Saturday, July 31, 2010

Buy Green

Bali Exterior Solar Shades

Place these shades on the exterior of windows to block UV rays and keep your home cool.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cincinnati and New Urbanism

When looking at a map of Cincinnati, the first thing one notices is the amount of distinguishable neighborhoods. The division of Cincinnati into manageable, dense neighborhoods is one of its greatest attributes. These types of communities are the core of an idea called New Urbanism.
New Urbanism uses the disciplines of community planning, architecture, and sustainable design to reduce the negative environmental and social effects of urban sprawl. Central to New Urbanism is the idea of returning the city to the pedestrian. Since the rise of the automobile, people have become less friendly toward the environment and less friendly toward each other. New Urbanism aims to end this trend through the use of community connectivity. This typically means that amenities and transportation needs should always be within a 5-10 minute walk of one's residence. But it also means connecting communities socially through the use of shared spaces like plazas, squares, and even sidewalks. To achieve the goal of new Urbanism, communities must, first and foremost, be mixed use and high density.

This is where Cincinnati has such an advantage. Like many cities, Cincinnati has been plagued by separate use zoning codes that have caused sprawl and slumming within the urban core. But most Cincinnati communities are still high in density and contain central commercial areas that are walkable and pedestrian friendly.

Clifton, where I grew up, is a prime example of a neighborhood that follows the principles of New Urbanism. Ludlow Avenue is home to a library, grocery store, pharmacy, movie theater, restaurants, shops, and most recently a hardware store. A few blocks away from this street are hospitals, schools, and parks. All of these amenities are within a ten minute walk of most homes and connected with a grid system that is pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Many of Cincinnati's neighborhoods (ie Northside, College Hill, Mt. Lookout, Mt. Washington, and O'bryanville, Mt. Adams) mimic this same community design. If we take advantage of the neighborhoods and infrastructure that we already have, Cincinnati could be a hub for New Urbanism in the future.

Map provided by the City of Cincinnati and

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Local universities promote sustainability

Local universities are going green by implementing comprehensive sustainability plans. The plans include initiatives involving transportation, building, energy, and waste management. Also included are helpful tips about being more environmentally conscious. Take a look!

University of Cincinnati
Xavier University
Miami University
Northern Kentucky University

Monday, July 19, 2010

Healthy Building Materials: Flooring

With the goal of sustainability in mind, one must think about both the earth and its inhabitants. Often times, building materials save resources but are unhealthy for humans. Finding the perfect material that is sustainable for humans and nature is sometimes difficult. Flooring is no exception. Because it is mass produced and in constant contact with humans, it is of the utmost importance that flooring be sustainable. Here are some examples of healthy flooring.

Formaldehyde-free OSB

Oriented strand board (OSB) is the chip board that you often see on the outside of homes before siding goes up. It is used for a variety of building purposes, including wall sheathing and floor decking. Unfortunately most OSB contains formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound that evaporates at room temperature and can cause a host of health issues. Purchasing low/no formaldehyde OSB improves a building's indoor air quality.

Stained/painted Concrete
If a building is on a concrete slab, you don't have to worry about OSB on the floors. Stained concrete eliminates the need to use any extra natural resources. When done correctly, stained concrete costs very little and can be as attractive as tile or hardwood.

Natural Carpet

Choose carpet that is made from natural materials like wool or biobased-plastic (sustainably grown). Avoid PVC and other petrochemical based products. Natural carpet is recyclable, renewable, and takes less energy to produce. Carpet pads are also produced using petrochemicals. Buy carpet pads made from wool, recycled nylon, rubber, or newsprint.
Earth Weave
Nature's Carpet

From mining to production, tile usually has a high embodied energy. Make sure that any tile that you purchase is locally produced (Within 500 miles), so there is less energy wasted on transportation. Tile made from recycled glass and mine material also saves energy and reduces waste.
Tiles made from recyclables

Hardwood Alternatives
Cork, bamboo, and reclaimed lumber are attractive alternatives to wood flooring. Typically these alternatives are more renewable and have a smaller embodied energy than virgin timber. One of the cons of bamboo is that it is usually grown and shipped from areas in East Asia. This adds to the embodied energy of the product and also causes concern for human rights. If you must choose hardwood flooring, make sure that it is FSC certified for sustainable growth.
APC Cork
Olde Wood Ltd.

Natural Linoleum
PVC is considered the most dangerous plastic when it comes to its affect on human health. During production, it releases chemicals that have been known to cause certain types of cancer. Furthermore, throughout its consumer lifespan, it slowly releases phthalates that have been linked to respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine disorders. PVC is present in all vinyl flooring. The best alternative to vinyl flooring is natural linoleum which is usually made from cork, sawdust, and natural resins.

(Many of these flooring products can be purchased in Cincinnati at Greener Stock.)

(Disclaimer: Some of these products are manufactured and shipped from more than 500 miles away. Make sure to weigh the costs and benefits of using a non-local product.)

Photo by: Kepanok

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Home Star

Learn about the Home Star legislation that has already been passed in the House.

The Home Star Coalition

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

City Hall's new green roof

City Hall is now home to a wide variety of vegetation thanks to a new green roof. Completed in May, the roof top garden was designed and planted by Lisa Yunker of City Roots.

Roof gardens and green roofs aren't just for looks; they can add a significant amount of insulation value to a building, while also reducing the heat island effect that is caused by city roofs and streets. Furthermore, they return a part of the built environment back to the nature, reducing CO2 emissions.

The installation of City Hall's green roof is part of a greater effort by Honeywell to make the 100 year old building more energy efficient. Funding for the project came from Duke Energy rebates and a number of government grants.

The garden sits atop the old boiler room which, according to Lisa Yunker, presented many obstacles. She said that most of the challenges were caused by the fact that the only access to the roof is through a window, which made transporting materials quite difficult. Structures, such as vents and pipes, could not be removed from the roof, so they had to be used in the design. "Working around this stuff and incorporating into the design was kind of fun," said Lisa.

Lisa also explained that the types of plants used for the green roof had to be diverse because of different shading areas. She said, "We have a perennial bed in almost complete shade behind the smoke stack, but on the opposite side we have sun and heat loving plants." The plant selection and irrigation additions, including a rain barrel, make it possible for the garden to flourish on rain water alone.

Lisa was very happy with the results saying, "The best part about this project is that it was completed by three small, local companies: City Roots, Urban Innovations, and Green Streets. We Finished on budget and ahead of schedule."

Unfortunately, City Hall's green roof is not open to the public because of safety concerns involving the location. More photos, taken by Kevin LeMaster, can be found on his site, Building Cincinnati.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Park + Vine relocation

Park + Vine will be moving from its current location on Vine Street to the Belmain building on Main St. at the end of September this year. Since 2007, Park + Vine has been selling a wide variety sustainable food, merchandise, paints, and cleaning supplies in its Over-the-Rhine store. Though the store is moving, it will still be located in the heart of Over-the-Rhine.

The new store will have room for a vegan grocery, juice/coffee bar, and a book wall. There will also be space for seating, bicycle parking, and a classroom for workshops.

The Belmain building received a LEED Silver rating by the United States Green Building Council.

Photo By: Joanne Maly

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Local farmers' markets

Neighborhoods around Cincinnati are taking produce into their own hands by starting farmers' markets. Community markets are becoming popular as the demand for organic, locally grown food increases. There are a number of benefits to shopping at a farmers' market instead of the grocery chain. Local produce and meats taste better and have a lower embodied energy than most of the food found at the grocery store, which is often harvested thousands of miles away. Farmers' markets are a great place to socialize as well. You can organize a trip with friends, plan a meal with your family, or simply chit chat with the local vendors and farmers. Here's a list of some of the markets popping up around town. For more information about these farmers' markets, you can visit their websites or go to .

Findlay Market
Location: 1801 Race St.
Hours: Mondays: (Contact Vendors), Tuesday through Friday: 9 AM to 6 PM, Saturday: 8AM to 6 PM, Sunday: 10 AM to 4 PM.
(Only a farmers' market on Sat, Sun, and Tues)
Location: Wyoming Ave. and Van Roberts Place
Hours: 3PM-7PM Tuesdays

Ridge Road
Location: Nativity Church, 5935 Pandora Ave
Hours: Mondays 3:30PM to 6:15 PM

Location: 7850 Five Mile Road
Hours: Saturdays 9AM – 1PM

Location: Milford Shopping Center, 1025 Lila Avenue
Hours: Wednesdays 2 PM to 6 PM, Saturdays 10 AM to 6 PM

Location: Hoffner Park
Hours: Wednesdays 4 to 7:30 PM

Hyde Park
Location: US Bank parking lot 3424 Edwards Rd, Cincinnati
Hours: Sundays 10 AM to 2 PM

Mt. Washington
Thursdays 2:30-6:30pm
Stanbery Park – 2221 Oxford Ave

Location: Northminster United Presbyterian Church, 703 Compton Road
Hours: Fridays 3:30 PM to 6 PM

College Hill
Location: 5742 Hamilton Avenue
Hours: Thursdays 3 PM to 7 PM

If anyone knows of any other local markets that they would like to add to this list, feel free to comment!

Photo By: McKay Savage

Monday, July 5, 2010

Harvesting rainwater

Learn about rainwater harvesting, graywater reclamation, and native planting from Brad Lancaster, an expert in permaculture consulting and design.

Natural Awakenings: Water efficiently this summer

I've started posting as a co-author for the Natural Awakenings Green Living Blog. My first post addresses the issue of water consumption in gardens. Enjoy!

Natural Awakenings: Water efficiently this summer

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Green update: The Moerlein Lager House

Beer and sustainability! Two of my favorite things! Scheduled to open in Spring 2011, The Christian Moerlein Lager house is poised to be one of Cincinnati's greenest restaurants. Part of the 45 acre Riverfront Park project, the building will be LEED Certified and include some exciting green features. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the United States Green Building Council's system for rating green buildings.

The project will be designed and built by Tisley and Associated Architects and Schumacher-Dugan construction. The majority of the infrastructure that is already in place for the Lager House has been planned and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Because the developers of the project were chosen so recently, there aren't too many specifics about what kind of LEED certification the project will be attempting or what kind of LEED credits it will incorporate. According to Joyce Kamen, Public information Officer for the park, the Lager House will most likely receive LEED points for development density, proximity to alternative transportation, optimizing energy performance, and construction waste management. Furthermore, the restaurant will use a ground source heat pump for heating and cooling needs (Learn how it works).

That's all of the information that is currently available about the LEED aspects of the project. Hopefully this construction update video will tide everyone over until I get more specifics.

Photo by:
Eira Tansey