September 1, 2012 on 8:10 pm | In Curious, For Your Purchasing Pleasure, Solar, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

by Jodi Summers

The dark-blue/black look of solar PV are cool, but now there are choices – red, emerald green, forest green, and polished marble panels.

The Stylish Solar Panels are produced and assembled in the USA and come with a 5-year workmanship and 25-year power warranty.  Colored Solar CEO Michael Mrozek said: “Our customers can be comfortable knowing that our panels have been tested to ETL’s respected standards and will meet and qualify for all rebates and tax incentives … our game changing colored solar panels are built to a higher standard.”

The solar panels have ETL safety certification to UL1703 and a listing by the California Energy Commission. In terms of panel efficiency, NREL found there is little performance compromised for a 16%+ efficiency colored 225W panel.







August 7, 2012 on 12:49 am | In Curious, Green Building, Green Houses, Solutions, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

by Jodi Summers

A century ago we had the Sears Craftsman Custom Home kits, now we have theIkea prefab house > $86,500 < instructions included.

The house is a joint-effort between Ikea and Ideabox. The companies’ designers integrated Ikea kitchen cabinets, appliances, flooring, bathroom appointments, and built-in closet systems into the prefab one-bedroom home.

Those in the know saw the Ikea Aktiv home is easier to put together than some of it’s furniture. The Aktiv doesn’t arrive in a massive pile of flat-pack cardboard boxes. It’s delivered in a couple of chunks by semi.

The eco-friendly 745-square foot home makes the best possible use of space. The Aktiv home has no hallways and is designed using lots of green materials such as fiber cement siding, VOC-free paint, and energy-efficient appliances. Paying $86,500 for a new home offers lots of possibilities.



July 28, 2012 on 12:16 am | In all, Curious, Green Cities, Trends, U.S. Government, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

By Jodi Summers

Sucking sound continues as frustrated businesses leave California for friendlier climes….and there’s another measure to make doing business in California even more difficult.

An environmental coalition called “Californians to Close the Out-of-State Corporate Tax Loophole” has submitted more than 900,000 signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot. The initiative is to raise more than a billion dollars from companies headquartered outside of California, but doing business in our state. It’s like not being allowed to drive the family car because your brother had an accident.

For the first five years, the initiative is projected to raise about a billion dollars per year, with about half going toward energy conservation efforts at schools and other public buildings. The remainder would go toward the state’s general fund. After five years, however, the entire amount would be directed to the State’s General Fund.

The measure can easily discourage investment in California by national companies. The measure offers a short term benefit to the real estate industry, but, it’s a bit of “bait-and-switch,” as it ultimately directs any gain from the tax to the state’s General Fund coffers.



June 29, 2012 on 12:31 am | In Act Locally, all, Curious, Green Houses, Solutions, Statistics, Trends, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

by Jodi Summers

On the road to going green, Americans are taking basic, cost-cutting measures. When it comes to spending money on energy retrofits, the average American still has their hand in their pocket, according to a recent Harris Poll.

Most Americans are taking basic steps to go green > turning off lights, televisions or other appliances when not in use (82%), replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones (58%), using power strips (56%), looking for ENERGY STAR labels when replacing appliances (55%) and using low watt bulbs (54%).

When it comes to investing in energy efficiency, Americans are reticent. The poll notes that less than half of Americans have installed a programmable thermostat (37%), sealed gaps in floors or walls around pipes or electric wiring (34%), installed low-flow faucets (29%), energy efficient windows (28%) or added insulation to an attic, crawl space or accessible exterior windows (27%).

Surprisingly, despite all the marketing, just in one ten U.S. adults (11%) have conducted a home energy evaluation or audit. And there are regional differences in how homes go green.  Three in five Westerners (59%) use low wattage light bulbs compared to just 48% of Easterners. Two in five of those living in the West (40%) have installed low-flow faucets compared to just 25% of those in the East and 23% in the Midwest. In the meantime, over half of Southerners (55%) change their air filters monthly in comparison to just 27% of Easterners and 28% of Westerners.

The technology is there > green buttons, smart meters, yet one in five Americans (21%) say they have been contacted by their utility or co-op about energy efficiency tools. Nationwide, we’ve been good about it, as nearly 1/3rd of Westerners (32%) have been contacted compared to just 16% of Midwesterners.

The green technology item that Americans really want is a dashboard in their home (48%), even with the understanding that they would have to be proactive about their energy use. The dashboard is exciting because many Americans would prefer to control their energy usage – seven in ten U.S. adults (69%) would prefer to manage that energy distribution themselves while only 9% would prefer to have their utility manage their energy use.

Technology is ahead of adoption. American families are proactive about taking simple steps to be more conscientious about using and paying for energy in their own homes. As to be expected, the recession has curtailed many from making any large green improvement investments. Perhaps energy companies will need to come up with more stimulating incentives to inspire customers to adopt energy efficient solutions.



June 19, 2012 on 1:11 am | In Act Locally, all, Curious, Green Cities, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

by Jodi Summers

Santa Monica has the goal of becoming a zero-waste city by 2030. The City recently took additional steps in that direction by becoming perhaps the first in the world to ban almost all single-use disposable consumer items. And you thought the solar-powered Ferris wheel was revolutionary…

The newly-passed law aggregates various smaller efforts targeting plastic coffee stirrers, disposable cups, paper plates and cigarette butts that fill up ever-shrinking landfill space and add to the carbon footprint.

The law is believed to be the first of its kind in the country < perhaps the world < and gives Santa Monica very definitive steps to reach the goal of going zero-waste by 2030.

“Santa Monica is a city on a hill for those seeking to truly protect the oceans and tidal areas. Even land lubbers can appreciate the benefits of never seeing another stray paper cup crunched in a storm drain,” optimistically offers Heal the Bay’s executive director, Karin Whale.

As the city is a prototype, researchers studying climate change and the green economy have asked to make Santa Monica a case study for the next 20 years to see how well the ban functions in the 8.3 square mile City.

“You created Downtown apartments that do not provide parking specifically to attract people without cars,” offered city resident Edmund Furror, “Now you want us to get in cars to get necessities for life?”

The ban has created unusual alliances within the Santa Monica community of constituency groups that have never before advocated on the same issues. For example, a group calling itself SMC-Squared (Santa Monicans for Condoms and Convenience), consists of medical professionals and singles rallying against the ban’s impact on prophylactics and single-serving frozen dinners > both of which are essentials to the young professional lifestyle.

“I’m begging you for a compromise,” Betsy Berson Foursquare of the Venice Family Clinic told policymakers. “Companies are making condoms thinner and thinner these days. It increases the chance they’ll break, but that’s still better than the pull-out method.”



May 3, 2012 on 12:55 am | In Act Locally, all, Curious, Green Workplace, Money, Solutions, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

By Jodi Summers

Heads up to the accounting department > you may think your company has a green policy, but many businesses are missing key green financial opportunities. The reason? A lack of communication / collaboration between tax and sustainability departments.

Here’s the rub > 28% of tax directors believe their company has a sustainability strategy or is developing one, compared to 90% of CSOs recently surveyed by Ernst & Young LLP. Get on it before you CEO finds out. Think RSIO > Reduce, Switch, Innovate, Offset

“Reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, switching to alternative energy and fuel sources, innovating for cleaner technologies and offsetting carbon emissions – all of these efforts have tax considerations,” said Paul Naumoff, Global and Americas Leader of Climate Change and Sustainability Services and CleanTech Tax Services. “Companies with tax departments that aren’t taking sustainability efforts into account are missing an opportunity.”

Apparently, many businesses are leaving green of money saving opportunities on the table. Only 16% of companies with an environmental sustainability strategy have their finance departments actively involved, according to the Ernst & Young survey titled “Working Together: Linking sustainability and tax to reduce the cost of implementing sustainability initiatives.” The survey featured responses from 223 senior executives at companies. Of the survey respondents, 19% were Chief Sustainability Officer (CSOs), while 81% were tax directors or their equivalent.

All cushy with their positions, employees are not keeping up to speed with state and local green incentives, as more than 37% of survey respondents are unaware of incentives for sustainability initiatives. Sure, more than 80% of finance department are aware of federal tax deductions for energy efficient buildings and incentives for renewable energy, but when it came to state tax credits and incentives, awareness levels hovered around 50%…and a meager 17% noted that their companies actually use available green incentives. In other words, companies are spending a lot more money than they need to spend.

Ernst & Young LLP notes that a company can effectively internally communicate sustainability initiatives and identify incentive opportunities throughout the organization by framing the discussion in broad categories:

·         Reduce consumption of natural resources and carbon emissions.

  • Switch to alternative energy and fuel sources.
  • Innovate and develop new clean technology and less carbon-intensive or lower-emitting products and services to meet the demands of the transforming economy.
  • Offset carbon emissions.

Opening up a corporate dialogue using RSIO framework allows companies to better identify incentives and tax credit opportunities related to their sustainability initiatives > improving their return on investment.

Some national examples of incentives include:


·         Federal: IRC Section 179D: An energy efficiency tax deduction for commercial buildings can help reduce the cost of green building strategies and help building owners minimize energy consumption and improve energy efficiency.

  • LEED Buildings: Businesses can make use of the framework provided by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) to achieve specific environmental sustainability metrics in their building construction. LEED incentives are currently offered by 5 states, 18 counties and over 69 cities and towns. These include property tax abatements, income tax credits, and non-monetary benefits such as expedited permitting.


·         Federal: IRC Section 45 & 48: For facilities that produce and sell electricity generated from certain renewable resources, Section 45 provides an annual credit per kilowatt hour of energy sold to an unrelated person or company for each of the first 10 years of operation of a renewable energy facility.


·         Federal: The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Funding Opportunity Announcements: DOE provides grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.


·         Companies looking to invest in developing countries can leverage Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs), which, as defined in the Kyoto Protocol, allow companies to invest in projects in developing countries that can be shown to measurably reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After a CDM project has been implemented, project participants receive Carbon Emission Reduction (CER) credits. Companies in industrialized countries can credit the CERs earned through their investments in CDM projects toward their emission targets, sell their CERs to buyers in other industrialized countries or trade them on global carbon markets.

In California, check with Sacramento and local governments to find benefits specific to our area. Sites like are a recommended place to start.


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