green services

Think about the Environment when Melting Ice

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: air quality, green home, green services, living green, water conservation | Tags: , , , , , |

SPECIAL BLOG CONTRIBUTION by Ryan Keith, Landscape Architect and General Contractor

As a Washington, DC resident, I have been digging out of the snow for the past week.  It has been back breaking work and I am excited for all the snow to melt.  Over the past 2 weeks, many of my clients have been contacting me to discuss the use of chemical Ice Melt products.  What are the best choices to ensure safety yet minimize environmental impact?

The first thing to realize is that Ice Melt products are not good for the environment but there are products that are less harmful.  Ideally, we would all use shovels to clear snow and ice and the sun would do the rest but, the reality is that Ice Melt products keep us safe walking around and keeping up with our busy schedules in the winter.

Here are the pros and cons of the different Ice Melt products and my feedback on which ones I use in an effort to be “greener”.

  • Not Green, but Effective in Melting: Currently, the most common and cost-effective Ice Melt product is Rock Salt (Sodium chloride).  This product is the most common product used by municipalities for roadway clearing and is quite effective at its job and it is cheap.  The problem with Rock Salt is what happens after the snow and ice are gone.  Rock Salt will kill vegetation, wash into the waterways and increase salinity, kill fish and contaminate drinking water.  Additionally, it is harmful to pet’s paws and is very corrosive to metals and concrete.
  • Greener Alternatives: Potassium chloride and Magnesium chloride are alternative chlorides that are better than traditional rock salt in that they do not harm plants but, they still wash into our waterways and have a great environmental impact.
  • Less Harmful, but Not Green. The second category of Ice Melt products is Urea (carbonyl diamide), these are commonly marketed as “green” Ice Melt products.  Urea is less hazardous to children and pets but will still release nitrates into the waterways, depleting oxygen in the water and killing fish.
  • Greener Alternative: The better Urea based product is Coated Urea (Carbonyl diamide with glycol mixture) as it is less hazardous to children and pets and the glycol mixture inhibits the release of nitrogen into the waterways.  Limiting nitrogen in the water keeps our waterways healthy.
  • Municipal Ice Melt Mixes: The third category if Ice Melt is Biological Ad Mixtures.  These products do not work on their own yet, but increase the effectiveness of Rock Salt (Sodium chloride) when added together.  You can add a Beet Sugar Extract or Corn Extract to Rock Salt and it makes the Rock Salt more effective and thus reduces the potential quantity of rock salt needed to keep roadways clear.  These extracts are currently only being added at the municipal level and are not commercially available to consumers.  Since an enormous user of rock salt is municipalities, we should be encouraging our local department of transportation to utilize an extract to keep cost down by making the rock salt more effective and limiting rock salt in our waterways.
  • Greener, but More Expensive: The last category of Ice Melt are the Acetates.  The Acetates are Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA), Sodium Acetate (NAAC) and Potassium Acetate.  The acetates are some of the safest around children, pets and the environment.   The major drawback is that they are all significantly higher in cost.  It is common to see products that mix an Acetate with one of the Chlorides to form a more cost effective and more environmentally sensitive product.

Personally I use a Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) by itself or mixed with salt to make it more effective at lower temperatures.  I have also used Coated Urea with success.  Most importantly, I do not over-use the products and only spread what is absolutely needed to maintain safety.  Less of any of the Ice Melt products is always better for the environment.  I also do my best to lobby the local Department of Transportation to use Biological Ad mixtures or Acetates with their Rock Salt to reduce impacts on the environment while keeping costs under control.  The Department of Transportation uses a lot more Ice Melt than consumers do and their decisions have a much greater impact on the environment.

About the Author: Ryan Keith is a Landscape Architect and General Contractor in the Washington, DC region.  His firm, Redux Garden + Home, specializes in environmentally sensitive design and construction practices.  See his work and contact him through his website at www.reduxgardenhome.com.

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Eco Brokers that Truly Care About the Environment: Arbour Realty

Posted on January 4, 2010. Filed under: green business, green operations, green services, living green |

Happy 2010! It’s a new year, a new decade and we’ve got more green stories to share with you, including those from our clients about what they are doing to be green.

In our first client feature of 2010, we talk to Arbour Realty about their green efforts and how working with an environmental consultant can help even when you’ve already taken steps to green your operation. While we are proud of all of our clients’ green efforts, we are particularly excited about Arbour Realty’s commitment to green at every level. Not only do they help people buy and sell homes with green features, they take time to educate them about green renovations and green living practices that are good for the planet and their often their pocketbook. Arbour Realty has also shown their environmental commitment through every level of their business operation, from designing their Virginia office with green materials to eliminating huge amounts of paper waste typical of most real estate agencies, to even offering energy audits and eco-home assessments to their home buyers.

Learn more about their green efforts in Sonia’s interview with Adam Gallegos, green visionary and principal of Arbour Realty.

interview by Sonia Heiles

Green Living Consulting: What does “green” mean to you?

Arbour Realty: Green means living healthier, conserving our natural resources and leaving a lighter footprint on our planet.

GLC: What was your biggest motivation in wanting to get your business green?

AR: We wanted to do more than run a business.  We wanted to set an example that would inspire positive change. 

GLC: Why did you choose GLC to assist in your green endeavors?

AR: We want to align ourselves with companies that truly believe in the benefits of green.  From day one, GLC has shown their commitment to us and to the green movement. 

GLC: What have you done to date since your initial GLC assessment?

AR: We have already implemented over a dozen suggestions from GLC.  A few of my favorites:

1) placards around the office explaining the green features and benefits.

2) an overview of our green commitment that we now include on our website and in our brochure.

3) the addition of live plants around the office.

4) an XLerator hand dryer that has eliminated the use of paper towels in our office.

GLC: What was the biggest challenge in greening your business?

AR: We knew from the beginning we did not want to be a green shell trying to prosper from people wanting to live more green.  It was important that we find ways to “walk the talk” in ways that truly make a difference to the planet, our community and our clients. 

GLC: What role did GLC play in greening your operations?

AR: We hit a ceiling with what we were able to come up with on our own.  GLC brought new energy and new ideas.  They really helped us take our green business initiatives to the next level.  We have also implemented a program to offer Green Living Consultations to our home buyers.  We have found this to be a great way to spread the excitement of green living.

GLC: What level GLC rating do you currently have? Do you hope to receive a higher rating in the near future?

AR: Gold. We would love to step it up and reach the next level.  Our next project is lighting.  We would like to transition our office to all LED lighting.  This along with some smaller projects should get us to the next level. 

GLC: Have you been successful in creating a culture of green with your staff?

AR: We have been lucky in attracting people to Arbour Realty that really embrace the benefits of green living.  It’s great to have our staff contributing ideas and volunteering time.  

GLC: How have you tracked your eco-practices progress since their initiation?

AR: I can’t say that we have done a great job of this.  GLC really helped us take an inventory of what we are doing green.  That was a big help for our own piece of mind and what we are communicating to the public. 

GLC: What have been the most effective eco-practices?

AR: The process of writing contracts for home sales can be extremely wasteful.  Lots of printing and faxing going back and forth.  There is typically a lot of driving involved as well.  We implemented a new technology that allows us to use electronic signatures, virtually eliminating the need to ever print a contract or addenda.  It also eliminates the driving around needed to get signatures.  We save more than a ream of paper a week with e-signatures. 

GLC: How have you communicated your green efforts to the public?

AR: We have added our green efforts to most of our communication materials so that the public understand what we are doing differently that the other real estate companies out there.  So far we have gotten a great reaction.  Just this year we have won two prominent awards for best green business. 

GLC: What have the most visible benefits of going green been for your business? Lowered operating costs? Increased sales as a result of your green efforts? Something else?  

AR: There are over 10,000 real estate agents in the DC area.  We are happy to not be just another one out there telling everyone that we are the best.  Operating as a green real estate company really helps people understand at least one aspect of what makes us different and opens the door for them to learn all the other reasons we are a great choice for their real estate needs. 

GLC: If money wasn’t an issue, what other green actions would you consider implementing?

AR: LEED certification of our office.  We would love to go for a LEED rating.  The only thing that has held us back is cost. 

Thank you Arbour Realty for your continued green efforts. We look forward to working with you achieve a Platinum green business rating, educating homeowners, and making the DC area a greener, healthier place to live!

Stayed tuned for our next client feature: Brooksfield School

be well. live green.

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A Greener Ripe featured in Business Week

Posted on August 12, 2009. Filed under: air quality, green business, green media, green operations, green services, Uncategorized |

photos by Brad Trent

Business Week’s new feature “When Going Green Isn’t About Marketing“, by Amy Barrett, gets at the heart of what Green Living Consulting preaches daily – it’s possible to green your business in a way that saves money and reduces your impact on the environment. Our client Ripe has demonstrated how you weather a tough economy in both a fiscally and environmentally responsible way by greening up your operations.

Ripe, a DC-based web and graphic design studio, has been in the creative world for many years and continues to be a leader in innovative design practices, increasingly incorporating sustainable design into their products and services. But that’s not all. They have embraced sustainability as not just something they should consider when designing, but in every aspect of their business – from how they get to work (see Maryam’s bicycle below right), to how they light, cool, and heat their office, and even what they use to clean it.

Ripe also looks for opportunities to giveback, for example by donating laptops to the One Laptop per Child Foundation, whose mission is to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. Tomas, owner of Ripe, even subsidizes alternative transportation for his employees – something not unusual for DC given the number of federal employees that receive transit benefits, but for this 5-person design firm, that’s a major commitment.

The studio’s design also incorporates sustainable materials: bamboo floors, low-VOC paints, and recently added Sansevieria plants, which are a big favorite of ours for cleaning the air naturally indoors. This plant is great because it is low-light tolerant, requires little water, and absorbs many of the toxins in the air that we don’t even know are there (See NASA study excerpts on how house plants absorb potentially harmful gases indoors).

Ripe was also the first design firm in Washington DC to adopt the Design Accord – a global coalition of designers, educators, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact. Adopters of the Designers Accord commit to five guidelines that provide collective and individual ways to take action.

Ripe also recently received its Green Living Consulting certification, in which they rated SILVER in our Scorecard Assessment for their green actions across our 8 pillars of sustainability. We can’t wait to help them reach GOLD and keeping climbing the green ratings from there.

be well. live green.

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