Posts Tagged ‘Solar’

True Sustainable Eco Lodge At Hix Island House In Vieques

Friday, January 13th, 2012
Casa Solaris

Casa Solaris

The tourism department for Puerto Rico claims that the ex-military base for the US turned tourist destination Vieques offers visitors a eco-island experience. They may claim eco-island status as a whole however we had to search pretty diligently to find anything authentically eco friendly. Our diligence paid off with a visit to the muy verde Hix Island House

Our timing couldn’t have been better as the hillside eco resort recently opened a new additional called Casa Solaris. We see many lodges called “eco lodges” but Hix Island House offers a true and tranquil eco-villa experience.  Firstly, the architect John Hix created his new Casa Solaris building completely off the grid. The completely self contained wing offers six minimalist designed rooms powered by both a photovoltaic system and solar hot water. The pool also gets its heat from the nearby solar panels and contains a locally used a low chemical cleaning system significantly less toxic than the typical chlorine based products.

Speaking of water, in addition to dual flush toilets, the building contains a greywater system that transports used sink and shower water to the nearby field to irrigate the soon to be planted bananas trees and other indigenous fruits.

Lest we forget abut the materials used to create the building. Originally John Hix wanted to use wood however he discovered that wood doesn’t hold up well through hurricanes so he opted for concrete. The use of concrete in the overall design includes the floor, walls, countertops and showers. The al fresco shower may be the best experience with the cement floor and walls, the views of the rain forest and ocean, as well as the fact that the heated water comes via the sun.

We also enjoyed the fresh baked bread and the local fruit (Mango). One of our few disappointments comes from the fact that locals don’t grow more local tropical fruit (Corazon, passion fruit) which they grow on the main island. The Hix Island House staff already planted various fruit trees to rectify that issue.

Besides letting guests know about the sustainable design of this villa, they continue to educate the locals so that Viequenses will use the sustainable knowledge to create sustainable homes and lodges of their own.

The education, design and sustainability make the Hix Island House one of the true eco-resorts not only in Puerto Rico but in todo el mundo.

New MiEV in San Francisco Driveway

Monday, March 14th, 2011
New MiEV in driveway in SF

New MiEV in driveway in SF

It’s becoming a regular occurrence. One of us comes down early in the morning and we spy a new electric vehicle in the driveway of Plug In America and solar guru Marc Gellar. This time, we got to check out the new MiEV from Mitsubishi. This international version (slightly smaller than the US version) looks to be the perfect size for San Francisco or any city commute.

The MiEV looks somewhat larger than the Smart car but seems to be a better size in terms of size and comfort. It contains four seats, and even if four tall people can’t squeeze in, it sure can fit a few bags of groceries. Marc mentioned that it offers a surprising amount of giddyap, and also told us that it can go about 80 miles between charges which is enough to visit to the East Bay and back.

Of course, price gets everyones’ attention and the MiEV. We heard that  Mitsubishi dealer in San Rafael will have these electric puppies available in November and should come in less than $20K mark with the federal credits.

The one thing that that gets us is on the back of the car it states “40 years of EV development”. So, what have they been doing for the last 39 years? Waiting for gas that’s $5 a gallon.

Solar Powered Laundromat

Monday, February 21st, 2011

solar laundromatWe’ve passed this tucked away laundromat in Duboce Triangle a few times and we’ve seen the soar panels up top (not sure how big a system it is) but we finally decided to give this place a post. Doing laundry remains one of those necessities in life and the best way to do it (with a low carbon footprint) remains the old fashioned way by hand and then line dry. That’s real solar!

However in this modern age and big city life, using eco-star washers and dryers and powering the dryers with solar (the carbon footprint is much higher for drying than washing) can be considered a good option. We’ve even seen one laundromat in Bernal Heights who installed a tankless hot water heater which not only cut the wasted hot water but boy did the laundromat owner’s energy bill drop.

Inside we spied four new eco star commercial washers.  Although the other washers and dryers were the standard (non eco-star) machines, we and most people would say use the machines that exists until they can’t be repaired. We don’t need more washers and dryers filling up the landfills. Either way, it would be a good idea if all laundromat owners took the initiative to make their business more sustainable (and more profitable to boot).

Solar Compactors Hit City Parks

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

solar waste can

Even from our home perch here in San Francisco, we have to sometimes reach out for props to our So Cal brethren. In this case, some of us carpooled down to LA for the Thanksgiving weekend and even managed to avoid any real traffic jams.

Even more amazing, a couple of us spotted this solar compactor in Mar Vista park. This Big Belly in Mar Vista park represents only one of a growing trend where cities use these Solar-powered trash compactors to cut costs and emissions in 53 city parks. The solar compactors wirelessly monitor when they need to be emptied. They’re high-efficiency and low-maintenance which fits in with the mantra of so many cities (like LA).

We’re only surprised not to have spied these solar compactors in San Francisco. LA jumping ahead of San Francisco in the sustainability race? Hardly, but maybe LA will surprise the nation with a 405 full of fully electric cars soon.

Green Festival 2010 – San Francisco

Monday, November 8th, 2010

healthy home furnitureAlthough many great speakers informed, educated and inspired the well attended Green Festival in SF, a couple of us circulated among the vendor booths to check out the newest and greatest and not so greatest products.

Although not having a full opportunity to do our due diligence we did pepper some of the vendors with various questions about their products.

The Solar Lite caught our attention with the their hanging displays of flashlights (and the solar lantern). The light puts out a nifty 40 lumens which would come in handy for camping trips and the fact that it can hold a charge for three years makes it earthquake preparedness friendly. It would be great if the flashlight itself were made of something greener than plastic but the fact that it saves people from chucking batteries into the landfill makes it shine.

We only mention Bright Earth foods because the owner (more like a an alchemist) acted to passionately about his sustainability produced Noni and other superfoods that we have to give out props. After doing the Noni shot we did feel happier knowing that all Noni drinks are not created equal.

At the far end of the exhibits, we ran into (almost literally) the Green Bike Effect bikes. These folding and electric bikes recently came on the market from Alameda. One of us jumped on the bike which offered a quick giddyap and can reach speeds of near 20 mph. Unlike mopeds, these don’t cause CO2 emissions and cause less noise pollution as well. Although we would prefer if the bike itself weren’t made in China or if some of the bike components or even the saddle came from repurposed material, it still may encourage people to do the electric commute.

We definitely aren’t interior designers but we couldn’t help but stop and sit in the Exotic Green Furniture, which we talked with owner James Michaels. To be sure, he gets excited about his formaldehyde free furniture and the fact that much of the furniture utilizes other materials so it fits in with some of the cradle-to-cradle mentality. Some of his tables come from dormant coconut trees, which is a story in itself, and we will hit on that topic in a future post.

William McDonough (Mr. Sustainable) at West Coast Green 10

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

willaim mcdonoughThey normally refer to William McDonough as Mr. Sustainable but after watching his unplugged marathon presentation at the first day of West Coast Green 10, we might refer to him as Green John Wooden or the Eco Vince Lombardi. Why? Because like the two notable sports coach legends they built their winning teams based on sound foundations and fundamentals. Oh, and they were great motivators.

In a wold of sound bites and 60 second You Tube videos, how could anyone would not be impressed and awed but his powerfully fact filled, logical yet often funny almost 3 hour presentation? He began by showing his upbringings in Ireland where his first house designs incorporated solar collectors. Impressive how his progressive thought goes way back in the day. He jumped forward to tell a story about his first US based project in New York when he fought to get compost toilets approved for Hindu temple. (In some places, unless you live in national park,  it sometimes remains challenging to get approved to install compost toilets).

Then in 1984, McDonough started questioning manufacturers about what was in their wood, paint, carpets and Building Materials Supplier told him, “It’s proprietary. It’s legal. Go away.” So much for transparency.

And so much for the first part of this post. We’ll post additional highlights from McDonough who, lucky for the planet and us, has not gone away.

Photo by Darilyn  Kotzenberg

Spirited Solar Talk and Tour at West Coast Green 10

Friday, October 1st, 2010
Lot's of good natural light in the solar house

Lot's of good natural light in the solar house

On the first day of West Coast Green 10, only a handful of bloggers (like Zem Joaquin of Ecofabulous) showed up for an informal solar talk presented by SunPower and Luminalt but as they say, we respect the quality more than the quantity. We quality people brought about a spirited talk mentioning the progress of solar and how solar fits just a small green option in the big picture. We raised the question of considering that if someone who has only $50,000 in their pocket would they be better off installing a PV system or maybe a water catchment system, hydronics, some new eco-star appliances.

To be fair, Luminalt made a good case for just making a sales pitch. They work with GoSolarSF, which combines environmental justice and social justice for lower income neighborhoods like the Bayview here in SF. They made a point, which we have seen before, that be having a solar system that reduces their PG & E bill to sometimes nothing can transform the life of someone.

Now part of the discussion ended up being a show and tell of one of the local installation. Of course we would have preferred to see one of the homes in the Bayview but we settled for a posh house in Presidio Terrace. Honestly, the people who opened their house to us do live a mansion and the PG & E bill to them will hardly make a difference but they continue to make a conscious green effort. Besides the 3 7.5 KW solar system they repurposed much of their old furnishings to Building Resources (instead of the dump), they installed eco star appliances, used low VOC paint and drive hybrids. The couple mentioned that they will be purchasing fully electric cars soon.

Although not militantly green they do make an effort. We hope soon that we can say the same for everyone else.

Tour de Fat – Beer and Bikes in San Francisco

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Tour de Fat San Francisco 2010

Tour de Fat San Francisco 2010

Wanted to post for Eco Monday but had too much beer and biking over the recent weekend for us to stick to our schedule. Fortunately, the Tour de Fat stuck to its (or is it their) schedule.

In all honesty, a few of us made but we completely missed the festive ride but we did make it in time to celebrate the beer and bike happenings in Golden Gate Park. Let it be known that happiness reined not just because Mother Nature cooperated with a balmy 85 degrees and the cold New Belgium beer poured freely but because the stages where Mucca Pazza (like the Stanford marching band on acid or steroids) and other performed came via solar energy. The festival pretty much marks on off the grid show which makes the merriment even more merry.

On this day, bikes ruled. It might have seemed odd for some to see a young lady go up on stage an sign way the pink slip to her Toyota Corolla for for a spanking new bike courtesy of New Belgium. Some may think that isn’t a fair trade when the lady mentioned how she only drove her car in order to avoid parking tickets, we think that she may have gotten the better end of the deal.

If more festivals had this smarts to play off the grid and promoting sustainable transportation then we would all be happy to purchase just one more beer.

Photo courtesy SFbike

Controversy About Huge Green Tiburon House

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

tiburon_gallery_09Across the Bay in Marin in Tiburon to be exact, a lot of rumblings continue to occur about a soon to be built Green House. A large, soon to be built Green house. 15,240 square feet of large to be exact making it one of the biggest in the county.

It brings up the question that we have debated before. Is it better to build a small “dirty” house or a large Green house? Seeing that Anders Swahn who wants to build this home runs a solar energy startup, we would think that he would get the whole idea of sustainability.

He plans to build the structure as carbon neutral with solar panels, geothermal heating and greywater recycling. It would be built to last for 200 years and, of course, would measure up to Marin County’s green building standards.

The problem that many neighbors have remains the size. Since when is a 15,000 square foot house sustainable. Unless 10 people live there. A lot of materials will be used to build it. No matter how much FSC certified lumber he uses it still would need copious amounts. We’re not even talking about the trees that will removed on the wooded bluff location in order to build the house (not to mention the 2000 sq ft guesthouse).

A more sustainable idea would be to buy another large home like the one for sale just down from the proposed site, a 10,944-square-foot estate, with 11 bedrooms and 10 baths that sits on the market for $37 million. He could add his Green bells and whistles to that estate and be more sustainable without sacrificing his need to live in a ginormous casa.

San Francisco Wants Everyone to Green Their Property

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

green ebergy sf green building sfWith many cities putting Green building on the back burner, while they try and help solve the distressed homeowner crises (equally important), San Francisco continues their progressive Green thinking. In a few years, when the distressed homeowners crisis hopefully wanes, people will start thinking about how important Green building looms in terms of not just energy and cost savings but the health of people who live their.

San Francisco recently developed an accessible financing program that allows residential and commercial property owners to finance sustainable building improvements. This effort coincides with efforts across California and the United States to establish similar financing programs.

Interested home and business owners to finance can utilize GreenFinanceSF privately owned energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation improvements.  The repayment obligation is attached to the property, rather than the individual, and is paid back through property taxes over the life of the financing.

All size residential and commercial buildings can use the program. Eligible projects include energy efficiency upgrades—such as adding insulation, replacing windows, and upgrading heating systems; and water efficiency upgrades—such as installing low flow toilets. Financing is also available for installation of renewable energy generation on buildings such as solar arrays – in conjunction with energy efficiency improvements.

Pretty simple, huh? We think so. It should be a win-win for everyone so we’re hoping that everyone will look long term (yes, we know that is hard for most Americans) and utilize this program.

(photo courtesy apartment therapy)