Carpet Recycling Reclamation Center

September 17, 2009 1 comment

Used Carpet UnloadingIt took much longer than the week I mentioned in my first post on this topic, but I finally got to the carpet recycling center to drop off the carpet we recently ripped out of our home.  On the way there, I was thinking myself a fool to make a 140 mile round trip in Rambo (our tired but trusty ’95 Dodge Ram) to recycle carpet…for a fee no less.  I uttered this thought aloud to Mary Johnson, President of Colorado Reclamation Systems, upon arrival at her Denver facility.

Mary’s answer caught me by surprise.  “Well, there are a lot of fools like you then.”  She added that they routinely see folks from Ft. Collins and even further away, which is why they are working on the details of opening additional collection facilities in Ft. Collins and elsewhere around the state.  I was pleasantly surprised.

As her friendly team unloaded our used carpet from Rambo for me, Mary proceeded to give me a tour to illustrate their process that currently prevents 30,000 to 50,000 lbs. of carpet per day from clogging local landfills.  They’ve already diverted over 2-million pounds of carpet in their first summer of operation!

Used Carpet Ready for Processing

First, the carpet and foam pad is queued up near the unloading area and sorted.  All of the foam pad will get recycled into new pad.  Decent carpet gets separated from the nasty stuff.  The former will eventually go into new carpet of recycled content.  The latter will get incinerated for power generation.

Loading the Used Carpet Baler
Once sorted, the carpet and pad are delivered to a Bobcat operator who loads it into a baling machine.

Baled Used Carpet Handling

Another handling machine operator then moves the bales over to stacks at the loading dock.

Baled Used Carpet Ready for Loading

And finally, a forklift operator loads the bales onto outbound trucks. 

So where does it all go?  The pad and decent carpet is shipped to the southeast part of the country where it will be manufactured into new product.  The grungy carpet currently goes to an plant in Tulsa, where it is converted to power by incineration. 

Mary added that CRS is working with a cement manufacturer in Florence, CO to get permitted for burning waste carpet as an alternative to coal in the cement making process.  In addition to cutting down on coal consumption, fuel consumption and carbon emissions would be reduced due to the shorter haul.

Once unloaded, I paid $25 for CRS to handle 252 lbs of carpet ($0.10/lb) and was on my way (they do not charge for recycling foam pad).  And as I drove back to Ft. Collins, I pondered the good and not so good aspects of this little journey. 

It is very good that there is enough demand for recycling carpet and sufficient reward for reclamation businesses to do so that companies like CRS are able to expand and make the process more efficient.  It is also good that the economics at the household level, once carpet recycling sites are more broadly available, are not much different than those for dumping at the landfill (It cost me $25 to dispose in this responsible manner vs. what would have been a $16 tipping fee at our local landfill which is also subsidized by our property taxes).  The participation of carpet manufacturers in Carpet America Recovery Effort, whose website you can use to locate a carpet recycling center in your area, is also a good thing.

As for all of the fuel consumption, carbon emissions and soot and particulate output related to recycling, remanufacture and incineration…well, not so good. 

Which leads me to a couple of final thoughts.  First, if you have used carpet to get rid of, by all means recycle it. 

Second, when you replace that used carpet, do so with a harder, healthier alternative.  Consider cork flooring, which is beautiful, warm and comfortable underfoot, naturally hypoallergenic, easy to clean, and a pretty easy DIY project to install.  Or go with wood flooring from Forest Stewarship Council (FSC) or reclaimed sources (beetle kill pine in our region, for example).  Any of these products will outlast several carpet and pad replacements, making them gentler on the environment outside your home as they improve the environment inside of it.

Home Energy Audit – What’s It All About?

August 27, 2009 1 comment

Welcome to another installment of our Sustainable Home Remodeling Series where we are documenting our efforts to “green update” our dated 1970 split-level home .  In this post, we’ll show you key elements of a home energy audit and talk about the general value of having one performed for your home.

We worked with Energy Logic who sent out one of their Professional Energy Raters, Byron Burns, to evaluate our home’s energy performance. 

Byron started his audit by conducting a general inspection of the home’s exterior, interior and mechanicals to look for obvious energy efficiency issues and opportunities to improve home performance.

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Next, Byron performed a blower door test to determine where the house leaks hot air in the winter and cool air in the summer.

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Then he tested the performance of our furnace and duct work.

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The cost of a home energy audit can vary quite a bit depending upon the specific scope of services and size of your home.  We paid $325 for Energy Logic’s audit of our home and believe this to be money very well spent.  We now have a detailed report that provides clear, prioritized guidance for our efforts to make our home more energy efficient, which we know will decrease our operational costs and increase our comfort while we own the home.  We are also confident that having solid documentation of improvements to our home’s energy efficiency will increase its resale value when we put it on the market in a few years.

Watch for future posts on this topic.  We’ll be digging deeper into the Energy Logic report and discussing the HERS® score for our home in its current state, tracking our implementation of energy efficiency improvement projects, and conducting follow-up testing to determine our post-improvements HERS® score.

Landfill Diversion via Carpet Recycling

August 26, 2009 4 comments

HPIM1064Chances are good that at some point in time you have refreshed the flooring in your home.  In doing so, you probably generated loads of carpet and pad to be hauled off.  Whether you removed the carpet yourself, or had a contractor do it for you, it most likely went to your local landfill in which case you paid for its disposal, directly or indirectly.

This past weekend, Lara and I ripped carpeting and pad out of our house in preparation for the new floating cork floor we will be laying soon.  I don’t care how often you vacuum and shampoo your carpeting, when you get up close and personal with it to remove it after a few years in place, it is just plain disgusting.  In our case, we bought this house six years ago and until we moved in two months ago, rented it to folks with pets.  Needless to say, the carpet and pad we were handling went well beyond disgusting and into the nasty realm.

Earlier today, I walked out my front door to the view that you see in the picture above.  Our local construction materials salvage yard, ReSource, has helped us out immensely with landfill diversion during our remodeling project by accepting things like cabinets, light fixtures and old appliances.  However, I had asked around and searched a fair bit for carpet recycling options when we started our project, without success.  Still, the thought of driving carpet to the landfill and dumping it again was really bothering me. 

So I turned to google again, entered “recycling carpet” (without Ft. Collins in the search line this time), and hit upon a website I had not seen before by CARE (Carpet America Recovery Effort) .  CARE is a joint effort by the carpet industry and the government to encourage carpet and pad recycling and minimize the quantity of waste carpet going into our landfills.  You gotta believe that sustainable living and sustainable business practices are really starting to catch on when an older industry like carpet manufacturing gets proactive about it’s full product lifecycle.  Kudos to the carpet manufacturers!

Once on the CARE site, I clicked on the icon to find a carpet reclamation partner in my area and wound up chatting with Kristi at Colorado Reclamation Systems.  They’ve been operating for about three months now and have been swamped with folks who would rather recycle carpet than landfill it. 

To make a potentially long story short for now, I’ll be driving to CRS’s  facility some time next week to recycle our nasty old carpet.  They are in Denver so it is a bit of a haul.  But as their website points out, carpet makes up between 3% and 5% of the waste stream in our landfills, so it’s a drive well worth it.  I’ll post again after I visit CRS with more information about their operations, fees and potential plans to expand collection to other parts of Colorado.

Join the Green Homes Bike Tour!

August 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Tour de Green '07  Straw Bale HomeThe Green Team Real Estate would like to invite you to the second Tour de Green, our Fort Collins green homes bike tour.  Don’t miss this chance to visit 5 very unique and sustainable homes around Fort Collins by bicycle, with tours provided by builders or owners. We’ll provide breakfast to start the day, plus a picnic lunch to round out the tour.  (And it’s free!)  If you’re interested, the details follow.
 
Tour de Green '07 Morie HomeWhat:  See cutting edge energy and water conservation technologies and green materials you may want to someday install in your own home.  We’ll show you a home with a 10kW solar PV system and geothermal heating, a home with a gray-water catchment system and its own wind turbine, a turn of the century bungalow remodeled with nearly all reclaimed building materials, and a project to refresh a dated 1970s home.
 
Where:  Meet at the Grey Rock Common House, in northwest Fort Collins, at 2265 Shooting Star Lane (please click here for a community map)  where we will begin with a light breakfast followed by a short presentation and a tour of their unique and very sustainable co-housing community. From there we’ll hit 4 additional homes.
 
When:  Sat, Sept 12, approximately 9am-1pm.  (Come early for breakfast. We’ll have food available by 8:45.)
 
How:  Come on your bicycle, whatever type you may have. We’ll ride a total of about 6 miles between our 5 sites. This tour is designed to suit most abilities. 
 
Please RSVP to Lara@GreenTeamRE.com  with the names of the people who will be attending by August 24.   (No kids under 13 please.)  We’re capping attendance at 40 people so make sure to RSVP promptly.
 
We look forward to seeing you and hope you can join us!

Sustainable Home Remodeling Series – Intro

July 24, 2009 1 comment

3000 Phoenix Exterior 2003Is it possible to make a 1970 split level house cool by today’s standards?  Lara and I are foolish enough to try, with a green twist.  After all, doing so puts the walk in two things that we’re doing a lot of talking about – 1) that eco-friendly remodeling of an existing home is a relatively low-impact way to create a green dream home, and 2) that greenlording with a green exit strategy can be a smart approach to real estate investment.

We’ve just moved into the 4 bedroom, 2 bath 1900 square foot home pictured above.  We bought it in 2003 from the original owners as an investment property.  It is quite dated, and a bit tenant-worn after six years as a rental, but it has as they say “great bones”.  And the yard has mature peach, cherry and plum trees, as well as grape vines.  To put all of this fruit to good use, we’ll be calling on our friends Jana and Steve and their wine-making talents for payback for the cork floor labor they got out of me earlier this year :). 

There’s not much about this place that doesn’t need updating – nope, it’s all as dated as this kitchen.  So we’ll have lots of eco-friendly home projects to blog about in this series.  3000 Phoenix Kitchen 2003

Here is a sampling of the projects we have on deck…

  • new bamboo cabinets in the kitchen and vanities in the bathrooms.
  • replacing worn carpet with rapidly renewable flooring throughout.
  • sourcing and installing the most eco-friendly concrete countertops we’ve heard of to date.
  • re-painting the entire inside of the house with low or no VOC paint.
  • energy efficiency improvements guided by a professional energy audit.
  • a sprinkler system audit and corresponding xeriscaping to reduce lawn watering requirements.
  • installing water-conserving fixtures throughout.

We hope you’ll grab our feed, follow along and maybe even learn a bit from our experiences, if not our mistakes!

Oh, one last thought about the timing of things.  We’ll be completing and blogging about these green remodeling projects as quickly as our day jobs permit, but we may take a slower road toward our green exit of this home than originally anticipated.  We’re confident it is going to be a pretty cool and comfortable greened-up home to live in.

Tax Credits for Energy Efficient Home Improvements

July 17, 2009 1 comment

If you’ve been thinking about making energy efficiency improvements to your home, now is the perfect time. If you put in place new efficient windows, doors, insulation, roofs, heating and cooling equipment, or water heaters by December 31, 2009, you could claim a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost, up to a total of $1500.

 And, lately some contractors and retailers are even offering specials for large purchase items like windows and doors, offering an additional discount on their products to encourage people to get started. 

Make sure you confirm with the retailer, manufacturer or installer before getting started that the products you plan to claim do in fact qualify. Also, the credit applies for installation and product cost on heating and cooling equipment, but only product cost on windows and doors, insulation, and other parts of the building “shell”.  And, the credit only applies to a taxpayer’s primary residence, in the United States.

To claim the credit, you’ll need to file IRS form 5695. And don’t forget to save your receipts!

So, if you’ve been holding off on replacing that old, inefficient furnace, or those single pane windows throughout the house,  think about the savings you’ll begin to recoup and how much more comfortable  you could feel by making certain energy efficiency improvements! 

And, don’t forget that if you are planning to take the leap to greener power and fuel, you can claim a separate federal tax credit of 30% on solar photovoltaic or solar hot water systems, geothermal heat pumps, small wind energy systems and fuel cells. The good news is, this tax credit is good through 2016, and doesn’t have a cap on the actual amount you can claim . You’re eligible for 30% back on the cost of any of these systems!

 For more detailed information on these various tax credits, the Alliance to Save Energy has a good site. Go to: http://ase.org/content/article/detail/2654

Categories: Simple Starts

Eco Friendly Homes…A Smart, Green Investment Strategy

June 15, 2009 1 comment

HPIM0898Let’s face it, there aren’t many places you can invest your money these days with confidence.  And residential real estate has got to be one of the worst investment choices, right?  Well, that depends.  It depends on…yup…location, location, location and strategy, strategy, strategy. 

Ft. Collins is one of those locations that has weathered the residential real estate storm quite well.  And it’s future appears bright enough to warrant wearing shades.  Read why U.S. News picked Ft. Collins, and neighboring city Loveland, last week as one of The Top 10 Housing Markets for the Next 10 Years.  Also, check out the many other lists that put Ft. Collins at or near the top, all of which point to a strong future for home value appreciation in the area.

In 2003, Dave and I purchased three residential investment properties in Ft. Collins.  With vacancy rates  in the 4% range, we have been able to keep these rental properties occupied with excellent tenants, while earning strong positive cash flow.  Comparables and ZestimatesTM would indicate that these properties have gained about 10% in value since we purchased them.  Ten percent over 6 years is nothing to write home about, until you consider that home prices at the national level are down 32 percent since 2006!

The Green Exit strategy that we wrote about a couple of months ago in our post on Greenlording leaves us confident that we will beat market comparables when we go to sell these properties down the road.  To summarize that strategy, we re-invest our positive cash flow into eco friendly improvements to our rental properties, which will ultimately allow us to deliver sustainably updated homes for sale to an increasingly green-minded market of home buyers.  Oh, and we get more conscientious tenants and higher rents along the way too.

We feel very fortunate that we’ve found a way to invest that is built on our hobby of renovating mid-century homes, our passion for the environment and the mission behind Destination Green.   Interest rates and vacancy rates in Ft. Collins are relatively low, creating a great opportunity to purchase rental properties that offer positive cash flow and are poised to appreciate nicely over the next decade.  We hope you’ll join the journey, and would be honored to be your guide.

How to Select a High Efficiency Toilet (HET)

May 12, 2009 5 comments

Toto ImageBased on all of the toilet talk and analysis in our previous posts on toilet efficiency, Lara and I have come up with a plan that will allow us to reduce the water consumed by the six toilets at our four properties from approximately 49,500 gallons per year to 29,000 gallons per year – a 42% decrease and savings of 20,500 gallons per year. In this post, we’ll look at the specifics of the plan and give you some tips on new toilet selection.

The Plan

Our immediate action plan to save over 20,000 gallons of water per year is as simple as replacing our two old, inefficient toilets with new high efficiency toilets (HET’s). For our own home, we will purchase a Toto Aquia dual flush HET pictured above to replace the existing 3.5 gpf model. The Toto Aquia uses 1.6 gpf to flush solids, 0.9 gpf for liquids. At our rental property where our other offending 3.5 gpf toilet resides, we will go with a 1.28 gpf Toto EcoDrake HET.

For disposal, we’ll take the 3.5 gpf toilets to ReSource to take advantage of a great City of Fort Collins toilet recycling program under which old toilets are collected, crushed and incorporated into road base at no cost to the homeowner to keep them out of the landfill.

Selecting a High Efficiency Toilet

We discovered that researching and deciding which HET to purchase can be a bit overwhelming. Following the four simple steps below will help you keep this process manageable.

1. Start with the EPA’s list of WaterSense® labeled high efficiency toilets. The HET’s on this list have been certified to meet performance criteria developed by the EPA.  Be forewarned, this list is long, with nearly three dozen toilet brands and many models per brand.

2. Develop a short list of HET prospects for further scrutiny. You can do this quickly by using the web to check out prices, styles and colors for the various models on WaterSense® list.

3. Consult the experts to help you make a final decision. Like Step 2, this is easy to accomplish on line by searching for reviews on makes/models on your short list, or you can ask a trusted plumber or green builder you know in your area. We found this site from plumber Terry Love to be particularly helpful.

4. Purchase with eyes wide open. Toilet tanks and bowls are often sold separately. Also, seats and lids are typically not included with the tank and bowl. Some manufacturers do not provide warranty coverage for products purchased over the internet. And then there are some e-tailers who offer attractive prices and promote “free shipping”. Look closely…we found one such claim where shipping was indeed free, but “freight charges” were significant! Finally, be sure to look for incentives, rebates and eco-friendly disposal programs. This is as simple as checking your municipality’s web site.

Here’s how our selection process played out…

Steps 1 and 2 – We quickly shortlisted to three prospects; Toto, Caroma and Kohler. Toto and Caroma made the list because we were aware of them as manufacturers from countries that have long been focused on toilet water conservation (Japan and Australia, respectively) with relatively long track records of HET production. Kohler made our short list simply due to brand name recognition.

Step 3 – Our situation quickly became a Toto vs. Caroma showdown after we discovered several online stories about serious problems with Kohler’s performance, poor customer service and high replacement part costs related to their HET’s. We started leaning toward Toto over Caroma because we liked the styling better, and Maximum Performance Testing (MaP) ratings favored Toto for the models we were comparing (click here to learn more about MaP testing). This thread from Terry Love’s website sealed the deal in favor of Toto. We chose their dual flush Aquia for our own home to maximize water savings, and decided that their EcoDrake was a better choice for our rental property due to ease of operation and lower price point.

Step 4 – We decided to purchase our toilets at Green Logic because we prefer to work with other green-minded local businesses and keep more of the dollars we spend in our community. We are also comforted by the idea that we have someone we can turn to for support with future parts or warranty needs, should they arise.

Flushing Factoid

According to the EPA, if every American home with older, inefficient toilets replaced them with new WaterSense® labeled toilets, we would save nearly 640 billion gallons of water per year, equal to more than two weeks of flow over Niagara Falls!

Are the toilets in your home a part of the problem, or part of the solution?

Sustainable Picture Frames for Your Art & Photographs

April 26, 2009 1 comment

by Mingyan Bao

Gold FrameEvery person has something that they put into a picture frame: photos, art, mirrors, etc.  We like to display our best moments, good memories, and pretty things.   The act of framing something is so common and trivial that we don’t put much thought into it other than whether it will look good. 

The fact is that most picture frames are made of plastic, wood, or aluminum.  The discount frames are usually some form of plastic finished to look like wood.  Metal frames were common and popular when commodity prices were low, but they are less fashionable than they once were, and metal frames sourced from certified recycled metal are not yet available.  Most framers carry a line of aluminum frames, though.  Wood frames from a custom framing shop are usually made from solid, full-grain wood of one type or another.

So what is the “green framer” to do?  A major part of the answer is to use wood harvested from sustainable and controlled forests.  Leading vendors of picture frame moldings are getting PEFC and FSC certifications. PEFC, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, is a global program that traces the chain of custody for lumber products from living forest to finished products.  FSC, the Forest  Stewardship Council, is a world wide effort to promote responsible management of the world’s forests.  

Sustainable Wood Frames

Some molding makers have discontinued using exotic woods such as purple heart, zebra wood, and teak due to the lack of cost-effective and sustainable sources of these woods.  Instead, renewable American hardwoods are finished to mimic the exotic look.  

 

Wood Composite FrameThere are also frames made of a wood composite material, which is made of saw dust, wood chips, and recycled wood. 

 

 

 

  

Rustic FrameSome manufacturers have obtained licenses for removing dead wood from national forests, which they turn into beautiful rustic frames.

 

 

 

As you can see from the pictures above, there is a variety of styles to select from.  You don’t have to compromise your aesthetics for the sake of your ethics.

 

Another way to bring sustainability into your framed piece is to use 100% cotton mats rather than paper mats.  The 100% cotton mats come in a rainbow of colors and a variety of textures.Cotton Mat colors  

 

They are better than paper mats on several fronts.  Cotton mats last decades longer than paper mats.  They also put a waste product from the textile making process – a by-product of cotton refining called linters – to productive use.  Because paper mats are made from wood pulp, they contain acids and lignin that will eventually cause the mat to discolor and fade.  Some will even damage the art underneath.  This is why museums and galleries use cotton mats for conservation purposes.

 

So the next time you buy a picture frame, keep in mind which materials you are really buying.  Ask your framer to show you which of their frames are from sustainable sources. 

 

About the Author

Mingyan Bao is the owner of The Great Frame Up, a custom picture framing shop located at the Promenade Shops at Centerra in Loveland, CO.  The Great Frame Up is a locally owned full service framing shop offering free consultations and in-home quotes.  They specialize in conservation framing and shadowboxes.

 

You can also upcycle old windows into picture frames, so stay tuned for an upcoming post with step-by-step guidance from Mingyan on this approach to DIY framing.

 

Larson Renovation 3 – Installing a Solar Water Heater System

April 18, 2009 3 comments

Solar Water Heater InstallationA theme has emerged around Sandra and Justin Larson’s renovation project, and that theme is “RE“.  Part 1 showcased their REsourceful REuse of REclaimed building materials.  Then, in Part 2, we documented their use of spray foam insulation containing REnewable soy to create an extremely energy efficient envelope.  Now, we’ll take a look at their installation of a solar water heater system which will make use of a very abundant REnewable REsource…Colorado sunshine.

The Larson’s turned to Darren Hein (pictured above) and his team at Heinsight Solutions to source and install a Velux solar hot water system.  Heinsight is a Velux 5-Star Solar Specialist installer.  Darren brings many years of specialized roofing and skylight installation experience to bear.  He’s the kind of expert you’ll want to seek out if you decide on a solar water heater for your home to ensure that upgrading your water heater system doesn’t downgrade your roof.

Heinsight installed a two-panel, indirect circulation, pre-heat system at the Larson’s home.  The panels themselves are of the flat-plate collector variety.  Indirect circulation means that an antifreeze liquid is pumped through the panels and down to a heat exchanger in a newly installed tank in the home, where the antifreeze then transfers heat to the water in the tank.  It is considered a pre-heat system because the new tank is tied into the existing hot water heater, providing back-up hot water should a portion of the system go down.  You can see the components and get lots of great information from Darren about system details, costs and rebates by watching the two video segments below.

There are quite a few different types of solar water heating systems.  The U.S. Department of Energy website on energy efficiency and renewable energy provides excellent information about them, including this page on types and how they work.

These systems are extremely eco-friendly because they substitute energy from the sun for energy from natural gas or power plant generated electricity, using the latter only infrequently as back-up.  According to Solar Energy International, more than 50 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from your local utility can be avoided over a 20 year period when a solar water heater replaces an electric one. 

The economics of solar hot water are also quite compelling, and may even offer immediate payback if you are building a new home or refinancing for home renovation.  The Department of Energy indicates that your monthly water heating bill will drop by 50% to 80% if you install a solar water heater.  And, depending upon where and how you live, and which source you believe, heating water accounts for 9% to 30% of your monthly energy bill.  Up-front costs and payback time for a solar water heating system are reduced by a 30% federal tax credit and additional regional credits.  Follow this DOE link to get further guidance on determining solar water heater system costs, energy savings and payback time for your situation.

Well, that’s it from the Larson project for now, but we’ll be REvisiting them soon for more eco-friendly home project education.

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