Green Design: Recycled Content and Innovation

There is so much talk about recycled content, pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled content in the industry.  Post consumer content is any discarded item after people used it.  It is a great time to start thinking out of the box and start seeing other great uses for our discarded items.  I recently created a small sculpture installation for PS151 of recycled car parts and discarded cinder blocks for their 9/11 memorial garden.  There are a lot of other people that are also thinking out of the box, here are some examples of what has been done:

WNYC covered an artist that collects broken umbrellas and recycles them into innovative reusable items such as clothing, handbags and much more. Check out the article and images of some of her designs at the following link.

In the UK a company has developed a product from recycled materials and also has an educational base to it.  They produce school supplies, such a pencil cases with saying such as "I used to be a car tire".  They are coming up with more innovative products for the outdoors, clothing and bags.  Check them out at

Other artists are taking on these challenges and creating art from our discarded garbage.  One local artist is Janet Nolan.  She creates artwork from post-consumer items such as discarded umbrellas, wire coat hangers, plastic bottle caps and much more.  Check out her art work at

Here in the US we need to start making headway with products made from post-consumer materials. Creating them to be innovative in design, massed produced or having items recycled into artwork.  These are but a few examples of what can be done.  We need to start looking outside the box in ways to reuse items and keeping them out of our landfills.  As we look into what we can do with these unwanted materials, we also need to realize that they need to be produced locally.  Take the next step and start using your creativity and imagination to help our environment.

Thinking Green: The Apartment Composting Experiment

Composting is a great way to recycle our garbage and to keep debris out of landfill.  As of October 2010, I have helped the formation of a composting program at PS151 in Queens.  Starting it at the school has also inspired me to start composting at home.  We as New Yorkers live in small apartments and have the a negative image of composting.  Most believe that it is smelly and that you need a backyard to do it.  I am here to prove otherwise.  I am also going to show that it can be done in larger families.  I have 3 kids, all under the age of 7.  I am going to start worm composting at home to show that it is an easy thing that can be done and that it can be done with kids around.

Here is how I started it.  First, I did my research on line about composting and got a few books on the subject.  The book that I preferred and that I am using for a guide is "Worms Eat My Garbage" by Mary Appelhof.  As part of my research I found ways to make your own compost bins on a budget.  Red Worm Composting website has a great video on how to set one up and I have used their advice to set mine up.  Check out the video at! .  Also if there are kids around you have to get them excited about the project as well.  With my boys, I got them excited by talking about worms, books on the subject and by saying that they will be pets in the home.  Now for the worms, I ordered mine from the Lower East Side Ecology Center.  With them you order the amount of worms you need and then pick them  up from the Union Square green market. Here is the link to their products -
There are many other venues that sell worms, check what is available near you.  Also,as you try to see where you can get them, see if you can support a worthy organization at the same time.

I have set up the worm bin and will be picking up the worms on Wednesday.  More posts on the progress to come.

Thinking Green: Urban Green Expo

It's time again and the Urban Green Expo is here.  It is run by the Urban Green Council and is located at the Metropolitan Pavilion & The Altman Building, 125 West 18th Street.  The Expo will run on Sept 29th and 30th, the exhibit hall hours are - Day 1: 10 am to 7 pm and Day 2: 10 am to 5 pm.  The Key note speaker will be William McDonough one of the co-authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

The Theme of the Expo this year is "Pushing the Envelope", On their website Urban Green wrote that "At Urban Green Expo 2010 we will explore how green buildings can “push the envelope” both literally, by focusing on the importance of high performance building enclosures, and metaphorically, by addressing topical subjects like verifying building performance and by highlighting innovative buildings, processes and systems."  The Expo has a multitude of educational seminars and the Expo floor has over a 100 green products &/ services located.  Check out the website for tickets, info on product and educational seminars. 

I will be at the Expo both days and will be blogging about the information I get there. Stay tuned or hope to see you there.

Energy Retrofitting for Existing Homes

Energy is one of the major topics on the green scene these days.  With the government and local utility companies rewarding those who take the step forward to make changes for the better.  Home owners who want to take advantage of some of these incentives need a starting point on how to make these changes on their own properties.  Well, there are many ways to perform an energy retrofit of existing homes.  Here is one example of what needs to be done.

A standardized method can be used in taking on an energy upgrade to an existing house. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Perform an initial assessment on the house. Gather information such as square footage, house volume, window data (area, type, orientation, shielding), insulation levels, appliance types and age, HVAC information, previous energy bills and materials of construction were necessary to understand the performance of the house. Find out houses characteristics, such as:
· Year Built
· Conditioned Space
· Ceiling Height
· House Volume
· Bedrooms
· Bathrooms
· Foundation
· Orientation
· Major Appliance Assessment- Refrigerator, Washer, Dryer, Dishwasher, Freezer
· Materials of Construction
· Insulation
· Windows
· Lighting
· Previous Energy Consumption

2. Perform an Energy Audit. Organizations like NYSERDA will help you with this. Check out the following website for more info .  As part of an energy audit you will have to also test the house and ducts for air tightness using Blower Door and Duct Blaster test equipment.

Some easy Energy saving recommendations would be:
· Radiant Barrier stapled to the underside of the roof trusses
· Solar screens on the south and west windows –the shading coefficient will depend on your location
· Weather stripping on doorjamb
· Programmable thermostat
· Refrigerator and freezer coils should be checked and cleaned periodically
· Ceiling fans should be added in bedrooms or other parts of the home such as family room
· Water heater lines should be insulated

3. Interview the occupants of the house and discuss to get an understanding of the household makeup and energy usage habits.

4. Energy Modeling - Once the initial assessment is completed, energy modeling should be done to simulate the existing house. Energy modeling can be a relatively quick and accurate method used to simulate the effects of changes to the building envelope, lighting and appliances within the home.

5. Install a monitoring system.  Monitoring will help you estimate the benefit of each modification performed and help you know how all systems are performing.  A system can be installed to directly monitor energy consumption and environmental conditions, as well as tell you if something is wrong with one of them.

6. Potential upgrade evaluation would come from suggestions made from the energy audit and energy modeling information.  Once the list of potential upgrades is determined and modeled to estimate their benefit, savings should be compared to the installed cost to calculate a simple payback in years.

These simple steps will help you have a healthier living environment and saves you money in the long run.