Software to Hold “Greenwashers” Accountable

When a business uses "greenwashing," it's like painting over rotten wood. The rot is still there, underneath the paint. Similarly, pollution doesn't go away just because a company tells us it's not creating any. Photo: Petoo (c) Fotolia.com

Greenwash (verb, \ˈgrēn-wȯsh\) – to market a product or service by promoting a deceptive or misleading perception of environmental responsibility.

It’s no secret that “going green” has become the next big thing in the corporate world. Riding the wave of consumers’ growing interest in environmental sustainability, companies are launching major ad campaigns to tout their green credentials. But many of their claims are misleading or downright false. The ads are compelling, but how are we to know who’s telling the truth? “Greenwashing” is eroding the credibility of well-intentioned green businesses and turning would-be green consumers into skeptics.

It’s reminiscent of the challenge to hold corporations accountable for their financial reporting. While the recent financial crisis highlighted the shortcomings of our markets and reporting structures, the United States business community is still a leader in financial accounting, reporting and ethics. Our system is sophisticated, consisting of a combination of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), fairly rigorous government oversight, a massive industry of accounting professionals and mature accounting software technologies that keep track of every last dollar.

We must develop the same infrastructure for environmental accounting. The development of Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA) software is well underway, with roughly 60 vendors bringing solutions to market. ECA software enables companies to track their carbon footprint and the footprint of their suppliers as well as the impact of customer use of their products. It’s a promising innovation that can help us manage corporate America’s environmental footprint, but it’s still at the early stages of adoption. We need a number of things to happen for the ECA market to mature and develop environmental accounting to the same level as financial accounting.

So what will it take to develop the ECA software market and have the infrastructure necessary to hold greenwashers accountable? We think there are five key requirements to get us there:

  • Clear government action on regulations;
  • Adoption of carbon accounting principles;
  • Expansion of “Scope 3” emissions accounting;
  • Better business incentives to go green; and
  • Demanding, informed consumers.

Clear Government Action on Regulations

If corporations are to be held accountable for green claims, we need orders from the top. But the U.S. has been relatively slow to pass laws with lasting environmental impacts. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congress are at a stalemate in agreeing upon carbon emission regulations. Legislation often gets caught up in political gridlock – such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which would introduce an emissions trading plan not unlike Britain’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. The bill passed the House in 2009 but has yet to be addressed by the Senate.

However, steps are being taken in the right direction – like the EPA’s Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, which requires companies that emit 25,000 metric tons or more of greenhouse gases annually to disclose emissions information to the EPA. There’s also progress at the state level. California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 aims to reduce the state’s carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The increasing role of government-imposed transparency requirements over the coming years will be a major obstacle to greenwashing.

Adoption of Carbon Accounting Principles

We have GAAP and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as standards for financial reporting; we need similar principles for environmental accounting. These principles make sure that each corporation is reporting apples-to-apples numbers. The current most widely used set of international carbon accounting standards, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, is still maturing. When a business is required to disclose its carbon footprint according to broadly accepted standards, regulators, investors and consumers will all be able to see who’s truly green and who’s just greenwashing. Companies like Dell, Apple, IBM, and Wal-Mart have already begun to adopt nascent carbon accounting principles.

As ECA and similar innovations arise, carbon accounting will become more widespread and lessen the potential for greenwashing. As more companies face requirements to track and disclose emissions, others will voluntarily do so as the process becomes more standardized and manageable. Once carbon accounting has been adopted by most businesses, disclosure of the company’s carbon footprint will be a prerequisite for businesses to make any sort of claims of environmental friendliness.

Expansion of “Scope 3” Emissions Accounting

Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions resulting from a company’s actions, the sources of which are not owned by the company. An example is the carbon emitted by a company’s suppliers. Requiring Scope 3 in every carbon accounting report would prevent companies from cutting corners to artificially report a smaller carbon footprint. Take Dell’s report of its carbon “neutrality” for example.

In 2008 Dell claimed to have become “carbon neutral,” but estimates had neglected to account for Scope 3 emissions. Intentional or not, Dell was grossly under-reporting its carbon footprint and claiming false credit for distorted reports — a form of greenwashing. With a rigid set of carbon accounting standards, including Scope 3 disclosure, this never would have occurred. In the GHG Protocol, tracking Scope 3 emissions is currently optional. As more companies voluntarily track Scope 3, though, it’s only a matter of time before it’s required and fully incorporated into ECA software – making it nearly impossible to “pull a Dell.”

Scope 3 disclosure requirements will also force wider adoption of comprehensive carbon accounting among related businesses. A viral effect will spread adoption, killing the potential for greenwashing throughout the supply chain. To disclose its Scope 3 emissions, a company often must ask suppliers to track their emissions. With Scope 3 requirements, these suppliers will have to request the same of their own suppliers — and so on. With carbon accounting requirements and a standardized Scope 3-inclusive reporting scheme, the number of businesses with full emissions records will explode — dealing a critical blow to greenwashing potential in the process.

Better Business Incentives to Go Green

Sustainable business practices are more often than not motivated by revenue generation or inherent cost savings. As these incentives increase, truly beneficial green actions will take hold and the need for greenwashing will fade. For example, nearly one-third of small businesses face energy costs as their largest expense. They have an economic incentive to trim these costs, reducing their waste and carbon footprint. When it becomes easier to identify cost-saving opportunities, as with the use of a mature ECA software system, carbon footprints will shrink naturally.

Government incentives are also cost-saving opportunities for businesses with environmental responsibility. Tax incentives are awarded for using hybrid or green diesel for transportation, for example. A global survey this year by workspace solutions provider Regus concluded that 63% of U.S. companies need more tax breaks to accelerate green investments. The government will likely expand financial incentives for green businesses as environmental stewardship becomes more of a national priority. Similar to compliance capabilities in other software systems, ECA software could develop to alert users to new opportunities to take advantage of government incentives. When a cap-and-trade scheme or similar system is finally implemented, the economic incentives will skyrocket, further spreading carbon accounting practices and edging out potential greenwashers.

Demanding, Informed Consumers

As green buyers become more savvy, greenwashers will no longer be able to conceal fraudulent claims. This year’s third annual environmental consumer behavior survey by the National Geographic Society and GlobeScan polled consumers in 17  countries, determining that they perceived greenwashing as the biggest obstacle to environmental improvement. Consumers are demanding product sustainability information before believing the green hype. Wal-Mart plans to use supplier-provided carbon accounting information to start a system of product labels for customer reference. As detailed sustainability information develops into the new norm, claims of green marketing will fizzle without hard evidence. Greenwashers will obtain ECA software to comply and the resulting transparency will effectively destroy false marketing potential.

Hunter Richards, Accounting Market Analyst, SoftwareAdvice.com

What are your thoughts? Are we missing a critical new weapon against greenwashing? Let us know in the comments.

Hunter Richards
Accounting Market Analyst, Software Advice

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Hunter Richards’ article was first posted here: SoftwareAdvice.com

Breeze Dryer – Eco-Friendly Solutions for Drying Your Laundry

Gayle and Gary Sutterlin, the North American distributors of Hills products, stand in front of the largest rotary design, the Hills Hoist 6. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

“Why do you care about drying clothes outside?” Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Gary Sutterlin, President and CEO of Breeze Dryer. “Do you have a passion for this, or is it just a business?

“For us, it goes beyond that,” Sutterlin said. “It really was a life lesson for our children. I’m a pharmacist by training, my wife’s a Ph.D. by training. I was doing very well in the pharmaceutical industry as an executive and pretty much walked away overnight. Our passion was to make a difference in this world. We found that medium through clotheslines.”

The clotheslines that Sutterlin and his wife, Gayle, sell are made by Hills, an Australian manufacturer known for quality and reliability. We interviewed Sutterlin by phone from his home in Pennsylvania. — Julia Wasson, Publisher


SUTTERLIN: Hills clotheslines are simple to use, and the return on investment is quite high for consumers. Obviously, it enables consumers to save money, energy, and ultimately the environment. There’s a multifaceted message there.

The Portable 120 drying rack is easy to move indoors and out. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

If it were just a business, I’m sure we could just sit and sell clotheslines, but we travel the country espousing the benefits of line-drying your laundry. It goes beyond the business aspect but more along the message. Here in the United States, people have lost sight of that from the standpoint that a majority of households utilize an electric dryer, which comes at a price.

BPGL: Explain what you mean by an electric dryer coming “at a price.”

SUTTERLIN: It’s the second-largest consumer of electricity, only second to the refrigerator, which runs  24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, through the use of a clothesline and drying racks during the winter, households can save quite a bit of money. Especially as the utility caps are coming off and rates are rising, I think we’ll start to see an influx of people line drying. And, we already are, as people are looking for ways and means to go about doing their part in terms of saving the environment.

So that’s really how we got into it, and we continue to travel the country and get out and meet and talk with the folks in terms of what they do. If they’re not buying our product, so be it, just so long as they’re line drying. It could be as simple as a single line from a tree to a tree.

BPGL: Are you showing your products at trade shows around the country?

SUTTERLIN: We’ve been doing a variety of shows. We first started at World Ag Expo in Tulare, California. We’ve since done a number of green shows, and a number of energy shows, like the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy Festival. This spring, we were at the Green Festival show in Chicago, which has a very large draw, including international folks.

And, then, we’ve been to the standard National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. I tried to convince some of the stores and smaller hardware chains that the Hills Hoist is a product that they should be carrying, although a lot of the larger chains are looking for products with short life cycles and repeat buyers, which is not something we offer.

BPGL: You say Breeze Dryer doesn’t offer products with short life cycles. How long does a Hills Hoist clothesline or drying rack last?

SUTTERLIN: You know, it’s funny, because we get calls from people with 20-, 30-, 40-year-old models, and we can still get the parts for them. My wife and I have one that’s 18 years old and as nice as the day we bought it. My sister, on the other hand, living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has left hers outside 24 x 7, 365 days a year for the last 20 years. She’s just replaced the line on her clothesline — not because it broke, but because the coating cracked.

BPGL: So you bought a Hills Hoist clothesline 18 years ago?

The Hills Supa Fold 70 is the perfect size for small spaces. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

SUTTERLIN: That’s correct. We picked it up from a Plow and Hearth store. They were selling it at their outlet store, and it was missing parts. I wrote the company, and they sent everything free of charge. I said, “Look, no American company would do that.”

And the level of service, the quality, durability, and workmanship are far above pretty much what anyone would expect of a clothesline. And that’s the reason they last so long. The company started in 1945, and some of the original models are still in use throughout Australia and New Zealand.

BPGL: That is a different business mindset than what we so often see here in the U.S. You were obviously impressed with the Hills Hoist. When did you start selling them?

SUTTERLIN: We officially kicked off sales in March of 2008, although there was a lot of preparation leading up to that point. I had been in talks with them for a number of years. Everything finally came to fruition in March of 2008.

BPGL: Are you the only distributor — the main point of contact — in the U.S.?

SUTTERLIN: Yes. We started out with the U.S., and then in July of 2009, we became the distributors for all of North America.

BPGL: Can people buy Hills products in retail outlets right now or is it just through the Breeze Dryer website?

SUTTERLIN: Consumers can buy Hills clotheslines through a number of different websites as well as through the Breeze Dryer website. And there are a limited number of retailers carrying our products, including some pilot stores that we’re working through, such as Do It Best and True Value.

BPGL: How much money can people save with the line of natural drying products sold by Breeze Dryer?

SUTTERLIN: The main message is that, on average, 15% of your total energy costs are dedicated and relegated to the dryer. And that’s significant. It’s a large amount of money every year, year in and year out.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 90% of American homes have an electric-powered clothes dryer, with an average family usage of 400 times per year. The average electric dryer is used at least once per day, accounting for 15 to 20% of household utility costs. During its lifespan, a household dryer consumes approximately 1,079 kilowatt hours of energy and emits into the environment 2,224 pounds of carbon dioxide.

The Hills Supa Fold 120 goes up and down with a simple click. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

BPGL: Do you offer options for drying clothes indoors in winter?

SUTTERLIN: We offer a number of different types of drying racks. We have a large number of drying solutions that move indoors and outdoors with the change of seasons, which we think is pretty unique.

In terms of the benefits, obviously, it adds moisture to the home in the winter when the humidity is so low that it’s bone dry, and wood starts to crack. Drying clothes indoors moisturizes the air, including the nasal passages. That prevents bloody noses and keeps your skin from cracking.

Indoors, in the winter, you can hang the laundry the night before and, typically, in the morning when you get up, your laundry is dry.

BPGL: Is it easy to move a Hills drying rack or clothesline from wherever you’ve mounted it outdoors, and then remount it indoors? Or do most customers generally have a second unit that they install in their basement?

SUTTERLIN: I initially thought customers would buy a second one, but that’s not what usually happens. With our retractable clothesline, just two screws hold the unit on the wall. So it’s a simple matter to take it off the wall and move it indoors into the basement.

We also sell accessory plates. You mount a plate outside, and then mount another plate on the basement wall. Then you can quickly move the drying solution with the change of seasons.

The other thing we have is folding-frame clotheslines. They have a total of four bolts.

BPGL: Does the folding-frame clothesline mount on a wall, or is it free standing?

SUTTERLIN: It can be both. It comes ready to mount on the wall, a shed, a pool cabana, a sturdy fence, or the basement wall. It hangs down the wall. When you need it, you lift it up in just one click. You hang the laundry. Then, when the laundry’s dry, you take it down. Push on it, one click, and it folds flat back against the wall.

BPGL: It only needs one wall mounting to support heavy laundry. That’s quite a space saver.

The Supa Fold Mono has a large capacity perfect for a family's laundry. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

SUTTERLIN: We have a really small one called a Supa Fold 70 that we see a lot of people mounting over the washer and dryer in the laundry room. We also have different sizes that are bigger, and that are readily customizable with a hacksaw. You cut it to fit your needs.

That’s the message that we’re trying to say. We offer quite a number of drying solutions for those who want to line dry, whether it be indoors or outdoors. It more or less tidies the house up in terms of how you line dry. We’ve all seen people hanging their laundry on the fences, and that really sets neighbors off at times.

BPGL: I hadn’t even thought about this, but on your site, you talk about the effects of clothes dryers on your clothing. Tell me about that.

SUTTERLIN: We had a test family of five, and they collected the lint from their dryer for the entire month. It ended up being two large, gallon-sized Ziploc bags. When we travel to the shows, we leave that on the table, and people come up and ask about it. We explain that, essentially, what the dryer does is beat the clothes and wear them out. That lint is actually fibers from the clothes.

People tend to not understand that the dryer shortens the life cycle of your clothing. We’re all aware that the dryer sometimes shrinks laundry, but at the same time, it’s wearing the laundry out.

BPGL: Is there a choice of colors, or are is every Hills model offered by Breeze Dryer the same color?

SUTTERLIN: Our product is a mature product segment in Australia and New Zealand. So it does come in various sizes and colors, depending on the model.

Hills is known for the rotary hoist, which more or less takes the laundry up over the individual’s head. It hoists the laundry high and spins in the breeze.

Then we have the retractable clotheslines, the folding-frame clotheslines, and the portable clotheslines that bridge the gap between the indoors and outdoors. Then there are the various drying racks as well, that for the most part are unique here in America and are doing very well.

BPGL: How do your drying racks compare to the small drying racks for sale in the big box stores here in the U.S.?

The Hills Portable 170 has several clotheslines, yet takes little space. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

SUTTERLIN: We get a lot of very positive customer feedback saying, “I’ve been looking for this for 10, 15 years, and I’ve finally found it.” Or, “I’ve seen this throughout Europe, but nobody here in the United States carries these types of products in terms of the quality.”

We get a lot of feedback on Amazon and elsewhere that people are enthusiastic about the opportunity to buy a product that’s known for quality and durability. Given the fact that what’s out there is going to be low end and cheap, you ultimately get what you pay for.

That’s the unique aspect that seems to be coming through in the messages and phone calls that we get from customers.

BPGL: Do you have a brick-and-mortar store?  Could somebody stop in and see your products in Pennsylvania?

SUTTERLIN: We have a farm that we work with called Manoff Market Gardens in Solebury, Pennsylvania, along the Delaware River. It really does draw people. We’ve had people from Illinois and New England drive to the farm, because they want to see our product. They want to touch it and feel it. We’ve heard from the retailers we work with that that’s the case, too. It draws people from surrounding states.

BPGL: What do you most want consumers to know about Breeze Dryer?

SUTTERLIN: The message in terms of Breeze Dryer is all about offering clothes-drying solutions and creating a more energy-efficient home as well as a cleaner environment. That’s ultimately the message at the end of the day.

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Website: BreezeDryer.com

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Related Post

My 5: Gary Sutterlin, Breeze Dryer, CEO

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Bag Green Guilt by Jen Pleasants

This quick read is a good beginner's book for those starting on a green-living journey.

Going green can be overwhelming when you’re just getting started. For beginners, the steps involved may seem too complex to digest and act upon. This can cause a large amount of anxiety, resulting in impaired physical and mental health, such as high-blood pressure (a leading cause of heart attacks) and paralyzing guilt. Bag Green Guilt: 5 Easy Steps: Turn Eco-Anxiety Into Constructive Energy by Jen Pleasants explores options to reduce such needless stress.

Some of our anxiety is a direct result of factors like overpopulation and global warming, which often seem beyond our personal control.

Bag Green Guilt is a very short read that offers useful tips to prevent us from shoving our heads into the sand or making ourselves sick with guilt and worry about how to fix our ailing earth. The monumental stress we feel each time we see injustices resulting from environmental issues can paralyze us.

Pleasants offers readers methods of dealing with factors that seem beyond our control. She suggests to begin by breathing (correctly) in order to relax the mind and body. “Breathing is a powerful tool in coping with and overcoming stress and guilt,” she writes. By relaxing the mind and body, we free our energy from guilt to make positive changes. These reassurances could also be found in any meditation class.

The author starts by making a list of ways to reduce her own overwhelming guilt, and suggests that readers use her list or make their own. Making a list is a constructive way to chart a plan toward living a green life. “Our goal,” she writes, “isn’t to be perfect, it’s just to make a difference.”

Because it is a short, straightforward read, the author demonstrates a keen understanding that contemporary consumers have incredibly busy lives. We require simple and easy ways to get started with green living.

Environmentalism is a well-researched topic, and there are many books, publications, and websites that go into greater depth than this book does. Individuals who have experience with many of the issues related to reducing their carbon footprint would likely find Bag Green Guilt to be too simplistic. Yet, the vast majority of consumers are not yet living a truly green life and will doubtless find that the author’s practical suggestions are easily digestible and readily implemented.

Suggestions such as the following are easy to act upon:

  • “Run your washer and dishwasher with full loads.”
  • “Use 100% post-consumer recycled paper in your printer and copier.”
  • “Take shorter showers.”
  • “Unplug chargers when the charge is complete.”
  • “Eat less meat.”

There are also suggestions that, Pleasants writes, might take “More effort and money, but [provide] more reward:”

  • “Install low-flow toilets and faucets.”
  • “Make sure your walls and ceilings are insulated.”
  • “Install a gray-water system and reuse water from the bath and washing machine for your landscaping.”

As a huge bonus, the author includes a list of websites that lead to tips and hints by which consumers can reduce our carbon footprints. Sites like Change.org, GreenSchoolAlliance.org, 1 Block Off the Grid, and CarrotMob.org provide an education on ways to promote social and green change.

Pleasants consolidates several sites that promote ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and describes each site’s content and purpose. Though a few of the sites listed are new to me, I have often read or heard of a number of these websites. Yet, I have never taken the time to jot them down and store them in an easily accessible place. I found this the part of the book that I most appreciate.

As an individual who has not really explored many services and methods to reduce my carbon footprint, I enjoyed Bag Green Guilt and appreciated Pleasants’ suggestions.

Bag Green Guilt is available on Amazon.com and at other retailers. The cover price is $12.95 in the U.S. and $16.25 in Canada. It would make a great gift for someone who is just beginning on the path to green living.

The Small Print

Blue Planet Green Living received a free sample of the book reviewed in this post. No other compensation or incentive was provided.

Blue Planet Green Living’s review policy is to only review those books we feel merit overall positive comments. If we do not like a book , we do not review it. We are not influenced by complimentary books and provide our honest opinions. For more information, please visit the Policies tab on the top navigation bar.

Blue Planet Green Living has an affiliate relationship with Amazon.com. If you purchase this book or any other products through Amazon by clicking on our affiliate link, Blue Planet Green Living will receive a small financial compensation from Amazon, which we use to sustain this website.

Jaia Rosenfels

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Saving the Planet with a Laptop and a Hammer

I believe I swing a pretty mean hammer. Just talking with author James Glave about his book, Almost Green: How I saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet, inspired me to go out to the tool shed and polish up my 20 oz., curved-claw Estwing. I missed it, and I missed the smell of pine sawdust. Glave made me realize something else I had missed through all my years of construction: Everything I had built for the last 20 years, I had built wrong; I had not considered my planet.

Building the Eco-Shed. Photo: James Glave

Building the Eco-Shed. Photo: James Glave

For Glave, moving to Bowen Island, British Columbia, raised ethical issues about his family’s carbon footprint. Commuting — and shipping in supplies — from Vancouver to Bowen requires a ferry ride, which by itself substantially increases each resident’s impact on the environment.

So when Glave wanted to build a small office/guest house next to his home, he decided to do it with the least-possible carbon footprint. He chronicled the building of the “Eco-Shed” and its impact on both his family and the Bowen community in his book. I talked with Glave from his home on Bowen Island, to find out more about the man and the impact of his work on his community.

BPGL: This endeavor you’ve taken to bring yourself up to speed on the environment, when did that all start?

GLAVE: It’s hard for me to pinpoint a day. We moved up here in ’05–’06, and in early ’06, I realized that my writing career and the work that I’d been doing wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. I had this conversation with my wife, where I said, “This isn’t going where I want it to.” And she said, “Figure out what you’re really passionate about and excited about, and do that.”

Author James Glave

Author James Glave.

That’s really when I started to dig in and sink my teeth into this whole area that I’ve always been curious about. And then everything I’d heard about climate change was just doom. It’s so easy to just turn the page and find something else to look at or read or what have you.

The more I started looking into it, the more I realized that this was something that I needed to become a part of, and I needed to start taking personal responsibility on some level for what’s happening out there. And so in mid ’06, I began to deepen and deepen my involvement in it, until eventually I decided to take on the project that’s in the book. The [environment] is a complete passion of mine, and I intend to build and build on it.

BPGL: You wrote in your book about your struggles and adventures building what you’ve called your Eco-Shed. Tell us about the Eco-Shed now that it’s finished.

GLAVE: It’s a long story, and it continues. I work in there in the week. It’s my office, my sort of escape place. It’s very, very quiet, from all the insulation in the walls. It’s sort of like a cocoon when I really need to focus on some work. So I’m very grateful to have that.

The way that it’s built, the windows face the south. It’s so well insulated that any sunlight that comes in heats the place up. It works out very well. I have to close the blinds to turn the heat down when it’s blindingly cold outside.

BPGL: I understand you’re renting it out, too.

GLAVE: On the weekends, when people want to come over here, we rent it out as a guest house. We include the full educational component to it, where I give people the mini tour about how it works and what kind of technologies and strategies we put in place in there. There’s a Facebook page that’s sort of a virtual guest book.

We get a wonderful selection of people in there. We just had a couple in this past weekend. He works for a petroleum company. He’s a very quiet force. He’s the only guy who rides his bike to work. He identifies with some of the struggles that I’ve been through, just in terms of reconciling your day-to-day life with your aspirations.

A lot of [our guests] are up from the States. A couple drove up from San Francisco to spend a weekend there. We’ve had folks from Phoenix, Seattle, basically all over California. It’s been a really positive and wonderful experience.

BPGL: For people who want to do the Eco-Shed experience, what other things should they see on Bowen Island that are environmental in nature?

GLAVE: In the summer, as part of the OneDayBowen project that is mentioned in the book, my wife and I do a farmers’ market that we organize and host. We’ve just done one weekend a year so far. This summer we’re hoping to expand to a series, but that’s yet to be determined.

Glave's wife, Elle, at the Bowen Farmer's Market. Photo: James Glave

Glave's wife, Elle (r), working at the Bowen farmers' market. Photo: James Glave

We actually have a small and important agricultural community here. Helping the farmers as much as we can is a sideline passion of ours. So we would direct guests to visit any of the organic small-scale farms here on the island. We’d show them where they are and give an introduction if necessary.

There are also a few other folks who are starting to experiment with other green building forms, and I’m sure they’d be happy to show folks around who came over to stay with us. There are a couple of straw-bale homes. And there’s a fellow, who’s mentioned in the book, who built a rammed-earth home. His house is just about complete now, and I’m sure he’d be happy to show it off.

Also, there’s a couple of renewable energy installations. There’s one fellow who lives on a tiny, sort of knob of rock just off the northern tip of the island. He’s completely off the grid, and every so often he opens his home up.

So there’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s not obvious on the surface. You probably would need to have me as a guide or an introduction to show you around. There’s a lot of energy, excitement, and activity, and I’m happy to be a small part of it.

BPGL: When you say that one fellow is off the grid, that makes me wonder, is there a municipal power station on Bowen?

GLAVE: We get our power from the mainland. We’re fortunate as well because in British Columbia, 90 percent of our power is from hydroelectric sources, so there is very, very little coal in the mix. That really helped me guide decisions on my studio — with that electric-fired, on-demand, hot water unit, for example, and the electrically heated, in-floor heat. I tried, and I succeeded in the end — I don’t burn any fossil fuels to run the building.

If anybody wants to come up and see the Eco-Shed and talk with me about it, I’m right here. And certainly, my book is a smash success here on the island, so that’s got to be inspiring a few people.

A lot of people say the real strength of the book is that it peels back the layers to get beyond the baby steps conversation and into the nuts and bolts of how things come together and how they can be built better, and how they can be built to be taken apart better and so forth.

BPGL: Could you swing a hammer before you started all this?

Glave's house and the Eco-Shed (green roof) on Bowen Island. Photo: James Glave

Glave's home (gray roof) and the Eco-Shed (green roof) sit high on the side of Bowen Island. Photo: James Glave

GLAVE: Oh, yeah. We lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I pretty much did everything to that place. I plumbed and wired, pulled Romex and all that stuff. So I had some basic skills. For a lot of it, I worked with a carpenter, who was a finish carpenter. There were a lot things that were beyond my comfort level.

And I’m basically a stay-at-home dad, so while I’m writing the book and running a construction project in the yard and helping out when I can, I’ve got my two kids around. So I couldn’t really kind of chuck out and just go out there and hammer all day.

BPGL: Are your children developing into young ecopreneurs?

GLAVE: I would say that they’re certainly on their way. They’re still pretty little. Duncan’s five, and Sabrina’s going to be seven in a couple of months. But I talk with them about this stuff all the time. They pop up in the book all over the place, about them making these connections in their heads. We talk about all kinds of things. We figured out a way to do a litter-free lunch, without using [plastic] containers — which I’m not wild about — we have very little garbage after eating their lunch at school.

BPGL: How do you do that?

"Easter Walk in Crippen Park" on Bowen Island. Photo: Chris Corrigan

"Easter Walk in Crippen Park" on Bowen Island. Photo: Chris Corrigan

GLAVE: There’s a product out of India called a tiffin. It’s a stainless steel set of trays that lock together, and each of them has a lid. So you could do a bagel in the bottom one, and some carrot sticks and a piece of cheese in the next one, and in the top you could have a little something else — some pretzels or whatever. So you get away from that whole six-Ziploc-bags-a-day kind of thing.

There’s a bunch of companies on the Web that cater to people that don’t want to have Tupperware in their lunchbox anymore.

So my kids use tiffins, and they have a little stainless steel bottle of water that they take with them. It’s a pretty small thing. But it’s the sort of thing that you hope the kids will spread, once the other kids see them and want them.

BPGL: I saw a couple of videos of you promoting your book — including one with you in a gorilla suit.

GLAVE: Yeah. I produced a couple of video trailers for the book that your readers might enjoy. You can see them on YouTube. One of them is about my fumbling efforts to do community engagement work by asking people lining up in the ferry line to turn off their idling engines, and the reactions I get. It’s all staged, but not everybody understands that right away.

BPGL: You’re not just a writer, James; you’re a pretty good comedian.

GLAVE: [Laughs.]

Part 1: Saving the Planet with a Laptop and a Hammer (Top of Page)

Part 2: Choosing to Value a Sustainable Life

Joe Hennager

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Post:

Almost Green: How I saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet

Eco-Friendly Traveling Provides Uncommon Pleasures

Most of us who care already know that traveling and environmentalism are best kept on different conscious levels. If the draw of foreign cultures is strong enough to get you on an airplane across the ocean, then you might be interested in ways to travel without a heavy environmental impact. Aside from the “offset carbon emissions” check box that airlines now provide at a small charge, you can take a more active approach to eco-traveling.

The simplest

Traveling light in Liechtenstein. Photo: Julia Wasson

Contrary to what you might expect, traveling can be an ideal way to live in harmony with your environment. The goal of traveling, after all, is to experience a new culture. You can achieve this by traveling light, both physically and mentally. While drifting from city to city, or country to country, it is easier to see if you are not preoccupied with luggage, cameras, or a voracious appetite. Being open minded is a key to “sustainable” traveling. What follows is advice based on my observations from traveling in Europe during a year of study at University of Lille III, in France.

LODGING

The key necessities are lodging, eating, and transportation. For lodging, the greenest is usually the cheapest. If the weather permits, consider planning your trip around camping locations. If you’ve done this before, you don’t need my help finding campsites. Check with tourist centers to find out where to camp inside or outside of a city. This way you eliminate the need for hotels, and have a better chance of meeting interesting people.

Getting off the beaten path provides many options for sightseeing. Photo: Joe Hennager

Getting off the beaten path provides many options for sightseeing. Photo: Joe Hennager

Another option for free lodging is an organization called CouchSurfing. Since few things are as beneficial to humans and the environment as sharing, the website allows members to get in touch and arrange stays with natives who live wherever they want to travel. For the spunky or the young, it’s one of the best ways to have an inside peek at the culture you’re visiting. If the idea of spending the night at a stranger’s house is too intimidating for you, then you might skip the next paragraph.

Youth hostels are about as cheap as you can get without being free. Of course, you have to be young enough, and it would help to bring ear plugs. Sharing a room with three to seven other strangers can be difficult, but you never know, maybe your bunkmates will get lost in the Venetian canals, and you’ll have the whole room to yourself for only 20 euros. If not, you might make a few friends, and you can share your advice and experiences while getting some good advice from fellow travelers.

Small villages may have inexpensive, quaint hotels. Photo: Julia Wasson

Small villages may have inexpensive, quaint hotels. Photo: Julia Wasson

I have avoided mentioning hotels until now. Clearly hotels are the obvious and most popular choice, but they are not the most efficient. And besides, some of the ugliest sights of tourism are hotels lining the Mediterranean Sea. For many people, however, it is the only option. In that case, my advice is to find someplace quaint. Avoid fake siding, and look for the place that’s hard to find. A guidebook like Let’s Go will help you find an affordable and cozy place run by a “mom-and-pop” business.

EATING

Since eating is one of the main cultural points of traveling, I advise you to follow your gut. If you want to save money, you can munch on snacks from small grocery stores, which you’ll find downtown in any city. Great staples include peanuts, apples, cheese, and bread. These foods will stay fresh and can be eaten on any old park bench. Eventually, however, you’ll want to eat something more substantial, and you’ll have a bit of extra cash in your pocket because you didn’t buy the 16-euro gelato that everyone else is walking around with.

An open-air market is a great place to buy fresh vegetables. Photo: Elias Simpson

An open-air market is a great place to buy fresh vegetables. Photo: Elias Simpson

A small restaurant off the beaten path will add charm to your meal. Photo: Julia Wasson

A small restaurant off the beaten path will add charm to your meal. Photo: Julia Wasson

The best places to eat are usually the most difficult to find. By spending time searching for your own spot, you’ll get away from the tourist attitude, and hopefully find a nook or cranny you can call your own for an hour or two. If you’re a vegetarian and are worried about not having many options in Europe, I say, have no fear. From kebab stands to gourmet restaurants, there is always at least one vegetarian option around.

My dad and I found a restaurant that served Swiss raclette just by walking around what seemed like the same cobblestone square for half an hour. Think of it like you’re hunting for your food. A guidebook can be helpful, too, but try to keep your eyes on the sights while you walk. Sometimes you can eat with your eyes.

TRANSPORTATION

As for the last subject, transportation is probably the most expensive category. If you want to be green, you should take the train or a bus. The data on CO2 emissions vary, and some show that taking a car pollutes the same, or even less. Planes emit between 50 to 300 percent more pollutants than transportation that rolls, so keep that in mind. Although trains and buses are slower, and often more expensive than planes, I find them to be more comfortable. These are low-stress modes of transportation, where you can see the countryside, sleep, or talk with your neighbor, who happens to be a gorgeous French high school teacher.

Trains are environmentally friendly transportation. Photo: Megan Hennager

Trains are environmentally friendly transportation. Photo: Megan Hennager

Unlike in the States, you can get nearly anywhere without a car. Once you arrive at the station, you’ll be able to use public transportation to reach your destination. Metro and bus systems are convenient and affordable. They are also a great place to check fashion trends. You’ll see some interesting people on public transportation, and hopefully won’t be too preoccupied with the headache you got on the plane ride.

Don’t forget about bike rentals, either. From Amsterdam to Paris, you can give your feet a break and pedal to your destination. Whether you want to find a place in the country, or risk your neck in the busy streets, bicycles have always been a speedy and energy efficient way to get around. Fees range from .5 to 6 euro per hour, with deals depending on how long you’re away from the station.

Rent a bicycle for truly green travel. Photo: Julia Wasson

Green traveling is about taking it slow and easy. Take your time to realize where you are, what’s different, and what you can share with the people back home. And when you get back, you might just plant a tree to offset some of that carbon you generated in your travels.

Elias Simpson

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)