Monday, July 06, 2009

Green Roofing...What?

As we are building more urban areas, we are also losing green space. A great way to revitalize the urban landscape is to invest in green roofing. Green roofing involves high quality water proofing and root repellant systems, as well as a drainage system, a filter cloth, and a lightweight growing medium along with plants. Some of you may be wondering, “Why a green roof? What can it do for me?”

Green roofs will typically last twice as long as conventional roofs because all the sun damage that reaches bare floors will be used to grow plants. There is a lot of energy saving potential as well, depending on the size of the building, climate, and type of green roof. In Ottawa, Canada, Karen Liu found that 6” of green roof reduced heat gains by 95% and heat losses by 26%. Green roofs also absorb sound pollution from airplanes and traffic.

Green roofs also provide a space of serenity and aesthetic beauty. It can be a place for day care, meetings, and recreation. Instead of taking a break in a dull and enclosed room indoors, employees can take breaks taking a scenic stroll on the roof. For the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, the kitchen saved up to $30,000 annually by growing it’s own greenery,

Although green roofs are still immature in North America, it is an investment worth looking into for your business. Give your employees a place to look forward to while they are at work!

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Human Impact on the Environment

How much impact have humans brought upon our own planet? Animal species have once gone into a very slow extinction where balancing mechanisms can develop to compensate the loss. Animals have lived in a complicated weave of relationships, so complex and magnificent that we humans have only scraped the surface of understanding.

Yet, with our rise, animals have fallen. We’ve created huge agricultural problems with our own invention. With pesticides and insecticides we’ve tipped the balance of ecosystems and cause massive imbalances in our own world. Never have we faced such a crisis; in the last 65 million years we have never had such a rapid rate of extinction as we’ve had in the 20th century.

Who’s next, and what do we do to prevent it? Human beings are not excluded from the food chain. Honey bees, for example, pollinate hundreds of plant species and what are weeds to us may be food to someone else. We should not exterminate living things so rashly without understanding the consequences.

I believe that knowledge was the most simplest answer. We should educate, educate, educate. When I remember how I learned about extinction, I remember my grade school teacher simply saying, “Don’t do like the dodo.”

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Friday, May 22, 2009

A Fragrance-Free Future for All?

I am a second-generation Vietnamese American who grew up in Anaheim. I had a variety of friends but I was very conscious about the smell of my house. The Vietnamese are notorious for not only pho (beef noodle soup) but also their nguoc mam (fish sauce). My mother was aware of it too, and we usually wanted the house to smell more "American" so she clipped out coupons for Glade Plug-Ins every weekend.

I remember how the plastic Glade Plug-Ins would soften and eventually burn its plastic cover if we left it in for too long. At one time each power outlet had a Plug-In, but the combination of "Tropical Breeze" and "Pinewood" started to give me dizzying effects. My mother eventually stopped buying them...and now she has turned her passion into buying air filters.

It led me to wonder about the fragrance industry in the world. With Americans generally bathing or showering each day, it's quite amusing to research history. In Elizabethan times, about 500 years ago, bathing once a month was the epitome of cleanliness. Perfumes and potpourri were created from dried organic materials, but nothing was really synthetic at that time. Nowadays, it's much cheaper to create chemical compounds imitating the scents of these fragrances without environmental threats (ex. musk).

I read an article that was reprinted online. It made me think about the fragrance industry and the chemicals we create in pursuit of fragrances.

Synthetic fragrances are used to scent products, and sometimes to mask odors or unpleasant smells that a chemical compound may produce. One good example is a product that I've used in my home for years, Comet, which I recently bought in a lavender scent. I was not particularly happy with the change, as it smelt nothing like lavender.

Since the rise of synthetic fragrances we've been layering ourselves day in and out with chemicals. I have eczema-prone skin and while I lived in Riverside, the dry air caused several major outbreaks. I thought air purifiers would help, which it did, but my condition did not improve as much as simply using oatmeal-based skin products and moisturizers. But beware, just because it is unscented or fragrance-free does not mean that they are chemical free.

Not to mention that some people are just plain allergic to some fragrances. Do you remember any product you've used that caused your skin to break-out? I remember that applying anything on my inflamed skin would cause a burning, itching feel. And have you tried any scented product that gave adverse reactions? For you lucky ones, no. But for those who have...there's a good reason for it. Reactions in fragrances can quickly become medical lawsuits, so much that magazines must adhere to a strict fragrance protocol to prevent accidental exposure.

It is very creepy to know that most fragrances can be launched on the American market without any approval process. Basically, until it makes some kind of adverse reaction, the fragrance manufacturer can go about its business and the FDA would not have any jurisdiction over the matter.

I would recommend simply investing in a good air purifier over the hundreds of dollars you may spend in home fragrances and to begin using organic and wholesome chemical-free products. Granted, some individuals prefer the scent of ocean in the morning, or dew in the evening, but the truth is that it is most likely chemicals and toxins you are exposing your body to. Potpourri may also be an alternative, but keep in mind that some potpourri is also soaked in fragrant chemicals. Fragrance yourself free from chemicals. I am sure it would not only be good for the environment but for your body, too.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Times are a Changing: Time to Update Your Air Conditioner

Big changes are coming to the world of air conditioning on Jan. 1, 2010. In an effort to comply with an international green treaty and slow down ozone deterioration, air conditioners across the country will be forced to comply with a new level of standards. Here are some key facts to help you stay ahead of the curve and save yourself from the heat, especially during crunch time.

These new standards in air conditioning can be attributed to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to help curb damage to the Ozone layer. It is designed to lead to some actual recovery of the Ozone layer by 2050. Initially established in 1987, it has since been amended seven times and is continually looking to eliminate substances that have defiantly been established as reasons for ozone depletion. Chlorine is one of those substances that has been clearly identified as doing significant damage and has been used since the 1970’s as a coolant in nearly all air conditioning units. This chemical is called R-22 and as of Jan. 1st 2010 will be eliminated.

R-22 will be replaced with a chlorine free coolant called R-410A that has zero ozone depletion. Begin thinking about switching your AC now as R-22 units will no longer be manufactured and that means parts and supplies will make repairs harder and more expensive. In fact, chances are the EPA will make it illegal to sell any R-22 units by the end of 2009.

Don’t be discouraged though. Energy costs have increased 50 percent in the last five years and with the economic climate the way it is, this is a great chance to save money on proper energy efficient air conditioning units. Updating your air conditioner with the proper requirements can save you up to 45 percent. Look at the SEER rating, (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating when purchasing a new unit. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the SEER rating the better the efficiency. Of course, this is entirely depending on your geographic location and many can make do with a low SEER rating where air conditioning is not as drastically needed.

Also be sure to look at rebates and tax incentives while replacing your air conditioning units. Chances are you can get a great deal and save money with a correct purchase. The recent stimulus bill has set aside money for actions like this so search the web or look at your local states Database of State and Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency for proper deals.

The last step to get the most out of your air conditioner is to make sure you obtain proper installation. A key part of upgrading your unit is to get the most out of it and improper and shoddy installation can quickly defeat this purpose. Keep it well maintained as well and you will see a significant reduction in your energy bills. Don’t wait until its 2010, start looking for new and more energy efficient cooling solutions today.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

The Watermill

Element Four, a company that is constantly looking to the future, recently revealed their plans for the watermill, a device with technology that could provide a limitless source of water from the air itself. The hope is that this device would help in irrigation, personal thirst, peacekeeping and disaster relief.

The Watermill’s process is actually quite simple. It drains moist outside air through an air filter. This moist air then passes over a cooling element causing condensation into moist water droplets. The water is then collected and passed through two other filters. Both the carbon and ultraviolet sterilize the water to help eliminate bacteria making this water extra clean.

The WaterMill is designed to be installed unobtrusively on the outside of your home to catch outside air so it will never dry out the air in your room. Element Four claims that location doesn’t matter at all. Whether you live in a crowded city or the countryside you will be drinking the most pristine of water that is better then tap, bottled or spring water. In a sense all you are really purchasing is a giant dehumidifier that has been combined with a water purification unit.

One of the biggest issues regarding the Watermill is climate control. Skeptics feel that city’s weather patterns might be reengineered through deployment of watermills over time. This could occur accidently or on purpose depending on the area. But the biggest worry is that by sucking condensation from the air a city could quickly go into a drought. Without a steady flow of humidity, areas once use to rainy seasons could end up getting virtually zero rainfall.

But perhaps one of the benefits of moderating the weather is that summer storms and other problems can be stopped before they start. Devices like this could end up helping society in the long as they can help control and curb the weather. One scholar brings up the idea of solar powered air conditioners. These air conditioners could be realistically placed atop skyscrapers and then flood the surrounding streets with downward winds of cooled air, making super hot days more bearable.

But this wouldn’t be the first time that civilization has altered weather patterns. All one really needs to do is look towards history to figure out technology and its impact on climate. The introduction of coal to London’s climate in the 18th and 19th century had dramatic weather effects. In fact, depending on your belief of global warming once can make an argument that most modern technology has had an impact on weather systems. Either way, the creation of the Watermill is quite an astounding feet. Being able to provide water to places that normally have trouble is quite astonishing. As a society we just have to balance the pluses and minuses and figure out where this unique device would have the most impact.

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