A Beacon for the Future

A Beacon for the Future
"We hope the reinvention of our 100-year-old waterfront home as a model of green building will educate and inspire both the building industry and the general public.” - Homeowners Dave and Anna Porter (rendering by Craig Thorpe).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another Great Article about Greening Your Home and Life

A big shout out to the members of the Girl Scouts at Lexington Middle School all the way back in Kentucky who have been working on the "Go Green" badges!  "Go Green" Badges?  Who knew?!  But it seems a very appropriate activity and goal to learn about and work toward.  The reason I know about this group is that through their adviser, Sarah, I learned that they had found our www.goinggreenatthebeach.com Web site and had gleaned much from our resources.  It's so great to know that we are impacting communities even as far away as that!

And these girls are already learning about the importance of sharing what they learn.  They wanted Sarah to share another great resource, a kind of one-stop-shop for ways to green your own home and life and wanted me to share it with those of you who also come to our site.

So, go visit: http://www.homeadvisor.com/article.show.Going-Green-in-Your-Home.17326.html. for more great ideas on going green.  Whether you're going for your Go Green badge or just want to green up your home, it's a great resource.

Thanks bunches, girls and keep up the good work!

Friday, April 19, 2013


We get asked every now and then the question about our energy usage.  Sometimes we're asked if we pay nothing since we're so energy efficient and have solar and geothermal.  I wish the answer was "no."  But it's not.  The truth is that even though we're very energy efficient as defined by ENERGY STAR (An Efficient Home Envelope, with effective levels of wall, floor and attic insulation properly installed, comprehensive air barrier details, and high-performance windows; Efficient Air Distribution, where ducts are installed with minimum air leakage and are effectively insulated; Efficient Equipment for heating, cooling, and water heating;Efficient Lighting, including fixtures that earn the ENERGY STAR®; and Efficient Appliances, including ENERGY STAR® qualified dishwashers, refrigerators, and clothes washers) we still have our energy sins: a hot tub, 2 full-sized refrigerators and 2 beverage-sized ones (only one of which is energy efficient), an offsite septic that requires an electric pump to move waste uphill 2 blocks.  But these are just the obvious ones. There are plenty of other places where we all waste energy without giving it a second thought.  Here's a helpful infographic that spells it out:

home appliances waste electricity
Source: Apartment Guide – Discover ways to stop wasting energy in your college apartment

See what I mean?  Look around your own house for places where you're spending unnecessary energy.  ENERGY STAR has a helpful tool to get you started on your own investigation.  Good luck!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Doing Well by Doing Good

Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group Inc., creator of GreenBiz.com, among many other accomplishments, writes in his book, "Strategies for the Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges in the New World of Business," that companies are recognizing that by "going green" they can not only reduce costs but enhance their reputations (and hence their bottom lines) in other words, “doing well by doing good.”  Doing the right thing turns out to be a win-win for everyone.  Take OutBack Power for example.

Our solar inverter sponsor for Going Green at the Beach, OutBack Power, is nearly right in our own backyard.  The WA state company is located less than 30 minutes from us in the little town of Arlington.  But though their location is small, OutBack is big on ways to bring sustainable power to the world.  One their recent achievements was to help International Rescue Group  meet part of its mission to reduce its carbon footprint by helping it retrofit one of its rescue boats, the Thunderbird 2.  The OutBack inverter helps to harness solar energy to power both Thunderbird 2 and its onboard water-making system, which desalinates ocean water and makes it potable through reverse osmosis.

You can read more about this project on OutBack's recent press release.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What the bottom line on mercury?

The Green Market Oracle reported this week on a new treaty signed by more than 140 nations limiting mercury emissions.  The negotiations for this treaty, which limits acceptable mercury emissions from industrial boilers and power plants, was nearly 5o years in the making.  It also sets rules on phasing out certain products that have high mercury content and mining and storage.

We have known for centuries that mercury is poisonous.  It is particularly dangerous to women and babies.  The good news is that we have come a long way in technology that would help lower or eliminate mercury emissions.  

So, you might ask, what about the push to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs when CFLs contain mercury?  Glad you asked...

Lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average home’s electric bill. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy (electricity) than incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, cost little up front, and provide a quick return on investment.

CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 4 milligrams (mg). By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury – an amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFLs. Mercury is an essential part of CFLs; it allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (not broken) or in use.

Most makers of light bulbs have reduced mercury in their fluorescent lighting products. Thanks to technology advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the average mercury content in CFLs has dropped at least 20 percent or more in the past several years. Some manufacturers have even made further reductions, dropping mercury content to 1 mg per light bulb.

EPA estimates the U.S. is responsible for the release of 103 metric tons1 of mercury emissions each year. More than half of these emissions come from coal-fired electrical power. Mercury released into the air is the main way that mercury gets into water and bio-accumulates in fish. (Eating fish contaminated with mercury is the main way for humans to be exposed.)  

Most mercury vapor inside fluorescent light bulbs becomes bound to the inside of the light bulb as it is used. EPA estimates that the rest of the mercury within a CFL – about 11 percent2 – is released into air or water when it is sent to a landfill, assuming the light bulb is broken. Therefore, if all 272 million CFLs3 sold in 2009 were sent to a landfill (versus recycled, as a worst case) – they would add 0.12 metric tons, or 0.12 percent, to U.S. mercury emissions caused by humans.

Electricity use is the main source of mercury emissions in the U.S. CFLs use less electricity than incandescent lights, meaning CFLs reduce the amount of mercury into the environment. As shown in the table below, a 13-watt, 8,000-rated-hour-life CFL (60-watt equivalent; a common light bulb type) will save 376 kWh over its lifetime, thus avoiding 4.3 mg of mercury. If the bulb goes to a landfill, overall emissions savings would drop a little, to 3.9 mg. EPA recommends that CFLs are recycled where possible, to maximize mercury savings.

Because CFLs also help to reduce greenhouse gasses, other pollutants associated with electricity production, and landfill waste (because the bulbs last longer), they are clearly the environmental winner when compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs.

(Source: EPA ENERGY STAR.  http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf)