Environment Forum

Is this the greenest office on Earth?

Every workstation has a view. Much of the lighting comes from reflected sunshine. It’s so naturally quiet that unobtrusive speakers pipe in “white noise” to preserve a level of privacy. The windows open, and they’re shaded in such a way that there’s no glare. Even with the windows closed, fresh air circulates through vents in the floor. Extreme recycling prevails, not just of bottles, cans and kitchen refuse but beetle-blighted wood.

Welcome to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which contains some of the greenest office space on the planet.

NREL’s headquarters in Golden, Colorado, is also the home to cutting-edge research on biofuels, photo-voltaics for solar power and other renewable energy technology, but the physical plant is a living lab for green building. At $63 million, or $259 per square foot for its construction cost, including interiors and furniture, the Research Support Facility as it is called, was hardly cheap to build. But with 220,000 square feet of space, it is the biggest energy efficient building in the United States.

The recycling is evident at the entrance, which is decorated with angled wall panels made of golden-colored pine. Look more closely and you see a bluish tinge on the wood, from fungus that grew after the pine tree that formed the lumber was attacked by pine beetles. A warming climate in the Western U.S. has enabled pine beetles to survive winters and reproduce to assault pine forests.

This building is highly energy efficient, but it still is responsible for some climate-warming carbon emissions because of some of the construction materials and emissions from vehicles and equipment used to put the building together. It offsets most of the energy it uses by drawing on electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

from Commentaries:

Stella Artois becomes real hedge fund investor

HEDGEHOGSIt seems like a gutsy time to be advertising a hedge fund in newspapers and across billboards in London.

Until you realise at second glance that the adverts are a spoof by InBev-owned lager brand Stella Artois which is trying to boost its green and recycling credentials with some whacky marketing.

With slogans such as "An Investor measures the growth of his hedge fund" and "Once upon a time a hedge fund was just that", the ads initially catch the eye of those of us interested in financial services.

Compost — or else! San Fran’s not just asking

No more Mr. Nice Green! San Francisco passed what it called the first mandatory requirement to throw carrot peels, moldy bread and other icky compostable material into separate bins in order to improve recycling. Total recycling would rise to 90 percent from a current 72 percent if all of the paper and scraps currently in the garbage were put in the right cans, the city said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom soft-pedaled the sticky side of the situation (although who wants any carrot in this story?). There is a $100 cap for fines on residences and small businesses, and the main goal is public awareness, he said in a statement.

The picture, by Reuters’ Daniel Aguilar, is of a dump in Mexico City, which is facing a crisis on where to put its garbage.

from Shop Talk:

For Father’s Day, suit shows greener side of Sears

Sears Covington Perfect suitHey guys, this isn't your pop's polyester.

Just in time for Father's Day shopping, Sears will roll out a line of men's suits made of the first high-tech fabric that blends wool with polyester spun from recycled plastic soda bottles.

The suit separates, sold under Sears' Covington Perfect brand, will be on racks in about 500 U.S. Sears stores in May.  Price: $175 for the jacket and $75 for the pants, according to Tim Danser, vice president of marketing for Bagir Group Ltd., the Israeli manufacturer that tailors the garments for Sears' private label.

And get this: This suit is machine washable and can be tossed in the dryer, eliminating the need for dry cleaning and upping the eco-friendly ante, Danser said.

Overcoming the ‘ick’ factor of wastewater recycling

After an hourlong tour of the world’s largest wastewater recycling plant, where 70 milion gallons of pre-treated sewer discharge is distilled daily to help replenish the underground drinking supply of Orange County, California, I was led to a sink with a faucet. There I was presented with a plastic cup and invited to take a sip.

Crystal clear and utterly tasteless, the sample was refreshing and perfectly safe for human consumption.  Some minerals are actually reintroduced to the water before it’s pumped back out of the ground for general consumer use.

Michael Markus, general manager of the Orange County Water District and the chief engineer behind the plant, assured me that the water exceeds all government drinking standards, even though the state requires the county to put it into the local aquifer — for additional natural filtration — before offering it to the public.

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