Saturday, August 28, 2010

Modern Day Alchemy

Throughout ancient history people have been trying to change base metals such as aluminum into gold or other precious metals. Unfortunately they have never been successful but recently researchers have transformed old metal into something useful.

Alkemi, pronounced like alchemy, is a surface material made from aluminum shavings. Made from post scrap materials, it is certified by the SCS and provides LEED credits. Instead of the metal scraps being burned and polluting our air with thick smoke, they are recycled, covered with resin, and used as surfaces. From far away it looks like a normal counter top but up close you can see the small metal shavings. 

Available in multiple finishes and colors, Alkemi is not only aesthetically appealing, it is also a great green material:
  • Certified by the Scientific Certification Systems, which evaluates sustainable materials
  • Provides LEED credits for builders under the "Materials and Resources" category
  • No VOC parts detectable, less than 100 parts per million
  • Does not contain fire retardants
  • Safe in kitchens and food preparation
Overall, Alkemi is an amazing material made from renewable sources; it can be used as surface tops, wall decor, and much more. Please visit the Alkemi website for more information, pictures, and distributor locators. 

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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Green Gatsby

This past weekend I made the move from Arizona to Los Angeles, California; I live in Hollywood which is somewhere I never imagined living. After I was settled in, I took the weekend to explore my area; I located my bank, mall, grocery store, and gym all within walking distance which is great! On my way home from errands today, I made a lovely discovery- The Gatsby Hollywood!

Built on the site of the famous Orchard Gables Cottage, The Gatsby is going to be an eco-friendly living community. The original building dates back to 1904 and housed U.S. Senator Cornelius Cole. The Orchard Gables Cottage will be renovated in order to serve as a arts and education community center for Hollywood. The Gatsby focuses on four major areas of environmental living: energy efficiency, interior quality, water efficiency, and carbon footprint and green house gases

Energy Efficiency
  • Solar panels convert sun energy to electricity for entire community
  • Thermal engineering to regulate heating and cooling
  • Roof barriers for insulation from outside weather
  • Energy Star approved HVAC systems
Interior Quality
  • Air purifying HEPA filters to remove allergens, pollutants, etc
  • Low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) materials used for paints, finishes, sealants, and adhesives
Water Efficiency
  • Low-flush toilets
  • Optional Energy Start washers available
  • Drip irrigated landscape 
  • Water run-off retention
Carbon Footprint Green House Gases
  • 50% of construction waste is recycled
  • Lumber harvested from sustained forests

    In addition to its sustainable building techniques, The Gatsby is in a prime location. A short walk to Hollywood Boulevard, ArcLight Cinemas, Sunset+Vine. Also nearby is are the Hollwood Bowl, Ford Theatre, Hotel Roosevelt, and Highland/Hollywood shopping center. An added feature is quick access to public transportation for commutes to other areas of Los Angeles. 

    Please visit The Gatsby Hollywood for more photos, floor plans, and more environmental information. 

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    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Paper or Plastic?

    In 2007, San Francisco was the first city to ban the use of plastic bags at grocery stores now the entire state may follow suit. In the past few months, Bill AB1998 has been under review by the state of California. Arnold Schwarzenegger will most likely sign the bill if the State Senate passes it; the deadline is Friday, August 13, 2010 and if it not approved by then the bill will be dropped.

    Components of California Bill AB1998
    • If passed, will take effect July 1, 2011
    • Ban plastic bags
    • Paper bags must be at least made form 40% post consumer waste
    • Customers requesting paper bags must pay at least five cents
    So soon the saying of 'Paper or Plastic' may be a thing of the past. Although this bill will reduce the amount of plastic bag waste, other environmental factors in regards of paper bags must be considered. Let's take a look at arguments on both sides of Bill AB1998.
    • Reduce plastic bag waste which take up to 1000 years to decompose
    • Shift Americans from the "throw away culture"
    • Supported by grocer's because they can charge for paper bags
    • Reduce petroleum use, which is a limited resource use to make plastic bags
    • Increase use of paper bags
    • Paper bags take up more space in landfill
    • Not supported by paper bag manufacturers because production must change to fulfill at least 40% post consumer waste requirement
    • Customers oppose because they may have to purchase paper bags
    Overall, Bill AB1988 is sparking controversy amongst the California Senate, grocery stores, citizens, and paper and plastic bag manufacturers. It seems most cons stem from increased paper bags use when it fact the purpose of the ban is to promote use of reusable bags. In my opinion, the ban will initially increase the use of paper bags but once people become more accustom to reusable options then most of the cons will fade away. It will be interesting to see how this bill plays out on the political stage and whether it will be passed or not. Stay tuned to find out if "Paper or Plastic" will turn into "Paper or B.Y.O.B."- Bring Your Own Bag!

    What is your take on the issue? Do think this ban is a positive or negative? 

    External Links: (image)

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Guest Writer: Fashion's Take on the Oil Spill

    I'd like to share my cousin Brianna's article written for The Examiner. She is a Tempe Fashion Examiner and covers topics from brands, trends, and upcoming lines. She recently wrote about Vogue Italia's photo shoot inspired by the recent oil spill. Steven Meisel did an amazing job capturing the real devastation and really promotes awareness on this issue. Enjoy Brianna's article, please link to her page to see more photos.

    Vogue Italia's latest issue is mixing fashion with awareness in their photo spread shot by Steven Meisel. Opening a different set of eyes to the ongoing ecological disaster caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion back in April.

    Some see this as off-putting or tasteless to glamorize the biggest environmental disasters to hit us. Refinery 29, a fashion website, states,

    "Glamorizing this recent ecological and social disaster for the sake of "fashion" reduces the tragic event to nothing more than attention-grabbing newsstand fodder."

    Eco-designer Kathleen Nowak Tucci, who designed some of the eclectic, marine inspired accessories, disagrees by stating, 

    "I thought it was disturbing and thought-provoking and utterly fascinating in its interpretation of the struggle for survival. It is controversial and interpretative, which is indicative of great artistic expression."

    Agreeing with the latter, it's important to incorporate news into different media, like fashion. It sends a reminder of the severity of the harmful spill. Using several forms of media, whether it be fashion or another outlet, it gets the ball rolling in many different courts. This could lead to even more individuals pressing the problem to be fixed now, or possible clean-up and relief volunteers. Small things can add up to producing change. While we know there are plenty of efforts being made to cap the leak, this should have been done months ago.

    Kristen McMenamy, 45-year-old American model, attempts the darker subject matter of modeling. The pictures are incredibly beautiful, yet devastating in their theme of death. Many show the model adorned with feathers drenched in oil, laying limp on the rocks of tainted beaches, while one shows her choking and grasping her throat. Saddening representations of the injured, unhealthy, and dying animals that have been affected by the oil spill.

    While it is a very controversial piece, it is very much needed in the severity of such disaster. If only our own Vogue would shed such light.

    -Written by Brianna Stevens
     Tempe Fashion Examiner- Fashion's take on the oil spill

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    Friday, August 6, 2010

    ASU Among Top Green Universities

    Congratulations to Arizona State University for being ranked as one of the top "Greenest Universities" as well as being on the "Green Honor Roll" according to the Princeton Review. ASU has received recognition like this for the past three years.
    Don't get me wrong, I love my Alma Mater and am proud to have graduated from such a highly praised university for sustainability but that doesn't stop me from questioning how green ASU really is. Living on campus for three of the four years I attended ASU, I noticed many practices which were not eco-friendly. Through this post I want to highlight some areas which ASU lacks in sustainability and offer recommendations to further their green initiatives as well highlight some initiatives they are taking.

    Areas of in Need  of Improvement

    Unregulated HVAC in student housing- Of course it's nice to be able to control the temperature in your dorm room but it takes a large toll on the environment. Since most student housing has a set price every semester, students are not aware of how much energy they are consuming for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). As of now most thermostats in dorms range from anywhere from 50 degrees to 90 degrees Farenheit. Think about it, does someone really need their room that cold or hot? ASU monitors thermostats in buildings and classrooms so they should also regulate thermostats in the dorms to save on energy costs and reduce harmful exhaust which damage the environment.

    Feral Cats- Although I am a animal rights activist, I am against all the cats which roam around ASU particularly near housing and food areas. The dumpsters attract the cats, the cats breed, and then there are more cats; this cycle continuously happens. These cats are feral meaning they have no shots, can be infected by rabies, and carry other diseases. Cats feces are then left near buildings and not picked up, which is unsanitary for humans to breathe. It gets into HVAC and can cause sickness in residents. Animal feces not picked up from the ground pollute ground water with chemicals (recall the post on how to green your pet). ASU should partner with a shelter or organization to either remove the cats or neuter them.

    Lack of Recycling Bins- There were not really recycling bins around ASU until two years ago when the Undergraduate Student government spent their budget on them. In large buildings there are bins to separate paper, plastic, and aluminum but in most classrooms and dorms there is only paper recycling bins. Where I lived on campus for two years there was cardboard boxes for paper recycling, which yes is better than nothing. But whenever I walked by there was much more than paper inside, mostly just trash. I think ASU needs to put recycling bins for paper, plastic, and aluminum in every building on every floor to make it easy for people to recycle. In addition they need to monitor what is going into these bins and keep up with emptying the bins. 

    On the other hand, ASU is taking many green initiatives:
    • Providing buses between all three campuses: Main, West, and East
    • Installing timers on lighting in hallways
    • Providing bike racks near all buildings
    • LEED certified buildings
    • Offering the first Graduate program to study Sustainability
    Overall, ASU is taking great strides to be a eco-friendly and has plans to be carbon neutral in the near future. Since they have been recognized for three consecutive years, it is important to consider both sides of the story. ASU has some environmental practices which need to be addressed but I have faith they will solve these problems and continue to be among the top green universities. Congratulations once again ASU but remember to continue your dedication to the environment.

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