Denver Sustainability Park: A Living Vision For Our Future

If you are lucky enough to live in the Denver area or if you are planning a visit, there is an amazing thing happening on 3 acres located at Lawrence and 25th Streets in Denver’s downtown. There is a living, breathing learning experience that can teach you how to re-imagine our urban living environments.  You will experience a hands-on demonstration of alternative building designs, urban gardening solutions, the newest water saving technologies and the list goes on.

Denver’s Sustainability Park is a collaboration of the Denver Housing Authority ( (DHA) and The Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES).   Along with active community involvement, they have created an innovative approach to teaching our community how to lessen it’s carbon footprint and learn new sustainable ways to approach old problems.

The variety of sustainability solutions presented here is worth a number of visits just to make sure you are seeing it all.  From a composting demonstration area to a Permaculture Garden the exhibitions are scattered throughout the three acre park.  You can visit the urban garden or learn about options for efficient use of resources.  One can imagine the fantastic resource for our schools to support their sustainability curriculums. The students are sure to be inspired and could even discover a new career choice after visiting the park.

As a local business in the Denver community, you can learn about energy efficient building materials and designs as well as effective resource management tools that can be part of your sustainable business vision.  The latest cutting-edge technologies are here to be studied and then put to work in a real world environment.  This community focus will hopefully result in healthy Colorado neighborhoods and a vibrant, growing “green” economy.

If you share our vision of community sustainability, contact us, we would love to hear from you.

Recommended Green Apps: Rating your Home’s Energy Efficiency

Eco Easy Home is an app that is a guide to rate your homes energy and eco-efficiency. It is intended for people who are buying a new home and want to assess its eco-efficiency and/or your current home to do some green home improvements. The app uses a scoring system of a variety of factors to rate a home in terms of its energy efficiency and sustainable design.  The rating system has a series of questions and based on those answers a score is assessed.

One of the cool features is house orientation which determines how much sun or natural heating you have.  This then let’s users calculate the solar gain of a particular property. The app is pretty user friendly and easy to navigate around. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to do a quick energy audit, this app might be a good option. Right now it is only available for the iphone for $4.49.

Sustainable Behavior Change: Tools and Resources

Doug McKenzie-Mohr, author of Fostering Sustainable Behavior and environmental psychologist has a great website to look up articles and cases studies that relate to fostering sustainable behavior. His focus is more on communities and public at large social marketing techniques but the resources and information can be applied to business too. He has five main topic areas of agriculture and conservation, energy, transportation, waste and pollution and water. Anyone can sign up for an account, just click on Account to sign up and you can access the discussion forums.

His book, Fostering Sustainable Behavior, is also available online to read. It is a comprehensive book on how to identify the behaviors a community wants to change and build a strategy around changing those  behaviors.

Tools of Change is another site that offers community-based social marketing resources. This site also has case studies as well as planning guides to help communities begin planning environmental strategies. Their topics include environmental, health and nutrition and safety.

LED Lights: The Good and the Bad

More and more companies (as well as homes) are converting lights to the LED bulb (LED stands for Light Emitting Diode) for their benefits. These light bulbs offer similar light with substantially less power, saving between 50-90% of

lighting energy costs. LED’s are extremely durable and require very little maintenance once installed. Although expensive, they also last a very long time

up to 12-25 years depending on use and therefore are considered more cost-effective over the full life cycle of an LED. LED’s have also been touted as superior to CFL’s because they last longer, are more efficient and don’t contain mercury. If a CFL breaks and the mercury is exposed it is considered a hazardous waste issue.

However, LED’s aren’t all good and have waste challenges. They do contain lead, arsenic and a few other s

ubstances known to be dangerous. They are not a health hazard in a home or office encased, but if they do break it is important to treat them like hazardous waste. Currently LED’s can be disposed of in regular landfills and are not considered hazardous waste legally. However, because of the toxic contents it is strongly recommended when disposing of LED’s to treat them similar to hazardous waste. (To learn more visit E-magazine article, Dark Side of LED Light bulbs)

For more information on LED lighting visit these websites;

  • LED Lighting Facts: A program of the U.S. Department of Energy that provides information on LED products and performance rating.
  • LED’s Magazine: A magazine dedicated to LED lighting information.
  • LED Journal: Provides an online resource guide, a buyer’s guide, industry directory and other resources on LED lighting.
  • Energy Efficient Lighting: LED reference information provided by EarthEasy, a green product online retailer, which provides basic information for the consumer including an overview of benefits, terminology, and how to choose an LED.

Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives

Have you gotten your energy efficiency tax credit this year? The residential energy efficiency tax credit expired at the end of 2011 and so if you did do any residential energy efficiency home improvements (i.e. installed Energy Star Appliances)  make sure you take the credit for 2011. You need to file the IRS form 5695 with your taxes. The renewable energy credit lasts through the year 2016. There are also state and local tax incentives with renewable energy.

Here are some resources that provide more detailed information on the tax incentives and rebates available with energy efficiency;

Test Your Green Knowledge

Want to test your green knowledge? Well now you can with National Geographic Green Guide Quizzes.

These quizzes are 10 questions each and do a good job to see if you really know your stuff. Don’t worry if you get the answer wrong, it will give the correct information so you can get 100% the second time around. Topics range from various rooms and mechanical aspects in your home to topics such as organic gardening, plastics, water, travel and energy.

These quizzes are fun and easy to take. Consider using them before sustainability trainings or integrate them into your green team meetings.

Green Apps Recommendations

There are some great green apps now available that can help consumers make conscious choices on products and services and improve their green footprint. All these apps are free:

Find Green: This app provides a directory of green retail establishments in your area. It uses the GPS system on Android phones and can direct you to the nearest green establishment from where you are located.

Good Guide: An app that the developers have been working on for years and is very well regarded. You can scan the barcode of a product with your smartphone and it will provide you a sustainability ranking of that company and product.

Fooducate: An app that provides more information on ingredients and labels of food products. It has a rating scale and does offer alternative products that might be better or healthier for you.

Animal Free: Is able to help consumers know which ingredients contain animal products. This is useful for those individuals who want to be completely animal free.

Ecorio: This app also uses the GPS system on your smartphone to track your carbon footprint as you travel. Then, it also provides a quick way to purchase carbon offsets through Google.

PedNav: This is an app that helps plan the best route and transportation option with the activities of your day. It encourages walking and biking instead of a vehicle and helps route the best way to travel.

For a more extensive listing of Green Apps, see Treehuggers list of over 100 green apps.

Building Communities and Revitalizing Neighborhoods

Natural Home Magazine had a interesting article, Building Better Community,  in their April 2011 edition on how to revitalize neighborhood blocks and increase community.  The article discusses the Better Block project as a movement to help communities rebuild neighborhoods and make them safer, entice local business economy and build community. They describe how citizens and individuals are taking the initiatives to begin in their own communities.

The Living City Block is another great project happening in Denver and Washington DC to help transform city areas into a sustainable communities where individuals can work, live and socialize.

Recently AmericanTowns launched, a new online network that connects green efforts happening in U.S. communities. Through GreenTowns, towns and cities can share and support sustainability efforts in their neighborhoods.

Superbia, a book written back in 2003 is another great resource in how to revitalize communities and neighborhoods.

Office Gift Exchange Idea

If your office has a gift exchange, consider some gift alternatives that would either promote the reduction of consumption or support local families. Here are some ideas;

  • Consider ‘adopting’ a family. Instead of gifts for employees, consider purchasing gifts for one or more local families. Through homeless shelters and family support non profits, organizations can easily  find a family in their area.
  • Purchase ‘experience’ gifts. Rather than purchase a tangible item, consider giving gifts that are more experiences such as movie tickets, dinner gift certificates, guided hike tours, or other local services.
  • Fair Trade and Local. If your office still wants to do a gift exchange, promote fair trade and/or local products.