Archive for August 11th, 2009

How Green is Polystyrene Insulation? EBN’s Position, and How It Affects GreenSpec-Listed Products

Chart from the feature (requires login):
Human Health and Environmental Concerns with Polystyrene Constituents
(click image to enlarge)

The August EBN feature article, "Polystyrene Insulation: Does it Belong in a Green Building?" (requires BuildingGreen Suite membership) and an accompanying editorial "Rethinking Polystyrene Insulation" (free content) has led our company to reexamine some of the products we list in the GreenSpec Directory.

As those articles (and the related blog post, "Avoid Polystyrene Insulation") point out, there are some troubling health and environmental concerns with both extruded and expanded polystyrene insulation (XPS and EPS). These concerns relate both to the underlying chemistry of polystyrene (especially the benzene used in its manufacture) and a flame retardant, HBCD, that is used in all building-related XPS and EPS products.

Given these concerns, our editorial staff reached the conclusion that polystyrene insulation made with HBCD is "less green" than most other insulation materials. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t green products made with EPS or that alternative products are necessarily benign. But when there are alternative insulation products that we consider to be more attractive from a health or environmental standpoint and when they offer comparable energy performance, then we consider those alternative materials to be preferable.

So, what does this mean relative to our GreenSpec listings?

Due to environmental concerns with ozone-depleting HCFC blowing agents (which are to be phased out by the end of this year), we do not, and have never, included XPS products in GreenSpec, so there is no change there.

We did remove several EPS boardstock insulation products, and we are working hard to replace them with what we believe to be greener products, such as additional rigid mineral wool insulation products.

However, there are a lot of EPS-based products that are remaining in GreenSpec because we believe that their energy-saving benefits outweigh the health and environmental concerns. These are mostly structural insulated panels (SIPs) and insulated concrete forms (ICFs) — of which we list dozens of each — as well as some specialized products, such as exterior insulation systems used for insulating existing buildings. These products are being used in many of the lowest-energy buildings being built today. Note that our inclusion of these products may be reconsidered in the future if good, non-EPS alternatives emerge in the marketplace and EPS manufacturers fail to find an alternative to HBCD.
While we very much hope to see the HBCD flame retardant removed from these products — and we are confident that manufacturers are working to identify safer replacement chemicals — we recognize that energy performance of buildings is a top environmental priority, and EPS continues to play a vital role with many such products.

We look forward to participating in a dialog about life-cycle concerns with polystyrene insulation and hope that our position begins that discussion.

We welcome any comments you wish to post about this issue — use the comment function below.

You can follow my musings about this and other issues through Twitter.
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Vivesana Solar to Polar Organic Sunscreen Protects Against the Elements
Vivesana Solar to Polar sunscreen photo
Photo credit: Vivesana

A radiant, bronze-goddess glow is one thing; looking like charbroiled filet mignon is quite another. But the mercury doesn’t have to shoot through the roof before you break out the sunscreen—any prolonged exposure to the great outdoors demands it. Going windsurfing? Sunscreen. Snowboarding? Sunscreen. Stalking the Himalayas searching for self-aware, supra-intelligent Yetis? You betcha Sherpa you need sunscreen.

Vivesana, which means “live healthy” in Italiano, has a couple of broad-spectrum, water-resistant products formulated to ward off damaging UV rays while bathing your epidermis with moistu… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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India IT Industry Tackling E-Waste

India IT Industry Tackling E-Waste

ewaste
E-waste has become a scourge in India and other developing nations.  It comes to them in droves from countries like ours and the toxic chemicals contained in our computers and electronics are polluting the water and affecting the health of those that are put in charge of getting rid of it.  India’s IT industry has decided that there has to be a better way, so they’ve joined Greenpeace and other organizations in drafting new rules for the handling and disposal of e-waste.

The group is proposing that the new rules called “E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2008 be added to the country’s Environment (Protection) Act of 1986.  The current rules only govern the disposal of industrial waste and don’t cover e-waste.

The proposed legislation would require electronics producers to extend their responsibility through a product’s lifecycle, ensuring its recycling or proper disposal.  The rules also call for a ban on the import of used electronics for recycling and disposal, although the legislation does allow for the import of electronics for charitable purposes.

Without an open invitation to send our used electronics overseas, maybe U.S. companies and consumers would take more responsibility for their safe disposal?

via PC World


Visit the original post at: EcoGeek.org

China’s Super-Ambitious High-Speed Rail Plans

china-rail
China’s economic stimulus package contains provisions for a $300 billion high-speed rail project that makes California’s $10 billion high-speed rail plan look down-right wimpy.  The country plans to have 16,000 miles of new track in place by 2020!

The first phase will see five major routes constructed with trains traveling up to 217 – 236 mph.  The trains from Beijing to Shanghai will travel at top speeds of 220 mph, making the trip in four hours.  Then, by 2012, 6,800 miles of track will be added, including 35 lines where trains travel 125 mph or more, and 4,350 more miles will be added by 2020.

Even more intense is the amount of people who will be employed by this massive project.  Construction of the Beijing to Shanghai phase alone has already seen the employment of 110,000 people.

There’s no denying there’s a sort of rail boom going on in China.  Rail travel has seen a 10.9 percent increase in ridership  since 2007 and the country spent $44 billion on rail projects last year alone.  I can’t help but think we need to catch some of their ambition.

via Treehugger


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230 Miles Per Gallon – The Chevy Volt

230mpgSo a while back we published an article entitled arguing that the Chevy Volt could, in fact, get a million miles per gallon, depending on how you drive it. Since the car gets 40 miles per electric charge before the internal combustion engine ever kicks on, so if you never drive more than 40 miles from your house, you never use gas…at all.

Of course, there has been some worry about how mileage ratings would be given to such a car. Well, the mystery is over. The EPA has developed a new system to determine the efficiency of plug-in vehicles, and the Volt came in at 230 mpg in the city and 100 mpgon the highway. This makes it the first car to have a triple-digit mileage rating.

The new calculation is more than just a guess by the EPA. The driving habits of Americans are taken into account, of course, but so has the petroleum equivalence of the electricity used to power the car. So they didn’t just call those first forty miles “free” they took into account the cost and environmental impact of the electricity and it’s STILL 230 mpg!

It’s a great day for automobiles my friends.


Visit the original post at: EcoGeek.org

230 Miles Per Gallon – The Chevy Volt

230mpgSo a while back we published an article entitled arguing that the Chevy Volt could, in fact, get a million miles per gallon, depending on how you drive it. Since the car gets 40 miles per electric charge before the internal combustion engine ever kicks on, so if you never drive more than 40 miles from your house, you never use gas…at all.

Of course, there has been some worry about how mileage ratings would be given to such a car. Well, the mystery is over. The EPA has developed a new system to determine the efficiency of plug-in vehicles, and the Volt came in at 230 mpg in the city and 100 mpgon the highway. This makes it the first car to have a triple-digit mileage rating.

The new calculation is more than just a guess by the EPA. The driving habits of Americans are taken into account, of course, but so has the petroleum equivalence of the electricity used to power the car. So they didn’t just call those first forty miles “free” they took into account the cost and environmental impact of the electricity and it’s STILL 230 mpg!

It’s a great day for automobiles my friends.


Visit the original post at: EcoGeek.org

GM says Volt to get 230 mpg in city

GM says Volt to get 230 mpg in city

GM's mpg claims for the Volt must first be verified by the EPA, but Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson said "We are confident the highway will be a triple-digit composite."General Motors Corp. says its Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car should get 230 miles per gallon of gasoline in city driving.

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U.S. urged to protect Mexican gray wolves

This Mexican gray wolf moves back into the wild after being released on Jan. 26, 1998, in Hannagan Meadows, Ariz.They’re all gray wolves, but the Mexican gray wolf is notably different than its faraway cousins, and conservationists now say the animals need specific protection under federal law to avoid extinction.

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New deal to clean up Hanford nuclear site
Washington state and federal officials announced a court-enforceable schedule Tuesday for cleaning up the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site.

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New Building Energy Label More Aggressive than Energy Star

building-eq
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has come up with a new energy labeling system for buildings that will be more in-depth and more aggressive than the Energy Star labels for buildings.  The new system called the Building Energy Quotient will be unveiled this fall and will assign grades like a report card to all types of buildings except residential ones.

The Building EQ will consist of two different ratings based on energy use per square foot per year.  One will factor in the building’s design while the other will rate its energy saving performance.  Both areas will be graded on a scale of A+ to F, with A+ meaning a building accomplishes net zero energy (it produces the same amount of energy it consumes) while an F will go to those buildings considered unsatisfactory.

While there is definite overlap between this rating system and Energy Star, Building EQ goes beyond the former’s pass/fail labels and makes the best grades tougher to come by.  An Energy Star building would receive a grade of B on the Building EQ scale, while a typical commercial building would get a C.  The new program is not as encompassing as LEED though, which takes into account water use and overall environmental impact of a building, not just energy use.

As we get closer to mandatory labels for buildings, developers will now have three voluntary rating systems to choose from, hopefully placing a premium on those buildings that achieve the highest ratings and making energy efficient buildings the norm and inefficient ones a thing of the past.

via Earth2Tech


Visit the original post at: EcoGeek.org

New Building Energy Label More Aggressive than Energy Star

building-eq
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has come up with a new energy labeling system for buildings that will be more in-depth and more aggressive than the Energy Star labels for buildings.  The new system called the Building Energy Quotient will be unveiled this fall and will assign grades like a report card to all types of buildings except residential ones.

The Building EQ will consist of two different ratings based on energy use per square foot per year.  One will factor in the building’s design while the other will rate its energy saving performance.  Both areas will be graded on a scale of A+ to F, with A+ meaning a building accomplishes net zero energy (it produces the same amount of energy it consumes) while an F will go to those buildings considered unsatisfactory.

While there is definite overlap between this rating system and Energy Star, Building EQ goes beyond the former’s pass/fail labels and makes the best grades tougher to come by.  An Energy Star building would receive a grade of B on the Building EQ scale, while a typical commercial building would get a C.  The new program is not as encompassing as LEED though, which takes into account water use and overall environmental impact of a building, not just energy use.

As we get closer to mandatory labels for buildings, developers will now have three voluntary rating systems to choose from, hopefully placing a premium on those buildings that achieve the highest ratings and making energy efficient buildings the norm and inefficient ones a thing of the past.

via Earth2Tech


Visit the original post at: EcoGeek.org

Shaking Off Palin’s Shadow, Alaska Embraces Energy Efficiency
sarah palin veto override photo
Photo via Millionface

With Palin fresh out of the governor’s seat, the Alaskan legislature wasted no time in overturning her veto of stimulus funds for energy efficiency. You may recall that Palin had previously said thanks, but no thanks to allotting Alaska $28 million in federal money for statewide energy efficiency improvements–apparently, her state felt differently….
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Invention Overload! A Slideshow of the 2009 James Dyson Award
dyson award inventions image
Inventors from the world over have submitted to this year’s James Dyson Award, and we’ve got a prototyp-o-licious slideshow of our favorite entries. James Dyson is the iconic designer behind products like the Dyson vacuum cleaners and the Airblade hand dryer. His foundation, which gives out the cash awards, last year chose this smart cycling jacket to take first place. This year’s winner will be announced September 1st.

Browse around and let u…
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