Thursday, August 30, 2007

Green homes going mainstream

Many energy-consumption problems can be addressed with simple tweaks to conventional house design, according to the founder of eco-friendly home design company Michelle Kaufmann Designs. Windows and sliding glass doors placed on opposite walls, for instance, allow the sun to more evenly wash a room with light and eliminate contrast, which reduces the need for electrical light during the day.... Similarly, a glass wall can make a room seem bigger than it is, which cuts down on the need for McMansion-size family rooms and therefore the amount of raw materials required for building the home in the first place.

"Where you get the most bang for your buck are things like (window placement) that save energy but don't cost more," she said.

...Mainstream developers such as Centex Homes, Lennar Corporation and The Grupe Company have also begun to emphasize green features in their homes, particularly as concerns about electricity grow and housing sales stagnate.

Article Reference: 

Ideal Bite


Easy eco-living tips are presented in a short, sassy and free email each weekday. From organic pet products to eco-friendly fashion, the Daily Tips provide level-headed advice for people who want to do the right thing without giving up creature comforts. The beautiful thing? Collectively we are creating a more sustainable world by connecting Ideal Bite's subscribers with eco-friendly products and companies.

Powerhouse Enterprises


PowerHouse is not just any other modular home builder. we are not even another "green" home builder. PowerHouse offer professionals in the residential building and design community a suite of services and products. PH can assist with conceptual design, marketing, graphics, engineering... et al... on any single family home to a large, multi-unit development. Our goal is nothing less than the transformation of the residential market.

Hive Modular Homes


A HIVE home is an eminently practical, somewhat whimsical, always functional, affordable expression of how you want to live. For those who value a modestly sized, well-designed residence, be it modern or more traditional, there is a Hive home to meet your needs.

Hive homes use a modular construction system, which provides a high level of quality control, minimizes exposure of building materials to the elements, and shortens construction time.



MARMOL RADZINER PREFAB combines the efficiency of factory-built homes with the benefits of custom residential design. Our green homes are not a kit of parts – we build the prefab modules in our own factory and ship them complete with your choice of pre-installed interior and exterior finishes, flooring, appliances, and more. We can oversee the entire process, from design to delivery and installation, so no additional contractor is required.

We create our prefab homes with the environment in mind and have designed them to achieve LEED certification. For long-term sustainability, the module structures are made from recycled steel. The homes employ other green materials, including Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), FSC-certified wood, low VOC Green Seal paint, solar panels, and more. Floor-to-ceiling windows capture natural light, while expansive decks provide shade for passive cooling and promote the best of indoor/outdoor living.

Living Homes


We work with leading architects to create lines of homes that feature modern form and functionality and an unprecedented level of healthy/sustainability materials and energy systems. We're using high volume, factory production to increase the quality of our homes as we reduce their cost, schedule, and construction waste, compared to those that are similarly constructed on site. We're selling our homes to owners and home builders with land, and through communities we and other groups are developing. Our mission is to create homes and communities that inspire people, foster family and community interaction, and make modern life easier, healthier and more comfortable -- all in ways that compliment and enhance the municipalities and environments in which we work.



They offer a new way to think about small living. They offer "right sized" living spaces, with living enhancements including digital entertainment systems, and the use of sustainable or green construction materials.

Earth Advantage


We work with builders and developers to bring the most energy efficient, sustainable and healthy homes to the market. We participate with other nonprofits, organizations and associations to bring forth the message of conservation and sustainability.

Dedicated to this cause along with education and training, we offer an invaluable service to the public and our clients. Our employees and customers are what bring value to the market and are the cornerstone on which the program stands.

Earth Advantage wants to help you help the environment. If you're building a new house or remodeling your existing one, we can show your builder how to make it a greener place to live.


An online marketplace for "green" homes. Homes are listed from around the U.S.

Panasonic, Toshiba delve into alternative energy

Hoping to boost the market for alternative energy, Panasonic next year plans to release hydrogen-powered fuel cells that will heat homes as they produce hot water.

...Still, Panasonic says it can heat homes with less natural gas than conventional systems, thereby cutting energy costs and emissions.

...Stanford University and other schools are dedicating more research to the topic, while a number of venture capitalists have begun to invest in companies promoting wave power, solar energy and biomass technologies that extract energy from garbage.

...Toshiba's fuel cell for handheld devices could come to market by 2006, said Fumio Ueno, an executive in the company's Display Devices and Components Control Center.

Article Reference: 

Eco house of the future is no hippie commune

Using the appliances displayed there, a typical family of four could reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, and knock heating bills down some 60 percent, according to the company.

...But, unlike many other "green" house experiments, the Panasonic prototype doesn't exude a commune ambience (generating heat from yeast fermentation is not part of the plan).

...Kazuhiro Tsuga, an executive officer at Matsushita who oversees networking, recently indicated that the company may try to enter the U.S. appliance market (the company already sells appliances in other regions of the world).

...The eco house also dovetails with the company's strategy to promote the digital home, where consumers would read newspapers, watch movies and monitor security cameras through ubiquitous flat screens.

Article Reference: 

Does that house come in green?

His firm is one of several real estate agencies specializing in eco-friendly homes, and it is on the cutting edge of services providing new, green opportunities both for home buyers and realty professionals.

...Stephenson may not represent the typical home buyer, however; she is already dialed into the green scene as the CEO of Ideal Bite, an eco-friendly lifestyle tip sheet e-mailed daily to more than 125,000 subscribers.

...Women and young married couples are driving this trend, according to reports by McGraw-Hill Construction, which cite treading more lightly on the planet and reducing energy expenses as green consumers' primary motives.

Article Reference: 

LV Home Series – modern kit homes by Rocio Romero


The LV Home Series – modern kit homes by Rocio Romero that are affordable, easily built, and highly customizable. We provide you with a kit of parts that makes up the exterior shell of the LV home and can be delivered anywhere in the United States. The LV employs traditional construction materials and techniques; therefore, any General Contractor can build your LV home.

Clever Homes


A complete design-build service that guides you from concept through construction of your ideal home. They combine modern, energy efficient designs with a closely managed building process tailored to fit unique individual needs. The homes rely on prefabricated materials, allowing for the factory to more closely manage use and recycling of materials, and they use environmentally sound materials throughout.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company


Designers and sellers of a series of small kit homes. The concept is that 400 square feet is "enough", and this is what they're offering. A small home for someone who wants a home no larger than "enough".

Sunday, August 26, 2007



A biotechnology company devoted to harnessing the energy-harvesting machinery of photosynthetic microbes to produce valuable products. Exploiting microbial photosynthesis, a biochemical system benefiting from 2.5 billion years of evolutionary optimization yet brought to genomic light very recently, the Company utilizes proprietary genetic engineering methods to develop commercially relevant, sunlight-driven biochemical pathways.



LiveFuels is a national alliance of labs and scientists dedicated to transforming algae into biocrude by the year 2010. Theoretically, algae can yield 1,000 to 20,000 gallons of oil per acre. Theoretically, the U.S. could grow enough algae on 20 million acres to replace imported oil. LiveFuels is working to make this a reality.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Towards sustainable DVD packaging

I work in the high tech industry, and my job sometimes has me standing in a booth at a trade show trying to get the attention of the crowds. That puts me in contact with product marketing, and especially the materials used in marketing. The last show I attended gave me an epiphanette (small epiphany) about DVD packaging. I had helped produce a DVD containing the software I work on, and the DVD was packaged in the standard DVD case. It looks very nice and I'm proud of what we've put together, however it struck me how unsustainable and inconvenient it was. From a sustainability perspective the materials this DVD is made from will last nigh on forever, but the message will be good for a couple months.

I have here an attempt to analyze the problem and offer some solutions. There are alternatives. An Inconvenient Truth was packaged in a recycled/recyclable cardboard sleeve.

Problem statement:

  • The plastic used to make standard DVD cases lasts nigh on forever, meaning it will end up in a landfill and nigh on never decompose.
  • A standard plastic DVD case containing just a DVD is largely empty space.  As empty space, it makes for inefficient shipping and one can imagine a different shipping which packs more DVD's into the same volume.
  • Plastic in general is very damaging to the environment over the long term .. such as the buildup of persistent chemicals in the environment. Breakdown of plastic produces persistent environmental pollutants are causing a worldwide problem.

The packaging for An Inconvenient Truth shows a nice alternative. While it was packaged in a cardboard sleeve, it looked very nice. That it was flatter than the standard plastic DVD case means you can pack more of them in the same space, or pack the same number in a smaller space. There's always a scramble around getting materials to a tradeshow, storing the materials while at the tradeshow, etc, and it would be more convenient if the materials are more compact. It would be more convenient to the attendees as well, because they end up carrying the items they pick up, and the more compact items are easier to lug around especially when it comes time to pack their bags for the return flight home.

The Wikipedia entry on CD and DVD packaging gives us an excellent overview of the methods being employed. We learn that the standard DVD case has a name, namely the keep case.

Most methods for packaging DVD's and CD's involve the use of plastic. And plastics have an unfortunate side effect of poisoning the environment with persistent chemicals. From a sustainability standpoint, some kind of cardboard packaging offers easy recyclability, and can be made from recycled materials, and at worst they can be burned with little toxic side effect. The DVD or CD itself is still made from plastics, but this is largely unavoidable.

My researches turned up some hopeful news.

Sustainable Packaging newsletter:  Is all about sustainable packaging, and in particular this issue discusses the packaging of An Inconvenient Truth.

Video Business: Has an overview of recent moves towards more sustainable DVD packaging.  They were inspired by Wal-mart and An Inconvenient Truth.  Warner Home Video has announced that beginning April 1, 2007 all paper content will be sourced from recycled chlorine-free paper.  Warner Music Group has a similar announcement.

Wal-mart instigating a move to sustainable materials, will wonders never cease.

Finally, for this to make a difference in DVD production by my company, there must be production houses offering these sorts of alternate packaging solutions. The DVD I helped produce was packaged by a duplicating service, and if you yahoogle for "CD duplication" or "DVD duplication" you will find hundreds of these duplication services around the world. These companies employee graphics artists to help with design, and they operate duplication and printing machines and handle the grunt work of producing and assembling CD's and DVD's.

The Wikipedia article above described one packaging option, the digipak, as an environmental friendly solution. It does have some plastic in the packaging, but it is mostly made of cardboard. The Discbox Slider packaging is described as one of the most environmentally friendly styles of packaging, as it is 100% recyclable. The Discbox Slider is available from Stora Enso Media Packaging. They have a FAQ describing various steps in the DVD production process, and the link here is to a discussion of packaging alternatives.

By yahoogling for "DVD packaging sustainable" I found several service companies that can use the sort of packaging I envisioned:

Crystal Clear Disc and Tape


Disc & Print Centre, Ireland

digipak, and cardboard sleeve formats.