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Greening Your Office

introduce an eco-friendly workspace

By Kathy Fediw, LEED AP, CLP, CLT | April 20, 2011 | topics: Eco-friendly Office Tips
Want to be more eco-friendly at work?  Here’s our favorite tips for greening your office space:

  • A plant for every office.  Did you know that the ordinary office plant can rid the air of harmful toxins, improve your health and make you more productive?  It’s true and there are over 20 research studies to prove it.  You don’t need a jungle, the most recent research shows that one plant per 160 square feet of office space (about the size of an average office) is all you need, provided the plant is at least in an 8” growing pot (a large desk plant or small floor plant.)  You could also use 3 or more tabletop plants to get the same results.
  • Bring in your own coffee cup.  You can cut down on the Styrofoam and plastic cups and bottles that fill our landfills by using your own cup.  Not practical?  Switch to recyclable paper cups instead.  Which brings us to our next tip:
  • Recycle!  Most urban areas and commercial buildings now have recycling programs, so set up those bins and get cracking.  Nearly 90% of all office waste can be recycled.
  • Use products made from recycled materials.  Recycled office paper is easy to find, as well as recycled paper towels, etc.  More products are being made from recycled products so keep your eyes opened.  Look for products with a high amount of post-consumer recycled material.
  • Open the blinds and turn off the overhead lights.  If your office has windows, turn off your overhead lights and use natural day-lighting instead.  Use task lighting at your desk if you need more light. You’ll save energy and enjoy the view!  Close the blinds over the weekend and at night to help moderate the temperature and cut down on energy use.
  • Own the building?  Use native plants and xeriscaping to cut down on irrigation water and grounds maintenance.  Your landscaping company will be glad to help you with a more eco-friendly design.  Set up a bird-friendly area with a water source and berry- or nut-producing plants while you’re at it.
  • Switch to fair trade coffee and tea.  Your favorite beverage can be grown in an eco-friendly manner, no matter what part of the globe it originates, and one in which local laborers are paid a fair wage for an honest day’s work.  Just what you’d want for your own family, right?
  • Kick the habit.  Smoking, that is.  Smoking releases all kinds of cancer-causing toxins into the air, let alone what it does to your own set of lungs.  You know it’s bad for you, but it’s also bad for everyone else in your office.  Besides, we know you’ve been wanting to quit, haven’t you?!

For more information on the many benefits of indoor plants, go to www.greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org.

Eco-Friendly Practices

here are some tips to help anyone make their home or office more eco-friendly

By Kathy Fediw, LEED AP, CLP, CLT | April 20, 2011 | topics: Eco-friendly Tips

Here are some tips about how anyone can make their office or home more eco-friendly:

  • Switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL’s.)  I am totally sold on these little babies.  We were replacing the incandescent light bulbs for our driveway every month, then switched to CLF’s.  We are now on our tenth month and they are still going strong, and they use way less energy.  This is a no-brainer and I’ll predict that incandescents will soon go the way of vinyl records and videotapes.
  • Use recycled paper.  It costs the same or just slightly more than regular paper and has the same look and feel.  And while you’re at it, recycle all that paper sitting in your wastebasket right now.  Better yet, do you really need to write it down or print it out?  If you hate filing like I do, just keep everything nice and organized on your computer and do away with filing folders and cabinets.
  • Do everything in one trip.  Some of you may remember the oil shortage of the 1980’s when you could only fill up your gas tank on certain days of the week.  We all learned to combine our errands into one trip.  Not only will you save fuel and decrease harmful emissions, you’ll also save time!
  • Use phosphate-free soaps and detergents.  Phosphates encourage algae growth in our water supplies, lakes and streams, which can build up and suffocate fish and other aquatic life.
  • Make it your goal to have a plant in every room.  Research is still being conducted, but most agree that one plant per 100 square feet of living or office space will clean the air of harmful volatile organic compounds, given off by particle board, carpet, glues and a host of other building components.  Better yet, plants actually break down these gases into harmless compounds that they then use for food.  No man-made filtration system can do that!

For more information on the many benefits of indoor plants, go to www.greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org

Why Do They Call it “Green”?

green is indicative of holistic awareness

By Joe Zazzera, GRP, LEED AP ID+C | April 6, 2011 | topics: Green Movement, Holistic Awareness, Interiorscape

Have you ever wondered why this “movement” we are in is called “Green”? Every logo, icon, report, newsletter and label is affixed with some sort of plant leaf, tree or seed with a green colored background or lettering. They didn’t call it the “blue” movement, although perhaps they could have but could you imagine;  “I’m gonna turn my house blue this year” or “I’m going blue”.  It just wouldn’t fit.

According to a Gallup poll 2/3 of Americans cite gardening as their favorite hobby. It is no surprise. When you want to become calm and tranquil where do you go? To a park (where it is green), camping in the outdoors (where it is spacious and green) or to a spa filled with indoor plants to calm you and help you breathe and relax. Is it any wonder that major corporations put living plants in their offices and building atrium’s? They learned a long time ago that plants reduce stress, and an employee who is relaxed is more productive and absent less. The employers return on investment far exceeds the cost of plants and the maintenance.

Today’s Green Movement is indicative of holistic awareness. As a culture we are increasingly aware that everything we do affects something else. We understand that small changes, when multiplied by many people,  can make a big difference in the environment and in the health and lives of people. The Interiorscape industry has always taken a holistic approach, we “get it” and we live it.

It is appropriate that we call it green,  because without the benefits of (green) plants we die!

Chance Meeting of Patrick Blanc

Blanc is considered by most to be the father of the living wall

By Joe Zazzera, GRP, LEED AP ID+C |  February 15, 2011 |  topics: Patrick Blanc, Father of the Living, Living Walls, Vertical Walls


French botanist Patrick (Pah Treek) Blanc is considered by most to be the father of the living, vertical wall (although McRae Anderson built the Cleveland Zoo living wall around the same time). As early as 1988 he was designing living walls as art. In the early days, his designs were less about the environment and more about creating living artwork using a huge plant palette.

Last weekend my wife Karen and I had the opportunity to spend some time in San Francisco. Having completed a job in San Jose earlier in the week, we were looking forward to some overdue R&R together. Because living walls are always in my radar, I knew that Patrick Blanc had a new design being installed at the Drew School in Pacific Heights. I made note to attempt to see its progress sometime over the weekend.

When we arrived at the school, I proceeded with my normal living wall designer routine, taking photos from all angles, inspection of plant material, water systems and installation techniques. When I stepped across the street to take a few distance shots, I met the Drew school facility manager. I introduced myself and engaged in conversation about the wall and his part in the design, installation and construction. He was surprised that I knew so much about Patrick Blanc. Suddenly he said “well you know, Patrick is giving a lecture to the student body right now”? I said, excuse me? “Oh yes, he said, in fact if you would like to wait, I would be happy to introduce you to him”……

What are the odds? What timing…I got to spend about 20 minutes with Patrick Blanc discussing the 230 plus native species, watering systems, smart controllers, fertigators and his thoughts on recycled PVC. Luckily, his english was far better than my French. Click here to view the gallery.

Eco Tip for Valentines Day

skip the roses this Valentine’s day

By Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce |  February 4, 2011 |  topics: No Roses for Valentine’s Day, Foreign Greenhouses, Pesticides

Roses have always been a popular choice for Valentines’ Day. However, did you know that most roses in the U.S. are produced in foreign greenhouses and grown with over 30 different kinds of pesticides? It kind of puts a damper on the romantic notion of bringing home a dozen for your sweetie, doesn’t it? Well fear not, we have put together 5 awesome suggestions that are sure to make your Valentine happy this year, pesticides not included.

  1. Make a romantic dinner for two with local and organic produce from your neighborhood grocery store or farmer’s market.
  2. Bring home a bottle of domestic, organic wine. They are made without added sulfites which is great for loved ones with allergies and asthma.
  3. Detoxify, purify and pamper at your local spa with an organic couple’s massage or spa treatment.
  4. Draw a romantic bath with organic bath salts and local wax candles.
  5. Still stuck on flowers? Visit a local greenhouse or farmer’s market to get fresher, cleaner flowers than the one’s shipped to the flower shops.

Mindful choices do make a difference… Tread softly…

Nature Makes Us More Caring

air cleaning qualities and the effects on our overall heath and well-being

By Plant Solutions |  January 4, 2011 |  topics: Plants for Well-being, University of Rochester Study

Most of us have heard about the benefits of connecting with nature, the air cleaning qualities and the effects on our overall heath and well-being. A recent study however, shows that nature actually helps to improve our personal value of both our community and our close relationships. This University of Rochester study even shows that those connected to nature are even more generous with money! Check out the video then read the report. Click here to read the full report.

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2010 Greenbuild Conference and Expo

plants for clean air message is spreading around the world

By Plant Solutions |  December 27, 2010  |  topics: Green Plants For Green Buildings, GreenBuild Conference

Again this year Green Plants For Green Buildings had the opportunity to spread its message at the GreenBuild Conference and expo in Chicago. GPGB along with FNGLA (Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association) and NFF (National Foliage Foundation) shared a booth in the expo gallery at McCormick Place.

The conference and expo, as always, was well attended. USGBC reports 28,000 attendees from 114 different countries along with some 1800 booths. “Clearly our plants for clean air message is being heard around the world” said conference attendee and GPGB representative Joe Zazzera. “We continue to solidify our place in the green building industry. There is no doubt, plants belong in healthy, green buildings”

During the GreenBuild conference, Zazzera, along with Viridian representatives April Ambrose and Matt Bell had a scheduled informal meeting with USGBC manager of LEED technical development Batya Metalitz. The group discussed the current proposed GPGB LEED pilot credit and the process under which it will now flow through the USGBC.

With new process changes being made to LEED, the actual submittal may not be reviewed until the second part of 2011. The new piloting process is not yet fully formed or complete by the USGBC. This has led to some minor delays in its formal review. “Although this delays our process slightly, the weighting factors for credits will be more defined and known”. Said Zazzera. “This should give us a clearer definition of how many points may be possible for indoor plants, atria and living walls”.

If accepted by the USGBC, the LEED pilot credit will award points under the LEED category IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality). There is a substantial body of research and evidence that proves that living indoor plants provide better air quality, lower absenteeism, higher employee productivity as well as significant improvement to the quality of the indoor environment. The Interiorscape Industry Coalition (ICC) funded the LEED pilot credit program, for development early last year.

In the interim, Batya and the USGBC have recommended that as a group, we continue to look for projects that will or have received credits through LEED in the ID (Innovation In Design) Category. Projects such as The WESST building in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the Ecology and Environment (E & E) Headquarters in Lancaster, New York will help build the case for the credit.

“It has been a seemingly slow process”, said Zazzera “but I believe we have a solid, quality credit that, even if it doesn’t make it into LEED, will give us the template we need to guide our clients.

Pots of Health

houseplants – the secret ingredient to a healthy life

By Plants4Life | December 13, 2010 | topics: plants for health, increases productivity

We all know we need our five servings of fruit and veggies a day, and plenty of exercise – but evidence points to one more crucial daily dose needed for a healthy live: a houseplant.

According to Plants for People, house plants do more than just brighten up a room. As well as being pleasing on the eye, they have measurable benefits when it comes to mental and physical well-being and scientific studies now bring forward convincing evidence to support these claims.

Read full report here.

Ban Stress with Plants

stress awareness

By Joe Zazzera, LEED AP, GRP | November 11, 2010 | topics: stress relief from using indoor plants

Our modern life-styles contribute to personal stress overload and government cuts will have shot stress graphs higher in the recent weeks too as we worry about how they will affect us.

Stress has been named and shamed as making the risk of death 5 times (³) more likely and exposed it as the culprit of a loss of up to 20 million days for businesses, so it’s high time we looked at ways to improve our lifestyles and put stress back where it belongs!

“We know from various studies that plants help to reduce stress – one of the biggest causes of heart disease as well as costing businesses through absenteeism. Just one plant can have an amazingly positive effect on people reducing their stress levels by 50% (¹),” says eFIG’s (²) chairman, Thomas Palfreyman.

Research by a workplace consultancy firm Croner found that the top three causes of stress for UK employees were work (63%), finances (62%) and the economy (49%).

Croner commented that high levels of stress could lead to absence, staff turnover and poor morale in the workplace and advise, “Stress issues should not be put on the back burner as it has a direct effect on productivity and impacts on an organization’s reputation and customer satisfaction. The problems that cause stress should be tackled head on.”

More to the Power of Plants
Several research studies have confirmed that plants – even views of them – reduce stress levels. A new study published early this year in Australia confirmed that just one plant on a desk – at work or in the home office – could have a really positive effect on people’s moods and reduce depression and anxiety by 50 & 60%.

Even Chris Evans on his Breakfast Show quoted research by Dr David Lewis which claims that workers can reduce their stress levels by 60% by looking at a plant for 15 minutes.

And plant-induced calm employees are more satisfied with their jobs, less likely to jump ship and join another company, more focused, perform better by as much as 12% and are more motivated.

If businesses used plants as part of their stress management programmes, they could have a very positive effect on the bottom line.

With National Stress Awareness Day coming up, maybe it’s time to relook at your stress management policies?

Editor’s Notes
(¹)’Greening the Great Indoors for Human Health and Well-being’, Margaret Burchett et al, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, 2010
(²) eFIG, the European Federation of Interior Landscaping Industries is a not-for-profit, membership based organization
(³) Stress increases ‘risk of death five-fold’ – article in The Telegraph, 9 September 2010

Green (and red) Holiday Decor

artificial holiday decor alternatives

By Joe Zazzera, GRP, LEED AP ID + C | October 7, 2010 | topics: holiday decor, artificial decor alternatives, holiday greenery

The holiday season is traditionally decked out in red and green, but you can make your holidays “greener” in more ways than one. Not only can your holiday decorations be eco-friendly, they can also add more “green” back into your pocket. Here are some easy ways to do both:

  • Look for alternatives to the usual VOC-producing polyvinyl-chloride artificial trees and wreaths. Your local decorator or interior expert can provide you with a tree frame filled with beautiful poinsettias for an unusual and colorful alternative. These pyramids of red and green are not only breath-taking in their appearance, they actually help you breathe easier for removing harmful VOC’s from the air. These poinsettia trees are available in all sizes from 6 ft. to 60 ft. tall and can be strung with lights for more impact and excitement.
  • Another alternative to artificial trees are live ball-and-burlap evergreen trees. Depending on your city’s fire codes you may need to treat these with fire retardant but with expert care they should look fresh and beautiful throughout the entire season. Use them outdoors or bring them in with waterproof decorative containers. They’ll do best in cooler temperatures and be sure to keep the root-ball moist. These can be planted outdoors after the holidays, or donate them to your local senior center, school or parks and recreation department.
  • Grapevine wreaths can be heavily decorated and lighted for a spectacular effect, minus the VOC’s off-gassed by the usually artificial wreath. Use natural elements such as pine cones, bird’s nests, little clay pots, ribbons and dried flowers or fruits. Aluminum ornaments can be recycled and are often sold by local craftsmen. Or support a local school or children’s program with a donation in exchange for some hand-crafted paper origami ornaments.
  • Grapevine is also used to make life-sized reindeer, sleighs and other standing ornaments. Grapevine grows rapidly and is a renewable resource, organic and biodegradable and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
  • Want to save on your electric bill? Use LED lighting instead. Although the initial cost is usually higher, these lights use much less power and will usually last for 10 years, a great cost-saving, energy-reducing investment.
  • Colorful blooming plants are a great way to spruce up your lobby and fit any budget. Poinsettias now come in many colors, including different shades of red, burgundy, pink, peach, cream. Some even have stripes or spots. Some of the more non-traditional colors may need to be special-ordered so don’t wait until the last minute.

Other blooming plants include paper-white narcissus, cyclamen, ornamental peppers and azaleas.

  • Looking for a desk-top decoration or unusual gift? Miniature trees made of sweet-smelling rosemary can be decorated with mini ornaments or tiny bows, and some evergreens may also be available in smaller sizes. Keep them moist indoors and plant them outside after the holidays.
  • Don’t forget to add the music. Host a lunch-time concert and invite your local school choir or charitable group to sing traditional carols. Sponsor a giving tree or food drive as part of the event. This is the best time of year to support charities and show your social responsibility.