Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Greening of Southie - Boston at Its Best

Clear crisp morning with low clouds moving quickly. Classic fall morning.

Last night I watched The Greening of Southie (South Boston) at our local, very hip Red River Theatre. It wasn't another downer environmental film (which I love by the way), it was a very enjoyable, interesting movie which I highly recommend. The movie was followed by a panel discussion by our local geek from the Jordan Institute, an architect and NH's most experienced green builder. The sell out crowd asked great green questions too.

The movie was about Boston building its first Gold LEED certified building at a time when the city didn't know how to spell LEED. You might think a movie about building a building sounds pretty boring, but the director did an excellent job mixing in the colorful workers (who couldn't spell green) with the dynamics of this state of the art green building invading the traditional neighborhood of South Boston. That was a take home message in and of itself - The new high income green wannabees displacing families who could no longer afford the upscale coming digs. This part actually left me unsettled. Is that progress?

Back to The Greening of Southie - I did enjoy the workers who were chosen for their hesitant embracing of "this green stuff". That was quite heart warming and the entertaining part of the movie. (otherwise it would be boring) The movie walked you through the LEED certification process and the different points you got for the green options you used. They were shooting for the Gold standard which meant getting 39 points.

The LEED certificatioin is not a perfect system, but it's a start. I was impressed at the steel being able to be 95% recycled content coming down from Maine. Why can't that be done everywhere? (that's why recycling your food cans and junk cars is so important) I was a little disappointed that more emphasis is not placed on insulation. After all , that is the most important part of energy saving. - which is at the core of carbon neutral buildings. They used recycled cotton batting instead of fiber glass but it looked like it was going into traditional 4 inch walls which seems like no big deal when you're sitting on a windy cold harbor. Apparently their operating energy costs were down by 50% compared to traditional buildings. So something worked. Could it have been even better? Probably.

Like all good movies they stumbled and there were moments of doubt and catastrophes (ripping up almost all the bamboo flooring because the adhesive didn't do its job would be catastrophe to me). But they prevailed in the end like most movies do.

I highly recommend this movie for all to see. Why traditional building continues is beyond me when green options can be the same price and the cost of operation is lower. Sounds like a no brainer to me. This would be a great movie for every town to have in their library.

So, if you're looking for some good to do today, purchase the DVD (if you can find it used, great). Then pass The Greening of Southie around to friends and after that, donate it to your town's or City's library.

Trailer - The Greening of Southie from Wicked Delicate Films on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Safe Cosmetics Video - And Things You Can Do

Watching a pair of kestrels lying in wait.

Safe Cosmetics, founded by health and environmental groups, has started a new campaign via video to get their message out. They've asked for help so I'm just doing my bit here.

They interview regular folks off the street about their knowledge about personal care products, which turns out to be pretty weak. If you're up on the subject, there isn't really anything new, but the point is so few, it must be a minuscule amount, people know much about the subject, as you'll see in the video. The point is to get the subject of safe cosmetics on people's radar.

So you might ask why? If you look at the list of endorsing organizations for safe cosmetics it gives you an idea of where the concerns are coming from: physicians, women's groups, children's groups, autistic organizations, environmental groups, right to know organizations and cancer groups. That's because the thousands of chemicals that have not even been tested, that are in our daily lives through "things or stuff" we put in or on our body may have serious consequences to our health, our children's health, the environment and other critters.

Just out today from Newsweek is an article about how chemicals may be causing obesity, even in newborns because there is no other explanation as to why this is occurring. The article titled "Why Chemicals Called Obesogens May Make You Fat" explores the new theory about chemical exposure and how it tweaks our ability to regulate our fat cells. Back to the long standing gender bender issue. (wasn't that the whole thing about BPA and SIGG etc.?)

The long list of questionable chemicals that go into our cosmetics is huge, some say 80,000 chemicals, most of which have never been tested, most of concern are petroleum in base. So what can you do? (or tell a friend to do) Glad you asked. Here are some things you can do to help the Safe Cosmetic Campaign, for yourself, others and the environment (our future):

1 - Watch the video and send to friends by email using this link

2 - Sign the petition for Safe Cosmetics

3 - Use low chemical profile products - less is more (better)

4 - Use certified organic products to lessen chemical exposure

5 - Make your own products, DYI cosmetic recipes are available

6 - Know your ingredients - daunting task but using the Skin Deep cosmetic safety data base is a great place to start

7 - Start learning, begin with Treehugger's excellent article: 7 Common Cosmetic Ingredients You Need to Avoid

8 - And ... Watch the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Video

Monday, September 7, 2009

SIGG - Just Another Plastic Water Bottle

Mist rolling in; feels like being in the clouds.

In case you have been on some remote island or in deep in the jungle without any contact to the human world for the last 3 weeks, you missed the SIGG scandal and their admission that they had not been forthcoming about their lining indeed containing BPA. So while Sigg was selling their "BPA-Free" bottles (not) to confident sucking pregnant women, SIGG was pretending to be an environmental company and laughing all the way to the bank.

I won't bother to rehash all the facts and comments that have come before this, a lot of which has been discussed in previous blogs (you can do a search in upper left corner) but I do want to point out some irony.

The SIGG lining, the old BPA containing lining and the new "eco-care", (what ever that means, they won't say) are made from types of epoxies, a polymer made from resins. Just google epoxy and there are many definitions. But guess what? It's a plastic. SIGG (and Laken) can spin all the eco words they want, but the bottom line is, their lining is plastic, always was and will be.

"... plastics. any of a group of synthetic or natural organic materials that may be shaped when soft and then hardened, including many types of resins, resinoids, polymers, cellulose derivatives, casein materials, and proteins: used in place of other materials, as glass, wood, and metals, in construction and decoration, for making many articles, as coatings, and, drawn into filaments, for weaving."

SIGG is willing to exchange their old bottle for their new one but do you really want to be drinking from an unknown plastic? Yes it beats using disposable water bottles but by now (since you were not deep in the jungle) you know there are many alternatives to SIGG. Have you seen the SIGG bottle that says "I'M NOT PLASTIC?" Kind of ironic.

I am fascinated by the blog and twitter discussions of folks willingly replacing their old SIGG bottle with another SIGG, no questions asked. Is it me or are they missing something?

So I guess that squeezey inexpensive #4 plastic (low-density polyethylene or LDPE) plastic water bottle isn't so bad after all. I'm not a fan of plastic but it beats throwing away single use water bottles. They, #4 bottles, are inexpensive, have a relatively low environmental cost (impact) of manufacturing and can be recycled. (virgin aluminum is many more times environmentally costly compared to steel, glass and plastic) Plastics #2, #4, and #5 have a strong food safety record, so they say.

SIGG (and Laken) claim they are "an environmental company". What is so environmental about using virgin aluminum which is 6 times more "costly" than the next type of container and then lining it with an unknown plastic that you refuse to be transparent about? (oh, must be that 1% planet donation thing they do) It seems to me that drinking from a SIGG is just liking drinking from any other plastic water water bottle, only worse.