Fun Built with Salvaged Material

The growth in sustainable and green living has given rise to a movement of eco-tourism in a variety of forms across the country.  Specifically the use of salvaged materials is making a breakthrough in the realm of practical and/ or novel green construction.

Across the country salvaged building trends and communities are blossoming and their projects range from the awe-inspiring to the comical.  I recently came across this link to a list of 8 “roadside” attractions made primarily or entirely of salvaged materials:


There’s a beer can house, a quilted-oil-protesting-gas station, and the largest tree house ever built (complete with sanctuary and basketball court).  Besides roadside attractions I’ve come to find through friends and my own travels a number of interesting things made by hand with salvaged materials.

Made from recycled material

The Recycled Roadrunner.

Once a year in Glover, Vermont there is a gathering of people, “The Human Powered Carnival”, that is the only (to my knowledge) 100% handmade and human powered carnival in existence.


Internationally there is a movement of “freeganism”, a life style based around obtaining all necessary materials to live well without using money, this means dumpster diving for food, squatting (sometimes clandestinely), bartering services, and general scavenging.  There is enough usable waste produced by most large companies and institutions to feed, clothe and shelter everyone who needs it.  This movement is intrinsically related to the Human Powered Carnival, there is no advertisement besides word of mouth and there is an air of communal co-operation in all aspects of the event, from cooking to cleaning and operating the rides.

One of Cyclecides attractions

In a similar spirit, in California, there is “cyclecide”.  Cyclecide is an organization based on finding expressive, interactive and alternate uses for bicycles and bike parts.  This idea sprang in 1996 and is rooted in a “freegan” ideology, their first pieces came from dumpstered bikes and some still do.  Their main event is a touring “bike rodeo” featuring varied attractions, from art installations to interactive bike or “pedal” powered rides, and valuable information.  This rodeo is not for the faint of heart, group events and contests such as tall bike jousting, while extremely fun and entertaining do pose some real danger, perhaps that’s what makes it so fun?

This is an excerpt from their website that clearly describes the group’s core beliefs;

“We remain passionately devoted to the idea of the bicycle as a piece of interactive kinetic sculpture that can make music, breathe fire, even save the world!”




What I find most exciting about this small grassroots movement is its power to subtly invoke great change in a person’s cognition, with the near comic novelty of some of these art pieces and attractions people will let their mental guards down and approach this concept with a more open and relaxed mind, which is sure to get the wheels turning in ones head (whether pedal powered or not).

The Living Building Challenge- Winner of the 2012 Buckminster-Fuller Challenge

Green building and eco-sensitive design is currently at the forefront of our modern ethos.   What this means for the green builders, contractors and architects of NY, and the world, is a period of dramatic change and challenge is ahead if not already begun. A change in the way we think about new buildings and construction, in how we consider “used” materials and how we use and interact with space.

As Scholar David Orr stated-

“We are coming to an era the likes of which we’ve never seen before, we’re in the white waters of human history. We don’t know what lies ahead. Bucky Fuller’s ideas on design are at the core of any set of solutions that will take us to calmer waters.”


One of the most prominent voices in sustainability and responsible design since the 1960’s is R. Buckminster Fuller.  Fuller pioneered in fields from architecture, and mathematics, to engineering and automobile design and only patented 12 designs allowing the vast majority of his work to be open-sourced and free to the public.

His life’s mission and philosophy was simple, “to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.”

Even today, years after Fuller’s death his name is still the vanguard of the sustainable design community. The largest testament to his legacy is the R. Buckminster Fuller Institute and their annual international competition the Buckminster Fuller Design Challenge.

According to the institution’s website $100,000 is given “…to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. Named “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award” by Metropolis Magazine, it attracts bold, visionary, tangible initiatives focused on a well-defined need of critical importance. Winning solutions are regionally specific yet globally applicable and present a truly comprehensive, anticipatory, integrated approach to solving the world’s complex problems.”

In 2012 at an awards ceremony held here in NYC at Cooper Union The International Living Future Institute was awarded first prize for their “Living Building Challenge” initiative.  According to the institute’s website the Living building Challenge is:

-a PHILOSOPHY, ADVOCACY PLATFORM AND CERTIFICATION PROGRAM. Because it defines priorities on both a technical level and as a set of core values, it is engaging the broader building industry in the deep conversations required to truly understand how to solve problems rather than shift them.

-an EVOCATIVE GUIDE. By identifying an ideal and positioning that ideal as the indicator of success, the Challenge inspires project teams to reach decisions based on restorative principles instead of searching for ‘least common denominator’ solutions. This approach brings project teams closer to the objectives we are collectively working to achieve.

-a BEACON. With a goal to increase awareness, it is tackling critical environmental, social and economic problems, such as: the rise of persistent toxic chemicals; climate change; habitat loss; the collapse of domestic manufacturing; global trade imbalances; urban sprawl; and the lack of community distinctiveness.

-a ‘UNIFIED TOOL’. Addressing development at all scales, it can be equally applied to landscape and infrastructure projects; partial renovations and complete building renewals; new building construction; and neighborhood, campus and community design.

-a PERFORMANCE-BASED STANDARD. Decidedly not a checklist of best practices, the Challenge leads teams to embrace regional solutions and respond to a number of variables, including climate factors and cultural characteristics.


The challenge seeks to encourage designers to bridge the gap between the built environment and the surrounding ecosystems thus reinventing the typical developers’ business model and transforming the role of the building occupant from passive to more of an involved partnership with the earth and her resources.

For all manner of development the Living Building Principles are applicable, whether, “… a single building, a park, a college campus or even a complete neighborhood community, Living Building Challenge provides a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment.”

You can download a complete document that outlines the specific requirements and benchmarks that must be met to receive certification HERE.

With its radical and rigorous requirements, this is more than “green washing”.  This is an excerpt from a statement released by The Fuller Institute after the award ceremony;

“The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is setting the standard for how to build in the 21st century by establishing the highest bar yet for environmental performance and ecological responsibility within the built environment … by “building a new model” and establishing new benchmarks for non-­‐toxic, net-­‐zero structures… The Living Building Challenge goes far beyond current best practices, reframing the relationship between the built and natural environments. LBC seeks to lead the charge toward a holistic standard that could yield an entirely new level of integration between building systems, transportation, technology, natural resources, and community. If widely adopted, this approach would significantly enhance the level of broad-­‐based social collaboration throughout the design and building process and beyond, dramatically reducing the destructiveness of current construction, boost the livability, health, and resilience of communities … the International Future Living Institute is charting a new and critically needed course in an industry that arguably remains one of the most consumptive … The LBC’s model of regenerative design in the built environment could provide a critical leverage point in the roadmap to a sustainable future and is an exemplary trim tab in its potential to catalyze innovation in such a high impact, high consumption industry…”

This is a valuable new asset and tool for the green building and green contracting community in NYC nd abroad in the fight for a greener and livable tomorrow.  -living building challenge website  -Buckminster-fuller institute website

Can Buying Stuff Help Make a Green America?

If you believe in voting with your dollar, then Green America wants to be your ballot box. The organization is like Consumer Reports’ older brother that joined the Peace Corps and goes to protests on the weekends. It evaluates businesses that aspire to sustainable and
ethical perfection with their Green Certification system, posting those they deem exemplary on their National Green Pages website, offering a directory of consciously minded businesses for the concerned customer.

Green America: Come Together

Right now, over me

Green America also engages in activist work in causes that affect consumers. As this includes the vast majority of everyone, their range of campaigns is as broad, spanning from sweatshops to the banking system. In addition, they put on events, including Green Festivals across the country in conjunction with the fair trade certifier Equal Exchange, offering a bazaar of Green Certified businesses along with speakers and workshops, and The Green Business Conference to allow business owners to learn and network.

The company was founded in the 1982 as “Co-op America,” a name jettisoned for its hippie connotations in favor of the trendily ubiquitous yet amorphous “green.” Back in the day, it produced a physical catalog of approved businesses. It was founded on the principle that if people are going to spend money, they should be using it to fight for a vision of a world they believe in.

This is definitely a step in the right direction from blind consumerism, but it should be noted that our major ecological crises are caused by consumption and overuse of resources, and thus a logical solution to the problem should be a massive reduction in our consumption habits.

This would require a change from our current “consumer society” to a “custodian” one- looking after and mending what we already have, repurposing older objects into new forms, and actively caring for our environment. Apart from simply consuming less in the first place it would involve a lot more Cradle to Cradle design where products are designed from the get go to have multiple incarnations.

The core issue with Green America is that despite all the great green companies it showcases, the core message encourages continued consumption. Redirected consumption to “ethical” companies rather than any old corporation is still a push to consume the planet’s resources no matter how green.

Further, the ethics at the heart of “voting with your dollar” are inherently off. It implies you need a dollar to be part of the game. The unequal distribution of wealth leads to an unequal distribution of votes. Who is doing the voting and what interests do they represent? The answers are easy to guess. It isn’t that family in Bangladesh.

Because of this core flaw Green America is not a solution, but a stepping stone, transitional approach, easing our current whacked out economic systems into versions that take into account people and the environment over mere profit. It’s a little like the patch for cigarette smokers – if you didn’t smoke you wouldn’t ever buy the patch but it sure beats cigarettes if you are trying to quit.

In the end, Green America’s message boils down to “keep buying stuff,” not quite a revolutionary concept. If you truly want to make a difference, decreasing, rather than shifting, your consumption patterns is the way to go. But for what you do find necessary to purchase, check out Green America, it may connect you to someone trying to make a difference as they make a living.

Helping you live green, buy green, and invest green

-Jenna Steckel

Green Building Sales – Art of Bid Pricing

I love the psychology of sales. It is what distinguishes humans from numbers.

The sale item that a shop keeper takes a loss on to get people in the door so they buy other things. Half price drinks at the bar with the hope people will stay and buy full price drinks. Pricing something at $99 instead of $100.

These psychological sales techniques work.

I have found one important sales technique in green building that also works. It is the reverse of value engineering.

Value engineering is the bane of all green builders. The client comes in with big idealistic goals but as soon as the numbers get crunched the green things are usually the first thing to go. The reason for this in my opinion is a lack of education in the client that makes them prioritize one thing over another.

Here is your typical example:

The client wants a green roof, new plumbing, new walls and a jacuzzi. Like most jobs it is a mix of green idealism (roof), practical needs (plumbing and walls), and personal indulgence (jacuzzi).

The normal contractor bids the job accordingly:

Green roof $10,000

Plumbing $11,500

Walls $11,500

Jacuzzi $7,000

Total: $40,000

But the client only has $30,000. So they need to cut $10,000 somewhere. Out goes the green roof. A perfect $10,000 to balance the budget. The client’s priories do not lie with the green roof.

I hear this story again and again. Architects and contractors are always moaning to me how they would like to build more green in Brooklyn but their green elements often get cut at the first sign of fiscal tightness. But I don’t have this problem. Partly it is because Eco Brooklyn has a reputation for being a leading edge Brooklyn green builder so we attract those clients. None of our clients come to us asking for Jacuzzis. For us value engineering usually revolves around choosing between two green elements, say a living wall or a composting toilet.

But our success in keeping green as the central theme of the project is also very much how I present the bid. The bid is structured to balance out any priorities the client may have.

Here is how I would bid the exact same job above. Firstly I identify the categories: the green elements, the essentials and the non green non essentials. The green roof is a green element. I want that to stay in the job. The plumbing and walls are essentials and the client can’t cut them. The jacuzzi is a non green non essential and I want it out. I know the client wants to stay around $30,000 but they also have a long list of things they want. So they expect to cut some things.

Here is how I bid the job:

Green roof $5,000

Plumbing $12,500

Walls $12,500

Jacuzzi $10,000

Total: $40,000

I halved the green roof price, added a little to the plumbing and walls and added a lot to the jacuzzi. The total comes out to the same.

Guess what gets value engineered to reach the $30,000 budget? Not the green roof. At half price it is too much of a great deal. And besides it would only cut $5,000.  You can’t cut the plumbing or walls because they are code requirements. The next least important thing that also balances the budget is the jacuzzi.

A jacuzzi is something you can do without. Especially at that expensive price! And hey! it is an even $10,000 so it balances the budget perfectly! How convenient!

So instead of the client renovating their brownstone and getting an energy guzzling jacuzzi they get an ecological green roof. At the same price! On my job the client makes derisions that are better for the environment and ultimately themselves. At least in my opinion, which is based on many things including global ecology and idealism.

Notice I make just as much money as the first job that had the green roof nixed. And what contractor feels better about themselves? I do of course. I’ve not only done a good job but I feel I have made the world a healthier place.

I honestly believe the client and the world are better served by a green roof over a jacuzzi. So I price my bid accordingly. I set up the budget so that I may not make money on the green roof but I make it up elsewhere. I add a little more profit to the absolute essentials that I know they won’t cut (plumbing, structural, electric etc), I offer the green elements at rock bottom prices, and I price the non essential non green things high so they look wasteful and price them strategically so that if they are cut they balance the budget perfectly.

Manipulation? Definitely! Dishonest? No. I’m just putting my money where my mouth is. I don’t care if they cut the jacuzzi. I fact I’d refuse to do it anyway. So I make it costly and conveniently priced to be cut. I do care very much if they cut the green roof. So I price the green roof too good to turn down. And I carefully balance the rest of the bid so I still make a profit.

It really works well. The client is happy. I am happy. And the world is a green place. This strategy is part of the triple bottom line of People, Planet, Profit.

I see it a little like affirmative action. Because of the prejudice they face, green building techniques need a little financial help.

Green Building Ethics

Green building is all about energy efficiency, saving precious resources, green roofs and recycled cellulose insulation, right?

I would actually say that those things are secondary and that there is a larger philosophy behind green building. Those things are some of the focused methods we carry out the philosophy perhaps but the overall philosophy is much more encompassing.

In fact the philosophy could be carried out in many fields. It just so happens that green building is a great synergy of money and ethics where it is very easy to carry out the philosophy.

Here is my philosophy of green building: helping the world.

Simple enough. But the implications are huge because it completely changes the ethics of a green building business. Ethically you are no longer simply bound by the very lax laws of what are legal or not. You can cause all sorts of harm to the world and yet still act legally.

Green building and the philosophy behind it requires a much more stringent code of ethics. Each action throughout the day has to have a resounding yes in answer to the question, “Does this help the world.”

Along with this come all sorts of subtleties such as complete transparency, honesty, and goodwill, EVEN sometimes at the expense of other things such as money, efficiency. Obviously these two juxtapositions do not need to be an either or but sometimes they are in this complex world and up until now we have usually chosen money and efficiency over other options that may benefit the world more (and you less in the short term).

I bring this up because a solar panel installer came by the other day to look at our roof and discuss a business partnership with Eco Brooklyn. He noticed that I had great workers and casually got one of their cards.

Lo and behold I find out that he is calling this worker and trying to entice him to go work for the solar company. Is this illegal? No. It happens all the time.

Does it cause stress to my company? Is it the most ethical thing? Maybe, maybe not.

Here is the big question, though: Is it the best thing for the world?

That’s maybe hard to answer at first but the easy way to see is to ask, “What if everyone acted this way?” From this perspective the answer is clear and it shows his actions were not in the worlds best interest.

Is he a green builder? I don’t think so. A green builder would not have done that. It is a small point but it is the small points that cause a revolution. I think it is so important we raise our standards in business.

The triple bottom line is probably the easiest guide. It is hard to screw up too badly following that metric.

Letter from Rick Fedrizzi – CEO, President and Founding Chair, USGBC

Dear USGBC Constituents:

In recent weeks, a wave of fear and pessimism propagated by the world financial crisis has stolen the headlines, gripped the nation, and challenged our movement. In conversation after conversation, people are asking what will happen to the green building movement if our community is plunged into a recession.

And I have an answer for them. The greed that led the world economy into crisis will not defeat our commitment to good work. Fear will not dominate our agenda. And our commitment to change – even in the face of so great a challenge – will not waver.

Change doesn’t wait on Washington. And it doesn’t depend on Wall Street. Change comes from within. The green building movement has been demonstrating that fact for more than 15 years. Before there was a single government green building policy, before the business community stood up and took notice, before there was a LEED – there was you. Thousands upon thousands of committed individuals dedicated to doing better by doing good. You’ve built this movement. You’re building sustainable communities. And every single one of us has a contribution to make towards pulling our country out of this crisis.

We cannot lose sight of our mission. It is within reach.

How? It’s time for the green building movement to deploy the expertise and capacity we’ve built in new construction to green what we’ve already got. Ninety-nine percent of achieving our mission is wrapped up in our existing homes and buildings. It will save money. It will save energy. It will help save our climate. And directly relevant to today’s economic environment, it will create good, green, local jobs. As just one example, USGBC estimates that a 100% commitment to greening existing commercial buildings alone would create more than 1.5 million new opportunities for employment for out of work Americans.

In four weeks, we will meet together at Greenbuild. And when you get to Boston, we will celebrate everything that your individual commitments have accomplished so far. We’ll enjoy the fellowship of more than 20,000 friends and colleagues who share our vision for a sustainable future. And we will keep moving forward, together. I’ll see you there.

With gratitude,

U.S. Green Building Council S. Rick Fedrizzi
CEO, President and Founding Chair,

Insulation Has Arrived!

Insulation from Eco Brooklyn Inc with Gennaro Brooks-Church

Insulation from Eco Brooklyn Inc with Gennaro Brooks-Church

Green Building is like life: it is all about energy. How you control it, who has it, where it is flowing, and where it isn’t flowing. You control the energy and you have a great house (possibly a great life too).

So obviously insulation plays a huge part ini green building. Green building typically insulates a lot more than normal building. We’d rather spend more up front and less later in utility bills. Utility bills are wasteful and in imperfection. Ideally we will get to the point that houses are built so well that you don’t have any utility bills.

In terms of insulation there are many choices. Of course fiberglass batts are out. They have a lot of embodied energy, most off gas formaldehyde and they don’t even insulate well.

Icenyne spray foam is touted as green and although it seals well it is so not green. That is the biggest scam in the green building industry. All spray foam is made from petro chemicals, even the so called soy based foam that has at most 30% soy and 70% petrolium. The main ingredient for all of them is isocyanate, which is only made by four multy billion dollar companies and it is basically oil.

The greenest insulation is cellulose. Recycled paper. Recycled is always the greenest way to go.

BUT all insulation, foam, fiberglass and cellulose only gets around an R4 per inch and in space starved Brooklyn I wanted more. I found a company that sells once used (READ RECYCLED) foam board called POLYISO. Read this to see how great it is. At only 1.5 inches thick it packs at least an R9 and is by far the best R value out there.

And because it is once used it has already off gassed any small amounts of VOC’s it might have had.

I need about 2000 square feet of it. I’m going to put 4 layers in the roof plus a radiant barrier to make a whopping R36 and this does not include the green roof on top. Insulating the roof is so important.

Then I’m going to put one layer in the external walls. With the one foot of brick that will be an R21.

I also have to put it around the border of the building on every floor between the joists to keep the radiant heat in my house.

I also need 1600 square feet of Extruded Polystyrine, which is waterproof, to put under the green roof and under the radiant heated concrete slab in the cellar.

So I need about 3600 square feet. I bought 12,500 square feet of insulation!!!! I couldn’t help it! I got a good deal and I really feel the greenest thing is for me to pay one big truck to bring the stuff to Brooklyn and redistribute it to others instead of everyone getting small trucks (which as it turns out isn’t cost effective anyway).

So bottom line: I have insulation for sale. Lots of it. CHEAP, at least half price. Be green and get some! Contact me for details.

unloading the insulation from the 53 foot 18 wheeler

unloading the insulation from the 53 foot 18 wheeler

making space

making space

starting to pack the insulation

starting to pack the insulation

getting full

getting full

taking over the yard

taking over the yard

Things We Can Do, Must Do

Things we can do right away in a lousy economy:

–Conserve. Obama almost said the ‘C’ word in the debate­and you would think this is something radicals, liberals and conservatives would all agree on, as it requires no funding or investment and can produce huge rewards. If we had continued to conserve energy at the rate we did in the 1970s, we would be energy independent today!

–Pass tax credits for renewables.

–Enact fuel efficiency standards for new cars, trucks, etc. and for all big users of fossil fuels.

–Require energy efficiency in new construction, and white or reflective roofs, porous paving, etc.

–Put caps on carbon emissions for big users that will decline over time to zero by 2050 or sooner. (There’s a longer discussion of this in the Primer.)

–Take up Al Gore’s challenge to generate 100 per cent of our energy from renewables within ten years.

–Sequester carbon by building healthy soil through organic farming, no-till techniques, and planned rotational grazing. (More on this on the website.)

–Localize economies and food systems­farmers’ markets, CSAs, city farms and community gardens. Support barter systems and local currencies.

–End subsidies for nuclear energy, coal and oil.

–Bring the troops home­war has a carbon cost as well as a human cost and a financial cost. Employ diplomacy, not troops.

–Ratify Kyoto­no, it’s not nearly enough but gosh, if we can’t even do that, how are we going to have any global credibility on this issue?

Low Hanging Fruit: (Technologies and solutions that are already up and running, or nearly so, that have the best Energy Return on Energy Investment, will meet the least resistance and will give the biggest bang for the buck in the short run.)

–Onshore and offshore wind­already up and running.

–Photovoltaics­larger scale production to bring down costs, tax credits, rebates and cost-share programs for new construction and retrofitting.

–Concentrated Solar Power and solar thermal on both large scale and home scale.

–Electric cars and plug-in hybrids­in production or on the verge. Economies of scale­government purchasing agreements, tax credits, rebates or cost-shares or loan guarantees for purchasers can help replace our current transport fleet. Mandates for energy efficiency and requirements for zero-carbon vehicles, as were once in place in California, can support their production and adoption.

–Biofuels from waste and recycled materials and algae.

–White roofs. (A study from the Lawrence Berkeley labs suggest that white roofs not only save cooling costs but radiate heat outward and on a large scale, could have a major impact.)

–Regenerative farming and grazing that build soil organic carbon.

–Forest protection­a moratorium on the logging of old growth. Tree planting and restoration.

–Localization­building local food economies, sense of place, encouraging famers’ markets, urban agriculture, local small businesses, walkable neighborhoods,

–Pedestrian zones, bike paths, good interface with bikes and public transport­safe parking areas, allowing bikes on subways and busses.


Vital Investments: Even in a lousy economy, we absolutely need to do these things, and they will provide jobs and a vital economic stimulus:

–The national grid needs to be upgraded to be able to handle distributed sources of energy and Vehicle to Grid technology.

–Infrastructure for renewables needs to be built on the large scale.

–Technical help to developing countries: It’s only fair, equitable and good long-term security to help developing countries skip the 19th and 20th centuries and leap into the 21st with renewable energy sources. Offer to replace Iran’s nuclear plants with solar infrastructure, China’s coal plants with wind.

–Cost share programs and rebates for retrofitting existing homes for energy efficiency.

–Training programs and green jobs in the inner city.

–Job training for the unemployed in green industries and regenerative agriculture.

Long term investments: (Things we need to invest in now for the long term future. If we’re going to borrow billions, let’s spend them on:)

–Public transportation in and around cities. Making it efficient, cheap, easy and fun.

–Trains, busses, and other forms of transport to get people out of their cars.

–Research on all the promising technologies: new batteries and forms of energy storage, wave and tidal power, hydrogen from renewables­as a store for energy and as a replacement fuel for air travel. Aquaculture to produce biofuels. And so many more…(see that website for the full list!)

–Public infrastructure.

–Retrofitting of existing buildings for energy efficiency.

–Forest and wildland protection in large blocks to allow plants and animals room to migrate in response to climate change. Habitat protection and restoration.

–Quality education at every level on the environment.

Really Stupid Ideas We Should Oppose:

–Nuclear Power: It’s not quick to build or license safely, it’s not safe­low level radiation is proven to cause cancer and other diseases. We still don’t know how to safely store the wastes. To build a plant we actually produce huge amounts of carbon emissions as cement is one of the big carbon hogs. ——Nuclear power plants provide new targets for terrorists and makes it difficult to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. And­we don’t need it!

–Offshore drilling and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge­The U.S. has 3% of the world’s oil reserves and uses 25% of the energy. We can’t drill our way into energy independence, and drilling that compromises the safety of fragile ecosystems can cause irreparable damage for small, short-term gains. We need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, not drill for more. And new oil fields won’t come on line for over a decade and require huge energy investments to develop.

–“Clean” coal: There is no such thing.

–Cutting down rainforests to produce corn or palm oil for biofuels

–Replacing food crops with fuel crops.

–Solving problems with guns and weapons.

By Starhawk

Triple Bottom Line Business Model

I came accross the concept of the “Triple Bottom Line” Business Model the other day. It is something I have done most of my life but never knew there was actually a concept out there that people train in and talk about.

The Triple Bottom Line is People, Planet, and Profit. They stand equal in importance.

The traditional business model has one bottom line: Profit. The other two elements might be considered if they increase the profits or at the very least don’t harm the profits but rarely otherwise.

The triple bottom line understands the interconnectedness of the world, that one thing can’t benefit without other things benefiting. And vice versa: if one thing benefits at the expense of another thing then that eventually is not a sustainable process.

The Triple Bottom Line is the most effective business model for long term profit. And not only financial. The “whole’ profits, from people to everything else.

I feel that it is actually a double bottom line: Planet and Profits. People are included in the planet. To list People as a third element is somehow saying they separate from the planet.

And quite honestly it really is only one bottom line: Planet. If the planet is doing well then humans are doing well and profit is included in that equation.

But I’m not going to split hairs at this point. The Triple Bottom Line is a great start. It helps us focus on and bring together three things that often are at odds with each other.

Found a Contractor? Get References and ask these questions

Getting a good contractor is not always easy. If you find one ask for references. If they make you feel uncomfortable about this that should be a warning sign.

When you call the references ask these kinds of questions:

* Can I visit your home to see the completed job?
* Were you satisfied with the project? Was it completed on time?
* Did the contractor keep you informed about the status of the project, and any problems along the way?
* Were there unexpected costs? If so, what were they?
* Did workers show up on time? Did they clean up after finishing the job?
* Would you recommend the contractor?
* Would you use the contractor again?

AmeriQuest Mortgage – Good example of NOT being green

I came across these really funny commercials by Ameriquest Mortgage Company. They are worth checking out because they’ll give you a laugh.

But the real joke is the tag line: “Don’t judge too quickly. We won’t.”

It turns out their lack of judgment swindled all sorts of people into getting mortgages they couldn’t afford. I dealt with mortgage brokers over the past seven years and they pretty much were all the same, though. They had to be in order to compete.

They would all hold your hand through the process and help fudge the numbers to get the mortgage you wanted. If you asked for it, they made it happen. The only difference was that some lied to the customer about the terms of the mortgage and some didn’t.

But in terms of lying to the bank I think they all did it. But who cared! House prices were going up and up, and the economy was doing fine. Everyone was getting what they wanted.

We were in on it.
The customer lied to the mortgage broker who turned a blind eye.
And the mortgage broker lied to the bank who turned a blind eye.
I think everyone is to blame for the current mess.

BUT, and there is a big BUT, the bank and mortgage broker have a professional responsibility whereas the customer does not. The customer may have no idea what they are doing.

I think in this case ignorance IS an excuse, something the banks and mortgage brokers can not claim to have. It is the responsibility of the professionals to educate and look after the customer, something they did not do.

So even though everyone is to blame I think the banks and mortgage brokers should carry the brunt of the mess, not the customers.

Below is a overview of how the outcome should NOT be. It shows how Roland Arnall, owner of AmeriQuest, is largely unscathed by the mortgage crisis.

To tie this in with ecological building, in my eyes professional ethics are a HUGE part of being green. It is no longer about the buck but a holistic view of the world. Just like green building, ethical business is also healthier for the environment.

If you get a scam of a loan to build a wonderful green house, your life will still be toxic. Green extends to all interactions. Likewise, as a green builder it is my job to look after the welfare of my less knowledgeable customers.

There is a big rush now to build green. Customers may come to me all excited to make their home green. Like in the mortgage frenzy, it could be tempting for me to take advantage of the customer’s enthusiasm and sell them all sorts of wonderful green products.

Is this good for the world? Not if they don’t need the products! Green business needs to be holistic, which means the benefit is for the whole and not just a few parts. Me, the customers, the world, all the elements need to benefit from the transaction. That is green.

Otherwise I may be selling lots of green products but I’m not a green builder.