Conservation Solutions and Savings

Dedicated to the conservation of the earth’s natural resources, this website was created as a repository of the latest green practices, energy-saving tips and environmental product innovations.

Our philosophy is simple, really. People should use only what they need. With a few easy lifestyle changes, anyone can help save the environment, and save money on their utility bills at the same time. is in no way politically affiliated. We believe that conservation is a choice best handled by individuals and businesses that can move far faster and more effectively than any politician or mandate. With the information we provide, we want to help create a society that is resource independent and not driven by thoughtless consumption.

Please peruse our pages for information on how to protect and conserve water, oil, wood, soil, and electricity.

The pleasure of food

thepleasureoffoodMealtime in most homes is a rushed affair – being green is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re shoveling the food down. The “slow food” movement aims to change that.

The principles of the slow food movement are that everyone has the right to good food, that food production should not damage the planet, and that food workers should be treated fairly.

The movement is represented in the United States by Slow Food USA, a nonprofit with 225 chapters nationwide

The organization and its chapters are involved in a number of activities, such as raising public awareness of food-related environmental issues, caring for the land, identifying wild foods and cooking traditions that are at risk of disappearance, and advocating for farmers and other food workers.

“Slow Food promotes what we call good, clean, and fair, food,” says Jenny Best, the organization’s spokesperson. “In other words, food that is good for you, good for the environment, and good for our farmers and workers. We aim to link the pleasure of food with the commitment to the environment and our communities.”

Slow Food USA Programs
Best explains that Slow Food has a variety of programs to further these goals:
Biodiversity: Slow Food’s Ark of Taste  program helps promote and protect the diversity of animal and plant species, supports small-scale producers in this work, and increase overall consumer knowledge of the impact of their choices on the environment.

Sustainable Seafood: The Slow Fish campaign increases the awareness of the environmental impact of consumers’ fish choices. Supporting traditional fishing methods over large commercial methods is one aspect of the Slow Fish campaign. For example, Slow Fish supports the Slow Fish Genoa program, which teaches participants about the environmental value of “artisanal” fishing methods.

Gardens: The slow food movement encourages gardening in many forms, and Slow Food USA promotes this by providing tips on how to start a school garden, grow things in limited spaces, and more. A more ambitious undertaking is A Thousand Gardens in Africa which aims to create sustainable gardens across Africa.

Slow Food USA’s local chapters bring the slow food concepts closer to home. The Chicago chapter, for example, sponsors meals to bring like-minded people together; runs a directory of Chicago restaurants and other food establishments that espouse the slow food ideals; and sponsors a garden in the North Lawndale neighborhood. To find a chapter in your area, click here:

Slow food is not only for people who choose to join the official Slow Food USA organization, of course. The concepts – such as eating locally produced food, paying attention to how food workers are treated, and buying sustainable seafood – can be practiced by anyone.

Is Your Hospital Green?

If you’re being rushed to the emergency room with a burst appendix, you probably aren’t going to ask the ambulance driver how environmentally savvy the hospital he’s taking you to is. But if you are fortunate enough to be able to select your hospital, why not choose one that’s green?

Environmentally savvy hospitals do a number of things differently from traditional hospitals. When possible they are built using green principles, such as with more natural lighting and less VOCs, which makes the hospitals more comfortable for patients and visitors. Green hospitals produce less hazardous waste, and they dispose of what they produce in environmentally sound ways. And they use less energy. While these efforts save money for the hospitals, patient care is always top of mind.

 There are several ways to identify green hospitals in your area.

Energy Star, the EPA program that strives to identify appliances that use less electricity, also certifies hospitals. To find an Energy Star certified hospital in your area, visit,, select “Hospital” on the drop-down menu, and type in your zip code.   

Eighty-five percent of community hospitals in the U.S., representing 2.3 billion square feet, have generated an Energy Star score. “EPA has seen applications from healthcare facilities increase in recent years, which tells us that hospitals are ramping up their energy management programs and seeing results,” says Clark Reed, director of the Healthcare Facilities Division in Energy Star. “Today, over 300 healthcare facilities are Energy Star certified across the nation, including both hospitals and medical offices.”

Another way to find a green hospital is to tap into the member directory of Project Greenhealth, a nonprofit organization that encourages healthcare facilities to be environmentally smart. Through training and tools — such as the Greenhealth Sustainability Dashboard, which allows a healthcare facility to measure and track it green efforts — the organization aims to help hospitals reduce waste, use less energy, increase recycling programs, and engage in other environmental initiatives.

You can see if your local hospital is a member by searching in the online member directory, Being a member of Project Greenhealth does not automatically mean a hospital is green, but one assumes members are at least concerned about the issue.

Of course, if neither of these options turns up anything near you, you could investigate your local healthcare organization. Ask the public relations department if they have a sustainability commitment, and how they implement it. You may not get very far, but at least you’ll be putting the hospital on notice that customers care about sustainability!

Rating a cool roof

The Cool Roof Rating Council was created in 1998 as a non-profit independent organization to establish accurate and credible test methods for evaluating and labeling the solar reflectance and thermal emittance (radiative properties) of roofing products. That information is disseminated to all interested parties including building code bodies, energy service providers, architects, specifiers, property owners and community planners.

The mission of the CRRC is three-fold:
1. To implement and communicate fair, accurate, and credible radiative energy performance rating systems for all types of roof surfaces.

2. To support research into energy related radiative properties of roofing surfaces, including durability of those properties.

3. To provide education and objective support to parties interested in understanding and comparing various roofing options. At the core of the CRRC is its Product Rating Program, in which roofing manufacturers can label various roof surface products with radiative property values rated under a strict program administered by the CRRC. In the labeling program there are no thresholds for criteria that define “cool roofing”. The program developed by CRRC has been accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Also the CRRC is the sole authoritative entity for cool roof properties used in the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards, Part 6, Title 24.

For more information on U.S Green Building and Product programs please see:

Largest CPV solar plant in Latin America supported by Hydro Aluminum

A precision-extruded aluminum framing system manufactured by Hydro has been installed at a 500-kilowatt electric generation facility in Durango, Mexico, the largest concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar facility in Latin America. Located about 550 miles north of Mexico City, the Durango site is already designated to expand to 10 megawatts total capacity in the near future.

The solar plant comprises 184 Skyline Solar X14 arrays. It uses parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto crystalline silicon PV cells. These arrays are mounted on extruded aluminum space-frames that raise them off the ground and allow them to track the sun through its daily east-west arc. Extruded aluminum was chosen for the frame structures because it provides efficient material utilization, low capital costs and short development times. Aluminum is corrosion-resistant and provides high stiffness to resist wind, improving this system’s accuracy and robustness.

“Our solar engineering specialists worked with Skyline’s team to review their design and were able to help optimize the frame design and identify cost saving opportunities using Hydro’s extensive library of alloys and extrusion expertise,” said Allan Bennett, vice president of solar market development for Hydro‘s Extrusion North America unit. “Together, the engineering teams were able to remove 40 percent of the structural material used in early frame prototypes. That reduced Skyline’s costs for raw materials, manufacturing and shipping.”

In sunny climates, CPV is the lowest cost solar technology for medium (less than 20 MW) and large-scale electricity generating facilities. Today, these constitute the fastest growing portion of the solar market.

About Skyline Solar: Skyline Solar manufactures integrated concentrated photovoltaic systems, incorporating industry-proven silicon cells, durable mirrors and single-axis tracking. The company was founded in 2007 and is funded by NEA and other investors. It has been awarded contracts by the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Defense. Skyline Solar has 11 patents to date on its CPV architecture. For more information, visit,
About Hydro: Extrusion North America is a unit of Norsk Hydro, a global supplier of aluminum and aluminum products. Based in Norway, the company employs 23,000 people in 40 countries and has activities on all continents. Rooted in a century of experience in renewable energy production, technology development and progressive partnerships, Hydro is committed to strengthening the viability of the customers and communities we serve.
In North America, Hydro is a leading provider of extruded aluminum solutions including supply sourcing, extrusion, finishing, and fabrication of components, as well as contract manufacturing services, for a variety of industries. For more information, please visit,

Five tips to enjoy a ‘green’ vacation, part2

3) Consider a rustic vacation. Pitching a tent in the woods is much greener than moving into a hotel room, and the connection with nature can’t be beat! Camping not your thing? Debra Duneier, a green living advocate and author of EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience (, believes that even hotels will get into the rustic vibe. “Hotels will charge for a true ‘get-away’ with no television, no internet, and no cell reception,” Duneier says. “Of course these will be in beautiful locations where we can reacquaint ourselves with nature. Disconnecting will become a true luxury and we will pay for it!”

4) When you’re on vacation, eat wisely. Look for restaurants that source their food locally (it will taste much better, too). Consider restaurants that are members of the Green Restaurant Association ( Try to eat near your hotel — walk there if you can. Don’t eat every meal in a restaurant — stock some foods that you can eat in your hotel room or on a picnic.

5) Finally, consider an eco-vacation. Being an eco-tourist means you travel places where you can interact with nature, but in a positive way. The organizations that run eco-tourist locations preserve their natural bounty and use the money generated from the visitors to further their cause. There are countless such vacations, ranging from low-cost kayak trips to big-dollar exotic island vacations. Check out the International Ecotourism Society ( for details.

Five tips to enjoy a ‘green’ vacation

Spring break time is just weeks away, and millions of Americans are dreaming of beaches, amusement parks, nice hotels and fancy meals. But many vacationers don’t just dream about the fun stuff when planning their vacation — they also consider the cost to the environment.

After all, there are many environmental factors involved in vacation. Here are five tips to help conserve resources on a vacation:

1) Consider alternative forms of transportation. Flying has a large carbon footprint. If Amtrak goes where you want to go, for example, you can save some serious carbon. If you must drive, your per-person carbon footprint drops with every additional rider. To compare different forms of transportation, type in your details in this handy CO2 emissions calculator:

2) Choose your hotel wisely. Many hotels have adopted green standards, such as installing low-flow bathroom fixtures, making recycling easier for guests, and reducing chemical cleaner use. The New Orleans Intercontinental started a recycling program and asked staff to separate recyclables from the waste stream; not only did this reduce the waste, but each month employees have been finding $1,000 worth of hotel property — spoons, towels, etc. — in the trash! The Green Hotels Association maintains a list of members here:

NOTE: We will post the last 3 tips tomorrow.

Dirt makes a comeback

Modern man has developed a fixation for poured concrete, a material that requires a huge amount of energy and water to produce and must be brought in from elsewhere. And, at the end of its life cyle, concrete cannot be turned into anything remotely as useful as its original purpose. But, what are the alternatives? What other building materials are local, don’t require much energy and can return safely to the earth at the end of their useful life?

The answer is right beneath your feet.

When we think about building a home or making an improvement, we generally see dirt as the waste to be hauled away after excavating, usually at great expense. But with a relatively ancient technology known today as Rammed Earth, that soil can stay on-site and become your new walls, floors and even your foundation.

The process involves mixing a combination of earth ingredients, such as clay, gravel, sand, straw, lime and cement with water, which is compacted by special machinery in a removable formwork, similar to concrete. This method produces a hardened stone-like wall that can be structural, such as a foundation, or used as exterior walls. Another practical use is for flooring, which is a beautiful alternative to smooth concrete or wood. In addition to being Earth-friendly, Rammed Earth structures are great thermal masses—they absorb heat during the day and release it at night when it is colder, which is an important aspect of passive solar design. Although some climates are preferable to others, Rammed Earth can be used anywhere, and it is especially beneficial in remote locations.

Stephen Dobson of Ramtec Pty. Ltd. (, an Australian contractor specializing in Rammed Earth construction, has seen Rammed Earth become an increasing trend. “It WILL rise to the forefront and become a dominant form of construction all over the world,” he says. “Sustainability will push it to the front.”

Though the Rammed Earth method is practical, it is also very labor intensive. In areas where labor costs are high, such as the USA, this method could be more costly to consumers. Dobson has a different perspective, however. “Sure, there is a lot of labor involved, but the materials cost way less, so the overall finished cost is OK.”

Another factor that can offset the cost is a do-it-yourself approach to Rammed Earth. In lieu of special machinery, it can be done by hand. “Improvisation is always possible,” says Dobson, “Tibetans pound [the earth] with wooden poles. Chinese use bamboo forms.” Non-toxic sealers such as linseed oil can be used to treat and seal the material once it has been pounded and formed.

As the importance of sustainability grows in the construction industry, this method will be a central practice for most contractors. But, despite its ancient roots, the technology still needs to be brought into today’s mainstream, Dobson says. Contractors need to invest in the technology. Architects and designers need to familiarize themselves with the construction method, as well, to educate and persuade their clients. But the true power lies with the consumer, he adds, for only they can be the ones that both demand and implement the best practices.

Today’s Specials: The green restaurant and green dining

You spent all day being green — sorting recyclables, painting with low-VOC paint, and preparing your rain barrel for the cold weather — and now you want to go out to dinner and relax. But don’t drive your Prius to just any restaurant — continue your green day by choosing an environmentally aware restaurant.

As you can imagine, restaurants produce tons of packaging waste, use enormous amounts of electricity and other utilities, and produce significant emissions. A green restaurant is one that pays attention to those things and attempts to limit them.

The Green Restaurant Association, a trade group that certifies green restaurants, lists seven issues that restaurants can address: water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction.

A restaurant seeking certification follows the GRA’s program and earns “points” for each step it takes. For example, in the water efficiency category, if a restaurant uses a prep sink with a flow of less than or equal to one gallon per minute, it earns 2.25 points. Using an Energy Star qualified steamer earns 4.25 points, and installing landscaping that requires little water over at least half of the site earns 3 points.

A restaurant can become a Two-Star Certified Green Restaurant by earning at least 100 points, having at least 10 points in each category, having a full-scale recycling program, not using polystyrene foam, and participating in yearly education. A Three-Star restaurant needs 175 points, and a Four-Star restaurant (the top rating) requires 300 points.

“Restaurants are America’s largest consumer of electricity in the retail sector,” says Michael Oshman, CEO and founder of the Green Restaurant Association.  “By choosing a Certified Green Restaurant®, you are enjoying your meal with a lower environmental impact. Because we eat three times per day, your choice of a Certified Green Restaurant® could be the largest environmental decision you make over the course of the week.”

You can find green restaurants by visiting the consumer section of the Green Restaurant Association’s website

Currently the highest scoring green certified restaurant is Uncommon Ground, a coffee shop and restaurant in Chicago with two locations. Among the restaurant’s green features are tables made from wood reclaimed from storm-damaged trees, a rooftop garden that provides much of the restaurant’s produce, and a commitment to local purchasing (to reduce emissions from shipping).

“We purchase everything as local as possible,” says Michael Cameron, owner of Uncommon Ground. “We have been ‘farm-to-table’ long before it was a popular buzzword in the business.”

So don’t let your green guard down when planning a night out — put your dining dollars to work in an environmentally aware restaurant.

Conserving textiles eases burden on landfills

USAgain, a Chicago-based textile collection company, announced its annual collection figures.  In 2011 alone USAgain collected 60 million pounds of textiles for reuse and recycling around the globe.

Textile waste is a huge environmental issue.  According to the EPA, Americans discard approximately 13.1 million tons of textiles annually.  Only 15% of which is collected for reuse and recycling – leaving 11.2 million tons of textiles to be dumped in our nation’s landfills.

In 2011 USAgain kept 54.5 million items out of landfills, saving 342,857 cubic yards of landfill space and preventing 420,000,000 pounds of C02 from being released into the atmosphere.

“Everyday people throw away perfectly reusable and recyclable textiles, clothes and shoes because they don’t have a convenient option for recycling them,” said USAgain CEO Mattias Wallander. “It is our goal to prevent these items from being trashed and put them back in the use stream.”

USAgain, a green for-profit company, with over 10,000 drop-boxes located across 15 States, offers residents a convenient option for disposing unwanted clothing, shoes and other textiles.  The collected textiles are sold second-hand in the United States and around the globe.  Items that are not re-wearable are recycled into industrial wiping rags, furniture padding, insulation and more. 

To find a drop box near you visit:
USAgain, a leader in the textile recycling industry, with corporate headquarters in Chicago, is a for-profit company that recycles and resells unwanted clothing and other textiles. In 2011 alone, the company collected 60 million pounds of discarded clothing. USAgain operates over 10,000 collection bins in fifteen states. Their mission is to provide consumers with a convenient and eco-friendly option to rid themselves of excess clothing, which are then diverted from landfills.


Preserving teeth and conserving resources with green dentistry

When you recline in your dentist’s chair, whether the practice is environmentally sound is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But consider these facts: Every year, dental practices in the United States generate 3.7 tons of mercury waste, 1.7 billion sterilization pouches, and 28 million liters of toxic x-ray fixer. That’s some serious waste!

    The good news is that new products and technologies are emerging that allow dental practices to significantly reduce or eliminate much of that waste. For example, a typical single-dentist practice can keep 40,000 pieces of paper and 20,000 pieces of plastic from the landfill by switching from disposal patient bibs to washable bibs. Other single-use items, such as impression trays, can be replaced with stainless steel versions that can be sterilized and re-used for years. Three more ideas: X-ray developing fluids can be eliminated by switching to digital imaging equipment, steam sterilization can replace chemical sterilization, and frequently used items such as gloves and masks can be purchased in bulk to reduce packaging.

    “Technological innovation and the emergence of green dentistry are transforming the dental industry,” says Susan Beck, director of the Eco-Dentistry Association, an organization devoted to greening the dental industry. “Green dental professionals are reinforcing the industry’s move to high-tech solutions that reduce its environmental impact, such as oil-free compressors and waterless vacuum systems. They’re also demanding alternatives to the industry’s traditional ‘throw-away’ solutions, sparking the innovation of eco-friendly products such as re-usable sterilization pouches and compostable impression trays.”

    How can you tell if your dentist is green? Some signs are obvious, such as whether the hygienist pitches your bib in the trash when you’re done. Other green issues, such as the use of digital imaging equipment instead of old fashioned film x-rays, may not be obvious to you, but you can ask. The Eco-Dentistry Association offers a “green my dentist” letter that patients can customize and send to their dentists; it encourages the practice to use earth-friendly practices.

    If you’re seeking a new dentist and want to focus on green practices, you can find an Eco-Dentistry Association member by searching on the organization’s web site

    “Dentistry is a perfect example of how small choices add up,” Beck says. “That single plastic sheet that covers the dental chair during your visit may seem nominal. But consider that it is one of 680 million disposable patient barriers dumped by US dental offices each year. The simple act of choosing an EDA Member dental professional conserves and protects your local water, eliminates a significant source of waste and pollution in our local communities, and saves energy resources globally.”


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