Archive for January, 2009

Composting with WORMS!

I took a composting 101 class down at Park + Vine the other week. I’ve always been a bit overwhelmed by the thought of composting. I’m not a gardner and I never learned anything about gardening. At times I pretend like I am and I will buy plants and weed and do ‘gardeny’ things, but I usually end up neglecting the plants and they end up dying.
That’s why I like the thought of composting. Instead of trying to keep something alive, I’m helping to speed up the decaying process. As weird and twisted as it sounds, I like this.
So this class helped me get started.  We learned the basics on composting.  We can buy expensive bins or we can make them ourselves.  The key seems to be in the mixture of greens and browns.  All very exciting stuff. 

However, what actually got me pumped up was the vermicomposting!  This is more my speed – Have a bunch of pet worms make the dirt for you!  Its perfect.  I’m ready to get started.  I’m tired of throwing my food scraps in the empty lot next door to me.    This type of composting is actually perfect for people who have little to no yard, or they live in the city or apartment complexes. 

Our class didn’t focus very much on this type of composting, so I’ve looked elsewhere to get me started.   All you need is a plastic tub and a pound of worms.  Here is a very helpful site from the self proclaimed “worm woman.”  It seems easy and fun to do.  If you’ve got kids this is a great way to teach them about composting and to have fun at the same time!  Now I’ve got to go find somewhere to buy a pound of worms….

For Step by Step Instructions Click here


January 27, 2009 at 4:45 am 4 comments

emersion DESIGN Awards

cda12logoHats off to our friends at emersion DESIGN for their success at the 12th Cincinnati Design Awards, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Cincinnati.   Emersion took home not one but three honors, in the following categories:

· Over-the-Rhine: Green Historic Study AIA Honorable Mention for Architectural Advancement: A cooperative Study with the Over the Rhine Foundation, UC DAAP, Gray & Pape & others, which affirms through case studies that LEED and Historic Preservation standards can be integrated to provide sustainability benefits as well as secure tax incentives.

· LE3D–Social Sustainability Rating System AIA Honor Award for Architectural Advancement: A proposal for integrating social sustainability into the LEED Rating System.

· emersion DESIGN Office Expansion – IIDA Honor Award for Built Work: a 1,700 SF collaborative workspace currently under review by USGBC for LEED Platinum certification.

Each year, the AIA Cincinnati holds the Cincinnati Design Awards to honor regional architects in the fields of new construction, unbuilt work, and distinguished details.   We applaud emersion DESIGN in their commitment to sustainable design practices not only in their exceptional work for clients but on their home turf as well.

January 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Small Changes #1: School Lunch Waste

How successful are New Year’s resolutions?  Why not  have resolutions all throughout the year?  It seems that the dawn of a new calendar inspires us to sweep away our old, undesirable patterns, taking aim at habits we are not proud of.  Why not do this more often than December 31st?  In fact, why go with the ginormous, sweeping resolutions that most of us can’t live up to?  Can small, mundane resolutions add up to something significant?  This is part of an ongoing journal of my family’s experience in making seemingly small changes in our habits and lifestyle with the bigger environmental picture in mind.

Each morning, I have a brief, bleary-eyed struggle with the task of getting lunches packed for my three elementary school boys in record time.  I have to be perfectly honest here and admit that my need for single-mom, crazy-busy-life-efficiency in this most painful morning task had led me down the dark path to disposables, no matter how much I know this was not environmentally correct (EC).   Don’t say it – I know I should be packing their lunches the night before.  Better yet, have the boys do it themselves.  That will follow shortly.

I found myself with this ugly confession to make to the planet, that I had resorted to disposable juice boxes and way too much plastic on sandwiches and snacks.  I tried to be diligent, buying rubbermaid containers and making sure the boys bring their lunchboxes home every day. Somehow the little plastic baggies and cling wrap clung their way onto my daily routine and each morning I found myself looking away as I grabbed yet another ziplock.  This might seem to be a tediously mundane topic, but consider this:  a typical American school kid generates 67 pounds of discarded lunchbox packaging waste per school year. That’s more than 18,000 pounds yearly for the average sized elementary school.   

Plastic stinks, we all know this.  But what about tinfoil?  While it is 100% recyclable, Rumpke doesn’t take it!  See their list of acceptable materials for details.  Not to mention that a study conducted by EPA indicates that the refinery processes generate about one ton of solid waste during the production of a ton of aluminum.    What’s the solution?  For the boys and myself, we’re looking to plastic as a necessary evil – not the throw-away baggies, but reusable plastic containers for everything that goes in their lunch box.  We’ve added stainless steel bottles that they take filtered water in each day.  As if the accumulation of water bottles in landfills isn’t frightening enough (28 billion bottles produced a year, 80% of which end up in landfills), bottled water companies do not have to release their water-testing results to the public.

What about paper napkins?  Naw, that’s what jeans are for.  I have boys after all.

As a new member of the Cincinnati Public Schools Sustainable Schools Committee, I find myself particulary drawn to the zero-waste schools initiative, “Sustainable Design Initiative #10.”  I can’t show up to the next committee meeting with my self-respect in tact if I were still tossing a disposable juice container x3 in the school’s dumpster each day (BTW… you can buy a mini messenger bag for kids made from recycled juice boxes by a women’s co-op in the Phillipines…very cool).   These are small changes we’re starting with at home, but let’s see where they lead… and how we can inspire each other to make a commitment to these seemingly small changes that can add up to a tremendous positive impact when done en force

Next time – Getting the Kids Involved (or, “Pack Your Own Freakin’ Lunch”).  As an aside, those of you with kids and TV sets should really check out the Planet Green show with the incomparable Bill Nye, “Stuff Happens.”   I’m something of a screen-time Nazi,  no TV Monday through Friday.  The boys tape this show during the week and I find them sitting totally rapt in front of the screen on Saturday morning, eschewing Saturday morning cartoons for The Science Guy Goes Environ-Mental.  It’s great.  I was a Pink Panther Saturday morning fan, myself.   Let us know about environmental change in your households –  from the top-down, kid-driven, pet-inspired, whatever – we’d love to hear from you.

January 13, 2009 at 4:09 am Leave a comment

Neat Portable Heater – iHeater

My husband was looking for an inexpensive portable heater to heat about 1000sqft that didn’t have any off gassing or fumes. We went to all the major home stores and couldn’t find anything. So we turned to the internet and found the iHeater.

This little guy claims to use advanced infrared heating technology, be environementally save and energy efficient.  Not sure how true these claims are, but we thought it was worth trying out.  We purchased it a few nights ago and it actually came today!

Here is what it claims:

If you are looking for a technically advanced infrared heating system that will save you hundreds of dollars off your standard heating bill, then you have found the right product.  Some of the major reasons why you should buy an iHeater portable infrared heater are as follows:

  • Reduced expenses when you use less energy (operates more efficiently, by heating more space on less energy) 
  • The heat stays closer to the floor thus not wasting it near the ceiling
  • Easy to install (Just plug it in!)
  • Does not take the humidity out of the air while heating it like most electric heaters do
  • Keeps your floors warmer
  • No furnace filters are needed to keep your air clean (built in lifetime air filter,easy to remove and wipe clean)
  • Rated safe by insurance companies

We got it – so I’ll let you know how it works!   I’m heating my toes as I type right now…

January 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm 2 comments

How Will You Help in 2009?

Most of us want to do the right thing, we care about making a difference, minimizing our impact on the environment and making socially responsible choices.  No fist-pounding here about environmental resolutions for the new year, we don’t want to  harass anyone into modifying their lifestyle with a nearly impossible list of eco-must-do’s.

Rather, Jami and I are taking a good, hard look at our simple, daily habits – those small things we do by second nature, or almost unconsciously – and how they might be altered to help reduce waste, contribute to the recovery of our environment and ultimately lead to bigger and more impactful changes.  Check back with us to hear what we are doing and how it’s working for us, real life guinea pigs trying to do the best we can within  fast-paced, demanding work and family schedules.  One goal at a time, making modest progress towards substantial outcomes.

If we can compound this progress by having others join us in making these small changes, imagine the difference!  As Alice Walker so aptly put it in an interview last year,

“This is how change happens, though. It is a relay race, and we’re very conscious of that, that our job really is to do our part of the race, and then we pass it on, and then someone picks it up, and it keeps going. And that is how it is. And we can do this, as a planet, with the consciousness that we may not get it, you know, today, but there’s always a tomorrow.”

On a much grander scale, take a moment to consider what our new administration is doing to lead us forward into the environmental era – visit Obama’s address to the Governor’s Global Climate Summit.  With new leadership in place that is committed to slowing, halting, and eventually reversing global warming, why not join in our own small, do-able ways?  A sort of pride of ownership of a movement that must succeed or we all fail. 

Start thinking about your daily choices as a consumer, as a producer, as a parent and a citizen, stay tuned and stay in touch.  Here goes:

Obama’s Address to the Governor’s Summit on Global Climate Change

January 8, 2009 at 7:57 pm Leave a comment

Boosting Home Energy Efficiency

The real estate I sell normally, is incredibly inefficient.  They’re almost always 50+ years old, they barely have any insulation, have old windows, old appliances, etc…  As I take clients through houses and help them purchase one of these old beauties, my goal is to help them see that they can immediately start saving on their home, if they take some time/money and make some energy upgrades.   Its just a part of my job.  I love helping someone see where their potential energy leaks are and connecting them with the right resources to help them not only save money, but also consume less resourses.  Its a win/win for everyone!

With this always on my mind, I came across an interesting article today in Time Magazine.  It basically stated what I’ve been helping my clients with.  Becoming more energy efficient, is not conserving energy (like turing down your thermostat and putting a sweater on)  its doing the same things but in a more efficient manner!  You don’t have to freeze in your house to lower your heating consumption, you just need to make your house more efficient! 

They say:

“There are two basic ways to save energy without deprivation or daily effort. We can use more efficient machinery, like fuel-efficient cars that guzzle less gas, or those pigtailed compact fluorescent lightbulbs that use 75% less power than traditional bulbs, or state-of-the-art refrigerators that are three times as efficient as 1973 models. We can also use machinery more productively. That can be as simple as insulating pipes and ducts, caulking doors and windows and otherwise weatherizing our homes to avoid heating our attics and the outdoors. Or installing motion sensors and programmable thermostats that turn out lights and air conditioners when no one’s in the room. President-elect Barack Obama noted on the campaign trail that if we all just properly inflated our tires and maintained our engines, we could save as much oil now as new offshore drilling would produce by 2030. And since buildings devour two-thirds of our power, commercial and industrial operations can weed out even more waste through green construction and automated systems that practically import power as needed. “We’ve hit rock bottom in our addiction to fossil fuels,” says Ian Bowles, Massachusetts energy and environmental affairs secretary. “We need an intervention, and energy efficiency is it.”

If you’d like to know how you can start making your home more efficient, email me!  We can help connect you with local professionals who can identify your biggest energy losses.

January 6, 2009 at 4:45 pm 2 comments

Green Tax Savings for 2009

I know I’ve publised a few things over the past few months regarding federal tax savings for “green upgrades.”  Well, here is a nice and neat little article I saw today that gave a nice clear and concise way to save this year. Some of the credits have changed and the capps have been removed.   Check out the article here, or I copied them below:

1. $500 for energy efficiency
If you can, wait until Jan. 1 to install new insulation, energy-efficient windows or an energy-efficient furnace, boiler or air conditioner.  A tax credit of up to $500 that expired in 2007 has been renewed for 2009. It covers up to 10% of the cost of a range of projects that meet certain specifications. Do $5,000 worth of qualifying work, and you not only get a $500 rebate, but also savings on energy bills for years to come.

  • Also note these important limits, which cap the amount you can claim for any particular project:
  • Windows: $200
  • Exterior doors, roofing or insulation: $500
  • Most heating, ventilation and air-conditioning improvements: $300
  • Furnaces or hot water heaters: $150

Remember, your overall tax credit is capped at $500, so if you install $5,000 worth of exterior doors and $2,000 worth of new windows, for a total of $7,000, you can still only claim $500 — even though 10% of all qualifying work equals $700. Also, the tax credit applies only to equipment, not labor.

Find more information at the Alliance to Save Energy or Energy Star or Department of Energy Websites. Note that much of this information reflects the tax incentives in place in 2006 and 2007; for the most part, the 2009 tax credits are identical, but updated criteria for which products qualify, for instance, will be published soon.

2. $2,000 for geothermal
The new tax breaks include a new incentive to install ground-source heat pumps, according to Ronnie Kweller, spokeswoman for the Alliance to Save Energy.

  • The old credits had been capped at $300 and were included under the overall energy efficiency improvement cap of $500. No longer. Now you can claim up to $2,000 of the cost of installing a geothermal heating and cooling system, and the cost is separated completely from other energy-efficiency improvements you might claim. Like the energy-efficient tax breaks, however, this incentives doesn’t apply to work done in 2008.

    Ground-source heat pumps are installed underground and use the constant 50-degree subsurface temperature to cool air or water in the summer, and heat it in the winter — both of which reduce the cost of heating or cooling year round.

3. $2,000 or more for solar power systems
The bill extends for another eight years a tax credit that covers 30% of the cost of new photovoltaic solar power systems on homes.

  • The existing tax credit, which was capped at $2,000, would have expired at the end of 2008. Now, it’s good through 2016 — and there’s no longer dollar cap on the 30% rebate.

4. $500 or more for a fuel cell or microturbine

  • The tax incentive that had covered 30% of the cost of fuel cell or microturbine systems in homes, which lapsed in 2008, has been restored for 2009 and through 2016. It covers up to $500 per 0.5 kw of capacity.

5.  $7,500 for plug-in hybrid cars
The first 250,000 buyers of plug-in hybrid vehicles now qualify for a $7,500 tax rebate.

  • A similar tax credit for hybrid vehicles had been capped at $3,500.

6. Wildcard
Keep your eyes out for new incentives from your state, since the bill also authorizes an $800 million government bond program that encourages states to create incentives for new and existing energy conservation and related programs. Some of that money is likely to be used toward state tax breaks and other incentives that will vary by location.

January 5, 2009 at 10:55 pm 1 comment

Who Are We?

Libby Hunter and Jami Stutzman are local Cincinnati Realtors and members of the U.S. Green Building Council who have a passion for sustainable living. Environmental responsibility lies at the core of our business practice - let us show you how we can help with ecologically-minded real estate needs. Please browse our blog, visit our local green vendors' websites and if you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let us show you how green features can make all the difference in your experience!

Contact Us

Jami Stutzman: 513-515-0689
Libby Hunter: 513-260-9632

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