Monthly Archives: December 2011


Certification Matters

Every year, I head online to buy carbon offsets. Three times, actually – for Flisrand Consulting, for my 4-unit apartment building, and for my personal consumption.  (For more background on my motivation, see my Greenwash Brigade post from two years ago.)

IA farmers

This year, odds are good I'm supporting these IA farmers build a wind turbine in their fields. (Photo from Native Energy)

I’m  a demanding customer, and I want to know I’m getting what I am paying for.  (An unanswered question is whether my carbon offset purchase is a charitable donation or a consumer purchase.  The IRS says it’s charitable, I perceive it as a consumer purchase.)

If there’s anything in the world that’s abstract and impossible for a consumer to personally evaluate, it’s the quality of a carbon offset.  How am I to know whether someone is really NOT producing a pound of carbon because I paid them not to???

Because there’s no other way for me to know, I demand my carbon offsets be verified by a third-party (scroll down to the bottom to see the verifiers).  The last few years, I’ve chosen Native Energy.  I love their projects, they do the verification right, and they make it easy to do business right.


Energy Green Building

Making the Invisible Visible

Sustainability is often about making the invisible visible. It’s impossible to see which house is leaking energy in the winter.  Or where a watershed starts and ends.

I love when the invisible becomes visible. Third-party certification for coffee or buildings or cleaning products was created so customers can SEE that one choice is intentionally going above and beyond the bare minimum.

I love the window seats on planes, because suddenly, topography becomes obvious. Out west, you can see rainfall patterns, and erosion.  The abstract concept of a watershed becomes something you can see.

I also love those winter days when the roofs are covered in frost or a dusting of snow.  Suddenly, you can see heat escape.

Missing/No insulation

There is attic insulation, probably above the ceiling of the attic apartment, but the melted strip just left of the very white front room is either missing insulation or has air leaks in it. There appears to be no insulation below the peak of the attic.

If there are narrow strips of frost between wide bands of melting, there’s probably no insulation — the wood in the rafters “insulate” better than the air, like at the very tip top of the roof in the picture above.

Attic with insulation

The attic on the right has mostly complete insulation and you can see that the wood in the rafters has transferred heat more effectively than the insulated slants, melting the snow. (Of course, the dormer on the left appears uninsulated, and there is a gap or two on the front.)

If there are narrow strips of melting between wide bands of frost, it signals that there is insulation — the rafters transfer heat better than the insulation.

I’m constantly looking for tools to make energy, water, toxin, health or other more sustainable choices accessible to customers.  Without that knowledge, customers can’t necessarily make the choices they want to make.

How do we build energy or sustainability scores into apartment advertising or MLS forms for people looking for housing?  How can we add durability and repair-ability information to retail options?


Process vs. Product

I recently realized that one of my hobbies provides a perfect example of how I approach my work.  I finished two projects in the last week, a sweater for my mom, and a sweater for myself.

Sweater for Mom

Sweater for Mom

My sweater

My sweater

How does knitting relate to consulting?  As knitters will tell you, there are two aspects of the hobby:  process and productread more »

Green Building

EnergyScoreCards Minnesota Launches

I’m excited about today’s launch of EnergyScoreCards Minnesota.  A big, concrete step is being taken to address one of the barriers to improving the utility efficiency in multifamily buildings.


I’ve been pondering improving the utility costs of multifamily buildings for what feels like forever – starting in 1996 in my owner-occupied 4-unit home, and affordable multifamily buildings as part of Minnesota Green Communities starting in 2006.  In this post I shared some of the challenges to reducing water and energy use in this market.  How does this change anything?

read more »

Facilitation Green Building

Engaging People, Successfully

Minnesota Green CommunitiesAt Minnesota Green Communities, we’ve been hearing more and more frequent requests for assistance in successfully engaging residents in sustainability living.  Building owners know they – and residents – won’t see the full energy and water efficiency benefits or the health benefits of building green if the residents aren’t on board, too.  read more »