Green Living


Minnesota is already known for being “nice”, but a local company called ecoEnvelopes is bringing nice to the world and attempting to turn corporate America green by helping businesses reduce their company’s environmental impact AND save money in the process.

After working for years to perfect the design and obtain the US Postal Service’s approval, ecoEnvelopes has developed an innovative line of reusable envelopes that simply zip open, allowing users to insert their response or payment and seal them up again just like a regular envelope. With 81 billion return envelopes being sent through the US mail each year, ecoEnvelopes stands to have a great impact on the environment by helping  to reduce the estimated cost of envelope-excessive corporate America’s 1 billion pounds in greenhouse gas emissions and more than 71 trillion BTUs of energy.

Not only can everyone participate in environmental stewardship and feel good about their part in greening the mail (the envelopes are also made with up to 100% post-consumer recycled content!), but by eliminating the need to print, store, handle, insert, track and include a separate reply envelope, ecoEnvelopes can cut mail costs 15% to 45%, the company says.

Not a bad way to “green” our real estate businesses, I say! 🙂  ecoauditimage.jpg



Green is the new black during this, the final weekend of the 2008 Parade of Homes Spring PreviewSM presented by Builders Association of the Twin Cities’ members.

This year’s Guidebook includes plenty of great Green articles to help us make sense of this growing movement and the homes in this year’s 14-home earth-friendly mini tour are built to showcase Green building practices, products and design, and many of them will host education seminars and other interesting events to give home buyers a better understanding of their Green options.  

Some of the seminars that are taking place this weekend include: “Landscaping for a Green Community”, “Light up Your Home AND Your Energy Bill” and “Geothermal Heating and Cooling: A Systems Approach.” And I’m thinking about checking out an event with eco-friendly design expert, Jackie Kanthak, who will be will answering questions, giving green design ideas, and offering advice on the the hard to find eco-friendly products for the kitchen and bathroom.

Green or not, the homes on parade cover a broad spectrum of prices to fit the needs of every buyer, ranging from the lowest priced home by S.W. Wold Townhomes, Inc. in Cambridge, priced at $119,900, to the most expensive home by Stonewood LLC, located on Loring Drive in Minnetrista and priced at $2,950,000.

So come on out this weekend to take advantage of the longer days and beautiful spring weather that’s rolled our way, and peruse the preview parade!

For more information go to

Happy house hunting!!! 🙂

:: Kelly ::


Whether you have your own office or are part of a larger office environment, you can make some dramatic changes for your pocket book and the environment quickly and easily. Here are some ideas from RISMedia to get you started.

Use both sides of writing paper. Copy documents on both sides as well. This reduces paper costs enormously and saves a considerable amount of wasted paper.

Statistics: It is estimated you can save 20% on paper by everyone following these simple rules. This can save $70 per employee, per year or $7000 in just a 100 employee office! An employee in a typical business generates 1.5 pounds of waste paper per day, most of which is NOT recycled.

Paperless payroll can create a large savings as well. Asking receivers of your e-mails and documents to only print them out if it is absolutely necessary. Create a common statement that is at the bottom of all your e-mail communications.

Buy office supplies that disintegrate in landfills. Avoid aluminum, PVC, and styrofoam.

Buy recycled paper that is PCF (processed chlorine free). Use unbleached or uncolored paper. If you need to use colored paper, use pastels. Buy products in bulk to minimize packaging.

Statistics: A ton of 100% recycled paper saves the equivalent of 4,100 kWh of energy, 7,000 gallons of water, 60 pounds of air emissions and three cubic yards of landfill space. In the U.S., 40% of solid waste is paper!

Change light fixtures to compact fluorescent lamps. Replace old fluorescent lighting fixtures that are likely using T-12 lamps with T-8 fluorescent lamps. You’ll get better color, less flickering and use 20% less energy.

Use occupancy sensors in conference, break and bathrooms. They are easy to install and relatively inexpensive.

Statistics: Changing to more efficient lamps can achieve 50-80% savings, and they last 10X longer. Lighting is generally 29% of the energy use in an office.

Need new heating and cooling equipment? Opt for the highest energy efficiency equipment possible. Go to the ENERGY STAR Website for information. Turn your thermostats down by one or two degrees and save about 10% on your electricity bill!

Statistics: Heating and cooling office space is responsible for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. and it eats more than 70% of electricity usage.

If you are searching for office space, look for green certified buildings. Contact the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the US Green Building Council to start.

Tax Savings: Building owners and tenants who can reduce energy costs by 50% or more can get a tax deduction. Go to the government’s ENERGY STAR Website for more information. Many local utility companies are now offering energy audits for free. Contact your local utility and get started.

Use power strips for all equipment that can be turned off at night in your home, as well as your offices.

Statistic: 40 watts of energy can be lost for each piece of equipment remaining plugged in, but not in use.

Upgrade older computer equipment by adding memory capability or RAM and make repairs.

Always purchase new energy efficient equipment if you must replace it, and make sure it has expandable memory slots. For computers the Green Electronics Council’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool can help.

Place equipment into sleep modes automatically – screensavers do not count – they actually waste more energy.

Always recycle older equipment & cartridges with the manufacturer or at recycling drives in your community. Never just throw away cartridges or equipment in the garbage.

Recycle cell phones and rechargeable batteries at sites such as

Statistics: Office equipment typically uses about 16% of energy costs. If every US computer and monitor were turned off at night, the nation could shut down eight large power stations and avoid emitting 7 million tons of CO2 every year. And the energy savings in just your own office will add up to real dollars!

Have a recycling program for paper, glass, plastic at your office. Many times recycling bins are provided free of charge. Search the Internet or phone book for your city’s program and get started. Make sure everyone knows where the recycling bins are and what you expect.

Reward employees for good energy conservation and recycling behavior. You can even give incentives for ride sharing, bicycling and walking to work, paper savings, energy savings and more. Communicate what they have saved in money, energy and materials. Create office Green Guidelines.

You will find many ways around the office to eliminate landfill waste and conserve energy if you look. Even smaller items like eliminating styrofoam coffee cups, plastic forks, knives and spoons. The kitchen is a great area to review. And, again, it will save money too!

If you are too busy and have a large office or numerous offices, consider hiring an energy manager/transportation coordinator. This person can pay for himself in a very short time and preserve the environment for future generations. Full Story


When it comes to the environment, being a good global citizen starts at your doorstep. From recycling to using alternative cleaning materials, minor changes at home can add up to real benefits for the planet, not to mention your own health and happiness.

It may be a cliché, but the best way to be Earth-friendly is to cut down on what you consume and recycle whenever you can. The U.S. generates about 208 million tons of municipal solid waste a year, according to the National Institutes of Health. That’s more than 4 pounds per person per day. Every little bit helps; recycling just one glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.

Here are 10 more easy ways from to green your home:

1. Green up your appliances. Getting rid of that old refrigerator in the garage could save you as much as $150 a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Appliance use comprises about 18% of a typical home’s total energy bill, with the fridge being one of the biggest energy hogs. If any of your appliances is more than 10 years old, the EPA suggests replacing them with energy-efficient models that bear their “Energy Star” logo. Energy Star-qualified appliances use 10%-50% less energy and water than standard models. According to the Energy Star site, if just one in 10 homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would be equivalent to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees.

Also, consider what you put in that energy-efficient refrigerator. Pesticides, transportation and packaging are all things to consider when stocking up. Buying local cuts down on the fossil fuels burned to get the food to you while organic foods are produced without potentially harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

2. Watch the temp. Almost half a home’s energy consumption is due to heating and cooling. 

  • Turn down the thermostat in cold weather and keep it higher in warm weather. Each degree below 68°F (20°C) during colder weather saves 3%-5% more heating energy, while keeping your thermostat at 78°F in warmer weather will save you energy and money. A programmable thermostat will make these temperature changes for you automatically.
  • Clean your furnace’s air filter monthly during heavy usage.
  • Consider a new furnace. Today’s furnaces are about 25% more efficient than they were in the 1980s. (And don’t forget to check out furnaces carrying the Energy Star label.)
  • To keep your cool in warmer weather, shade your east and west windows and delay heat-generating activities such as dishwashing until evening.
  • Use ceiling fans instead of air conditioners. Light clothing in summer is typically comfortable between 72°F and 78°F. But moving air feels cooler, so a slow-moving fan easily can extend the comfort range to 82°F, according to “Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings” by Alex Wilson.

3. Save water. The Web site “Water — Use it Wisely,” created by a group of Arizona cities, lists 100 simple ways to save water. We’ll share just a few here:

  • Put an aerator on all household faucets and cut your annual water consumption by 50%. 
  • Install a low-flow toilet. They use only 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5 gallons per flush for pre-1994 models. If you have an older model, adjust your float valve to admit less water into the toilet’s tank. 

Of course, you don’t need products to save water — behavioral changes also add up quickly: using a broom instead of the garden hose to clean your driveway can save 80 gallons of water and turning the water off when you brush your teeth will save 4.5 gallons each time.

4. Clean green. Stop buying household cleaners that are potentially toxic to both you and the environment. In his book, “The Safe Shopper’s Bible,” David Steinman suggests reading labels for specific, eco-friendly ingredients that also perform effectively. These include grain alcohol instead of toxic butyl cellosolve, commonly found in carpet cleaner and some window cleaners as a solvent; coconut or other plant oils rather than petroleum in detergents; and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus, rosemary or sage rather than triclosan, an antifungal agent found in soaps and deodorant. Or, skip buying altogether and make your own cleaning products. Use simple ingredients such as plain soap, water, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), vinegar, washing soda (sodium carbonate), lemon juice and borax and save money at the same time. Check out these books by Annie Bertold-Bond for cleaning recipes: “Clean and Green” and “Better Basics for the Home.”

5. Let there be energy-efficient light. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

6. Save a tree, use less paper.  You can buy “tree-free” 100% post-consumer recycled paper for everything from greeting cards to toilet paper. Paper with a high post-consumer waste content uses less virgin pulp and keeps more waste paper out of landfills.

Other tips:

  • Remove yourself from junk mail lists. Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year, which adds up nationally to 4.5 million tons, according to the Native Forest Network. About 44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread, and ends up in a landfill. To stem the flow into your own home, contact the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service at P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512, or download the online form. Opt out of credit card or insurance offers at or by calling 888-567-8688, a single automated phone line maintained by the major credit bureaus.
  • Buy unbleached paper. Many paper products, including some made from recycled fibers, are bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process can create harmful byproducts, including dioxins, which accumulate in our air, water and soil over time.

Finally, here’s a third answer to the old “paper or plastic” question: No thanks. Carry your own cloth bags to the store to avoid using store bags.

7. Want hardwood floors? Opt for bamboo. Bamboo is considered an environmentally friendly flooring material due to its high yield and the relatively fast rate at which it replenishes itself. It takes just four to six years for bamboo to mature, compared to 50-100 years for typical hardwoods. Just be sure to look for sources that use formaldehyde-free glues.

8. Reduce plastics, reduce global warming. Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags — from grocery and trash bags to those ultra-convenient sandwich bags. Unfortunately, plastics are made from petroleum — the processing and burning of which is considered one of the main contributors to global warming, according to the EPA. In addition, sending plastics to the landfill also increases greenhouse gases. Reduce, re-use and recycle your plastics for one of the best ways to combat global warming.

9. Use healthier paint. Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects, according to the EPA. These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints are completely dry. Opt instead for zero- or low-VOC paint, made by most major paint manufacturers today.

10. Garden green. First, use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost provides a full complement of soil organisms and the balance of nutrients needed to maintain the soil’s well-being without the chemicals of synthetic fertilizers. And healthy soil minimizes weeds and is key to producing healthy plants, which in turn can prevent many pest problems from developing to begin with.

  • Use native plants as much as possible. Native plants have adapted over time to the local environment and support native animals. They also use less water and require less of your attention.
  • Focus on perennials. Gardening with plants that live for more than one year means you don’t have to pay for new plants every year; it also saves the resources used commercially to grow annuals.
  • Stop using chemical pesticides. American households use 80 million pounds of pesticides each year, according to the EPA. These toxic chemicals escape gardens and concentrate in the environment, posing threats to animals and people, especially children. A better alternative is to try a variety of organic and physical pest control methods, such as using diatomaceous earth to kill insects, pouring boiling water on weeds or using beer to bait slugs. You can find more non-chemical pest control tips at the National Audubon Society’s site.

Finally, consider using an old-fashioned push mower. The only energy expended is yours. Full Story


People band together online to date, discuss politics or lose weight. Now, according to the folks at Springwise, a US website called Greenopolis has created a community whose members help each other live in a more earth-friendly manner. After registering on Greenopolis, which is still in beta, visitors complete an online survey that analyses their daily activities to determine how ‘green’ their lifestyle is. Based on the survey findings users receive a coloured badge, which shows other members just how much of a friend to the earth they really are. Orange badge holders need to clean up their environmental act, and solid green badge holders are on the right track.

By participating on the site, users are awarded points, which are displayed for other members to see (sometimes, peer pressure can be used for good). More points—and corresponding changes in badge colour—show that they’re becoming more environmentally responsible. Plus, when the site officially debuts, points can be used to receive discounts on sustainable products. Greenopolis founders also want to make the badges portable, so that members can post them on their blogs and social network pages.


In December and earlier this month we wrote about four US companies selling what we called eco-starter kits. Like gift baskets filled with cheese and fruit, the kits contain an assortment of items, all with a ‘green’ twist: reusable water bottles and grocery bags, energy-saving light bulbs and eco-friendly cleaning products. All of the kits carry an implied message, namely that a few changes in our individual buying habits can make a significant difference in our impact on the earth. Ideally, the kits’ users will continue to buy the eco-friendly products they contain, nicely multiplying the planet-saving impact.

Now, the folks at Springwise have spotted one in the United Kingdom, too, and by a brand they’ve covered before. Back in in March 2006, they wrote about greentomatocars, an earth-friendly car service that exclusively uses fuel-miserly Toyota Prius hybrids, brightly decorated with green tomato designs. The firm’s greentomato eco-kits sell for GBP 9.99, in keeping with the founders’ philosophy that green products should be competitive in price and quality with similar products on the market.

Is greentomato building a multi-product, Virgin Group-like brand around its catchy name and eco-friendly philosophy? Perhaps!


Back in December, we talked about a few companies that sell eco starter kits: (gift) boxes containing products like aluminium water bottles, energy-efficient light bulbs and low-flow shower heads, all aimed at helping jump-start a more environment-friendly lifestyle.

Now, Springwise has alerted us to Eco-Me, which took the concept a step further by developing kits that help consumers create their own cleaning products. Whether for health or environmental reasons, more people are switching to ‘natural’ cleaning products from brands like Ecover and Seventh Generation. Eco-Me’s founder—Robin Levine—was concerned about the (small) amounts of synthetic chemicals that are still present in most eco-cleaners, and decided to go back to basics, mixing her own products using simple recipes and ingredients that have been used for hundreds of years.

Making it easier for other consumers to follow her lead, Levine created kits that contain the necessary tools: spray bottles for mixing spray cleaner and polish, mixing jar, natural bristle scrub brush, mixer, microfibre cleaning cloth, and a bottle of Eco-Me’s Home Cleaning Essential Oil. Plus, of course, instructions on how to make various products by adding oil, vinegar, water and baking soda.

Besides kits for home cleaning, Eco-Me also sells kits for making natural body, baby and pet products—currently only in the United States and Canada. While true eco warriors get their instructions online or from friends and track down ingredients from local sources, other consumers need help taking steps to greener living. Story

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