll have enough to worry about on moving day, so hiring an eco-friendly mover will make it easier to be green.

Stock up on packing material

Buying boxes from your mover can be costly, but you can likely get them free around your community. Ask local businesses about giving you their packing boxes; most stores throw away their materials after they unload the contents.

You can also save your own bubble wrap, boxes and envelopes for your move. A little planning can help you save money, and you’ll save some boxes from a landfill fate.

Buy recycled boxes

Don’t have the time to scrounge around town for boxes? Let someone else do it for you. UsedCardboardBoxes.com collects boxes that are on their way to the dump from businesses around the country. They also use some new boxes that are factory misprints and overruns. Then, they pack them into handy kits complete with tape, packing paper and markers. Select the number of rooms you need to pack up and the boxes will be shipped to you in one or two business days.

Although it’s cheaper than buying brand-new boxes, the convenience is still going to cost you. For instance, the three-bedroom home kit costs $154 from UsedCardboardBoxes.com. The same setup would be $212 and $238 at U-Haul.com and BoxBros.com, respectively.

Use these recycled plastic boxes and then send them back

If you don’t want to create any moving waste, Earth Friendly Moving has a solution with Recopack (short for Recycled Ecological Packing Solution) boxes. The company rents the reusable moving tubs made from recycled materials for “a buck a box a week.” The totes are delivered to your door in a biodiesel truck, and you pack, stack and move them yourself. When you’re done with the boxes, they’ll come pick them up. The company also sells eco-friendly packing material: recycled paper cubes that can be composted after the big day.

The only catch: Earth Friendly Moving only delivers in Southern California right now, but look out for their products nationwide in a couple of years.

Start packing in containers you already have first

You’ll probably need a few boxes to tote your stuff in, but pack as much as you can in containers you already have. Haul out your suitcases and plastic bins and fill them up. Use pillows — not paper — to package fragile items. This will consolidate your stuff with zero waste.

Make the fewest trips possible between the two locales

Pack up your car to reduce the number of van runs between the new and old house. However, you should hire a van rather than using your car for several cross-town trips. Plan your trip to use the least fuel possible.

Recycle your packing materials

No matter where you get those moving boxes, make sure to recycle them after the journey. Find a friend or fellow mover to give them to, or advertise online to find a taker. At the least, take them to the recycling center — not the trash bin.

Green Homes Market Projected to Grow to 10% by 2010

May 13th, 2009

More than 2,700 REALTORS® have completed the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Green Designation Core Course and over 1,250 NAR members have received NAR’s Green Designation. NAR’s Green REsource Council anticipates that 3,000 REALTORS® will have earned the designation by the end of the year.

“REALTORS® build communities and understand the importance of green homes and buildings,” said NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth. “Consumers recognize the relationship between green properties, cost savings and healthy living and are looking for Realtors® to help them find the home that fits their needs.”

According to a recent NAR survey, 90 percent of recent home buyers thought energy efficiency was a very important consideration when searching for a home, and the demand for green buildings and environmentally sensitive home features is growing. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the green homes market is expected to increase to 10 percent by 2010.

REALTORS® who have earned NAR’s Green Designation are prepared to help consumers and clients in their search for environmentally friendly properties and work to incorporate green principles into their own practice.

To obtain the designation, you must complete a 12-hour core course and 6-hour elective course in either residential, commercial, or property management. Nearly 300 courses are scheduled across the United States and Canada for 2009.

Consumers can now find Realtors® with this designation in the “Find a REALTOR®” section at REALTOR.org. For more information about the Green REsource Council and the designation, visit www.GreenREsourceCouncil.org.

“NAR’s Green Designation increases the value REALTORS® add to the transaction,” says McMillan. “By arming themselves with the tools and training necessary to seek out, understand and market green properties, our members become a positive force for creating sustainable and energy-efficient communities.”

Source: NAR

Nearly a quarter of all New Homes in Austin, TX are Green

May 11th, 2009


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Home building in Austin is greener than ever.

Long known for its save-the-planet ways, the city continues to be a national leader in producing eco-friendly homes, says Richard Morgan, Austin Energy’s green building manager.

More than 20 percent of homes built in the Austin Energy service area now are being rated green by the city program, Morgan says. The city always ranks among the top 10 in the country in green production – and by some reckonings, the city ranks No. 1, Morgan says.

“Over the last few years, we’ve been rating anywhere from 18 to 23 percent of homes ? more than 1,000 homes each year,” Morgan says. “It was probably about 24 percent last year.

“Even with the downturn, we’re still rating a lot of homes.”

Worth noting is the number of green-certified homes built in Austin by production builders, Morgan says.

“One of the interesting things that’s happening in Austin is, early on back in the 1990s, everybody assumed green building would be for high-end custom homes, but now probably about 90 percent of what we rate are built by production builders. In most places, it’s the custom builders doing green, but here, the production builders have really adopted green. And that is something that’s unique to Austin.”

Also, he says, Habitat for Humanity is building all of its Austin homes to green standards, which is not true in most other cities.

Helping drive Austin’s green building success, Morgan says, is the 711-acre pedestrian-friendly Mueller community – a redevelopment of the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport site.

“Everything out there is green,” he says. “All of the homes are required to get at least a three-star rating (out of a possible five stars from Austin Energy’s Green Building Program). The density is better than what we have traditionally seen in Texas and in the U.S. It’s transit-oriented, and all of the irrigation is with reclaimed water.”

Beyond Austin

While Austin is a leader in the movement, the U.S. green building market is enjoying strong growth across the nation, making green construction one of the few bright spots in a struggling housing market.

“Texas can take a bow for being at the forefront of this (green movement),” says Kevin Morrow, program manager for green building standards at the National Association of Home Builders . “It’s really sprung up from Texas ? but we’re seeing it all over the country.”

McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2009: Trends Driving Change report estimates that the green building market will more than double by 2013, reaching to between $96 billion and $149 billion. The analysis is based, in part, on data from construction industry surveys and statistics in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program.

“Today’s homes are significantly more energy-efficient than those built 20 and even 10 years ago,” says Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, “and we continue to make advances in building science and new construction techniques. The home building industry is getting greener every day.”

The National Association of Home Builders reports more than 180 certified green projects in 41 states, with 300 more in the pipeline. This includes a mix of homes and one development using either the group’s new National Green Building Standard or the Model Green Home Building Guidelines.

“People are starting to understand how green building ? affects them personally and positively,” Morrow says. “At least 75 percent of the interest ? is related to energy efficiency.”

Consumer demand

The success of the green building movement, Morrow says, is largely being driven by consumers, who now are taking an interest in issues such as indoor air quality and environmental stewardship.

“More and more builders are incorporating (green) in their business models,” Morrow says, because “more and more consumers are demanding it. Builders will build what the consumer wants them to build.”

This year, the NAHB Research Center , which is a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders, introduced its “Green Approved” seal of approval, which endorses building products that comply with specific green practices for certification to the National Green Building Standard.

Among the approved items are engineered wood products from iLevel by Weyerhaeuser and tubular skylights from ODL Inc.

Morrow says manufacturers recognize that consumers today are seeking environmentally friendly home products – especially those that focus on energy and water efficiency – and they’re adding new ones to the marketplace every year.

This year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized its WaterSense certification system, which can help consumers choose toilets and other products that are at least 20 percent more water-efficient than conventional models. The Energy Star program already points consumers to energy-efficient appliances and other products.

“What you’re seeing taking off is those features that are a part of every green home ? efficient insulation, very efficient windows ? things you’ll expect to find in any green home,” Morrow says.

But consumers, too, are increasingly interested in other innovative and attractive eco-friendly goods such as recycled glass countertops and reclaimed hardwood flooring.

National conference on tap

Morrow says construction professionals often discover the latest products at industry shows and conferences such as the National Association of Home Builders’ National Green Building Conference being held in Dallas this weekend.

Attendees can get an up-close view of green building products and materials at manufacturer exhibits as well as on a tour of six green-certified projects, including the 4,800-square-foot Colleyville Eco House, which is a demonstration project for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program, aimed at encouraging homeowners and builders to live and build in a more fiscally and environmentally sensitive manner.

The new home sits on a one-acre lot previously occupied by a 3,500-square-foot home that was disassembled.

Eighty percent of the old home was recycled, and the windows and other parts were donated to Habitat for Humanity.

GreenCraft Builders of Lewisville built the new house with a variety of resource-efficient, environmentally friendly products and materials including a pricey geothermal heat pump that is expected to lower energy bills by as much as $500 per month from what it would be with a more traditional heating and cooling system.

The conference this year has scheduled more than 30 educational classes on topics such as building science, design and marketing, with a variety of speakers including Austin architect Peter Pfeiffer and Texas financier and alternative-energy advocate T. Boone Pickens.

“We’ve really gotten away from making the case for green ? and are getting down to the brass tacks for making it work,” Morrow says.

Building professionals today know what green building is, but they might not know how to incorporate eco practices into their business, Morrow says.

During the conference, builders, remodelers and other home-building industry professionals also can earn credits toward becoming a Certified Green Professional , a designation from the National Association of Home Builders. The program has more than 2,850 green-certified professionals so far, and Texas has the most at more than 850; Austin has more than 100.

“As home buyers return to the market and as homeowners look to make cost-effective improvements to their homes, these professionals have already determined what consumers will be looking for: environmentally friendly, resource-efficient design and construction. That’s green building,” Robson says.

During an awards dinner at the conference, the National Association of Home Builders recognizes the best in green residential design, new home construction, remodeling projects and green advocacy efforts, as well as state and local green building programs.

Texas winners this year include Tonti Properties in Frisco, which won for Multifamily Rental Project of the Year for La Valencia at Starwood; and Imagine Homes in San Antonio, which garnered the Affordable Single-Family project award. Also, San Antonio’s green building program was named Green Building Program of the Year.

What to Look For in a Green Home

April 16th, 2009

By Kathryn Lively

When you hear the suggestion to buy a “green” home, bear in mind it doesn’t mean you should buy a house that is physically painted green. Living green these days refers to being more mindful of the environment and working to lessen your carbon footprint. If you have the opportunity to move into a new home, why not consider making a fresh start by doing everything you can to create an environmentally-friendly place to live? You’ll find it’s not expensive to do, and it can help reduce clutter and increase homeowner satisfaction when you discover how much money you can save.

Searching for a Green Home

As real estate agencies become more knowledgeable on green living, you may find it easy to spot the most important elements needed to make an environmentally-friendly house. As you tour potential residences with a Realtor, look for the more obvious signs:

The exterior: What does the house look like? An eco-friendly home will be covered with paint that is low in toxicity and therefore doesn’t release deadly toxins into the air, or use a “green” style of siding. Fiber cement siding, for example, expends less energy in manufacture than vinyl, and is less toxic.

Insulation: In school we remembered the three R’s. When buying a home, you just need to know the R factor. This calculates how quickly heat is conducted across a surface. A home with little to no insulation is more likely to absorb the heat, moisture and cold air from outside, resulting in a low R factor. When looking for a home, you want to be certain the insulation rates at a high R factor. A well-insulated home protects you from the elements, and can help reduce heating and cooling bills.

Also, check the windows. Are they double-hung, insulated, and installed correctly? If so, not only will the windows reduce the amount of UV rays filtered into the home, but they also provide for easy use and natural ventilation. The larger the windows in the home, the better the opportunity for natural lighting, which lessens the needs for electricity.

Flooring: Definitely check for hard-surface flooring in the homes you visit. Eco-friendly hardwood and similar styles are simpler to clean and maintain than carpet, and do not absorb as much moisture. Should something spill on a carpet, chances are it will remain there even after cleaning, and increase the risk of mold. However, if prefer a carpeted home, you may wish to look for carpets made without artificial dyes and installed with non-toxic glues.

Plumbing: It’s a fact that the less water you use, the lower your bill. Low-flow plumbing fixtures are also eco-friendly, as they require less energy to use and prevent waste. You may also want to see if the home has a tankless water system, which allows for instant heating of water so you don’t waste time waiting for water to heat when you need it.

Your home is your castle, and the planet is a vast kingdom that needs to be preserved for future generations. As you search for a new home, take the time to ask about environmentally friendly features. A green home not only helps to conserve energy and natural resources, but it can also preserve your own “green.”

Kathryn Lively is a freelance writer specializing in articles on Virginia Beach real estate and Norfolk condos for rent.

LA Tops the EPA’s Annual Energy-Efficient List

April 14th, 2009

Each year the Environmental Protection Agency counts the number of energy-efficient buildings that won its Energy Star certification.

In the latest report, released in March, the winner was Los Angeles – the sprawling metropolis known for its smog and crowded highways. It had 262 Energy Star buildings.

Why LA? This study only counts energy-efficient structures, says Maura Cantor Beard, communications director at the EPA’s Energy Star program, and California mandates attention to some of these details.

The number of Energy Star-certified buildings nationwide has climbed 130 percent in the last year, according to the EPA.

The 10 cities with the largest number of energy-efficient buildings are:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. San Francisco
  3. Houston
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Dallas
  6. Chicago
  7. Denver
  8. Minneapolis
  9. Atlanta
  10. Seattle

Source: Forbes, Matt Woolsey (04/06/09)