If you’re into the green eco-friendly lifestyle, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as going and eating organic. Not only do organic foods help minimize our impact on the environment; they also enable consumers everywhere to eat healthier, stay more fit, and save more money.
What does it mean exactly when food is labeled as organic? It means that it is produced without any synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, it doesn’t contain any hormones or antibiotics, and it isn’t genetically modified.
Because of their obvious green benefits, the demand for organic foods is on the rise. That’s why it’s important to start taking note of smart organic shopping habits of today’s healthiest, greenest consumers (and eaters).
1. Look beyond conventional groceries and supermarkets: The organic food or natural foods section of the local grocery or supermarket is pretty convenient, sure, but it’s going to be even better to check out other places for organic food – like the health food stores, the co-ops, the farmers’ markets, the gourmet delis, and the CSA (community supported agriculture) programs. That’s because the supermarkets and groceries rarely carry more than just the basic selection of organic food; if they do have a wide variety of it available, you still might be paying too much compared to when you shop around in the abovementioned alternative places.
2. Stick to what you like: The key to transitioning successfully to an organic lifestyle is to stick to what you like, and opting for the organic versions of your favorite food items. If you’re a steak-lover, don’t worry: organic isn’t all fruits and veggies – there’s such a thing as organic meat, too.
3. Know thy labels: If you’re at an organic food aisle and find yourself completely unsure which of the items are 100 percent organic, then it’s time to look for labels. The USDA makes sure the organic is labeled differently from the “natural” or the partly organic by setting strict standards in organic practices and giving out the Certified Organic Food seals. If you’re shopping for fruits and vegetables, look for stickers with five-digit numbers that begin with 9.
4. Join a co-op: Chicago has an excellent co-op – the Chicago Food Cooperative, founded in 1995 – that allows members to collectively purchase groceries directly from distributors who meet green standards in nutrition, food, and organic farming. Not only are you assured of quality organic foods; you also get to enjoy discounts and savings on your green goods.
5. Or you can join a CSA. As mentioned above, CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It’s a great way to shop organic – and support local. Here’s how it goes: you purchase a share, which in turn entitles you to receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. The stuff that you get is all fresh from the local farms – thereby reducing food miles that would otherwise have been spent on transport, packaging, etc. Who knew shopping and eating can be this energy-efficient?
6. Develop a relationship with local farmers. We don’t mean anything too romantic. Just be your usual friendly self and chat with the vendors and farmers you meet at the local weekend market. Express your enthusiasm about going organic. Ask them what their best practices are, and what goes into each product. Chances are, they might be able to answer your own questions, and they might also be able to strike even better deals than what you would get at the grocery. Local farmers may not have the money to obtain official USDA organic certification, but they’ll certainly have the knowledge and the experience to go with the goods.
7. Go online. If you haven’t yet discovered the local hotspot for organic goods, consult the Internet. There are plenty of resources and directories out there for organic foods. You may even get to stumble upon websites that allow you to order organic produce and food items online.
8. Plant your own. Why not? Organic gardening is gaining increasing popularity these days, and not just because they add a touch of green to the visual appeal of your house. Growing your own fruits and vegetables at home assures you of what goes in your diet and how fresh it is. Doing it yourself is also great fun.
Credit to Lipar
Ever pass by ugly spaces that you feel inspired to jazz up? Make seed bombs! Carbon Copy blog outlines how to make a “classic” clay seed bomb so you can start beautifying your neighborhood or anywhere that could use a little life. Here are their directions:
- Combine 2 parts mixed seeds (indigenous flowers, herbs or vegetables) with 3 parts compost.
- Stir in 5 parts powdered red or brown clay.
- Moisten with water until mixture is damp enough to mold into balls.
- Pinch off a penny-sized piece of the clay mixture and roll it between the palms of your hands until it forms a tight ball (1 inch in diameter).
- Set the balls on newspaper and allow to dry for 24 – 48 hours. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to sow.
Credit to GoJeffrey
Throw the balls into vacant lots, pavement cracks, long-standing rubbish piles, or anywhere that would benefit from a bit of random greenery. [Source: The Guerilla Art Kit, by Keri Smith]
GuerrillaGardening.org describes a few more way to make seed bombs here including NYC Green Guerilla Grenade, Kabloom “SeedBom,” Explosive Eggs, Seed Balloon, and Seed Pills.
So, if there isn’t a place for you to garden in your own apartment area, spread the love elsewhere!
Credit to Pondstone Communications blog
As an environment-conscious, green-thinking homeowner, you want a great durable roofing system – one that can withstand all kinds of weathers and seasons, and one that lasts a lifetime, or many lifetimes. But the green roofs that you see on TV or on certified green buildings kind of look expensive and impractical for your home, don’t they? Besides, it’s going to be pretty odd too if you suddenly have this grassy lawn on top of your humble Chicago neighborhood house.
Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives that can still legitimately “green” the roof of your house – and which don’t necessarily fall into the “asphalt shingles” category. Let us look at the options.
Slate roof tiles are gaining popularity among homeowners who want distinct-looking, long-lasting, low-maintenance roofs. Roof design styles that slate can accommodate include Colonial, French, Beaux Arts, and even Italianate. While slate can be pretty expensive and may require specialized installation by professionals, it still makes for what is perhaps the most durable roofing material. It’s also natural and recyclable: a must for homeowners who want to live a green lifestyle. If you’re looking for reclaimed or salvaged slate roofing, try companies like Durable Slate and the The Roof Tile and Slate Company.
Just like slate, clay roofing tiles are also pretty easy-to-maintain and durable – they have a lifespan of at least fifty years. Other great attributes of the material include good insulation value, excellent fire resistance (the material is non-combustible), and aesthetic versatility (clay roofs can bring a certain Mediterranean look to your house). While clay tiles usually come with a heavy price tag, the investment is a smart one – especially if you’re looking for a non-toxic “cool roof”. Some of the brands out there include MCA and the Roof Tile Guru’s Custom Tile Roofing.
This is one of the coolest, greenest roofing options for any homeowner. That’s because metal roofs – whether made from steel, copper, or aluminum – usually are composed of mostly recycled content. They are also lightweight, durable, and solar-reflective with a high insulation value; moreover, at the end of metal’s lifespan, it can still be used and recycled – thus helping ease the burden on landfills. As a green choice, always go for lead-free metal. The most popular brands today include Classic Metal Roofing, Tamko, and Zappone (for copper).
Wood or cedar shakes
Wood shingles (like cedar shakes) can also be considered as one of the best eco-friendly materials for your roofing system. They provide excellent insulation while also naturally inhibiting decay and pests. While wood – which, like wine, ages very gracefully – isn’t fire-resistant (unless it’s been treated with certain chemicals), it can still meet other green requirements, such as natural durability, non-toxicity, sustainable harvest and manufacturing, and low labor and maintenance costs. The greenest and most environmentally sound wood or cedar shingles are provided today by brands like Koenig Cedar and True North Cedar, Inc.
Okay, we had to put asphalt shingles here, but that’s because there are more and more eco-friendly varieties of it coming up in the market. They usually contain mixed recycled paper, combined with reclaimed minerals in the aggregate on the surface. If you want the asphalt shingles to be even greener, go for those that contain the lowest amount of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) possible.
It’s been reported that indoor air – the air in, say, your home or your workplace – can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. That’s a pretty scary thought, especially if you consider how risk factors for things like asthma, allergies, and lung illnesses can increase as air gets dirtier and more polluted.
Well, you can now wave those fears goodbye. Here below are great green ways to ensure clean indoor air for your home – and a safer environment for your family.
- Don’t smoke inside your home – and don’t let anyone else break the rule. Experts state that there’s no safe level of secondhand cigarette smoke, so protect yourself and your family by applying the No Smoking rule indoors. If there are any cigarette smokers living in or visiting your house, ask them to step out and enjoy their fix outdoors.
- Avoid toxic products and VOCs. Volatile organic compounds and other nasty chemicals can be found in paints, varnishes, waxes, hair and nail products, art supplies, and even children’s toys, among many others. The next time you do some shopping for your home, make the green choice and opt for products that are labeled VOC-free and non-toxic. This should help freshen up your indoor air and safeguard you from illness-causing chemicals and air pollutants.
- Adjust indoor temperature and humidity. Clean indoor air also depends on humidity levels and temperature. To keep your home cool, dry, and comfortable, and to keep bacteria in control, maintain between 18-22℃ and 20-50 percent humidity. Installing a humidifier can also do the trick, but make sure you clean it up regularly to prevent mold growth inside the tank. Cleaning the air filters of your air conditioner will also help – not just in enhancing the quality of indoor air but also in saving energy for your home.
- Use charcoal. Put about two kilos of charcoal pieces under your bed or in a discreet place in the living room. It’s an efficient air purifier that you can wash once a month and then reuse. Not only does charcoal block out electromagnetic waves; it can also absorb harmful air pollutants.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your house. That ought to keep deadly gases away. The detector protects you from poisoning that results from having high levels of carbon dioxide indoors (most of which may come from fuel-burning home appliances), which you otherwise will not be able to detect, as carbon dioxide has neither color nor odor.
- Use house plants. Benjamin, rubber trees, scindapsus, bamboo palm, and sanseberia are only some of the greens that are great for purifying the air in your home, as well as for adjusting indoor humidity. Aim for plant coverage of about 25 percent of floor space for optimum indoor air purification.
- Inspect your house and fix those leaks. Problems with leaks and cracks can adversely affect the humidity levels indoors. To make sure they don’t prevent you from freshening up your indoor air, regularly check your roof, foundation, basement, and crawlspaces for any kind of leakage or moisture problems.
- Clean your beddings and pillows. These can actually serve as the place where bacteria grows, so make sure you wash, sun-dry, and clean your sheets, pillow cases, beddings, towels, and carpets as regularly as possible. If you have to use an anti-bacterial agent to prevent the spread of germs, do so – but make sure you opt for natural cleaning products and agents.
Visiting Chicago? Or are you a Windy City resident looking for something new to do and see? Chicago, the largest city in Illinois, has plenty of attractions, and many of them fit perfectly with your green lifestyle.
The Garfield Park Conservatory
Often referred to as “landscape art under glass”, this world-class glass-paneled conservatory covers 4.5 acres, which for over a hundred years now have been displaying thousands of plant species. There are eight rooms: six greenhouses and two grand exhibition halls. Owned and managed by the Chicago Park District, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a fantastic green Chicago attraction that’s visited by families from all over the nation. There are lush floral displays, a green gift shop, various green shows and events, and demonstrations and workshops to hold green visitors in thrall. Moreover, the conservatory partners with the University of Illinois to provide educational programs on gardening, composting, beekeeping, and many other ways of going green.
Lincoln Park Conservatory
This Victorian-style glass house is smaller than the Garfield Park Conservatory, but the Lincoln Park Conservatory has plenty of green attractions of its own. It was designed by Joseph Silsbee, a well-known architect in the 19th century, and it houses a glass dome-shaped structure that consists of a palm, fernery, orchid and a show house for seasonal exhibits. As a place for the cultivation of the plant life found in Chicago’s public parks, the Lincoln Park Conservatory provides excellent horticultural collections, educational programs, and outreach efforts for Chicago’s residents and visitors to take part in. It also has a magnificent French-style garden and fountain just outside its glass doors where fun-loving, green-living visitors can relax, have informal picnics, and just chill without having to worry about environmental footprints.
Chicago Center for Green Technology
Not many people know that this award-winning building used to be an abandoned seven-storey municipal structure. Now, however, the Chicago Center for Green Technology is a nationally recognized model for sustainable design and technology, complete with a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. Its many design highlights include a front landscape, two demonstration gardens, a solar-powered fountain that uses rainwater from the building’s roof, smart lighting, and a geothermal exchange system. The place also offers informative seminars on environmental topics that include creative drought-resistant landscaping, solar energy systems, green furniture, etc.
The Field Museum of Natural History
Established in 1893, this impressive museum focuses on the natural sciences, with the purpose of preserving and exhibiting objects illustrating art, archaeology, science, and history. But the Field Museum is more than the usual all-too-academic kind of cultural attraction. It has an exhibit on the Age of Dinosaurs, featuring Sue, the world-famous T. Rex; a feature on the ocean floor of an ancient Cambrian sea in “Evolving Planet”; and a look into an 800-year-old, Ice-Age-era pueblo in “Ancient Americas”. The museum’s collection – which currently has more than twenty million specimens – continues to grow through world-wide expeditions, purchase, and exchange. There are also educational programs and seminars being run by professors and professionals from local universities, including the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago. Also worth noting is the Field Museum’s effort in spreading information on biodiesel and alternative fuel: it is developing a vehicle that runs on used cooking oil to travel around the city.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Located along Cannon Drive in Chicago, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is an interactive place for science, exploration, and education, as well as a recipient of the Overall Achievement Award for integrating environmentally-friendly principles in its operations. The museum’s permanent exhibitions include the Butterfly Haven, Birds of Chicago, River Works, Mysteries of the Marsh, Wilderness Walk, Hands-on Habitat, and Extreme Greenhouse, a full-sized bungalow with tours on how humans are all connected to the environment. The Nature Museum also has a myriad of education programs, research and conservation efforts, facilities for rent, corporate event spaces, social event spaces, a gift shop and café, and a green city market to keep regular and first-time visitors coming. Apart from offering regular memberships, the museum also has green initiatives that are worth anyone’s while: adopt-an-animal programs, a Go Green 5K run (or walk), and the annual Butterfly Ball.
Like the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Shedd Aquarium has also been recognized with awards for its environmental efforts. This green conservation – which is one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums, housing more than 32,600 aquatic animals and 1,500 species – has won the Leadership Award for exemplary commitment to environmental innovation. The Shedd also has a variety of education and conservation programs – focused on the Great Lakes, animal conservation, green lifestyle, seafood, and climate change – that enhance the public’s appreciation for aquatic species, especially those that are now endangered.
The Millennium Park
Built to honor Chicago’s traditions on architecture, landscaping, protected parklands, music and the arts, the Millennium Park covers 24.5 acres of green attractions, effectively making it a showcase of postmodern (and environment-friendly) architecture. It is also a successful public art venue, with features that include the Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. For its architecture and construction, the Millennium Park has won several design awards, which recognize the work of its green-thinking architects, planners, artists, and designers. Admission to the Millennium Park is free.
With its many green attractions, Chicago has plenty to offer anyone who’s living an eco-savvy, environment-friendly lifestyle. Are you a Chicago resident or homeowner? Let us know if we missed anything!
Everybody knows that the children are our future. And that we should teach them well and let them lead the way. Okay, we’re sure you’ve guessed the song by now – but have you figured out what it means, at least when it comes to going green? It means we should let them in on our eco-friendly practices and lifestyles. It means we should educate them and put them in a position to make earth a better place – now and in the future.
You see, our kids will be the ones who will soon inherit the world we’re living in. They’ll be the ones who will continue to carry on the responsibility of protecting the environment. It’s a bit cliché, sure, but one of the most sustainable choices we can make right now is help our children go green, too. They represent the future generation.
So how exactly do we go about with our children’s green education? Here are some great tips on how to start:
Encourage them to power down
Tell your kids how much good it does Mother Earth to turn off the lights, appliances, and electronics when not in use. Typically they won’t have an idea of the costs of energy, and of those numbers in your utility bill, but if you let them in on the environmental benefits of powering down, they’ll be more than likely to start the habit. Also cut down on battery-powered toys and energy-guzzling gaming consoles: if you have to succumb to their request for something battery-required to play with, choose a toy that uses rechargeable batteries, as this helps eliminate waste.
There’s nothing better and greener for your kids than a weekend spent playing and having fun outdoors. Who knows? They just might forget altogether about wanting a PlayStation 3. Go play hide and seek, or build a birdhouse in the backyard. Encourage them to plant their own trees or vegetables and watch them grow. Or take the children on bike rides out in the woods. The more they have fun in a natural environment, they more appreciation they’ll gain for it. Of course, running around with them can also provide you with better bonding opportunities than if they just stayed indoors and fiddled with game controllers.
Spread the word on water conservation
This means teaching your kids to keep the water off while they’re brushing their teeth. Or instructing them to spend less time in the bath and take showers more often. Kids love bodies of water – it’s one of the most underrated playgrounds – but make sure they understand that water is a natural resource, and is not meant to be wasted.
Take alternative routes to school
Do you drive your children to school every single day? It’s time to consider greener alternatives, like carpool, the school bus, riding the bike, or even walking. Not only do these kinds of commute minimize fuel consumption and vehicle-produced smog; they also encourage your kids to share a ride with their friends or with their parents – and spend the time interacting, bonding, having fun, and even doing homework.
Teach them to donate
Chances are that you’ve bought your kids plenty of toys and clothes. There are also equal chances that they’ll outgrow all these sooner than you think. What to do with these one-size-too-small fabrics? Where to throw or stack these no-longer-wanted toys? Instead of taking clothes and toys to the basement, where they’ll never again see the light of day, how about taking them to the nearest children’s shelter? Donating unused stuff is not only philanthropic; it’s also green and environment-friendly. You’re saving natural resources that will otherwise have been used to produce new clothes or toys. You can even turn old, unwanted children’s possessions into instant cash by selling them to the local second-hand store. It’s probably a good idea to take your kids with you to the shelter or the charity center as you donate their outgrown stuff. That way, you’re also setting a green example.
Green school supplies
A new year in school? This doesn’t mean you have to outfit your kids with brand new school supplies. Going green and going back to school can go hand in hand. There’s a wide range of green school supplies out there, such as recycled notebooks, PVC-free backpacks, unfinished and varnish-free pencils, and eco-friendly, non-toxic lunchboxes. The great thing about green school supplies is that your kids can catch the attention of other friends and classmates – and help spread the word on why it’s important to help build a better, greener while they’re young.
Everyone seems to be going green these days. Caring about the earth has suddenly become very fashionable. It’s certainly for good reason, and that’s why even the fashion world itself is raising its consciousness and starting to recognize the urgency, as well as the benefits, of minimizing our impact on the environment.
Yes, there is now such a thing as green clothing. The world of fashion has caught up to offer consumers everywhere plenty of eco-based options for comfort and style. Organic wear, eco-friendly fabrics, handmade dresses, and recycled clothes are quickly making their way to a fashion stop near you. There are now more possibilities than ever in dressing up with sustainability as your purpose and green as your color. And you don’t even have to sacrifice your own unique style.
Interested in greening your wardrobe at home? Here are some eco-savvy tips for you:
Know the eco-friendly brands
Dressing green doesn’t necessarily mean wearing earthy stuff that looks as though it might have been made with leaves and strewn together using tree branches. Save the planet in style! The world’s biggest clothing brands – including couture fashion houses – are now coming up with products that are environmentally friendly. Or they’re taking a more sustainable approach to manufacturing. So really, it’s just a matter of finding out what these brands are, and which of them suit your style. If you want to try out new stuff, then consider specialized green clothing brands like Blue Canoe, Loomstate, Kate Organic, Maggie’s Functional Organics, Element, and Stewart and Brown, among many others.
Line dry your clothes
Forget the dryer. They’re such energy hogs anyway. For longer lasting clothing, hang your clothes to dry on lines. Not only does this guarantee you plenty of energy savings; it also lets you freshen up your wardrobe with all-natural – instead of all-electrical – help. So go on and head out to the backyard, feel the warmth of the sun and the breeze, and line dry your way to a greener wardrobe. Here’s a great tip: instead of using chemical-laden fabric softeners, just add a cup of vinegar to your laundry load before the start of the rinse cycle. This is a great non-toxic way to avoid stiff, scratchy clothing. And don’t worry about the odor. We guarantee it will be gone once the clothes go dry.
Choose natural, sustainable clothing materials
Not sure if your favorite clothing brand is eco-friendly? Build up your knowledge on today’s most eco-friendly clothing products and materials. Green clothing doesn’t always have to be officially “organic”; it can be any fabric that’s made from natural, sustainable materials like bamboo, soy, corn fiber, silk blends, and hemp blends. Also, go for clothing items that are colored with natural, low-impact dyes – as opposed to those that are chemical- and metal-laden.
Opt for energy-efficient, environment-friendly appliances and products
The electric iron, the washer, dryer: it seems that clothes will always have something to do with these home appliances. That’s not to mention the cleaning products that you have to use (probably full of chemicals) and the amount of water needed for getting the laundry done. Even if you don’t opt for organic clothes, you can still minimize the environmental impact of your wardrobe by going green in your use of clothing-related home appliances and products. Upgrade your washer and dryer to models that have the Energy Star label. Install water-saving faucets. Be more conscious of the cleaning products you buy and consider green alternatives like natural laundry detergents, chlorine-free bleaches, biodegradable laundry liquids, and palm-derived softeners.
Don’t go to the downtown mall with no plan on what to buy. Forget impulse shopping. It’s not so green having a closet full of clothes that don’t fit your taste or style requirements. Also, make sure you read manufacturer labels before you make a purchase. What are they made of? How are they supposed to be washed and taken care of? As you continue to upgrade your green, chic wardrobe, always remember the steps that you need to take to make sure you’re applying best environmental practices.
About fifteen years ago, Richard Daley – then the mayor of Chicago and the city’s undisputed Democratic boss – announced a commitment to revitalize Chicago and make it into one of the greenest places in America, if not the world. Thanks to his efforts, as well as that of other communities and leaders, Chicago is now one of today’s most environment-friendly cities. It has over 300 miles of bikeways, close to 7 million square feet of green roofs, two world-class conservatories, a guaranteed green restaurant co-op, and a climate action plan where every Chicago homeowner, business, and community member can participate in making the city a greener place to be.
The city has also done well in offering visitors a chance to experience the benefits of an environment-friendly lifestyle. The Chicago Green Hotels Initiative, in particular, reflects the city’s commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of one of its biggest and most important industries. Indeed, Chicago has taken the lead: it now has more Green Seal certified hotels than any other US city. (The closest are Portland and Washington, with two each.)
What is Green Seal? It is an independent non-profit that uses science-based standards to power the marketplace and provide environmental certification to businesses, products, and services that consistently apply environmentally responsible and sustainable practices.
So if you’re ever flying into Chicago, or driving from its nearby neighborhoods, you might want to check into a green hotel. The city’s got plenty of them.
Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza
350 West Mart Center Drive
Last year, this Chicago hotel was awarded LEED Gold Certification by the US Green Building Council, making it the first LEED-certified hotel in the city and the largest in North America. And for good reason, too: the Chicago Mart has taken extensive ecological measures to create a high-performance and energy-efficient green building, all while providing luxury accommodations to business travellers, vacationers, leisure guests, and attendees to exciting social events.
171 W. Randolph St.
The charming Hotel Allegro features 483 guestrooms and suites, as well as a luxurious mix of amenities and services. What makes it stand out even more is that it has been renovated for a greener future. Hotel Allegro is noted for its pet-friendliness; environment-friendly products; extensive recycling program; organic, shade-grown, or fair trade coffee served in its lobby; energy-efficient air-conditioning and lighting system; and, for its hotel materials, soy-based ink printing on 100 percent recycled paper. For its efforts, Hotel Allegro has been given the Silver Certification by Green Seal – along with the next four hotels.
1 W. Washington St.
Hotel Burnham is not only a dazzling Chicago boutique hotel; it is also an architectural landmark and one of the world’s best places to stay. It combines old-world elegance with a contemporary – and green – sensibility. The eco-friendly efforts of this Green Seal Silver Certified hotel include: environment-friendly bath amenities, in-room recycling bins, eco-certified cleaning supplies, recycled paper printing, paperless check-in and check-out service, energy-efficient lighting, organic snacks and beverages, linen and towel reuse program, and eco-friendly dry-cleaning for its guests and employees. Oh, and there’s this Hybrid Happiness Package, a program that provides discounts to guests who arrive in a hybrid vehicle.
225 N. Wabash Ave.
A four-star boutique hotel, the Hotel Monaco is one of the most environmentally responsible hotels in Chicago. It is Green Seal Silver Certified, thanks to its efforts in waste minimization, reuse, and recycling; energy efficiency, conservation, and management; fresh water resources management; and environmentally and socially sensitive purchasing policy, which covers everything from papers to toilet tissue.
525 N. Michigan Ave.
Chances are, you’re familiar with the Intercontinental brand, for it has hotels in various locations around the world. But this one in Chicago is special: it is Green Seal Silver Certified. The Intercontinental Chicago has a committee that oversees all its earth-conscious practices, which include: a guestroom energy management system; the use of CFLs in guestrooms, back-of-house areas, corridors, and other locations; the use of water-saving toilets; a towel and linen reuse program; a lighting, heating, and cooling control system; an extensive waste management program; the use of low- or no-VOC paints; and the purchase of renewable energy credits to offset 50 percent of the hotel’s electricity consumption.
The Talbott Hotel
20 E. Delaware Pl.
Guests of this charming boutique Chicago hotel can enjoy their stay even more knowing that they will have minimal impact on the environment. That’s because the Talbott Hotel continues to adhere to the guidelines of its Green Seal Silver Certification. This means that it continues to implement green, eco-savvy measures like: an extensive recycling program, energy-efficient lighting, water-conserving fixtures, lighting and heating control systems, “eco-mode” guest rooms, the purchase of carbon offsets, and an investment in wind energy. All these are part of an approach that the hotel calls “Sustainability without Compromise”.
As hotels in Chicago continue to respond to the demand for green operations, more and more properties are being rewarded by Green Seal. The Essex Inn, Four Seasons Chicago, the Hilton Chicago, The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Tower, Fairmont Chicago, The Silversmith Hotel and Suites, the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, and the Westin on Michigan Avenue are all Green Seal Bronze Certified hotels. More are in the process of earning similar certifications. Guests, residents, and businesses alike have all benefited enormously from these green efforts, thereby making it safe to say that there is no greener city to visit and stay in than Chicago.
Did you know that concrete is the most used man-made material in the world? There’s more than one cubic meter of it for every person alive right now, and that’s enough concrete to run a $35 billion industry in the US, with over two million workers.
One who doesn’t know much about concrete – and how it is used today – might wonder how big an impact the construction material has on the environment. Surely, that’s going to drain the earth’s natural resources? Surely, concrete is responsible for stumbling block upon stumbling block to our path to sustainability?
Not quite. In fact, concrete has grown to become one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly construction materials available today.
Composed of cement, water, fine and coarse aggregates, and other admixtures, concrete is gaining popularity these days for those who wish to build with the safest, most durable, and most sustainable materials. That’s because the material has excellent natural properties that allow for superior fire resistance, a long service life, and great durability. New ways of recycling concrete (and not just shipping it to landfills) are also spreading, in conjunction with the environmental awareness of green contractors, engineers, home builders, home owners, DIYers, manufacturers, the government, and environmental groups and organizations.
When comparing the cradle-t0-cradle impact of building with concrete as opposed to building with other materials, concrete simply stands out. A reinforced concrete structure has thermal mass that moderates daily temperature swings and reduces energy consumption by as much as 35 percent. Simply put: it’s the smartest, greenest choice for those who are committed to sustainable development.
Here’s a rundown of some of the green properties and benefits of concrete:
- Durability: Concrete has a long service life, and it can provide the durable foundations that many architects, engineers, and developers are looking for.
- Recycling: Concrete can be made using recycled or reclaimed industrial materials, thereby easing the strain on landfills. Of course, concrete recycling also contributes toward reducing carbon emissions – because even at the end of a concrete building or pavement’s life, the concrete can still be recycled.
- Local production: Concrete is a material that can be produced locally, thanks to the fact that its main ingredients – crushed stone, gravel, sand, and water – are easily available in many locations. The ingredients mentioned above are also responsible for about 90 percent of the volume of the concrete mixture, which means that concrete is readily mixed, and that there’s no need to make new materials just to produce it. Moreover, since concrete is made-to-order, making it and building with it result in less waste, less energy consumption, and less need for transportation and handling.
- Energy efficiency and conservation: One of the biggest advantages of building a home with concrete is that the material has a thermal mass that can reduce temperature swings in the house, thereby conserving energy that would otherwise have been spent on heating, cooling, and infrastructure costs.
- Green landscaping: With qualities that help prevent water runoff and the heat island effect, concrete – particularly impervious concrete – is a smart choice for projects like green landscaping and green rooftops.
- Water management: Pervious concrete has the natural properties needed to percolate water into soil and recharge aquifers. Concrete also provides a great way of preventing runoff (usually polluted) from getting into and overwhelming streams and lakes and other bodies of water.
- High albedo: This basically means that concrete can reflect more light and absorb less heat. This makes concrete ideal for paving and roofing – not only because it encourages more natural light to illuminate a house structure, but also because it can minimize the heat island effect and cut down (by as much as 18 percent) on the need for air conditioning.
- Better indoor air quality: Concrete promotes better indoor air quality by cutting down on VOC-related carbon emissions; the material can also combat the sick building syndrome and, as mentioned above, minimize levels of heat absorption.
- Safety: Concrete can minimize health hazards and risks, and provides excellent resistance against fire, wind, vibration, seismic movement and impact, and even sound transmission.
As the material continues to surge in popularity among builders, architects, and engineers, concrete is also used in combination with other construction materials to achieve green certifications, like that provided by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System.
Of course, concrete is also pretty versatile when it comes to providing unique aesthetic possibilities. With a range of colors and finishes, concrete can be used to create structures that not only provide superior energy and environmental performance, but also look aesthetically pleasing.