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Kill the Cup:

Kill the Cup: coffee, selfies, and environmental impact

Published on 10 Dec 2014 Written by Drew Beal  Posted in Center for Green Schools

Did you know that 50 billion paper cups get discarded in America each year? It’s unbelievable!

In 2008, Starbucks established a goal to serve 25% of all drinks in reusable cups. Customers received discounts for bringing personal tumblers, and environmental messaging helped raise awareness about waste reduction. Three years later, however, the reusable rate had yet to crack 2%. In a world where climate change is our biggest challenge, less than 1 in 50 people bring a reusable coffee cup to Starbucks. What gives?

Well, the answer has something to do with behavioral science. During a 2004 experiment, door hangers were placed on houses in an attempt to inspire energy conservation. Each door hanger said something different. Money, environment, good citizenship—none of those made a difference.

A fourth sign, however, made a significant impact in changing behavior. What did it say? “The majority of your neighbors are undertaking efforts on a daily basis to reduce their energy consumption.” How’s that for keeping up with the Joneses?

At Kill the Cup, we’re applying the same methodology to reusable cups. If we’re serious about changing behavior, we have to make it fun and inclusive.

So that’s what they did when they started Kill the Cup: People are encouraged to bring a reusable cup when they got coffee and then they upload photos to Kill the Cup website. Each photo served as entry into weekly and grand prize raffles, and we published photos and leaderboards to establish social norms around reusable behavior.

This last October, student teams from eight universities competed in the inaugural Kill the Cup University Challenge. Student ambassadors received training and resources on social entrepreneurship, and implemented their own four-week grassroots campaign. During the 20-day challenge we received over 2,200 reusable cup selfies from 1,260 cup-killers! In addition to the environmental benefits, we awarded $5,000 in social impact grants to fund sustainability projects at each of the winning schools.

Kill the Cup is excited to scale the size and impact of the program, and early registration is now open for the 2015 University Challenge. Do you have what it takes to be the nation’s next great cup-killer? Sign up now to be among the first to receive information on next year’s challenge. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Drew Beal


American Airlines Arena:

First sports venue to achieve LEED Gold recertification

Published on 22 Jan 2015 Written by Jay Mehta Posted in Industry

The Miami Heat has never shied away from being the first to try something or set the bar. While most will think this applies only on the court, our continued efforts in environmental sustainability prove that this mindset extends off the basketball court as well.

Back in 2009, the Miami Heat were in a neck-in-neck race with the Atlanta Hawks to become the first NBA facility to earn the prestigious LEED certification. Five years later, the same tenacity gives the honor of AmericanAirlines Arena being the first sports and entertainment facility in the world to earn LEED Gold recertification.

Attaining recertification is in and of itself a massive accomplishment. The fact that they surpassed the initial goal of LEED Silver and reached LEED Gold is the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae.

The irony that the first recertified sports and entertainment facility in the world is in Miami and not on the west coast is not lost on us.

So, just how did this 15-year-old, one-million-plus-square-foot arena outperform newer facilities that have been built and designed to meet LEED’s rigorous standards? It wasn’t always easy. Sports and entertainment facility managers understand that fluctuating operating hours and occupant densities, untraditional floor plans and the quantity of equipment sometimes makes it hard to apply LEED certification rating systems in our facilities. It is no easy feat to earn LEED certification and even more daunting to pursue recertification—it is truly a team effort.

the initial certification was unexpected because, although they were making environmentally conscious decisions, it was mostly out of a sense of fiscal responsibility. Conservative consumption, particularly in the areas of energy and water, made fiscal sense.
The recertification, however, was much more deliberate. Maintaining LEED certification became a company-wide initiative. They became vocal about sustainability measures to their sponsors and partners. In turn, they became extra sets of eyes and ears to monitor the market for new products, and to ensure that internal policies of recycling and sustainable purchasing were followed.
Some examples of these team efforts include:

Sports are one of the few activities that unify us; where ideologies are left at the door. There’s no political affiliation, no socio-economic status, no racial tensions or religious doctrine between fans. Sports become a powerful ally when this sense of unity can be harnessed and directed towards a common goal. Our goal is to change the perception that Miami is not environmentally conscious and inspire sustainable practices in our community, leading by example.

In 2014, PollStar ranked the AmericanAirlines Arena as the #1 busiest arena in Florida, 5th in the U.S. and 20th in the world. Reaching even a fraction of our 1.6 million guests can lead to substantial change in the environment.

 Jay Mehta

Solution Architect U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff


2015 Building Energy Summit:

 How technology is taking green buildings to the next level

Published on 22 Jan 2015Written by Darlene Pope Posted in Industry

Green is good. It’s good for the environment, and it’s good for business. In the real estate business, having a “green building” means constructing and operating it in a way that benefits the environment—and also benefits the bottom line.

But there’s only so much energy efficiency that can be achieved through equipment upgrades and behavior modification. In order to achieve maximum efficiency in building operations, you need to automate much of the manual operations that take place today.

Scheduling building systems to operate based on full occupancy on the same time schedule every day is not an efficient operational plan. Relying on each tenant to manually turn their lights on and off (when they actually should be on and off) is not an efficient lighting control solution. Simultaneously heating and cooling space to maintain a comfortable 72 degrees is not an efficient temperature control method.

So, how does technology benefit your green building program? It identifies inefficiencies that may otherwise go unnoticed, and allows the building systems to optimize themselves based on actual conditions (weather, occupancy, cost of energy). How often are offices heated and cooled when the space is vacant?

For the greatest amount of efficiency and savings, green buildings need to combine efficient materials and equipment (hardware) with intelligent controls and applications (software). These technologies give building operators real time information needed for real time savings.

Intelligent buildings are buildings that take advantage of technology and integration to maximize performance and efficiency. Running a building based on thousands of real-time data points, plus advanced algorithms and operational analytics, transforms the facility from a static environment to a dynamic, interactive asset that automatically conforms to the needs of its owners and occupants.

Technology can take those thousands of complex data points and turn them into simple, readable, actionable items. It can even execute on those actionable items without relying on manual processes. That’s the only way to achieve maximum operational efficiencies—and to be able to measure and verify both environmental impact and savings.

2015 Building Energy Summit

Register now to attend the 2015 Building Energy Summit being held on March 25, 2015, in Washington, DC.

This year’s Summit will focus on how to combine your green initiatives with advanced technology applications in order to achieve the greatest environmental and economic benefits for your buildings. Join the country’s top building owners and managers—such as JLL, Colliers, CBRE, Akridge, Hilton Worldwide, GSA, Skanska, MetLife, TIAA-CREF, Deutsche Bank, City of Houston, Microsoft, Brandywine, Saks, Marriott, Hines, Kilroy Realty, Lincoln Harris, Home Depot, Forest City, Shorenstein, Principal Financial Group and more—along with leading technology providers and energy services companies, to find out how to super-charge your energy efficiency program (excuse the pun) and take green buildings to the next level.

Darlene Pope

President & CEO CoR Advisors




Sense and Survivability: How evolution shapes design decisions

Published on 9 Jan 2015Written by Sam Pobst Posted in Education

The 3.8 billion years of evolution of the DNA strand that uniquely identifies the human genome has invested in humanity a host of sensory inputs that are essential to our survival. This distinctive combination of skills has made Homo sapiens the single most efficient predator on the planet. We possess an exceptional set of sensors from which we extract many subtle cues from our environment, providing us with constant reassurance of our safety. If our building designs do not satisfy our innate security interests, then we feel disconnected.

Various theories and hypotheses about the interaction between man, nature, and the built environment have been proposed. Biophilia references the spiritual aspect of a visual contact with nature. Eco-psychology submits that contact with nature extends a bond that provides sensations of harmony, balance, and stability. Environmental psychology addresses the psychological responses we have to environmental stresses, and proponents have performed studies on the effect of the built environment on human behavior.

Humans thrive in many harsh environments from the desert to the arctic. We have designed and built protective shelters unique to each of these environments to facilitate our survival. From these shelters we obtain security, comfort, convenience, and efficiency. The scientific community lists as many as 21 acquired sensory traits in humans, with many appearing to be subsets of the five senses of taste, touch, smell, hearing, and vision. In addition to these five familiar traits, breathing is relevant as a sixth sense as it relates to how we design our buildings.

The need to satisfy these elemental instincts is no more a discussion of nature vs. nurture than learning to cry or breathe is a response to a sharp whack by an obstetrician. Removing your hand from a heat source is not a learned response. The smell of bread baking in the oven is not a learned response. Tastes of bitter, sweet, salty, and sour are not learned, but serve to sharpen our survival skills. Addressing these most basic instincts in our building designs provides for our sense of security.

Each of these six sensory inputs has an impact on how we design and operate our buildings on an elemental level that exceeds what can be derived from a spiritual or psychological influence. As we think of these senses, they are so primal that we are unconscious of their origin and impact. We taste because we have taste receptors, we feel the touch of heat and cold because we have a neuro-chemical response to those influences. We see, hear, and breathe from the moment we are born with no thought to the implications. We have responses to each of these sensory inputs that affect our survival and are hardwired into our essence.

Sam Pobst

Principal Eco Metrics LLC

Pro reviewers, Chapter members, Member employees, USGBC faculty


New Green Roof Homes “Sprouting” in Sydney


  • BRENDAN WONG REAL ESTATE REPORTER/inner west courier inner city

Three new terrace homes featuring green roofs covered with native plants that can grow in small amounts of soil with minimal water are going up in Newtown, Australia- a suburb located just 4 miles from the Sydney Central Business District.

Similar in concept to vertical gardens, the new green roofs will help provide thermal and acoustic insulation to three bedroom, two bathroom homes. Homes that also feature solar heating, a courtyard for added green space, and a lockup garage that can be converted into a fourth bedroom for car-free residents.

Architect and builder Oliver Steele says the idea behind the terraces is to build upscale dwellings that are energy efficient and have a low carbon footprint. “Everything from the foundations to the paint selection has been considered on an environmentally friendly basis. The concrete for the constructions is recycled. The windows are double glazed and low e-coated so they will be extremely energy efficient. The paints and interior finishes will be zero or low VOC so they’re not off-gassing, which is common in new houses. In terms of the design, we’ve used a lot of thermal mass and heavy insulation so the houses create their own comfortable year-round internal temperature independent of the fluctuations of summer and winter and without the need for air-conditioning.”

Natural ventilation was an important consideration in designing the homes. “There is an internal pond under the staircase and a retractable glass roof over the staircase which creates an internal atrium,” Mr. Steele says. “You get light coming down the middle of the house and any air that does warm up in summer will rise up out of the roof and draw in the cold air from the lower levels.”

The new homes will be ready for occupancy in April, 2015.

Can green building make Chinese cities more competitive?


Published on 13 Nov 2014 Written by Christopher Gray Posted in International

The historic climate change agreement between China and the United States provides the green building community with another excellent opportunity to evaluate our movement’s importance to China’s long-term economic and environmental forecast. The fact that LEED has already become a major driver of market transformation in China has been extensively documented in USGBC’s LEED in Motion: Greater China report published earlier this year, but this article focuses on how green building fits into the complex puzzle of China’s overarching economic and demographic trends.

Given current conditions and projections, it is clear that China’s best chance of reaching its goal of capping carbon emissions by the year 2030 is to focus on a rapid green transformation of its urban centers. The most logical first step in this process would be to focus on the transformation of China’s built environment, not only in established international cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, but also in China’s emerging industrial megacities. Making this form of investment would not only improve the quality of life for China’s enormous urban population, it also has the potential of elevating the economic and cultural competitiveness.

Traditionally, this question has been answered based on a wide range of factors: population, the presence of ‘high culture’, industry, geographic location, historical importance and wealth have all formed the basis of our perception regarding how important a city (and its inhabitants) really are to the world.

The significance of these general indicators isn’t likely to fade out completely over the next 100 years, but given current projections regarding urbanization and global warming in the 21st century, we can be fairly certain that the meaningfulness of these historically transcendent cultural, political and economic markers will begin to fade in order to be replaced by some radically new green concepts.

The UN projects that at least 2.5 billion people will be added to the world’s urban population by 2050, with the majority of that increase occurring in countries in Asia and Africa.

China, which already has the world’s largest urban population with 758 million urban dwellers, will add an additional 292 million people to its cities during this time.

Chinese business leaders and civic officials, who are also facing tightening internal pressure for better environmental conditions from their people, have few better options than to concentrate on greening the living and working conditions of their largest new and emerging cities.

Because many of the long-term impacts of climate change (water shortages, floods, droughts, sea level rise, the increase in frequency and intensity of severe weather) are only beginning to occur, many of the achievements of green buildings are currently seen as positive features versus essential economic conditions. This perception will change as the negative effects of climate change become more frequent and severe, and the necessity of living in a city with a built environment that maximizes its water resources uses energy efficiently and effectively and utilizes smart urban planning and design to minimize travel distances for its citizens becomes more obvious.

Cities that are unable to rely upon the sustainable design of their built environment will struggle to compete with their internal and international competitors for a number of reasons.

Chinese cities, which are currently in the same industrial stage of economic development that older, previously developed cities in the United States, Europe, and Japan have long vacated, are still heavily reliant on economic activities that are largely dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. As momentum builds toward the establishment of an international consensus aimed at phasing out these very activities, Chinese industrial cities will need to be able to dramatically reduce the emissions attributed to their built environment if they have any hope of avoiding harmful economic disruptions while they transition toward greener methods of industrial production.

As newer, more recently developed cities in China attempt to reach their full economic, social and political potential they too will need to focus on controlling the environmental impacts of their built environment. Failure to make important investments in global, internationally recognized green rating systems like LEED today will make avoiding large economic and social disruptions tomorrow a difficult proposition to manage.

Christopher Gray

Media & Communications Specialist



How a hotel chain led green buildings in India

Published on 20 Nov 2014 Written by Prasanto Kumar Roy Posted in LEED

When Hillary Clinton landed in New Delhi in 2009, she drove from the airport to ITC Green Center, a building in the satellite town of Gurgaon.

That building, which she called “a monument to the future,” is the headquarters of the hotels division of Kolkata-based conglomerate ITC.

In 2005, ITC Green Center became the world’s largest office building to be certified LEED Platinum.

The building reuses and recycles all water, and daylight lights up all offices inside, while insulated glass keeps out heat. All this has reduced energy consumption by half. It cost 10-12 percent more than a typical building, but the company says it’s recovered the investment.

If it’s unusual for a middle-aged hotel to go for an extreme green-building rating, it’s more remarkable that every one of the ten luxury hotels in the ITC group now carries a LEED Platinum certificate.

ITC’s was the first hotel chain in India to incorporate green as business strategy, part of its “triple bottom line”—people, planet and profit. Among its elements are an annual sustainability report, and even a sustainability app for smartphones.

It also claims to be the greenest hotel chain in the world. That’s difficult to verify, but the top LEED rating for all luxury hotels shows up in each of them, in a distinct way.

Three miles away, the Windsor Hotel gets all of its energy from its own wind farms. A couple of hundred miles away in Chennai on India’s eastern coast, the ITC Grand Chola is now the world’s largest LEED Platinum hotel. Far away in Kolkata, the Sonar is the world’s first luxury hotel to earn carbon credits under the carbon trading regime, according to ITC.

 Green building boom

As of May 1, India had 1,657 construction projects registered with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), many of them already LEED-certified. Outside of the US, that puts India in the top three countries for USGBC, after Canada (4,068) and just ahead of China (1,638). China, however, has larger buildings, and is thus ahead of India when measured by registered and certified space.

The ITC Hotels group has led the way in luxury hotels, but many smaller hotels and resorts have also adopted green techniques, though not all of them may be certified.

India is severely starved of energy, and a big chunk of its energy needs are met through imports. Its oil import bill was $144b in fiscal 2013, a big reason for its $88b current account deficit (exports minus imports) in the same year.

Green buildings, ten years old in India, have been too few and far between to make a difference. Now, they’re just about reaching critical mass. It’s interesting that a luxury hotels chain—a sector seen as over-the-top consumerist and wasteful—helped lead this change.


USGBC acknowledges World Green Building Council

Published on 20 Nov 2014  Written by Judith Webb, APR Posted in International

USGBC was honored as a winner of the United Nation’s top environmental accolade, theChampions of the Earth award.

In accepting the award in the category of entrepreneurial vision, USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi acknowledged the role of the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and its 100+ member councils in driving the global green building movement that the award recognized.

The award, which usually honors a single individual, was won by USGBC for its outstanding contribution to sustainable building practices worldwide and the immense impacts of those practices.

Rick said he was “deeply honored to accept this Champions of the Earth award on behalf of the thousands of USGBC members, volunteers, LEED professionals and staff and the global green building movement at large, including the 100+ World Green Building Council members from around the world.”

“This is a community that has come to deeply understand how much our buildings and communities are also our first line of defense in battling climate change and the final piece of a complex puzzle in how we create communities that enhance our lives, not compromise them,” he continued, noting that, “green building is not just about market transformation. It’s about human transformation.”

WGBC CEO Jane Henley, who was on hand for the gala, said, “If the UNEP research estimates that buildings contribute as much as one third of total global greenhouse gas emissions are correct, then it’s up to every one of our more than 100 green building council members of WGBC to lead their countries by example and continue the tireless work of creating buildings that are energy-efficient, water-efficient, daylight-filled, toxin- and-pollutant-free structures, and placing them in walkable communities with access to fresh food and green space, with recycling and composting.”

“It will take all of us working together,” she said, “to fashion these places that protect our planet and nourish our souls. And we’re creating more of them every day, thanks to WGBC members all over the globe.”

Champions of the Earth is the United Nations’ flagship environmental award launched in 2005 that recognizes outstanding visionaries and leaders in the fields of policy, science, entrepreneurship, and civil society action. Whether by helping to improve the management of natural resources, demonstrating new ways to tackle climate change or raising awareness of emerging environmental challenges.

Champions of the Earth should serve as an inspiration for transformative action across the world. Past laureates have included Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva, Vinod Khosla and many other such exemplary leaders on the environment and development front.

Judith Webb, APR

Senior Vice President, Marketing & Strategy

USGBC staff


The future of green travel

Published on 24 Nov 2014Written by Kunal GulatiPosted in Industry

After inventing the wheel, humans were on a roll. Modes of transportation increasingly became a priority as we navigated slowly around the globe. Exploration was made possible through advanced iterations of early horse-carriages, which eventually turned into the first automobile.

As we continued to grow, so did our carbon footprint. Helping reduce the waste we leave behind when we travel forth, this article explores the ever-increasing trend of traveling green, from the obvious choice of bike-sharing and electric cars, airplanes have also joined the game of green travel.

 Traveling by bicycle

Historically, riding a bicycle has always been the only zero-emission way of traveling. Whether you ride a fix-geared bike through the streets of Brooklyn or a 13” folder bike that gets you to work in LA, bicycles designed for every taste. Buildings seeking LEED certification can pursue the Bicycle Facilities credit, encouraging people to ditch their mechanical gas-guzzling counterparts by providing bike storage and shower rooms and choosing locations that incorporate bicycle networks.

In order to encourage environmentally friendly commuter options, bike sharing programs have also been implemented in many cities around the world. According to Gizmodo, bike sharing programs are evident in over 600 cities around the world.

Traveling by car

Automobiles were the first big success story of the 19th century. Not only did it revolutionize travel, it did so extremely quickly. The evolution of the modern automobile speedily let us travel and transport from one place to another while reducing time. In the past ten years, however, cars have decided to jump on the green travel bandwagon.

We have come a long way since the first electric car prototype built by Thomas Parker in 1859 that did not meet the real world needs of the market at the time. Over a century later, there was revived interest in alternative fuels and the need for a powerful machine that would stray away from consuming gas. Designed for the modern man, the hybrid gave the green building revolution variety. Hybrid cars, while they can be higher on the initial cost, provide yearly savings between $600-$800.

Buildings can be a part of the movement as well, receiving LEED points for setting aside parking for green vehicles and suppling electric vehicle charging stations or liquid, gas, or battery facilities. Whether your ride is completely electric, a hybrid or uses some other type of alternative fuel, driving is becoming greener and smarter.

 Traveling by plane

Airplanes are designed to provide a fast and comfortable experience for today’s avid traveler but with the rising cost of jet fuel and subsequent emissions, how green do we really travel when traveling by flight?

In 2010, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) dedicated 125 million in contracts towards green technology dedicated to clean travel proposals. Subsequently, they developed the Continuous Low Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) program meant to reduce commercial jet fuel consumptions, harmful emissions, and excessive noise. Administrator Randy Babbitt confirmed, “The FAA is working with the aviation community to aggressively meet critical environmental and energy goals.”

Meanwhile, in 2003, visionaries at Boeing decided to implement a new breed of airplanes that would come to travel over 330 million revenue miles flown as of this winter. This airplane would eventually be known as the 787 Dreamliner. Taking flight in 2009, the 787 Dreamliner is redefining what it means to create an airplane capable of encouraging performance in water efficiency, resource conservation, energy usage, etc.

Using carbon laminate substances, the 787 Dreamliner became the world’s first major airplane to use 50% composite materials in its primary construction material. Furthermore, the 787 Dreamliner consumes less fuel and produces fewer emissions than its predecessors using a trademarked engine and airframe design, quietest twin-aisle airplane 70% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from early jet airplanes and 90% reduction or 30dB quieter.

 Choosing to travel green

Travel has always been about exploring our natural habitats around the globe. Nurture has given us an option to create different means of exploring the world.

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live.” —Hans Christian Andersen.

Whether you travel by bike, car, or airplane, paint your next destination green.

Kunal Gulati

Product Marketing Specialist



What will California’s water resources look like at the end of the century?

Published on 24 Nov 2014 Posted in Community

A great deal of research on climate change over the last decade has focused on changes to the hydrologic cycle—the continuous process by which water is circulated throughout the earth and the atmosphere—which naturally impacts water supply. These changes—earlier spring snowmelt, increased evaporation from higher temperatures, and more frequent and intense droughts—are obvious. And the changes are alarming. Water suppliers and large water users simply cannot afford to ignore climate change as they plan for the future.

Many water suppliers have begun to consider how climate will affect their water supplies, whether it is from a lake or river, stored behind a dam, or drawn from underground aquifers. Not as much attention has been paid to the other side of the equation: What will climate change do to water consumption?

Most people familiar with the state of climate change expect that a warmer climate will drive up water demand for landscapes and the inevitable evaporative cooling. Yet there has been little research on this subject and even less practical guidance for water planners and managers.

Two recent research projects have contributed to this emerging field of study, to better predict how climate change will affect future water demand. In 2012, the Pacific Institute developed a planning tool focused on the state of California that forecasts water use out to the year 2100. A year later, in 2013, the Water Research Foundation published a nationwide study, “Changes in Water Use under Regional Climate Change Scenarios.”

Both of these groundbreaking studies demonstrated how climate change can help predict future urban water use. USGBC worked closely with climate scientists to translate the output from their models into information on water demand for use by water managers. Work focused mostly on how temperatures are causing an increase in evaporation and water lost to the atmosphere by plants. In California, as in much of the West, more than half of publicly supplied water is used outdoors. Some of this is used for washing cars or sidewalks, or for filling pools and spas, but most is for landscape irrigation.


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LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.