Green buildings offer 10X payback on initial extra costs

Washington Post writer Neil Pearce [summarizes a recent study]( by the Califorina State & Consumer Services Agency:

>The California State and Consumer Services Agency, in a study of 33 green buildings, concluded that their construction costs are slightly more expensive — $3 to $5 a square foot, or 2 percent — than conventional structures.

>But a big difference emerged when the agency factored in reduced costs for energy, water and waste-disposal, plus enhanced employee health and productivity. The estimate: $50 to $75 per square foot savings over the average 20-year life of a building — more than 10 times the 2 percent cost premium for green buildings.

>It seems obvious: the reason only a tiny percentage of new American buildings and retrofits aren’t green isn’t cost. It’s lack of ingenuity or knowledge of new construction techniques — architects and builders wed to the “same-old,” lenders leery of anything unconventional.

>The fault also lies with national leaders unwilling to tell us in clear terms that a nation secure economically and environmentally and against foreign threats, means energy savings across the board — efficient and sustainable buildings included. It’s a message our current president apparently doesn’t comprehend, at least won’t articulate.

Environmental Home Center burns

Molly bought me an adirondack chair for my birthday earlier this year. This weekend, I am finally getting around to staining it. I wanted to use a non-toxic, eco-friendly stain, so I headed over to the website of the [Environmental Home Center]( and picked up some [OSMO Country Color]( in Nordic Red. EHC is an amazing resource for green building and home improvement products, and is a great example of the kind of business that leads the world towards greater sustainability.

Thus it was with special sadness that I read the news that EHC’s warehouse/store [burned down](http://// on Wednesday night. This is a tragedy for the environmental community and the sustainable business community. My heart goes out to all of them, and I am looking forward to seeing them back in operation soon.

Clean Energy as Economic Opportunity

“Clean Energy as Economic Opportunity” is a theme that our friends down at [Climate Solutions]( have been hitting on for several years now.

Now Business Week joins the chorus of not-so-left-leaning institutions recognizing that the businesses that invent and adopt low-carbon approaches are going to be the ones that prosper in the coming decades.

(Tip of the hat to [WorldChanging](

Blanca Lake

blanca_lake_133.jpgToday was one of those amazing Northwest summer days. Sparkling azure sky, warm in the sun, cool in the shade. A great day for a hike to a milky green iridescent alpine lake. So that’s exactly what Andrea and I did.

I’m extremely thankful that I live in a place that is close to places like this. And that these places have passionate, committed [defenders]( (Even as we speak they’re working hard to [protect nearby areas](

UPDATE: here are a few more [photos](

Shock Jocks for Kerry

Chris McGann at the Seattle-PI files a nice story about the possible impact of radio host Howard Stern’s full-throated endorsement of John Kerry. Couple of interesting tidbits:

  • Stern has about 300,000 listeners in the greater Seattle/Tacoma area.
  • A recent poll by the New Democrat Network found that 4% of voters nationally are swing voters who listen to Howard Stern.
  • Stern is promising to devote two full weeks of airtime to pro-Kerry/anti-Bush material.
  • Republicans of course insist that Stern has no influence whatsoever.

Good stuff.

Final plan to remove Elwha Dams

It was reported this week that a [final agreement has been reached to remove two dams on the Elwha River]( This [controversial project]( has been in the works since the mid-80s, when Seattle Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth, Olympic Park Associates, and Sierra Club intervened in the FERC dam relicensing process and called for removal of the dams. The fight raged on for over 10 years. Ex-Senator Slade Gorton fought with all his might against this project, and although he succeeded in delaying it for years, we canned him in 2000.

highwaterlwr_sm_1.jpgThe first time I saw the Elwha dams was a key moment in my own journey towards environmental activism. When I first came to the Northwest on a college trip in January 1994, we toured the Elwha dams with Brian Winter, who is still the Park Service’s project lead. Seeing the dams, and imagining what it would be like to restore the 70-plus miles of salmon habitat locked up behind them was the first I really saw what restoration on a watershed scale could look like on the ground. I also saw how the Elwha project was a precedent that frightened the old guard of the industrial economy (personified by Slade) because it proved that removing dams made scientific, economic and moral sense. No wonder they fought so hard to deny, delay and obfuscate. And in the end, it was the Elwha that helped me see how every enviromental issue is both a fight protecting and restoring a specific place and a contest of ideas about how people should relate to the natural world.

What can we learn from this victory? For me, the Elwha dam story that environmental fights often need to play out over 10-20 years before we win a final victory. There’s no one single tactic that will do it, and no one organization that can move the ball all the way down the field. The network of activists, scientists, tribes, lawyers, citizens and politicans is what gets the job done, and it requires a long-term commitment from many actors, even when the public’s attention is elsewhere. It also shows how “radical” ideas can become “mainstream” if they have passionate, smart and articulate champions who can hang in there and make the case to folks who aren’t already “true believers.”

A big congratulations to all the people who have worked so hard to get to this point, and to all the folks who are continuing to see this project through to completion over the next few years.

They Knew…

David Sirota and Christy Harvey of the Center for American Progress have an amazing new article out that is the definitive, concise, immaculately sourced expose of how George Bush and his band of warmongering sycophants lied us into war — based on claims they knew were unsupported.

>In his March 17, 2003 address preparing America for the Iraq invasion, President Bush stated unequivocally that there was an Iraq-al Qaeda nexus and that there was “no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

>In the context of what we now know the White House knew at the time, Bush was deliberately dishonest. The intelligence community repeatedly told the White House there were many deep cracks in its case for war. The president’s willingness to ignore such warnings and make these unequivocal statements proves the administration was intentionally painting a black-and-white picture when it knew the facts merited only gray at best.

I’ve upgraded to WordPress!

All you open-source fans out there will be thrilled to see that I’ve made the move from not-quite-free MovableType to totally-open-source [WordPress]( WordPress is fast eclipsing MovableType as the blogging tool of choice among bloggers in the know.

Converting all my MovableType entries was pretty straightforward, and documented very well. I was also able to redirect all my old article links, and I’m pretty sure I got the RSS feed to follow as well, so if you’re reading this via RSS, all is well.

As the next few weeks progress, I’ll be continuing to tweak the design and features of the site to show off some of the power of WordPress.