Our homes are our are castles. We've all heard that saying before. But lucky for all of us we've come a long way from the days of those of drafty old castles, with no plumbing, no electricity, no internet. But wait, maybe we could have learned a thing or two from some of those old castles, maybe how to be more sustainable, and a little bit more environmentally friendly.

With My Sustainable Home, we share with you everything you need to know when it comes to making your home not only more eco-smart, but also more comfortable for you and your family to make it a modern day castle.  From appliances, new energy sources, to proper building and retrofitting we help to empower you with the knowledge you need to make the smart choices.


RISE Engineering Recognized for Top Mercury Thermostat Recycling Efforts in Rhode Island


Mercury, a neurotoxin element that is extremely toxic because it can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption. This dangerous element has found it’s way into our environment, into our seafood, into thermometers used in health care, and into the homes we live in. Since 1990 there have been efforts to control mercury exposure through regulation with the United States Clean Air Act as well as programs initiated by the EPA. But one program that is also making a difference is run by the Thermostat Recycling Corporation, who, along with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the RI Office of Energy Resources recently recognized RISE Engineering of Rhode Island, for their efforts in recycling mercury thermostats within the state of Rhode Island.

RISE Engineering was the top performing TRC collection partner in the state in terms of total recycling bins returned (13) and amount of mercury thermostats recycled (1,171) in 2015. Its efforts accounted for 53 percent of the entire state’s mercury thermostat collections for the year. Since joining TRC’s program in 2013, RISE has recovered a total of 22 pounds of mercury in Rhode Island.

“We are very pleased with RISE Engineering’s efforts as they continue to significantly contribute to Rhode Island’s collection numbers each year. Their dedication to the program and the environment shows in their results,” said Ryan Kiscaden, TRC’s Executive Director.

“RISE Engineering is playing an important role in improving energy efficiency in Rhode Island and helping to ensure hazardous mercury is properly handled, preventing associated health and environmental impacts. Their retrofitting program has generated thousands of mercury-added thermostats for recycling, significantly impacting the amount of mercury that has been reduced in the environment. We applaud their efforts and look forward to their continued commitment to this important environmental issue,” said Beverly Migliore, RIDEM’s Mercury Reduction Program Coordinator.

Solar-powered, Fresh-Air Skylights

Help Make a Home Feel Bigger


With the aid of modern technology, it's now possible to convert virtually any ordinary house into a smart home filled with features that make daily tasks more convenient. These technologies allow for greener living, customization of your living space to personal tastes and the peace of mind that you can control key home systems with your smartphone.

Converting to a smart home may seem like an intimidating task at first, but if you break the process into manageable steps you'll find it's not so hard to choose and install the best smart devices for your home and lifestyle. You can begin turning your house into a smart home by following these three simple steps.

Set a budget.

All of the technology and gadgetry that comprise today's smart homes were once viewed as luxury, reserved for the rich and famous and those whose lives played out on the big screen. What once seemed impractical for the average homeowner is now quite attainable. When you consider that some smart devices, such as light bulbs, have a life span of up to 25 years, in the end you may end up even saving money.

How much money you'll ultimately spend to create your smart home depends on numerous factors: the size of your home, number of systems and appliances you wish to automate and the level of integration you desire are significant considerations. Assuming that your home is already wired for a high-performance broadband connection, you can get into the smart home game for under $100 with a thermostat that you can manage remotely. On the other hand, adding smart-home technology throughout the whole house will likely cost in the thousands.

Pay attention to the levels of integration various products offer. Purchasing products from brands that partner with many other smart-home device makers will help ensure the products you add in the future will work with those you install now. Selecting highly integrated products will save you time during the installation process, help you avoid unnecessary expenses down the road and improve your overall smart-home experience.

Brainstorm ideas for each room.

Once you're past the nuts and bolts of practical considerations, it's time to start imagining. The key about designing the perfect smart home for you is to remember that the very essence of smart devices is their ability to make your life more convenient. Choosing the products and how you connect them is all about you and your lifestyle – there's more than just one way to build your smart home.

Go room to room in your home and think about the activities that occur in each space. Consider which of these can become easier or more enjoyable with the support of smart technology. The living room, where you likely have a host of entertainment and audio equipment, offers plenty of obvious benefits, but also look at the kitchen, for example. Did you forget to start the dishwasher on your way out the door? Initiating a wash cycle remotely will let you come home to dishes clean and ready for dinner.

Prioritize what you install.

When it's time to begin the actual transition to a smart home, it's a good idea to start with the most important products first. For most homeowners, those are the devices that you use every day.

Opening and closing the garage door is so much a part of your daily routine that it is often hard to remember if you closed it on the way out. Smart technology can put peace of mind in the palm of your hand. This technology allows you to control and check the status of your garage door from anywhere, at any time, so you know if your garage was left open or if it's being opened while you're not there. Today's innovative technology can work with numerous smart-device brands and their devices, such as NEST thermostats and Xfinity home security products. Learn more at

With the all-important lead-in to your home covered, you can turn attention to devices that help manage your home's operation and efficiency. Thermostats that auto adjust to designated climate settings are a popular option for many homeowners because they bring immediate returns in reducing your overall energy usage. Irrigation systems and power management products are also wise investments when it comes to optimizing your home's use of natural resources.

Stepping across the threshold to a smart home may feel like a big step, but once you get settled and experience the convenience and control, you'll likely find yourself exploring ways to incorporate smart technology every place you can.

Smart Devices for Every Room

The number of devices that can be integrated into a smart home is growing at an accelerated rate, but not all are complex gadgets and gizmos. Some of the simpler options for every room in your home include:

Living Room: Outlet Adapters

Walk into your home late at night and flip on the lights, the TV or both without searching in the dark for a switch or remote. After your smart outlet adapter is plugged into the wall, appliances can be plugged into the adapter and controlled from a smartphone.

Bedroom: Motorized Drapes

Adding motorized drapes to your bedroom allows for an easy way to adjust lighting and privacy – all without leaving the comfort of your bed. Properly adjusting drapes, which is easy to do with smartphone control, can also help manage energy consumption by regulating solar heat.

Kitchen: Coffee Maker

Wake up to your favorite morning beverage without drowsily scooping and pouring. A smart coffee maker can make the right amount of coffee at just the right time through simple settings on your smartphone.

Garage: Remote Garage Door Access

Open, close and monitor your garage door anywhere, anytime, with MyQ technology from Chamberlain. With remote access to one of the main entry points to your home, you can ensure the garage door is shut when you're out or ready to open when you return.

So if you're looking to smarten-up your home, there is no better time to start than now.

Solar-powered, Fresh-Air Skylights

Help Make a Home Feel Bigger


Party balloons, elastic waistbands and the universe — for some things, expansion is easy. When your home is too small, however, it's not always possible to expand it.

Whether you live in a suburban townhouse, an urban condo or a big, modern single-family home on a tiny lot, chances are good building on or up to expand just isn't in the cards for your home. Many Americans are in the same situation, and they're seeking creative ways to maximize the utility of the space they have.

Here are some ideas for improving the functionality and appearance of your space without adding a single (and costly) square foot to your home's footprint:

Make it look and feel bigger

A space that's crowded with stuff, filled with large furniture and decorated in dark hues will feel tight and oppressive no matter how big the room is. Decluttering, lightening up your decor and right-sizing furniture are three of the easiest ways to make your home feel bigger and work better. Replace dark drapes and carpets with lighter colors, paint the walls in pale neutral hues, and ditch the sectional that dominates three walls of your small living room.

Next, look up. Natural light can help a space feel bigger and brighter, and modern skylights, like those from Velux America, make it easy to bring natural light into virtually any room.

A before/after video of a Charlotte, North Carolina home illustrates the dramatic difference simply adding skylights can make.

There are also a number of traditional skylight solutions, including light wells from attics to ceilings below, for spaces without direct roof access.

Skylights are also great sources of natural light in rooms where privacy is important, such as the master bathroom. What's more, Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, fresh-air skylights provide natural light and passive ventilation without requiring you to give up any precious wall space.

Add solar-powered blinds in designer colors and patterns to complement the decor, and you can control the amount of light entering a room with a programmable touchpad remote control. Even better — homeowners can receive a 30 percent federal tax credit on the skylights, blinds and installation costs. For rooms without direct roof access, another option could be Sun Tunnel tubular skylights that funnel natural light from the roofline into spaces below. These models also have optional light kits that make them functional 24/7.

Finally, it may be possible to remove a non-load-bearing wall between rooms to create a more open space. For example, if your kitchen is partitioned off from the family room, removing the wall between the spaces — or even half of it — can make both feel bigger. Have an unused bedroom adjacent to your master bedroom? Removing the wall between the rooms can give you an impressive master suite.

Reclaim unused space

Virtually every home has some space in it that's not being used. Finishing a basement or attic can be a cost-effective way to increase your home's living space without adding to its footprint. Basement finishing systems make it easier and faster than ever to create a comfortable and attractive space below ground, while finishing an attic may be as simple as adding insulation, sheet rock and skylights or roof windows.

Another option might be to increase your entertainment space by converting a patio or deck into a sun room. Gaining that space as living area can allow you to reconfigure other areas inside your home for greater utility. For example, a finished, enclosed patio can function as your family room, allowing you to use all or part of the old family room to expand your kitchen and add a powder room.

Use existing space wisely

Finally, use the space you do have more efficiently by designing rooms that multi-task — such as a home office/guest bedroom combination or guest room with the closet converted into a work space. If you're like most Americans, you store stuff in the garage. Adding organized storage such as shelves and cabinets can help optimize the space and maximize the amount you can store there.

Achieving a more expansive feeling in your home doesn't have to require an expansion. Instead of building an addition, add some smart decorating and design ideas. You'll end up with a home that looks bigger, feels more open and works better for your lifestyle.

New Sustainable Affordable

Housing Management Guide


“Affordable housing providers can play a unique and important role in helping residents live healthy lives.”—Carolyn E Zezima, author of SUSTAINABLE, AFFORDABLE HOUSING MANAGEMENT: A Money-Saving Guide to Keeping Your Site Green, Healthy & Energy Efficient.

Written by Carolyn E. Zezima, Esq., President of NYC Foodscape, this new eBook serves as a comprehensive guide to helping owners and managers of affordable housing sites create and implement sustainability plans for their communities.

"Over the past 10 years of working to create a healthy and sustainable food system, I’ve learned just how interconnected access to affordable housing is with this goal, and with other aspects of people’s lives, including health and well-being, prosperity, and environmental health,” stated Zezima. “Without affordable housing that’s environmentally safe, healthy, and sustainable, efforts to improve our food, health, and environment—such as preserving healthy farmland, increasing food and nutrition programs, and encouraging healthy grocery stores—fall short. Sustainability strategies that don’t incorporate affordable housing ignore the daily realities of what people need to thrive,” she added.

Clearly explained, step by step, this guide describes how to:

    Save money by reducing energy and water consumption;

    Get residents and staff to adopt “green” practices, such as recycling and composting;

    Use government and utility incentives for sustainability initiatives, including major energy-saving improvements and retrofits; and

    Improve the health of residents by:

  • Reducing their exposure to toxic paints, pesticides, and other chemicals

  • Improving their access to healthy food

  • Creating a community garden

  • Implementing a no-smoking policy

Zezima goes on to state, “The various paths of my journey from lawyer to chef to urban farmer to sustainability consultant intersect here, in this book. I wrote SUSTAINABLE AFFORDABLE HOUSING MANAGEMENT to help us work toward two of our most basic and important goals as individuals and as a society: (1) to ensure that all people live healthy lives in safe, affordable, and healthy homes; and (2) to ensure that our planet, its resources, and its species, including us humans, not only survive, but thrive, in future generations."

$500 Tax Credit for Installing a

New Metal Roof On Your Home


Smart homeowners are recognizing the many benefits of energy-efficient, eco-friendly metal roofing. In fact, metal roofing is now the second most popular re-roofing product in the U.S. The federal government recently added another reason to choose a durable, attractive metal roof to protect your home – a $500 tax credit. Homeowners who add "cool" metal roofs to their primary residence in 2016 are eligible for the $500 tax credit. In addition, savvy homeowners who chose a metal roof in 2015 can also take advantage of the tax break

Today's metal roofs are high-tech wonders featuring highly reflective coatings that provide year-round relief from high energy costs. Metal roofs also offer a variety of styles, including tiles, shakes, shingles or standing-seam panels to either make a statement or blend in with the neighborhood. The latest paint technologies allow even darker colored metal roofs to absorb less heat through the use of highly reflective pigments that reflect solar energy.

Wondering which metal roofs qualify for the tax credit? A good place to start is at the Metal Roofing Alliance website. All MRA manufacturer members are committed to selling only the highest quality "Investment Grade" metal roofs, and many have reflective coatings that meet the government standards. You can find a quality contractor in your area that can help you to choose the right roof for your home.

To be sure to choose a qualifying metal roof, ask your contractor to provide a copy of the Manufacturer Certification Statement for the product. This is a signed statement from the manufacturer certifying that the metal roof qualifies for the tax credit. You'll need it when you file your taxes, along with IRS Form 5695. Of course, specific tax questions are best answered by your tax professional.

"Consumers are making informed environmental choices for everything from the car they drive to the clothes they wear. The roof you choose should also be evaluated for its sustainability. This new tax credit makes the decision even easier," said Dick Bus, President of the Metal Roofing Alliance. "A metal roof is a long term solution that increases the value of your home while reducing its environmental impact and lowering energy bills."

Home Improvement Giant To
Spend Millions On Renewables


European home improvement company Kingfisher says it will spend £50 million (around $73 million U.S.) on renewable energy in order to reduce its mains grid electricity consumption by 10% in just two years.

Technologies to be used will predominantly be solar panels; but also air source heat pumps, combined solar thermal with gas absorption pumps, combined heat and power boilers and new fuel cell generation.

The decision to make such a large investment was the result of the performance of a solar power system installed at Screwfix’s head office and contact centre in Yeovil. The centre is now sourcing more than a third of its power from the solar array.

“This renewables investment is part of our Net Positive journey to transform our business to be a force for good,” said Richard Gillies, Sustainability Director for Kingfisher.

"There’s plenty more we can do but business needs stability and certainty to make these types of long-term investment decisions.”

Kingfisher’s Net Positive program (PDF) has an ultimate goal for every store to be zero carbon or generate more energy than it uses. The company has already reduced its property portfolio’s energy intensity by 17% since 2010/11 – ahead of its 2016 milestone. Kingfisher has a target of decreasing energy consumption by 45% by 2020 and a 25% reduction of its absolute CO2 emissions by the same year.

Kingfisher’s renewables commitment is a bit of good news for the UK solar industry; which has been in turmoil since a government announcement regarding the slashing of solar feed in tariffs. The effects have been dramatic – a recent survey of 204 solar companies by the Solar Trade Association indicates 576 people have already lost their jobs, with an additional 1,600 on notice for next year if the cuts go ahead.

Kingfisher plc operates nearly 1,200 stores in 10 countries in Europe. Screwfix, one of the company’s five brands, is the UK’s largest direct and online supplier of trade tools, accessories and hardware products.

The company was one of  39 to sign up to the “French Business Climate Pledge” in the lead-up to the COP21 climate talks in Paris.

Furniture From Recycled Material,

Trendy & Fashionable, and Growing

Reclaimed wood furnishings could add a touch of simplicity and elegance to any home. The recycled style is a global look, after all and would be more interesting if blended with elements from various cultures. The forests are the lungs of the Earth, yet they are disappearing fast as a result to the rising demand for lumber for construction and for the paper industry, while big amounts of lumber are also used for making furniture pieces.

Some people love home decor, while some do not notice it at all. Whichever way, making environmentally savvy choices in home or office furniture can create a big difference in the impact on earth. Using reclaimed wood furnishing considerably helps in preserving nature. Choosing reclaimed wooden furniture is a lot of fun, with so many colors to choose from with reclaimed pieces, it is great to go for stunning, timeless beautiful recycled wooden furnishings.

IKEA Keeps Getting Brighter with Solar

IKEA has announced the completion of a 1.28MW rooftop solar panel system atop its new store in St. Louis, in the U.S. state of Missouri.

The array consists of 4,085 panels and will produce approximately 1,780,000 kWh of electricity annually – enough to power 169 homes. Carbon-equivalent emissions reduction is estimated at 1,227 tons each year. The project is the largest rooftop solar installation in the state.

Installing the solar panels is another exciting and sustainable step in the progress towards opening the future IKEA St. Louis,” said John Achillea, store manager. “IKEA strives to create a sustainable life for communities where we operate, and IKEA St. Louis can add to this goal with Missouri’s largest rooftop solar array.”

The 42nd solar project for IKEA in the USA, the company says it now has modules installed at nearly 90% of its U.S. locations.

By the end of 2020, IKEA aims to be running on 100% renewable energy.

So far, the company has installed more than 700,000 solar panels at IKEA locations around the world and owns approximately 157 wind turbines in Europe and Canada. 104 more wind turbines are being constructed in the USA. Last year, the company committed to rolling out solar across all its Australian east coast stores and warehouses.

IKEA Group has already invested  more AUD $2.18 billion in wind energy and solar power since 2009. Last month IKEA announced a further AUD $1.46 billion investment in renewable energy and assisting communities most impacted by climate change.

IKEA states it has now allocated more than AUD $2.71 billion to invest in renewable energy at its facilities globally from now through 2020.

The company’s commitments to renewable energy aren’t just a warm and fuzzy or electricity cost-cutting measure. IKEA recognizes the direct impact climate change may have on its operations.

IKEA Group is already experiencing disruption in its direct operations due to increased frequency of extreme weather events,” says the company’s Position On Energy And Climate (PDF).  For example, during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, IKEA estimates it lost USD $9 million in revenue.

Business needs policy leadership. Legally binding targets on CO2 reduction, renewable energy and energy efficiency will unlock the innovation and investment needed to build a low-carbon economy.”

The Egg That You Call Home

Housing just got way more portable.A Slovakian firm called Nice Architects has built a nice egg-shaped “Ecocapsule.” And since it runs entirely on solar and wind energy, it can be set up virtually anywhere. The tiny home contains a 9,744-watt-hour battery, a 750-watt wind turbine and high-efficiency solar cells “that can support you for about a year in pretty much any location in the world, provided there is some sunlight.” It also includes a rainwater collection and filtration system to make living off the grid even more convenient. The simple interior includes a kitchenette with running water, a toilet, a shower, a bed and work space. Nice Architects claims that the 14.7-by-7.9-foot capsule “can comfortably fit two people.”

The price isn’t out yet, but shipping the capsule from Slovakia to NYC – for disaster relief or scientific research — would cost about $2,383.

20 Year Old UK Solar Rooftop Still Going Strong

20 years on and the Oxford Ecohouse’s solar panel array is still performing very well – but the price the owner paid for her pioneering system will shock you.

Professor Sue Roaf is a British architect, scholar and Professor of Architectural Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Previously, Professor Roaf was a lecturer in technology and design at Oxford Brookes University and has also published books on the topic of sustainable design.

In 1990’s the Professor set about building the first low-energy house in the UK. The 6 bedroom home featured extensive insulation and was oriented east–west with a south-facing rear elevation. Heating costs were reduced through the use of passive solar gain. Triple-glazed windows prevent thermal transference, except in the sun room; which was double glazed.

The building also features a large solar hot water system, but the crowning glory of this home is its solar panels – an addition Professor Roaf was reportedly initially ridiculed for. The Professor wasn’t aiming for rapid payback – and she certainly wasn’t going to get it – it was to prove it was possible for to power a house with solar in the UK.

Installed in 1995, the 4kW system and support structure cost  £28,000. At the time, the exchange was around 1 pound = US $1.55; so in Australian dollars at the time, the system was an astounding US $43,370.32.

$43,370.32 in 1995 terms is a bit under of $100,000 in current money.

Today, a good quality 4kW solar power system generally costs under $7,000, including installation.

Professor Roaf isn’t done yet – her next project is to install a 2kWh SMA inverter/storage system; along with more energy efficient appliances and LED lighting.

Professor Roaf’s solar panels aren’t the only ones to stand the test of time. In 2012, we reported on a Kyocera solar panel based system installed in 1992 that had lost very little of its efficiency since the day it was installed. Another example is system from 1980, which the owner said was still producing electricity “better than factory specs” in 2010.

Last year we mentioned another UK system – Autonomous House. The panels in that array are still producing nearly 80% of their overall original rated power after 20 years.

These aren’t isolated cases and they help provide a little extra reassurance for current solar owners that their rooftop modules, assuming they are of good quality, will still be performing well for many, many years to come.

Is TESLA About To Rebuild Your Home?

All eyes will be on Tesla this week as the eagerly awaited Tesla home battery is  unveiled.

The online world was abuzz last week when Jeff Evanson, Tesla’s VP of Investor Relations, said details of the Tesla home battery and a very large utility scale battery would be announced on April 30.

In February, Tesla founder Elon Musk said a residential battery storage solution would be in production in “About 6 months.”

Rumour has it that the Tesla battery will be initially available in 10 and 15 kWh configurations.

Any time the Tesla name pops up, it’s sure to grab attention. Expectations are high of a game-changing product – a top performing battery at a very competitive pricing point. If anyone can do it, Tesla can thanks to its extensive experience in refining electric vehicle batteries.

But Tesla is by no means Robinson Crusoe when it comes to home energy storage sector – in fact, the sector starting to look a little crowded already before the home battery revolution has even really kicked in. 

This is good news for consumers as affordable residential energy storage will happen far quicker than anticipated. It’s perhaps not such good news for power companies worrying about grid defection or equally as troubling, load defection. In north-east USA, customer load defection could reduce annual energy sales by ~10–20% by as early as 2020.

Assuming a reasonably priced and good quality product is available, many solar households kin the U.S. may choose to further reduce their reliance on the mains grid – or ditch it altogether by adding storage to an existing system.

As was the case with the rooftop revolution, with choice will come challenges for consumers in identifying quality battery products. However, some big names have already jumped onto the energy storage bandwagon; which will make an informed choice an easier task.

Renewables To Enhance

The Lives Of Somali Households

Good news can be scant in the poverty-stricken and war-torn country of Somalia – but renewable energy is set to provide improved conditions for many households.

Earlier this month, the European Union (EU) and Adventist Development and Relief Agency announced the launch of a project that will bring renewable energy to 100,000 Somali households.

The 3-year Somali Energy Transformation (SET) project will take place in Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia.

The initiative consists of solar photovoltaic market development, solar powered irrigation and community electrification schemes, along with the promotion of efficient cooking stoves and other elements.

“The EU believes in this innovative project which will change the lives of many Somalis,” said the EU Ambassador to Somalia, Michele Cervone d’Urso.

“Expanded access to electricity will improve access to water, health and education services, and will boost job opportunities. We hope the project will bring a transformational change by spreading the use of renewable energies throughout Somalia.”

Mains electricity is practically non-existent in the country and available to only 10% of the population. According to the latest figures available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the nation’s electricity generation capacity is just 80MW (2012).

The population of Somalia is around 10.5 million (2013); so that works out to less than 8 watts generation capacity per person.

A single company is responsible for the majority of electricity generation and supply in the nation – Ente Nazionale Energia Elettrica (ENEE). All ENEE’s power generation is diesel-based and most of it is situated around the capital Mogadishu.

In addition to having significant solar resources, half of the country has wind resources significant enough to harness with wind turbines.

Another solar power program currently under way in Somalia is a Norway-funded initiative in Beledweyne. Hiraan Online reports solar panels are being deployed across the city.

While these sorts of projects may seem tiny compared to what we see in other regions of the world, just a few watts of solar power can make a huge difference in peoples lives. A solar single lamp can increase productivity and remove the health risks associated with the use other fuels such as kerosene for lighting. These fuels are also very expensive, reinforcing energy and general poverty.

Solar Community Initiative, Is It Coming To You?

Who would have ever guessed that the World Wildlife Fund would be a major facilitator when it comes to seeing homeowners converting over to solar. Well last year they began the Solar Community initiatives with a core of great partners and we here at ReNewable Now want to continue to share what they're doing with our readers. And we are very fortunate in this special edition of ReNewable Now to have an exclusive radio interview with one of the core partners Cisco and their Senior Manager Workplace Resources Global Energy Management and Sustainability, Ali Ahmed. But to before that please learn more about this great program, and who knows maybe ReNewable Now will help bring this program to your town soon.

The Solar Community initiative, the first nationwide bulk solar purchase program launched October 22, 2014 to give homeowners across the US and Canada easy access to more affordable, clean, renewable energy – one of the most effective actions individuals can take to address climate change. The initiative, facilitated by WWF and managed by Geostellar, presents a new approach to purchasing, financing and installing solar panels at a uniform discounted price to anyone in the US.

Developed in concert with 3M, Cisco, Kimberly-Clark and the National Geographic Society, the initiative gives employees of these companies, their friends, families, and communities across the country access to solar power for their homes at a flat rate that is on average 35% lower than the national average and roughly 50% less expensive than the average electric utility rates. This means that the American homeowner can have solar panels installed for zero money down, with average monthly savings on their utility bill of over 30% – all of which could make clean energy an easier choice for more American homes.

Conceived as an employee benefits program, the initiative brings large companies together to leverage the bulk purchasing power of their substantial aggregate employee base, their families, and communities. This allows for significant discounts and increased savings that enables widespread adoption of solar energy across all 50 US states and several Canadian provinces. The offer will start as a benefit to more than 100,000 employees of the participating companies; if one percent choose to power their homes with solar, more than 74,500 metric tons of carbon emissions would be avoided each year – the equivalent of taking more than 15,000 cars off the road.

“This takes the bulk purchase model from individual neighborhoods and organizations to a national scale,” said Keya Chatterjee, senior director of renewable energy at WWF. “A coast-to-coast, low, flat rate helps mitigate two major barriers of solar adoption -- complexity and price -- making it possible for more American families to save the planet without leaving their homes.”

Geostellar, the winner of a competitive bidding process and recipient of a US Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Incubator award, will coordinate all aspects of the program. Geostellar will run the online solar platform and manage the financing, design, permitting and installation processes for individual homeowners. All installations will be performed by qualified contractors based in the purchasers’ local community, further increasing the local economic benefits of the program.

"We are partnering to take sustainability to a whole new level by making solar power more financially accessible for tens of thousands of our employees across the US and Canada," said Gayle Schueller, 3M's vice president of global sustainability. "The initial employee feedback has been very positive. I'm proud that our efforts to be more environmentally sustainable are extending beyond 3M to the homes and lives of 3Mers."

“We are pleased to offer our US and Canada employees a renewable energy alternative to cut their own electric bills,” said Ali Ahmed, manager, Cisco Global Energy Management and Sustainability. “By extending the benefits of affordable solar energy that we have as a corporation to our employees and other stakeholders, we are multiplying our sustainability impact.”

As part of WWF’s ongoing support of Sustainable Cleveland 2019, a community-wide initiative to transform Cleveland into a green city on a blue lake by the 50th anniversary of the last Cuyahoga River fire, Geostellar also announced today “Solarize Cleveland,” a Solar Community program for Northeast Ohio. Sustainable Cleveland is a multi-sector initiative founded by Mayor Frank G. Jackson that encourages broad leadership and collaboration in sustainability, including the transition to a renewable energy economy.

New organizations and individuals that join the Solar Community initiative will increase the combined bulk purchasing power of the aggregate participant base. Companies, municipalities, schools, clubs and other organizations can establish their own Solar Communities on the Geostellar platform to expand access to affordable solar for employees, residents or members.

“We’re thrilled to provide our first-of-its kind marketplace that makes the solar experience simple and convenient for the employees and communities of these pioneering companies,” said David Levine, CEO of Geostellar. “Homeowners everywhere can simply type in their address and see instantly how much solar can save them on their electric bills and increase the value of their homes with no upfront costs or out-of-pocket payments.”

Your Entire Home Powered by Tesla Battery, Coming Sooner Than You May Think

Tesla Motors says its ambitious plan to produce battery packs strong enough to power houses will be reality within six months. The promise comes as the company revealed lower-than-expected sales figures for Model S vehicles.

“We are going to unveil the Tesla home battery, the consumer battery that would be for use in people's houses or businesses fairly soon,” company’s CEO Elon Musk said during the latest earnings call, adding that the design stage of the product is over.

The new type of battery is likely to be unveiled in the next “month or two,” Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel stated, adding that the idea is “really great” and “I'm really excited about it,” without further elaborating on the details of the design.

The idea was mentioned last year as well, when Musk said he had something planned that would be placed in people’s homes and not their cars.

“We are trying to figure out what would be a cool stationary [battery] pack,” Musk said. “Some will be like the Model S pack: something flat, 5 inches off the wall, wall-mounted, with a beautiful cover, an integrated bi-directional inverter, and plug and play.”

The announcement came amid a somber sales outlook for the automaker, with latest figures falling short of predictions. Tesla shipped just 9,834 Model S vehicles in the fourth quarter, falling short of 11,200 total, which the company projected to deliver. Overall, Tesla assembled nearly 12,000 cars during the quarter.

Following the news, firm’s shares dropped 4.6 percent on Thursday, with Tesla posting $0.13 loss per share versus the expected profit of $0.32 per share in the fourth quarter.

Earlier in December, Musk tried to attract Chinese auto buyers to boost sales by announcing a trade-in program that would give shoppers a discount on a $100,000 Tesla car if they brought in their old car.

Clothes Dryers Cost Consumers Up to $4 Billion in Annual Energy Waste

The clothes dryers in U.S. homes are wasting up to $4 billion worth of electricity annually because energy-saving standards for the common appliance have not been significantly updated for almost 30 years, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report released today.

The NRDC report, “A Call to Action for More Efficient Clothes Dryers,” finds that today’s typical electric clothes dryer sometimes consumes as much energy as a new energy efficient refrigerator, clothes washer, and dishwasher combined.

“Updating our home dryers to the level of the most efficient ones sold overseas could save Americans $4 billion a year on their utility bills,” said senior scientist Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards. “It’s time to bring U.S. clothes dryers into the modern era and achieve some of the massive efficiency gains all the other major home appliances have seen..”

In fact, the energy used by America’s 89 million home dryers has remained essentially the same while other home appliances have enjoyed energy-saving improvements of as much as 50 percent thanks to utility incentives, labeling programs and federal standards. However, according to NRDC’s analysis, incorporating existing technology used abroad and adopting recommended technical and policy changes could slash U.S. dryers’ $9 billion annual electricity bills by 40 percent and prevent roughly 16 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to taking three coal-fired power plants offline.

A key reason for the energy wastes is that U.S. dryers continue to use decades-old technology that bakes water out of clothing with brute force, wasting a lot of energy and blowing hot-air exhaust to the outdoors. Once new, redesigned energy-saving dryers are available in stores, the U.S. Department of Energy will be better positioned to dramatically increase the stringency of its energy efficiency standards for new dryers when they are updated in 2017. DOE also can improve its test method to better reflect real world laundry loads and dryer energy use.

More than 150 million dryers have been sold in America in the 27 years since the federal government began regulating them, but without an effective means of differentiating efficient from inefficient models. Fortunately, the government recently issued an ENERGY STAR™ voluntary specification that manufacturers can use to label dryers using roughly 20% less energy than current DOE standards require.

“U.S. consumers can save billions of dollars on their energy costs if manufacturers take steps to incorporate energy-saving technology into their new dryers,” Horowitz said. “Government incentives and utility rebates can, and should, help make that happen.”

NRDC’s report recommends steps consumers can take in the interim to cut laundry-related energy use and utility bills, including using the washer’s maximum spin speed to lessen the amount of water remaining in the clothing before reaching the dryer (using cold water in the washer will also save up to 50 cents per load in energy costs); selecting dryer cycles like delicate that reduce energy use (but increase drying time); and not overfilling the drum, giving clothes more room to tumble dry more quickly.

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Reading Your Home Electric Meter 

Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, and most readily available energy resource to help not only cut carbon, but also help you save money.  So when we started to ask around to home owners in the state of Rhode Island how much energy they were using in their home on a monthly basis, we were surprised to find out that many couldn't answer the questions. And even if we do read our monthly bill, do we really understand the amount of energy we consume on a daily basis?

Well, to help provide a little more understanding to the whole consumption of home energy, we are providing some help on how to read your electrical meter. If you haven't done it before it can be a bit confusing, so hopefully this will help.

The basic unit of measure of electric power is the Watt. One thousand Watts are called a kilowatt. If you use one thousand Watts of power in one hour you have used a kilowatt-hour (kWh). Your electric utility bills you by the kWh.

The standard electric power meter is a clock-like device driven by the electricity moving through it. As the home draws current from the power lines, a set of small gears inside the meter move. The number of revolutions is recorded by the dials that you can see on the face of the meter. The speed of the revolutions depends on the amount of current drawn; the more power consumed at any one instant, the faster the gears will rotate.

When reading an electric meter, read and write down the numbers as shown on the dials from right to left. When the pointer is directly on a number, look at the dial to the right. If it has passed zero, use the next higher number. If the dial has not passed zero, use the lower number. Record the numbers shown by writing down the value of the dial to your extreme right first and the rest as you come to them. Should the hand of a dial fall between two numbers, use the smaller of the two numbers.

Note that some newer electric meters use digital displays instead of dials. The difference between one month's reading and the next is the amount of energy units that have been used for that billing period.

We hope this as been helpful and hopefully your on your way into becoming more energy efficient as you learn how much electrcity you consume.

Are Wood-stoves and Wood-burning
About to be Outlawed?

HPBA Urges Thoughtful Review of Proposed NSPS Standards

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) reinforced its position regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Residential Wood Heaters. Recent media reports have suggested erroneously that the proposed regulations would ban woodstoves and wood-burning altogether. Though HPBA supports revisions to the NSPS, the association reaffirmed that the proposed regulations, even as written, would not outlaw these appliances.

"Both the industry and EPA share the common goal of making further progress in reducing particulate loadings. It is good for our health and our businesses. But the proposal simply does not make reasonable data-driven conclusions on how best to tackle the issue," said Jack Goldman, President & CEO of HPBA.  

Ironically, these proposed standards will have the perverse effect of slowing clean air progress.  If the standards are promulgated as written, the increase in cost for new woodstoves will be significant, compelling consumers to keep their old stoves in use. Today, over 6 million free standing stoves in operation are pre-1992, high polluting stoves.  The best thing that can happen for cleaner air is for every one of these stoves to get replaced as quickly as possible.  

According to Goldman, “In addition to downplaying the effects on the consumer,  EPA has failed to provide any data showing that any of our manufacturer members can meet the new regulations as proposed. The testing procedure to measure emissions is imprecise and does not reflect real world performance.  Competing in this numbers game will cause smaller companies to go out of business. Innovation will suffer and consumers will bear the burden of the costs with no guarantee of cleaner air.”

HPBA acknowledged the proposal will not outlaw or ban old or new wood burning appliances. But, the association urged EPA to establish reasonable regulations that will ensure that consumers who rely on wood heat can use their appliances for years to come.

Home Energy Efficiency Maximized through 2014 RESNET Cross Border Builder Challenge 

The award winners of the 2014 RESNET Cross Border Home Builder Challenge, which helps promote the utilization of the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index, have been announced by Steve Baden, Executive Director of RESNET, and John Godden, President of the Canadian counterpart CRESNET at the RESNET annual conference in Atlanta, GA.

"With well over 1 million homes rated in the US, the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home's energy efficiency is now being measured in the US and Canada. It’s also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home's energy performance,” noted Steve Baden.

"The Index is based on an assessment by a certified Home Energy Rater who evaluates the energy efficiency of a home and assigns it a relative performance score. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home. The energy efficiency score is based on variables such as exterior walls (both above and below grade), floors over unconditioned spaces, ceilings and roofs, windows and doors, vents and ductwork, HVAC systems, water heating system, and your thermostat, among other elements," commented Steve Baden.

"This being in its first year, the RESNET Cross Border Challenge is a friendly competition between American and Canadian Home Builders to determine just how energy efficient builders can build," noted John Godden. There were a total of six builder awards presented for this year’s competition; four were based on having the lowest HERS score for their specific category, sponsored by Power-Pipe®, and two were special President’s awards based on a fleet of HERS new home ratings, sponsored by Icynene.

 The awards available were as follows:

  •     Lowest HERS score American Production Builder (>50 homes HERS rated per year)

  •     Lowest HERS score American Custom Builder (< 50 homes HERS rated per year)

  •     Lowest HERS score Canadian Production Builder (> 50 homes HERS rated per year)

  •     Lowest HERS score Canadian Custom Builder (< 50 homes HERS rated per year)

  •     RESNET President's Award for the American Production Builder with the highest percentage of homes rated under HERS score 55.

  •     CRESNET President's Award for the Canadian Production Builder with the highest percentage of homes rated under HERS score 55.

"It's no surprise the 2014 awards included some of the largest, and most respected US and Canadian builders," continued John Godden.

The winners for 2014 are:                                            

  •     Lowest HERS score American Production Builder is KB Home with a HERS 42                                     
  •     Lowest HERS score American Custom Builder is Cobblestone Homes with a HERS 40          
  •     Lowest HERS score Canadian Production Builder is Brookfield Residential with a HERS 36.              
  •     Lowest HERS score Canadian Custom Builder is Hunt Homes with a HERS 36

  •     RESNET President's Award - KB Home

  •     CRESNET President's Award - Brookfield Residential   

Winners in all Lowest HERS score categories each won a free Power-Pipe® Drain Water Heat Recovery System as part of their awards.  The Power-Pipe® Drain Water Heat Recovery System is a leading technology for reducing water heating costs for homeowners, yet increasing the water heating capacity within the house.

In addition, winners of the President's Awards each won an insulation package from Icynene. Winners have a choice of one set (approximately 16000 board feet) of Low Density or one set (approximately 5000 board feet) of Medium Density spray foam from the industry leading Icynene family of spray foam products. Product Choices include Icynene Classic Max and Classic Plus, Low Density spray foams with high yield, high R-value and no ignition barrier required, as well as, Icynene ProSeal and ProSeal Eco, Medium Density spray foams with unique best-in-class performance in terms of features like R-value, and lowest Global Warming Potential.

5 Incredibly Unique Ways
To Recycle a Christmas Tree

For nearly a month (maybe longer if you’re one of those day-after-Thanksgiving types), your Christmas tree has formed the centerpiece of holiday celebrations. But now, as the New Year draws near, it’s time to think about what to do with it.

If, like millions of people, you chose a fresh cut tree, it’s important to think long and hard about recycling. After all, a carbon-sucking plant gave its life so that you could honor the pagan tradition of decorating a tree. Just tossing it in the garbage is a depressing waste, especially when there are so many other creative options.

Below is a list of the most creative ideas we’ve ever seen for repurposing Christmas trees. Although most of us will undoubtedly choose number one (the easiest option), the others will warm your heart as well.

1. Water-Saving Mulch – Most city governments have some form of Christmas tree recycling program. Check your city’s official website, or call up your waste hauler if you’re not sure. Instead of just chucking trees into the dump, they’re transformed into a valuable resource: mulch. It might not be as glamorous as the other ideas on this list, but mulch is used in public gardens and parks across the valley to help conserve soil moisture and keep plants healthy, and there’s nothing boring about that.

2. Coastal Erosion Defense System – According to Louisiana news station WLTV, “the state Department of Natural Resources has provided grants to parishes along the coast that use recycled Christmas trees to help protect wetland areas by slowing wave action and erosion” for the past 17 years. Volunteers in boats place collected Christmas trees into pre-constructed shoreline fences where they slow wave action and help reduce erosion.

3. Building Materials – Okay, you might not be able to choose this for your own Christmas tree, but it’s still one of the coolest stories we’ve heard all year. You know that massive Christmas tree they erect every year at Rockefeller Center? Each year it’s donated to Habitat for Humanity and transformed into lumber used to build homes for those in need.

4. Giant Air Fresheners – Even dried out old Christmas trees carry a wonderful piney scent. Using trees found on the streets of North Brooklyn, artist Michael Neff created a giant air freshner/modern art installation under a bridge in BQE. It’s a strange juxtaposition of life and death, greenery and concrete that’s not to be missed.

5. Car Parts – This is another idea you might have trouble executing on your own, but it was too good not to mention. The Lincoln Motor Company is working on a tree-based, renewable alternative to fiberglass for use in auto parts. Called “Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene” the material is about about 6 percent lighter, and could decrease the reliance on less-environmentally friendly fiberglass parts. But it’s only green if they use recycled trees, hint hint.

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen’s Eco-Mansion

Okay, not all of us are NFL elite quarterbacks or supermodels, and some may have mixed emotions about the opoleunt lifestyle of Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen. But, though they may not be an "advocacy group," Büdchen and Brady are helping to promote sustainable living through their own lifestyle choices.  

We like to embrace everyone, and we don't think that Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen are flaunting their success. If anything they are willing to become a tool, a tool for positive change. How? Well, regardless of what some may think, it is people like this who will insure that this future economy grows by putting to work people who have the skills needed to build sustainable homes. They also will be purchasing products and materials that serve the interest of environmentalists. 

It is inspiring to see that people with such busy and fast paced lives have taken the time and effort to make their home an environmentally friendly place.  Not everyone may be able to install solar panels, but with other small steps, anyone can make their own home a little more eco-friendly!

So as you read this article from "ecorazzi," and look at Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen new home, and if your environmental activist you should feel a sense of personal accomplishment, because it validates a movement, a movement towards education and change. And the more Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen  couples we can get building their homes in this manner, definitely means more jobs, and postive change for our environment.

Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen opened the doors of their newly completed 14,000 square foot mansion to Architectural Digest. The home, which took five years and $20 million to complete, while large, is a great example of how a person can make any home eco-friendly.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Margaret Russell, told the Today show, “Tom Brady literally opened the door to me and took me through the house and I found out how committed they are to an Eco-conscious lifestyle. It made the story even more special.”

Bündchen told Architectural Digest about making their home green, “From the beginning we asked everyone involved in the design and construction, ‘How can we make it as sustainable as possible?’”

The couple says that 90% of the materials used inside the home are either recycled or antique. Three-quarters of the project’s construction debris was also recycled.

Giselle also had solar panels installed on the roof of the home. The couple even has their own chicken coop out back, so they can have fresh eggs daily.

There is one part of the house that doesn’t necessarily adhere to the green theme – Gisele’s massive walk-in closet, where her designer shoe and more than a few purses collection are on display.

Gisele may be in heaven over her new closet, but Tom described the full-sized gym as “his dream part of the house.”

The L.A. mansion also includes eight bedrooms, a six-car garage, a lagoon-shaped swimming pool with spa, and a wine cellar. When it comes to house size, large and eco-friendly don’t often go together, but the lengths the couple went to in order to stay green are quite impressive.


Profiles in Excellence Series

Environmental Attorney and community activist Seth Handy speaks about stewardship when it comes to his passion for the environment, and how this gift has to be preserved for our future generations.