Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Inman Winery – Pinot, Green and an Old Barn

Friday, September 10th, 2010
Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

When someone puts more emphasis on their practices and product rather than their marketing then that might cause one to ponder. Such was the case when we almost passed by Inman Family Wines on our sustainable wine journey. They basically have no signage and they certainly don’t have a big banner (like some other businesses) stating “We’re Green.” Instead owner Kathleen Inman speaks softly and carries a big green stick. In other words – Green deeds not words.

Although Kathleen’s Inman has been selling wine and receiving accolades for over 10 years, she only recently opened her tasting room in July. But like the rest of her operation she thinks about the big picture, as she took the effort to repurpose an old redwood barn into the tasting room and production facility. Although it would certainly qualify for LEED (maybe Gold) status she wisely decided to use the $60,000 or so that it would cost to get LEED certified on things that actually make a difference.

The tasting room utilizes wood from the barn as doors and panels, Nearly all of the steel used to make the primary frame of the building came from post consumer and post industrial recycled materials (old cars), the countertops are either made from Terrazzo (repurposed wine bottles), and the remaining countertops (not quite completed) will be from a composite concrete with high percentage of fly ash. The roof boasts a full array of solar panels (enough to power 98% of the winery), and we wondered around back to check out the water reclamation biomass system, which costs a few hundred grand and will save over 54,600 gallons of water per year with the ability to save even more.

We even liked the story of a local contractor who offered to pave a black tarmac over her decomposed granite parking lot but she told him that they prefer to minimize the heat-island effect. She didn’t really say that to him but we just embellished the story a bit.

Lot’s of people talk big when it comes to Green this and sustainable that but she puts her philosophy (and her bank account) in action. Her farming practices come as close to organic and biodynamic (although she has not received certification yet) and probably exceed most of the standards. We nibbled on the grapes right off the vine (don’t try that at a conventional farm) before even sampling her well respected 2008 Pinot Gris , 2008 Endless Crush Rose, and three Pinot Noirs all 2007 – the Thorn Ridge Ranch, the OGV Estate (Olivet Grange Vineyard, which is the organically farmed vineyard surrounding the winery) and the Russian River.

Most winemakers have wine running through their veins but Katherine Inman has big carafe of Green mixed in as well. She believes in making great wine but doing it the right way. We clink glasses to that philosophy. Cheers.

San Francisco’s Old U.S. Mint to Get a Shade Greener

Monday, August 2nd, 2010
San Francisco Mint

San Francisco Mint

For some builders and architects the challenge to even consider building Green from scratch remains daunting and monetarily off the radar but taking a structure like San Francisco’s Old U.S. Mint built in the 19th century and transforming it into a 21st century Green mixed-use cultural center would be even more challenging. San Francisco new goal is to create the most sustainability innovative National Historic Landmark in the United States. Like they say is Swingers, “That is so money.”

Back in the day, the US Mint used to print the green stuff now it will encompass Green thinking.

Some of the ideas that the building will incorporate include:
Natural Daylight – The redesign will include an alteration to the ground floor, which will allow daylight to reach the ground floor.
Natural Ventilation – Currently sealed windows will be redesigned to create natural ventilation.
Water Use – A new canopy drainage system will allow rainwater to be harvested, treated and stored for uses throughout the building. The water, among other benefits, will be used to feed vegetation on the roof.

Now if we can do something about the Bank Of Italy building.

Photo by Mike Hofmann

Saving Paper Vs. Water – SWASH Ecoseat

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
SWASH Ecoseat

SWASH Ecoseat

Maybe because we just topped off a busy holiday weekend that we are feeling so chipper to post this piece about a toilet seat. Yes, it sounds a little far fetched to us as well. We can see that a low flow toilet (like the Simple Flush that this same company makes) would be seen as green. But a toilet seat?

It took us a while to have the SWASH Ecoseat installed, as it wasn’t as simple as we originally anticipated. However, one we got the thing on we found it to attractive with its modern design.
We can’t argue that the thing feels so sanitary and refreshing. Maybe the French do have something with their bidets.

Anyway, the fact that Americans use 34 million rolls of toilet paper each year to the detriment of the forest environment and this Swash reduces toilet paper consumption by 75 to 100% might give us a second thought about this eco-seat as eco. But what about the extra water usage? With water being a precious resource then this seat (or bidets) cause more water use, right? Water versus TP use?  The comparison might be a little silly. No doubt we feel pretty royal and sanitary on the throne but it might be a stretch to say that we are royally sustainable.

Laguna Honda Hospital Will Mark the First Green-Certified Hospital in California

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

laguna_honda_hospitalWith the downturn in overall new building, more sustainable efforts have seemingly fallen by the wayside. We’re glad to see that some projects have not totally disappeared. On June 26, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will cut the ribbon on San Francisco’s new Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, which will mark the first green-certified hospital in California.

Especially with energy still on everyone’s radar, the new technology in the hospital’s three new buildings will focus on energy and water savings. The buildings will use 30% less energy than statutory requirements, have Energy Star rated roofs which keep the buildings cooler on hot days and reduce energy use, and they have “closed-loop” air conditioning systems, meaning the system uses water for cooling is reused rather than wasted. Although do they really need AC in San Francisco?

Because this is a hospital, designers and builders people actually gave a nod to indoor air quality with use of low or zero VOC paints, wood, glues, and flooring materials in the new buildings. Reducing the highly toxic VOC’s, and other indoor air contaminants will only improve indoor health for Laguna Honda residents and staff.

With this green thinking, finally hospitals will start to realize that hospital recovery not only comes with injecting various medicines into patients but giving them a place that offers a healthier environment as well.

Image courtesy JKL

World’s First Convention Center Achieves LEED Platinum Rating

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

vancourvercovcenterNo doubt the current Olympics has and continue to dazzle people with the drama (some outside of the venues) but somehow lost amongst the sports accomplishments remains the fact that Vancouver touted this Olympics as the Greenest ever. It seems that China also made that claim a couple years ago. Instead of getting into a comparison of this green aspect versus that sustainable item, we took a look at the Vancouver Convention Center West, which marks the World’s First Convention Center to Achieve LEED Platinum Rating.

Yes, we’ve discussed our feeling about the LEED label and how we would like seeing more money going toward sustainable aspects versus a LEED plaque but nonetheless they built an impressive structure, which currently hosts the international media for the Olympic games. When the Olympics pack-up Vancouver will still have the dazzling sustainable structure.

What we like most is the six-acre living roof (Canada’s largest) which contains 400,000 native plants and grasses, and the green roof acts as an insulator to mediate the exterior air temperature, as well as reduces the building’s storm water runoff and integrates with the waterfront landscape ecosystem. With Vancouver being such a water friendly city, we also applaud the on-site black water treatment and desalinization systems that are projected to reduce potable water use 60 to 70 percent over typical convention centers. On the energy side, the center includes a heat pump system that takes advantage of the constant temperature of the adjacent seawater to produce heating and cooling. Very cool.

The people of Sochi have their work cut out for them if they hope to continue the Green trend of Olympics venues and buildings.

New Documentary “Tapped” Makes Bottled Water Look All Wet

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

While watching the new documentary “Tapped” with some of my other Greenies, we glanced at each other when one of the water rights experts used a notable quote courtesy of Mark Twain, “Whiskey is for sipping and water is for fighting.” So true, and the fighting will only get worse at least if you believe the water wars that will soon steal the headlines from the oil wars. Twain’s words echo much of the sentiment for this interesting, informative and thought provoking new docu flick.

Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, the film deconstructs the various aspects of the bottled water industry. Tapped examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. Unlike oil which people think of as a commodity, water hasn’t truly hasn’t been considered a commodity until recently. Although water wars and rights have become big news in various countries, Tapped jumps into the fray and pulls no punches right here in the U.S. The film targets (among others) the big three bottled water companies (Nestle, Coke and Pepsi who declined to be interviewed for the film), the International Bottled Water Association, and the FDA.

Tapped leaps right into water rights war between Swiss owned Nestle (who owns various bottle water brands including Poland Springs and Arrowhead) and the town of Fryeburg, ME. The film shows compelling footage and as well as local interviews which show that Nestle stealthy bought the rights to land in an effort to suck all of the water supply from the ground that it can without the consent or payment to the public. The film captures footage of tanker trucks quietly rolling into town but instead of loading up with black gold, they fill up with blue gold (H2O). Soechtig creates more drama as she displays the protests and grassroots movement demonstrations while showing and discussing the Nestle tactics.

They say that oil and water don’t mix, but nothing could be further from the truth when considering the plastic water bottles. The film flows with information about the hazardous materials found in the petroleum based plastic water bottles. Most companies produce water bottles using BPA which as the film claims can causes cancer, brain disorders and diabetes among other diseases. Even though the FDA claims that small levels of BPA to be safe that approval is based upon two chemical company studies. We loved the footage of Senator John Kerry grilling an FDA employee about the lack of third party, independent studies that the FDA uses to determine the safety of various plastic water bottle ingredients.

Speaking of the FDA, the bottled water does not fall under FDA jurisdiction as far as water quality, and it’s horrifying to watch the FDA spokespeople (as well as the spokespeople from the International Bottled Water Association) refuse to answer or simple gloss over questions about various studies and quotes about the quality of the water and the containers. It’s pretty much a self regulated industry so caveat emptor to all bottled water drinkers.

The film also pulls a few heart strings when Soechtig interviews local residents in Corpus Christi who live next to the largest private manufacturer of plastic water bottles. The documentary makes a strong case that the manufacturer looms as a sort of plastic Three Mile Island for the local residents who deal with various diseases and defects because of their proximity.

Tapped surprises with info about the worldwide effects of plastic water bottles (i.e. the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one of five ocean plastic zones in the oceans) as well and lots of insider info from various experts and even an ex-FDA employee.  At some points the film becomes a bit repetitive as it encircles the same points but overall the film offers keen insight into the bottle water industry and leaves the companies making the bottles, sucking the water from the ground, and regulating the industry looking all wet.

Live From the First Day of Outside Lands

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Before the onslaught of crowds hit Golden Gate Park for Pearljam tonight, I, along with other Green minions checked out the Ouside Lands Green scene just as West Indian Girl hit one of the numerous stages.

Don’t say that we didn’t warn you but those who are short on cash should consider the Global Inheritance sponsored recycle booth in the Eco Lands section. They offered a similar booth last year but not many people seemed aware of it. The deal here is that anyone who wants nifty Outside Lands shirt (for free) just needs to bring 75 empty cans or bottles to the booth. For 250 bottles you can snag a pair of Loomstate organic jeans and 150 gets a recycled record vinyl clock. Those not as inspired can get some Fuel TV sunscreen (and boy is sunscreen mandatory today) for just eight bottles. (more…)

Mt. Whitney Water and Pollution

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

It’s not that Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the Lower 48, needs any more publicity. After all, about 30,000 hikers annually make the trek up to the thin air of 14, 496 feet. People who secure even a day use wilderness permit (not much fun making the ascent in one day) through the Mt. Whitney lottery system often feel better than if they had won a state run lottery where they actually win money.

On a recent (this past week) stroll up into the thin air of Mt. Whitney my hiking buddies and I discovered some things. While most hikers have courtesy and smarts to be as conscious as possible toward environmental stewardship it always happens where a few conventionally grown apples ruin it for everyone else. Case in point being at the last reliable water source (High Camp Tarn) before the final push up the 99 switchbacks to reach the summit what did we spy? A dazzling reflection of the various peaks? Yes. A plethora of discarded Mountain House packages resting on the floor of the tarn. You bet. Not only did these packages tarnish the beauty of the scenic watering hole but even forgetting esthetics, who wants to drink water from a polluted lake before a major climb? (more…)

Virtually Waterless Laundry Washing Machine

Friday, June 26th, 2009

At one point, it seems as though virtually everyone has sat in front of washing machine and watched the soaked clothes tumble through the suds. That tradition may be a thing of the past if a new “virtually waterless” laundry machine finds its way to the mainstream.

Although only in prototype stage, this new machine may be able to save up to 90% of water compared to a conventional machine and will also cut carbon emissions. Created by Xeros, this machine replaces the old school idea of cleaning clothes. The technology goes with full on chemistry advances by replacing the majority of the water with reusable nylon polymer beads, the machine can clean clothes in less time than traditional machines, and we see these waterless wonders then you can thank Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, from the University of Leeds who made the discovery that certain types of polymer beads could be used for cleaning. (more…)

David Brower Center – Green to the Bones

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Even in a Greencentric city like Berkeley, locals and Bay Area visitors would be Green with envy when they see the just opened David Brower Center. It feels healthy just to walk through the Green down-to-the-bones building which combines advanced technology along with simple recycled materials.

When entering for their housewarming party we had a difficult time not noticing the soaring concrete walls which made us think more dot com than gallery. The fact that in creating a building with an oh- so-feathery carbon footprint (when compared to most structures) Principal Architect, Daniel Solomon included up to 70 percent slag in those walls.

(more…)