| Behind the Scenes
The Green Idea House An Interview with Owner/Builder Robert Fortunato
The city of Hermosa Beach, CA is all abuzz about a very exciting, very green project that just may change the way buildings get built throughout the state and across the country. The Green Idea House, which won the 2012 Los Angeles County Green Leadership Award, is the brainchild of Robert and Monica Fortunato. In 2007, they began planning a renovation project that they could be proud of: a truly green home that would conserve energy, water and other natural resources and provide a healthy environment in which to live. They ended up building the cornerstone case study for Southern California Edison's Net Zero Energy Initiative.
Designed to minimize energy use in operation, materials, waste and toxicity, the Green Idea House is an economical, carbon-emissions-free, zero-net-energy
single family home that anyone would be happy to come home to. Robert and Monica and their 10-year old son moved into their new home in March 2012. Even though there is still some cosmetic work left to do, they are eager to share what they have learned, and recently invited us to their home for a tour and interview. Here's what Robert had to say about this model of green architecture.
How did the idea for the Green Idea House come about?
Several things led up to it. First off, as an economist, I believe that green building is the next industrial revolution; it means jobs and so much more. But when we would go to
green open houses, we saw stuff that was way too expensive and nobody knew if it actually worked. We wanted to see metrics and weren't seeing them. Even if a building is LEED platinum certified it doesn't necessarily mean it's performing well.
After designing our own massing model and floor plan using Google SketchUp, we hired a green architect; we just needed somebody to draw it up, green it up and submit it to the city. We ended up spending an embarrassing amount of money and time with this individual and he just wanted to change what we had done. For example, the building works because it has a 5' overhang on the southwest side of the house - he wanted to take it off. He eventually admitted that he never wanted to be a green architect anyway. The fact that we got taken on this ride made us wonder what experience others were having when attempting to build green.
How long did the planning and research phase of the project take? How about the actual building time?
Planning started in 2007, and it took one year to build. We moved into the house in March 2012.
Roughly, what was the total project cost?
The house is 2100 sq ft and the construction cost was $200/sq ft, which is less than average for our area.
I read that you opted to deconstruct, rather than demolish, your old house, and to keep as much of the yard, foundation and existing structure as you could. What percent were you able to divert from landfills and how?
The ReUse People were incredible. They find homes for windows, concrete, lumber, etc. They came in here and deconstructed the whole house. When we had too much left over material, we separated and sorted it into sand, rocks, scrap lumber and...Continue Reading...
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Save Water with a Dual Flush Converter
Picture, if you will, 1.6 gallons of water. What can 1.6 gallons of water do? If you follow the "eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day" rule, you can drink it and be healthy and thrive for three full days. Or you can flush it down the toilet, because that's (at least) how much water goes down the drain every time a standard American toilet is flushed.
Sure, there are times when flushing requires this much water. But this is a lot of water to use to send some urine and a few squares of toilet paper to the septic system or sewage treatment plant. This is why the dual flush toilet was invented: a full flush for solids and a partial flush for liquids.
Until recently, dual-flush capability was only possible by replacing a standard toilet with a relatively expensive dual flush toilet. If you haven't wanted to spend the money or send a perfectly good toilet to the landfill, you haven't had a lot of options. Now you do.
With a dual flush converter, you can turn all your standard-flush toilets into dual flush toilets in a matter of minutes (not including the time it takes to read the instructions, of course). We've been using our HydoRight HYR270 Drop-In Dual Flush Converter by MJSI for several months now, and we couldn't be happier.
The HydoRight has a full flush for solids and a "quick flush" for liquids. We adjusted the quick flush volume to the point where it reliably flushes with a quick push of the button (no need to hold it down), and then tested the volume of the flush: 0.9 GPF (gallons per flush). That's nearly 3/4 of a gallon less than the standard 1.6 GPF. Even following the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" rule, we've found that the quick flush has no problem clearing a bowl full of toilet paper.
Not too handy? With MJSI's 10-minute installation video and the many videos available on YouTube, even those with two left thumbs should be able to install this thing. We bought ours at Home Depot for around $25, but it's also available on Amazon.com for just $22. What are you waiting for? Whether you rent or own, this is one easy thing you can for the environment.
Some people love shoes. Not me. I hate shopping for shoes. So on those rare occasions when I do buy new shoes, I splurge a bit and buy something that's going to last. For years. Then, when one of my old, beloved pairs does finally give out, I think "repair it" not "replace it."
For minor repairs, I love my local shoe repair guy. But when a shoe really needs help, especially an expensive pair, there's nothing like Resole America. The repairs (and shipping) aren't cheap, but compared to a new pair of shoes, it's a pretty good deal.
Follow these simple steps and you'll have your shoes "back, resoled and good as new" in 8-10 business days:
- Choose your brand or style
- Print out a UPS� shipping label (form is available on the Resole America website), box up your shoes and take them to your nearest UPS� provider
You'll extend the life of your favorite shoes, preventing the manufacture of a new pair of shoes and saving you money. And of course, satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. Check it out at www.resole.com.
Close the Loop: Buy Recycled Paper Products!
Curbside recycling collection has made recycling the greatest environmental success story in our nation's history. Indeed, lots and lots of people recycle. But how many close the loop by making a point to buy products made with the stuff they recycle? Not enough.
That's got to change, especially in today's economy. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, there has been a recent drastic decline in the market value of recyclable materials, and "recycling efforts focusing on collection of materials without developing a strong market demand for diverted materials will ultimately not succeed." In other words, recycling only works if the recycled materials have value, and those materials have value only if people buy them.
One of the easiest and most important things to buy recycled is paper. Office paper, yes. But also toilet paper, tissue, paper towels and napkins. Unlike office paper, paper products like toilet paper, etc., cannot be recycled. So when you buy them made with virgin fiber, that's a guaranteed one-way trip from the forest to the landfill.
When shopping for products with recycled content (paper or otherwise), look for products with a high post-consumer content. By doing so, you'll know that the product you are buying contains material that was actually discarded by individuals (i.e, "post-consumer"), thereby closing the recycling loop. If it's not post-consumer content, then the product was made from the scraps, rejects, trimmings, etc., that ended up on the factory floor during the manufacturing process. Good, but not good enough.
Now that recycled paper products are so widely available - not just at Whole Foods Market, but at Trader Joes and many supermarkets and drug stores - there's really no good reason not to buy them. They may cost a little more, but it's a small price to pay for the health of our forests and the critters that call them home.
| Worth Your Time
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
2011, Available on DVD
"When you're screaming at the top of your lungs, and no one hears you, what are you supposed to do?" In the case of environmental activist Daniel McGowan, the answer was to abandon nonviolent protests and take matters into his own hands.
The 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
, is an unbiased account of the rise and fall of the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental activist group that the F.B.I. once called "America's #1 domestic terrorist threat." Directed by Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman, it tells the story of what led McGowan and others to join the group and embark on a campaign of property destruction.
No matter which side of this controversy you're on - for former ELF members or their victims - this movie is bound to make you reconsider your position. Rent it today on DVD.
"One of the best documentaries of the year."
- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
"An extraordinary documentary...[a] fearless exploration of complexity in a world drawn to oversimplified depictions of events and problems, heroes and villains."
- Andrew Revkin, The New York Times
"A compelling doc about radical environmentalism... informative, compelling."
- Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter
Learn more at www.ifatreefallsfilm.com
Events and Other Stuff for Angelinos
Monthly Green Business Networking Event
Date: Tuesday, July 10
Time: 6:00 - 9:00pm
Location: FLOR, 9020 Beverly Boulevard, West Hollywood 90048
Cost: $15, or $10 when you pay in advance using PayPal no later than 3pm on the day of the event.
Come network with other owners and decision-makers of LA's green economy. Wine, soft drinks and snacks provided.
Three ways you can help:
1. Sign up for a presentation today!
Are you a teacher? Check out our Growing Up Green program for kids and teens.
Are you a member of a community group, alumni group, Mom's group, church group, or other community group? Have a business you're trying to green and want to get your employees on board? Check out our Green Life presentations for adults.
Visit www.teachinggreen.org to learn more and to request a presentation.
2. Volunteer or intern with TeachingGreen
We are seeking interns and volunteers to help further our mission of helping people reduce the environmental impact of their personal and professional lives. We need help with curriculum development, classroom presentations, fundraising and outreach. Your involvement will help us to grow the organization so that we can reach more people with the message of sustainability. Sign up today!
For more information, contact Kathleen Jacecko at 310-372-7484 or [email protected].
3. Buy our book or make a tax-deductible donation
We are a 501(c)3 organization, so all donations are fully tax-deductible. Your support helps us spread the message of sustainability via workshops, presentations, our website and this newsletter. We currently operate only in Los Angeles, but our book The Green Life: A Guide to Sustainability in Los Angeles
, which will help you green your life no matter where you live, is available for sale on Amazon.com.
To make a tax-deductible donation to TeachingGreen, click here.
We hope you find this newsletter helpful and informative, and should you have any suggestions, questions or general comments, we'd love to hear from you.