Cool school: Know your shades of green
How do you become something of an expert on green housing, energy and approaches in a hurry? Laura Blau and Paul Thompson have the answer in the form of three linked courses at the Community College of Philadelphia this summer.
Yesterday the new Green Jobs Philly News came out, offering its usual overstuffed cornucopia of green opportunities and communications attempting to connect people with information and jobs. But what if you're already on the job, in business and trying to get greener?
If you're a contractor, realtor, architect or other professional who's finding clients asking for greener alternatives, how do you advise them? How do you become something of an expert on green housing, energy and approaches in a hurry? Laura Blau and Paul Thompson, two architects behind BluPath Design, have the answer in the form of three linked courses at the Community College of Philadelphia this summer. presented via their educational sister firm GreenSteps.
Starting on July 15 you can get the lowdown on site and water issues, the various forms of green energy, and materials & indoor air quality so you'll know what you're talking about. These aren't technical courses - even if you're a DIY homeowner you'll probably learn a bit that will be useful in your 'green' remodeling.
"Everyone gets a buzz on about 'green'," says Laura Blau, "but they don't always have enough information." She points out that there's no universal rating system for how green different materials, properties or approaches are, and in the absence of that, you need to understand the criteria to even ask the right questions.
"There are all kinds of shades of green," she says. "People need to be aware. We're all on a big learning curve, and the market is trying to keep pace with it. Everyone wants a piece of 'green.' Now weeds are coming up and you're trying to tell the weeds from the flowers."
That's why the curriculum spends a good amount of time on greenwashing, the practice of making a negligible change that a company can spin into positive "sustainable" PR. She cites the move by Clorox to remove some ammonia and bleach and add citrus to create new "green" versions of their products. "Great," says Blau, " but some of the base that remains is the most toxic chemicals out there. If you want a truly green cleaning solution, make your own - or get it from Sun and Earth, which is local, which makes it even greener."
Balancing different criteria is not always easy, which is why the course goes into detail with the different criteria involved, says Blau. "You might have to choose between a cherry floor from local cherry, or a sustainably harvested Brazilian cherry, versus bamboo, which is rapidly renewable, and you want to have a sense of what makes each green as well as what's not so green about it."
Though Blau and Thompson have applied their principles to their own residence, which stands out with its solar-collector-festooned roof, she cautions that not all the solutions presented are so sexy. "You have to look at the specifics of your building to get the right solution. I've had people who want to go solar and their house is in a wooded lot - 'well, we'll just cut these trees down,' they say. Instead I ask, how well insulated is your home? There's little point in collecting solar energy if you're just going to waste it as you would any other kind."
Sorting through the various shades of green is something we can all stand to get better at. But if your job depends on it, well, registration for these courses is now open.