Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Today we chose to celebrate by asking everyone in our office to suggest ways in which we can be greener while we work!  Check out the list below to see what we came up with:

  1. Have IT program all computers so they turn screens off, rather than put on screensavers when computers are idle – Sarah G.
  2. Use pens with refillable ink – Joel T.
  3. Don’t stock the refrigerator with plastic drink bottles – Claire C.
  4. Buy a soda stream for the office! – Dagna H.
  5. Measure our electricity consumption using an electrical meter so we are aware of how much energy we consume – Brian Shassian
  6. Adjust the refrigerator temp to 4 degrees C and freezer to -18 degrees C can help the fridge work less and the food doesn’t go bad or thaw – Josue A.
  7. Encourage people to bring food from home in reusable containers – Winnie
  8. Stop using disposable plates, cups and utensils – Dagna H.
  9. Stop printing things that don’t need to be printed, and when you do print make sure it’s double sided – Dagna H.
  10. Order vegetarian/vegan office lunches – Claire C.
  11. Take the stairs instead of the elevator – Danny O.
  12. Get a keg for office happy hour instead of buying individual beers – Charles C.
  13. Use environmentally friendly cleaning products to clean the office – Claire C.
  14. Have a green wall where people can quickly write green/sustainable ideas/thoughts – Abdul T.
  15. Use recycled paper to print anything that is used internally – Lisa C.
  16. Turn off the A/C unit and open the windows on a mild day – Lisa C.
  17. Remove individual trash cans and place paper recycling bins next to every printer – Will P.
  18. Buy office furniture made from sustainable materials – Ethan C.
  19. Take misprints and other single-sided documents we don’t need any more and use them for scratch work and note taking – Ethan C.
  20. Add occupancy sensors to all the light switches – Cyprienne C.
  21. Have large outdoor air temperature and humidity displays on both sides of the office so we know to open our windows on nice days – Cyprienne C.

Photo taken from http://www.wildretina.com/

3D Printing and the Built Environment

The design and construction industry has come a long way since the days of paper drawing and hand written construction plans. Thanks to our ever-evolving technologies, we have figured out how to draw plans on the computer and print them for contractors. More recently, designers have access to programs that produce designs in the third dimension. So naturally, the newest technology to hit the market for the construction industry has been 3D printers.

3D printing first began in 1986 with Charles Hull, who applied for a patent for his stereolithography apparatus. He then went on to co-found 3D Systems Corporation, which is still around today and is one of the largest 3D printing companies in the world. Today, the market for 3D printing is estimated to be worth over $3.5 billion.

Many of the companies in this market are capitalizing on the benefits 3D printing has brought to the construction industry, such as decreased labor costs, less material waste and shorter construction periods. There are even a few companies that claim they have the technology to 3D print entire buildings at once. For example, WinSun, a China based company, claims to have printed 10 houses in 24 hours. They have also printed a 5 story apartment building, which was done using a printer that is 20 by 33 by 132 feet. In the United States, a professor at the University of Southern California has developed a printer that consists of a nozzle on a gantry and sprays out concrete based on a computer generated pattern. He believes his printer could produce a house in just one day.

3D printing is also creating new market potential in areas where building projects were not previously possible – outer space. Before 3D printing, man-made construction projects were too risky and expensive to perform in space. Currently, the European Space Agency is exploring the idea of printing bases on the moon using lunar regolith raw materials, which means only 10% of the building materials would actually have to be transported from earth.

As the 3D printing business continues to grow, it will inevitably revolutionize the design and construction industry in ways that were previously unimaginable. From more affordable housing options to lunar construction projects, 3D printing will certainly leave its mark on the built environment.

Photo taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing 

Sustainable Snacking

Each week, our office receives a snack delivery from FreshDirect. Our order typically includes apples, bananas, coffee and of course, Snyder’s Honey Mustard & Onion pretzel pieces. Because we view ourselves as a “green” office, I decided to see how sustainable our favorite snack is using the GoodGuide rating system.

The GoodGuide rates products on a scale of 0-10 (0 being the worst and 10 being the best). Each product is rated for health, environment and society. The final score you see is a combination of the three scores, with the option to see the breakdown of the products rating in each category.

As soon as the snack shipment arrived, I grabbed the bag so I could scan the barcode on the side of the packaging to see the pretzels’ rating (a nice feature of the app that makes it easy to use when you’re in a rush at the store).

Overall, Honey Mustard & Onion pretzels were only a 3.7! Here’s what the GoodGuide had to say about this product:

  • Human Health Impacts: 3.0, this product has an average nutrition score.
  • Environment: 4.2, this company’s environmental policies, practices and performance place it among the worst 50% of companies rated by the GoodGuide.
  • Society: 4.0, this company’s social policies, practices and performance place it among the worst 50% of companies rated by GoodGuide.

To be honest, I’m not sure why a 3.0 for Health is considered average (shouldn’t 5 be the average?). Regardless, this Snyder’s product is clearly not performing well in any category.

Another convenient feature of this app is that it suggests alternative products that are similar but have a higher score. GoodGuide suggested ten comparable snacking options that scored either a 7.4 or a 7.5, a big jump from 3.7. As an office, we have agreed that any of these are a better option than the pretzels we currently order.

Consumers don’t always know the full impacts of the products they are buying. However, apps like GoodGuide force companies to be more transparent and accountable for their actions. Also, with features like the “alternative products” list, consumers can take back control of their footprint and purchase more sustainable foods and products.