Tag: Portsmouth

Sustainable Landscaping


As my wife and I wonder what to do with the lawn in our backyard, which is currently a mix of clover, crab grass, prickly lettuce, creeping ivy, and a little grass, I have begun researching sustainable landscaping. Google helped me out by adding “for dummies” to the end of my “sustainable landscaping” entry. I went with the wisdom its legions of servers provided and found Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, part of the now classic For Dummies series. There are several free preview download’s that make me want to take it out from the library. Or maybe even buy it because the detailed table of contents that starts on page 3 and goes to 14 shows that the book holds a tremendous amount of information.

LadyBugAttackI know the basics: focus on native plants but capture runoff to water those plants that need it, installing hardscape features that provide a pleasant areas but don’t require perpetual resources, and work to keep soil in place. But I’m learning more about other pieces of being green in my yard.


For example, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) began in crop fields but has become an important part of backyard sustainability. The process begins with identifying the problematic bugs in your area and designing your garden with plants that don’t attract them. You can also encourage, and even introduce, beneficial insects, such as lady bugs. The Northeastern IPM Center’s site has a resource library and the US Fish and Wildlife Service of Chesapeake Bay offers a convenient PDF to get you started.

I’ll be back with more information about Sustainable Landscaping as I learn more. Have a great end of summer!



Comment » | Eco-Home, Real Estate, Sustainability

London Travels: Smart Electricity Use


RoomKeyCardI’m providing consulting and training in the UK for two weeks. I typically come here once a year and always enjoy being abroad in such an easy to navigate country. I also love experiencing how different nations and cultures around the world develop new ways to be smart about the environment. So, I was happy to see that in order to turn on the electricity in my hotel room, I first had to insert my key card into a slot just inside the door. This is not a new technology for hotels but because it remains uncommon in the US, I think it warrants a review.

The key, literally, is that when I leave the room and remove my card from its slot, the lights go out. The TV stays on, which surprises me. Maybe it allows someone to hold down the fort and watch some TV while their partner runs out for supplies. But all the lights shut off and the HVAC system stops. This prevents me from leaving the lights in the bathroom on all day or having a cleaning staff leave lights on so it creates an ambiance when I enter the room. What a classic win-win situation. The environment benefits because the demand for energy is reduced and the hotel wins because they have a smaller utility bill.

Let’s take this into the home. After ten years of walking upstairs to turn off the bathroom lights after my partner has left them, I would love to know that when the last person leaves our house for the day, all lights would be turned off. Not to mention the stove and TV. Again, win-win.


There are some ways to begin bringing this technology into your home. The Energy EGG was invited by a UK software engineer last year and is currently being sold in the US. And here’s an article that discusses whole house energy switches.

Enjoy and let me know if you decide to use this technology in your home.


Comment » | Eco-Home, Energy, Hotel, Real Estate

CFL and LED Bulbs Conserve Energy, Resources, and Money


CFL Bulb

While it is always a great time to invest in CFL and LED light bulbs for your home, if you are selling or buying a house, it makes even more sense. The energy, resource, and monetary savings over time are measurable and provide sellers with a positive selling feature and new home owners with an easy project that has high a level of ROI.

The extra cost of a CFL bulb, about $2 to $3 more than the standard incandescent, only takes a few months to re-cooperate. Using the math from TheDailyGreen.com, a home owner’s sustainability guide from Good Housekeeping, a 60 watt bulb that is used six hours a day costs $16 annually when the rate is $0.12/kWh. A CFL bulb’s operating cost is only $3. 40, which is a yearly savings of $12.60.

LED lights remain more expensive than CFLs but are gaining in popularity because of their soft, warm light. The savings are not seen until the increased bulb cost is covered, which happens after about three years but that makes the $40 per bulb price tag easier to accept. LED lights also boast no mercury, unlike CFL bulbs which do contain a small amount of mercury and are not the first choice for many parents.

LED Bulb

To make the process of switching out your light bulbs more attractive, Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) offers a variety of rebates. Whether you choose CFLs, LEDs, or a combination of both, replacing the light bulbs in your house will save you money and be a nice feature for people interested in buying your home when you are ready to move.


Comment » | Eco-Home, Real Estate, ROI

Let’s Generate Some Noise II: Lesson Learned


Today I met a longtime resident walking around my neighborhood. She was out with her dog and I was out with mine so as they visited we talked about the weather. She told me that last month just before Super Storm Sandy hit, she learned something interesting.

In her garage she had a new generator and was waiting for the electrician to come and install it.  He was scheduled to arrive on Halloween, two days after Super Storm Sandy was supposed to make landfall in coastal NH.

Let There Be Light

So, with a generator in her possession and an electrician on the way, my neighbor assumed that she would be OK. “Even if Sandy hit us and we lost power, the electrician should have been able to hook up my generator two days later and I would have power again.”

But when she called the electrician to confirm that he would be able to complete the work after the storm, he told her it would not be possible because he needed power to complete the installation. This makes sense when I stop to think about it but if  I had a generator ready to be installed, an electrician scheduled, and a storm headed my way, I might think I was going to be OK.

The lesson my neighbor learned is that if you purchase a generator, make sure to have it installed before the power goes out.

Comment » | Eco-Home, Real Estate

Let’s Generate Some Noise


Home Generator

Despite all the noise it makes, I would not give up my home generator because when the power goes out, I want to make sure my family has a warm home. We moved into our current house in the fall of 2007 and we have lost power every year since. 2012 has been different because we have only been without electricity for a few hours. Thankfully Superstorm Sandy left us more or less alone. But had the power gone out, we would have been OK. After greeting trick-or-treaters in my driveway last year because of the three days outage we experienced just before Halloween, I decided to follow the lead of most of my neighbors and invest in a generator.

As many people do, I found myself looking for a generator after being without power for two days. Not surprisingly, every store I called had sold out only hours after the electricity had disappeared. In the end I purchased one on-line and it was delivered several weeks after our power had returned. Then I bought a manual transfer switch, which controls which circuits I can run during an outage, and hired a local electrician to install the generator. He did a great job and made sure I knew how to operate the system safely. The most important piece I need to remember is to turn off the main power switch where is comes into the house before I flip the manual transfer switch and start my generator. This is crucial because if I don’t I will be pushing electricity from my house into the power lines in my neighborhood and putting utility workers at great risk.

Residential Generator Hookup

I am happy to not have the hum of my neighborhood’s generators lulling me to sleep this evening. But the next time we lose electricity, I will be ready to generate some noise and enjoy the din because I know it means my family is safe and warm.


Comment » | Real Estate

Goodbye Popcorn Ceiling, Hello Clean Look


No salt and butter needed.

Yesterday as I carefully maneuvered the window screens out of the windows and into the basement before Hurricane Sandy hit NH, I took a moment to admire the smooth and bright finish of my ceilings. Last winter my wife Victoria and I scraped the “popcorn” off every ceiling in our house except for the vaulted ceiling in our studio. It was a huge project but well worth the time, effort, and money. While textured ceilings can be attractive and reduce noise, we found that without the popcorn our ceilings look much cleaner and  each room appears slightly taller.

A few months after moving into our house in 2007, Victoria and I began talking about someday removing the popcorn from our ceilings. We had both heard it was a terribly messy job and should really be done before we had moved in. With plenty of other projects in need of attention, we decided the ceilings should wait.

Last fall, after four years of living with twenty year old wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the first floor, we decided that our children, Jessa then 7 and Will then 5, were not quite as likely to make a colossal mess as they had been and that it was time to look into wood floors. And knowing that the carpet was going to be ripped out when the floors were put in allowed us to rethink the removal of the popcorn ceilings.

I looked like this guy after each scraping session.

Ten minutes after I agreed that it was the best time to scrap the ceilings, Victoria had a step ladder out and was going to work. We made sure to move and/or cover furniture and while it was certainly a dirty job, the freedom of not having to worry about creating a mess on the floor was wonderful. During the many evenings and weekends that we worked to spray, scrap, and wipe down the ceilings, we let many gallons of water and many pounds of popcorn drop onto the floor below. Once the ceilings were clean and prepped,  we were able to paint them without being concerned about drips on our floor.

If you have popcorn ceilings and are not thrilled with them, you have some options. Local contrators would be happy to help you remove the texture but you can also watch some videos and consider scraping some ceilings yourself.


1 comment » | Eco-Home, Real Estate

Recycling Providers: Local Startup vs. National Goliath


This article is cross-posted on Triple Pundit.

The Green Committee, which I founded and lead at my company, has been developing an initiative for Zero Waste. Today I met with our building’s facilities manager to discuss the partnership I have forged with EcoMovement Consulting & Hauling. They are a local company who will soon collect our recyclables and compost – a move that excites me to no end – making our company’s facility the first large office building in coastal NH to pursue Zero Waste by “reducing and reusing, then composting and recycling what’s left.”

Our facilities manager told me that she just launched a single stream program with Waste Management at one of the other buildings her company manages. She said if all goes well, in a few months Waste Management will be contracted to pick up my company’s recycling as well. She was happy to tell me that EcoMovement could still collect our compost and went on to explain that for her it would be much easier to have one vendor provide hauling services to the several dozen properties she oversees.

I suddenly saw the position she was in and wondered what I would do. I had specifically sought alternatives to Waste Management when creating our Zero Waste program. If I was managing multiple locations, would I continue to follow my strong inclination to support local vendors or would I instead employ the national company that I had been using for years?

The complexity of any project increases when more stakeholders are involved. Finding a vendor that provides enterprise-wide service reduces logistics, contracts, and cost. But with size comes limitations and, sometimes, with experience comes lack of innovation. In this case the local startup would have my business over the national Goliath. Here’s why.

The primary reason I would choose to work with EcoMovement over Waste Management is for the breadth of services they offer. EcoMovement is a zero waste enabling organization that actually began as a sustainability consulting firm. They morphed into a hauling company when they saw the need for better waste management in Portsmouth, NH, and kept their educational philosophy with them.

EcoMovement prides itself on working with its clients to develop an implementation plan that will ensure the customer’s employees adopt the Zero Waste program. They offers signage and guidelines to educate people on what to recycle in which bin and how composting works. After enabling their clients to build a strong framework for pursuing Zero Waste, EcoMovement steps back and encourages each company to strive for Zero Waste in their own way. Their website boasts photos of end users expressing their interest in working toward minimal trash generation and a video that highlights some of EcoMovement’s local partners.  The owners of this startup take their work so seriously that if on pick up day they notice one company’s trash tote contains recyclables, they make sure to speak with the managers to see how they can help develop additional methods to support employees’ efforts to achieve Zero Waste.

The second reason for my choosing the local vendor is that Waste Management does not use dedicated recycling centers, locations that specialize in recovering recyclable items. This means that some of the paper, plastics, and aluminum they collect goes into landfills. Even if this practice only happens occasionally, which is what my facilities manager told me, I believe that is too often. The problem is that Waste Management has not invested in enough recycling centers and putting the recyclables their clients have taken the time to rinse and sort in with the rest of the trash is not acceptable. If Waste Management tells clients they can collect recyclables, they need to ensure these items are indeed recycled. EcoMovement brings their non-compostable material to the dedicated recycling facility in southern Maine where it is properly recycled 100 percent of the time and the compost to their own compost facility in NH.

Finally, while Waste Management invested in national compost facilities expert Harvest Power in early 2010, they do not appear to collect compost at this point in time. My organization began recycling when the Green Committee was launched in mid-2007 and pursuing Zero Waste has been a discussion for at least the past eighteen months. To work with a vendor that allows us to compost enables us take the next step on our sustainability journey.

It would most likely take a full year to transition dozens of properties from Waste Management to EcoMovement or a similar, local based and highly dedicated recycling company. I am confident that after twelve months, the process of adopting Zero Waste or single stream would be much further along using a vendor that offers implementation planning and recycling education as part of its services. In the end, each employee will make the decision to recycle and compost or not but rolling out a program designed to engage workers gives the entire project a much better chance for success. As my team gears up for the launch of our Zero Waste initiative, we are making sure to keep engagement a top priority. I am very interested in seeing how our program is accepted and internalized when it is rolled out on April 22, 2011 and I’ll write another article letting you all know how it goes.

Comment » | Green Committee, Local, Recycling, Sustainability

Back to top