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Michael and Adrienne's Blog

By Kessler-Bergin Group | Agent in Studio City, CA
  • Go Green...In The Bedroom!

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Los Angeles, Going Green in Los Angeles, Design & Decor in Los Angeles  |  April 28, 2014 6:21 PM  |  259 views  |  No comments

    Zero Waste is a movement that's rapidly gaining in popularity. It's a lifestyle that embraces minimalism; rejects the ubiquitous disposable items that are everywhere in our society; challenges mainstream consumerism; and encourages people to come up with alternative reusable solutions to everyday life.

    In this article,"waste" refers to municipal solid waste (MSW). MSW is the kind of trash that gets hauled to landfills. This also includes recycling, which may seem like a good thing, but has its own share of problems.

    No household is perfect, but small changes can yield big results. I still take out a bag of trash each week, but each time it's a bit smaller. Instead of putting out an overflowing box of recycling every other week, I now do it only once a month. Hopefully these tips can guide and encourage you to pare down your household needs and to refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever you can.

    Make your bedroom a sanctuary of simplicity and relaxation with the following zero waste tips.

    The closet:
    1. Reduce the total number of clothes you keep. Choose the ones you love wearing and are comfortable, and get rid of superfluous ones crammed in the closet.

    2. Wear out those clothes before you pitch them. Mend holes or have pieces fixed by a seamstress before tossing them in the trash. Take shoes to a cobbler before tossing.

    3. Shop only once or twice a year, with a specific list of items you need. This will reduce the likelihood of compulsive buys. Always take a reusable shopping bag!

    4. Give priority to thrift stores and second hand stores. Some will even pay you for mildly worn clothes! Have a clothes swap with friends or neighbors!

    Next, visit local retailers and clothes designers. Try to avoid "fast fashion" chains as much as possible. Buying fewer and higher quality items is better in the long run than cheap "disposable" clothes, as they will last longer and are easier to repair.

    5. When clothes reach their end of life, donate all wearable ones to thrift stores. For those that are beyond use, find a textile recycler such as Planet Aid that will turn your old clothes into paving materials, paper money, ball stuffing, and carpets.

    The bedroom:
    1. Look for natural fiber bedding at thrift stores, where it comes without excess plastic packaging and tags. I have found many fabulous designer sheets with high cotton thread counts for mere dollars.

    2. Reduce the amount of furniture in the bedroom. You don't need more than a bed, reading light, and possibly a dresser. Less furniture means less to clean, organize, and dispose if it breaks.

    3. Buy used or antique items if you are buying furniture. Their carbon footprint per year of use is much less than anything new.

    4. Make a headboard from something old, i.e. an old door, scrap wood, an iron gate. It's fun to get creative and know you're helping reduce your carbon footprint!

    5. Keep a stack of handkerchiefs handy at all times, instead of Kleenex. Then you can wash and reuse!
  • Cooking: Electric vs. Gas Stoves

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Remodel & Renovate, Going Green  |  March 31, 2014 5:05 PM  |  368 views  |  No comments

    The idea of using electricity seemed silly; burning coal or natural gas to make heat to boil water to spin a turbine to generate electricity to push down a wire to... make heat? This has got to be a losing proposition.


    And it is; natural gas emits 117 pounds of CO2 to make a million BTUs of heat, while the U.S. national average for generating electricity is 401.5 pounds of CO2 per million BTU. Using an electric range is just exposing everybody’s kids to the dangers of combustion products, the mercury, particulates and CO2 that comes from the generation of electricity.  


    Sort of...


    But it depends on where you live.

    One living in Vermont, which is shifting to renewable sources of power; another lives in Ontario, where coal has almost completely been cut from the system and they pay extra for green power from Bullfrog, so the CO2 argument is less relevant.


    What about those combustion products?

    Gas stoves emit nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. According to Wendee Nicole in Environmental Health Perspectives, a recent study by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory modeled the exposure:

    Gas burners were estimated to add 25-33% to the week-averaged indoor NO2 concentrations during summer and 35-39% in winter. The variability between seasons likely reflected the fact that air ventilation is lower in winter. For CO, gas stoves were estimated to contribute 30% and 21% to the indoor air concentration in summer and winter, respectively. The model predicted that when homes did not use venting range hoods, household exposures frequently exceeded benchmarks the authors set based on federal and state health-based standards.


    Tree Hugger types usually are not impressed with federal and state standards, either. But surely, a hood would make a big difference? In fact, “In colder climates, people may not want to use vents because they send warm indoor air outside.” I have also found that most hoods are noisy, too far from the range to be effective, uselessly mounted over island ranges or are blocked by greasy filters. There is also a cost and a footprint to heating or cooling the 400 CFM of air that the hood fan is pushing out of the house.


    Really, after reading this, it seems silly that I would be concerned about the VOCs and chemicals released in every cleaning product that comes into our house while ignoring the products of combustion that come from burning gas indoors. I think I have no choice but to reverse my previous stance and admit it: 


    Ronald Reagan was right --- watch the link below...

    Ronald Reagan " Live Better Electrically"

    So is Alex Wilson. It turns out that if you have access to clean, green sources of power, it really is better to live better electrically.


  • World Water Awareness

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Studio City, Remodel & Renovate in Studio City, Going Green in Studio City  |  March 28, 2014 4:55 PM  |  434 views  |  No comments
    World Water Day Awareness
    It was March 22, 2014...Did you know?
    Most of the United States is suffering from a prolonged drought, March 22nd was World Water Day, but most Americans were unaware... ironic?

    While many farmers and even some consumers are noticing a small price increase due to the National drought, it is nothing compared to the Worldwide shortage of access to safe drinking water.

    The United States is lucky to still have fresh water, but with continued pollution rates and water waste, the U.S. could be facing devastating shortages.

    Cutting back water use is critical to conserving water, but on top of things like turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, you can collect and recycle water to save even more. Water recycling can range from very simple methods that don't require anything but a little forethought to complicated systems.

    1. Use a Shower Bucket
    The shower bucket is probably the simplest way to recycle water at home. When you turn on the tap for your shower, the water that comes out takes some time to heat up to a comfortable temperature. Next time you're warming up the shower, stick a bucket under the running tap until you're ready to get in. You'll be surprised at how much water you collect!

    2. Install a Rain Barrel
    Skip that whole municipal water system for watering your garden and collect rainwater instead. Rain barrel setups can be super simple or more complicated, depending on how much time you can invest and how handy you are. The best collection method that I've found is setting up the barrel underneath your gutter's downspout, so it collects the most water when it rains.

    3. Create a Rain Garden
    Rain gardens take advantage of land's natural water runoff to nourish the plants that live there. Unlike a regular garden that needs watering, a rain garden is constructed so that it reuses water that would otherwise run off into the sewage systems. The bonus is that by diverting that water from the storm drain, you're giving your city's overtaxes sewage system a break.

    4. Save that Pasta Water
    Next time you're making a pot of pasta, don't dump all of that precious water down the drain! Instead, set your colander over another large pot to collect all of that precious H2O. Once the water has cooled, you can use it on your garden or to water your house plants.

    5. Save Water from Washing Veggies
    Just like when you're boiling pasta, washing veggies uses water that's totally re-usable. Place your colander over a large pot to collect the water while you're washing. You can use your collected water on the garden, potted plants or for flushing the toilet.

    6. Install a Gray Water System
    Gray water is waste water that doesn't contain sewage. Think the water that goes down the drain when you wash your hands or do laundry. A gray water system diverts that water, so it doesn't go to waste. A good example might be diverting water from your shower drain for flushing the toilet. Grey water systems can get pretty complicated, and just like any plumbing setup, they do require maintenance.

    7. Collect the Overflow from Watering Plants
    When you water your potted plants, have you noticed that extra water usually runs out of those drainage holes at the bottom of the pot? Don't let that water go to waste! Place your plants in deep trays to collect that water. You can use the runoff from your larger plants to water the smaller ones. Or place them in an aqueduct-like arrangement where the run-off of the top plant trickles down to those under it.

    8. Reuse Excess Drinking Water
    Got an almost-empty water glass that's been sitting out too long to drink? Feed it to a thirsty house plant instead! You can also use unsweetened tea on your plants. If the drink that's been sitting is sweetened, you can pour it on plants in the garden, but don't use it on house plants unless you like ants!
  • A Self-Fueled Lawn Mowe

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Studio City, Going Green in Studio City, Design & Decor in Studio City  |  March 14, 2014 4:41 PM  |  442 views  |  No comments
    The Future of GREEN Lawn Care is Coming!

    Pushing a lawnmower isn't a very desirable activity, not to mention the loud, dirty, stinky fuel discharged with every pass. However, one is necessary if you live in a neighborhood that prides itself on its neat and tidy lawns.


    The phrase, "It's time to mow the lawn" can also cause your teens and spouses to rapidly disappear from sight, muttering something about needing to do homework or have a conference call, but if this robotic lawnmower makes it to market, those excuses may be a thing of the past.


    It's coming... a lawnmower that can fuel itself with the grass it cuts, but can also harvest biomass in the form of grass pellets for powering other applications. It can mow the lawn autonomously, without the need to guide it across the yard. 


    The good news is this robotic lawnmower is already in the works, and has garnered a lot of interest from consumers! The bad news is it is probably more suited to large-scale applications, at least as far as potential investors in the product are concerned.


    The EcoMow device, which is being developed by a start-up led by a team of engineers and business students from George Mason University, could be a potential game-changer for commercial mowing operations, as it can cut labor costs at the same time as it harvests a potential revenue source, biomass pellets.


    This robotic mower uses an electrically driven bar cutter to mow the grass, instead of the standard rotating blade found in most other mowers, and then feeds the grass into a "pelletizer," producing biomass pellets that are used in an on-board renewable fuel source to power the device's engine. An internal alternator also generates electricity for the mower's electrical components, including the computer control, guidance, and communications modules.


    Google Maps guides the EcoMow and is handled by proprietary software, which allows the mower to be directed to cut along the precise dimensions of the lawn, and the mower hardware gathers data on usage and biomass pellet collection for determining what the return on investment is for the owners.


    According to "GigaOm," a model for consumer use has a bigger financial risk element than a commercial model, so EcoMow is now focusing on a larger version that could harvest big fields to produce biomass fuel pellets as a salable product. A prototype of the commercial version is expected to be produced by April, and to then be on the market for next year.  


    EcoMow plans to develop the smaller consumer version of the mower, but not for a few more years, and the company estimates that the small model would cost about $500 and weigh in at about 10 pounds.

  • Why Going Green Sells For More Green!

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Studio City, Remodel & Renovate in Studio City, Going Green in Studio City  |  March 14, 2014 4:39 PM  |  427 views  |  No comments

    Based on the average California home price of $400,000, a green label increased the value of a home by an average of $34,800.


    A green label increased the selling price of a single-family home by an average of 9 percent compared with non-green label homes. Researchers controlled the data for the age, location and size of the home so that all homes were comparable.

    They studied data from 1.6 million homes sold in the state in the past five years.


    One study conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley and UCLA, looked at homes that were labeled green by LEED, GreenPoint Rated and Energy Star - rating systems that give green label certifications to homes. To be certified, each rating system has a list of criteria homes must meet, including well-insulated ceilings and walls and energy-efficient lighting. 


    "This is the first systematic evidence of the financial value of green label homes as measured in the marketplace," said one of the study's researchers, Nils Kok, a visiting professor at UC Berkeley. "Green labels seem to inform and influence the opinions of consumers."


    Consumers value green label homes because of the increasing cost of keeping a home cool, the report said.

    "The value of a green home will be higher in a hotter area like the Central Valley than a more moderate area like Santa Cruz," Kok said. "It seems like consumers are rational or quite smart in pricing in this value and the benefits of a more efficient home."

    The organization launched Green Point Rated, its own green home rating system, in 2006 and has since green label certified a little more than 13,000 single and multi-family homes. 


    Because there are many home builders and homeowners claiming their homes are green in one way or another, it's important to have third-party rating systems that prove the label means something, Kubert said.


    Green labels are given when construction is completed and currently there isn't a system that checks on the maintenance and upkeep of a green home, said Nathan Krantz, director of technical services at Build It Green.


    "That's probably the next wave of influence," Krantz said. "Right now, homeowners just want to know if there's a green label at all. ... That will be a more sophisticated buyer at that point. I feel like we're still a ways from that being an issue."


    Still, potential buyers should ask when a green label was given, Kubert said. "A home that was rated more recently has a better guarantee of being green."


    Kok said in his study he did find that the more recently labeled green homes seem to have gone up in value relative to the beginning of the sample period.


    "It might be various reasons," he said. "Maybe brand recognition or slowly the market is picking up and buyers are taking these features more into account."


    Besides energy savings, there are other benefits of owning a green home, Kok said. Ian MacLeod, an architect who upgraded his Albany home to meet green standards a few years ago, can attest to those benefits. While he appreciates that his monthly electricity bill ranges from $4 to $15 a month, he said he gets great satisfaction from saving energy and living green.

  • 5 Energy-efficient Building Materials

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Studio City, Remodel & Renovate in Studio City, Going Green in Studio City  |  March 14, 2014 4:35 PM  |  477 views  |  No comments
    The drive for energy-efficient building comes down to a quest for the so-called tight envelope. In builder lingo, the better a structure keeps out the wind and the rain, the tighter its envelope.

    If you can achieve a "tight envelope" while using some kind of renewable, recycled material, it's all the better. Many new energy-efficient products enter the market each year, some builders shy away from them because of higher costs. In many cases, just adding a layer of insulation or a specially glazed window can increase the cost of materials by 20 to 30 percent.

    In most cases, experts in energy conservation argue that more efficient materials will lead to lower costs of heating and cooling a house, so the homeowner will recover that money, usually within several years.

    Recycled Steel
    If you check out the material produced by the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), you might want to skip the wood beams when building your next house.

    According to the SRI, builders are simplifying the framing process by ordering customized steel beams and panels to fit each specific design. The SRI touts the durability of steel in areas subject to high winds and earthquakes. Further, it reports that while a 2,000-square-foot (186-square-meter) house requires 40 or 50 trees to build, a frame from recycled steel would require no more than the material that comes from six scrapped cars.

    At least 65 tons (59 metric tons) of scrap steel are recycled every year. Recycling scrap reduces the energy produced in making the steel by 75 percent, and it saves space in landfills as well.

    Insulating Concrete Forms
    This is a 60-year-old technology that's enjoying new life with the discovery of its energy-saving properties.

    The Portland Cement Association, one of the top makers of concrete forms, defines them as "cast-in-place concrete walls that are sandwiched between two layers of insulation material." Concrete is poured into forms that serve as insulation layers and remain in place as a permanent part of the structure. The technology is used in freestanding walls and building blocks.

    An industry-funded study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued a report in late 2010 that said buildings made from insulated concrete forms saved 20 percent over the energy consumed by wood-frame buildings in cold climates such as Chicago.
    Straw Bales
    Ever build with LEGOs? Then you can build a house. That's the philosophy of Mark Jensen, who supervises the building of straw bale houses for Native American communities. Straw is a byproduct of the grain industry that often would be burned otherwise.
    According to the California Straw Building Association, straw, if kept dry, can last for thousands of years. Straw bales bond well to stucco and plaster walls, and they provide good insulation.

    Straw bales usually weigh 50 to 90 pounds (23 to 41 kilograms) each, and a 2,000-square-foot (186-square-meter) house needs about 300 medium-sized straw bales for its construction. Although few jurisdictions account for straw bale construction in building codes, local authorities manage the construction on a case-by-case basis.
    Cool Roofing

    The Cool Roof Rating Council explains it like this: "If you want to stay cool on a hot day, it's better to wear a white T-shirt than a black one because it reflects rather than absorbs heat. A cool roof is like that white T-shirt: It reflects heat from the sun and stays cooler, thus transferring less heat into the building."


    In the past, the roofing materials themselves needed to be light-colored for this concept to work. But new treatments allow consumers to choose darker materials that will reflect heat back into the atmosphere, as well.

    Without question, these materials cost more than traditional roofing. Eco Home Magazine cited one estimate at $80 per square foot more. Of course, experts argue that a lower electric bill in the blazing days of August will help you recoup those costs quickly.

    Plant-based Polyurethane Rigid Foam

    After the number 1 maker of surfboard material in the world went out of business and was fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for using a toxic chemical, a surfboard maker in San Diego started producing a foam material that comes from plants.

    The foam is manufactured from materials such as bamboo, hemp and kelp.

    The so-called rigid foam is used in insulation, wind turbine blades, furniture and, of course, surfboards.
    When used as insulation, the foam offers high moisture and heat resistance, excellent acoustics and protection against mold and pests. It also has a higher R-value than fiberglass or polystyrene, meaning that it has a higher thermal resistance and insulates better.
  • Have a Green Holiday Season: Part II

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Going Green, Design & Decor  |  December 17, 2013 10:54 AM  |  398 views  |  No comments

    After a joyous holiday season, there is a lot to clean up!

    Here are a few tips to stay green while you clean!


    1. Taking Down The Tree

     If you used a real tree, then find your closest tree-mulching facility or other eco-friendly local disposal options.   


    2. Organize Your Ornaments

    If you don't have a good ornament organization system, use leftover Christmas tissue paper, packaging, and boxes to keep your ornaments safe for the year to come. If you live in the humid, roach-filled south, then paper/cardboard storage options may not be the best way to preserve your ornaments in the long term. Instead, you may wish to purchase plastic bins at after-Christmas sales or thrift stores.

    3. Recycle While You Gift

    Put a large bin or a big cardboard box in the center of the room while opening presents to put tissue paper and wrapping in as the family opens presents. It teaches children an easy way to clean up while you celebrate and how to do so responsibly. Re-use gift bags, bows, and tissue paper, just collapse and store with the decorations. 


    4. Boxing Day is December 26th
    In England, the idea is to box up what you don't need and give it to the poor. If your family enjoyed a gift bonanza at Christmas, consider storing, rotating, selling, or donating items that your children have lost interest in or grown out of. Then use your existing toy storage system to accommodate new toys.

    5. Detox Your Home

    If the weather permits, then open the windows and air out your house. Indoor air pollution is especially problematic in the winter when we have less fresh air circulating in our homes. 


    6.Re-Gift! It's not tacky, it's practical!

    The idea that regifting is taboo is so 2011! If you've got a gift that you know someone else will enjoy more than you will, why not give it to them? Better yet, start a 'gift drawer' to collect new beautiful items that you can see being perfect for future birthdays, housewarmings, etc. 


    7. Recycle Your Old Electronics
    Before you trash your old TV, mp3 player or computer to make way for your newly acquired goodies, consider how dangerous e-waste is for the environment and for human beings. Check out the EPA's page on how to find recycling locations and maybe even get you a discount on some new ones!

    8. Christmas Cards

    Cut off the part containing the signature (usually the back page), and use the front, decorated page as a Christmas gift tag for next year.

    Leftover Food

    Combine leftovers into stews and soups, or freeze in lunch-size portions to take to work or send to school with the kids; simmer meat and turkey bones until they make a rich broth that can be used for gravies and stock; freeze cookies, breads, and dessert bars to use over the next three months.


    10. Recycle Burned-Out Christmas Lights

    Some companies accept Christmas lights by mail and recycle them throughout the year. Companies such as Holiday LED participate in light recycling and also offer a 25% off coupon for those sending in their old lights. Five Star Holiday Decor also offers a 10% discount off their products when sending in old lights. Learning about these offers helps find a place for those old lights and also leads to discounts on future products. The process is easy: Just send the lights in a small cardboard box and include a card with name and mailing address in order to receive a coupon. Home Depot and Lowes also have Christmas Light Recycling each year. Check your local store to see if they participate.


    Happy Holidays from Adrienne and Michael!


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