Thinking about re-siding your home? Take a look at this eco alternative. Just like a trees own weather proofing, these bark shingles insulate, protect, and are virtually maintenance free. It is made up of tulip tree bark waste from timber operations that would otherwise get burned, mulched, or left to rot.
Lasting up to 75 years, renewable, sustainably harvested and containing no chemicals, it is quite possibly the greenest siding on the market today. The textured look only adds to its appearance and acoustic properties, blocking out sounds much like another bark, cork.
I love bamboo. Its beautiful, its durable, and its a great sustainable and renewable resource, so I am pretty excited about Plyboo by Smith and Fong. Certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and available for LEED credit by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), these surfaces and flooring are all about sustainability. Made from FSC certified bamboo and palm, these flooring and paneling alternatives have a beautiful and unique modern but warm look.
Smith & Fong’s Plyboo flooring, plywood and veneer are derived from Moso bamboo harvested from a forest that requires no irrigation, fertilizers or pesticides. Each year, only 20 percent of the plantation’s bamboo (or only the five-year growth) is cut, ensuring the forest canopy remains intact and the ecosystem is not disturbed.
Both the Durapalm and Plyboo flooring, veneer and plywood use a urea formaldehyde-free adhesive called PlybooPure™ and pass the California Air Resources Board (CARB)’s formaldehyde regulations for composite panels. It also earned the world’s first non-wood FSC certification for its bamboo resource in China, providing third-party validation of a truly sustainable industry. Additionally, Smith & Fong retain a relationship with the actual bamboo farmers, to ensure the quality and sustainability of the operation.
This weekend seems like a great weekend for reading, so I thought I would share some upcoming green books in my queue. I seem to have a sustainable design theme going, although that should come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads my blog.
Sustainability in design has always interested me, mainly because so many problems with current products on the market can be solved by a tweak in the design. For many, this can entail looking at a product with a whole new perspective- which can prove difficult in many situations. Take for example one of the books, Design Is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable.
The author, Nathan Shedroff, considers how paper bags may be worse than plastic for the environment or how a Prius may have a larger footprint than a H2 Hummer. Now these are pretty bold statements, so I am intrigued as to how he crafts his argument.
Another book along those same lines, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, explores the cradle to cradle process (or C2C, the ‘birth’ of a product all the way through to the ‘death’ and re-birth of the raw materials) and how it can and should be implemented into the consumer stream.
This is a concept of growing interest (you can tell from increasing products advertising cradle to cradle certification), and with good reason. Our ‘disposable’ society needs a shift and the best way to do that is to make products with their ‘end-life’ in mind.
The two previous books are great reads for everybody, geared towards educating and inspiring with varying layers of depth. As an ecologist, my scientific background begs for more granular depth. At times, I like to see the data, the science behind things, the technical stuff. This is where Sustainable Design: The Science of Sustainability and Green Engineering by Daniel A. Vallero and Chris Brasier comes in.
Providing “…readers with the scientific principles needed to guide their own sustainable design decisions”, and “written to enable readers to take a more scientific approach to sustainable design”, it will be sure to entice all you architects, engineers and scientific types.
Now may not be the best time for this post, or is it? Market wisdom dictates to buy low, sell high. Well guess what, the market is pretty low right now and some technologies seem to have a rosy future. The Obama administration has made it clear that they will be investing heavily in alternative green energy sources, breaking our dependency on oil and dirty power generation. This opens up a great opportunity to possibly make some money, and support green initiatives that are important to you as well. › Continue reading
I had a discussion with my father awhile back about death and funeral arrangements. He surprised me with with a unique green burial unlike anything I had heard of before. I always imagined going out in a blaze of glory, similar to a Viking chieftains funeral; floated out to sea on a wooden boat and set ablaze. Not necessarily the greenest burial, but not as bad as the more traditional; embalmed in a hardwood casket and placed in a manicured lawn cemetery for all eternity. No, his was much more creative yet raw. He said “Put my body in a burlap sack and place me in the ground. Then plant the area with apple trees”. I wasn’t so sure about the apple trees, but it did raise a good point- why not just go a’la natural?
Each year, cemeteries across the US bury approximately:
- 30 million board feet (70,000 m³) of hardwoods (caskets)
- 90,272 tons of steel (caskets)
- 14,000 tons of steel (vaults)
- 2,700 tons of copper and bronze (caskets)
- 1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete (vaults)
- 827,060 US gallons (3,130 m³) of embalming fluid
Cremation has been the main option for those seeking a more eco friendly burial, and those have become more efficient over the years. Of interest is the woodland burial movement, which started in the UK as a truly natural burial which also › Continue reading
Who knew this under-appreciated renewable resource was good for so many things? Most are familiar with cork as a bottle stopper. A 1600s French monk named Dom Perignon was the first to have fitted his sparkling wine with this unique bottle sealer, and it has, until recently, been the standard in the wine industry. With times and technology changing, many bottlers have begun to move towards a petroleum derived thermoplastic elastomer as a stopper. The reasons for this are primarily due to the natural properties of cork such as drying over time (allowing some leakage into the bottle) and cork taint, or trichloroanisole (TCA). TCA is caused when microorganisms in the natural cork combine with chemical contaminants used in the production process to kill bacteria. Some places, such as Penfolds, of Australia, have addressed the cork aging issue by holding workshops where consumers can bring in old bottles of wine, have the corks replaced, and even get a small sip to see how the wine is aging. However, with a 20% drop in wine industry cork sales between 2000 and 2005, what will become of existing cork orchards and this sustainable industry?
First lets explore what cork is all about.
Natural cork comes from the bark of cork oak trees (Quercus suber). The bark is harvested without harm to the tree, and will renew itself naturally over the period of 10-12 years before being harvested again. A cork oak tree can be harvested twelve times in its lifetime with the first harvest taking place after approximately 25 years. Cork harvesting is done by hand without the aid of machinery. Additionally, cork harvesting can actually aid in combating global warming as each time cork is harvested the tree absorbs more CO2 to aid in the regeneration process. Regularly harvested cork trees store 3-5 times more CO2 than those left unharvested. Portugal is the world’s leader in cork production, while it is also an important forest crop in Italy, Spain, Algeria, France, Tunisia, and Morocco.
What else can cork be used for?
Cork is common in flooring and wall covering applications and can have many benefits over other manufactured surfaces. Cork is light, wear resistant, elastic, impermeable and well insulated. It works exceptionally well for heat and sound insulating applications such as cold basement floors and walls (we actually have cork floors at my office building in Downtown Seattle). Cork flooring can be a great alternative to linoleum or wood, and works well in everything from basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms and even can look elegant in kitchens and entryways. It can be dyed to a variety of colors and comes in a wide range of textures and cuts. They are most commonly sold as square tiles due to the harvesting process providing a varying and limiting dimensions.
We have all seen or used cork boards for posting memos, calendars and photos on the wall, but the applications are limitless (i have even seen an article on the cork interior of a Mercedes automobile). It really is a wonder renewable. It has so many desirable properties, is entirely natural, and is fully biodegradable upon disposal. Comment to this post with some of the creative ways you have used cork.
I wasn’t sure to file this under green design, or an attempt at sustainable design gone bad. As we all know, Bamboo is the darling of the sustainable green movement. It grows fast, requires no pesticides, is very hard and durable, and grows just about everywhere. With that in mind, bamboo can be found in all kinds of products that are trying to be green – some, like bamboo flooring, bamboo furniture, bamboo cutting boards, etc, make sense. Some do not. That said, I present an homage to all things bamboo (green washed and all).
1. The Bamboo Laptop
The Bamboo laptop. I don’t even know where to begin, although im not sure if the laptop itself is more or less shocking than the accessories (the bamboo keyboard and the bamboo mouse). Several manufacturers have released a bamboo cased laptop, with varying degrees of actual substance (some are little more than veneers).
2. Bamboo Mountain Bike
Now this actually makes sense, but it is really weird to see a bike made out of wood. I guess it would have been just as silly to have thought of a bike made out of carbon fiber 10 years ago, but don’t those still have an internal frame of metal? Calfee Design seem to be the big pioneers in this field, and from the reviews, they are pretty sweet.
3. Bamboo Sheets
Now this may seem odd at first, but they are incredibly well suited for this type of material. They have a real silky feel to them, are pesticide and chemical free (usually) and antimicrobial.
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